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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Revelation 18

Verses 1-99

The Judgement on Babylon

Her Glory and Sudden Plagues. Chap. 18 vv. 1 8

1. another angel ] See on 14:6.

great power ] Apparently for destruction: see note on the use of the word in 9:19.

the earth was lightened with his glory ] Ezekiel 43:2 , translated rather more literally than in the LXX.

2. mightily with a strong voice ] We should read, with a mighty voice .

Babylon … is fallen ] 14:8; Isaiah 21:9 .

the habitation of devils ] Better, an habitation . Similar vengeance is denounced on the literal Babylon, Isaiah 13:21 , and on Edom, id. 34:13 15. It is not quite certain which of the words used in those passages are names of demons or goblins, and which of terrestrial birds and beasts: but there is little doubt that Isaiah, like St John, means to describe both as occupying the desolated city.

the hold ] Probably a prison , not a fortress. It is the same word that is translated “cage” in the next clause, and “prison” in 1 St Peter Ephesians 3:19 .

3. the wine of ] Should perhaps be omitted: it may have come in from the parallel passage, 14:8.

the kings of the earth &c.] 17:2.

the merchants of the earth ] Merchants are alluded to as frequenting the literal Babylon in Isaiah 47:15 ; but the prominence given to them suggests the analogy, not of Babylon but of Tyre: see on 17:1. Rome was in St John’s day a wealthy and luxurious city, not a commercial city primarily , in the same sense as ancient Tyre and modern London, but a city with an immense commerce, the commerce really belonging to the city, though the port of Ostia was considerably further from the Capitol than the Docks are from Westminster. What Rome was then it may, and probably will, be again: and there is thus no need to look elsewhere than at Rome for the literal fulfilment of St John’s description, though some have thought it inappropriate to the geographical position of the city.

abundance of her delicacies ] More literally, power of her luxury .

4. Come out of her ] Isaiah 48:2 , 52:11; Jeremiah 50:8 , 51:6, Jeremiah 50:9 , Jeremiah 50:45 , all referring to the flight of Israel from the literal Babylon. This passage is nearest to the last of those cited: but in the second there is also the suggestion, that the Lord’s people must depart to secure their purity, as well as that they will depart to secure their liberty. They are, however, presumably dwellers at Babylon as captives, not as citizens: it can hardly be meant that any of them really belong to Babylon, or are loth to quit her (like Lot in Sodom) till the very eve of her fall.

5. have reached ] Lit., have cleaved together .

6. rewarded you ] “You” should be omitted: a better translation would be, Render to her as she herself rendered . The thought is founded on Psalms 137:8 ; Jeremiah 50:15 , Jeremiah 50:29 , and the expression on the former passage.

double unto her ] See Jeremiah 16:18 ; where however the vengeance is on jerusalem .

hath filled fill ] Lit. mixed mix : cf. 14:10.

7. for she saith in her heart &c.] Isaiah 47:7 , Isaiah 47:8 : in v. 8 we have a reminiscence of the next verse of Isaiah, but less verbally close.

8. she shall be utterly burnt with fire ] So 17:16. While literally true of the city, the doom may refer to that pronounced by the Law on certain cases of foul fornication, Leviticus 21:9 , &c.

for strong is the Lord God ] Jeremiah 50:34 .

that Judgeth ] Rather, that hath judged .

The Lamentation over them on Earth, vv. 9 19

9. the kings of the earth ] Who bore a more or less immediately active part in her destruction, 17:16: see note there.

shall bewail her ] Read simply, shall weep .

the smoke of her burning ] Cf. Genesis 19:28 .

10. for the fear ] i.e. because of their fear. Their regret for her destruction is sincere, but does not make them forget themselves.

Alas, alas ] The interjection is the same as is elsewhere rendered “Woe.” So in ver. 16.

11. shall weep and mourn ] Read, weep and mourn (in the present tense).

for no man buyeth &c.] Their sorrow is even more purely selfish than that of the kings.

merchandise ] Strictly, cargo .

12. This whole passage should be compared with Ezekiel 27:0 , where the wealth and trade of Tyre is described in detail.

and scarlet ] Thus far the goods enumerated have been expressed by genitives, “merchandise of gold … and of scarlet.” Here they cease to be so, as far as the word “sheep.”

thyine wood ] Wood of the thyia or thyion , a kind of cypress or arbor vitae: apparently the same that was called citrus by the Romans, and used for the costliest furniture.

13. and cinnamon ] Add “and amomum,” a precious oriental ointment. The word was accidentally omitted by copyists, from its likeness to the latter part of the preceding one.

and horses ] Lit., of horses , the genitive dependent on “merchandise” is resumed.

chariots ] Not war-chariots like those mentioned in the O. T., but luxurious carriages.

slaves ] Comparing Ezekiel 27:14 , perhaps we are to understand grooms or coachmen, attached to the horses and chariots. The word means literally bodies , but the sense “slaves” was recognised in Greek, though not strictly classical.

souls of men ] Ezekiel 27:13 . As “horses and chariots and bodies” are genitives, and “souls” accusative, we can hardly connect the last two words, “bodies and souls of men.” But while we never find in the Bible an Englishman’s horror of slavery as an institution, we are no doubt to understand that St John perhaps even that Ezekiel felt it to be cruel and unnatural to regard human beings as mere merchandise.

14. fruits … lusted after ] Lit., the fruit-harvest of the desire of thy soul .

thy … thee … thee … thou ] It seems as though the writer had forgotten the construction with which the long sentence, vv. 11 13, began: this verse stands as if the lamentation of the merchants were being quoted. In the next verse, it is described again, and then is quoted more regularly.

goodly ] Lit., bright . R. V. “sumptuous.”

thou shalt find ] Read, they shall find .

16. Alas, alas ] See on v. 10.

decked ] Lit., gilded , as at 17:4.

stones … pearls ] Both these words should be collective singulars.

17. is come to nought ] Lit., is made desolate .

all the company in ships ] Read with R. V., and everyone that saileth any whither . The words will probably stand for the merchants travelling in ships with their own goods, which they intend to sell on arriving at their destination Lat. vectores .

sailors ] Cf. Ezekiel 27:29 sqq.

trade by sea ] Lit., work the sea . The sense is more general than the A. V.: it will include all three classes, shipmasters, sailing merchants, and sailors.

18. What city is like &c.] Ezekiel 27:32 .

19. they cast dust &c.] Ibid. 30.

had ships ] Read, had the ships or their ships .

The Rejoicing over them in Heaven, vv. 20 24

20. Rejoice over her ] 12:12. There may be a reminiscence of Jeremiah 51:48 . We cannot tell if the words are those of the angel of v. 1, of the voice of v. 4, or of the seer himself: perhaps the second is most likely.

holy apostles and prophets ] Read, the saints and the apostles and the prophets .

avenged you ] Lit., judged your judgement , condemned her for her condemnation of you. Notice the mention of “apostles” as well as other “saints,” as proving that apostles suffered in Rome; and so confirming the unanimous tradition as to the martyrdom there of SS. Peter and Paul. Notice also (in reference to the theory mentioned on 2:2) St John’s recognition of the latter as an apostle. Whether he had himself been condemned to death at Rome cannot be determined: the tradition to that effect was ancient, but not demonstrably so ancient, nor so wide-spread or so confirmed by scriptural evidence (see on St John’s Gospel 21:18, 19).

21. a mighty angel ] Lit., one strong angel .

cast it into the sea &c.] Jeremiah 51:63 .

with violence ] Lit., with a rush or dash . R. V. “with a mighty fall.”

22. the voice of harpers &c.] Isaiah 14:11 , of Babylon, Ezekiel 26:13 , of Tyre, are certainly parallels: compare also Isaiah 24:8 , which is as similar as the passages of Jeremiah referred to on the following passage, and apparently, like them, spoken of the unfaithful Jerusalem.

the sound of a millstone &c.] Jeremiah 25:10 .

23. the voice of the bridegroom &c.] Jeremiah 7:34 , Jeremiah 16:9 .

for thy merchants &c.] Isaiah 23:8 , of Tyre. Some read “for the great men of the earth were thy merchants”, which makes the resemblance less close, but does not forbid our seeing a reference.

by thy sorceries ] Compare especially Nahum 3:4 .

24. And in her ] St John passes from recording the angel’s denunciation to the impression made on his own mind by the judgement he witnessed.

of all that were slain upon the earth ] Cf. Jeremiah 51:49 , where however, if the A. V. be right, the sense is rather different. “The slain of all the earth” here seem to mean “the slain of (the spiritual) Israel,” there , the allies of Babylon who share in her fall.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 18". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.