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Revelation 16:12

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Upon the great river Euphrates - Probably meaning the people in the vicinity of this river; though some think that the Tiber is intended.

The water thereof was dried up - The people discomfited, and all impediments removed.

The kings of the east - There seems to be an allusion here to the ruin of Babylon by Cyrus, predicted by the Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 50:1-51:64. But what city or people is pointed out by this Babylon it is in vain to conjecture.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates - On the situation of that river, and the symbolical meaning of this language, see the notes on Revelation 9:14-21. The reference there was supposed to be to the Turkish power, and the analogy of interpretation would seem to require that it should be so understood here. There is every reason, therefore, to suppose that this passage has reference to something in the future history of the Turkish dominions, and to some bearing of the events which are to occur in that history on the ultimate downfall of the anti-Christian power referred to by the “beast.”

And the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared - That is, as the effect of pouring out the vial. There is an allusion here, undoubtedly, to the dividing of the waters of the Red Sea, so that the children of Israel might pass. See Exodus 14:21-22. Compare the notes on Isaiah 11:15. In this description the Euphrates is represented as a barrier to prevent the passage of “the kings of the East,” on their way to the West for some purpose not yet specified; that is, applying the symbol of the Euphrates as being the seat of the Turkish power, the meaning is, that “that power” is such a hindrance, and that, in some way that hindrance is to be removed as if the waters of an unbridged and unfordable river were dried up so as to afford a safe and easy passage through. Still there are several inquiries as to the application of this, which is not easy, and, as it refers to what is still future, it may be impossible to answer. The language requires us to put upon it the following interpretation:

(a) The persons here referred to as “kings of the East,” were ready to make a movement toward the West, over the Euphrates, and would do this if this obstruction were not in their way. Who these “kings of the East” are is not said, and perhaps cannot be conjectured. The natural interpretation is, that they are the kings that reign in the East, or that preside over the countries of the eastern hemisphere. “Why” there was a proposed movement to the West is not said. It might have been for conquest, or it might have been that they were to bring their tribute to the spiritual Jerusalem, in accordance with what is so often said in the prophets, that under the gospel kings and princes would consecrate themselves and their wealth to God. See Psalm 72:10-11; “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him.” So also Isaiah 60:4-6, Isaiah 60:9, Isaiah 60:11; “Thy sons shall come from far - The forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee - All they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense - The isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them - Thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.” All that is fairly implied in the language used here is, that the kings of the East would be converted to the true religion, or that they were, at the time referred to, in a state of readiness to be converted, if there were no hindrance or obstruction.

(b) There was some hindrance or obstruction to their conversion; that is, as explained, from the Turkish power: in other words, they would be converted to the true faith if it were not for the influence of that power.

(c) The destruction of that power, represented by the drying up of the Euphrates, would remove that obstruction, and the way would thus be “prepared” for their conversion to the true religion. We should most naturally, therefore, look, in the fulfillment of this, for some such decay of the Turkish power as would be followed by the conversion of the rulers of the East to the gospel.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 646

Verse 12

The Sixth Plague. — What is the great River Euphrates, upon which this vial is poured out? — One view is that it is the literal River Euphrates in Asia; another is that it is a symbol of the nation occupying the territory through which that river flows. The latter opinion is preferable for the following reasons: —DAR 647.1

1. It would be difficult to see what end would be gained by the drying up of the literal river, as that would not offer an obstruction at all serious to the progress of an advancing army; and it should be noticed that the drying up takes place to prepare the way of the kings of the East; that is, regular military organizations, and not a promiscuous and unequipped crowd of men, women, and children, like the children of Israel at the Red Sea or at the Jordan. The Euphrates is only about 1400 miles in length, or about one third the size of the Mississippi. Cyrus, without difficulty, turned the whole river from its channel at his siege of Babylon; and notwithstanding the numerous wars that have been carried on along its banks, and the mighty hosts that have crossed and recrossed its stream, it never yet had to be dried up to let them pass.DAR 647.2

2. It would be as necessary to dry up the River Tigris as the Euphrates; for that is nearly as large as the latter. Its source is only fifteen miles from that of the Euphrates, in the mountains of Armenia, and it runs nearly parallel with it, and but a short distance from it throughout its whole course; yet the prophecy says nothing of the Tigris.DAR 647.3

3. The literal drying up of the rivers takes place under the fourth vial, when power is given to the sun to scorch men with fire. Under this plague occur, beyond question, the scenes of drought and famine so graphically described by Joel 1:14-20; and as one result of these, it is expressly stated that “the rivers of waters are dried up.” The Euphrates can hardly be an exception to this visitation of drought; hence not much would remain to be literally dried up under the sixth vial.DAR 647.4

4. These plagues, from the very nature of the case, must be manifestations of wrath and judgments upon men; but if the drying up of the literal Euphrates is all that is brought to view, this plague is not of such a nature, and turns out to be no serious affair, after all.DAR 648.1

These objections existing against considering it a literal river, it must be understood figuratively as symbolizing the power holding possession of the territory watered by that river, which is the Ottoman, or Turkish, empire.DAR 648.2

1. It is so used in other places in the Scriptures. (See Isaiah 8:7; Revelation 9:14.) In this latter text, all must concede that the Euphrates symbolizes the Turkish power; and being the first and only other occurrence of the word in the Revelation, it may well be considered as governing its use in this book.DAR 648.3

2. The drying up of the river in this sense would be the consumption of the Turkish empire, accompanied with more or less destruction of its subjects. Thus we should have literal judgments upon men as the result of this plague, as in the case of all the others.DAR 648.4

But it may be objected to this, that while contending for the literality of the plagues, we nevertheless make one of them a symbol. We answer, No. A power is introduced, it is true, under the sixth vial, in its symbolic form, just as it is under the fifth, where we read of the seat of the beast, which is a well-known symbol; or as we read again in the first plague of the mark of the beast, his image, and its worship, which are also symbols. All that is here insisted upon, is the literality of the judgments that result from each vial, which are literal in this case as in all the others, though the organizations which suffer these judgments, may be brought to view in their symbolic form.DAR 648.5

Again: it may be asked how the way of the kings of the East will be prepared by the drying up, or consumption, of the Ottoman power? The answer is obvious. For what is the way of these kings to be prepared? Answer: To come up to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Where is the battle to be fought? — Near Jerusalem. (Joel and Zephaniah.) But Jerusalem is in the hands of the Turks; they hold possession of the land of Palestine and the sacred sepulchers. This is the bone of contention; on these the nations have fixed their covetous and jealous eyes. But though Turkey now possesses them, and others want them, it is nevertheless thought necessary to the tranquillity of Europe that Turkey should be maintained in her position, in order to preserve what is called the “balance of power.” For this the Christian nations of Europe have cooperated to sustain the integrity of the sultan's throne, because they cannot agree as to the division of the spoils, when Turkey falls. By their sufferance alone that government now exists, and when they shall withdraw their support, and leave it to itself, as they will do under the sixth plague, that symbolic river will be wholly dried up; Turkey will be no more, and the way will be all open for the nations to make their last grand rally to the Holy Land. The kings of the East, the nationalities, powers, and kingdoms lying east of Palestine, will act a conspicuous part in the matter; for Joel says in reference to this scene, “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat.” The millions of Mohammedans of Persia, Afghanistan, Toorkistan, and India will rush to the field of conquest in behalf of their religion. (See more about Turkey in Daniel 11:40-45.)DAR 648.6

Those who place five of the plagues in the past, and contend that we are now living under the sixth, urge, as one of their strongest arguments, the fact that the Turkish empire is now wasting away, and this takes place under the sixth vial. It is hardly necessary to reply, The event that takes place under the sixth vial is the entire and utter consumption of that power, not its preliminary state of decay, which is all that now appears. It is necessary that the empire should for a time grow weak and powerless, in order to its utter dissolution when the plague shall come. This preliminary condition is now seen, and the full end cannot be far in the future.DAR 649.1

Another event to be noticed under this plague is the issuing forth of the three unclean spirits to gather the nations to the great battle. The agency now already abroad in the world, known as modern Spiritualism, is every way a fitting means to be employed in this work. But it may be asked how a work which is already going on, can be designated by that expression, when the spirits are not introduced into the prophecy until the pouring out of the sixth plague, which is still future. We answer that in this, as in many other movements, the agencies which Heaven designs to employ in the accomplishment of certain ends, go through a process of preliminary training for the part which they are to act. Thus, before the spirits can have such absolute authority over the race as to gather them to battle against the King of kings and Lord of lords, they must first win their way among the nations of the earth, and cause their teaching to be received as of divine authority, and their word as law. This work they are now doing; and when they shall have once gained full influence over the nations in question, what fitter instruments could be employed to gather them to so rash and hopeless an enterprise?DAR 649.2

To many it may seem incredible that the nations should be willing to engage in such an unequal warfare as to go up to battle against the Lord of Hosts; but it is one province of these spirits of devils to deceive, for they go forth working miracles, and thereby deceive the kings of the earth, that they should believe a lie.DAR 650.1

The sources from which these spirits issue, denote that they will work among three great religious divisions of mankind, represented by the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, or Paganism, Catholicism, and Protestantism.DAR 650.2

But what is the force of the caution thrown out in verse 15? Probation must have closed, and Christ have left his mediatorial position, before the plagues begin to fall. And is there danger of falling after that? It will be noticed that this warning is spoken in connection with the working of the spirits. The inference therefore is, that it is retroactive, applying from the time these spirits begin to work to the close of probation; that by an interchange of tenses common to the Greek language, the present tense is put for the past; as if it had read, Blessed is he that hath watched and kept his garments, as the shame and nakedness of all who have not done this will at this time especially appear.DAR 650.3

“And he gathered them.” Who are the ones here spoken of as “gathered,” and what agency is to be used in gathering them? If the word them refers to the kings of verse 14, it is certain that no good agency would be made use of to gather them; and if the spirits are referred to by the word he, why is it in the singular number? The peculiarity of this construction has led some to read the passage thus: “And he [Christ] gathered them [the saints] into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon [the illustrious city, or New Jerusalem].” But this position is untenable. The following criticism, which appeared not long since in a religious magazine, seems to shed the true light upon this passage. The writer says: —DAR 651.1

“It seems to me that verse 16 is a continuation of verse 14, and that the antecedent of ?????? [them] is ‘the kings' mentioned in verse 14. For this latter verse says, ‘Which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them,' etc., and in verse 16 it says, ‘And he gathered them.' Now, in the Greek, ‘a neuter plural regularly takes a verb in the singular.' (See Sophocles's Greek Grammar, Sec. 151, 1.) Might not, therefore, the subject of the verb ????????? [gathered] (verse 16) be ?? ???????? [the spirits] of verse 14, and thus the ‘gathering' mentioned in the two verses be one and the same?DAR 651.2

“And if this is to be a gathering of ‘the kings of the earth and of the whole world,' will it not be for the purpose mentioned in the text; namely, ‘to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty'?”DAR 651.3

In accordance with this criticism, several translations use the plural instead of the singular pronoun.DAR 651.4

Mr. Wakefield, in his translation of the New Testament, renders this verse thus: “And the spirits gathered the kings together at a place called in Hebrew Armageddon.”DAR 651.5

The Syriac Testament reads: “And they collected them together in a place called in Hebrew Armageddon.”DAR 651.6

Sawyer's translation renders it: “And they assembled them in the place called in Hebrew Armageddon.”DAR 652.1

Mr. Wesley's version of the New Testament reads: “And they gathered them together to the place which is called in the Hebrew Armageddon.”DAR 652.2

Whiting's translation gives it: “And they gathered them into a place called in Hebrew Armageddon.”DAR 652.3

Professor Stuart of Andover College, a distinguished critic, though not a translator of the Scriptures, renders it: “And they gathered them together,” etc. De Wette, a German translator of the Bible, gives it the same turn as Stuart and the others.DAR 652.4

Mr. Albert Barnes, whose notes on the New Testament are so extensively used, refers to the same grammatical law as suggested by the criticism above quoted, and says, “The authority of He Wette and Professor Stuart is sufficient to show that the construction which they adopt is authorized by the Greek, as indeed no one can doubt, and perhaps this construction accords better with the context than any other construction proposed.” Thus it will be seen that there are weighty reasons for reading the text, “They gathered them together,” etc., instead of “he gathered.” And by these authorities it is shown that the persons gathered are the minions of Satan, not saints; that it is the work of the spirits, not of Christ; and that the place of assemblage is not in the New Jerusalem at the marriage supper of the Lamb, but at Armageddon (or Mount Megiddo), “at the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”DAR 652.5

The hills of Megiddo, overlooking the plain of Esdraelon, was the place where Barak and Deborah destroyed Sisera's army, and where Josiah was routed by the Egyptian king Pharaoh-Necho.DAR 652.6

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
This probably shows the destruction of the Turkish power, and of idolatry, and that a way will be made for the return of the Jews. Or, take it for Rome, as mystical Babylon, the name of Babylon being put for Rome, which was meant, but was not then to be directly named. When Rome is destroyed, her river and merchandise must suffer with her. And perhaps a way will be opened for the eastern nations to come into the church of Christ. The great dragon will collect all his forces, to make one desperate struggle before all be lost. God warns of this great trial, to engage his people to prepare for it. These will be times of great temptation; therefore Christ, by his apostle, calls on his professed servants to expect his sudden coming, and to watch that they might not be put to shame, as apostates or hypocrites. However Christians differ, as to their views of the times and seasons of events yet to be brought to pass, on this one point all are agreed, Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, will suddenly come again to judge the world. To those living near to Christ, it is an object of joyful hope and expectation, and delay is not desired by them.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 406

The return of Christ to our world will not be long delayed. Let this be the keynote of every message. 6T 406.1

*****

The blessed hope of the second appearing of Christ, with its solemn realities, needs to be often presented to the people. Looking for the soon appearing of our Lord will lead us to regard earthly things as emptiness and nothingness. 6T 406.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 982-3

13 (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). God Honors the Faithful Aged—There are living upon our earth men who have passed the age of fourscore and ten. The natural results of old age are seen in their feebleness. But they believe God, and God loves them. The seal of God is upon them, and they will be among the number of whom the Lord has said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” With Paul they can say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished by course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also which love his appearing.” There are many whose grey hairs God honors because they have fought a good fight and kept the faith (Letter 207, 1899). 7BC 982.1

2, 3 (Exodus 15:1-19; Deuteronomy 31:30 to 32:44; Isaiah 26:2). The Final Song of Victory—What a song that will be when the ransomed of the Lord meet at the gate of the Holy City, which is thrown back on its glittering hinges and the nations that have kept His word—His commandments—enter into the city, the crown of the overcomer is placed upon their heads, and the golden harps are placed in their hands! All heaven is filled with rich music, and with songs of praise to the Lamb. Saved, everlastingly saved, in the kingdom of glory! To have a life that measures with the life of God—that is the reward (Manuscript 92, 1908). 7BC 982.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 967-8

The heavenly Guest is standing at your door, while you are piling up obstructions to bar His entrance. Jesus is knocking through the prosperity He gives you. He loads you with blessings to test your fidelity, that they may flow out from you to others. Will you permit your selfishness to triumph? Will you squander God's talents, and lose your soul through idolatrous love of the blessings He has given (The Review and Herald, November 2, 1886)? 7BC 967.1

No Discouraging Message for the Church—We have no discouraging message for the church. Although reproofs and cautions and corrections have been made, yet the church has stood as God's instrumentality to diffuse light. The commandment-keeping people of God have sounded forth a warning to the world, to all languages, tongues, and kindreds. The church of God is a living witness, a continual testimony, to convince men if accepted, to condemn them if resisted and rejected (Manuscript 96, 1893). 7BC 967.2

21. See EGW on Romans 8:17; Galatians 6:7, 8; Hebrews 4:15. 7BC 967.3

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