The second trumpet harmed much of the commerce on which human society, the “inhabitants of the earth,” relied – Revelation 8:8-9.
The second trumpet blast upset the sea, and thereby disrupted a third of all seaborne commerce. In Revelation, the “sea” is vital to the commerce on which “Babylon” depends, and it is the place from which the “beast” will ascend. This explains why, at the end of the book, no “sea” is found in “New Jerusalem.” In the symbolic world, it is linked to the “Dragon” and the “beast.”
After the second angel sounded his horn, a great “burning mountain…was cast into the sea.” The language alludes to a passage in Jeremiah, originally, a judicial pronouncement against Ancient Babylon for its oppression of Judah.
- (Revelation 8:8-9) – “And the second angel 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 that had life died, the third of the ships was destroyed.”
John did not see a literal mountain falling out of the sky. Instead, he likened what he did see to “a great mountain burning with fire.” This is an example of simile. The first plague impacted the vegetation of the earth. Now, the second trumpet harms the “sea.” And in the book, the “sea” is synonymous with the “Abyss”:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the beast that is to ascend from the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.”
- (Revelation 13:1-7) – “And the Dragon stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw, out of the sea a beast ascending…And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
The second trumpet uses imagery from 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” echoes the judgment dirge against Babylon recorded in Jeremiah:
- (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.”
Later, Babylon is called the “Great Harlot” that sits on the “seven mountains,” which represent the kingdoms over which Babylon holds sway, especially in its economic sphere – (Revelation 17:9-10).
The image of Babylon as a “burning mountain” hurled into the “sea” symbolizes its judgment and the results for global commerce. Just as this “great burning mountain was cast into the sea,” so end-time “Babylon” will be “cast into the sea like a great millstone,” which causes all merchants, shipmasters, and sailors to lament that “in one hour so great riches came to nothing” – (Revelation 8:5, 18:16-21).
The “burning mountain” also caused the “ships to be destroyed (diaphtheiro).” The clause translates the Greek verb borrowed from the Septuagint version of Jeremiah – “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 is sounded:
- (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 devastates seaborne trade. The destruction will become total with the final overthrow of end-time “Babylon,” and the “burning mountain” anticipates that judgment. Portrayed here is of the partial destruction of her economic base, the source of her power and influence – (Revelation 18:16-20).
- “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 God’s people is used in an ironic fashion by the “Lamb” to execute judgment on the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth.” The very thing they idolized and needed for their prosperity, “Babylon,” becomes the agent of their own destruction. Reliance on the economic power of the “Great Harlot” will be their undoing.
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