Who hasn’t heard of the formidable army of 200 MILLION that is supposed to be gathered together in Revelation 9:16? The assumption is taught that this incredible number must either be that of demonic forces, or possibly composed of Asian countries that could manage putting an army this large into battle.
It happens that this number of 200 MILLION has been greatly exaggerated, based on a misunderstanding of this verse as originally written. MOST of the scripture translations butcher the language when interpreting the strength of this army. What we do know is that John meant to be very precise with the head count of this army of horsemen, because he said that “I HEARD THE NUMBER of them.” It’s quite possible that this particular number also has a symbolic value as well, but all indications are that this was meant to be a LITERAL number of actual horsemen that John recorded.
So, just what IS that number? The typical translation renders this as 200 MILLION, but the Greek as originally given is literally translated “TWO MYRIADS OF MYRIADS”.
The term “myriad” has a more precise definition than just a vague amount for a multitudinous group. The actual numerical value of a myriad is 10,000. It’s a term that appears often in scripture, most notably in Psalms 68:17 (KJV). “The chariots of God are TWENTY THOUSAND, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place.” With a literal rendering, this verse says , “God’s chariots, TWO MYRIADS OF THOUSANDS, and again myriads of thousands:” (literally, “of repetition:”) “the Lord among them, Sinai in holiness.” This shows us that God’s mighty strength in battle is represented by the “two myriads of thousands”, or “TWENTY THOUSAND” chariots that accompany Him.
The battle strength of the number of horsemen in Revelation 9:16 was meant to reflect that same number of God’s chariots in Psalms 68:17. Their mission was a God-ordained one; executing His divine purpose, with the same level of His power given to them in order to accomplish that purpose. God had prepared that specified number of horsemen for a very particular hour, and day, and month, and year for a very specific reason: “to slay the THIRD PART OF MEN”.
During that “second woe”, which was the sixth angel’s trumpet judgment, the number of fatalities that made up that “third part of men” was composed of #1), the death of the two individual men who were “witnesses” (Rev. 11:3-12), and #2), the 7,000 men who died (Rev. 11:13). These deaths would make up the body count represented by that “ONE THIRD OF MEN” in Rev. 9:15-16. This doesn’t mean that one-third of every person on the PLANET was to die at that time, but instead it was one-third of men in that CITY OF JERUSALEM who were to die during this sixth trumpet judgment (Rev. 11:8).
Now, according to the common view of Rev. 9:16 that usually interprets this as an army of 200 MILLION, it seems quite strange that it would take 200 MILLION horsemen to manage the killing of 7,002 individuals. Do the math. From what I figure, that means it would require 28,563 horsemen to kill just ONE PERSON in the city of Jerusalem. That’s an improbable ratio, and doesn’t say very much about the battle skill of the proposed number of 200 million that was supposed to be so overpowering in Rev. 9:17-19.
So, let’s go back to how Rev. 9:16 was written originally, as the YLT presents it. “And the number of the forces of the horsemen is TWO MYRIADS OF MYRIADS, and I heard the number of them.” This “TWO MYRIADS” is equal to TWO groups of 10,000 horsemen each. TWENTY THOUSAND *TOTAL*.
Remember the numbered chariots of God in Psalms 68:17 - the “TWO MYRIADS OF THOUSANDS”? That numbered total amounted to 20,000 - NOT 200 MILLION. It’s the same language at work here in Revelation 9:16. This army of horsemen sent by God numbered 20,000 total, who slew those 7,002 individuals who were identified somehow as the “THIRD PART OF MEN” in Jerusalem. This is a more realistic ratio of combatants - 20,000 killing 7,002, or an approximate 3 to 1 ratio.
Just for an everyday comparison, here’s a common expression we might use today. I might go into a Dunkin Donuts store and tell the salesperson “I would like to get two dozens of a box of a dozen donuts, please.” (TWO DOZENS OF DOZENS). Hopefully the salesperson ringing up the order wouldn’t multiply the dozens together and come up with an exaggerated order of 288 donuts! (2 x 12 x 12). Same thing with the “TWO MYRIADS OF MYRIADS” in Rev. 9:16. It’s 2 x 10,000, NOT an exaggerated figure of 2 x 10,000 x 10,000.
And the fulfillment of this 20,000 horsemen army killing those 7,002 men, or 1/3 part of men in the “great city” Jerusalem”? It was in late AD 67 or 68 when the Idumean army of 20,000 led by four commanders (Simon, John, Jacob, and Phineas), came to the gate of Jerusalem and were denied entrance. They broke into the city during the night of the earthquake and a fearful storm that struck the city. By the next morning, Josephus wrote that 8,500 were dead as a combined result of the storm with the earthquake, and the Idumeans attacking the citizens. This included the death of the two former high priest “witnesses”, (Ananus and Joshua), who were deliberately and insultingly left unburied, as Rev. 11:9 predicted would happen.
The “ONE THIRD PART OF MEN” in Jerusalem that died in this attack by the 20,000 Idumean horsemen were the followers of Ananus’ moderate party, who made up one of the three factions (1/3) that were in power at that time in the city. This one-third of the warring parties in Jerusalem at that time was targeted for elimination by the Idumeans during this one invasion, which God had set up beforehand to occur on an exact hour, day, month, and year.
Anyone wishing to read for themselves the description of this fulfilled prophecy of the sixth trumpet judgment starting in Rev. 9:12 and finishing up by Rev. 11:14 can find it in Josephus Wars 4.4-5 down to the last detail - especially regarding the number of 20,000 Idumean warriors in Wars 4.4.2. Two myriads of Idumean myriads.
The army of a supposed “200 MILLION” is a gross exaggeration, and is certainly not a threat that is hanging over our heads in the future.