SYNOPSIS: The second trumpet harms much of the commerce on which Babylon and the “inhabitants of the earth” depend – Revelation 8:8-9.
The second trumpet sounds, upsetting the sea, thus, disrupting a third of all commerce on it. In the book of Revelation, the “sea” is vital to the commerce on which “Babylon” depends, and it is the source of evil and chaos. In part, this explains why no “sea” is found in New Jerusalem. In the symbolical world of Revelation, the “sea” is linked to the “Dragon” and the “Beast” (Revelation 15:1-5, 18:17-21, 20:13, 21:1).
- (Revelation 8:8-9) – “And the second messenger sounded; and, as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third of the sea became blood, and the third of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life, died, the third of the ships was destroyed” – (The Emphasized Bible).
John did not see a literal mountain but something he likens to “a great mountain burning with fire.” This is a simile. The first plague impacted the earth and vegetation, the second now harms the “sea,” the location from which the “Beast” ascends to wage war against the “saints.” In Revelation, the “sea” corresponds to the “Abyss”:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And, as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the wild-beast that is to come up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.”
- (Revelation 12:17-13:7) – “And the dragon was angered against the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed—with them who were keeping the commandments of God, and holding the witness of Jesus;—and he stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw, out of the sea a wild-beast coming up; having ten horns and seven heads, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his head names of blasphemy…[And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them].”
The second trumpet echoes the first Egyptian plague when Yahweh turned the waters of the Nile into blood to curtail Egypt’s economic life:
- (Exodus 7:17-21) – “The fish in the river died and the river became foul, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the river; and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt.”
The “mountain burning with fire” alludes to a passage from the book of Jeremiah, a judgment dirge on ancient Babylon in which that city is called a “destroying” and a “burning” mountain:
- (Jeremiah 51:25) – “Behold me against you, O destroying mountain 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.”
In the later vision in Chapter 17, Babylon is the “great whore” that sits on “seven mountains” – The mountains represent the kingdoms over which Babylon holds sway, especially in the economic sphere (Revelation 17:9-10).
The casting of the “burning mountain” into the “sea” echoes the act of the angel who took a censer, filled it with fire from the golden altar, then “cast it onto the earth.” The image of Babylon as a “burning mountain” hurled into the “sea” symbolizes its judgment and the consequences of it for the world of commerce. Just as this “great burning mountain was cast into the sea,” so, also, end-time “Babylon” will be “cast into the sea like a great millstone,” which will cause all merchants, shipmasters, and sailors to lament that “in one hour that so great riches came to nothing” (Revelation 8:5, 18:16-21).
The second trumpet also causes the “ships to be destroyed (diaphtheiro).” The clause translates a Greek verb borrowed from the Septuagint version of Jeremiah 51:25:
- “I am against you, destroying mountain that destroyed all the earth (diaphtheiro).”
The verbal connection is deliberate. The same verb occurs again when the seventh trumpet sounds:
- (Revelation 11:18) – “And the season came to reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and to destroy them that destroy the earth (diaphtheiro).”
The destruction of a third of all ships is detrimental to trade. The destruction will become total with the final overthrow of end-time “Babylon”:
- (Revelation 18:16-20): “Alas! alas! the great city! She that was arrayed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stone, and pearl — That in one hour hath been laid waste such great wealth as this! And every pilot and every passenger and mariners and as many as, by the sea carry on traffic, afar off did stand, and they cried out, seeing the smoke of her burning, saying — What city is like unto the great city? And they cast dust upon their heads, and cried out, weeping and grieving, saying — Alas! alas! the great city! Whereby were made rich all that had ships in the sea, by reason of her costliness — that in one hour she hath been laid waste! Be glad over her, thou heaven! And ye saints, and ye apostles, and ye prophets! For that God hath exacted your vindication from her” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The image of the “burning mountain” anticipates the fuller judgment against end-time “Babylon” described in Chapter 18. The picture is of the partial destruction of her economic base, the source of her power and influence.
“God uses the ‘blazing mountain’ of Babylon, the ‘destroyer of the whole earth,’ to pollute the sea on which Babylon itself depends for the maintenance of its commercial empire” [G.B. Caird, Revelation, 1999, p. 114].
Thus, this cosmic enemy of the people of God is used rather ironically by the Lamb to execute judgment on the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth.” The very thing they idolize, “Babylon,” becomes the agent of their judgment.