Synopsis: The fourth trumpet causes a partial darkening of the sun, moon, and the stars – Revelation 8:12.
The image of the darkening of a third of the light emitted by the sun, moon, and the stars is based on the ninth plague of Egypt when the darkness endured for three days: “Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:21-23).
- (Revelation 8:12) – “And the fourth messenger sounded; and the third of the sun was smitten, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars — in order that the third of them might be darkened, and the day might not shine for the third of it, and the night, in like manner” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The fourth trumpet also draws imagery from a judicial pronouncement against Pharaoh by the book of Ezekiel. That judgment was carried out by the ancient empire of Babylon:
- “Take up a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt…And when I will extinguish you I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and set darkness upon your land, declares Yahweh…For thus declares Yahweh, The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you” (Ezekiel 32:7-11).
The fourth trumpet affects the same portions of the created order as does the fourth bowl of wrath, although not as severely. Later, John will see the fourth bowl “poured out upon the sun to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with great heat and blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues” (Revelation 16:8).
The Greek verb rendered “strike” represents the verb plésso. It is related to the noun plégé or “plague.” The usage is deliberate and serves to remind the reader of the connection to the plagues of Egypt (Revelation 9:18 – “By these three plagues was the third part of men killed”).
The image of the darkened sun, moon and stars draws also from the book of Isaiah, another judgment pronouncement against Babylon:
- “The burden of Babylon that Isaiah saw…Wail, for the day of Yahweh is at hand…Behold, the day of Yahweh is coming, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine” – (Isaiah 13:1-13).
The plague imagery draws heavily from the Exodus story, the judgments of Yahweh against ancient Egypt for refusing to free Israel. But the book of Revelation also weaves in allusions from the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, originally, passages that were judicial pronouncements against the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Now they anticipate the sentences pronounced against end-time Babylon in Chapter 18 of Revelation.
The application of Old Testament pronouncements against Babylon is paradoxical. The “plagues” of the first four trumpets target the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth,” but the unexpected agent of this judgment is Babylon itself, the “burning mountain” cast into the sea, as well as the “burning star” that fell on rivers and springs. Put another way, God uses the very institution on which the “inhabitants of the earth” depend for their economic security to punish them (Revelation 8:5, 9:20-21).
To this point, it is not men and women that are destroyed, but a third of the things connected to the economic activity of the World-Power – Agriculture, transportation (ships), water, and light; the very things that are connected later to the economic dominance of “Mystery Babylon.” Men only die at this point when they choose to drink the “bitter waters” of Babylon.