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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Revelation 17

 

 

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Verse 1

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:

As Revelation 16:12 stated generally the vial judgment on the harlot, Babylon's power, so Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24 give As Revelation 16:12 stated generally the vial judgment on the harlot, Babylon's power, so Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24 give it in detail: so Revelation 19:1-21 details the judgment on the beast and the false prophet, summarily noticed, Revelation 16:13-15, before the Lord's coming.

Unto me. 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, omit.

Many. So 'Aleph (') A but B, 'the many waters' (Jeremiah 51:13): Revelation 17:15, below, explains. The whore is the church apostate, as the woman (Revelation 12:1-17) is the Church while faithful. Satan having failed by violence, succeeds in seducing her by the world's allurements: unlike her Lord, she was overcome (Luke 4:6-8): hence, she is seen sitting on the scarlet beast, no longer the wife, but the harlot; no longer Jerusalem, but spiritually Sodom (Revelation 11:8).


Verse 2

With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

Drunk with - `owing to.' It cannot be pagan, but papal, Rome, if a particular seat of error be meant; but I think that the judgment (Revelation 18:2) and the spiritual fornication (Revelation 18:3), though culminating in Rome, are not restricted to it, but comprise the whole apostate church-Roman, Greek, and even Protestant-in so far as it is seduced from its "first love" (Revelation 2:4) to Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, and gives its affections to worldly idols. E.L. Garrett's explanation of 666 (Revelation 13:8) holds good of the whole visible Church in yielding to the number of the beast's name, except the elect. The woman (Revelation 12:1) is God's congregation in its purity under the Old and New Testament, and appears again as Bride of the Lamb, the transfigured Church prepared for the marriage feast. The woman, the invisible Church, is latent in the apostate church, the Church militant; the Bride is the Church triumphant.


Verse 3

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

The wilderness. Contrast her in Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:14, having a place in the wilderness-world, not a home; a sojourner, looking for the city to come. Now, on the contrary, she is contented to have her portion in this moral wilderness.

Upon a scarlet-coloured beast. The same as Revelation 13:1 : there described as here, 'having seven heads and ten horns (betraying that he is representative of the dragon, Revelation 12:3), and upon his heads name of blasphemy:' cf. also Revelation 17:12-14, below, with Revelation 19:19-20, and Revelation 17:13-14; Revelation 17:16. Rome, resting on the world-power, and ruling it by the claim of supremacy, is her chief, though not exclusive, representative. As the dragon is fiery-red, so the beast is blood-red; implying blood-guiltiness, and deep dyed sin. The scarlet is also symbol fiery-red, so the beast is blood-red; implying blood-guiltiness, and deep dyed sin. The scarlet is also symbol of kingship.

Full - all over: not merely "on his heads," as in Revelation 13:1; for its opposition to God now develops itself in all its intensity. Under the harlot's superintendence, the world-power puts forth blasphemous pretensions worse than in pagan days. So the pope is placed by the cardinal in God's (so-called) temple on the altar to sit there, and the cardinals kiss the feet of the pope. This ceremony is called, in Romish writers, the adoration ('Histoire de Clerge Amsterd.,' 1716; and Lettenburgh's 'Notitia Curiae Romanae,' 1683, p. 125; Heidegger, 'Myst. Bab.,' 1:, 511, 514, 536). A papal coin ('Numismata Pontificum,' Paris, 1679, p. 6) has the blasphemous legend, 'Quem creant, adorant.' [Kneeling and kissing are the worship meant by proskunein (Greek #4352): nine times used of the rival of God.] Abomination is the scriptural term for idol, or creature worshipped with the homage due to the Creator.

Still, there is some check on the world-power while ridden by the harlot: the consummated Antichrist will be when, having destroyed her, the beast shall be revealed as the concentration of all self dealing God-opposed principles which have appeared in various forms and degrees heretofore. 'The Church has gained outward recognition by leaning on the world-power, which in its turn uses the Church for its own objects: such is Christendom ripe for judgment' (Auberlen). The seven heads in the view of many are Rome's seven successive governments: kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors, the German emperors (Wordsworth), of whom Napoleon is the successor (Revelation 17:11). See, rather, notes, Revelation 17:9-10. The crowns on the ten horns (Revelation 13:1) have disappeared: perhaps an indication that the ten kingdoms into which the Germanic-Slavonic world (the old Roman empire, the East as well as the West, the two legs of the image with five toes on each) is to be divided will lose their monarchical form in the end (Auberlen); but Revelation 17:12 seems to imply crowned kings.'


Verse 4

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

Scarlet is the colour reserved for popes and cardinals. Paul II. made it penal for any but cardinals to wear scarlet hats: cf. 'Coeremoniale Rom.,' 3:, see. 5, 100: 5. This book was compiled more than 340 years ago by Marcellus, a Romish archbishop and dedicated to Leo X. In it are enumerated five articles of dress, all scarlet; a vest studded with pearls. The pope's mitre is of gold and precious stones. The very characteristics outwardly which Revelation thrice assigns to the harlot or Babylon. Joachim, an abbot from Calabria, 1200 AD, when asked by Richard of England, who summoned him to Palestine, concerning Antichrist, replied that 'he was born long ago at Rome, and is now exalting himself above all that is called God.' Roger Hoveden ('Angl. Chron.,' 1:, 2) wrote, 'The harlot arrayed in gold is the Church of Rome.' Whenever and wherever the Church, instead of being "clothed (as Revelation 12:1) with the sun" of heaven, is arrayed in earthly gauds, compromising the truth of God through fear, or flattery, of the world's power, science, or wealth, she becomes the harlot seated on the beast, and doomed in righteous retribution to be judged by the beast (Revelation 17:16).

Soon, like the Jews of the apostles' time leagued with pagan Rome, she becomes persecutor of the saints (Revelation 17:6). Instead of drinking her Lord's "cup" of suffering, she has "a cup full of abominations." Rome, in medals, represents herself holding a cup with the self-condemning inscription, 'Sedet super universum.' Meanwhile the world-power gives up its hostility, and accepts Christianity externally: the beast gives up its God-opposed character, the woman gives up her divine one. They meet half-way by mutual concessions: Christianity becomes worldly, the world Christianized. The gainer is the world, the loser the Church. The beast receives a deadly wound (Revelation 13:3), but is not really transfigured: he will return worse than ever (Revelation 17:11-14). The Lord alone by His coming can make the kingdoms of this world His kingdoms. The "purple" is badge of empire: as in mockery it was put on our Lord.

Decked - `gilded.'

Stones - `stone.'

Filthiness. 'Aleph (') A B, Andreas, read, 'the filthy (impure) things.'


Verse 5

And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Upon her forehead ... name - as harlots had. What's contrast to "HOLINESS TO THE LORD," inscribed on the mitre on the high priest's forehead.

Mystery - a spiritual fact heretofore hidden, incapable of discovery by reason, but now revealed. As the union of Christ and the Church is a 'great mystery' (a momentous spiritual truth, once hidden, now revealed, Ephesians 5:31-32), so the Church, by conformity to the world, becoming a harlot, is a counter "mystery." As iniquity in the harlot is a leaven working in "mystery" - i:e., latently ('the mystery of iniquity') - so, when she is destroyed, the iniquity shall be revealed in the man of iniquity, the open embodiment of all previous evil (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Contrast the "mystery of God" and "godliness," Revelation 10:7; 1 Timothy 3:16. Rome crucified Christ; destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews; persecuted the early Christians in pagan times, and Protestant Christians in papal times; and probably shall be restored to its pristine grandeur, as under the Ceasars, just before the burning of the harlot and of itself with her. So Hippolytus ('De Antichristo,' in the second century) thought. Popery cannot be at once the 'mystery of iniquity' and the manifested Antichrist. Probably it will compromise for political power (Revelation 17:3) the Christianity still in its creed, and thus prepare for Antichrist's manifestation. The name Babylon given in the image, Daniel 2:1-49, to the head, is here given to the harlot. This connects her with the fourth kingdom, Rome, the last part of the image. Benedict XIII., in his indiction for a jubilee, A.D. 1725 AD, called Rome 'mother of all believers, and mistress of all churches' (harlots like herself). [The correspondence of syllables and accents is striking: Hee (Greek #3588) pornee (Greek #4204) kai (Greek #2532) to (Greek #3588) theerion (Greek #2342); Hee (Greek #3588) numfee (Greek #3565) kai (Greek #2532) to (Greek #3588) arnion (Greek #721). The whore and the beast; the Bride and the Lamb.]

OF HARLOTS - `of the harlots and of the abominations.' Not merely Rome, but Christendom, as a whole, as Israel, as a whole (Isaiah 1:21), has become a harlot. The invisible Church of believers is hidden in the visible. The lines which separate harlot and woman are not denominational, but can only be spiritually discerned. If Rome were the only Babylon, much of the spiritual profit of Revelation would be lost to us; but the harlot "sitteth upon many waters" (Revelation 17:1), and "ALL nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2; Revelation 18:3; "the earth," Revelation 19:2). External extensiveness over the world, and internal conformity to it-worldlines in extent and contents-is symbolized by the world-city's name, "Babylon." As the sun shines on all the earth, thus the woman clothed with the sun is to let her light penetrate to the uttermost parts. But she, in externally Christianizing the world, permits herself to be seduced by it: thus her catholicity is not that of the Jerusalem we look for ("the MOTHER of us all," Isaiah 2:2-4; Galatians 4:25; Revelation 21:2), but that of Babylon, the worldwide harlot city! [As Babylon was destroyed, and the Jews restored to Jerusalem, by Cyrus, so our Cyrus (Persian, the sun), the Sun of righteousness, shall bring Israel, literal and spiritual, to the holy Jerusalem at His coming.

Babylon and Jerusalem are the two opposite poles of the spiritual world.] Still, Rome is not accidentally, but in its very PRINCIPLE, a harlot, metropolis of whoredom, "the mother of harlots;" whereas the Evangelical Protestant Church is, in her principle, a chaste woman: the Reformation was the woman's protest against the harlot. The spirit of pagan Rome had, before the Reformation, changed the Church in the West into a Church-State, Rome; and in the East, into a State-Church, fettered by the world-power, having its center in Byzantium. The Roman and Greek churches have thus fallen from the spiritual essence of the Gospel into the elements of the world (Auberlen). Compare the woman "wickedness" or 'lawlessness,' 'iniquity' (Zechariah 5:7-8; Zechariah 5:11), carried to Babylon: cf. "the mystery of iniquity," 'the man of sin,' 'that wicked one,' literally, 'the lawless one' (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8; also Matthew 24:12).


Verse 6

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

Martyrs - witnesses.

I wondered with great admiration - wonder. John did not admire her. Elsewhere (Revelation 13:3; Revelation 17:8), all the earthly-minded wonder in admiration of the beast. Here only is John's wonder called forth: not the beast, but the woman sunken into the harlot, the Church become a world-loving apostate, moves his astonishment at so awful a change. That the world should be beastly is natural; but that the faithful bride should become the whore is monstrous, and excites the same amazement in him as Israel's like transformation excited in Isaiah and Jeremiah. "Horrible thing" (Jeremiah 2:20-21; Jeremiah 23:14) answers to "abominations" here. 'Corruptio optimi pessima:' when the Church falls, she sinks lower than the godless world, in proportion as her right place is higher than the world. In Revelation 17:3, "woman" has not the article, 'the woman,' as if before mentioned: for though identical in one sense with the woman (Revelation 12:1-17), in another she is not. The elect never become apostates, but remain as the true woman invisibly in the harlot; yet Christendom, regarded as woman, has apostatized from its first faith.


Verse 7

And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Beast ... was, and, is not - (cf. Revelation 17:11.) The time when the beast "is not" is during 'the deadly wound' (Revelation 13:1-18): the time of the seventh head's Christianity, when its beastlike character was suspended temporarily. The healing of its wound answers to its ascending out of the bottomless pit. The anti-Christian world-power returns worse than ever, with Satanic powers from hell (Revelation 11:7), not merely from the sea of convulsed nations (Revelation 13:1). Christian civilization smites the beast but for a time: the deadly wound is always connected with its being healed up, the nonexistence of the beast with its reappearance. Daniel does not even notice any change in the world-power effected by Christianity. We are endangered on one side by the harlot's spurious Christianity, on the other by the beast's open antiChristianity: the third class is Christ's 'little flock.'

Go. So 'Aleph (') B, Vulgate, Andreas, read future; but A, Irenaeus, 'goeth.'

Into perdition. The continuance of this revived seventh (i:e., the eighth) head is short: it is therefore called 'the son of perdition,' essentially doomed to it immediately after his appearance.

Names were. So 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Andreas; but A B, Syriac, Coptic, singular, 'name is.'

Written in - `upon.'

Which - rather, 'when they behold the beast that it was,' etc. So Vulgate.

Was, and is not, and yet is. A B, Andreas, read, ' ... and shall come' (literally, 'be present' [ parestai (Greek #3918)]). The tetragrammaton, or sacred four letters (Y-H-W-H) in Yahweh (Hebrew #3068), 'who is, was, and is to come,' the believer's worship, has its counterpart in the beast 'who was, and is not, and shall be present,' the object of the earth's worship (Bengel). They exult with wonder that the beast, which seemed to have received its death-blow from Christianity, is on the eve of reviving with greater power than ever on the ruins of that religion which tormented them (Revelation 11:10).


Verse 9

And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

Compare Revelation 13:18; Daniel 12:10. Spiritual discernment is needed to understand the symbolical prophecy.

Seven heads are seven mountains. The connection between mountains and kings must be deeper than the outward fact to which allusion is made, that Rome (the then world-city) is on seven hills [whence she observed a Septimontium the feast of the seven-hilled city (Plutarch); and on imperial coins she is represented as a woman seated on seven hills-Coin of Vespasian, 'Roman Coins,' p. 310; Ackerman, 1:, p.

87]. The seven heads can hardly be at once seven kings or kingdoms (Revelation 17:10), and seven geographical mountains. But, as the head is prominent in the body, so the mountain in the land. Like 'sea,' 'earth,' "waters

... peoples" (Revelation 17:15), so "mountains" have a symbolical meaning, namely, prominent seats of power. Especially such as oppose the cause of God (Psalms 68:16-17; Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 41:15; Isaiah 49:11; Ezekiel 35:2); Babylon geographically in a plain, spiritually is "a destroying mountain" (Jeremiah 51:25), in majestic contrast to which stands mount Zion, "the mountain of the Lord's house" (Isaiah 2:2); Revelation 21:10, "a great and high mountain ... that great city, the holy Jerusalem." So in Daniel 2:35, the stone becomes a mountain-Messiah's universal kingdom supplanting the world-kingdoms.

As nature shadows forth spiritual realities, so seven-hilled Rome is a representative of the seven-headed world-power, of which the dragon is the prince. The "seven kings" are hereby distinguished from the "ten kings" (Revelation 17:12): the former are what the latter are not, "mountains," great seats of the world-power. The seven universal God-opposed monarchies are Egypt (the first world-power arrayed against God's people), Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Medo-Persia, Rome, the Germanic Slavonic empire (the clay of the fourth kingdom mixed with its iron in Nebuchadnezzar's image, a fifth material, Daniel 2:33-34; Daniel 2:42-43, symbolizing this last head). These seven might accord with the seven heads in Daniel 7:4-7, one head on the first beast (Babylon), one on the second (Medo-Persia), four on the third (Greece; namely, Egypt, Syria, Thrace with Bithynia, and Greece with Macedon); but Egypt and Greece are in both lists. Syria answers to Assyria (from which 'Syria' is abbreviated), and Thrace with Bithynia answers to the Gothic-Germanic-Slavonic hordes which, pouring on Rome from the North, founded the Germanic-Slavonic empire. The woman sitting on the seven implies the Old and New Testament Church conforming to, and resting on, the world-power, the seven world-kingdoms. Abraham and Isaac dissembling as to their wives, through fear of kings of Egypt, foreshadowed this. Compare Ezekiel 16:1-63; Ezekiel 23:1-49, on Israel's whoredoms with Egypt, Assyria, Babylon; Matthew 6:24; Matthew 24:10-12; Matthew 24:23-26; Colossians 3:5, on the New Testament Church's harlotry-namely, distrust, hatred, treachery, party divisions, false doctrine.


Verse 10

And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

There are - or, 'they (the seven heads) are seven kings.' They are "mountains" (Revelation 17:9) in relation to the woman who sits on them; "kings" in relation to the beast of which they are heads.

Five ... one - `the five ... the one:' the first five are fallen (applicable not to forms of government, but to once powerful empires: Egypt (Ezekiel 29:1-21; Ezekiel 30:1-26), Assyria, Nineveh (Nahum 3:1-19), Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1-46; Jeremiah 51:1-64), Medo-Persia (Daniel 8:3-7; Daniel 8:20-22; Daniel 10:13; Daniel 11:2), Greece (Daniel 11:4). Rome was 'the one' existing in John's days. "Kings" stand for kingdoms, because these are represented in character by some one head, as Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, Medo-Persia by Cyrus, Greece by Alexander, etc. But Elliott, The seventh short-lived ruling head, next after the sixth in John's time, with the Asiatic DIADEM (cf. Revelation 17:1), not the Roman laurel crown, is the new quadripartite headship, instituted by Diocletian, which was short-lived, falling after thirty years by Constantine's victory. The new head, out of the cicatrice of the old amputated seventh, is pagan, though professedly Christian, the eighth, yet one of the seven in character, the second beast, the papacy with its two lamb-horns, the secular and the regular clergy(?).

The other is not yet come. Not as Alford, the Christian empire beginning with Constantine; but the Germanic-Slavonic empire beginning and continuing beastlike, i:e., HEATHEN for only "a short space." The time when "it is not" (Revelation 17:11), is while it is "wounded to death" with the "deadly wound" (Revelation 13:3). The Christianization of the northern hordes which descended on Rome is the wound to the beast, answering to the earth swallowing up the flood (pagan tribes) sent by the dragon to drown the woman (Revelation 12:15-16). The emphasis is on "a short space" (first in the Greek); not on (as Alford) "he must continue." The external Christianization (while the beast's wound continues) has lasted more than fourteen centuries, since Constantine. Rome and the Greek churches partially healed the wound by restoring image-worship.


Verse 11

And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

Beast that ... is not - his beastly character being kept down by outward Christianization of the state until he starts to life again as "the eighth" king, his 'wound being healed' (Revelation 13:3), Antichrist manifested in fullest opposition to God. HE [ autos (Greek #846)] is emphatic. He, pre-eminently: to whom the ten kings or kingdoms "give their power and strength" (Revelation 17:12-13; Revelation 17:17). That a personal Antichrist will head the anti-Christian kingdom, is likely, from the analogy of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Old Testament Antichrist, "the little horn" (Daniel 8:9-12); "the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8), answers to 'goeth into perdition,' and is applied to an individual, Judas, in the only other passage where it occurs (John 17:12). He is a child of destruction, and has but a little time ascended out of the bottomless pit, when he 'goes into perdition' (Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11). 'While the Church passes through death of the flesh to glory of the Spirit, the beast passes through glory of the flesh to death' (Auberlen).

Is of the seven - `springs out of the seven.' The eighth is not merely one of the seven restored, but a new power proceeding out of the seven. At the same time, there are not eight, but only seven heads, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the God-opposed features of the seven. In the birth-pangs which prepare the 'regeneration,' there are wars, earthquakes, and disturbances (Auberlen), wherein Antichrist takes his rise ("sea," Revelation 13:1; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:9-11; Luke 21:25-26). He does not fall like the other seven (Revelation 17:10), but is destroyed, going to his own perdition, by the Lord in person.


Verse 12

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

Ten kings ... received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings ... with the beast. Hence, and from Revelation 17:14; Revelation 17:16, it seems that these ten kings or kingdoms are to be contemporaries with the beast in its last or eighth form, namely, Antichrist. Compare Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:44, "the stone smote the image upon his feet" - i:e., upon the ten toes, which are, in Rev. 17:41-44 , interpreted "kings." The ten kingdoms are not, therefore, ten which arose in the overthrow of Rome (pagan), but are to rise out of the last state of the fourth kingdom under the eighth head. Three of the former ten, the fourth kingdom's little horn, the papacy, starting subsequently, absorbed Daniel 7:8. But the last ten of the fourth kingdom, the 'ten toes,' shall tread down the earth as ten simultaneous kingdoms, subordinate to the beast. Alford observes, "as kings" implies that they reserve their kingly rights and name in giving "their power and strength unto the beast" (Revelation 17:13; note, Revelation 17:3).

One hour - a definite short time, during which 'the devil is come down to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time' (Revelation 12:12). Probably the three and a half years (Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 13:5). Antichrist exists long before Babylon's fall; but it is only then he obtains the vassalage of the ten kings. He first imposes on the Jews as Messiah, then persecutes these who refuse his blasphemous pretensions. Not until the sixth vial, in the latter part of his reign, does he associate the ten kings with him in war with the Lamb, having gained them over by the spirits of devils working miracles. His connection with Israel appears from his sitting "in the temple of God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4), the antitypical "abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place" (Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15), "in the city where our Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8). Irenaeus ('Haer.,' 5:, 25) and Cyril of Jerusalem ('Ruffinus Hist.,' 10:, 37) prophesied that Antichrist should have his seat at Jerusalem, and restore the kingdom of the Jews. Julian the apostate took part with the Jews, and aided in building their temple, herein being Antichrist's forerunner.


Verse 13

These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

One mind , [ gnoomeen (Greek #1106)] - one sentiment.

Shall give. So Coptic; but 'Aleph (') A B, Syriac, 'give.'

Strength - `authority.' They become his dependent allies (Revelation 17:14). Thus Antichrist claims to be king of kings. Scarcely has he made his claim when the KING OF KINGS appears and destroys him as in a moment.


Verse 14

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

These shall make war with the Lamb - in league with the beast: a summary anticipation of Revelation 19:19 : not until they have first executed judgment on the harlot (Revelation 17:15-16).

Lord of lords ... Anticipating Revelation 19:16.

Are - not in the Greek. 'And they that are with Him, called, chosen, and faithful (shall overcome them-namely, the beast and his allied kings).' These have been with Christ in heaven, but now appear with Him.


Verse 15

And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

Waters ... where the whore sitteth - (Isaiah 8:7; Revelation 17:1.) In impious parody of Yahweh, who 'sitteth upon the flood' (Alford). Contrast the "many waters," Revelation 19:6, "Alleluia." The 'peoples,' etc., mark the universality of the Church's spiritual fornication. The 'tongues' remind us of Babel, the confusion of tongues, the beginning of Babylon, and of idolatrous apostasy after the flood, as the tower was doubtless dedicated to the defied heavens. Thus, Babylon is the harlot's appropriate name. The pope, as her chief representative, claims a double supremacy over all peoples, typified by the "two swords" (Luke 21:38); according to Boniface VIII, in the Bull, 'Unam Sanctum,' and represented by the two keys-namely, spiritual, as the universal bishop, whence he is crowned with the mitre; and temporal, whence he is also crowned with the tiara, in token of imperial supremacy. Contrast with the pope's diadems the 'many diadems' of Him who alone, and of right, shall exercise the twofold dominion (Revelation 19:12).


Verse 16

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.

Upon the beast. 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syriac, read, 'and the beast.'

Shall make her desolate - having first dismounted her from her seat (Revelation 17:3).

Naked - stripped of all her gaud (Revelation 17:4). As Jerusalem used the world-power to crucify her Saviour, and then was destroyed by that very power, Rome, so the Church, having apostatized to the world, shall have judgment executed on her by the world-power, the beast and his allies. These afterward shall have judgment executed on them by Christ Himself. So Israel leaning on Egypt, a broken reed, is pierced by it, then Egypt itself is punished. So Israel's whoredom with Assyria and Babylon was punished by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. So the Church going a whoring after the world, as if it were the reality, instead of witnessing against its apostasy, is false to its profession: being no longer a reality herself, she is judged by that world which for a time used her to further its ends, while all the while 'hating' Christ's unworldly religion, but which no longer wants her aid.

Eat her flesh - plural, 'masses of flesh;' i:e., 'carnal possessions;' implying the gross carnalities into which she is sunk. The judgment on the harlot is again and again described: first, by an "angel having great power" (Revelation 18:1), then by "another voice from heaven" (Revelation 18:4-20), then by "a mighty angel" (Revelation 18:21-24), then by the jubilant voice of much people in heaven (Revelation 19:2). Compare Ezekiel 16:37-44, originally Israel; further applicable to the New Testament Church when fallen into spiritual fornication. On "eat ... flesh," for prey upon one's property, character, and person, cf. Psalms 14:4; Psalms 27:2; Jeremiah 10:25; Micah 3:3. The first Napoleon's edict at Rome, in 1809, confiscating the papal dominions, and lately the severance of large portions of territory from the pope's sway, for union to the kingdom of Italy, through Louis Napoleon, are a first instalment of the whore's complete destruction. "Her flesh" points to her temporal resources, as distinguished from 'herself.' How striking a retribution, that having obtained her first temporal dominions, the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the state of Rome, by recognizing the usurper Pepin as lawful king of France, she should be stripped of her dominions by another usurper of France, the Napoleonic dynasty! After temporal sovereignty and possessions shall be lost to the apostate church, she may prove to be the "false prophet," combining with the beast and dragon. The Reformation saved Christianity from the infidelity with which it was threatened under Pope Leo.

Burn her with fire - the legal punishment of abominable fornication (Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9).


Verse 17

For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

Hath put - prophetic past for the future.

Fulfil - `do,' 'accomplish.' [ Poieesai (Greek #4160) is distinct from 'fulfilled,' telestheesontai (Greek #5055), below.]

His will - His purpose; while they think only of doing their own.

To agree - literally, 'to do one purpose.' So 'Aleph (') B A, Vulgate, omit this clause.

The words of God , [ ta (Greek #3588) reemata (Greek #4487)] - foretelling the beast's rise and downfall [ hoi (Greek #3588) logoi (Greek #3056) in 'Aleph (') A B, Andreas]. Not mere utterances, but the efficient words of Him who is the word [ logos (Greek #3056)].

Fulfilled - (Revelation 10:7.) Fulfilled - (Revelation 10:7.)


Verse 18

And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

Reigneth - `hath kingship over the kings.' The harlot cannot be a mere city, but in a spiritual sense (Revelation 11:8). Also the beast cannot represent a spiritual power, but a world-power. Now the harlot is ripe for judgment. Revelation 18:1-24 details it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-17.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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