Third Trumpet - Bitter Waters

The third trumpet results in a “great star” falling into the sources of freshwater and embittering them – Revelation 8:10-11. 

The third trumpet uses imagery from the first plague of Egypt that polluted the nation’s sources of freshwater. The “Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river” because it had turned “into blood.” In the book of Revelation, the plague also kills the fish in rivers and streams, and it “embitters” a third of the earth’s drinking water.

The sounding of the third trumpet results in a “great star” falling into the earth’s water supplies. John compares it to a “burning torch,” using the same Greek verb just applied to the “burning mountain” that was cast into the “sea” when the second trumpet sounded.
  • (Revelation 8:10-11) – “And the third angel sounded, and there fell out of heaven a great star, burning like 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.”


The verbal parallels suggest this is the same “star” that will fall to the earth when the fifth trumpet sounds, the one which has the “key of the Abyss” that releases a demonic horde to torment the “inhabitants of the earth” - (Revelation 9:1).

The English term “fall” (piptō) translates a different Greek verb than the one just used for the first two “plagues” that are “cast into” the sea and onto the earth. When “cast” or ballô was used, it was in the passive voice - the “plague” was “cast” by something or someone else.

In the present verse, piptō or “fall” is in the active voice and used with a different preposition or “upon” (epi). In other words, the “star” is actively involved in whatever he/it inflicts on its victims.

And it “fell upon” a third of the “rivers and the springs of waters,” making their waters undrinkable. Later, “Babylon the Great” is seen sitting upon “many waters” that represent “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.”

The description of the “star” parallels that of the later third “bowl of wrath” that is “poured out on the rivers and springs of waters, and they became blood.” Thus, there is a direct connection between the third trumpet and the third “bowl of wrath”- (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 “Babylon” sits. If so, then the peoples over which she rules are embittered by this plague, not literal bodies of freshwater.

Wormwood” and “bitter water” allude to passages in Jeremiah and Deuteronomy that equate “bitterness” with idolatry - (Deuteronomy 29:16-18, Jeremiah 9:12-15, Jeremiah 23:13-15).

The burning “star” falls upon “springs of water.” The same Greek term rendered “springs” or pégas appears in the Septuagint version of Jeremiah in its dirge against Ancient Babylon already alluded to in the first two trumpet plagues:
  • (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 SPRINGS OF WATER (pégas):  Thus, shall Babylon become heaps, a habitation of jackals, an astonishment and a hissing without inhabitant.


Like the second trumpet, the third one portrays judgment on “Babylon,” the counterpart to Ancient Egypt that enslaved the Israelites. The second trumpet causes great damage to her commerce, and the third one targets the rivers and other sources of freshwater, making them undrinkable. A society cannot function without reliable sources of clean drinking water.

Whether the descriptions of the “plagues” are literal or not, the target of the first few trumpet blasts is the “Great Harlot, Babylon,” especially her economic power 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 Revelation.



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Language of the New Testament