Bible Commentaries
Revelation 17

Vincent's Word StudiesVincent's Studies

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Verse 1

Sitteth upon many waters. Said of Babylon, Jeremiah 51:13; the wealth of Babylon being caused both by the Euphrates and by a vast system of canals. The symbol is interpreted by some commentators as signifying Babylon, by others pagan Rome, Papal Rome, Jerusalem. Dante alludes to this passage in his address to the shade of Pope Nicholas 3, in the Bolgia of the Simonists.

"The Evangelist you pastors had in mind, When she who sitteth upon many waters To fornicate with kings by him was seen. The same who with the seven heads was born, And power and strength from the ten horns received, So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing." " Inferno, " 19, 106 - 110.

Verse 2

Have committed fornication. The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets, representing the defection of God 's Church and its attachment to others. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8; Ezekiel 16:15, Ezekiel 16:16, Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:35, Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:1 Ezekiel 23:9, Ezekiel 23:44; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3; Hosea 4:1 Hosea 4:4. The word is applied to heathen cities in three places only : to Tyre, Isaiah 23:15, Isaiah 23:16, Isaiah 23:17; to Nineveh, Nahum 3:4; and here.

Verse 3

sitting. To manage and guide the beast.

A scarlet - colored beast. The same as in ch. 13 1. This beast is ever after mentioned as to qhrion the beast. For scarlet, see on Matthew 27:6.

Verse 4

Purple [πορφυρουν] . See on Luke 16:19.

Decked [κεχρυσωμενη] . Lit., gilded.

Precious stones [λιθω τιμιω] Lit., precious stone.

Golden cup. Compare Jeremiah 51:7.

Abominations [βδελυγματων] . See on Matthew 24:15.

Verse 5

Upon her forehead a name. As was customary with harlots, who had their names inscribed on a ticket. Seneca, addressing a wanton priestess, "Nomen tuum pependit a fronte," thy name hung from thy forehead. See Juvenal, Satire 6, 123 sqq., of the profligate Messalina, "having falsely assumed the ticket of Lycisca."

Mystery. Some understand this as a part of the name, others as implying that the name is to be interpreted symbolically.

Babylon. See on 1 Peter 5:13. Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Jerome use Babylon as representing the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages Rome is frequently styled the Western Babylon. The sect of the Fraticelli, an eremitical organization from the Franciscans in the fourteenth century, who carried the vow of poverty to the extreme and taught that they were possessed of the Holy Spirit and exempt from sin - first familiarized the common mind with the notion that Rome was the Babylon, the great harlot of the Apocalypse (see Milligan, "Latin Christianity," Book 12, ch. 6). On the passage cited from Dante (ver. 1), Dean Plumptre remarks : "The words have the interest of being a medieval interpretation of Revelations 17 1 - 15, in which, however, the harlot and the beast seem somewhat strangely blended. The harlot is the corrupted Church of Rome; the seven heads are the seven hills on which the city is built; or perhaps, with an entirely different exegesis, the seven gifts of the Spirit, or the seven sacraments With which that Church had, in its outset, been endowed : the ten horns are the ten commandments. As long as the Church was faithful to her spouse, she had the moral strength which came from those gifts, and the divine law which she represented. When that failed, she became as a harlot, and her whoredom with kings was the symbol of her alliance with secular powers for the oppression of the nations" (On "Inferno," 19, 110).

Verse 6

Saints - martyrs. The saints include the martyrs or witnesses, but the latter word emphasizes the testimony of the saints which has been the cause of their death. For martyr; see on 1 Peter 5:1.

Verse 8

To go into perdition [υπαγειν] . Some good texts read uJpagei, goeth. For the verb, see on John 6:21; John 8:21.

In the book [επι] . Lit., upon.

From the foundation of the world. In ordinary New Testament Greek these words would belong to are written. construe with the words immediately preceding. Compare ch. 13 8, and Matthew 25:34.

And yet is [καιπερ εστιν] . Read kai parestai, and shall come. Lit., shall be present.

Verse 9

Here is [ωδε] . Bespeaking attention and spiritual discernment for that which follows. See on ch. Revelation 13:18.

The mind [ο νους] .

Nouv is the organ of mental perception and apprehension - of conscious life, the mind, comprising the faculties of perceiving and understanding, of feeling, judging, determining.

(a) The intellectual faculty or understanding (Luke 24:45). So here, according to some.

(b) The reason, regarded as the faculty of perceiving divine things : of recognizing goodness and hating evil (Romans 1:28; Romans 7:23; Ephesians 4:17).

(c) The power of calm and impartial judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:2 )2_Nouv is a particular mode of thinking and judging : moral consciousness as a habit of mind or opinion. Hence thoughts, feelings, purposes (Romans 14:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Some render here meaning.

Seven mountains. Many interpreters regard this as conclusively defining the reference of the woman to Rome, which was built upon seven hills. Others deny the local reference, and understand the principle of worldly greatness and ambition. Others again claim that many cities besides Rome can boast of their seven hills, as Constantinople, Brussels, and especially Jerusalem.

Upon them. Redundant, the idea being already expressed by where. A Hebraism.

Verse 10

Are fallen [επεσαν] . Lit., fell. Constantly used in the Septuagint of the violent fall or overthrow of kings or kingdoms. See Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 30:6; Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 50:15; Jeremiah 51:8.

Verse 12

Kings which [οιτινες] . The compound relative classifying : "of the kind which."

Verse 13

Mind [γνωμην] . Meaning primarily the faculty of knowing, mind, reason; then that which is thought or known; opinion, purpose. See Acts 20:3; 1 Corinthians 7:25; Philippians 1:14.

Shall give [διαδιδωσουσιν] . didoasin, the present tense, give. The force of dia is over; give over.

Power and authority [δυναμιν και εξουσιαν] . For the distinction, see on 2 Peter 2:11.

Verse 15

The waters. The explanation of the symbol given here is in accordance with Isaiah 8:7; Psalms 18:4, Psalms 18:16; Psalms 124:14.

Peoples and multitudes, etc. See on 1 Peter 2:9; Mark 12:37.

Verse 16

Upon the beast [επι] . Read kai and : "the ten horns - and the beast."

Desolate [ηρημωμενην] . Lit., desolated, the verb being in the perfect participle.

Shall eat her flesh. A token of extreme hostility. See Psalms 27:2; Micah 3:3. Xenophon, speaking of the hatred between the pure Spartans and the Helots, says that no one of the pure Spartans could conceal his readiness to eat the Helot raw. Notice the plural sarkav flesh, and see on James 5:3.

Burn [κατακαυσουσιν] . Rev., giving the force of kata down, burn utterly. According to some interpreters the figure is changed from the woman to a city; but this is unnecessary, as the language is probably taken from the punishment of fornication on the part of a priest 's daughter (Leviticus 21:9; compare Leviticus 20:14).

Verse 17

Hath put [εδωκεν] . Rev., with stricter rendering of the aorist, did put. Lit., did give.

To fulfill His will [ποιησαι την γνωμην αυτου] . See on ver. 13. Rev., more literally, to do his mind.

To agree [ποιησαι μιαν γνωμην] . Lit., to make one mind. Rev., come to one mind.

The words [τα ρηματα] . But read oiJ logoi the prophetic words. For the distinction, see on Luke 1:37.

Verse 18

Reigneth [εχουσα βαοιλειαν] . Lit., hath a kingdom.

Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.