What is Wormwood in Revelation?
Wormwood is mentioned in connection with the angel who will blow the third trumpet resulting in judgment during the future tribulation period. Revelation 8:10-11 states, "The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter."
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Wormwood is a star that will fall from the sky and pollute the earth's waters. Specifically, a third of the earth's water will become polluted, with many people dying as a result.
What is the significance of the name Wormwood? In the Old Testament, wormwood was repeatedly associated with bitterness and death. Proverbs 5:3-5 shares, "For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol."
Lamentations 3:15 says, "He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood." Verse 19 continues, "Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!"
In Amos, the prophet twice referred to wormwood. Amos 5:7 shares, "O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!" Here, righteousness is contrasted with wormwood or bitterness. Amos 6:12 adds, "But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood."
The original readers of Revelation would have understood the association of wormwood as something bitter or deadly. This is certainly made clear in the passage as well, since it states many people died from the bitter water.
The context of Revelation 8:6-13 includes the first four angels and the trumpets they blew. Each trumpet announced or proclaimed another judgment that will take place during the tribulation period. In addition to the star that pollutes the waters of the earth, the first angel announces hail and fire, mixed with blood, that burns up a third of the earth.
The second angel announces "…something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed" (Revelation 8:8-9). This event, perhaps a meteor or comet, will turn a third of the sea red, will kill a third of sea life, and destroy a third of the ocean's vessels.
The fourth angel announces a judgment that will result in a third of the light being cut off from the earth, including from the sun, moon, and stars (v. 12). The judgment of a star referred to as Wormwood fits appropriately in this context of doom that will take place during the earth's final days before the second coming of Christ.
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