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How do we interpret the locust plague of Revelation 9. They do not harm any green thing but they torment men for 5 months. They have faces of men, hair of women and they have a king! I need help please.

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These so-called locusts come up from the Abyss (Bottomless Pit), which is the largest part of Sheol. This is where 200 fallen angels of the type known as Watchers are being kept in chains of darkness (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6; cf. 1 Enoch), but they are not the only inhabitants of the pit. The Book of Jubilees explains that 90% of the demonic spirits of the antediluvian giants (Hebrew: Nephiliym) were confined to the Abyss.

When Y'shua (Jesus) confronted Legion, the demons were terrified that he would imprison them with the others in the Abyss. He did not do that, but the demons themselves were concerned with the possibility.

Given the above, it is most likely that the locusts are either a host of imprisoned Nephiliym or a particular species of rebellious spirits that have been locked up in the Abyss alongside the Watchers and Nephiliym.

PS: The title of the Book of Revelation is singular, not plural.

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  • Thanks for your response. You suggest that they are demons. They were also mentioned in the book of Joel chapter 1&2. A devastating plague that will leave a tale for generations. In Joel they eat up wine, corn, oil etc. But in Revelation they only harm the men without the seal of God. Yet the locust are described in the same way in both books. So I wonder if the wine and oil are just symbols of the kind of men that will be tormented in those days. Very deep prophecy!! – user20490 Jul 18 '17 at 17:42
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I am just completing my commentary on Revelation, and this is my comment. It is really vital to read in the context of John's use of the OT and his adaptation of contemporary (i.e. first century) mythology and symbolism:

Locust swarms look very much like billowing clouds of smoke over the countryside as they move, so the connection here is not surprising. But their description in the following verses draws on three passages of the Old Testament. First, we are reminded of the eighth plague of Egypt (Ex 10.12–15) where locusts devoured everything in the land. Here, though, the plague is reversed; these locusts harm people but not the grass of the earth (even though this was burned up in 8.7) or any plant or tree. This connects the work of the locusts with the vision of 7.3, where those who are faithful receive the seal of God on their foreheads which serve as a sign of protection, just as it did in Ezekiel 9.1–6. The locust army therefore executes judgement on those without the seal just as the six men did in Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s vision, and God’s faithful people are protected as they are both in Ezekiel 9 and in the other Exodus plagues. This then connects with the third passage from the Old Testament: Joel 2.1–25. Joel here describes the coming ‘day of the Lord’ involving an invading army, a ‘northern horde’ (Joel 2.20), with God at its head (Joel 2.11), which will lay waste the country. The description includes reference to darkness and clouds (Joel 2.2) and both the darkening of sun, moon and stars as well as blood, fire and smoke (Joel 2.10, 30), draws on military imagery so consistently that the reader thinks this is actually about foreign troops until the interpretive key is offered in verse 25: ‘I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten.’

5–6. The warrior locusts do not have unlimited power, since they are not allowed to kill, but only to inflict pain. The five months corresponds to the typical duration of a locust swarm, but it also signifies a limited period (compare Matt 14.7, Luke 12.6 and 1 Cor 14.9), perhaps because five is the number of fingers counted on one hand. Scorpion stings were not usually thought to be fatal (which they usually are not) but intensely painful. In the ancient world, even more than now, death was considered preferable to a long, lingering illness, and was seen as a release from suffering; the repeated parallelism in v 6 (‘they will seek death, they will not find/they will long to die, it will elude them’) emphasizes the inability to escape from the pain that is inflicted. The Greek once again personifies death as an active agent: literally it reads ‘death flees from them’.

7–9. In the previous verses, John had begun to draw on Joel 2 which describes locusts in terms of a human army. Now John uses Joel’s locusts-as-humans language to describe humans-as-locusts, offering eight characteristics of the locust cloud, many of which correspond to the northern barbarians who were seen as a major threat to the supposed peace and prosperity of the Roman empire. The locusts resemble horses prepared for battle, a close parallel to Joel 2.4–5, ‘they have the appearance of horses…drawn up for battle’. They wear something like crowns of gold, which suggests that they have already been awarded the prize of conquest—in other words, their triumph appears to be inevitable. But these are not actual crowns, only ‘something like them’; blond hair, virtually unknown in the Mediterranean world and near East, was much more common amongst the tribes to the north of the Roman Empire, and could have looked crown-like when tied with a headband. They are human looking, and, in contrast to the short hair worn by most Roman men and soldiers, their hair is long like women’s hair. Having teeth like lion’s teeth draws on Joel’s earlier imagery in Joel 1.6, ‘a mighty army…has teeth like a lion’ and signifies the ability to injure and harm its human opponents. Breastplates of iron were worn by both soldiers and horses in first century cavalry. The sound of their wings resembling chariots rushing into battle draws on Joel 2.5 ‘a noise like that of chariots…drawn up for battle’.

  1. The first description of this locust horde described both their power and the pain they inflicted to be ‘like that of a scorpion’ (vv 3 and 5), but in this repeated description John goes further, specifying that they had tails with stingers, like scorpions before repeating the five months as the limited period of their power. By adding this detail (which has no obvious Old Testament antecedent), John is describing this invading force as resembling the manticore, a mythical creature (though included in both Aristotle and Pliny the Elder’s natural histories) with a human head, the body and teeth of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion.
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  • Thank you for this answer and welcome to BH.SE! You've got some good insights and we'd love for you to stick around and answer more questions. Take the site tour to see how the network works, find another question, and give an answer! – Frank Luke Jul 21 '17 at 13:28
  • Thanks. I hope I have otherwise my commentary won't be much good! I've offered answers elsewhere...but so far have been prevented without enough 'reputation' points... – Ian Paul Jul 22 '17 at 21:39
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Another perspective you might wish to consider is that it was the Roman army and the Roman - Judean wars of 66 - 70 A.D., specifically the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It helps to identify the original use of the symbols as found in the OT.

The green grass was symbolic for the saints; green for new growth or alive, and grass for people.

Psa. 37:1-2,

"Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb." (KJV)

Psa. 103:15,

"As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth." (KJV)

Psa. 52:8,

” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” (KJV)

Jer. 17:7-8,

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

The above verse shows the metaphor of a man who trusts in God referred to as a tree, and its leaf is green, indicating access to living water.

Rev. 9:4,

"And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads." (KJV)

where the grass (people) of the earth (Israel), those of green growth or the new spiritually living men and women, the true disciples of Christ were to be shielded from the army of the locusts. The locust army only had power over those who were not sealed of God.. those spiritually dead.

There are many more symbols and metaphors of the prophesy that can be traced to the first usage in the OT. Some of these are listed in my posts for the Signs of Revelation at my blog ShreddingTheVeil.

As pointed out by Ian above, Joel chap. 1 & 2 prophesied the locust army to come against Jerusalem both in his day, and looking forward to the judgment poured forth upon Israel again in the tribulation of the first century A.D.

The five months was a literal five months, and it was the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. The siege began at the Passover in mid April ( Nisan) or lasted until Sep. 8 - 10. During these 5 months the Romans kept anyone from leaving, or killed those who tried to flee. Those left inside the city were in pure torment and left to starve, subjected to the further tyranny of their fellow Jews. Josephus' Wars of the Jews provides explicit details of the terror of this siege.

Titus, son of Vespasian led this siege in his father's place, and commanded the 12th legion with the emblem of the lightning bolt... "fire from heaven" (Rev. 9:18; 13:13; 20:9). The descriptions in Rev. chap. 9 fit the Roman army of the first century AD in every aspect. Roman ballista "scorpion" catapult engine

The Roman ballista "scorpion" catapult - Rev. 9:3, 5.

Roman equestrian helmet

A Roman equestrian helmet with the appearance of a golden crown.

Centurion helmet

A centurion helmet and mask with an appearance of a golden crown and a face of a man (Rev. 9:7).

census frieze

Census Frieze from Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus depicting Roman officers wearing a helmet with a horse-hair plume.

Roman std bearer

Representation of Roman Standard Bearer with lion head and pelt.

The Roman standard bearers wore the heads and pelts of lions, bears, leopards, and wolves. Each standard had the legion's emblem on the pole: eagles, bears, lions, serpents, etc. The commanders of the legions had plumes on their helmets. All of these can be compared to the hair of a woman (Rev. 9:8).

breastplate of iron

Breast Plates of Iron - The standard issue armor worn by the 1st century Roman soldier was constructed of plates of iron (Rev. 9:9).

Roman horse armor

The head of a lion on the horse armor of a Roman soldier (Rev. 9:17).

We don't have to imagine these symbols in some future war. All of Revelation was the judgment against the remnant of Israel for rejecting Christ, crucifying the promised Messiah, and persecuting His church. It came upon them quickly just as Christ told John that it would (Rev. 1:1; 22:6, 7, 10, 12. 20).

There are many evidences of the time of His second appearance in that same generation in which He was manifested on earth. It was the Roman army under Caesar Nero, and then under Vespasian and Titus which is described in Rev. chap. 9. There is much more posted at my blog above.

The images included here were a few of those available from web searches and are representative of the Roman army under Caesars Nero and Vespasian.

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  • Excellent. However, the war lasted 7 years (66-73) with "70ad" being the common round number used to refer to the war. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_War This is significant in that both Daniel and Revelation are "obsessed" with sevens. Great pix that put one in the middle of that war. – Ruminator Feb 1 '19 at 13:17
  • Yes, the Romans cont'd to put down the rebellion in Judea, but the prophesy of Daniel and Revelation were both concerned with "the holy people" - Jerusalem. The termination pt for both was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Dan. 12:7, "...to scatter the power of the holy people ALL THESE THINGS shall be finished." The holy people - the Jews - same as from Dan. 9:24. Christ fulfilled Yom Teruah, & then the last feast, Sukkot (tabernacles) which was 15 days after Yom Teruah. So, about 15 days after the temple was completely torn down, the destruction / judgment was finished. – Gina Feb 2 '19 at 7:46
  • But, just the judgment of Jerusalem was finished. That is when HIs everlaslting kingdom took over and rules over all the nations on the entire earth. His judgment continued on for both the individual at death (Rev. 14:13), and the nations. The feast of Sukkot is the feast of nations, and the continual harvest, "the season of our joy". That season is now the everlasting kingdom, and the everlasting gospel of Christ. – Gina Feb 2 '19 at 7:50
  • Yes, the 7 years are divided with the first 3 and a half years being "Jacob's Trouble" aka "the Great Tribulation". – Ruminator Feb 2 '19 at 9:42
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There are a cornucopia of different views about who/what The Locusts of Revelation Chapter 9 are, and many people, of course, think that these are literal locusts, or they generate various other idioms and visualizations for what they could be by tying in different aspects of History, verses, etc., but one view that I came across years ago was one that really made a lot of sense, because it was scriptural, and it comes from Dr. Chuck Missler, who presents the "locusts" in Revelation 9 as being "demon hordes," but in a very interesting/intriguing/scriptural way, by tying in some verses that seemed to be overlooked (apparently), as well as tying in 'Gog', etc.

I will quote from another source that quotes Chuck Missler's text on this subject, which is very interesting (and when I first heard this, I was thrilled, because it seemed to make the most sense, for what it's worth! [Bold/Emphasis added by me):

Gog is obviously the leader of the people of Magog. In fact, by some renderings, he is the "Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal."

In Chuck Missler's book "The Magog Invasion" (pgs 248-249) he mentions: "The sudden appearance of "Gog" in the Ezekiel text, without any apparent background from other passages, has puzzled commentators for centuries. From the context, it is clearly the title of the leader of the people of the land of Magog. Still, it seems inconsistent with God's established style to have such a key figure emerge in the text without a linkage of some sort.

There is, however, a provocative reference that has been widely overlooked in the Book of Amos.

The traditional rendering of Amos 7:1 reads as follows:

"Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings." (Amos 7:1)

Our English Bible takes its translation from the Masoretic text, a 9th century source. However, an earlier translation of the Old Testament into Greek, known as the Septuagint, embodies a different rending of Amos 7:1:

"Thus the Lord showed me, and behold a swarm of locusts were coming, and behold, one of the young devastating locusts was Gog, the King."

The identification of Gog as the king of the locusts would have profound implications. Proverbs 30:27 reveals that "the locusts have no king," implying that the "locusts" of Amos 7 are not intended to be natural locusts, but an idiom for something else.

We encounter a similar passage in Revelation chapter 9 where locusts there are described as having a king, and so are clearly a demon host.

The passage in Amos 7:1 suggests that Gog is the king of the demon locusts, and this would put an entirely new light on the Gog of Ezekiel 38 and 39..."

While this undoubtedly sounds "out there" to some ... this may be significant. Let's remember it is not the first time we have heard about demonic forces behind kings and kingdoms. Consider Daniel chapter 10 where Daniel has prayed and fasted for 21 days, then an Angel appears to him. The Angel tells Daniel he had been dispatched 21 days earlier (when he began his prayer & fast) but was "withstood" by a demonic force he refers to as 'The Prince of Persia'. The prince of Persia, was the angel of darkness that represented the Persian world power, to which Israel was then subject. He even goes on to say Michael (the Archangel/one of the Chief Princes) came to help him. He then gives Daniel the visions, and says he now has to go deal with 'The Prince of Grecia' (Greece). (The Greek empire was another that would be coming!)

With that said, when you read the passages in Revelation 9, you immediately think that the "locusts" are just that (perhaps): locusts. That is, until you come to verse 11, which says something quite incredible:

And they [the locusts] had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apolyon.

Once again, Proverbs 30:27 says that the "locusts have no king," which again, implies that the "locusts" of Amos chapter 7 are not meant to be "natural locusts," but rather an idiom for "something else," etc.

The fact that they had a king over them is explicit enough, but when adding all of these other details from the scriptures, the Locusts in Revelation 9 seem to definitively be referring to demon hosts/hordes.

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    A really informative write up. Great answer Derrick. +1 – user20490 Dec 15 '18 at 11:07
  • Thank you, user20490! – Derrick Tyson Dec 16 '18 at 5:23

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