Third Trumpet - Bitter Waters

OVERVIEW - The third trumpet blast resulted in a “great star” falling into the sources of freshwater, embittering them – Revelation 8:10-11

Comet - Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash
The third trumpet includes imagery from the first plague of Egypt, when Yahweh struck its sources of freshwater. As Moses warned, God struck all the waters so that the “
Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river,” turning their waters “into blood.” Thus, the “fish that are in the river will die and the river shall become foul.” Likewise, the sounding of the third trumpet “embittered” a third of the earth’s drinking water - [Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash].
  • (Revelation 8:10-11) – “And the third angel sounded; and there fell out of heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third of the waters became wormwood, and many of the men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
John saw a “great star fall.” Elsewhere in the book, “stars” represent “angels”. This one is compared to a “burning lamp,” the same term used previously for the “seven lamps of fire that burn” before the Throne.

Most likely, because of the verbal parallels, this is the same “star” or angel that fell to the earth when the fifth trumpet sounded. It had the “key of the Abyss” with which to release the demonic horde from the Abyss that tormented the “inhabitants of the earth.” Since Jesus has the “keys of Death and Hades,” these “angels” serve him - (Revelation 1:202:14:5, 9:1).

Fall” (piptō) translates a different Greek verb than the one used previously for judgments being “cast into” the sea and onto the earth (ballô). Each time, the latter verb or ballô is in the passive voice - the item was “cast” by something else. In verse 9, piptō or “fall” is in the active voice and used with a different preposition, “upon” (epi). In other words, this “star” was actively involved in whatever he/it inflicted on the sources of freshwater.

It “fell upon” a third of the “rivers and the springs of waters,” making their waters undrinkable. Later, the “Great Whore, Babylon” was sitting upon “many waters,” which represented “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” The description parallels the third “bowl of wrath” that was “poured out on the rivers and springs of waters; and they became blood” - (Revelation 16:4, 17:1, 17:15).

If Revelation is consistent in its symbolism, then the “rivers and fountains of waters” represent the “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” on which end-time Babylon was sitting. If so, it is the peoples over which she rules that were embittered, not literal bodies of freshwater.

Wormwood” and “bitter water” allude to passages from the books of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy, Yahweh warned Israel that if the nation violated His covenant by worshiping idols, it would become a “root of bitterness” among the people - (Deuteronomy 29:16-18, Jeremiah 9:12-15, Jeremiah 23:13-15).

At the end of the sixth trumpet, the men not killed by the first six “plagues” still refused to repent. Idolatry is the root of the sins to which the “inhabitants of the earth” were addicted, and in Revelation, its ultimate form is to “render homage to the image of the beast” - (Revelation 9:20).

Springs - Photo by Marcin Szmigiel on Unsplash
Photo by Marcin Szmigiel on Unsplash

The burning “
star” fell upon “springs of water.” The same Greek term rendered “springs” or pégas appears in the Septuagint version of the book of Jeremiah in his dirge against ancient Babylon:
  • (Jeremiah 51:25, 36-37) – “Behold me against you, O destroying mountain, declares Yahweh, that destroys all the earth. Therefore, will I stretch out my hand over you, and roll you down from the crags, and make of you a burning mountain…Thus says Yahweh, Behold me, pleading your cause, so then, I will execute the avenging of you; and will dry up her sea, and make dry her spring (pégas):  Thus shall Babylon become heaps, a habitation of jackals, an astonishment and A hissing without inhabitant.
Like the second trumpet, the third trumpet portrays judgment on end-time Babylon, the contemporary counterpart to Ancient Egypt.  The second trumpet caused great damage to her commerce. The third trumpet targets the rivers and other sources of freshwater, making them “bitter” to drink. A society cannot function without reliable sources of clean drinking water. It is not clear what “embittering” the peoples ruled by Babylon accomplished. Unrest? Civil war? Impoverishment? On some level, it means the population became restless and difficult to govern, if not ungovernable.

The same Old Testament image is employed in the “sixth bowl of wrath” when the Euphrates River was “dried up” to make way for the “kings of the east” to be gathered to the “battle of that great day of God Almighty,” Armageddon - (Revelation 16:12-16).

Two incidents from the history of Israel complete this image. First, the “plague” inflicted by Moses that turned the waters of Egypt into “blood.” Second, the conquest of ancient Babylon by the kingdom of the “Medes and the Persians” when its army entered the walled city by damming the Euphrates River, causing its riverbed to “dry up” and provide a point of entry.

Whether the descriptions of the “plagues” are literal or not, the target of the first few trumpet blasts is end-time “Babylon,” especially her economic might and control over populations. The significance of “wormwood” is not clear at this point, other than to embitter the sources of “freshwater.” The term is not taken up elsewhere in the book.


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