What Is The Meaning Of Wormwood From The Book Of Revelation?

What Is The Meaning Of Wormwood From The Book Of Revelation? December 27, 2015

What does the word “wormwood” mean in the Book of Revelation and in the Old Testament?

The Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is not the Apostle John’s book. He writes that it is “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (Rev 1:1) so it is as if he is dictating what Jesus Christ tells him to write down. John is very familiar with the Author of this book because he “bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (Rev 1:2). The Book of Revelation mentions the word “wormwood” (Rev 8:11) but this word is also used in the Old Testament and, as I hope to show, it is very closely associated with the use of wormwood in the Book of Revelation.

Wormwood in the Old Testament

Solomon use the word wormwood in the very same context as did Jeremiah and Amos the Prophet. Solomon wrote that “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” and “Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol” (Prov 5:3-5). Solomon used the word wormwood as something that leads to a bitter ending. The “forbidden” woman is obviously someone who the man is forbidden to have sexual relationships with but he does it anyway and it could well lead to sexually transmitted diseases, divorce, and even death (Sheol). That’s a very bitter ending as a two-edged sword can be fatal. The Hebrew word Solomon uses is “la`anah” which means “bitterness.” Jeremiah uses the same, exact word when he writes “He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood” (Lam 3:15). Jeremiah uses the word bitterness and wormwood interchangeably. The only other author in the Old Testament to use this word is Amos, and speaking for God to Israel, he writes, “Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth” (Amos 5:6-7) and in Amos 6 where God tells Israel, “you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood” (6:12). In every case where it is used, the authors of the Old Testament used wormwood in association with bitterness and this lead to a bitter ending, every time.

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Wormwood in Revelation

The Apostle John writes the only verse in the New Testament with the word wormwood in Revelation 8:11 where he writes, “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.” In Revelation chapter 8, John is writing about the time when “the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow” their trumpets (Rev 8:6) when two judgments were to be poured out upon all the unrepentant. The occurrence where wormwood is used is in Revelation 8 where John writes that the “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” (Rev 8:10-11). John uses the Greek word “apsinthion” which again means bitter, but in this case, it is the name of an actual star (Rev 8:11) however angels are sometimes referred to as stars, especially in the Old Testament. Perhaps this “star” is an angel carrying out God’s judgment. If not, it could well be an actual meteorite that strikes the earth and pollutes 1/3rd of the earth’s fresh water supply. Is John describing a meteorite when he writes that “a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch” and “and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water” and somehow the “waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter?” This “star” is part of the Third Trumpet or woes of God as these trumpets are also referred to as “woes” which is a word that means judgment, but more than judgment, it’s the giving of the verdict and punishment and there are yet three more to come (Rev 8:13).


Wormwood is the name of a plant and of the bitter-tasting extract derived from it and that is what the judgment of God will taste like to everyone who refuses to repent and trust in Christ. It will be the bitterest of things to swallow and the bitterest of all endings because it is without end as John writes; “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Rev 14:11).

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    ““the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name”

    Have you considered seeing a mental health professional jack? Normal rational people do not read books written by crazy psychotic people and believe that they are real. It’s a story jack..a made up story by a madman…it is not real.

    What kind of “father” heavenly or otherwise would demand his children repent, grovel, believe and obey under threats of torture and torment? How can you possible “worship” a monster like this jack?

    • thushjz

      Those who believe in Jesus will not suffer this fate, you’re living proof that what the writer says is accurate and true…and in fact, if you think the Bible is not real and insane what are you doing here? Got an itch you can’t scratch? Something bugging you?

      • pud

        Oh really? And you KNOW this how?

        You’ll say the buybull tells me so

        And you KNOW the buybull is true how?

        I’m here because religion is an enemy of reason, civilization and progress

        • Doug Barron

          And, Mr. PUD,
          Your “religion” you so vehemently espouse is not?

          • pud

            And just what “religion” would that be? Won’t you be late for the ball toss in the rec room?

          • Doug Barron

            Won’t you join me? I so enjoy your company!

          • sls49@comcast.net

            Ok lets look at this logically, 100’s of prophecies in the Bible have come true that were written 100 and or 1000’s of years before they came to pass. History proves this, you might want to try actually investigating that. In fact there are onlu a few in the Bible that have not come to pass yet and those are prophesies about the end times. IE the wormwood one, however if you look at what is happening the fish and wildlife in the ocean since Fukushima incident, we might be seeing that taking place before our very eyes. But lets say Christians are wrong and there is no God, and we die and dont wake up because we don’t wake up in judgement because there is no God and no afterlife, won’t matter to us we won’t know any difference. But lets suppose just maybe your wrong and you wake up facing your maker who you have openly denied and ridiculed over and over, who you have refused to accept as Lord and Savior. Its going to matter to you because you will then be facing an eternity separate from God in total darkness, turmoil and endless pain where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Im thinking I wouldn’t want to be you. You ever hear of Russian Roulette? Pretty much what your playing, only your playing with a fully loaded gun because there is a God and there will be a Judgement. And all your bullying and hollering and sarcasm isn’t gonna change that one iota. You’ve hardened your heart toward God, that’s your doing nobody else’s.

          • pud

            “Pascals wager” google it….it’s the most stupid of all reasons to believe in nonsense.

        • Doug Barron

          Also, Me. PUD,
          If you wish to be taken seriously on any level, and not be viewed as an idle carnival amusement, you need to eschew the name calling and juvenile playground ridecule. Really.

          • pud

            Ball toss and sing along in the rec room…you’re going to be late!

          • Doug Barron

            Waiting on you, my dear…couldn’t go without my bud, PUD!

        • thushjz

          So the people that have built thousands of hospitals in the U.S. alone (that would be Catholic hospitals, Lutheran Hospitals, Presbyterian hospitals, Jewish Hospitals, Methodist Hospitals etc… since this nations beginning over 200 years ago are the enemies of “reason, civilization, and progress” (Your quote), tell me my fine highly educated friend, how many atheist or agnostic hospitals are there in just the U.S.?

          • pud

            Hitler built the Autoban and made the trains run on time.

  • Dan Purcell

    Dear Author,

    John the Apostle cannot be the author of this story. This Author talks about the 24 elders, of which John was one of the 12 apostles. So, pray tell, how could the writer be talking about himself from a point of view that obviously doesnt include himself.

  • kicks

    The Beast in Revealation is the Church of Rome, the image of the Beast is the United States of America, the Mark of the beast is the keeping of the First day (Sunday) Sabbath, “the smoke of their torment” is in the keeping or memory of God, not in time the individual is suffering, God wants all mankind to be saved, to Repent and return to his side through faith in his only begotten beloved son Jesus Christ, The time is truly at hand, the time to repent of your sins, obey the law of God given to Moses as the Ten Commandments.