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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 17

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-18

Revelation 17:1 . Come (up) hither; I will shew thee the judgment of the great whore, that sitteth upon many waters, or nations, as in Revelation 17:15; and with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. Of the new- testament church it is said in prophecy, “the Lord thy Maker is thy husband.” This idea is improved by St. Paul, who regards the church as a virgin without spot or wrinkle, espoused to one husband, even Christ. On the contrary, the prophet Isaiah inflicts the severest censures upon that harlot church which left the covenant of Jehovah, and went over to Baal, another lord, detestible for every crime. The prophet Ezekiel also, in a highly coloured allegory of sixty three verses, repeats the stripes of Isaiah, and with full effect. Ezekiel 16:0. And what arguments could be adduced with more propriety to reclaim the apostate church from error, and the foulest shame.

Revelation 17:4 . The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet. We need not go to the imposing splendour of the catholic devotion in Italy and Spain. In Moorfields, at high mass, we see a human figure officiating at an altar, with an image before him, and his back turned to the people. A scenery of the crucifixion is presented around the semicircle of the altar, which is covered with a grand scarlet cloth, while a priest in robes less splendid awaits on either hand. Two confessional thrones are erected on each side of the chapel, where crimes are pardoned with soft whispers for shining gold, or for copper offered by the poor. The officiatories are “arrayed in purple and scarlet” intermixed, as if to give a literal verification of this prediction.

“It is well known that the frantic baccanantis wore red coloured garments; therefore John had a specific object in describing this woman, the mother of harlots, as gorgeously attired.” Calmet’s Diet.

But alas, the editor has empoisoned Calmet with unitarianism.

Revelation 17:5 . Upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON, the very name St. Paul had foretold, under the idea of the “mystery of iniquity.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7. The jesuits attempt to expound this of pagan Rome, but not one trait can they find in Roman history to support this notion. The Tiara of pope Paul the second was studded with the richest gems that could be procured.

Revelation 17:6-8 . I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints. This has been noticed in Revelation 13:7.

Revelation 17:11 . The beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth. Professor Coccejus thinks this regards the kingdom of the Franks, who formed so powerful a kingdom in the centre of Europe.

Revelation 17:14 . These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them. The Father hath put all his enemies under his feet. Psalms 110:0. So then, the war of the beast and his kings comes at last to a war with the Lamb! And when once his love shall burn to anger, and his longsuffering shall burst into fury, who may abide the day of his coming? According to his fear, so is his wrath. Psalms 90:11.

Revelation 17:16 . The ten horns shall hate the whore, and make her desolate. The prophet Ezekiel says the same of the harlot church in Judea. He foresaw how the Assyrians would strip her, and make her naked, and kill her children with the sword. The French have already plundered the defenceless catholic church, and a similar system of ecclesiastical spoliation is still going on in different parts of Europe, especially in the Peninsula. God grant that a happier order of things may follow, according to the prophecies in this book.


The mother of harlots is the papal and apostate church. She is called a harlot because of image worship and innumerable corruptions, as the jewish church was called, on account of worshipping the gods of the heathen. It was proper to disguise the history by remote figures, because future things, and the fate of empires, must not be too clearly revealed.

The scarlet coloured beast represents this woman as mounted high in power, riding over the old empire of Rome, and having the ten kings reigning at her command. Her gold and jewels are figurative of the pomp and splendour of the catholic courts, and worship. The golden cup, poculum aureum plenum abominatione, and so the papist bible (Vulgate) reads, full of abominations, shows how the pontificate intoxicated the nations to submission under the idea of the pope’s supremacy, the succession of bishops from St. Peter, and the impossibility of obtaining salvation without subjection to the church of Rome. The four first letters of the above words make PAPA, the latin for pope.

The name on her tiara or crown, was mystery. The duke Montmorency, when at Rome, learned that this motto was once on the pope’s crown. What a mystery of iniquity, that so much wickedness should be disguised with so much sanctity; that this servant of servants should be called vice Deo; and take heaven, and earth, and purgatory into his own hands, and be drunk with the blood of the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and the protestants of later times.

The name of Babylon, and the seven heads, obviously point at Rome built on seven hills. Joseph Mede, and Peter Jurieu regard the seven kings, five of which were fallen when St. John wrote, as the seven forms of government which succeeded one another in the Roman empire. The five fallen were the kings, the consuls, the dictators, the decemvirs, and the tribunes. The sixth, or pagan emperors, and the seventh, or christian emperors followed. The pontificate is the eighth, or little horn of Daniel coming out of the seventh head.

The ten kings shall hate the whore, make her desolate and naked, and burn her flesh with fire. This the protestant kings have done; and now latterly the government of France, and more recently still, the new government of Spain and Portugal, formerly so devoted to popish interests, have made her desolate and naked by the sale of all her lands and monasteries. God having put it into their mind to fulfil his will.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-17.html. 1835.
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