The word is found in the NT only in Rev 9:11. In the OT text ’ăbhaddôn occurs six times (only in the Wisdom literature), AV in each case rendering ‘destruction,’ while RV gives ‘Destruction’ in Job 28:22; 31:12, Ps 88:11, but ‘Abaddon’ in Job 26:6, Pr 15:11; 27:20, on the ground, as stated by the Revisers in their Preface, that ‘a proper name appears to be required for giving vividness and point.’ Etymologically the word is an abstract term meaning ‘destruction,’ and it is employed in this sense in Job 31:12. Its use, however, in parallelism with Sheol in Job 26:6, Pr 15:11, 27:20 and with ‘the grave’ in Ps 88:11 shows that even in the OT it had passed beyond this general meaning and had become a specialized term for the abode of the dead. In Job 28:22, again, it is personified side by side with Death, just as Hades is personified in Rev 6:6. So far as the OT is concerned, and notwithstanding the evident suggestions of its derivation (from Heb. ’ābhadh, ‘to perish’), the connotation of the word does not appear to advance beyond that of the parallel word Sheol in its older meaning of the general dwelling-place of all the dead. In later Heb. literature, however, when Sheol had come to be recognized as a sphere of moral distinctions and consequent retribution, Abaddon is represented as one of the lower divisions of Sheol and as being the abode of the wicked and a place of punishment. At first it was distinguished from Gehenna, as a place of loss and deprivation rather than of the positive suffering assigned to the latter. But in the Rabbinic teaching of a later time it becomes the very house of perdition (Targ. on Job 26:6), the lowest part of Gehenna, the deepest deep of hell (‘Emeḳ Hammelech, 15. 3).
In Rev 9:11 Abaddon is not merely personified in the free poetic manner of Job 28:22, but is used as the personal designation in Hebrew of a fallen angel described as the king of the locusts and ‘the angel of the abyss,’ whose name in the Greek tongue is said to be Apollyon. In the LXX ’ăbhaddôn is regularly rendered by ἀπώλεια; and the personification of the Heb. word by the writer of Rev. apparently led him to form from the corresponding Gr. verb (ἀπολλύω, later form of ἀπόλλυμι) a Gr. name with the personal ending ων. Outside of the Apocalypse the name Abaddon has hardly any place in English literature, while Apollyon, on the contrary, has become familiar through the use made of it in the Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, whose conception of Apollyon, however, is entirely his own. Abaddon or Apollyon was often identified with Asmodæus, ‘the evil spirit’ of To 3:8; but this identification is now known to be a mistake.
AV Authorized Version.
RV Revised Version.
ERE Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.
ExpT Expository Times.