First Four Bowls

The first four bowls target the economic infrastructure necessary for commerce and the economic health of the World Empire. Since the “Beast from the sea” caused the followers of the “Lamb” economic deprivation, so, now, the “Beast” and the “inhabitants of the earth” suffer economic loss.

Old Testament imagery is employed throughout the series of “seven bowls,” including the plagues of Egypt, the exodus from Egypt, the defeat of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the “Song of Moses,” and the “Tent of Testimony.” Each of the seven “plagues” corresponds to one or more of the ten plagues of Egypt.

The first four “bowls” form a group distinct from the final three. Like the first four trumpets, the first four “bowls” inflict plagues on the earth, the sea, and celestial objects.

FIRST BOWL


The first angel “poured out” the contents of his bowl. The verb translates the Greek term ekcheō used in the Greek Septuagint version of Leviticus for the ashes from the burnt offerings that were “poured out” outside the camp of Israel. The verbal allusion is deliberate.

In Revelation, ekcheō is  also used when God is praised for punishing those who “poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets.”

That is the verbal link to the martyrs “under the altar” seen when the “fifth seal” was opened. Since the wicked “poured out” the blood of the martyrs, God will pour out “blood for them to drink” - (Leviticus 4:12, Revelation 6:9-11).

The “noisome and grievous sore” alludes to the sixth plague of boils in ancient Egypt. Thus, the men who take the “mark of the beast” are marred by “grievous sores” - (Exodus 9:9-11, Deuteronomy 28:27, Revelation 7:1-3).

SECOND BOWL


The description of the next “bowl” employs language from the first Egyptian plague where the waters of Egypt were turned to blood and its fish killed. Here, the “sea” becomes like the blood of a dead man.

Previously, the “second trumpet” turned a third of the “sea” into blood, destroying a third of its living creatures. The contents of the second “bowl” turn the entire sea into blood, killing every living thing in it.

In Revelation, the “sea” symbolizes the mass of hostile humanity, the nations from which the “beast ascends.” It is conceptually parallel to the Abyss, the source of the “Beast” - (Daniel 7:1-2, Revelation 7:1-3, 9:1-10, 12:12, 13:1, 20:8).

The destruction of sea life means the cessation of the sea-borne commerce that is so vital to the economic health of the World Empire. And the second plague anticipates the later judgment dirge against “Babylon,” she who sits on “many waters” - (Revelation 17:6-15, 18:6, 18:23-24).

The cessation of maritime commerce means economic loss and hardship. The contents of the second “bowl” point to economic upheaval in the kingdom of the “Beast.”

THIRD BOWL


The third “bowl” also echoes the first Egyptian plague, but it affects all sources of fresh water, and it turns the “sea” into a place of death. Once again, the sea is necessary for maritime commerce, and fresh water is vital for agriculture and the life of society.

The third angel emptied his “bowl” on the “fountains of the waters,” and now is called the “angel of the waters.” The men who took the mark “were given blood to drink, because they poured out the blood of saints and prophets.”

These words anticipate the pronouncements against “Babylon” for persecuting the saints, and because she caused the nations to drink the “wine of her fornications.”

They are worthy” refers to the martyrs. Because they overcame, they are vindicated by the “last plagues” unleashed against their persecutors.

God is the one who “is and who was,” the same appellation assigned to Him previously, the One “who is and who was and who is coming.” However, now, the third part of the statement is dropped since God is no longer “coming.” The final judgment has arrived - (Revelation 1:4, 1:8, 4:8, 11:17).

God is the “righteous and holy one who judges.” These words echo the plea of the martyrs found “underneath the altar” (How long, O Master, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood”) – (Revelation 6:9-11, 8:3-5).

FOURTH BOWL


The fourth bowl alludes to the ninth plague of Egypt when the sun was darkened. But this “bowl” causes scorching heat that burns men. But rather than repent, the “inhabitants of the earth” continue to blaspheme God.

The term “blasphemy” or “slander” connects the “inhabitants of the earth” to the “Beast from the sea.” They have taken on its nature. Previously, the “Beast” “slandered” the “saints” - (Revelation 2:9, 13:6-7).

The refusal of the “inhabitants of the earth” to repent demonstrates the righteousness of God’s judicial acts. The earlier plagues of the “seven trumpets harmed a “third” of the earth and sea. Their purpose was to drive men to repentance. But despite the pain of those plagues,” the “inhabitants of the earth refused to repent. Their impending complete destruction is now fully justified – (Revelation 9:20-21).

The stage is now set to complete the “wrath of God.” The final three “bowls of wrath” will impose judicial sentence on the empire of the “beast,” the “kings of the earth” who allied themselves with it, and “Babylon,” the economic powerhouse behind the Empire.


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