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the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Revelation 18

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

4. Song of triumph over the accomplished destruction of Babylon, Revelation 18:1-24.

1. And After the full completion of the account both of Babylon’s fall and the harlot’s destiny, our seer finds the moment for giving the triumphal rejoicing upon the victory separately over each. This entire chapter is occupied with the triumph over the capital; nearly half of the next chapter over the harlot.

The fact that most of the verbs after Revelation 18:3 are in the future has beguiled the commentators into the idea that “the great city” is not demolished in chapter 16. Thus Alford says, “The seer does not see the act of destruction,” which is in itself antecedently a very improbable supposition, and contradicted by the whole narrative of that chapter, as our notes, perhaps, have shown. These interpreters overlook the dramatic character of this paean; the frequent preterites that remind us that the event is really past; the numerous instances in which the future tense really describes the long future desolation and woe consequent upon the past downfall; and that in a large share of the chapter the futures are uttered from the standpoint of the ancient prophets, and are simply the triumphant applications of the maledictions upon old Tyre and Babylon to Babylon the new.

Verses 1-3

a. An announcing angel proclaims the past downfall and prospective permanent desolation of Babylon, Revelation 18:1-3 .

After these things After John’s return from his visit to the wilderness to obtain a view of the harlot; see last chapter. He returns, as appears by Revelation 19:4, to the temple, the scene of chapter iv, where are the throne, the elders, and the “four beasts.”

Earth was lightened with his glory A beautiful image. So luminous was his person that the earth was made luminous around him.

Verses 1-24

IV. THE SEVEN TRUMPETS, Revelation 7:1 to Revelation 20:10.

Of the trumpets, the first four are mundane, or earthly; each of the four blasts draws down a judgment upon some creational point, as earth, sea, fountains and rivers; firmamental luminaries. It is the sins of men that draw down these bolts of wrath, rendering every point of creation hostile to our peace. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake,” (Genesis 3:17,) is the key-note. This sad status of humanity has existed through all past ages; but it is here represented to form a base from which the history of the renovation commences.

The first four the earthly trumpets are each brief as well as terrible; the spiritual, the fifth and sixth, expand into wider dimensions and rise to more spiritual interests; while the seventh trumpet rolls forth its series of events, through all the future scenes of retribution and redemption to the judgment.

Verse 2

2. He cried… with a strong voice As announcing a stupendous event! The words that were prophecy in Revelation 14:8, are now become history.

Devils Demons. See note on Revelation 16:14. The idea occurs more than once in Scripture and we do not know that it was an illusion that there are invisible as well as visible beings to whom solitudes and desolations are a congenial abode. If devils haunt human society, why may they not haunt the deserts? Perhaps the devils which seduced the living populations of Babylon still haunted the scenes after the populations were no more.

Hateful bird Averse from the society of man, and at home amid damp and desolation.

Verse 4

b. Celestial rehearsal of the ancient menacing predictions, as having been now fulfilled in Babylon’s downfall, Revelation 18:4-8 .

Voice from heaven We might conceive this voice to come from an impersonation of ancient prophecy. We might suppose it an expression from the body of the old prophets in heaven.

Come out of her Quoted from Jeremiah 51:45.

My people Commentators, not realizing the dramatic nature of this interlude, are puzzled to know who utters this my. Stuart says, it is “the Saviour.” Alford says, it is “an angel speaking in the name of God.” But what authority for attributing the voice to “an angel?” Very plainly it is a celestial quotation from the old prophet who spoke the words of Jehovah.

Her plagues Alluding, of course, as also Revelation 18:8, to the seven last plagues of chap. 16, which have passed. For even those who deny the literal totality of the ruin in Revelation 16:19-21, admit the priority of the plagues to the song of this chapter.

Verse 5

5. Reached unto heaven Not merely in their “cry,” or rumor, but in their accumulating heap, rising, like the tower of Babel, with a “top unto heaven.” Genesis 11:4.

Remembered A clear reference to Revelation 16:19; another reference to the past event.

Verse 6

6. Reward… rewarded you A blending of Isaiah 61:7, and Jeremiah 51:56.

Verse 7

7. I sit a queen Quoted from Isaiah 47:7-8.

Verse 8

8. Plagues Note on Revelation 18:4.

One day Modification of Isaiah 47:9. Referring here, not so much to their suddenness as to their simultaneity in the end. Most commentators understand that her plagues came gradually, and even in chronological order.

Death… mourning… famine The united consequence of her plagues.

Burned with fire Jeremiah 51:58.

Verse 9

c. Portraiture (mostly in prophetic form) of her mercantile and commercial desolations, Revelation 18:9-20 .

It would, of course, be physically impossible for kings in their foreign capitals, and merchants beyond sea, to behold, with bodily eye, the burning metropolis, and even be obliged to withdraw to a distance (Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:15) for fear of being scorched. This close grouping, however, gives us a very vivid conception. Yet under this poetic parable of commercial desolation it is the overthrow of the Babylonic anti-christianity of all ages that is symbolized.

9. Kings bewail the cessation of the alliance of debauchery and luxury, merchants weep for the loss of the great market for their commodities.

Verse 11

11. Shall The speaker here adopts the present tense, buyeth, as if detailing what is truly now occurring over the late ruin. At Revelation 18:15 the future is resumed; at Revelation 18:17 the preterite.

Verse 12

12. The enumeration, though irregular, to express the cumulative character of the merchandise, or lading, as the word signifies, runs into spontaneous groups.

Gold… silver… precious stones… pearls The solid substances possessing an artificial value.

Fine linen… purple… silk… scarlet The costly array of the wealthy, noble, and royal. Thyine or citron wood. Vessels, or any implements, of ivory… wood… brass… iron… marble The furnitures of most costly material.

Verse 13

13. Cinnamon… odours… ointments, and frankincense The most refined perfumeries.

Wine… oil… fine flour… wheat Luxuries of drink and food.

Beasts Of burden.

Sheep… horses… chariots… slaves Or, as Stuart well renders, grooms. Mostly the means of conveyance.

And souls of men The phrase in Ezekiel 27:13, rendered in our translation “persons of men,” is literally, in the Hebrew, “souls of men,” who, as being then “traded,” were clearly slaves. The same phrase is used by St. Paul, (Romans 2:9,) “every soul of man,” in an elevated sense; and it is here used with an aggravating and condemnatory emphasis.

Verse 14

14. In this verse the second person thee, indicating direct address to Babylon, seems to be resumed from the thy of Revelation 18:10, having been interrupted by the list of merchandise in the intervening verses.

Fruits that thy soul lusted after Literal Greek, the harvest of the desire of thy soul. An harvest probably does not refer to fruits, but means the ingathering of all the above enumerated luxuries.

Dainty Radically means, fat, and is so rendered by Alford, and would then seem to refer to animal foods. But more probably the secondary meaning, derived from the smoothness of a fat surface, is glossy or varnished, and is here applied to furniture. Dainty and goodly may be rendered glossy and glittering; and that, indeed, would preserve the alliteration really existing in the Greek words.

Verse 17

17. Enumeration of the various marine mourners.

Shipmaster The helmsman who steered, and was, generally, also the ship captain.

Company in ships Literal Greek, every one sailing to a place; rendered by Alford, “Who saileth any whither.” Stuart renders the phrase, “Every coaster,” understanding those who do not put out to broad sea, but ply from place to place on the coast. They gathered, perhaps, the commodities to be shipped in larger craft to the metropolitan market.

Trade by sea Literal Greek, whoever work the sea; as if taking care, comprehensively, that all should be included.

Verse 18

18. Saw the smoke of her burning Too distant to see the flame.

Verse 19

19. Cast dust on their heads The Oriental style of self-humiliation; signifying that we are but dust, and in the intensity of our emotions would humble ourselves beneath it.

Her costliness Her munificence, by which she lived richly for herself, and paid liberally to her providers of supplies.

Verse 20

20. Rejoice The divine voice closes its mercantile catalogue with a lofty jubilate. The downfall of Satan’s capital is a just penalty for her sins, and a salvation to the world.

Thou heaven From which this voice chanted its celestial interlude. The ungraceful thou is not in the Greek, which should be rendered, O heaven. The heaven addressed consists of the classes next named in the verse, whose chorister the voice is.

Holy Not an adjective, belonging to apostles, but a noun, saints. The three classes, saints, (or the body of Christians,) apostles, and prophets, are those in and constituting the heaven first named. When John wrote, in the time of Domitian, all the apostles but himself had probably deceased.

Prophets Of whose ancient predictions this voice is a grand reverberation.

Avenged For this Babylon takes in the whole line of antichristic empires, including those under whom the ancient prophets predicted and suffered. Thus this mournful interlude closes in a climax of triumph.

Verse 21

d. Mournful picture of the silence by day, and the darkness by night, within the city home, Revelation 18:21-24 .

And In the present paragraph there is not a verb in the future tense, except one, shall be thrown down. This is future, because it is a quotation from Jeremiah 51:63-64, where a similar throwing of a stone into the sea illustrates the downfall of ancient Babylon. All the other verbs of the passage are in the (aorist) past tense.

No more at all This solemn expression of perpetual ruin is seven times uttered in this paragraph; the symbol number of absolute divine completeness.

Verse 22

22. The three silences of music, of manufacture, and of sustenance. Harpers, on the chords; musicians, vocalists; pipers, flute-players; trumpeters, with rousing martial music.

Craftsman… craft he be Literally, the artisan of every art.

Sound Greek, voice of the personified millstone.

Verse 23

23. No lamp shall illuminate the wedding chamber.

For The double for assigns reason for different things. First for implies how great the desolation; for Babylon’s merchants were once princes; the second for implies the justice of the downfall; for she was the world’s corruptress.

Verse 24

24. Prophets The prophets were slain by Rome only as she is identical with the antichrist of the Old Testament ages, with Babylon, and even with the antichrist in the material, literal Jerusalem. And this is transparently true of the last clause all the good that were slain upon the earth. And the fact that the Romish Babylon is type and inheritress of all the great antichristic systems, being the complete beast of all the seven in one total eighth, explains the commercial figures imported into this bold chant. The city is figure of the profane, spiritual, and secular antichristic world-power. The theological and moral debauchery of all the antichristic ages was identical with all their pomp and trade and commercial intercourse. Prophecy mingles them all in one, and consigns them to the same ruin.

Then shall a new system arise, in which righteousness and purity shall reign.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/revelation-18.html. 1874-1909.
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