The Trumpets and the Plagues of Exodus – Revelation 8

Miles DavisHow are the plagues from Exodus used in the book of Revelation?

There are a remarkable number of parallels between this series of judgments and the ten plagues in Exodus.  For example, trumpets are associated with the theophany at Sinai (Exod 19:13-19; 20:18).  The first trumpet judgment is similar to Exodus 9:13-25, hail and fire fell upon the Egyptians.  The third trumpet resembles the plague of the freshwater in Exodus 7:20, except that there the waters turned to blood. The locust in Rev 9:3 is an apocalyptic version of the eighth plague (Exod 10:12-20).

Richard Patterson traced Exodus Motif in the Prophets, showing that the Exodus was a significant source of imagery for the rest of the Old Testament. The reason for this is the common “Divine Warrior” and “Divine Redeemer” themes in the Prophets. In the Exodus events, God fought for this people in order to redeem them out of their slavery. The prophets pick up those twin themes and apply them to their current situation. Israel has persisted in their unbelief and is once again under oppression (the Exile). God will once again fight for them and redeem them from the nations in a New Exodus.

While Patterson’s article does not continue to follow his argument into the Second Temple Period, the New Exodus theme is present in this literature. But plague imagery is not as common in Jewish sources as we might have guessed. In his detailed survey of the imagery of the Exodus in later Jewish writings, David Aune only finds the plagues in an eschatological sense in the Apocalypse of Abraham. There are ten plagues, although they do not track with the original ten plagues or the seven trumpets from Revelation.

Apoc. Abr. 30:3-8  And he said to me, “I will explain to you the things you desired in your heart, for you have sought to know the ten plagues which I prepared against the heathen, and I prepared them beforehand in the passing of the twelve hours on earth. Hear what I tell you, it will be thus. The first: sorrow from much need. The second: fiery conflagrations for the cities. The third: destruction by pestilence among the cattle. The fourth: famine of the world, of their generation. The fifth: among the rulers, destruction by earthquake and the sword. The sixth: increase of hail and snow. The seventh: wild beasts will be their grave. The eighth: pestilence and hunger will change their destruction. The ninth: execution by the sword and flight in distress. The tenth: thunder, voices, and destroying earthquakes.” (Rubinkiewicz, OTP 1:704)

Nevertheless, Revelation seems to be re-using imagery from the Ten Plagues.  Since John is standing on the shoulders of the Hebrew Bible. This is not a surprise. But it is important to at least wonder why it is important that the Exodus Events were chosen as the main backdrop for John’s apocalyptic description in Revelation 8-9. The purpose of the original ten plagues was for God to show his power to Israel. The ten plagues were not “evangelistic,” hoping that the Egyptians would see them and somehow “convert” to being Jewish. The plagues prove to the people of God in Egypt that he is a God who acts on their behalf to redeem them out of their slavery. The children of Abraham need to be convinced that the God of their ancestors is active and that he cares for them.

This may also be the function of the judgments in Revelation.  By the time of the eschatological age, Israel will have been in a state of unbelief for a long time. Like the original Exodus, they certainly need a reminded of the righteous character of their God. Revelation is using the language of the Hebrew Bible, how God has worked in the past, to describe how he will work again in the future.


Bibliography: Richard D. Patterson, “Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth: Apocalyptic Imagery in the Old Testament” JETS 43 (2000): 385-403.


18 thoughts on “The Trumpets and the Plagues of Exodus – Revelation 8

  1. I’m surprised no one else commented on this post from our class! I enjoyed it. I particularly appreciated the closing statements. I hadn’t thought about the plagues in Exodus being a sign to the Israelites and not the Egyptians. I had a perspective previously that those plagues were intended to be a message to the Egyptians into scaring them into freeing the Israelites. Although this was a result of the plagues, the intended purpose of them was more so to remind the Israelites that God is on their side and fighting for them. I have Exodus 14:14 on a painting in my room. This verse is particularly fitting for this discussion. Just as God fought for the Israelites, so he will in the days of the end times will he fight for those who proclaim him as savior. I’ve always thought of Revelation of being a dark scary book. Which, it is. But not for us, we have God fighting for us.

  2. This post gave me a new perspective on the plagues and how Revelations has drawn parallels to them. I always thought that the plagues were used to teach the Egyptians a lesson for keeping slaves and treating people terribly. Never did I think it was to show to the Israelites that God is almighty and powerful. I think my view of this came from the different movies I have seen through in my life about Exodus. They never really focused on a deeper meaning of why God sent these plagues. The movies just explained it was to punish Egypt for what it has done not to show Israel God’s power. It is definitely a different view that I can understand where it comes from. Going back to Exodus 10:12-20, it is apparent the parallel that the author draws for the plague of locusts Also, by looking at the other similarities it is crazy how close they are to each other. The judgments can definitely be seen as the using re-imagery from Exodus as stated in the original post. It really makes me want to look into this topic further because it is something that I never thought of.

  3. I really enjoy seeing the Bible all connect. It is amazing to see how God can make His presence known. I always saw God sending plagues as a scare tactic to the Egyptians. I have never really thought of it in the light that God was making a statement to the Israelites. It makes sense that He had to do the plagues for the Israelites as well. They were fearful and unsure on following Christ to begin with. I love seeing the parallel between passages in the Bible.

  4. As someone who spent a year and a half studying the life of Moses (as well as being read the Books of Moses), references to the Exodus have truly been inescapable. To an almost alarming degree.

    It makes total sense to me that John would be using language and references to the Old Testament/Torah to reach his audience, but it also shows a continual way that God is eternal and unchanging, and therefore the beginnings of Israel’s history is bound to return every so often. There is, as shown throughout the Bible, a continual cycle of falling back from God, therefore there is a constant need for such a reminder. The plagues, no less, strike a very strong chord and imagery.

    I think it is truly important to see how everything connects throughout the Bible to understand its continuity today, quite literally from its start to its finish.

  5. It is always interesting how there are many stories in the bible that seem to parallel with each other or there are many repeats in stories. It makes me think that it is really important that the thing was repeated again or mentioned in a different way in another story. Everything in the bible is important and has an important meaning inside of it. The four trumpets in Revelation have a lot of similarities to the story in Exodus with Moses sending the plagues on the Egyptians. With the plagues, it shows how powerful God is and that he can do so much more, but he is holding back. This is the same for the trumpets. He was showing his wrath on the people, but he always was holding back most of his wrath, just giving them a taste of how powerful he is. God wants all of us to be up in Heaven with him, but we sometimes fight against him. He cares deeply for us, and he will come back to save those who want to be saved.

  6. This blog came through with enough evidence of how God moves in mighty ways, rather if he has use his power to save Israel or to display his power in signs of judgement in Revelations. in 2 Timothy 3 talks about how the last days hard times will come, such this will be lovers of themselves, proud, lies, unholiness, unthankful, etc. Much of the truth will be in mix with modern new age movements, for those who have live a double-minded lives to them its would seem appropriate and acceptable to God, with the unwillingness to be sensitive in the spirit for the things of righteousness, pure, and holiness. God somehow has to demonstrate his power and authority for the entire world to see the need to get right with God before it’s too late. Perhaps, John saw more than what he wrote down, how the human nature of sin is still capable to lead many astray from the narrow path. Getting to know both the Old Testament in parallel to the New Testament will paint a wider picture of God always intervening with small to large-scale of power.

  7. “Revelation is using the language of the Hebrew Bible, how God has worked in the past, to describe how he will work again in the future”. I really like this quote and I think that it was a great concluding sentence to what your article was about. I remember this being on one of the quiz questions and I really found it interesting that there would be parallels to Moses and the people if Israel and how the final days of the earth will end up playing out. I have to say that at first I really did not know if it was true that God is working as he did in the past to show us how he will work again, but the more I think about it, it is in God’s nature to work the same way. Also, something that the ESV study noes talked bout talked about was why God did not just demolish the whole earth? And, it was because God still wanted to give more people the chance to accept him as savior. This to me was just so amazing that he would do this. God has already given these people all of their lives, and he still wants to give them another chance. I don’t know about you, but that is a God that I surely want to serve.

  8. P. Long brings to attention the aspect specifically that Scripture parallels itself throughout itself. I look back upon my previous Biblical knowledge and I often made the fault that I previously thought Scripture did not connect or parallel. However, that is obviously a large fault on my part.

    I think the parallels that P. Long brings to attention between Exodus and Revelation gives even more credit to the inspiration of Scripture that is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:16. The connections, at least as a Believer, continually displays how God truly inspires those who wrote Scripture and how He is truly the Author.

  9. The trumpets and the plagues in exodus in revelation 8.
    What I got from this blog post is that there is a potential that the author of revelation has some inspiration from the ten plagues in the exodus story. I can understand where people could use this as an opportunity to critique and or criticize the authenticity of the bible. In this case, I can understand where this may be a concern. Having the book of exodus is written first and also written thousands of years ago. And for revelation being the last book of the bible written. It may look like the author of revelation could have used some material from the exodus in the 7 plagues, but my questions would be “what is the purpose or benefit with copying that material.” and I can’t find a logical reason for that.
    What I feel is going on here is a foreshadowing placed by God. it is very common for God to have foreshadowing throughout the bible. For example, the old testament is riddled with prophecies about Jesus that all came true in the new testament. I don’t think it’s too far stretched to say that God is behind all this.
    One of my favorite Christologies from the old testament is also in exodus and that is when God split the red sea. They let the Israelites through but then when God closed the waters, he had killed all the Egyptians. Remember that. When you look at how Jesus dying on the cross saved us from what we deserve and yet also defeated death. Both of these situations show that in one act God defeated and freed us. Now that is pretty powerful.

  10. I find it interesting how often we see references in the book of Revelation to the Old Testament or, more specifically, the Hebrew Bible. There are multiple spots throughout the book where we see references to OT characters, often prophets, or OT themes/motifs such as the Temple. The similarities between the seven trumpets and the ten plagues are just more examples of these references. Even just in chapters 8-12, we see references to or similar ideas from Moses, Ezekiel, Joel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Elijah. This leads me to this question- Why reference the OT so much and base some ideas/imagery found there? I don’t really have a great answer for the question, but I can think of some possibilities. John probably had a good idea of who his immediate audience was when he wrote Revelation. The people who would have been reading Revelation at the time could very well have also read the OT and would understand the context of the references better than maybe readers today do. They probably had a pretty good understanding of the plagues and would have seen the similarities in imagery with the seven trumpets. I think the images of the plagues also help reinforce the theme of judgement and God’s power.

  11. I think this is a beautiful interpretation of the Trumpet judgments, as they are compared to the plagues in Exodus. It seems, however, that in order to accurately discern what the text means in Revelation, a thorough understanding of the plagues is necessary. As the article above said, the plagues sent by God were never meant to convert the Egyptian people; they were simply a demonstration of His power. There are times when the people of God fall silent, because they think their prayers are falling on deaf ears. This has happened over and over again through the history of the Bible and Christianity. We need reminding that God is still all-powerful–and that He still desires to be involved with us. The trumpet judgments, as they are taken from the Hebrew plagues, are therefore meant to remind God’s people that He is still in charge. Punishment is not really a good motivator to bring people to repentance, and this is not usually God’s way (Romans 2:4). Whatever God does reinforces who He is as a person; therefore, the plagues and the judgment trumpets should tell us something about His character. He does not act arbitrarily, in other words. And the trumpets were are no exception to this–He acted in this way to prove His power, sovereignty and justice.

  12. When reading through Revelation, it is easy to remember and compare the plagues of Exodus to the trumpets of Revelation. Like Professor Long points out, the first trumpet is similar to one of the plagues in that they both experience hail and fire. Also, the locust are similar to the ones that were part of the eighth plague. Exodus is used for imagery throughout the Old Testament. I appreciate the comparison of God fighting for the freedom of the Israelites in Exodus to God redeeming Israel in a New Exodus. Yet it is clear that this is the background of Revelation. These plagues showed the Israelites and those around them that God is powerful. Not only that, but these plagues showed the Israelites that God is in control and that He would take care of them. Hence, why it is important that there is this similarity so that it is seen that God still cares about the Israelites in present day just like in the past and will in the future.

  13. One thing about the Bible that always reveals God’s nature and his hand on the entirety of history is the fact that from the beginning of time, the first books of the bible, to the last there is continuity and parallels. There is no exception of this in revelation. The plagues were God’s wrath toward the Egyptians who had enslaved his people but also signs and wonders of God’s power to the people. This is similar to the fact that the trumpets in revelation are punishment and vengeance to a sinful world but also a sign of awe and wonder to those who have chosen Christ as their savior. I would agree with classmates’ responses that to understand the trumpets well in revelation and their meaning, we need to understand and have knowledge of the plagues. This points to the fact that when we come into the family of Christ is it good and beneficial to read the bible in its entirety. The bible even at it’s earliest points reveal God’s heart and plan for our lives. I see it often argued that reading the old testament doesn’t have importance, and this forum is a good reminder that the bible is an entire work, not just the new testament.

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