(10) 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.
Stars either falling or burning out is another aspect of God’s judgment language (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 3:15; Matthew 24:29). Recall from the creation of the world, how the lights of the heavens were made to govern the day and night (Genesis 1:14-16). These same lights are used in symbolism for the governments of nations too; when God speaks of stars falling, or the sun and moon not giving light, then it is “lights out” for that nation. Here, God is putting out the light of the Jew as the third angel blasts his warning. This great and burning star fell from heaven. God used a similar means of communication when he spoke of the fall of Babylon: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” (Isaiah 14:12). This star also represents a third, as there are three governors (sun, moon, and stars); thus only a fraction of the light has gone out.
(11) 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.
The star is named Wormwood. This name adds additional depth and symbolism for “Wormwood” has been used many times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7, 6:12). In the Hebrew language it is an unknown poisonous plant; however, in the Greek (apsinthos, corresponding to the English “absinthe”), it is a well known plant growing in the region of the seven churches in Asia. The essence of the plant is still used today for strong spirits, but to drink it in its purity would lead to certain death. John recorded that “the waters became wormwood,” showing that this was not a deluded beverage, but distilled wormwood.
“A third of the waters.” These waters are not the seas, but the rivers and springs; these are the sources of drinking water. The drinking water became bitter and “many people died from the water.” The Jewish-Roman War as started by Nero was a truly bitter time, with much suffering and much death long before the climax of the war. Those days were so bitter that they would even cause many of the Jewish Christians to fall away, to betray one another and hate one another (Matthew 24:10). Jesus also said that “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).