Q. I’ve been reading Revelation and I came across the name Wormwood. However, it seems to be both a name and a description. Rev 8:11: “And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” I also found the term wormwood in Deuteronomy as well. Can you possibly shed some light on the meaning of the term as a description (my gut tells me it’s refers to bitterness) and as a name as in the name of the star?
A. The term “wormwood” actually appears nine times in the Bible, seven times in the Old Testament and twice in Revelation 8:11. The Hebrew word for wormwood is la’anah. Strong’s states, “…from an unused root supposed to mean to curse; wormwood (regarded as poisonous, and therefore accursed).” The Greek, as found in Revelation 8:11, is apsinthos and means, “…wormwood (as a type of bitterness, i.e. [figuratively] calamity.” Interestingly, the Russian word “Chernobyl” literally means “wormwood.”
Based on the Greek apsinthos, Revelation 8:11 is likely referring to the water being poisoned by a “star.” This word derives from the Greek aster and is defined as, “…probably from the base of NT:4766; a star (as strown over the sky), literally or figuratively,” Strong’s. Since the meaning of star is somewhat ambiguous, there are numerous interpretations. Two common interpretations are either an asteroid or nuclear missile. Considering the cryptic nature of the passage, either interpretation may be correct, along with other explanations. Whatever the star symbolizes, the impact is known, the third part of the waters are poisoned and many people die as a result.