And it was commanded them - The writer does not say by whom this command was given, but it is clearly by someone who had the direction of them. As they were evoked from the "bottomless pit" by one who had the key to that dark abode, and as they are represented in Revelation 9:11 as under the command of one who is there called Abaddon, or Apollyon - the Destroyer - it would seem most probable that the command referred to is one that is given by him; that is, that this expresses one of the principles on which he would act in his devastations. At all events, this denotes what would be one of the characteristics of these destroyers. Their purpose would be to vex and trouble people; not to spread desolation over vineyards, olive-yards, and fields of grain.
That they should not hurt the grass of the earth, ... - See the notes on Revelation 8:7. The meaning here is plain. There would be some sense in which these invaders would be characterized in a manner that was not common among invaders, to wit, that they would show particular care not to carry their devastations into the vegetable world. Their warfare would be with people, and not with orchards and green fields.
But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads - See the notes on Revelation 7:2-3. They commenced war against that part of the human race only. The language here properly denotes those who were not the friends of God. It may here refer, however, either to those who in reality were not such, or to those who were regarded by him who gave this command as not being such. In the former case, the commission would have respect to real infidels in the sight of God - that is, to those who rejected the true religion; in the latter it would express the sentiment of the leader of this host, as referring to those who in his apprehension were infidels or enemies of God. The true interpretation must depend on the sense in which we understand the phrase "it was commanded" ; whether as referring to God, or to the leader of the host himself. The language, therefore, is ambiguous, and the meaning must be determined by the other parts of the passage. Either method of understanding the passage would be in accordance with its fair interpretation.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Revelation 9:4:
2 Timothy 2:19
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