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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Revelation 18

Verses 1-24

Revelation 18:2

Here we are at Treves. I need not tell you all I have felt here and at Fleissen. At first the feeling that one is standing over the skeleton of the giant iniquity old Rome is overpowering. And as I stood last night in that amphitheatre, amid the wild beasts' dens, and thought of the Christian martyrdoms and the Frank prisoners, and all the hellish scenes of agony and cruelty that place had witnessed, I seemed to hear the very voice of the Archangel whom St. John heard in Patmos, crying, Babylon the Great is fallen; no more like the sound of a trumpet, but only in the still whisper of the night breeze, and through the sleeping vineyards, and the great still smile of God out of the broad, blue heaven.

Kingsley.

Revelation 18:4

Fly from Rome, for Babylon signifieth confusion, and Rome has confused all the Scriptures, confused all vices together, and confused everything. Fly, then, from Rome, and come to repentance.

Savonarola, to the Florentines, in 1496.

Compare also Carlyle's use of the text in his diatribe against the landed aristocracy, in Past and Present. After accusing them of indolence and oppression, he pauses for a moment to reflect: 'Exceptions! ah yes, thank Heaven, we know there are exceptions. Our case were too hard, were there not exceptions, and partial exceptions not a few, whom we know, and whom we do not know. Honour to the name of Ashley, honour to this and the other valiant Abdiel, found faithful still, who would fain, by work and by word, admonish their Order not to rush upon destruction! These are they who will, if not save their Order, postpone the wreck of it. All honour and success to these. The noble man can still strive nobly to save and serve his Order; at lowest, he can remember the precept of the Prophet: 'Come out of her, my people, come out of her'.

References. XVIII. 7, 8. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 292. XVIII. 8 . Ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 114.

The Manhood Traffic

Revelation 18:11-13

This passage is built up after the analogy of Ezekiel's prophecies concerning Tyre, in conjunction with which they should be read (see Ezek. XXVII., XXVIII.); and the merchandise of the city of Rome in the Apostle's time has undoubtedly formed the groundwork of this enumeration.

I. The text declares that one of the causes of the ruin of this Babylon was her extravagant luxury. The history of the world is full of solemn lessons concerning the enervating influence of luxury. It is scarcely too much to say that luxury was the chief destroyer of all the great empires of antiquity. We are constantly discovering a proneness to fall away into the ease-taking and self-pampering which ruined the great empires of ancient Babylon, of Media and Persia, of Greece and Rome. Christlike self-renunciation is a virtue which cannot grow in the soil of luxurious living.

II. But it is to the two last items in this extraordinary inventory that I wish to call your attention, viz., slaves and souls of men. As the margin informs us the literal translation is bodies and souls of men. There are ways of making merchandise of manhood beside the coarse and palpable one of selling men for slaves. (1) I very much fear, thanks to the cruel, heartless, atheistic political economy which this country learnt from Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and company, that very much of our commerce is practically a traffic in the blood, and bones, and nerves, and souls of men. No commerce is healthy, except that whose fundamental law is, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (2) The drink traffic, the opium traffic, and whoremongering are other manifestations of this awful trade in the bodies and souls of men. If the Church would do her Master's work she must arise and be the champion of the poor, the enemy of all sweating, the inexorable foe of all manhood traffic.

G. A. Bennetts, The Preacher's Magazine, vol. IV. p. 509.

Reference. XVIII. 14. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 283.

Revelation 18:21

Compare the use of this verse in Tennyson's poem, 'Sea Dreams'.

References. XIX. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 292. XIX. 1. H. S. Holland, God's City, p. 59.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 18". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/revelation-18.html. 1910.