In the Book of Revelation ( 9:1-11 ), when John sees his vision of the fifth trumpet blowing, a vast horde of demonic horsemen is seen arising from the newly opened abyss. They are sent forth to torment the unfortunate inhabitants of earth, but not to kill them. They have a ruler over them, called a king (basileia [basileiva]), the angel of the abyss, whose name is given in both Hebrew and Greek. In Hebrew it is Abaddon and in Greek Apollyon, both words meaning Destroyer or Destruction.
The word only occurs once in the New Testament ( Rev 9:11 ) and five times in the Old Testament ( Job 26:6 ; 28:22 ; 31:12 ; Psalm 88:11 ; Prov 15:11 ). In Psalm 88:11 Destruction is parallel to the grave; in Job 26:6 and Proverbs 26:6 it is parallel to Sheol; in Job 28:22 it is parallel to Death. job 31:12 says sin is a fire that burns to destruction. So in the Old Testament Abaddon means the place of utter ruin, death, desolation, or destruction.
The angel of the abyss is called Destruction or Destroyer because his task is to oversee the devastation of the inhabitants of the earth, although it is curious that his minions are allowed only to torture and not to kill. His identity is a matter of dispute. Some make him Satan himself, while others take him to be only one of Satan's many evil subordinates.
Walter A. Elwell
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destruction, the Hebrew name (equivalent to the Greek Apollyon, i.e., destroyer) of "the angel of the bottomless pit" ( Revelation 9:11 ). It is rendered "destruction" in Job 28:22 ; 31:12 ; 26:6 ; Proverbs 15:11 ; 27:20 . In the last three of these passages the Revised Version retains the word "Abaddon." We may regard this word as a personification of the idea of destruction, or as sheol, the realm of the dead.
a-bad'-on ('abhaddon, "ruin," "perdition," "destruction"):
Though "destruction" is commonly used in translating 'abhaddon, the stem idea is intransitive rather than passive--the idea of perishing, going to ruin, being in a ruined state, rather than that of being ruined, being destroyed.
The word occurs six times in the Old Testament, always as a place name in the sense in which Sheol is a place name. It denotes, in certain aspects, the world of the dead as constructed in the Hebrew imagination. It is a common mistake to understand such expressions in a too mechanical way. Like ourselves, the men of the earlier ages had to use picture language when they spoke of the conditions that existed after death, however their picturing of the matter may have differed from ours. In three instances Abaddon is parallel with Sheol (Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11; 27:20). In one instance it is parallel with death, in one with the grave and in the remaining instance the parallel phrase is "root out all mine increase" (Job 28:22; Psalms 88:11; Job 31:12). In this last passage the place idea comes nearer to vanishing in an abstract conception than in the other passages.
Abaddon belongs to the realm of the mysterious. Only God understands it (Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11). It is the world of the dead in its utterly dismal, destructive, dreadful aspect, not in those more cheerful aspects in which activities are conceived of as in progress there. In Abaddon there are no declarations of God's lovingkindness (Psalms 88:11).
In a slight degree the Old Testament presentations personalize Abaddon. It is a synonym for insatiableness (Proverbs 27:20). It has possibilities of information mediate between those of "all living" and those of God (Job 28:22).
In the New Testament the word occurs once (Revelation 9:11), the personalization becoming sharp. Abaddon is here not the world of the dead, but the angel who reigns over it. The Greek equivalent of his name is given as Apollyon. Under this name Bunyan presents him in the Pilgrim's Progress, and Christendom has doubtless been more interested in this presentation of the matter than in any other.
In some treatments Abaddon is connected with the evil spirit Asmodeus of Tobit (e.g. 3:8), and with the destroyer mentioned in The Wisdom of Solomon (18:25; compare 22), and through these with a large body of rabbinical folklore; but these efforts are simply groundless. See APOLLYON .
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