In Revelation 16:13-15, our vision narrator John sees three unclean spirits like frogs jump, or perhaps, ooze out of the mouths of the abysmal, evil pseudo-trinity. Whether they emerge simultaneously or each in turn, these three unclean frog-like spirits slip from the mouth of the serpentine Dragon, from the mouth of the despotic Beast, and from the mouth of the pretentious Pseudo-Prophet.
Revelation’s listeners are informed that the three unclean frog-like spirits are demonic spirits who perform something called signs. But exactly what sort of signs do they perform? We are not told, so we are left to wonder and to speculate. Their signs will probably seem astonishing and even miraculous. At the very least, they will be persuasively compelling. The three sign-performing frog-like unclean spirits will go out and abroad to summon, beguile, and gather a massive military coalition from here, there, and everywhere, on orders from the world’s mesmerized political leaders. And thus, having been persuaded, beguiled, and lured by the three frog-like spirits, the Kings of the Earth, along with their minions and massive armies, will assemble for the renown Battle of Armageddon, the fearsome climatic battle of battles to end the age. The Battle of Armageddon coincides with the Great Day of God, the Almighty.
And then, a sudden, unexpected parenthetical interruption in Chapter Sixteen occurs. A Voice interrupts this sweeping, bewildering, awesome narrative to forewarn Revelation’s readers and listeners, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be seen, shamefully exposed.”
Question, questions, questions — for inquisitive interpreters, this passage prompts not only awe and bewilderment, but also a bunch of questions.
So where do we even start? What are we to make of all the elements in this passage? How are we to comprehend it?
For my purposes in this blog-cast, I want to focus narrowly on the frog-like unclean spirits. The most immediate question I wish to address is this: Why are the unclean spirits said to resemble frogs? I ask that on the assumption that no details go wasted in the Book of Revelation. If a detail is there in the text, it is never incidental or unimportant. Every detail in Revelation is intentional and has meaning. Every detail in Revelation conveys part of a message. Of that, I am thoroughly convinced.
Why, then, are these three unclean spirits said to resemble frogs?
One possible reason why these unclean spirits are likened to frogs is because frogs are noisy nocturnal creatures. Frogs are croaking creatures of the night. Frogs become especially noisy as daylight fades and darkness falls. Similarly, these three unclean spirits will be especially active and clamorous at the end of the age. I find this reason somewhat persuasive.
A second reason why these three unclean spirits might be likened to frogs is because of the role that frogs play in the pagan mythologies of both Greece and Egypt. In ancient Egyptian mythology, frogs were associated with fertility and with the afterlife. In Hellenistic mythology, frogs were associated with the underworld and Hades. Consequently, the link between frogs and evil spirits would have come as no surprise to Revelation’s first listeners, most of whom were very familiar with pagan mythologies. While interesting, this reason is not satisfactory in and of itself, because other mythological creatures could have been referenced just as readily. However, it does lend persuasive weight to some other reasons.
A third reason why the three unclean spirits are likened to frogs is because of how frogs are featured in the account of the Ten Plagues on Egypt. The Plague of the Invasive Frogs is the second of the ten plagues (see Exodus 8:1-15). Very significantly, by means of their secret arts, the Egyptian magicians could somehow replicate the Plague of the Invasive Frogs. Using demonic sorcery, they could fabricate the same sign. They fabricated frogs, or, more likely, coaxed them from the Nile’s swamps, irrigation canals, and fields. The magicians matched Moses with the same miraculous sign, or something very, very similar. But then they were done. That was it. The fabrication of frogs was the grand finale of their imitative ability. After the plague of the frogs, the Egyptian magicians could replicate no more. Instead, when they attempted to replicate the third plague, the Plague of the Pesky Gnats, the Egyptian magicians had to admit defeat, and informed Pharaoh (in Exodus 8:19), “This is the finger of God!”
This, I believe, is the key interpretive connection we are supposed to make. By means of their unclean frog-like spirits, the abysmal satanic pseudo-trinity will fabricate miraculous signs that will be very, very convincing. They will sway and persuade people — including very important people in high government positions — with displays of astonishing power. Yet like the Egyptian magicians of old, the satanic pseudo-trinity will actually be limited in their powers.
If this is indeed the correct interpretation, I should mention that you might not be present here on Earth when all this occurs. I hope not to be here. I hope you won’t be here, either. Do you remember the Voice in Revelation 16:15 that says, “Behold, I am coming like a thief…”? That voice is Jesus speaking. One way to make sense of his out-of-nowhere narrative interruption is to interpret it as an urgent forewarning to his listeners and readers. It is a forewarning that includes the prospect of an escape. He is coming like a thief. Many people will not anticipate his coming and will not be ready. They will be (to use a dread phrase) left behind. But those who are ready and waiting — those who are awake and dressed — they will escape all the horrors, the deception, and the suffering that will occur during the tumultuous period of the Seven Bowls of Wrath.
All of this assumes that the Seven Trumpets and the Seven Bowls of Wrath are distinct and successive periods of time, with the Seven Trumpets of Conquest coming first and the Seven Bowls of Wrath following. In my interpretation of Revelation, I do go with that assumption. And I will argue that what separates the Seven Trumpets from the Seven Bowls is the return of Christ and the resurrection/rapture of the Church. But to explain that particular chronology requires a blog-cast (or two or three), and thus must wait for another time.
One thought on “Why Frogs?”
Ah ha! I just know somehow the Egyptian frogs had some relevance to the Revelation frogs! I actually do NOT like frogs so am very comforted to know Jesus is getting me out of here before I can see them oozing out of the bad guy’s mouths! Thanks, David, for another interesting and informative read.
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