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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Revelation 17



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Verse 1

I will show thee (δειχω σοιdeixō soi). Future active of δεικνυμιdeiknumi It is fitting that one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls should explain the judgment on Babylon (Revelation 16:19) already pronounced (Revelation 14:8). That is now done in chapters Rev 17; 18.

The judgment of the great harlot (το κριμα της πορνης της μεγαληςto krima tēs pornēs tēs megalēs). The word κριμαkrima is the one used about the doom of Babylon in Jeremiah 51:9. Already in Revelation 14:8 Babylon is called the harlot. ΠορνηςPornēs is the objective genitive, “the judgment on the great harlot.”

That sitteth upon many waters (της κατημενης επι υδατων πολλωνtēs kathēmenēs epi hudatōn pollōn). Note triple use of the article τηςtēs In Jeremiah 51:13 we have επ υδασι πολλοιςeph' hudasi pollois (locative in place of genitive as here). Babylon got its wealth by means of the Euphrates and the numerous canals for irrigation. Rome does not have such a system of canals, but this item is taken and applied to the New Babylon in Revelation 17:15. Nahum (Nahum 3:4) calls Nineveh a harlot, as Isaiah (Isaiah 23:16.) does Tyre.

Verse 2

The kings of the earth (οι βασιλεις της γηςhoi basileis tēs gēs). Repeated in Revelation 1:5; Revelation 6:15; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:9; Revelation 19:19; Revelation 21:24 and “the kings of the inhabited earth” (Revelation 16:14) either for human rulers in general or the vassal kings absorbed by the Roman Empire.

Committed fornication (επορνευσανeporneusan). First aorist active indicative of πορνευωporneuō “In purchasing the favour of Rome by accepting her suzerainty and with it her vices and idolatries” (Swete).

Were made drunken (εμετυστησανemethusthēsan). First aorist passive indicative of μετυσκωmethuskō old verb (from μετυmethu), as in Luke 12:45, here only in the Apocalypse. Cf. Isaiah 51:7 and πεποτικενpepotiken in Revelation 14:8. See Revelation 18:3.

Verse 3

He carried me away (απηνεγκεν μεapēnegken me). Second aorist active indicative of αποπερωapopherō to bear away, prophetic aorist. This verb is used of angels at death (Luke 16:22) or in an ecstasy (Revelation 21:10 and here).

In the Spirit (εν πνευματιen pneumati). Probably his own spirit, though the Holy Spirit is possible (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 21:10), without Paul‘s uncertainty (2 Corinthians 12:2). Cf. Ezekiel 3:14.; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:24.

Into a wilderness (εις ερημονeis erēmon). In Isaiah 21:1 there is το οραμα της ερημουto horama tēs erēmou (the vision of the deserted one, Babylon), and in Isaiah 14:23 Babylon is called ερημονerēmon John may here picture this to be the fate of Rome or it may be that he himself, in the wilderness (desert) this side of Babylon, sees her fate. In Revelation 21:10 he sees the New Jerusalem from a high mountain.

Sitting (κατημενηνkathēmenēn). Present middle participle of κατημαιkathēmai as in Revelation 17:1. “To manage and guide the beast” (Vincent).

Upon a scarlet-coloured beast (επι τηριον κοκκινονepi thērion kokkinon). Accusative with επιepi here, though genitive in Revelation 17:1. Late adjective (from κοκκοςkokkos a parasite of the ilex coccifera), a crimson tint for splendour, in Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12, Revelation 18:16; Matthew 27:28; Hebrews 9:19.

Full of names of blasphemy (γεμοντα ονοματα βλασπημιαςgemonta onomata blasphēmias). See Revelation 13:1 for “names of blasphemy” on the seven heads of the beast, but here they cover the whole body of the beast (the first beast of Revelation 13:1; Revelation 19:20). The harlot city (Rome) sits astride this beast with seven heads and ten horns (Roman world power). The beast is here personified with masculine participles instead of neuter, like τηριονthērion (γεμονταgemonta accusative singular, εχωνechōn nominative singular, though some MSS. read εχονταechonta), construction according to sense in both instances. The verb γεμωgemō always has the genitive after it in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:6, Revelation 4:8; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 21:9) save here and apparently once in Revelation 17:4.

Verse 4

Was arrayed (ην περιβεβλημενηēn peribeblēmenē). Periphrastic past perfect indicative of περιβαλλωperiballō to fling round one.

In purple and scarlet (πορπυρουν και κοκκινονporphuroun kai kokkinon). Accusative retained after this passive verb of clothing, as so often. ΠορπυρουςPorphurous is old adjective for purple (from πορπυραporphura), in N.T. only here and John 19:2, John 19:5. See preceding verse for κοκκινοςkokkinos (κεχρυσωμενηkechrusōmenē). Perfect passive participle of χρυσοωchrusoō old verb, to gild, to adorn with gold, here alone in N.T.

With gold and precious stone and pearls (χρυσιωι και λιτωι τιμιωι και μαργαριταιςchrusiōi kai lithōi timiōi kai margaritais). Instrumental case. ΧρυσιωιChrusiōi is cognate with the participle. Λιτωι τιμιωιLithōi timiōi is collective (Revelation 18:12, Revelation 18:16; Revelation 21:19). There is a ζευγμαzeugma also with μαργαριταιςmargaritais (Revelation 18:12, Revelation 18:16; Revelation 21:21), for which word see Matthew 7:6. Probably John is thinking of the finery of the temple prostitutes in Asia Minor.

Full of abominations (γεμον βδελυγματωνgemon bdelugmatōn). Agreeing with ποτηριονpotērion “cup” (neuter singular accusative). Some MSS. read γεμωνgemōn (nominative masculine like εχωνechōn in Revelation 17:3, quite irregular). For βδελυγματωνbdelugmatōn (genitive after γεμονgemon) see Matthew 24:15; (Mark 13:14), common in the lxx for idol worship and its defilements (from βδελυσσωbdelussō to render foul), both ceremonial and moral. See Jeremiah 15:7.

Even the unclean things of her fornication (και τα ακαταρτα της πορνειας αυτηςkai ta akatharta tēs porneias autēs). Either the accusative after γεμονgemon as in Revelation 17:3 (and full of the unclean things of her fornication) or the object of εχουσαechousa like ποτηριονpotērion f0).

Verse 5

Upon her forehead a name written (επι το μετωπον αυτης ονομα γεγραμμενονepi to metōpon autēs onoma gegrammenon). Roman harlots wore a label with their names on their brows (Seneca, Rhet. I. 2. 7; Juvenal VI. 122f.), and so here. In Revelation 19:16 Christ has a name on his garments and on his thigh, while in Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4 the redeemed have the name of God on their foreheads. There is undoubtedly a contrast between this woman here and the woman in chapter Rev 12.

Mystery (μυστηριονmustērion). Either in apposition with ονομαonoma or as part of the inscription on her forehead. In either case the meaning is the same, that the name Babylon is to be interpreted mystically or spiritually (cf. πνευματικωςpneumatikōs Revelation 11:8) for Rome.

The Mother of the Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth (η Μητηρ των Πορνων και των δελυγματων της ΓηςHē Mētēr tōn Pornōn kai tōn Bdelugmatōn tēs Gēs). The Metropolis of the Empire is the mother of harlotry and of the world‘s idolatries. Charles quotes Tacitus (Ann. XV. 44) about Rome as the city “quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque.”

Verse 6

Drunken with the blood of the saints (μετυουσαν εκ του αιματος των αγιωνmethuousan ek tou haimatos tōn hagiōn). Present active feminine accusative singular participle of μετυωmethuō old verb, to be drunk (Matthew 24:49).

Of the martyrs of Jesus (των μαρτυρων Ιησουtōn marturōn Iēsou). “Witnesses” (Revelation 2:13) for Jesus (objective genitive) unto blood (Revelation 16:6; Revelation 18:24) and so martyrs in the modern sense of the word. “Drunk with blood” is a common idea with the ancients (Euripides, Josephus, Philo, Cicero, Pliny).

With a great wonder (ταυμα μεγαthauma mega). Cognate accusative with εταυμασαethaumasa f0).

Verse 7

I will tell thee the mystery (εγω ερω σοι το μυστηριονegō erō soi to mustērion). The angel gives his interpretation of the woman and the beast (Revelation 17:7-18). ΕρωErō is the future active of ειπονeipon (defective verb), to tell, to say.

Verse 8

Was and is not (ην και ουκ εστινēn kai ouk estin). Imperfect and present of ειμιeimi an apparent antithesis to ο ην και ο ωνho ēn kai ho ōn of Revelation 1:4. This is a picture of the beast of Revelation 13:1. which the woman is riding, but no longer just the empire, but one of the emperors who died (ουκ εστινouk estin is not).

And is about to come up out of the abyss (και μελλει αναβαινειν εκ της αβυσσουkai mellei anabainein ek tēs abussou). That is, he is going to come to life again.

And to go into perdition (και εις απωλειαν υπαγειkai eis apōleian hupagei). So (and he goes into perdition) the best MSS. read rather than the infinitive υπαγεινhupagein Most interpreters see here an allusion to the “Nero redivivus ” expectancy realized in Domitian, who was ruling when John wrote and who was called Nero redivivus.

Shall wonder (ταυμαστησονταιthaumasthēsontai). First future passive (deponent) of ταυμαζωthaumazō with which compare εταυμαστηethaumasthē in Revelation 13:3. John had wondered (εταυμασαethaumasa) in Revelation 17:6 “with the amazement of a horrible surprise; the world will wonder and admire” (Swete).

Whose name (ων ονομαhōn onoma). Singular ονομαonoma like πτωμαptōma in Revelation 11:8. See Revelation 13:8 for the same description of those who worship the beast, and see note for discussion of details.

When they behold (βλεποντωνblepontōn). Genitive plural of the present active participle of βλεπωblepō agreeing with ωνhōn (genitive relative) rather than with οι κατοικουντεςhoi katoikountes (nominative just before ωνhōn).

How that (οτιhoti). “Namely that.”

He was, and is not, and shall come (ην και ουκ εστιν και παρεσταιēn kai ouk estin kai parestai). Repetition of what is in Revelation 17:7 with παρεσταιparestai (future of παρειμιpareimi from which παρουσιαparousia comes) in place of μελλειmellei “parody of the divine name” (Charles) in Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8, “as the hellish antitype of Christ.” The Neronic Antichrist has also a παρουσιαparousia f0).

Verse 9

Here is the mind which hath wisdom (ωδε ο νους ο εχων σοπιανHōde ho nous ho echōn sophian). “Here is the intelligence which has wisdom” (Charles). A variation of Revelation 13:18, but the same idea.

Seven mountains (επτα ορηhepta orē). Rome was known as the city on seven hills (Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Cicero, etc.).

On which (οπουεπ αυτωνhopou- οπουεκειep' autōn). “Where - upon them.” Pleonasm like hopou- ekei in Revelation 12:6. In Revelation 13:1. it is the beast that has the seven heads, while here the woman riding the beast has seven heads, a slight change in the symbolism, and the heads are further identified as kings.

Verse 10

Seven kings (βασιλεις επταbasileis hepta). This is another change in the symbolism. The identification of these seven kings is one of the puzzles of the book.

The five are fallen (οι πεντε επεσανhoi pente epesan). Second aorist active indicative of πιπτωpiptō with the αν̇an ending. Common for the downfall of kings (Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 30:6; Isaiah 21:9, etc.). See 2 Samuel 3:38.

The one is (ο εις εστινho heis estin). The one when this vision is dated.

The other is not yet come (ο αλλος ουπω ηλτενho allos oupō ēlthen). Prophetic second aorist active of ερχομαιerchomai Charles takes this as the date of this “source” or part of the Apocalypse. But John could himself have used this language in the time of Domitian even if he was the one who had not yet come. The difficulty about counting these emperors is that Galba, Otho, Vitellius reigned so briefly that they hardly merit being included.

When he cometh (οταν ελτηιhotan elthēi). Indefinite temporal clause for the future, with οτανhotan and the second aorist active subjunctive of ερχομαιerchomai “whenever he comes.”

He must continue a little while (ολιγον αυτον δει μειναιoligon auton dei meinai). Swete takes this to be Titus, who died September 13, 81, after a short reign.

Verse 11

Is himself also an eighth and is of the seven (και αυτος ογδοος και εκ των επταkai autos ogdoos kai ek tōn hepta). This is the angel‘s interpretation and it looks like a reference to Domitian as the eighth, who is regarded as one of the seven because he was considered a second Nero (Nero redivivus). For εκ των επταek tōn hepta see Acts 21:8. John may have used εκ τωνek tōn instead of εις εκ τωνheis ek tōn to avoid absolute identity between Domitian and Nero (Beckwith).

And he goeth unto perdition (και εις απωλειαν υπαγειkai eis apōleian hupagei). As in Revelation 17:8. “Domitian was assassinated (September 18, 96), after a terrible struggle with his murderers. The tyrant‘s end was a symbol of the end to which the Beast which he personated was hastening” (Swete). Cf. Revelation 19:11-21.

Verse 12

Which have received no kingdom as yet (οιτινες βασιλειαν ουπω ελαβονhoitines basileian oupō elabon). Second aorist (proleptic and prophetic) active indicative of λαμβανωlambanō The heads are emperors and the horns are kings (both called βασιλειςbasileis).

As kings (ως βασιλειςhōs basileis). Compared to kings (see ωςhōs in Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:6; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 13:3; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 16:21) without identification with the emperors, though succeeding them with “quasi-imperial powers” with the beast.

For one hour (μιαν ωρανmian hōran). Accusative of extent of time, and that a brief time (Revelation 18:10, Revelation 18:16, Revelation 18:19) in comparison with the beast (Revelation 13:2).

Verse 13

Have one mind (μιαν γνωμην εχουσινmian gnōmēn echousin). “One purpose” (γνωμηgnōmē from γινωσκωginōskō) as in Acts 20:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10. The new powers are allies of the beast.

They give their power and authority unto the beast (την δυναμιν και την εχουσιαν αυτων τωι τηριωι διδοασινtēn dunamin kai tēn exousian autōn tōi thēriōi didoasin). Present active indicative of διδωμιdidōmi Just as the dragon gave both power and authority to the beast (Revelation 13:2), so they are wholly at the service of the beast.

Verse 14

These (ουτοιhoutoi). These ten kings.

Shall war against the Lamb (μετα του τηριου πολεμησουσινmeta tou thēriou polemēsousin). Future active of πολεμεοpolemeo to war. As allies of the beast (the servant of the dragon, Revelation 12:7) they will wage war with the Lamb (the enemy of the dragon). These kings gather for battle as in Revelation 16:13.

And the Lamb shall overcome them (και το αρνιον νικησει αυτουςkai to arnion nikēsei autous). Future active of νικαωnikaō This is the glorious outcome, victory by the Lamb over the coalition of kings as against the beast before.

For he is Lord of lords and King of kings (οτι Κυριος κυριων εστιν και ασιλευς βασιλεωνhoti Kurios kuriōn estin kai Basileus basileōn). The same words are again descriptive of Christ in Revelation 19:16, as of God in Deuteronomy 10:17 (God of gods and Lord of lords) and Daniel 10:17 (God of gods and Lord of kings). Cf. also 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 1:5. Crowned heads are Christ‘s subjects.

And they also shall overcome that are with him (και οι μετ αυτουkai hoi met' autou). “And those with him shall also overcome” (supply νικησουσινnikēsousin not εισινeisin). They will share in the triumph of the Lamb, as they shared in the conflict. Cf. μετα του τηριουmeta tou thēriou in Revelation 17:12.

Called and chosen and faithful (κλητοι και εκλεκτοι και πιστοιklētoi kai eklektoi kai pistoi). These are the three notes of those who share in the victory. For κλητοςklētos and εκλεκτοςeklektos see Matthew 22:14 (contrasted); Romans 8:28.; 2 Peter 1:10; Revelation 2:10, Revelation 2:13. The elect are called and prove faithful.

Verse 15

Where the harlot sitteth (ου η πορνος κατηταιhou hē pornos kathētai). Relative adverb ουhou (where) referring to the waters (υδαταhudata) of Revelation 17:1 on which the harlot sits. Present middle indicative of κατημαιkathēmai peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues (λαοι και οχλοι εισιν και ετνη και γλωσσαιlaoi kai ochloi eisin kai ethnē kai glōssai). The O.T. uses “waters” as symbol for “peoples” (Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 47:2; Psalm 29:10, etc.). “Rome‘s greatest danger lay in the multitudes which were under her sway” (Swete).

Verse 16

These shall hate the harlot (ουτοι μισησουσιν την πορνηνhoutoi misēsousin tēn pornēn). Future active of μισεωmiseō ουτοιHoutoi is resumptive demonstrative pronoun (masculine) referring to the ten horns and the beast (neuter); construction according to sense. The downfall of Rome will come from the sudden change in subject peoples.

Shall make her desolate and naked (ηρημωμενην ποιησουσιν αυτην και γυμνηνērēmōmenēn poiēsousin autēn kai gumnēn). Future active of ποιεωpoieō and perfect passive predicate accusative participle of ερημοωerēmoō old verb (from ερημοςerēmos desolate), again in Revelation 18:16, Revelation 18:19. ΓυμνηνGumnēn (naked) is predicate adjective.

Shall eat her flesh (τας σαρκας αυτης παγονταιtas sarkas autēs phagontai). Future middle of the defective verb εστιωesthiō to eat. Note plural σαρκαςsarkas portions of flesh (James 5:3) as in Psalm 27:2; Micah 3:3.

Shall burn her utterly with fire (αυτην κατακαυσουσιν εν πυριautēn katakausousin en puri). Future active of κατακαιωkatakaiō to burn down (perfective use of καιωkaiō). John wrote before the days of Alaric, Genseric, Ricimer, Totila, with their hordes which devastated Rome and the west in the fifth and sixth centuries. “No reader of the Decline and Fall can be at a loss for materials which will at once illustrate and justify the general trend of St. John‘s prophecy” (Swete).

Verse 17

Did put (εδωκενedōken). “Did give” (first aorist active of διδωμιdidōmi do his mind (ποιησαι την γνωμην αυτουpoiēsai tēn gnōmēn autou). Epexegetic first aorist active infinitive of ποιεωpoieō after εδωκενedōken as often in this book. They are of one mind (Revelation 17:13) because God put them up to it, clear statement of God‘s over-ruling hand among the nations.

Until the words of God should be accomplished (αχρι τελεστησονται οι λογοι του τεουachri telesthēsontai hoi logoi tou theou). Temporal clause about the future with αχριachri (like εωςheōs), with the future indicative of τελεωteleō but with aorist passive subjunctive τελεστωσινtelesthōsin in Revelation 15:8. For τελεωteleō see also Revelation 10:7. For “the words of God” see Revelation 19:9. They will be fulfilled.

Verse 18

The woman (η γυνηhē gunē). She is now explained after the beast has been interpreted. Revelation 17:9 made it plain enough, but this verse demonstrates that the woman is the city of Rome “which reigneth (η εχουσα βασιλειανhē echousa basileian the one having a kingdom) over the kings of the earth (επι των βασιλεων της γηςepi tōn basileōn tēs gēs).” Rome followed Babylon, and other cities may follow in their train.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 17:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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