This article is an extract from “Daniel and the Revelation” by Uriah Smith, a pioneer of the Seventh Day Adventist movement and, with Part 2 on the Ottomans, the two parts are the complete chapter from Mr. Smith’s exposition, which takes the Historicist position and has made extensive use of orthodox Protestant commentators in his own exposition. For the record I am not Seventh Day Adventist, and I don’t subscribe to the view, as presented in this commentary, that the mark of the beast is those who don’t observe the Sabbath.
The Prophecy of the Seven Trumpets – Revelation 9:1-10
“VERSE 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”
For an exposition of this trumpet, we shall again draw from the writings of Mr Keith. This writer truthfully says: “There is scarcely so uniform an agreement among interpreters concerning any other part of the Apocalypse as respecting the application of the fifth and sixth trumpets, or the first and second woes, to the Saracens and Turks. It is so obvious that it can scarcely be misunderstood. Instead of a verse or two designating each, the whole of the ninth chapter of the Revelation, in equal portions, is occupied with a description of both.
The Roman Empire declined, as it arose, by conquest; but the Saracens [Arabs] and Turks were the instruments by which a false religion became the scourge of an apostate church; and hence, instead of the fifth and sixth trumpets, like the former, being designated by that name alone, they are called woes.
Constantinople was besieged, for the first time after the extinction of the Western empire, by Chosroes, the king of Persia.
“A star fell from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit”.
While the Persian monarch contemplated the wonders of his art and power, he received an epistle from an obscure citizen of Mecca, inviting him to acknowledge Mohammed as the apostle of God. He rejected the invitation, and tore the epistle. ‘It is thus, ‘exclaimed the Arabian prophet, ‘that God will tear the kingdom and reject the supplication of Chosroes’. Placed on the verge of these two empires of the East, Mohammed observed with secret joy the progress of mutual destruction; and in the midst of the Persian triumphs, he ventured to foretell that before many years should elapse victory would again return to the banners of the Romans. ‘At the time when this prediction is said to have been delivered no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment (!) since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire’.
It was not, like that designative of Attila, on a single spot that the star fell, but UPON THE EARTH.
Chosroes subjugated the Roman possessions in Asia and Africa. And ‘the Roman empire,’ at that period, ‘was reduced to the walls of Constantinople, with the remnant of Greece, Italy, and Africa, and some maritime cities, from Tyre to Trebizond, of the Asiatic coast. The experience of six years at length persuaded the Persian monarch to renounce the conquest of Constantinople, and to specify the annual tribute of gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand virgins. Heraclius subscribed to these ignominious terms. But the time and space which he obtained to collect those treasures from the poverty of the East were industriously employed in the preparation of a bold and desperate attack’.
The king of Persia despised the obscure Saracen, and derided the message of the pretended prophet of Mecca. Even the overthrow of the Roman empire would not have opened a door for Mohammedanism [Islam], or for the progress of the Saracenic armed propagators of an imposture, though the monarch of the Persians and the Chagan of the Avars (the successor of Attila) had divided between them the remains of the kingdoms of the Caesars. Chosroes himself fell. The Persian and Roman monarchies exhausted each other’s strength. And before a sword was put into the hands of the false prophet, it was smitten from the hands of those who would have checked his career and crushed his power.
Since the days of Scipio and Hannibal, no bolder enterprise has been attempted that that which Heraclius achieved for the deliverance of the empire. He explored his perilous way through the Black Sea and the mountains of Armenia, penetrated into the heart of Persia, and recalled the armies of the great king to the defence of their bleeding country.
In the battle of Nineveh, which was fiercely fought from daybreak to the eleventh hour, twenty eight standards, besides those which were broken or torn, were taken from the Persians; the greatest part of their army was cut in pieces, and the victors, concealing their own loss, passed the night on the field. The cities and palaces of Assyria were opened for the first time to the Romans.
The Roman emperor was not strengthened by the conquests which he achieved; and a way was prepared at the same time, and by the same means, for the multitude of Saracens from Arabia, like locusts from the same region, who, propagating in their course the dark and delusive Mohammedan creed, speedily overspread both the Persian and Roman empire.
More complete illustration of this fact could not be desired than is supplied in the concluding words of the chapter from Gibbon from which the preceding excerpts are taken”. “Although a victorious army had been formed under the standard of Heraclius, the unnatural effort seems to have exhausted rather than exercised their strength. While the emperor triumphed at Constantinople, or Jerusalem, an obscure town on the confines of Syria was pillaged by the Saracens, and they cut in pieces some troops who had advanced to its relief – an ordinary and trifling occurrence, had it not been the prelude of a mighty revolution. These robbers were the apostles of Mohammed; their frantic valour had emerged from the desert; and in the last eight years of his reign, Heraclius lost to the Arabs the same provinces which he had rescued from the Persians.
‘The spirit of fraud and enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens,’ was let loose on earth. The bottomless pit needed but a key to open it, and that key was the fall of Chosroes. He had contemptuously torn the letter of an obscure citizen of Mecca. But when from his ‘blaze of glory’, he sank into the ‘tower of darkness which no eye could penetrate’, the name of Chosroes was suddenly to pass into oblivion before that of Mohammed; and the crescent seemed but to wait its rising till the falling of the star. Chosroes, after his entire discomfiture and loss of empire, was murdered in the year 628; and the year 629 is marked by ‘the conquest of Arabia,’ and ‘the first war of the Mohammedans against the Roman empire’.
‘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. And he opened the bottomless pit’. He fell unto the earth.
When the strength of the Roman empire was exhausted, and the great king of the East lay dead in his tower of darkness, the pillage of an obscure town on the borders of Syria was ‘the prelude of a mighty revolution’. ‘The robbers were the apostles of Mohammed, and their frantic valour emerged from the desert’”.
The Bottomless Pit. The meaning of this term may be learned from the Greek abbusos, which is defined ‘deep, bottomless, profound’, and may refer to any waste, desolate, and uncultivated place. It is applied to the earth in its original state of chaos (Gen 1:2 LXX). In this instance it may appropriately refer to the unknown wastes of the Arabian desert, from the borders of which issued the hordes of Saracens, like swarms of locusts. And the fall of Chosroes, the Persian king, may well be represented as the opening of the bottomless pit, inasmuch as it prepared the way for the followers of Mohammed to issue from their obscure country, and propagate their delusive doctrines with fire and sword till they had spread their darkness over all the Eastern empire.
VERSE 2. “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit”.
Like the noxious and even deadlier vapour which the winds, particularly from the south-west diffuse in Arabia, Mohammedanism spread from thence its pestilential influence – arose as suddenly and spread as widely as smoke arising out of the pit, the smoke of a great furnace. Such is a suitable symbol of the religion of Mohammed, of itself, or as compared with the pure light of the Gospel of Jesus. It was not, like the latter, a light from heaven, but a smoke out of the bottomless pit.
VERSE 3. “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power”
A false religion was set up, which although the scourge of transgressions and idolatry, filled the world with darkness and delusion; and swarms of Saracens, like locusts, overspread the earth, and speedily extended their ravages over the Roman empire from east to west. The hail descended from the frozen shores of the Baltic; the burning mountain fell upon the sea from Africa; and the locusts (the fit symbol of the Arabs) issued from Arabia, their native region. They came as destroyers, propagating a new doctrine, and stirred up to rapine and violence by motives of interest and religion.
A still more specific illustration may be given of the power, like unto that of scorpions, which was given them. Not only was their attack speedy and vigorous, but ‘the nice sensibility of honour which weighs the insult rather than the injury sheds its deadly venom on the quarrels of the Arabs; an indecent action, a contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the blood of the offender; and such is their patient inveteracy that they expect whole months and years the opportunity of revenge’.
VERSE 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”
After the death of Mohammed, he was succeeded in the command by Abubeker [Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s closest Companion and advisor], A.D. 632, who, as soon as he had fairly dispatched a circular letter to the Arabian tribes, from which the following is an extract:-
‘When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that way; let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries. And you will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns [Catholic monks]; be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter till they either turn Mohammedans or pay tribute’.
It is not said in prophecy or in history that the more humane injunctions were as scrupulously obeyed as the ferocious mandate; but it was so commanded them. And the preceding are the only instructions recorded by Gibbon as given by Abubeker to the chiefs whose duty it was to issue the commands to all the Saracen hosts. The commands are alike discriminating with the prediction, as if the caliph himself had been acting in known as well as direct obedience to a higher mandate than that of mortal man; and in the very act of going forth to fight against the religion of Jesus, and to propagate Mohammedanism in its stead, he repeated the words which it was foretold in the Revelation of Jesus Christ that he would say.
The Seal of God in Their Foreheads:- In remarks upon chapter 7:1-3, we have shown that the seal of God is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and history is not silent upon the fact that there have been observers of the true Sabbath throughout the present dispensation. But at this point the question may arise with some, ‘Who were those men who at this time had the seal of God in their foreheads, and who therefore became exempt from Mohammedan oppression?’ Let the reader bear in mind the fact, already alluded to, that there have been those through this dispensation who have had the seal of God in their foreheads, or have been intelligent observers of the true Sabbath; and let him consider further that what the prophecy asserts is that the attacks of this desolating Turkish power are not directed against them, but against another class. The subject is thus freed from all difficulty; for this is all that the prophecy really asserts. Only one class of persons is directly brought to view in the text: namely, those who have not the seal of God in their foreheads; and the preservation of those who have the seal of God is brought in only by implication. Accordingly, we do not learn from history that any of these were involved in any of the calamities inflicted by the Saracens upon the objects of their hate. They were commissioned against another class of men. And the destruction to come upon this class of men is not put in contrast with the preservation of other men, but only with that of the fruits and verdure of the earth; thus, Hurt not the grass, trees, not any green thing, but only a certain class of men. And in fulfilment, we have the strange spectacle of an army of invaders sparing those things which such armies usually destroy, namely, the face and productions of nature; and, in pursuance of their permission to hurt those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads, cleaving the skulls of a class of religionists with shaven crowns, who belonged to the synagogue of Satan.
These were doubtless a certain class of monks, or some other division of the Roman Catholic Church. Against these the arms of the Mohammedans were directed. And it seems to us that there is a peculiar fitness, if not design, in describing them as those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads; inasmuch as that is the very church which has robbed the law of God of its seal, by tearing away the true Sabbath, and erecting a counterfeit in its place. And we do not understand, either from the prophecy or from history, that those persons whom Abubeker charged his followers not to molest were in possession of the seal of God, or necessarily constituted the people of God. Who they were, and for what reason they were spared, the meagre testimony of Gibbon does not inform us, and we have no other means of knowing; but we have every reason to believe that none of those who had the seal of God were molested, while another class, who emphatically had it not, were put to the sword; and thus the specifications of the prophecy are amply met.
VERSE 5. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, which striketh a man.
Their constant incursions into the Roman territory, and frequent assaults on Constantinople itself, were an unceasing torment throughout the empire; and yet they were not able to effectually subdue it, notwithstanding the long period, afterward more directly alluded to, during which they continued, by unremitting attacks, grievously to afflict an idolatrous church, of which the Pope was the head. Their charge was to torment, and then to hurt, but not to kill, or utterly destroy. The marvel was that they did not. (In reference to the five months, see on verse 10).
VERSE 6. And in those days men shall seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
Men were weary of life, when life was spared only for a renewal of woe, and when all that was accounted sacred was violated, and all that they held dear constantly endangered, and the savage Saracens domineered over them, or left them only to a momentary repose, ever liable to be suddenly or violently interrupted, as if by the sting of a scorpion.
VERSE 7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
The Arabian horse takes the lead throughout the world; and skill in horsemanship is the art and science of Arabia. And the barbed Arabs, swift as locusts and armed like scorpions, ready to dart away in a moment, were ever prepared unto battle.
‘And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold’. When Mohammed entered Medina (AD 622), and was first received as its prince, ‘a turban unfurled before him to supply the deficiency of a standard.’ The turbans of the Saracens, like unto a coronet, were their ornament and their boast. The rich booty abundantly supplied and frequently renewed them. To assume the turban is proverbially to turn Mussulman [Muslim]. And the Arabs were anciently distinguished by the mitres which they wore.
‘And their faces were as the faces of men’. The gravity and firmness of the mind of the Arab is conspicuous in his outward demeanour; his only gesture is that of stroking his beard, the venerable symbol of manhood. The honour of their beards is most easily wounded.
VERSE 8. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were the teeth of lions.
‘Long hair’ is esteemed an ornament by women. The Arabs, unlike other men, had hair as the hair of women, or uncut, as their practice is recorded by Pliny and others. But there was nothing effeminate in their character; for, as denoting their ferocity and strength to devour, their teeth were as the teeth
VERSE 9. And they had breastplates as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
The Breastplate – The cuirass (or breastplate) was in use among the Arabs in the days of Mohammed. In the battle of Ohud (the second which Mohammed fought) with the Koreish of Mecca (AD 624), seven hundred of them were armed with cuirasses.
The Sound of their Wings – The charge of the Arabs was not, like that of the Greeks and Romans, the efforts of a firm and compact infantry; their military force was chiefly of cavalry and archers. With a touch of the hand, the Arab horses darted away with the swiftness of the wind. ‘The sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle’. Their conquests were marvellous both in rapidity and extent, and their attack was instantaneous. Nor was it less successful against the Romans than the Persians.
VERSE 10. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11. And they 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 hath his name Apollyon.”
Thus far, Keith has furnished us with illustrations of the sounding of the first five trumpets. But we must now take leave of him, and proceed to the application of the new feature of the prophecy here introduced; namely, the prophetic periods.
Their Power Was to Hurt Men Five Months – 1. The question arises, What men were they to hurt five months? – Undoubtedly the same they were afterward to slay (see verse 15), “the third part of men”, or third of the Roman Empire – the Greek division of it.
This section concludes the prophecy of the rise of Islam under Muhammad and the Arabs. The next section deals with the Ottomans and the fall of Constantinople.
Smith, Uriah, “Daniel and The Revelation” by Uriah Smith, undated (circa 1899), p. 442-454, published by The Stanborough Press, Watford, Herts