The Third Bowl & the Troubled Fountain

23 Jan
seven vials - 3

from Google Images

Presently we are in the midst of a study of the seven bowls of wrath in Revelation 16. The third angel poured out his bowl of wrath from God upon the rivers and the fountains of waters (Revelation 16:4), and the wrath of God turned the waters into blood. It may be that Revelation 16:5-7 is a summary of the first three bowl judgments.[1] What occurs here is the angel of the waters speaks out and declares the Lord righteous for his judgment (Revelation 16:5). The reason he offers for his declaration is that they (i.e. the earth and the sea and the fountains of waters, which include the rivers that form from the flow of the fountains) **they** have shed the blood of the saints and the prophets. Therefore, i.e. because of the blood guilt of the earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters, the Lord gave them blood to drink (Revelation 16:6).

Then, another voice came out from the altar in a kind of “two witness” agreement that validated the declaration that the Lord’s judgments were righteous (Revelation 16:7), and the altar is connected with the blood of the saints (Revelation 6:9-11). What I find interesting at this point is that Jesus, just before he was crucified, declared that the Jewish authorities were guilty of shedding the blood of all the righteous recorded in Scripture, and would further expose their blood guilt by persecuting and killing all those he (the Lord) would send to them (Matthew 23:29-36).

What did John mean by the fountains or springs of waters? First of all, we need to keep in mind that the Fountain of Living Waters is the Lord (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13). He is the Fountain or Source of all that is good. He is the Creator of all things and the Giver of all life. Nevertheless, the fountains of waters that are mentioned in Revelation 16:4 have nothing to do with the Lord or life or anything we might call good. Rather, the wrath of God is poured out upon them. While the term, fountain of living waters, has to do with having eternal life (Psalm 36:9; Revelation 21:6), it seems that the fountains of waters in Revelation 16:4 promise life, but, for whatever reason they are unable to deliver on the promises they make. Moreover, the verb in the Greek is in the singular. So, whatever the rivers and the fountains (both plural) of waters refer to in this text, they are taken together as though they described one entity, and **it** (not they) became blood (Revelation 16:4).

I find it interesting that Jeremiah 2:13, which identifies the Lord as the Fountain of Living Waters, also claims that in rejecting him the people have chosen cisterns, which collect rain water to sustain life, but these cisterns are broken and are unable to retain any life giving water at all! In other words, they are unable to fulfill their promise of life. The Scriptures liken a fountain to ‘understanding’ (Proverbs 16:22) and the Law (Proverbs 13:14). So, it seems that the fountains of Revelation 16:4 concern a source of teachings or doctrines about how to live. Yet, in the context of a broken cistern, that source or religion, if you will, is false and unable to deliver on its promises. The Scriptures further liken a man’s mouth to a fountain (James 3:10-11), and then they compare the false teacher (2Peter 2:1) to a well (a spring, or a fountain) without water (2Peter 2:17). Moreover, Jerusalem as a source of wickedness and violence is referred to as a fountain (Jeremiah 6:6-7), and the persecution of the righteous a troubled fountain (Proverbs 25:26).

It is in this context, then, that we should understand the angel pouring out his bowl of wrath upon the rivers and fountains of waters (Revelation 16:4). The Lord is angry with those who shed the blood of the righteous (Revelation 16:6), and Jeremiah identifies the fountain as Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:6-7) to which the Lord agrees (Matthew 23:29-36). So, at long last, the Lord judges Jerusalem according to his own righteousness (Revelation 16:5, 7) by giving her false prophets to guide the Jewish state, so their wickedness would be brought to its ultimate end (cf. Matthew 23:31-32).


[1] The next three judgments also seem to have a recap in Revelation 16:13-16.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2020 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation


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One response to “The Third Bowl & the Troubled Fountain

  1. Patricia Watkins

    January 25, 2020 at 14:48

    Hi Eddie,

    I believe that this particular third bowl judgment was fulfilled quite literally during Vespasian’s battle campaign against the Zealots in Perea. Vespasian began this campaign by taking control of the city of Gadara (probably in early AD 68). After the city was subjected to the Roman troops, the battle campaign phase against the Zealot fugitives who fled Gadara was led by Placidus (commissioned by Vespasian). His troops proceeded down the east side of the Jordan River, engaging the Zealot fugitives from Gadara and those that joined them, until they finally reached the Dead Sea. The Josephus record of these battles fought and won by the Romans in Perea is found in Wars 4.7.3-6.

    The city of Gadara just south of the Sea of Galilee was connected to a Roman aqueduct system that was considered the largest in the world. Even today, renovations of this aqueduct system have been made as recently as a few years ago. This aqueduct system took advantage of the abundant rainfall of that vicinity, which rainfall contributed to the River Jordan’s seasonal flooding, and flowed downstream to spread out over the Kikar of Jordan region – the disc-shaped plain at the top of the Dead Sea.

    This lush Jordan plain was what had once captivated Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who saw that this plain was “WELL-WATERED EVERYWHERE, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” (Gen. 13:10-11). Tributary rivers and streams along the Jordan River feed into the Jordan River valley, and springs of water are abundant in this Jordan region of the plain, which is why the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and a cluster of other cities and villages once straddled this Jordan plain at the top of the Dead Sea. The silt deposits from Jordan’s annual flood waters blessed the ground with fertility (just like the Nile Delta on a smaller scale), and the temperate climate could yield triple crops in a year. These are some of the major reasons why this Jordan plain at the top of the Dead Sea (where Sodom was built) became the cross-roads of the trade routes running up the east side of the Dead Sea from North to South, and from East to West, crossing this Jordan plain.

    There has been an ongoing excavation project in this Kikar of Jordan region near the ancient city of Shittim for approximately 15 years now, called the “Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project” led by Steven Collins. He is absolutely convinced that they are unearthing the site of the original city of Sodom, (as am I also). The name of the location itself is Arabic for “Mound of the HOT SPRING”; an indication that “fountains of waters” are still recognized for this area.

    The battles that Placidus engaged in with the Zealots and their armies in Perea ended up littering the landscape all along the Jordan River with dead bodies from Bethennabris to Jericho and the Dead Sea. Many of these dead bodies washed downstream in the flood waters that were then present during that season, and collected at the entrance to the Dead Sea, where nothing sinks. The shed blood of all these Zealot warriors soaked into the ground water of this region, which quite literally gave the rest of their countrymen “blood to drink” after this episode of carnage. I can just imagine the putrid collection of dead Israelites floating in the flooded Jordan River and the Dead Sea – corrupting this land of “rivers and fountains of waters”, (just as the third bowl judgment of Revelation 16:4-6 said would happen), in judgment for the blood of the saints and prophets that they had shed.

    Josephus mirrors the same language as Revelation 16:4-6 in describing the results of Placidus’ battle campaign in Perea at this time. “Now this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now Placidus, after the good success that he had, fell violently upon the neighboring smaller cities and villages; when he took Abila, and Julias,” (the Roman name for the city which eventually grew up near the Sodom site location) “and Bezemoth, and all those that lay as far as the lake Asphaltitis, and put such of the deserters into each of them as he thought proper. He then put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake, insomuch that all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans, as far as Macherus.”

    You may not agree with the connection I am making between these things, Eddie, but I’ll offer it for your consideration nonetheless. I had also presented this same position some time ago in the comment section at the following link, with a few more details:

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