Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Horse-Sized Locust Scorpions . . . and Crowns – From the Daily Office – October 25, 2012

From the Book of Revelation:

In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, with stings, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Revelation 9:7-11 – October 25, 2012)

Horse-Sized Locust Scorpions, Copyright All rights reserved by _danN_ There’s lovely imagery in St. John of Patmos’s ecstatic dream. I’m particularly fond of his vision of the heavenly throne room:

Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads . . . . And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:4,9-11)

From that vision came the last lines of Charles Wesley’s great hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling:

Till we cast our Crowns before Thee,
Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise!

In today’s reading from the Apocalypse, however, the crowns belong to some rather fanciful and frightening beasts that John called “locusts” and then proceeded to describe as anything but locusts! These are monstrous flying insects the size of horses armored for battle possessing scorpions’ tails complete with stingers. We are told that these stingers cause torment but do not kill; those stung “will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.” (v. 6)

I have to admit that I’m never sure quite what to make of or what to do with the Book of Revelation. I know it’s not a prophetic vision of the end times; it’s an apocalyptic vision meant to comfort the people of John’s own time and place (late first or early second century Roman Empire). I know that as the canon of scripture developed there was disagreement about its inclusion. But knowing those things doesn’t really help me know what to do with it now, other than to read it (as the lectionary has had us do for several days) and wonder, “What was John smoking?” This book always seems to me to be a sort of scriptural Scare Tactics or Total Blackout (Syfy channel game shows), or possibly evidence that God has a Tim-Burton-like sense of humor.

But, still, there are those lovely images of the heavenly throne room and the thought that we, unlike the horse-sized locusts, will some day cast our crowns before the throne of glory.


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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.


  1. Neels Welsh


    I have written a book and would like to use an image that I found on your web site can you please tell me what steps to follow.

    Thank you
    God Bless

  2. eric

    I cannot give copyright permission on photos I do not own. If it is this entry’s illustration, click on the photo and you will link to the Flickr page of the photo’s producer — you should find contact information there.

  3. James R

    I am sorry, but the scripture does not say Horse-sized locust, rather the beating of their wings sound like chariots of many horses going to battle. Hence the illustration, albeit very interesting, especially the depiction of women’s flowing hair on the mystical creatures, is unfortunately a distortion of the scripture.

  4. eric

    You are making reference only to Rev. 9:9. The Greek of Rev. 9:7, however, says the “homoioma” of the scorpion-tailed locusts was “like horses equipped for battle” (NRSV). “Homoioma” according to the Lexicon means a similarity which is nearly identical. The KJV translates this verse as “the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle.” A nearly identical similarity to or being in the shape of a battle steed would surely include its size (which is buttressed by their having teeth like lions). I’m comfortable that a paraphrase of the Scriptural description as “horse-sized locusts” is not an unreasonable distortion. In any event, thanks for your comment.

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