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Pattern Recognition in the Apocalypse

Chapter 9

The Trumpets

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The Trumpets

 

First Trumpet (Rev 8.7): date range 94/95 to 101/2 CE

 

“The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up”.

 

The trumpets are more difficult to analyse historically then the seals because unlike the seals we have fragmentary and sometimes contradictory sources. The seals could draw on the book of Acts and Josephus but the apostles were dead by the time this period commenced and Josephus published his works during the reign of Domitian in ca. 94 CE (the beginning of our time period). Therefore, commentators are forced to reconstruct the history from disparate sources but as historical interest in this time period has recently increased it is to be hoped that more evidence will become available.  A tentative analysis follows with the right reserved to correct, revise and update as more information becomes accessible.

 

 

Joel Revelation

1. Locusts.

1:4

9:3

2. Symbolic of a nation

1:6

9:4,7

3. Teeth like lions.

1:6

9:8

4. Trees and pasture withered and burnt up.

1:12,18-20

8:7

5. Destruction from the Almighty.

1:15

9:11

6. Fire.

1:19; 2:3,5

8:7; 9:17

7. Rivers of waters dried up.

1:20

8:10; 9:14

8. Blowing of trumpets.

2:1,11,15

8:6

9. Darkness.

2:2

9:2

10. Horses.

2:4

9:7,9

11. Chariots.

2:5

9:9

12. Torment.

2:6

9:6

13. Earthquake.

2:10

8:5

14. Sun, moon, and stars darkened.

2:10,31; 3:15

8:12; 9:2

15. "Turn ye to me"

2:12

9:20,21

16. The locust army goes back into the abyss.

2:20

9:1

17. Deliverance for the faithful remnant.

2:32

9:4

18. Darkness.

2:2

9:18

19. Day of Atonement.

2:15-17

8:2-4

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Joel demonstrates multiple connections with the trumpets. This trumpet is inter-textually linked with Joel 1.19:

 

“O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field”.  

 

The context of Joel 1.14, Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, and of Joel 2.15-17,  Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly , clearly associate the burning of the grass and trees in Joel with the Day of Atonement. Their “hallelujah” praise has been turned into “howling” and destruction (שׁוֹד, shod) has come from the Almighty (שַׁדַּי, shadday).  It is surely not coincidental that the Almighty title is used at the commencement of the very Balaam oracle (Num 24.16) that predicts the “star out of Jacob” (Num 24.17). In Joel’s day the prophecy described the burning of food crops and fodder (1.16) by the advancing Assyrian armies.

 

However, here the first trump may be describing a natural disaster,  1    even so; a completely literal interpretation is excluded because only a third is damaged demonstrating that it is a judgement against Jewry (cf. Ezek 5.12).  Interestingly, one of the main protagonists of this era (Rabbi Akiva) who is still today venerated as the “chief sage”, and is considered foundational in the history of rabbinical Judaism, attracted a curse from his own teacher Rabbi Eliezer. The anecdote  2     relates how R. Eliezer was humiliated in a dispute with his pupil R. Akiva concerning what is permitted and prohibited in the preparation for a Sabbath circumcision.  3     The outcome of the argument was that although R. Eliezer was technically correct concerning the halakah he was ex-communicated and his former pupil R. Akiva volunteered to inform him of his banning as an act of kindness (sic),  4    in order to stop R. Eliezer from destroying the earth with a curse.  In response to R. Akiva’s kindness (sic) the consequences were mitigated as only a third of the olives, wheat and barley where blighted by R. Eliezer’s curse.  This story, although obviously legendary and anecdotal informs us about a power struggle over the interpretation of the law; principles were established that would guide Judaism over the following millennia.

 

A consequence of R. Akiva’s influence was exclusivity (Torah was not for Gentiles)  5     and that rabbinical authority overrules and supersedes Torah  6     (making the Law of no effect)  7    and even overrules the divine voice (Bat Kol).  8     There is no reason why the outworking of the first trump was not based on a description of natural phenomenon that occurred at the time of this debate and that the destruction was incorrectly attributed by the rabbi’s to a rabbinical “curse” rather than to their own obdurate refusal to accept the messiah and repent from their “works of the law”, performed as acts of meretricious salvation.

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This time period also saw the stringent enforcement of the “atonement tax” by Domitian (81-96 CE). Of course, it was not called the “atonement tax” as it was more or less a Roman “poll tax” replacing payment of atonement monies after the fall of the temple.  9     It was called the fiscus Judaicus 10     Bruce sums up as follows: “First, then, it may be convenient to recall briefly the history of the Jewish tax. It was instituted, shortly after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem in A.D. 70, by an edict of Vespasian requiring the existing tax of half a shekel, or  Attic drachmae, levied on the Jews for the upkeep of their Temple to be paid in future towards the maintenance of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. The Temple-tax dated, perhaps, from the rebuilding of the Temple after the Exile, and appears to have been at first an annual levy of one-third of a shekel, but later of half a shekel”.   11     It was rigorously enforced by the Emperor Domitian, who was strapped for cash and he added extra stipulations so that Jews everywhere in the empire (whether practicing Jews or not) would not be exempted (due to age or sex etc) and it is believed that circumcision (or lack thereof) was demanded (and publicly inspected) as proof. Needless to say this humiliating, discriminating and extortionate usurping of what was previously “atonement money” caused much anger amongst the Jews and Domitian’s successor Nerva rescinded many of the regulations (but did not abolish the tax altogether) and commemorated the event with a coin.

 

coin

The coin above is dated 96-98 CE and was issued by Nerva.  It reads fisci Judaici calumnia sublata, “abolition of malicious prosecution in connection with the Jewish tax”. (Image credit: © Classical Numismatic Group, source: wikimedia commons)

 

 

A summary of the first trumpet: It is connected inter-textually with the Day of Atonement in Joel.  Natural phenomena are possibly reflected in the rabbinical arguments of this period. It was the period when the Fiscal Judaicus (the atonement tax replacement) was particularly harsh.

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Second Trumpet (Rev 8.8-9): date range 101/102 to 108/109 CE

 

“And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”.

 

The second and third trumpet form doublets as they share common themes:

 

burning mountain

burning star

cast into the sea

fell on the water sources

sea turned into blood

rivers become bitter

 

They are thematically similar because they both deal with the fall of Babylon (Jer 51.25, Isa14.12) and we shall see that the second trumpet overlaps thematically with the third trumpet. The fall of Babylon has a literal and metaphoric application – a spiritual dimension. Babylon was the place where Nebuchadnezzar boasted, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”(Dan 4.30) Babylon was the place where the king was transformed into a beast and where enforced worship of an image (of the beast) occurred.   Babylon was also the place of exile, where the Jews had been sent away (like the scapegoat) from before Yahweh’s face (more on this anon). The prophets warned that wickedness would be established in Babylon and she became the persecutor of the saints. The pride and insanity of Nebuchadnezzar is a midrash on Jewish behaviour, as they established their own religion (house) in Babylon. The importance of Babylon to the Jews should not be underestimated. David E. Lipman  12     summarises the history of this period as follows:

“There was a group of Jews who never left Babylonia after the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BCE. This community more or less thrived. Living since 129 BCE under Parthian rule, a loosely knit semi-feudal state, it was able to develop its autonomous institutions with little interference from the royal government. The Parthians who always feared Roman intervention welcomed Jewish opposition to Rome, at least until the time of Hadrian. The Parthians established a Jewish liaison between the government and the Jewish community, the exilarch, who thus became the head of Babylonian Jewry. Descended allegedly from the House of David, proud of their genealogical purity, the exilarchs wore the kamara, the sash of office of the Parthian court, and disputed precedence with high Parthian officials. The community which they headed was both numerous (estimates of its number vary from 800,000 to 1,200,000) and well-based economically, comprising a fair number of farmers and many traders who grew rich as intermediaries in the profitable silk trade between China and the Roman Empire passing through Babylonia. The Jews enjoyed not only freedom of worship, autonomous jurisdiction, but even the right to have their own markets and appoint market supervisors (agoranomoi).    Continued  ˃

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Apart from their political and economic status, the main interest of Babylonian Jewry was its relations with the rabbinic centers in Judea and its religious/political development, leading up to the creation of the Babylonian Gemara. (Talmud) So long as there was a Temple, Jerusalem was the religious center for the Jewish people. With the Temple's destruction in 70 CE, the relations of the Babylonian Diaspora with Israel were characterized by ambivalence. There were attempts to make Babylonian rabbinic courts independent of Israel's as early as 100 CE. These attempts failed. The people and therefore the Babylonian Jewish leadership acknowledged the authority of the Israel Jewish courts. During the Hadrianic persecution several scholars of standing, R. Yochanan Ha-Sandlar, R. Eleazar b. Shamua and other pupils of R. Akiva settled temporarily in Babylonia and thus enhanced its prestige. However, the masterful personality of the patriarch R. Judah I still dominated from Israel. There were at least five Babylonians at his court, and he claimed and was accorded the right to ordain judges for Babylonia also. R. Judah did indeed admit the genealogical superiority of the exilarch, R. Huna, but only at a safe distance”.

 

Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century. Robert Drews notes, “This was Adiabene, the small kingdom just east of the Tigris, where the ruling family and apparently many of the subjects had converted to Judaism in the 40s CE”.  13    In fact, as early as 9 BCE a colony of Babylonian Jews was established in Batanaea by Herod the Great.  14     We known then that by 101/2 CE (the start of the second trump), the Jews had nearly a 700 year history of living, studying and trading in Babylon.

 

The Jews of Israel (and the Diaspora) could live with one foot as it were in Palestine and the other foot in Parthia. Babylonia represented a “safe-haven” outside of Roman control and Jewish Rabbi’s frequently travelled between Israel and Babylonia.  The second trumpet indicates naval battles or naval destruction with the mention of the “third part of ships destroyed”; however, this need not be the case.  Babylonian Jewish merchants were heavily invested in the extremely lucrative silk and spice trades. Solomon was the first to navigate sea routes to India (and beyond) earning him a revenue of 666 talents of gold annually. When Jehoshaphat attempted the same venture his ships were broken (2 Chron 20.35). In Revelation 18 the merchants weep because their lucrative trade with Babylon is destroyed.  The Romans desired to control these trade routes. Jacob Neusner notes that,

 

“Earlier, in 97 [CE] a Chinese ambassador to Rome was warned by Parthian sailors that the sea was vast, and the voyage long and dangerous. The Parthians (Hirth, p.42) prevented direct communication between China and Rome so far as they were able. See also N. C. Debevoise, op.cit., pp. 203-13; M. P. Charles-worth, Trade Routes and Commerce of the Roman Empire (Cambridge, 1924), pp. 35- 113. E. H. Warmington, op. cit., p. 131, holds that the decline of Selcucia-Ctesiphon in the second century accelerated the tendency of Jews to settle in India. Silk, he points out, also reached Palestine via the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf via Petra or Palmyra, as well as through the northern route”.  15 

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While Palmyra, Dura, and Petra flourished, the Romans already had an alternate route for obtaining silk and other luxuries from the East: sea routes that connected Egypt’s Red Sea coast with the Persian Gulf and the western coast of the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, there is some evidence that from the first to fourth centuries BCE, sailors from Ptolemaic Egypt, prior to the Roman takeover of Egypt, used such routes. Xinru Liu  notes that,

 

“Eventually, the Han Chinese became aware of these markets. The History of the Later Han, which covers the history of the dynasty during the first two centuries CE, mentions that both Parthia and India traded with the Romans “at sea,” and that the trade was very lucrative. The Parthians may have traded with the Romans—or, most likely, with their Palmyraean or Duran agents—at Persian Gulf ports, whence goods were brought up the Euphrates River. The Roman-Indian sea trade probably originated in the western ports of the subcontinent and extended from there to Red Sea ports in Roman-controlled Egypt”.  16 

 

Cities of interest in Parthia and surrounding regions ca. 100 CE:  17 

 

map

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It was during this period that Trajan annexed Nabataea, Millar says,

 

“If neither the decision-making process which lay behind it nor the campaign itself (if there was any real campaign) can be understood, by contrast the multiple effects of the annexation are very clearly reflected in our evidence. In strategic terms we know that, as Dio records, the operation was conducted from Syria, not from Judaea, and by the legatus of circa 104/105-107/108, A. Cornelius Palma, who duly earned triumphal ornamenta, a statue in the Forum of Augustus in Rome and a second consulate in 109. What forces he took from Syria we do not know. All that is clear is that as early as 107 a governor of Arabia, Claudius Severus, was already in office. The same structure had been created as in Judaea, whereby a senatorial governor of ex-praetor rank was simultaneously the legatus of the province and of the one legion which was stationed there. The legion was the III Cyrenaica, which had been brought from Egypt, reducing its legionary garrison to one”.  18 

 

Bloom describes the damage to commercial activities as follows:

 

“Here we should also consider the economic stake of the Nabataeans who also shared this perilous neighborhood with the Jews. The Nabataean Arabs had built up a trading network that extended from the Sinai and the Negev far down into the deserts of the Hijaz, in what is today Saudi Arabia. Cen-tered on their well-protected capital at Petra, in what is now Jordan, the Nabataeans traded in the frankincense (an aromatic resin) and myrrh (used in perfumes and incense) from what is now Oman and the spices of India. Every year a fleet of 120 ships sailed down the Red Sea to India, borne on the cyclical winds of the monsoon. The Nabataeans maintained an emporium at “LeucL KomL” (‘The White Village”) 240 miles down the Red Sea coast of the Hijaz (modern El Haura). A Roman centurion there levied a 25 percent duty on all goods coming in. In other words, the Nabataeans and the Romans had what we would today call a customs union. The King’s Highway ran from what is now Aqaba on the Red Sea, via Petra, to Bostra and Tiberias and thence to Ptolemais (modern Acre, Israel) on the Mediterranean coast, with branch routes going off to Gaza and Egypt. It was a very profitable operation, and the Nabataeans grew quite comfortable on their earnings. This activity dovetailed neatly into the Jews’ own commercial network and gave the Nabataeans and Jews “common cause” in resisting the disastrous effect that Trajan’s Mesopotamian venture would have on this mercantile lifeline”.  19    

A summary of the second trumpet: The second trumpet forms a doublet with the first trumpet.  It describes the demise of Babylon a seat of lucrative trading and independent Jewish learning. This important centre where the Jews established “wickedness” in Shinar (“To build it an house in the land of Shinar” Zech 5.11) came under increasing Roman pressure. Judgement of Babylon was indirectly a Judgement against Jewry.

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Third Trumpet (Rev 8.10-11) date range 108/109 to 115/116 CE

 

“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter”.

 

The Babylon theme is continued with the third trumpet and this is the point where Trajan steps up his campaign and conquers Parthia and Babylon’s replacement capitol Ctesiphon. Babylon has literally fallen. Millar says—

 

“The Roman Empire in the Near East had by that time [114/116] entered a quite new phase, with the end both of the extensive kingdom of Agrippa II and of Nabataea. … Roman forces also, as we have seen, advanced down the middle Euphrates, in the campaign of 116. They certainly remained at Dura-Europos long enough for the legion III Cyrenaica to erect an arch in honour of the Emperor to the north of the town….. Yet the sea-route to northern Syria, though it certainly never carried troops en masse, nor could have, remained significant. Trajan himself had travelled through the province of Asia and then Lycia, arriving by sea at Seleucia. It was in the second century, if not for certain before, that we can see Seleucia emerging as an established naval base. The Latin epitaphs of officers and sailors, from both the 'Syrian fleet' (now named as such for the first time) and those of Misenum and Ravenna, inscribed at Seleucia, reflect its importance in communications and represent a small island of Romanisation, and the use of the Latin language. So we find at Seleucia Pieria in 166 an optio of the Misenum fleet making a contract, in Latin and Greek, for the purchase from a sailor of the same fleet of a slave-boy 'from across the river [transfluminianum]', called Abba or also Eutyches. Then, as in 114-116, Roman armies were operating beyond the river Euphrates, captives will have been available in larger than normal numbers, and ships from other fleets will have come to Seleucia. D. van Berchem may well be right to suggest that we need to envisage a network of communications and supplies stretching from the Mediterranean through Seleucia to northern Syria and the Euphrates. That would explain why one of the very rare Latin honorific inscriptions from Syria was erected to a prefect of the Misenum fleet, Marcius Turbo, in about 114, precisely at Cyrrhus, on one of the two main routes from Antioch to Zeugma. Whether we would think of supplies, rather than forces, travelling over such distances is uncertain; but in later campaigns we do know that supplies were shipped from southern Asia Minor to Syria for the armies; and, while we must resist too confident a reconstruction of a supply network, an inscription from Caria does record an equestrian officer who had been ‘in charge of supplies in the Parthian war on the bank of the Euphrates’ ”.

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The extent of the eastern Roman Empire under Trajan (grey area is territory gained after 106/7 by Trajan with the red squares denoting garrisoned Roman cities):  20 

 

map

 

The period is bracketed by a great earthquake at Antioch that nearly killed the Emperor Trajan at the start of his Parthian campaign and was interpreted as a bad omen. After Trajan created new provinces - Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria - and believed he had been victorious, several Messianic revolts broke out simultaneously. The reasons are unclear to scholars, but the appearance of a comet, a Messianic symbol, may be the explanation; it is referred to in Chinese sources (and perhaps Juvenal, Satires, 6.407).  21    The star “Wormwood” is associated through the name with false prophets and false messiahs (cf. Deut 29.8, Amos 5.7), the false message of salvation (encouraged by Babylonian Jewry) would have bitter results (as would the bitter outworking of the prophetic campaign, see, Rev 10.9-10). The fall of Parthia and Babylon came as a shock to the Jews. Their safe-haven and lucrative trade was (temporarily) interrupted. What follows in the next trumpets is an eruption of revolts, and false messianic movements culminating in the Bar Kochba revolt.

 

A summary of the second and third trumpets:  A judgement of the Jews in Babylonia and on their lucrative trade. Babylon falls. This spurs on revolts throughout the Diaspora.

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Fourth Trumpet (Rev 8.12): date range 115/116 to 122/123 CE

 

“And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise”.

 

In 116 Emperor Trajan completed his invasion of Parthia by capturing the cities of Seleucia, Babylon, Ctesiphon and Susa, marking the high-water mark of the Roman Empire’s eastern expansion. At about the same time (115-117) the Kitos War erupted   22    with Jews in Egypt and Cyrene ignite a revolt against the rule of the Roman Empire, which spread to Cyprus, Judea, and the Roman province of Mesopotamia.  This was a time of terrible slaughter and genocide with “people  23    rising against people” (Matt.24.7). The Jews rose up against their neighbours and wholesale slaughter occurred with atrocities being committed on both sides. Whole areas of the Roman Empire were depopulated and in the aftermath, Rome had to establish new colonies in some parts – with Jews banned from living in many places. Where Jews had previously lived prosperously for many centuries, they were now considered untrustworthy, hated and excluded.

 

Diaspora Revolts (map by Éric Grenier)  24    

 

map

 

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Jesus employs similar words to the fourth trumpet in Matt 24.29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”.  The sun moon and stars are used in Rev 12.1 as a symbol for the Jewish nation. The “sun, moon and stars” are darkened in Joel representing the Assyrian invasion (in the land of Israel) and we noted that “Joel symbology” is used throughout the trumpets. However, here Jews outside the land   25    are recipients of punishments (largely of their own making). There is no safe space or refuge outside God and his messiah. One cannot “hide in Babylon” or make money in Cyprus, Egypt etc…

 

A summary of the fourth trumpet: The Kitos war. Jewish uprisings everywhere; “ethnos rising against ethnos” (Matt 24.7)

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Fifth and Sixth Trumpets (Rev 9.1-21): date range 122/123 to 136/137 CE

 

1“And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit”.

14“Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates”.

The second and third trumpets (doublets) have overlapping themes, similarly with the fifth and sixth trumpets. Although the sixth trumpet describes the Bar Kochba revolt ca 132-135 CE (with the death of Rabbi Akiva on the eve of the Day of Atonement in 136) the fifth trumpet is a prolepsis, anticipating the carnage and describing the invasion from the abyss (Euphrates) that is the result of the Bar Kochba rebellion --- the demonic locusts of the fifth and the demonic cavalry of the sixth trumpets are essentially the same enemy and not separate invasions.

 

Fifth Trumpet Rev 9.1-11 Sixth Trumpet Rev 9.13-19

(1)Nature of the plague (v.1-6)

(1) Nature of the plague (v.13-16)

  (a)Abyss opened (v.2)

  (a)Four angels released (v.14-15a)

   (b)Purpose of plague (v.4-5)

   (b)Purpose of plague(v.15b,16)

(2)Description of locust army (v.7–10)

(2)Cavalry army of 200 million (v.17)

  (a)Lethal nature of their tails (v.10)

  (a)Lethal mouths and tails (v.19)

 

The plagues are a hyperbolic fusion of Joel and other Old Testament prophecies with Babylonian creation myths. This was a fitting response to Babylonian Jewry who was, no doubt, aware of these myths. Creation is now depicted as being undone, undone by demonic chimera emerging from the primordial abyss, unleashing doom in the form of the images found on the walls of the temple of Belus on the Euphrates.  In his work, the historian Berosus  26    reproduced all the known historical facts and traditions derived from native sources which were current in his day. It is therefore not surprising to find that his account of the Babylonian beliefs about the origin of things corresponds very closely with that given in the cuneiform texts, and that it is of the greatest use in explaining and partly in expanding these texts. His account of the primeval abyss, out of which everything came, and of its inhabitants reads:-- 

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“There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced on a two-fold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were furnished with two wings, others with four, and with two faces. They had one body but two heads; the one that of a man, the other of a woman; and likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of goats; some had horses' feet; while others united the hind-quarters of a horse with the body of a man, resembling in shape the hippo-centaurs. Bulls likewise were bred there with the heads of men, and dogs with four told bodies, terminated in their extremities with the tails of fishes; horses also with the heads of dogs; men too and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals. In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous animals, which assumed each other's shape and countenance. Of all which were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.”   27 

 

These enemies can torment with their heads and tails! They have scorpion tails and serpent heads.  In other words you can’t touch them or pick them up, whatever you do you will end up being hurt.  We can of course attempt to find some literality in these descriptions. For example the Romans had mechanical crossbows known as the scorpio or scorpion with torsion springs (which the Romans referred to as tormenta) – tormented by scorpions?  They had also in the past used beardless-long haired (hair like women) Celtic mercenaries   28     who either bleached their hair with lime stiffened into a crown of spikes, or wore horned crowns. It is quite possible that Celtic mercenaries from Britain were involved in the guerrilla warfare. The war became so serious that in the summer of 134 Hadrian himself came from Rome to visit the battlefield and summoned the governor of Britain (where Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep out the ferocious Celts), Gaius Julius Severus, to his aid with 35,000 men of the Legion X.  There is however, no need to attempt to literalise every single detail as it is quite clear that the description depicts the unleashing of the armies of the underworld. Interestingly, the demonic tormentors mimic the torments called down by the witnesses. There are parallels linking the invasion and the witnessing:

 

Revelation 9 Revelation 11

Locusts – horses

Witnesses

Tormented 5

Tormented them 10

Unto them was given power 3

I will give power 3

By these three plagues 18

To smite the earth with all plagues 6

Fire out of their mouths 18

Fire out of their mouth 5

Power to hurt men 10

Power to shut heaven – power over the waters 6

 

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This may well explain why the locusts have anthropomorphic features (faces like men and long hair like women 9.7-8) for they are the outworking of the prophetic programme dictated by the witnesses. It seems then that the witnessing programme runs (at least partially) parallel with the invasion.

 

According to Bloom, the beginning of this period (the 120’s) saw a decade of preparation by the Jews with the digging of (Viet-Cong style) tunnels and the purloining of arms from the Romans; “This preparation would have taken the good part of a decade, and it is likely that it began in the 120s, heralding the period when Rome reinforced their Judaean garrison  29    …..and….There had apparently been endemic unrest in Palestine, which would explain why the Romans felt it necessary to post a second legion in the territory some time before 120, which would likewise explain the intense spurt of road-building in the decade 120–130 to support the movements of the legions”.  30     Some scholars even suppose that a small insurrection was put down during this period.  According to rabbinic writings, Rabbi Akiva journeyed from Israel to Nehardea and Gazaka  31     to meet with the Exilarch and others to make preparations for another revolt.  32     Adiabene quietly began sending arms and supplies to Israel. In Sefer Yuhasin it is maintained that Bar Kokba waged war with the Romans in Mesopotamia,  33     but this is probably a reminiscence of the struggles under Trajan. It is known that Jews from Babylonia enrolled themselves under Bar Kokba   34    and the crushing of Bar Kokba revolt in 135 CE no doubt added to the number of Jewish refugees in Babylon and Arabia. In 129 AD Emperor Hadrian inspected Caria, Cappadocia and Syria. In 129/130 CE, Hadrian visited Jerusalem, which was still in ruins from the revolt in 70.  It is at this time the first (?) “Ploughing” of Jerusalem occurred --- although this may have been misinterpreted by the Jews --- with another “Ploughing” occurring after the Kochba revolt as punishment.  35 

 

The army released from the Euphrates-abyss is an impossibly huge two hundred million – the Greek literally has, “twenty thousand of ten thousands.” This is clearly hyperbole as both Persia and Rome had approximately 500,000 troops. China currently has about 2.3 million active military and the USA 1.4 million. No military, either present or past has a force of 200 million. Perhaps all military that ever existed would equal that number.  From 66 CE on, the fourth legion (IVth Scythica) was stationed in Zeugma, an important crossing place on the river Euphrates, facing the Parthian frontier. It was still there in the third century. Between 132 CE and 136 CE, subunits of this legion fought against the Jews when they revolted under Simon bar Kochba. Bloom lists the legions involved as follows:

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“Three entire legions were deployed: VIth Ferrata, Xth Fretensis— hastily strengthened with marines from Italy — and XXIInd Deiotariana. No less than seventeen auxiliary units are known to have fought in Palestine. The XXIInd Legion was probably annihilated by the Jews, since there are no indications of its existence after this war. In addition to the three legions sent in connection with Severus’s expedition, new reinforcements had to be sent, consisting of the IInd Legion Traiana Fortis. There are indications that units borrowed from other legions were involved in the struggle, possibly IInd Cyrenaica, IIIrd Gallicaand IVth Scythica. For the first time in more than a century, the Romans suffered from manpower shortage; two senators even started to conscript Italian boys. By that time, there were the equivalent of 12 army legions from Egypt, Britain, Syria and other areas in Palestine, taking into account both the complete legions noted and the vexillationes, alae and auxiliaries borrowed from additional legions”.  36 

 

This was a huge army (for its time) and much of it was pulled back from the Parthian frontier with which Hadrian had made peace after the death of Trajan in 117 CE.

 

A Summary of the fifth and sixth trumpets: Jerusalem is “ploughed” and Jewry makes secret preparations to foment revolt. A messianic rebellion supported by Babylonian and Palestinian rabbis is launched. The revolt is crushed with devastating consequences --- Rome hurls all her might at the rebels including Legion’s stationed at the Euphrates. This period also overlaps with the witnessing. The period closes with the death of Akiva on the eve of Atonement.

 

Completing the Picture

 

The picture is not completed yet as a number of themes dovetail in the following chapters to support the exegesis proposed here. Firstly, Revelation 14 (the seven thunders) has a number of elements that connect with the Bar Kochba revolt. Secondly, the consequences of the revolt (for Jews and Christians) require examination and thirdly, the theme of the Day of Atonement continues into Revelation 11, as does the “land covenant” made with Abraham. Finally, we need to examine why the seventh trump was not sounded and discuss how to identify a “repeat pattern” of similar (not exactly) the same archetypes.