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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 17



Revelation 17:3 . The rec. γέμον ὀνομάτων βλασφ . is certainly false. It is more probable and intelligible to read, with Tisch., according to A, 7, 8, al., γέμον τὰ ὀνόματα βλασφ . (14, 18, al., also have ὀνόματα , but without the art.), than, with Lach., Tisch. IX. [W. and H.], γέμοντα ὀνόματα βλ . In the א , the τα has been deleted by the corrector. But the immediately succeeding defective ἔχοντα has continued so to stand. W. and H.: ἔχων .

Revelation 17:4 . The καὶ before κεχρυσ . (A, א , Vulg., Elz., Lach., Tisch. IX. [W. and H.]), which is lacking in B (Tisch.), may be interpolated, τὰ ἀκάθαρτα . So A, B, א , 2, 4, 6, al., Compl., Genev., Beng., Griesb., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. The rec. ἀκαθάρτητος is an interpretation, as the τῶν ἀκαθάρτων in Areth.

Revelation 17:8 . Instead of ὑπάγειν (B, א , Elz., Tisch. IX.), read ὑπάγει (A, 12, Andr., Areth., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]).

καὶ πάρεσται . So A, B, 2, 3, 4, al., Compl., Plant., Genev., Beng., Griesb., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. Incorrectly, Elz.: καίπερ ἐστίν . א 1 has καὶ πάλιν πάρεστε (corr.: καὶ πάρεστιν ). The πάλιν is an effort at interpretation; the πάρεστε , however, points to the correct reading.

Revelation 17:11 . καὶ αὐτος ὅγδ . So A, al., edd., interpretations are: κ . οὐτος ὀγδ . (B), οὐτοςὄγδ . ( א ), etc.

After the last plagues [3792] have been inflicted, the final judgment itself follows, and that, too, in various chief acts whereby the individual chief enemies are judged successively. From ch. 12 on, as such, there are represented, first, the dragon himself, as the proper old enemy; then the beast out of the sea, i.e., the heathen-Roman secular power; finally, the beast out of the earth, serving this beast, or the false prophet. But while the description of the enemies of the Lord and his believers properly took this course, which proceeds from the original author of all antichristian hostility, from Satan himself, to the hostile powers manifesting themselves in the reality of experience by the shedding of blood and other persecutions of believers, [3793] by the seduction of the inhabitants of the earth, and by blasphemy of God; [3794] the reverse order follows for the description of the judgment. Satan himself even apart from that which lies beyond Revelation 20:3 is at last judged, [3795] and, before him, his instruments, who serve him unto the end; viz., the beast and the false prophet. [3796]

But the description of the judgment is not limited to this chief feature; but just that part of the Apocalyptic picture is portrayed in a more detailed way, which refers to the antichristian secular power as in manifest reality arrayed against believers. This is now brought to view under the two forms (Revelation 17:3 ) belonging together, as they stand there in their entire opposition to God, and incur the Divine judgment. Besides the Roman Empire (Welt reiche ) as a whole, the beast, there is a particular description of the metropolis of the world (Welt stadt ), the harlot who sits upon the beast, the concrete focus of the power of the world with all its abominations. This harlot upon the beast is now shown to the prophet [3797] as the immediate object of the final judgment that now enters; and, indeed, not only what John himself beholds (Revelation 17:1-6 ), but also that which the angel says to him in interpretation of what is beheld (Revelation 17:7-14 , Revelation 17:15-18 ), serves besides to represent the harlot as the completely worthy object of the judgment. To the judgment itself, then, the section Revelation 18:1 sqq. refers.

[3792] Cf. Revelation 15:1 .

[3793] Cf. Revelation 13:7 ; Revelation 13:10 ; Revelation 13:15 , Revelation 16:6 .

[3794] Cf. Revelation 13:4 sqq., Revelation 13:12 sqq., Revelation 14:8 , Revelation 16:21 .

[3795] Revelation 20:1 sqq.

[3796] Revelation 19:19 sqq.

[3797] Revelation 17:1 sqq.

Verses 1-6

Revelation 17:1-6 . One of the vial-angels allows John to see the harlot.

καὶ ἦλθεν . The angel had thus far occupied a standpoint adapted for the business described in ch. 16, the pouring-out of his vials; now he comes to John in order not only to speak with him (Revelation 17:1 sqq.), but also to carry him in spirit to another place (Revelation 17:3 ).

εἰς ἐκ τ . ἑπτ . ἀγγ ., κ . τ . λ . One of the seven vial-angels. Incorrectly, Eichh.: εἱς is equivalent to πρῶτος . [3798] It is in no way to be conjectured which of the vial-angels it was; but that just by one of these he will be afforded a view of the judgment, is especially appropriate, because these angels have brought the last plagues immediately preceding the judgment, and that, too, without impelling the worldly kingdom to repentance. [3799]

Δεῦρο . Cf. Revelation 21:9 , also Revelation 6:3 ; Revelation 6:5 ; Revelation 6:7 .

δείξω σοι τὸ κρίμα , κ . τ . λ . The fulfilment of the promise is not immediately presented in Revelation 17:3 , [3800] nor even at all in ch. 17; for even though in Revelation 17:3 ( ἔρημον ), in the description of the ostentatious woman, there is an allusion to the judgment now impending , as also the interpreting angel, Revelation 17:16 , expressly proclaims the future devastation of the city symbolized by the harlot, yet neither the appearance of the woman herself, nor the interpreting speech of the angel, gives the idea of a judgment already actually present. But the angel first of all shows the harlot in her antichristian form, which is necessary, because the special view of the city, in distinction from that of the empire as a whole, is, at least in this definite form, new, and not until afterwards does the judgment occur (cf. Revelation 18:1 sqq.).

τῆς πόρνης τῆς μεγάλης , κ . τ . λ . From the entire presentation, especially from Revelation 17:18 , it follows that “the great harlot” is the personification of “the great city,” i.e., of heathen Rome as the metropolis of the entire heathen-Roman Empire; [3801] therefore the harlot is designated in like manner as previously the beast, which symbolizes the entire realm. The special description of the city is prepared already by such passages as Revelation 14:8 , Revelation 16:19 ; [3802] but the city appears as a harlot, because to this applies what has previously been said concerning it as Babylon the great (cf, Revelation 17:2 ).

ἐπὶ ὑδάτων πολλῶν . In this also like Babylon. [3803] But this sitting on masses of water, which is regarded as presenting itself to the eye of the seer, has a symbolical meaning which the angel explains in Revelation 17:15 .

μεθʼ ἡς ἐπόρνευσαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς . Of all nations this was said in Revelation 14:8 ; for the masses of the inhabitants of the earth have allowed themselves to be seduced [3804] in the same way as the kings of the earth by the beast, and especially by the city wherein is the throne of the beast. [3805] Accordingly it is said immediately afterwards: καὶ ἐμεθύσθησαν οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν γῆν , κ . τ . λ . On the suppression of the relative constr., cf. Winer, p. 141.

[3798] Cf. Revelation 6:1 .

[3799] Revelation 16:9 ; Revelation 16:11 ; Revelation 16:21 .

[3800] Against Hengstenb.

[3801] See on Revelation 17:18 .

[3802] Cf. also Revelation 16:10 .

[3803] Cf. Revelation 17:2 .

[3804] Cf. Revelation 18:3 .

[3805] Cf. Revelation 16:10 .

Verses 3-6

Revelation 17:3-6 . The view of the harlot promised John, Revelation 17:1 sq., is afforded after the angel has carried him away in the spirit into the wilderness.

ἀπήνεγκε -g0- με -g0- . Revelation 21:10 . De Wette explains the idea from Luke 16:22 ; but the ἐν πνεὑματι in this passage does not mention so much an actual abandonment of the body, [3806] as rather that this change of standpoint has been wrought to the ecstatic consciousness of the seer by an angel. [3807]

εἰς ἔρημον . The identification of this wilderness with that mentioned in Revelation 12:6 ; Revelation 12:14 , impossible in a formal respect, because of the omission of the art., coincides in Auberlen with the view that the harlot, ch. 17, is identical with the woman, ch. 12. [3808] Why the harlot, with all her ostentation, is beheld in a wilderness, the text itself indicates, Revelation 17:16 : [3809] for complete desolation is impending over her. [3810] Incorrect, therefore, are the explanations of the wilderness by Beda: “The absence of divinity;” Coccej.: “That part of the world wherein, at John’s time, idolatry and persecution prevailed;” Bengel: “Europe, especially Italy.” Incorrect also Vitr.: “Deserted of nations;” yet Vitr. has felt that the seeming contradiction between Revelation 17:1 ( καθημ . ἐπὶ ὑδάτων πολλ .) and Revelation 17:3 , in the sense of the passage already compared by him, Isaiah 21:1 , with which he improperly combines Ezekiel 20:35 ( ἔρημος τῶν λαῶν ), is explained, of course, not by the allegorical exposition that the wilderness, like the waters, designates many nations, but so that the sitting on the waters, i.e., the dominion over the nations (Revelation 17:15 ) does not exclude the impending devastation.

θηρίον κόκκινον . That now, since the form of the harlot, i.e., of the metropolis, is so expressly distinguished from that of the beast, i e., of the empire, this beast appears in some features different from in ch. 13, in no way destroys the identity of both beasts, clearly designated by the similarity of the chief features. [3811] This identity is not definitely marked; it was just the partial change in form of manifestation that did not permit John to write ἐπὶ τὸ θηρ ., but he reports his vision which revealed to him figures in a form such as in fact they had not yet appeared: He saw a woman seated upon a scarlet-colored beast. The κόκκινον designates not the color of a covering which is to be ascribed to the beast, [3812] but the color of the beast itself. It is, like the fiery-red color of the dragon whom the beast serves, [3813] a sign of the blood shed by it. [3814] The difference from the representation, Revelation 13:2 , is, therefore, not a proof of an actual difference of beasts, because in both forms the same thing is brought to sight; only this passage points more definitely to the blood actually shed, while in Revelation 13:2 , in the form of the O. T. types, the dreadful power of the fierce beast, as that of a monstrous beast of prey, was first symbolized.

γέμον τὰ ὀνόματα βλασφ . This also, as well as the succeeding description ἔχον κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ , κ . τ . λ ., agrees in essentials with Revelation 13:1 ; not all of the heads of the beast, however, bear a name of blasphemy, but that the whole beast is covered with that name of blasphemy is what is now stated. The art. τὰ ὀν ., which has been omitted through a misunderstanding, [3815] refers back to Revelation 13:1 . The accus. ὀνόυατα stands here with γέμον , for the same reason as possibly with πεπληρωμένον ; [3816] yet this construction remains remarkable, since elsewhere in the Apoc. the gen. stands with γέμον . [3817]

The woman herself (Revelation 17:4 ) appears “arrayed” ( περιβεβλ . Revelation 12:1 ) “in purple and scarlet-colored” garments. [3818] The first garment [3819] indicates royal sovereignty. Even the κόκκινον could in itself [3820] have this meaning; but it is, on the one hand, superfluous by two emblems to designate the same thing; on the other hand, from the reference to Revelation 17:3 ( θηρ . κόκκ .), another significant interpretation of the scarlet, i.e., blood-colored, garment of the woman, excellently agreeing with Revelation 17:6 , results: both are indicated; viz., the royal dominion, [3821] and the being stained with the blood of the saints. [3822] Beda errs in a twofold way: “The purple of feigned dominion.”


μαρλαρίταις . Further description of royal and most rich display. [3823] The κεχρυς . stands zeugmatically to λίθ . τιμ . and μαργ .

ἔχουσα ποτήριον χρυσοὺν , κ . τ . λ . The precipitate allegoristics, which could find indicated in the words κεχρυσ ., κ . τ . λ ., “the enticements of feigned truth,” [3824] results here in arbitrary explanations: The golden cup, with its abominable contents, [3825] is regarded as hypocrisy, [3826] “worldly happiness, the majesty of government,” [3827] “the body of words which are read in Scripture, but distorted by wicked interpretations,” [3828] “the system of papal doctrine,” “the cup of the mass.” [3829] The text allows us to think only that the harlot who renders all kings and nations drunk with the wine of her fornication [3830] has a cup in her hand which is golden , just as she herself is adorned with gold and precious jewellery, but is full “of abominations,” because the wine of her fornication is therein. With γέμον the accusat. Κ . ΤᾺ ἈΚΆΘΑΡΤΑ is construed [3831] in the same sense [3832] as the genitive ΒΔΕΛ . ; but this harshness, which is the more remarkable as the genitive limitation is given in a single word, can scarcely be explained by the fact [3833] that the threefold genit. ΤῶΝ ἈΚΆΘΑΡΤΩΝ Τῆς ΠΟΡΝ . ΑὐΤ . was to be avoided. It appears, accordingly, more correct [3834] to regard the accusat. ΚΑῚ ΤᾺ ἈΚ . parallel with the accusat. ΠΟΤΉΡΙΟΝ , Κ . Τ . Λ . , and to make it depend upon the ἜΧΟΥΣΑ in such a way that the words ΚΑῚ ΤᾺ ἈΚ ., Κ . Τ . Λ . , themselves bring later an interpretation of the ΠΟΤΉΡ . ΧΡΥΣ . ΓΈΜ . ΒΔΕΛ .

More expressly still than the corresponding appearance does the name, which stands written on the forehead of the woman, [3835] designate her lewd, abominable nature. The name runs: ΒΑΒΥΛῺΝ ΜΕΓΆΛΗ , ΜῆΤΗΡ , Κ . Τ . Λ . The name ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ is not the first constituent of the proper name, [3836] but designates with a certain parenthetical independence, like a premised “ Nota bene ,” that the name now to be mentioned is meant spiritually, [3837] or in a manner accordant with revelation, not without the covering; that beneath the external brilliancy the secret nature, and, in spite of the secular dominion presented to the eyes, the unmistakable corruption of the woman, are asserted. [3838] Nevertheless, the word ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ dare not be regarded precisely as an adjective attribute to ὈΝΟΜΑ [3839]

The mysterious proper name βαβ . ἡ μεγ . is expressly the same as has already designated in Revelation 14:8 , Revelation 16:9 , the chief city as the concrete representative of the entire empire. The further designation expresses appellatively, by another change of figure, essentially what was delineated in the manifestation itself (Revelation 17:4 , ἜΧ . ΠΟΤ . ΧΡΥς . ), to which the significant name also is to correspond. As “the mother of harlots,” etc., this great Babylon has shown herself by the circumstance that she has made her daughters, i.e., the cities of the Gentiles, [3840] harlots, given them to drink of her own cup of abominations, and filled the whole world with her own abominations. [3841]

Finally, John beholds, Revelation 17:6 , the woman in a condition to which the scarlet color of her garment, and of the beast whereon she sits, corresponds: “Drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” On the expression, cf. Plin., H. N. , xiv. 28: “Drunken with the blood of citizens, and thirsting the more for it;” [3842] on the subject itself, cf. Revelation 16:6 , Revelation 18:24 .

ἘΚ Τ . ΑἸΜ . Cf. Revelation 16:10 , Revelation 8:11 .

Τ . ΜΑΡΤΎΡΩΝ ἸΗΣ . Cf. Revelation 2:13 . The martyrs of Jesus are not in kind distinguished from the saints; but the former designation brings into prominence the fact as to how this testimony of Jesus, which the saints have given, becomes the cause of their death. [3843]

ΚΑῚ ἘΘΑΎΜΑΣΑ , Κ . Τ . Λ . The accus. ΘΑῦΜΑ ΜΕΓΑ with ἘΘΑΎΜ . , as Revelation 16:9 . The ground of John’s great astonishment is in general the just-described sight of the woman ( ἸΔῺΝ ΑὐΤΗΝ ); but in how far must this sight have occasioned such great astonishment? The most forcible reason would be that named by Auberlen, if he had the right to recognize again in the harlot the degenerate woman of Revelation 12:1 . This would, in fact, be something completely incomprehensible; but neither the angel (Revelation 17:7 sqq.) attempts to explain this impossibility, neither does there exist anywhere else in the text an occasion for the egregious mistake of such a conception. Arbitrary, because not based upon Revelation 17:7 sqq., are the explanations of Bengel: “John wondered, because so mighty a beast has to serve the woman in carrying her;” of Hengstenberg, who describes the astonishment of the seer as “unreasonable, foolish,” [3844] because the harlot, in spite of her dreadful guilt, still maintains her greatness; of Ebrard: because the beast appears to be entirely different from in ch. 13. The angel designates in Revelation 17:7 , entirely in agreement with the ἸΔῺΝ ΑὐΤῊΝ , Revelation 17:6 , the mystery of the woman, and the beast carrying her, as the cause, to be explained by interpretation, of the astonishment of John, who himself did not understand [3845] the ΣΗΜΕῖΟΝ ΘΑΥΜΑΣΤΌΝ [3846] thus beheld by him.

[3806] Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2 .

[3807] Cf. Luke 4:1 sqq., Luke 10:8 sqq., Luke 11:1 , Luke 12:18 ; var. lect.

[3808] See on Revelation 17:18 .

[3809] Cf. Revelation 18:2 ; Revelation 18:16 ; Revelation 18:19 .

[3810] Andr., C. a Lap., Ewald, De Wette, Hofm., Hengstenb., etc.

[3811] Against Züll., Ebrard.

[3812] Züll., De Wette.

[3813] Revelation 12:3 ; cf. Revelation 6:4 .

[3814] Cf. Revelation 16:6 , Revelation 11:7 .

[3815] See Critical Notes.

[3816] Philippians 1:11 ; Colossians 1:9 . Winer, p. 215.

[3817] Revelation 17:4 ; Revelation 4:8 ; Revelation 15:7 .

[3818] Cf. Revelation 18:16 .

[3819] Cf. John 19:2 .

[3820] Cf. Matthew 27:28 .

[3821] Cf. Revelation 17:18 .

[3822] Against Andr., Erasm., De Wette, Hengstenb., etc.

[3823] Cf. Ezekiel 28:13 .

[3824] Beda.

[3825] βδελυγμ . Cf. Leviticus 18:27 .

[3826] Beda.

[3827] C. a Lap.

[3828] Coccej.

[3829] Calov.

[3830] Revelation 17:2 ; Revelation 14:8 .

[3831] Ewald, De Wette, Bleek, Hengstenb., etc.

[3832] Cf. Revelation 17:3 .

[3833] Hengstenb.

[3834] Cf. Revelation 18:12 .

[3835] Cf. Revelation 17:5 .

[3836] Vitr., etc.

[3837] Cf. Revelation 11:8 .

[3838] Cf. C. a Lap., Beng., De Wette, Ewald, etc.

[3839] Cf. Hofm., O. S. , 644.

[3840] Revelation 16:19 ; Ew.

[3841] Cf. Revelation 13:3 sqq., 14 sqq., Revelation 14:8 sqq., 11.

[3842] More illustrations in Wetst.

[3843] Cf. Revelation 11:3 ; Revelation 11:8 .

[3844] Cf. also on Revelation 5:4 sqq.

[3845] Cf. De Wette.

[3846] Cf. Revelation 15:1 .

Verses 7-14

Revelation 17:7-14 . The question of the angel, διὰ τί ἐθαύμασας , introduces the intended interpretation just as the question of the elders (Revelation 7:13 ), only that here the angel expects no answer whatever of John, but immediately himself promises: ἐγὼ ἐρῶ σοι τὸ μυστήριον , κ . τ . λ . This announcement marks that the two chief forms, the woman and the beast, which of course are explained each by themselves, as they symbolize subjects that are actually different, the world- city and the world- kingdom , nevertheless belong together essentially; there is but one mystery, the mystery “of the woman and of the beast.” Although the woman and the beast are distinguished, the present description remains, therefore, in essential agreement with that of ch 13. Nevertheless, the inner connection between the woman and the beast is expressed by the fact that the woman is seated upon the beast, ( τ . βασταζ αὐτ ., cf. Revelation 17:3 .) In perfect harmony with this is the circumstance that the beast is first (Revelation 17:8 ) explained, and only then, that which is more special, which is first received from that further conception, the form of the woman.

Of the beast which John saw (Revelation 17:3 sqq.), it is said: ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ μέλλει ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου , κ . τ . λ ., and this is again expressed as a foundation for the astonishment of the inhabitants of the earth: [3848] ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ πάρεσται . This summary πάρεσται which simply means “shall be,” but in which an intimation of a parousia of the beast, to be opposed to the parousia of the Lord, [3849] dare be sought the less as the expression παρουσία is lacking in the Apoc. briefly comprehends what was previously described in such a way that also the last end of the beast again coming forth might be designated therewith ( καὶ μέλλει ἀναβ .

ὑπαγει ). Finally, the important point of the interpretation which, of course, is not itself without mystery, but is given after the manner of Revelation 13:18 , because of which, also, just as there, the allusion (Revelation 17:9 ) is justified, in that it here pertains to an understanding endowed with wisdom recurs for the third time in Revelation 17:11 , where, notwithstanding the more minute determination that the beast is to return in the person of a true king, yet the identity of the subject is unmistakably designated by the formulas ὃ ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν and καὶ εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει . That explanation, therefore, is utterly mistaken, which understands the beast (Revelation 17:11 ) differently from in Revelation 17:8 (and Revelation 17:3 ); in no way is the distinction possible that τὸ θηρίον is at one time Satan himself, and directly afterwards antichrist. [3850] For the more accurate explanation of the subject; see on Revelation 17:10 ; Revelation 17:18 . In phraseology, the genitive βλεπόντων in Revelation 17:8 is remarkable. Entirely similar is the construction neither of Luke 8:20 , where the absolute gen. λεγόντων is in meaning construed with the impersonal ἀπηγγέλη , nor of Matthew 1:18 , [3851] where the absolute genitive construction μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρός precedes, and then, by a variation of construction, the subject is derived entirely from the first member ( εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἕχουσα ), which is not modified by the parenthetical limitation πρὶνσυνελθεἰν αὐτους . In this passage, however, the definite subject οί κατοικοῦντες precedes, and the clause βλεπ . τ . θηρ . explains what is predicated of those κατοικοῦντες ( θαυμασθήσονται ), so that, according to the symmetry of the construction, only the nom. βλἑποντες can be expected; but the gen. is occasioned by the gen. parenthetical clause ὡν , κ . τ . λ ., even though it dare not also be said that the βλεπόντων , κ . τ . λ ., is expressly construed into the relative clause. [3852] The nearest indication given within ch. 17, which is also in harmony with ch. 13, for the understanding of what is said concerning the beast in Revelation 17:8 (and Revelation 17:11 ), lies in Revelation 17:9 sq., where the seven heads of the beast are interpreted: “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, and there are seven kings.” [3853] The seven heads, therefore, which in Revelation 12:3 , Revelation 13:1 sqq., where they appeared adorned with crowns, indicated royal sovereigns, receive here a twofold reference: [3854] thereby both seven mountains and seven kings are to be understood. In connection with the heads appearing here without crowns, the first reference is without difficulty; while the other to the seven kings, which indeed is not indicated here by crowns, nevertheless finds an essentially identical foundation with Revelation 13:1 sqq. in the description of the regal magnificence of the woman who sits upon the beast with seven heads. But at the same time, the reference to the seven mountains on which the woman sits serves to interpret the mystery of the woman and of the beast; for if, by the woman, the city mistress of the world (Revelation 17:8 ), of the Gentile empire forcing all inhabitants of the earth beneath her, be meant, and this city is designated as lying on seven hills, this significant point of the interpretation can be referred only to “the seven-hilled city,” to Rome, just as what is said (Revelation 17:8 ; Revelation 17:10-11 ) concerning the relations of the βασιλεῖς , in complete harmony with Revelation 12:3 , Revelation 13:1 sqq., applies only to the Roman rulers of the world. Mysteriously, therefore, as this interpretation sounds, yet the first reference of the seven heads to the seven well-known mountains has been made prominent with the manifest intent to actually attest the interpretation promised in Revelation 17:7 .

Accordingly the seven hills are not themselves taken into further consideration; the interpretation stops (Revelation 17:10 sq.) with the seven kings. The transferal, already mentioned on Revelation 12:3 and Revelation 13:1 sqq., of the textual idea of seven ΒΑΣΙΛΕῖς , i.e., of seven persons who possess a kingdom, and that, too, the dominion of the world, to that of seven kingdoms or phases of the dominion of the world, depends, in Andr. and Beda, as well as in Hofmann, Ebrard, Hengstenb., and Auberlen, [3855] upon the presumption that the “temporal-historical” explanation of Hammond, Grot., Wetstein, Eichhorn, Ewald, Lücke, De Wette, Bleek, etc., removes the biblical conception of Apocalyptic prophecy. [3856] That this opposition is justified in one chief point, has been already referred to on Revelation 13:3 ; but exegetically incorrect, and without foundation in a further theological respect to the idea of prophetical inspiration, is the opposition to the acknowledgment of the fact that the entire force of the context allows the βασιλείς to be regarded only as concrete personalities, and then, that the form in general of the antichristian world-power hovering before the prophetic gaze is that of the heathen-Roman Empire. The first has been correctly understood, e.g., by Coccejus, whom Auberlen certainly will not accuse of the “temporal-historical” exposition of the Apoc., and has turned it to the advantage of his “ecclesiastical-historical” exposition: “The seven kings,” says Coccejus, “are the primates of the churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Rome, France, and Spain.” On the other hand, however, many “temporal-historical” expositors cross over into the sphere of the “ecclesiastical-historical,” by finding, especially in Revelation 17:12 ; Revelation 17:16 , predictions concerning the incursions of the Goths, etc. [3857] That the ΒΑΣΙΛΕῖς ἙΠΤΆ are actually, as the expression declares, [3858] seven persons invested with the βασιλεία , results especially from the description, Revelation 17:10 ( οἱ πέντε


ἄλλος ), and most of all from Revelation 17:11 , since here the entire sense depends upon the fact that the still future eight kings are contemplated as the human-personal manifestation of the whole beast.

Five of the seven kings “are fallen,” i.e., dead; “the one,” therefore the sixth in the series, “is,” i.e., he at present possesses the βασιλεία , “the other,” therefore the last of the seven, “is not yet come,” he is not yet in possession of the βασιλεία , he has not yet made his appearance as βασιλεύς : but he shall come as the seventh, “and when he cometh, [3859] he must continue a short space;” i.e., his dominion shall soon come to an end. [3860] But the seventh is followed by yet another, the eighth (Revelation 17:11 ), who cannot be symbolized by a particular head on the beast, [3861] because, although connected with the seven ( ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ὲστιν ), yet he has a different position from all those; he is not as one in their series, but in his person is the embodiment of the beast himself; he himself is the one in whom the beast rising out of the abyss, [3862] which now “is not,” shall again appear, of which also it shall then be said, just as Revelation 17:8 of the beast as such: εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει , i.e., by the judgment at the Lord’s coming, he shall be delivered to everlasting destruction, and thus with him, then, the beast himself shall perish.

Before the expressions made in Revelation 17:8-11 concerning the beast and the seven (eight) kings are explained by their combination with one another, and with what is contained in Revelation 13:1 sqq., the meaning of the phrase καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν must be established. Hengstenb.’s explanation is incorrect: “His fate is that of the seven, viz., he must fall, he goes to ruin.” Too general is the explanation that the eighth the eighth kingdom, as it is said is to be of the same nature as the seven. [3863] But, on the other hand, the explanation which forms a decisive point in Ewald, De Wette, Volkm., Hilgenf., and the other expositors, who in the eighth king recognize the returned Nero, [3864] is not compatible with the words of the text. The formula ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν is supposed to declare: “He is one of the seven.” He has thus, and that, too, as one of the five fallen, already once existed, and shall return as a true king. [3865] But the more peculiar the idea, the more necessary would its unambiguous expression have been; and this would have been very easy to John; he would have written, according to the linguistic usage altogether customary with him, [3866] καὶ εἶς ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν . The fable of the return of Nero, which, in its actual foundations, must be regarded as far removed from Revelation 13:3 , is also here unjustified in a simply exegetical respect. Grot., has shown the correct way, [3867] by explaining the ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν with a comparison of Romans 9:10 ; Matthew 1:3 ; Matthew 1:5-6 ; Luke 1:27 : “The son of one of them.” It is noticeable also that Andr. was led by his cultivated Greek taste to what is at least in a formal respect a similar explanation: ὡς ἐκ μιᾶς αὐτῶν βλαστάνων . Yet both explanations attempt too much by presupposing a text which must read: ἐξ ἑνὸς τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν . All that is correct is the acknowledgment that the formula ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν expresses “descent from the seven.” John does not lay emphasis upon the circumstance that the eighth arose from one of the seven, although this is in fact correct, but that he who to a certain extent, as the personification of the entire beast, corresponds to all seven, has himself his human-personal origin from these seven. The seven in their entirety are therefore contrasted with the eighth, which is the embodiment of the entire beast. [3868]

[3848] Cf. Revelation 13:3 ; Revelation 13:8 ; Revelation 13:12 .

[3849] Beng.

[3850] Against Beda, Andr., etc.

[3851] Cf. Winer, p. 195.

[3852] Cf. De Wette.

[3853] On the Hebraistic combination of the relative ὅπου with the demonstrative ἐπʼ αὐτῶν , cf. Revelation 12:6 ; Revelation 12:14 .

[3854] Incorrectly, Hengstenb.: “The mountains are here, as everywhere in the Apoc., meant symbolically, as a designation of kingdoms or reigns; so that consequently, by the one symbol, that of the heads, only another symbol, that of the mountains, is symbolized, and so that what is properly meant, viz., βασιλεῖς ἑπτά , should be designated.

[3855] Hofm. and Ebrard enumerate Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, Antiochus Epiph., as the five fallen, the Roman as the present sixth kingdom. Hengstenb. and Auberlen enumerate as fallen, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece; they also regard the present sixth kingdom as the Roman. At all events, in order to correspond somewhat better with the text (Luthardt), besides the first five kingdoms, their representative sovereigns may also be named (Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes). But already in the sixth place, Luth. does not mention a definite person, but only “the Roman emperor,” and then in the seventh period necessarily finds prefigured “the present period of the European system of governments.” Klief. explains upon the basis of Auberlen and Hengstenb., interpreting according to Daniel, the seven reigns as the kingdom of ten, with antichrist arising therefrom. This is the Germano-Christian kingdom of ten, by which the Roman Empire, wounded to death, is dissolved, from whose dismemberment then antichrist develops.

[3856] Cf. Introduction, p. 32 sqq.

[3857] Cf. Grot., etc.

[3858] Cf. also Revelation 17:12 sqq.: δέκα βασιλεῖς .

[3859] ὅταν ; cf. Revelation 12:4 .

[3860] On the δεῖ , cf. Revelation 1:1 .

[3861] Against Vitr., who maintains that there is a true head of a beast, and against Hengstenb., who (as also Klief., p. 218) in the seventh head finds at the same time the eighth.

[3862] Cf. Revelation 11:7 .

[3863] Primas: “Lest you regard him of another class, it has been added, ‘He is of the seven.’ ” Beng. Cf. also Vitr., etc.

[3864] Cf. Hofm., who refers it to the return of Antiochus Epiphanes; also Luthardt and Ebrard, who, abandoning the idea of any express personality, substitute the restoration of the dynasty of the Seleucidae.

[3865] Cf. Revelation 13:3 .

[3866] Cf. Revelation 5:5 , Revelation 6:1 , Revelation 7:13 , Revelation 13:3 , Revelation 17:1 , Revelation 21:9 . Cf. also John 11:49 ; John 13:21 .

[3867] Cf. also Hammond.

[3868] Also against Hilgenf.

The historical illustration of Revelation 17:8-11 depends upon the presumption undoubtedly given by the context from ch. 13, ay, already from ch. 12, that the beast is a symbol of the heathen-Roman secular power, and that the βασιλεῖς symbolized by the heads of the beast are not kingdoms, but royal persons, viz., Roman emperors. How these are to be reckoned, is shown from Revelation 17:8 and Revelation 17:10 , with a comparison of Revelation 13:3 . Ch. 17 (Revelation 17:3 ; Revelation 17:7 ) also recalls the significant distinction between the numbers seven of the heads and ten of the horns, even though a new application be made here of the ten horns. Ch. 17, however, perfectly harmonizes with ch. 13 in the description of the seven heads in themselves, and their relation to the beast. That the beast “that was,” at present “is not,” [3869] and yet is, in so far as at present one of his heads, i.e., the sixth βασιλεύς , “is,” after the five βασιλεῖς “are fallen,” harmonizes with what is said in Revelation 13:3 , that one of the heads was wounded to death, but was again healed. But hereby we reach the standpoint from which, looking backward, we enumerate the five fallen rulers with certainty, and at the same time, looking forward, can recognize the seventh and eighth rulers. The enumerations of Hammond and Grotius, [3870] of Wetst., [3871] and of Rinck, [3872] are, apart from other reasons, incorrect, partly because the subject considered is, in no way, under what individual emperor the Roman secular power shall for the first time be hostilely opposed to the Christians, [3873] and partly because among the seven heads, the three usurpers, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, indicated by horns, [3874] dare not be reckoned

The enumeration of Roman secular rulers, intended by the writer of the Apocalypse, is not to be determined from the first, so that it could be doubtful whether the series is to be begun with Caesar [3875] or with Augustus, [3876] but from the fifth and sixth, i.e., from the point of time designated as present, in which the mortal wound of one head (viz., the fifth) appears healed, or in which, after five sovereigns have fallen, the sixth is now there. But this description [3877] corresponds with the situation in which the Roman Empire was when Vespasian undertook its control, although he was not yet in indisputable possession of it. Vespasian is therefore the sixth sovereign; before him five have fallen,

Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero; Titus follows as the seventh; the eighth, in whom the beast himself is embodied, is Domitian.

[3869] Incorrect are all interpretations whereby the concrete historical references to the relations of the Roman Empire are avoided; as, e.g., Andr., who by the θηρίον (Revelation 17:8 ) understands Satan, and explains: by the manifestation, especially by the death, of Christ, the beast is annihilaied. Cf. Beda, C. a Lap., Zeger, etc. Marlorat. and other Protestants interpret: “Heathen Rome is gone; Papal Rome is here, but its secular dominion is in itself nothing” ( οὐκ ἔστιν ). Cf. Luther’s gloss: “The Roman Empire is, and yet is not; for it is not the whole, but, since its fall, has been reproduced by the Pope.” He interprets the “one” (Revelation 17:10 ) as referring to Germany; the “short space,” to Spain; the beast (Revelation 17:11 ), to Rome; and the ten kings (Revelation 17:12 ), to Hungary, etc. In violation of the context, Weiss, p. 44, explains the idea of the being, with respect to the not being, by the designation of the antichristian nature and power, whence then what is erroneous is inferred.”

[3870] 1. Claudius. 2. Nero. 3. Galba. 4. Otho. 5. Vitellius. 6. Vespasian. 7. Titus. 8. Domitian.

[3871] 1. Caesar. 2. Augustus. 3. Tiberius. 4. Caligula. 5. Claudius. 6. Nero. 7. Galba. 8. Otho.

[3872] 1. Caligula. 2. Claudius. 3. Nero. 4. Vespasian. 5. Titus. 6. Domitian. 7. Nero. “And this applies likewise as a prophetic indefinite ‘one’ to the succeeding emperors until the downfall of the Roman Empire.”

[3873] Against Hamm., Grot., Rinck.

[3874] Cf. Revelation 12:3 , Revelation 13:1 .

[3875] Cf. Sueton., Vitae XII. Caesarum .

[3876] Cf. Tacit., Ann ., I. i.; Hist ., I. i. Lücke, p. 839.

[3877] Cf. on Revelation 13:3 .

There is presented, therefore, in Revelation 17:10 sqq. a prediction, which definitely announces beforehand certain historical circumstances. For its understanding, [3878] it is to be remarked: 1. The chief points of the prediction viz., that Vespasian should be succeeded by his two sons, Titus as the seventh, Domitian as the eighth ruler; that Titus will remain for a short time; and that Domitian will come forth as a personification of the entire beast have developed upon the basis of temporal relations present in the prophet in such a way that the prophecy directed to special facts has yet nothing magical or mantic, but remains of an ethical nature. The natural presupposition and accommodation for the ethical genesis of the prophecy was in John the same as in Josephus, as the latter promised the government to Vespasian and his son Tiberius, even before Vespasian had decided to assume the empire. [3879] How extraordinarily Vespasian, and the sons of such men like Otho and Vitellius, were esteemed in every respect, was manifest already ever since the expedition to Britain: [3880] the Syrian expedition had still further increased the reputation and authority of the Flavians. But for the points of the prophecy that Titus, as successor of his father, would reign but for a short time, and that Domitian, proceeding from the seven, a son of Vespasian, would come forth from the abyss as an incarnation of the beast, the natural foundation was already present. Domitian’s insolent, barbarous, and imperious disposition manifested itself already during the Vitellian war: [3881] it was naturally to be expected that he would be just such a sovereign as he actually afterwards showed himself to be. [3882] John, in prophesying a short reign for Titus, possibly expected what was always impending during his reign; [3883] viz., that Domitian would soon dethrone his brother Titus, and assume the government himself. 2. John erred in the expectation, that, with Domitian, the Roman Empire would perish. The singular error proves, of course, a certain imperfection of prophetic character in the writer of the Apocalypse, yet by no means entirely annihilates it. [See Note LXX., p. 386, on ch. Revelation 13:2 .]

[3878] Cf. Introduction, p. 33 sqq., 39 sqq.

[3879] Josephus, Jewish War , iii. 8.

[3880] Cf. Dio Cassius, Hist. Rom ., ed. Jo. Leunclav., p. 736.

[3881] Cf. Sueton., Domit ., I.: “But he exercised the entire power of his dominion so licentiously, as then already to show what he was to be.”

[3882] “A pernicions tyrant,” Eutrop., II. Rom ., VIII. 1; “A portion of Nero as to cruelty,” Tertullian, Apolog. , 5.

[3883] Sueton., Tit ., 9: “His brother, i.e., Domitian, not ceasing to lay plots for him, but almost avowedly inciting the army, he did venture meditating flight, either to slay or to banish, or to have even in less honor, but, as from the first day of his reign, continued to attest that he was his associate and successor, sometimes beseeching him secretly with tears and prayers, that he at length wished to live in mutual affection with him.”

Verses 7-18

Revelation 17:7-18 . The interpretation of the angel (Revelation 17:1 ) as to how the vision (Revelation 17:1 ; Revelation 17:6 ) has manifested two chief figures, follows in two paragraphs (Revelation 17:7-14 and Revelation 17:15-18 ), which are separated by the formula καὶ λέγει μοι , [3847] repeated in Revelation 17:15 .

[3847] Cf. the καὶ εἶπεν μοιἄγγ ., Revelation 17:7 .

Verses 12-17

Revelation 17:12-17 . The interpretation of the ten horns, also (Revelation 17:15 ) of the waters, on which the harlot sits. In conclusion, the interpretation of the harlot herself, Revelation 17:18 , follows the interpretation of the special points.

δέκα βασιλεῖς . Hengstenb. errs in two ways by regarding the number ten , which is analogous to the number seven , Revelation 17:9 sqq., as inaccurate, and the βασιλεῖς , again, as reigns. See, besides, on Revelation 17:18 .


θηρίου . The limitation of οὔπω ἔλαβον in Grot., viz., “in the parts of the Roman Empire,” is more explicit than the closing words of Revelation 17:12 . The text says that the ten kings in general have received no dominion at all; but they obtained authority as kings, and that, too, as associates and aids of the beast ( μετὰ τ . θηρ .; cf. Revelation 17:13 sq.), for “one hour;” for they shall be immediately abandoned by the Lord. The very brief duration ( μίαν ὥρ . accus., as Revelation 9:5 ) of their rule, designated in a schematic way, [3884] appears to correspond with the circumstance that of one of these kings it is said: ἐξυυσ . ὠς βασιλ . The βασιλεία of these βασιλεῖς would then appear, not as a complete sovereignty, but as a quickly evanescent power, which, however, because of its temporary greatness, is represented as one that is royal. [3885]

μίαν γνώμην ἔχουσιν . The words immediately following give [3886] the statement that the unanimity of these kings is intended to act in concert with the beast, and that, too, first of all, against the Lord (Revelation 17:14 ), but then also against the harlot (Revelation 17:16 ).

μετὰ τοῦ ἀρνίου πολεμήσουσι . Here, however, there immediately follows as the reverse of Revelation 11:7 , Revelation 13:7 the statement that not only the Lamb, because he is the Lord of all lords and King of kings, [3887] but even believers, shall conquer those kings. The νικήσει αυτ . suggests for the further designation of subject, καὶ οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ , κ . τ . λ ., [3888] the idea of a ΝΙΚΉΣΟΥΣΙ . [3889] The threefold designation, according to which the saints [3890] appear as those who have been called and chosen on the part of their Lord, and have, on their part, maintained their fidelity, [3891] emphasizes the inner foundation of the victory, confirming the promise, and likewise calling to mind the condition of the victory.

[3884] Cf. Revelation 18:10 .

[3885] Cf. Revelation 9:3 .

[3886] Cf. also Revelation 17:17

[3887] Cf. Revelation 19:16 .

[3888] The στρατεύματα of the Lord, Revelation 19:14 ; Revelation 19:19 .

[3889] Unnaturally, Beng.: “Those who are with him are the elect,” who are only to look on.

[3890] Cf. Revelation 13:7 .

[3891] Cf. Revelation 2:10 .

Verses 15-18

Revelation 17:15-18 . By a continuation of his discourse ( καὶ λεγ . μ .), the angel interprets first of all the waters where John beheld the harlot, and announces then the judgment impending over the harlot, which, according to God’s decree, is to be executed by the ten kings in confederacy with the beast. Then, finally, the chief figure in the vision, ch 17, the harlot herself, is expressly explained.

τὰ ὕδατα , κ . τ . λ . The waters form the sum total of inhabitants of the earth, for they all belong to the dominion of the harlot, [3892] to which also corresponds the accumulation of the four expressions, ΛΑΟΊ , ὌΧΛΟΙ , ἜΘΝΗ , ΓΗῶΣΣΑΙ . [3893]

But in spite of her wide dominion [3894] and all her glory, the harlot is ruined in a manner the least to be expected, but which only the more clearly manifests the judgment of God: the ten kings, together with the beast, shall hate the harlot and annihilate all her glory. The οὖτοι μισ ., as to its meaning, belongs to the kings to be understood among the horns (Revelation 17:13-14 ); these are the decisive chief subject, so that the determination of subject, besides presented in the καὶ τὸ θηρίον , does not come further into consideration with respect to the form of the expression.

ἠρημωμένην ποιήσ . αὐτ . καὶ γυμνὴν . A striking antithesis to Revelation 17:4 . [3895]

κ . τὰς σάρκας αὐτῆς φἀγονται . Here the idea of the form of woman is still maintained, [3896] while in the following expression, καὶ αὐτὴν κατακαύσουσιν ἐν πυρί , the fundamental idea of the city is asserted.

Revelation 17:17 explains what is announced in Revelation 17:16 , by the reference to God who in this way will destroy the harlot: ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἔδωκεν , κ . τ . λ . The view here presented is very similar to that of Revelation 16:14 , Revelation 16 : there the spirits from hell bring the kings of the earth together for the day of judgment at Armagedon; in this passage, the purpose and work, on God’s part, are definitely expressed. He it is who has put it into their hearts to execute the will of, to make an alliance with, and to serve the beast. “The thought is blunted when the αὐτοῦ with ποιήσ . τ . γνώμ . is referred to God, [3897] instead of to the beast. [3898] In the connection this determination of subject is not absolutely too remote. [3899]

To the ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἔδωκεν . κ . τ . λ ., corresponds at the conclusion the ἄχρι τελεσθήσονται οἱ λόγοι τοῦ θεοῦ ; the work intended by God, for the kings confederated with the beast, has in the fulfillment (cf. Revelation 10:7 ) of the words, i.e., of the prophecies of God , not only its goal, but also its limits. When those kings have done what they are to do, they are done away with. [3900]

[3892] Revelation 17:18 . Cf. Revelation 13:3 ; Revelation 13:8 ; Revelation 13:12 ; Revelation 13:16 .

[3893] Cf. Revelation 5:9 ; Revelation 7:9 .

[3894] Cf. Revelation 17:1 : τ . μεγάλης . Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 16:19 .

[3895] Cf. Revelation 18:16 .

[3896] Cf. Psalms 27:2 ; Micah 3:2 sqq.

[3897] Vulg., Hengstenb., etc.

[3898] Beng., De Wette, Ew. ii., Volkm, Luthardt.

[3899] Against Hengstenb.

[3900] Cf. Revelation 17:12 .

Now (Revelation 17:18 ), upon the basis of all preceding individual statements, the precise meaning of the harlot, which is treated of especially in Revelation 17:1 , is given: the woman is “the great city,” which has royal dominion over the kings of the earth, i.e., Rome, the metropolis, lying on seven hills, of the heathen-Roman Empire symbolized by the beast.

This exegetical result so undoubtedly forces itself upon us, [3901] that neither the misunderstanding of Auberlen, who regards the harlot as the woman of ch. 12 degenerated, nor the old Protestant explanation, which, in a more direct way, found here a reference to the Pope and Papal Rome, [3902] nor the singular opinion of Züllig, who regards the city, Revelation 17:18 , as Jerusalem, [3903] needs any further refutation than that furnished by the exposition of ch. 17 in connection with ch. 12 sqq. Especially, also, that Revelation 17:12 sqq. cannot refer to the pressure of the Goths or other Germano-Sclavic nations, as Auberlen, in agreement this time with Grot., interprets, results already from the connection with Revelation 17:11 . The ten kings, whom Ebrard regards as identified with the seven heads, even if our exposition of Revelation 17:10 sqq. and Revelation 13:3 be correct, can be understood neither of “the ten leaders of the Flavians,” [3904] nor of the Parthian confederates of Nero. [3905] But after, in Revelation 17:3 ; Revelation 17:7 , he has mentioned the ten horns, as in chs. 12 and 13, besides the seven heads of the beast, and has also designated thereby the identity of the beast, ch. 17, with that previously described, John now follows Daniel 7:24 in his interpretation of the ten horns as ten “ future ” kings ( καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα αὐτοῦ , δέκα βασιλεῖς ἀναστήσονται ). But thereby every concrete historical relation is surrendered; just because the reference in ch. 13 to the tenfold number of the horns is actually historical, no other can enter, and, least of all, that which actually occurs in Daniel. What is said, therefore (Revelation 17:12 sqq.), concerning the ten kings, forms a feature in the Apocalyptic picture, derived from the Danielian model, which divests the number ten of definite historical relation, as it makes it appear purely schematical, while the general historical presumption of John’s prophetic view with respect, on the other side, to the relative fulfilment of his prophecy lies in the fact that the emperors, usurping authority against and after one another, could gain possession of the government only through conflicts which turned to the ruin of the city: they were with the beast, and yet desolated the licentious city.

But “the rulers of the last time” [3906] are not so certainly the ten kings as the heathen-Roman world- empire and world- city are symbolized in the beast and the harlot; and it is impossible for sound exegesis to put under inspection a fulfilment of the prophecies in ch. 17 still to occur at the end of the world.

If the ten kings be regarded more definitely and in combination with the eight rulers, we may, with Weiss, [3907] refer them to the ten “regents “of the sovereign obtaining the government by the revolution of prefects (Revelation 17:13 ; Revelation 17:17 ).

[3901] Cf. also Hengstenb. on Revelation 17:18 .

[3902] Coccejus, Calov., Vitr., Beng.

[3903] In ch. 17, Jerusalem is regarded as Babylon; while false Judaism, under the symbol of the beast, is stated to be Edom.

[3904] Wetst.

[3905] Eichh., Bleek, De Wette. Cf. Ewald, who understands the Roman provincial prefects as in alliance with the returned Nero.

[3906] Luthardt.

[3907] p. 52.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 17". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.