The first angel sounded
Or blew his trumpet:
and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood;
somewhat like one of the plagues of Egypt, ( Exodus 9:23-25 ) ; in which was hail mingled with fire, only no blood, but what was caused by its fall on man and beast. Some have thought the Arian heresy is here intended, which may well enough agree with the time; and which may be compared to "hail", for the mischief it did to the vines, the churches; and because of the violence with which it came, and the chillness of affection to Christ and his people, which it brought on professors of religion; and the barrenness which followed upon it, it making men barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ Jesus; and to "fire", because of the wrath, contentions, animosities, and divisions it occasioned among those who were called Christians: and "blood" may be brought into the account, since the like persecutions under Constantius and Valens were raised against the orthodox on account of it as were against the Christians under the Heathen emperors: and this storm fell upon "the earth"; the whole Roman empire; for even all the world was once said to be Arian, except one Athanasius; and particularly upon the carnal and earthly part of the church, who were seeking places and preferments under the Arian emperors: "and burnt up the third part of trees"; the trees of righteousness, the saints, particularly the doctors of the church, the tall cedars in Lebanon; who either seemed to be such, and were infected with this heresy, and destroyed by it, as many were; or were truly such, and were greatly oppressed, afflicted, and persecuted for not embracing it: and also "all green grass"; the common people, private Christians, weak believers, who had the truth of grace in them, and suffered much for not giving into this heresy; or who seemed to have it, but had it not, but withered away, being scorched up and destroyed with this pernicious notion: but rather this trumpet regards not the church, but the empire; and this storm of hail, fire, and blood, designs the irruption of the Goths into it, from the year 395, in which Theodosius died, to the year 408, under Radagaisus their general; with two hundred thousand of them, some say four hundred thousand, be entered and overrun all Italy, but was stopped and defeated by Stilicho; also Alaricus, king of the Goths, penetrated into Italy, came to Ravenna, and pitched his camp not far from Polentia, to whom the Emperor Honorius gave up France and Spain to make him easy, and that he might cease from his ravages and depredations F8; and these irruptions and devastations may be fitly expressed by hail, fire, and blood, just as the coming of the Assyrian monarch into the land of Israel is signified by a tempest of hail, and a destroying storm, ( Isaiah 28:2 ) ; and it is remarkable, as Mr. Daubuz observes, that Claudian the poet F9, who lived at the time of Alarick's war, compares it to hail:
and they were cast upon the earth;
the Roman empire, the continent more especially, as Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, which were particularly affected and distressed with these barbarous people:
and the third part of trees were burnt up;
by which seem to be meant people of the higher rank, the richer sort of people, who suffered much in these calamities; see ( Isaiah 2:13 ) ( Zechariah 11:2 ) ; yea, princes, nobles, and rulers, both civil and ecclesiastical, who suffered much at this time, as Jerom F11, who was then living, testifies; and so "trees" are interpreted of kings, rulers, and governors, by the Targum on ( Isaiah 2:13 ) ( Zechariah 11:1 Zechariah 11:2 ) ; "the trees of the field", in ( Isaiah 55:12 ) ; are interpreted of kingdoms F12: the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read before this clause, "and the third part of the earth was burnt"; that is, of the Roman empire:
and all green grass was burnt up;
the common people, who may be compared to spires of "grass" for their multitude, being as it were innumerable; and to "green" grass, for their delightful, comfortable, and flourishing condition before these calamities came upon them; and for their weakness and impotency to withstand such powerful enemies; see ( Job 5:25 ) ( Psalms 72:16 ) ( Isaiah 40:6 Isaiah 40:7 ) ( 37:27 ) ( Numbers 22:4 ) ; and these commonly suffer most when a country is overrun and plundered by an enemy.
F8 Cassiodor. Chronicon in Arcad. & Honor. 42. Petav. Rationar. Tempor. par. 1. l. 6. c. 10. p. 275. Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 5. c. 16. p. 871.
F9 De Bello Getico, v. 174. p. 209. Ed. Barthii.
F11 In Epitaph. Nepotian. fol. 9. I.
F12 Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 50. 1.