I remember once when I was in the first grade, the teacher showed us a picture and then turned it so we couldn’t see it anymore, and asked us what it was. She picked me first, asking what that was a picture of, and I told her it was a picture of a train. I knew there were other things in the picture, but the train was the only thing I had paid any attention to…
I was a little surprised when other kids said it was something different, in fact nobody else mentioned the train at all! When she turned the picture around again, all of us were surprised, because nobody seemed to have identified what it really was; a cityscape. Oh yes, there was train, and roads and cars and people and a grocery store and a bay with ships and an airplane overhead… oh and city buildings too… and a policeman. None of us saw much beyond the one or two things that we were particularly interested in; none of us saw the picture, because we got hooked by one detail of the picture.
The same thing can happen with apocalyptic literature. To avoid this, I thought I’d try an experiment with you. I’m first going to write a brief synopsis of each of the first 6 trumpets, not discussing the specific images. Then, I’ll discuss the subordinate images in groups, by category of images and hopefully we won’t lose sight of the picture itself. It’s worth a shot, anyway…
The first trumpet sounds, and there is “hail and fire mixed with blood”. This storm burns up “a third of the earth, a third of the trees, and all of the green grass”. (Rev. 8:7) That might sound a bit like the seventh plague, which consisted of thunder, hail and lightning that destroyed the crops in the fields (EX 9:13-25).
The second trumpet sounds and “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Rev. 8:8-9) That sounds a little like the first plague, when the water in the Nile was turned to blood, killing all the fish. (EX 7:14-24)
The third trumpet sounds and “a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Rev. 8:10-11) This also might remind us of the first plague, and of the 10th plague in which so many Egyptians died. (EX 11-12).
In the next post, we’ll have a look at the fourth through sixth trumpets, and then begin our examination of the subordinate images. See you then!