Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's



There remains for explanation but one point more in the prophecy; viz. the time within which, as measured from the loosing of the four angels at the 6th Trumpet’s sounding, their commission to destroy the third part of men was to be accomplished. A point this of great interest, and some difficulty. For, though freed by our explanation of the four angels spoken of, and of their binding near the Euphrates previously to the 6th Trumpet-blast, from various difficulties which have caused no little embarrassment to many former expositors, it is yet one that needs careful consideration, in order to the satisfactory fixing of the meaning of the phrase in which the chronological term is announced. This settled, the historical fulfilment will soon appear.

As to the chronological term it is expressed as follows: "And the four angels were loosed; which were prepared, εις την ὡραν και ἡμεραν και μηνα και ενιαυτον, to slay the third part of men." I conceive its meaning to be, that the slaying should continue for, or rather be completed at the end of, the mystical term of an hour day month and year, aggregated together. Hence both my view of the aggregation of the nouns of time, and my view of the sense of the preposition εις, governing them, are the first things to be here explained and justified.

Now as to my construction of the nouns of time collectively, and in the aggregate, I so understand them on two accounts. 1st, because that which is the only alternative construction appears to me on every account inadmissible: I mean that which, taking them each separately, would render the clause thus; that at the destined hour, and destined day, and destined month, and destined year, they should slay the third part of men. For,—to say nothing of the want of the article prefix to three out of the four nouns, a prefix needed, I conceive, for such a rendering,—it will be obvious that it explains the clause as made up of tautologies: tautologies such that every successive word after the first, instead of strengthening, only weakens the supposed meaning; and which bring out, at last, as the result of their accumulation, nothing more than this, that the destruction spoken of should be effected at the time appointed. Do the inspired Scriptures ever speak in this way?—2ndly, I so take them, because in another complex chronological phrase, and one, in respect of its enigmatic form, perhaps the most nearly parallel to the present that prophetic Scripture offers, we have the exposition of inspiration itself, interpreting the constituent terms of the phrase as to be taken in the aggregate. I allude to the well-known clause in Daniel, (12:7,) εις καιρον, καιρους, και ἡμισυ καιρου, "for a time, times, and half a time," or year, years, and half a year: which chronological formula, being made the equivalent of 1260 days, i. e. of three years and a half, must consequently be a period of a year, two years, and half a year, aggregated together.—In this view of the clause now before us, the article prefix, standing at its head, may be understood not only to govern all the accusatives that follow, so as we find done elsewhere, but also to be a means for the better uniting of them, as it were under a bracket, as an hour day month and year, all added together: at the same time that it may mark them also as together making up the period; i. e. the period fore-ordained and fore-shown in the divine councils.

As to the rendering of the preposition εις, whether in the sense of for, or else after, at the expiration of, it must of course depend very mainly upon the sense attached to the verb αποκτειναι, to kill. If that verb may be taken in its less natural sense of a continued slaying of the inhabitants of Greek Christendom, until completed at length in the political slaughter of them as a national corporate body, then the preposition before us will have its more common sense of for, or during, attached to it. If, on the other hand, αποκτειναι be deemed a verb denotative rather of the grand completed act of politically slaying the third part of men, i. e. the Greek empire,—then it seems necessary to take the preposition in its less common sense of after, or, at the expiration of.—As regards the first-mentioned chronological sense of the εις, (and I may suggest generally that in its application to chronological periods, or statements, the varied meanings of the word seem all borrowed from those which attach to it in its primary reference to place,) I say in regard of my first-mentioned chronological sense of the εις, as for or during, applicable in the case of the αποκτειναι being meant of a continuous slaying of the men of Greek Christendom, illustrative parallel cases abound. So, for example, Σπονδας εις ενιαυτον, a truce for a year: Κατισχυσε Ῥοβοαμ εις ετη τρια, Rehoboam was strong for three years; &c. Just similar to which also is one use of the analogous adverbs of time, ἑως and αχρι.—In regard of the other suggested meaning of εις, as after, or, at the expiration of, a meaning needed in the case of αποκτειναι being taken in the sense of the individual momentary act of killing, or destroying the national existence of, the third part of men, the following two examples occur in illustration. 1st, according to the usually received punctuation of the Septuagint copies, Dan. 12:7: "He said; How long (ἑως ποτε) shall it be to the end of these wonders? And he sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, ὁτι εις καιρους και ἡμισυ καιρος, εν τῳ συντελεσθηναι διασκορπισμον, γνωσονται παντα ταυτα· they shall know these things at the end of the aggregated time, times, and half a time." But the punctuation here seems more than doubtful. In verse 12, however, of the same chapter we have an example not to be questioned: Μακαριος ὁ ὑπομενων, και φθασας, εις ἡμερας χιλιας τριακοσιας τριακοντα πεντε. "Happy is he who arrives (not at the beginning, but) at the end of the 1335 days." A use of the εις precisely similar again to that of the analogous adverbs ἑως and αχρι.

After which last example when we turn to the passage we are discussing, "And the four angels were loosed, οἱ ἡτοιμασμενοι εις την ὡραν και ἡμεραν και μηνα και ενιαυτον, ἱνα αποκτεινωσι το τριτον των ανθρωπων," the probability must suggest itself of the preposition being here too intended in the same sense; and of the true meaning of the phrase being that after, or at the expiration of, the aggregated term of an hour day month and year, (calculated from the time of the angels being re-commissioned and loosed,) "they should slay the third part of men."—Supposing however the other value of the εις to be preferred, in connexion "with the other value of the αποκτεινωσι, "they were prepared for an hour day month and year, to go on staging the third of men," i. e. until the slaughter was completed in the destruction of their national existence,—the sense of the passage will come practically to the same thing: the chronological term in either case giving the interval between the epoch of the angels loosing, and the epoch of their completed killing of the third of men.

What the exact length of this period, and how many prophetic days it would in all make up, depends of course on the value that we attach to the ενιαυτος, the year mentioned: whether we prefer to consider it as, like the καιρος, a year of twelve months of thirty days each, i. e. a year of 360 days, not counting in the supplemental days added to make it accord with solar time; or whether as the actual current year, of near 365 days 6 hours. The latter value is attached to it by Mede and others: and there is, I think, à priori probability in its favour from the adoption of the word ενιαυτος, in the place of καιρος, here, and here only in prophetic Scripture; a word signifying etymologically that which returns into itself. At any rate the question is an open one; and the agreement of historic fact (as we shall show) with the calculation, as thus made, may be considered as deciding in its favour.—Thus estimated, then, the length of the period will be found to amount on the year-day system to 396 years 118 days; reckoning 12 hours to the prophetic day, on the principle some time since stated. This was the period at the end of which, as measured from the epoch of their loosing, on the sixth Trumpet-blast, from the Euphrates, the horsemen of the vision, it was foretold to St. John, were to destroy the third part of men. And, convinced as we have been that the Turks were the horsemen that acted under the guidance of the four angels in the matter, what now remains for us to do is only to look at historical dates: and, so calculating, to compare with the aforementioned prophetic period the actual historic interval between the first loosing from the Euphrates of the Moslem power, after revivification through connexion with the Turkmans, and the taking of Constantinople, and destruction of the Greek empire, by the Turks under the 2nd Mahomet.

In regard to the circumstances and the date of the former important event, and epoch, we may be thankful that we have full and authentic information in the two well-known Arabic historians Abulfeda and Elmakin; and indeed in the earlier and fuller historians, Al Bondari and Emad Eddin. From them I borrow my statements and chronology in what follows.

It has been already noted2 that in the year 1055, or of the Hegira 447, the Bagdad Caliph wrote to Thogrul Beg to come to his assistance against some threatening danger; the Bowid chieftain, who was at this time the secular head under him, having proved altogether an inefficient protector. Thogrul immediately answered to the summons, and gave the protection asked for: then, on occasion of some civic tumult occurring, seized on and imprisoned the Bowid Chief, thus extinguishing the supremacy of the Bowides, after it had lasted, says Elmakin, 127 years. He was now by the Caliph appointed, and publicly proclaimed in the mosques, "Protector and Governor of the Moslem empire;" the secular authority of the caliphate delegated to him; and his name recited, next to the Caliph’s, in the public prayers.—All this occurred in the month of Ramazan of that same year; that is in December A. D. 1055. This is the epoch noted by both Abulfeda and Elmakin, and not without reason, as that of the commencement of the Seljukian empire at Bagdad: the inauguration and investiture celebrated some two years after, or a little more, being only a more splendid solemnization of that appointment to his high office, which now already took place. Thus appointed, then, Thogrul Beg fixed his head-quarters in the citadel of Bagdad; and stayed there thirteen months: meanwhile establishing his authority, and cementing his connexion with the Caliph, both otherwise, and by giving him his sister in marriage. The effect of the connexion was, as regarded the Turkman army and people, to give them a character of religious consecration to the service of Islamism: while, on the other hand, the power of the Moslem caliphate, so long paralyzed at Bagdad, was prepared by it with new energies; and revivified, as it were, to act again in the cause of its false faith.

And now we are directed by the terms of this prophecy, to mark the time when the Moslem power, thus revivified, was loosed from the Euphrates: in other words, when, under its new Turkman head, it went forth from Bagdad, on the career of victory and aggrandizement thenceforth afresh destined for it. The date is given by Abulfeda; the 10th of Dzoulcaad, A.H. 448. That was the day in which Thogrul with his Turkmans, now the representative, as we have said, and head of the power of Islamism, quitted Bagdad to enter on a long career of war and conquest.—The part allotted to Thogrul himself in the fearful drama soon about to open against the Greeks, was, like the military part enacted long previously by Mahomet in regard of Christendom, preparative. It was to extend and establish the Turkman dominion over the frontier countries of Irak and Mesopotamia; that so the requisite strength might be attained for the attack ordained in God’s counsels against the Greek empire. His first step to this was the siege and capture of Moussul; his next, of Singara. Nisibis, too, was visited by him: that frontier fortress which had in other days been so long a bulwark to the Greeks. Everywhere victory attended his banner; a presage of what was to follow. And, on his return after a year’s campaign to Bagdad, for the purpose of the more solemn inauguration that we spoke of, (an inaugurative ceremony celebrated in Oriental history,) the result is thus described by Elmakin; "There was now none left in Irak or Chorasmia who could stand before him."

And what then the interval between this epoch of the loosing of the united Turco-Moslem power from the Euphrates, and that of the fall of Constantinople; in other words, between the 10th Dzoulcad A.H. 448, and the 29th of May A. D. 1453, on which day the siege (begun on the 6th of April previous) fatally ended? And how does it correspond with the prophetic period before us?—The calculation is soon made. The 10th Dzoulcad, A.H. 448, corresponds with January 18, 1057 A. D. From this to January 18, A. D. 1453, is 396 years; and to May 29 of that same year, 130 days more. Such is the exact historical interval.—And now, turning to the prophetic interval, since its hour and day and month and year amounts, as has been already shown, on the most exact calculation to 396 years, and 118 days, we find that it falls short of the whole historic interval by but 12 natural days, or less than half a prophetic hour: so that, in fact, had the prophecy been expressed as "two hours and a day and a month and a year," it would have overleaped the real epoch of the fall of Constantinople by near three weeks.—Nor this alone. We may trace the fulfilment yet more exactly. The precise day of the Apocalyptic period’s expiring, and consequently that "after which," according to it, the third of men was to be slain, was May 16, the fortieth day of the siege. And is then our usual Apocalyptic expositor, Gibbon, silent about it? Not so. We find him marking that last crisis in the siege, when Mahomet, by transporting his war galleys across the isthmus of Galata into the inner harbour, and with their aid planting batteries against the long river defences, had completed the investment of the devoted city; and, without a hope remaining to it any longer, was preparing his final assault. Then follow the unintended expository words; "After a siege of forty days the fate of Constantinople could be no longer averted." That fortieth day was the day of the death-warrant of the Greek empire.

Such is the result of our investigation. And surely it must be deemed most remarkable. For my own part, when I consider the length of the period embraced by the prophecy, scarce less than 400 years,—and when I consider further, that of all symmetrical chronological formulæ, such as symbolic prophecy alone makes use of, there does not seem to be one that could express the interval with anything like the same exactness as that before us,—I cannot but partake of Mede’s feeling of admiration, and marvel greatly at it. Who but He could have announced the period who knoweth the times and the seasons, and foreseeth the end from the beginning?—Nor let me forget to add, with reference to that singular mystical form in which the period is exprest, "the hour and day and month and year," that even this would seem very singularly to have had in it a something of Turkish character. The only term of time similarly exprest that has ever met my eye in historic record, is that which defined the truce granted to our Richard the 1st by the Turkman chief Saladin;—"three hours, and three days, and three weeks, and three months, and three years:" all nouns of time to be added together, let us observe, just as here, and taken in the aggregate.

There is just one thing that I must not omit, ere I conclude this head and chapter. I mean to impress upon the reader’s mind how remarkable, and contrary to all human probability, after once the Turkman woe had been let loose, was the protraction of its accomplishment of the work of destruction assigned it, to this far distant æra. Ere 40 years had elapsed from Thogrul Beg’s inauguration, Constantinople and its empire were on the very verge of ruin by the Seljukian Turks: and nothing less than an almost miraculous intervention seemed capable of averting it. But the intervention occurred. The crusades from western Europe, however ultimately ineffective in Syria, yet so crippled the Seljukian power, as for 200 years to aid in upholding against it the Greek empire. Then the Moguls under Zenghis yet further crippled, and delayed the resuscitation in its strength, of the Turkish power.—And, after it had at length risen up in all its pristine vigour, under the Amuraths and the Bajazets of the new Othman dynasty, and when, some fifty years and more before the hour day month and year had come to a completion, Constantinople and the empire were again on the verge of destruction;—when the chivalry of the West, vainly intervening, had been broken in the battle of Nicopolis, and the victorious Bajazet thus addressed the emperor, "Our invincible seymitar has reduced almost all Asia, and many and large countries in Europe, excepting only the city of Constantinople: resign that city, or tremble for thyself and thine unhappy people;"—when, I say, the slaying of the third part of men seemed thus imminent, full half a century before the prophetic period had elapsed that fixed it, what was there that could occur to prevent the catastrophe? Behold, from the far frontiers of China, Tamerlane was brought against him. "The savage," says Gibbon, "was forced to relinquish his prey by a stronger savage than himself: and by the victory of Tamerlane the fall of Constantinople was delayed about fifty years."—But when the predicted period had elapsed, and the Sultan Mahomet was pressing the siege, like some of his predecessors before him, then no intervention occurred to delay the catastrophe, either from the East or West, from the crusaders of Christendom or the savage warriors of Tartary. On the dial-plate in heaven, the pointing of the shadow-line told that the fatal term had expired, the hour and day and month and year. Then could no longer the fate of the unhappy Greek be averted. And the artillery of the Othmans thundered irresistibly against Constantinople: and the breach was stormed: and the city fell:—and, amidst the shouts of the conquering Turkmans from the Euphrates, and the dying groans of the last Constantine, the third of the men were slain, the Greek empire was no more!