The third trumpet resulted in a “great star” falling into the sources of freshwater, embittering them – Revelation 8:10-11.
The third trumpet uses imagery from the first plague of Egypt that polluted that nation’s sources of fresh water. The “Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river” because it had turned “into blood.” In Revelation, the plague also killed the fish in rivers and streams, “embittering” a third of the earth’s drinking water.
The sounding of the trumpet caused a “great star” to fall into the earth’s water supplies. John compared it to a “burning torch,” using the same Greek verb just applied to the “burning mountain” that was cast into the “sea” by the second trumpet.
- (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 may be the same “star” that fell to the earth when the fifth trumpet sounded, and which had the “key of the Abyss” that released a demonic horde to torment the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Revelation 9:1).
“Fall” (piptō) translates a different Greek verb than the one just used for the first two “plagues…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. However, 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, end-time “Babylon” is seen sitting upon “many waters,” which represent “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.”
The description of the “star” parallels that of the later third “bowl of wrath” that was “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 end-time “Babylon” sits. If so, then the peoples over which she rules were embittered by this plague and not literal bodies of freshwater. “Wormwood” and “bitter water” allude to passages from Jeremiah and Deuteronomy that equated “bitterness” with idolatry – (Deuteronomy 29:16-18, Jeremiah 9:12-15, Jeremiah 23:13-15).
The burning “star” fell 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:
- (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 one portrays judgment on end-time “Babylon,” the counterpart to Ancient Egypt that enslaved the Israelites. The second trumpet caused great damage to her commerce, and the third targeted 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 end-time “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.