And he opened the bottomless pit - It is represented before as wholly confined, so that not even the smoke or vapor could escape.
And there arose a smoke out of the pit - Compare Revelation 14:11. The meaning here is that the pit, as a place of punishment, or as the abode of the wicked, was filled with burning sulphur, and consequently that it emitted smoke and vapor as soon as opened. The common image of the place of punishment, in the Scriptures, is that of a "lake that burns with fire and brimstone." Compare Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 21:8. See also Psalms 11:6; Isaiah 30:33; Ezekiel 38:22. It is not improbable that this image was taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:24. Such burning sulphur would produce, of course, a dense smoke or vapor; and the idea here is, that the pit had been closed, and that as soon as the door was opened a dense column escaped that darkened the heavens. The purpose of this is, probably, to indicate the origin of the plague that was about to come upon the world. It would be of such a character that it would appear as if it had been emitted from hell; as if the inmates of that dark world had broke loose upon the earth. Compare notes on Revelation 6:8.
As the smoke of a great furnace - So in Genesis 19:28, whence probably this image is taken: "And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the land of the plain, and beheld and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace."
And the sun and the air were darkened, ... - As will be the case when a smoke ascends from a furnace. The meaning here is, that an effect would be produced as if a dense and dark vapor should ascend from the under-world. We are not, of course, to understand this literally.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Revelation 9:2:
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