Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 17:1

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Idolatry;   Water;   Thompson Chain Reference - Seven;   Vials;   The Topic Concordance - Empires/world Powers;   Judges;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Water;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Antichrist;   Babylon;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Apocalyptic;   New Heavens and a New Earth;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Church;   Joy;   Order;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Antichrist;   Harlot;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Antichrist;   Beast;   Marriage;   Revelation of John, the;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Babel;   Prostitution;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Antichrist;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Fire;   Sin (2);   Water ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Babylon the Great ;   Prophets, the;   Vials;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Babylon;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Sit (downsitting);   Vial;   Whore;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Damn;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters - That idolatrous worship is frequently represented in Scripture under the character of a whore or whoredom, is evident from numerous passages which it is unnecessary to quote. See 1 Chronicles 5:25; Ezekiel 16:1-63; 23:1-49, etc. The woman mentioned here is called a great whore, to denote her excessive depravity, and the artful nature of her idolatry. She is also represented as sitting upon many waters, to show the vast extent of her influence. See on Revelation 17:13; (note).

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials - See the notes on Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:7. Reference is again made to these angels in the same manner in Revelation 21:9, where one of them says that he would show to John “the bride, the Lamb‘s wife.” No particular one is specified. The general idea seems to be, that to those seven angels was entrusted the execution of the last things, or the winding up of affairs introductory to the reign of God, and that the communications respecting those last events were properly made through them. It is clearly quite immaterial by which of these it is done. The expression “which had the seven vials,” would seem to imply that though they had emptied the vials in the manner stated in the previous chapter, they still retained them in their hands.

And talked with me - Spake to me. The word “talk” would imply a more protracted conversation than occurred here.

Come hither - Greek, δεῦρο deuro- “Here, hither.” This is a word merely calling the attention, as we should say now, “Here.” It does not imply that John was to leave the place where he was.

I will shew unto thee - Partly by symbols, and partly by express statements; for this is the way in which, in fact, he showed him.

The judgment - The condemnation and calamity that will come upon her.

Of the great whore - It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent a city under the image of a woman - a pure and holy city under the image of a virgin or chaste female; a corrupt, idolatrous, and wicked city under the image of an abandoned or lewd woman. See the notes on Isaiah 1:21; “How is the faithful city become an harlot!” Compare the notes on Isaiah 1:8. In Revelation 17:18, it is expressly said that “this woman is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth” - that is, as I suppose, papal Rome; and the design here is to represent it as resembling an abandoned female - fit representative of an apostate, corrupt, unfaithful church. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:21.

That sitteth upon many waters - An image drawn either from Babylon, situated on the Euphrates, and encompassed by the many artificial rivers which had been made to irrigate the country, or Rome, situated on the Tiber. In Revelation 17:15 these waters are said to represent the peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues over which the government symbolized by the woman ruled. See the notes on that verse. Waters are often used to symbolize nations.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible


(Revelation 17-19)


This mighty chapter, more than any other in the word of God, kindled the courage and fired the zeal of the great martyrs and reformers who led the rebellion against the tyranny of the Medieval church, re-opened the New Testament for all the peoples of the earth from whom it had been stolen for centuries, and dealt the great whore of this chapter a wound from which she has never fully recovered. This writer has no desire whatever to accommodate with that vast school of modern exegetes who, like Southey's owl:

Sailing with obscene wings athwart the noon; He drops his blue-fringed lids and holds them close, And hooting at the sun in heaven, Asks, Where is it? Where is it?

Christian commentators who withhold from view the obvious, historically accepted interpretation of this chapter must give an account to God for their reticence. If one is blind (spiritually), he may be pardoned for not revealing what he cannot discern; but, for those who reveal their true knowledge of what this chapter really means by the crooked arguments designed to contradict it, are nothing but an enigma. Do they not know that they themselves are under the eternal curse of this tyranny, proscribed and consigned to hell, and under the perpetual interdiction of that religious hierarchy which arrogates to itself alone the right to forgive the sins of people? Why, then, this amazing tenderness which so generally tempers their evasive comments?

The mainline interpretation of this chapter was thus stated by Albertus Pieters:

The Great Harlot symbolizes the apostate Christian Church, manifested historically in many forms, conspicuously and chiefly in the Roman Catholic Church, but also in other forms of nominal Christianity, especially when in combination with political power. We shall call this the Apostate Church interpretation.[1]

Although Pieters "reluctantly" voted against this view, for reasons which he cited, and which in no sense justify his decision, he nevertheless admitted that, "This view is held by many of the very best expositors, among whom we may mention William Milligan, Auberlen and Alford."[2] Criswell, Plummer, Carpenter and many others could be added. Before considering some objections to it, we shall list some of the reasons for accepting this main-line interpretation of it:

1. The figure of adultery, harlotry, or fornication is the standard Old Testament description of apostasy. A very few instances in which the figure was applied to heathen cities, not apostate, cannot nullify the general usage. It is in the sense of the apostasy of God's people that the figure is used "in the great majority of the Scriptures where it is used."[3] There would therefore need to be some compelling reason for setting aside the normal and general meaning of the figure here; and no such reason exists. Pieters also admitted that, "It is correct that the figure of the harlot is a standard symbol of the Old Testament, and it usually means apostasy from Jehovah on the part of his people."[4] "This argument has great force."[5] It practically proves that the Great Harlot is some form of Apostate Christianity.

2. This Great Harlot was viewed by John "in the wilderness," invariably associated with the church's sojourn on earth, answering to the type of the first Israel's forty years of wilderness wanderings, a symbolism that forces the conclusion that the Great Harlot is the true church gone astray, an apostate church. If such an apostasy had never occurred, this analogy might be ignored; "But this is exactly what happened to the Catholic Church, and not only to her but to many Protestant churches."[6] This is a very strong argument.

3. The astonishment of the apostle (Revelation 17:6) would be impossible to understand if it merely meant that a pagan city was in league with the devil. On the other hand, it would indeed be grounds for astonishment if Apostate Christianity itself was so revealed.

4. The glorified Bride of Christ, the church, is called "a city" in Revelation 21:2,9,10; and it should therefore be expected that an Apostate Church should also be referred to as a city, in this case, Babylon; and this cannot nullify the positive spiritual overtones in this prophetic description of the Great Harlot.

5. The Great Harlot, represented here as committing fornication with the kings of the earth, is not an appropriate metaphor of Rome's relation to the vassal kings of her great dominion when John wrote; but it is a valid metaphor of the Papal hierarchy's traffic with human governments going on throughout history up to and including the present time. The literal Rome indeed raped many kingdoms; but this is not the metaphor of Revelation 17.

6. The compound vision of the Great Harlot riding the scarlet colored beast (Revelation 17:3) requires that the harlot be identified with the second beast, the land-beast, of Revelation 13:11. Wilcock was correct in his affirmation that this chapter "has established her (the great whore's) identity with the second beast, false religion; while the scarlet beast in Revelation 13:1 corresponds to the scarlet beast in Revelation 17:3."[7] Plummer also agreed that, "The second beast there (Revelation 13:11) is identical with the Harlot and represents the apostate portion of the church."[8] A study of our notes on Revelation 13 will reveal just how conclusive this argument is. "There can be no doubt that the Harlot describes the degenerate portion of the Church."[9]

7. "The Mother of Harlots ..." (Revelation 17:5). This makes no sense at all unless understood as a reference to the apostate sects of Protestantism, historically the children of the Harlot, and many of them walking in her devious ways. In no sense whatever can this be understood of the literal city of Rome, nor of the emperor cult, nor of anything else ever suggested.

8. This Harlot reigns over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18), her dominion including authority over "every tribe, tongue, people, and nation" (Revelation 13:7); and she exercised "All the authority of the first beast" (Revelation 13:12). Furthermore, this authority of the second beast (the Harlot) continues throughout the dispensation until the second Advent of Christ. There is not anything else in the history of the world that fulfills this except the worldwide Papal hierarchy and its spiritual children, the daughters of the Harlot. It is pure fantasy to interpret this as the promoters of "the emperor cult."

There can be no marvel, then, that Luther, Tyndale, Huss, Knox, Wesley, Alexander Campbell, and other great ones of the Reformation accepted the interpretation presented here. For additional discussion of this see our "Excursus on the Man of Sin," my Commentary on 2Thessalonians, pp. 106-117.


1. Revelation would have had no relevance for John's day if this interpretation is allowed. This is wrong. The great apostasy was specifically prophesied by Paul who stated that it was '"working already" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The church already had the disease that was to develop in time into the apostasy. Furthermore, the idolatry, blasphemous arrogance, perversions of the true worship, and other characteristics of the later apostasy were the "stock in trade" of the pagan religions prevalent everywhere when Revelation was written; but the thing that astounded John himself was the visions of these same things in the church at a time which we recognize as being far later. See article below on "'Resurgence of Paganism in the Apostasy."

2. John's vision deals with the emperor cult. There is an element of truth in this; for the pure paganism of that condition was just as sinful in its original setting as it was later in the apostasy. The error is in making that original paganism the only thing in this prophecy. Such a view is just as myopic and unreasonable as limiting it to the Papacy alone; neither extreme is correct. See statement of the main-line interpretation at the head of this discussion.

3. As Pieters said, "It is difficult to see how original readers of Revelation could interpret this any other way than as a reference to the Imperial City."[10] We agree that that is exactly what they would have done, but this is not a valid objection, because the prophecy is vast enough to include a relevance for all generations. The acceptance of the New Testament as a guide, not for one age only, but for all ages, it seems to us is the only tenable view of it as the word of God, an inspired book. This is precisely the point where so many go astray.

4. Viewing the Harlot as the city of Rome harmonizes better with Revelation 18 and the facts of history. This must be denominated as a monstrous misstatement of fact. See our interpretation of Revelation 18. Also, the city of Rome (in its pagan character) has not continued throughout history to rule over all nations, a dominant prediction in the prophecy, except in the very sense of our interpretation. See more on this in the notes below.

5. "It is not without precedent to apply the figure of the Harlot to a heathen city, without any religious reference."[11] This of course is true; but where is the compelling reason for so doing? when the vast majority of instances employing this figure in the Old Testament refer absolutely to the apostasy of God's people from the true worship of Jehovah. Besides that, in the New Testament, there is no example whatever of its being used of a heathen city. This objection has no weight at all.

Over and beyond all arguments and objections is the startling, dramatic contrast between the Bride of Christ and the Harlot which dominates this and the succeeding chapter, and which, on its face, positively has to mean the True Church and the False Church.


The relevance of Revelation to John's day is seen in the condemnation of paganism which was rampant in apostolic times. The same relevance, of course, pertains to that resurgence of paganism which undeniably marked the character of the Apostate Church. If Revelation was relevant to either period, it was relevant to both. Here is a list of a few elements of paganism found in the apostate Christianity:

1. The consecration of sacred images for use in Christian worship was borrowed, in its totality, from paganism. Indeed, the "image" of St. Peter in Rome, the bronze foot of which has been kissed away by adoring multitudes, is reliably reputed to be the pagan statue of the god Pluto, transferred from the Pantheon!

2. Mariolatry has elevated a vulgar female statue above the high altar, where it stands higher than the image of Christ, the whole system being nothing but an adaptation from the old Babylonian myth of the queen of heaven, the Assyrian Ishtar and her Tammuz. "She was worshipped by the offering of a wafer (a little cake), along with forty days of Lent, of weeping over the destruction of Tammuz ... and after forty days, the people celebrated Ishtar, exchanging Ishtar Eggs!"[12] Of course, the holy communion itself was adjusted so that the bread was formed after the pattern of those pagan wafers.

3. The use of holy water in the church came over in its entirety from paganism. "The holy water was used by the heathens to sprinkle themselves at the entrance to their temples; and this is admitted by Montfancion and the Jesuit La Cerda."[13]

4. The burial of dead bodies in church houses came from Athens, as related by Plutarch in his Life of Theseus; and, as they did of old with their pagan heroes, the church began to deposit relics of so-called saints, supplemented by processions and sacrifices."[14]

5. Celibacy is another relic of paganism. "It was most esteemed among the heathen philosophers."[15]

6. Praying for the dead began in 380 A.D., and was at first vigorously opposed and condemned. It is another relic of paganism and the forerunner of the doctrine of purgatory.[16]

7. The Papal keys are exactly the same as those of the pagan gods Janus and Cybele, worshipped by pagan Rome long before Christianity.

8. The lighting of blessed candles was practiced in paganism in Siberia where they were placed before the statues of pagan gods.[17]

9. The tonsure, the shaving of the heads of priests, was practiced by the pagan priests of Osisis, the Egyptian Bacchus, as was also true in India and China.[18]

10. The forgiving of sins, "absolutions," one of the most monstrous of un-Christian doctrines, appears to have been an outright invention.

These are only a few of a hundred similar things that might be cited, such as: the assumption of blasphemous titles, the consecration of sacred priestly vestments, the baptizing of bells, "The Feast of All Souls," first celebrated by pagans in the lifetime of Romulus, monasticism, the elevation of the host, and many other devices and practices of paganism at the time Revelation was written. It is clear enough for anyone looking into the matter that Apostate Christianity was indeed the old paganism with a Christian veneer.

Therefore, the interpretation received here by no means violates the relevance of the sacred prophecy for the first generation that received it. Paganism, whether in its original setting, or as revived and continued by the Apostate Church itself, is the essence of what the apostolic writers condemned. We shall now examine the text of this marvelous chapter.

[1] Albertus Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 250.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 413.

[4] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 251.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 252.

[7] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), p. 165.

[8] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 413.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 256.

[11] Ibid.

[12] W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), III, p. 185.

[13] John F. Rowe, History of Reformatory Movements (Cincinnati, Ohio: John F. Rowe, 1894), p. 259.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls, and spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters; (Revelation 17:1)

There came one of the seven angels ... This angelic interpretation of the vision is here identified with the series of the seven bowls just concluded, leading to the conclusion that what is about to be revealed in Rev.17 and Revelation 18, is actually a "playback" of the great judgment scene just seen, but with an elaboration and specific attention to what was included in the fall of "Babylon the great" (Revelation 16:19).

I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters ... But was she not seated upon a beast? Yes, but both she and the beast rise from the teeming populations of the earth.

Harlot ... "In Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20,31, etc., these terms are used to describe God's apostate people, those once joined to him in covenant relationship, but who had broken their marriage vow of faithfulness."[19] "In the Old Testament, this imagery is commonly used to denote religious apostasy."[20] "Is this harlot, then, Papal Rome? The answer is: Insofar as Papal Rome has wielded tyrannical power, turned persecutor, stood between the spirits of people and Christ, depraved the consciences of people, withheld the truth, sought aggrandizement and demonstrated the power of a political engine rather than that of a witness of Christ, she has inherited the features of Babylon."[21]

Note that there are three Babylons: (1) the original city of that name situated upon the Euphrates river, and the historical persecutor of the first Israel; (2) the pagan city of Rome, symbolized by the sea-beast (Revelation 13:1), and also its counterpart ridden by the harlot; and (3) the "Mystery Babylon" symbolized both by the land-beast and by the harlot herself. In this and the following chapters it is the third meaning which predominates.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Robert H. Mounce, Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 307.

[21] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 611.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven vials,.... It may be the first of them, since one of the four beasts designs the first of them, in Revelation 6:1 though Brightman thinks the fifth angel is meant, because he poured out his vial on the seat of the beast, who is by this angel described; but rather this is the seventh and last angel, concerned in the utter destruction of antichrist: and therefore proposes to John to show him the judgment of the great whore:

and talked with me, saying unto me, come hither: he conversed with him in a friendly manner, see Zechariah 1:9 and desires him to come nearer to him, and go along with him, adding,

I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore; that noted and famous one, known before to John by the names of Jezabel and Babylon, who taught and caused many to commit fornication, Revelation 2:20 Revelation 14:8 and is no other than Rome Papal; for that a city or state is meant is clear from Revelation 17:18 and it is usual for idolatrous or apostate cities to be called whores or harlots, see Isaiah 1:21 Ezekiel 23:2 and she is called a "great" one, because of the largeness of the Papal see; and because of the multitude of persons, the kings of the earth, and the inhabitants of it, with whom the Romish antichrist has committed spiritual fornication, or idolatry: her "judgment" signifies either her sin and wickedness; in which sense the word is used in Romans 5:16 and which is exposed, Revelation 17:5 namely, her idolatry and cruelty; or else her condemnation, and the execution of it, suggested in Revelation 17:8 and more largely described in the following chapter:

that sitteth upon many waters; which in Revelation 17:15 are interpreted of people, multitudes, nations, and tongues, subject to the jurisdiction of Rome; and so several antichristian states are in the preceding chapter signified by the sea, and by rivers and fountains of water: and this is said in reference to Babylon, an emblem of the Romish harlot, which was situated upon the river Euphrates, and is therefore said to dwell upon many waters, Jeremiah 51:13 her sitting here may be in allusion to the posture of harlots plying of men; or may denote her ease, rest, and grandeur, sitting as a queen; and is chiefly expressive of her power and dominion over the kings and nations of the earth, Revelation 17:18.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And 1 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 2 thee the a judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:

(1) The state of the Church militant being declared, now follows the state of the church overcoming and getting victory, as I showed before in the beginning of the tenth chapter. This state is set forth in four chapters. As in the place before I noted, that in that history the order of time was not always exactly observed so the same is to be understood in this history, that it is distinguished according to the people of which it speaks, and that the stories of the people are observed in the time of it. For first is delivered the story of Babylon destroyed in this and the next chapter (for this Babylon out of all doubt, shall perish before the two beasts and the dragon). Secondly, is delivered the destruction of both the two beasts, chapter nineteen and lastly of the dragon, chapter eighteen. In the story of the spiritual Babylon, are distinctly set forth the state of it in this chapter, and the overthrow done from the first argument, consisting of the particular calling of the prophet (as often before) and a general proposition. {(2)} That is, that damnable harlot, by a figure of speech called "hyppalage". For John as yet had not seen her. Although another interpretation may be thought of, yet I like this better.

(a) The sentence that is pronounce against this harlot.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Revelation 17:1-18. The harlot Babylon‘s gaud: The beast on which she rides, having seven heads and ten horns, shall be the instrument of judgment on her.

As Revelation 16:12 stated generally the vial judgment about to be poured on the harlot, Babylon‘s power, as the seventeenth and eighteen chapters give the same in detail, so the nineteenth chapter gives in detail the judgment on the beast and the false prophet, summarily alluded to in Revelation 16:13-15, in connection with the Lord‘s coming.

unto me — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit.

many — So A. But B, “the many waters” (Jeremiah 51:13); Revelation 17:15, below, explains the sense. The whore is the apostate Church, just as “the woman” (Revelation 12:1-6) is the Church while faithful. Satan having failed by violence, tries too successfully to seduce her by the allurements of the world; unlike her Lord, she was overcome by this temptation; hence she is seen sitting on the scarlet-colored beast, no longer the wife, but the harlot; no longer Jerusalem, but spiritually Sodom (Revelation 11:8).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

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.

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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)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

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 III., 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,” xix., 106-110.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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:

And there came one of the seven angels, saying, Come hither — This relation concerning the great whore, and that concerning the wife of the Lamb, Revelation 21:9,10, have the same introduction, in token of the exact opposition between them.

I will show thee the judgment of the great whore — Which is now circumstantially described.

That sitteth as a queen — In pomp, power, ease, and luxury.

Upon many waters — Many people and nations, verse15. Revelation 17:15

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Revelation 17

From the commencement of this chapter to the end of the book there extends a connected train of prophetical annunciation, the general import of which seems clear. Under the figure of a woman seated, upon a beast, though the symbol is afterwards changed to that of a city designated by the name Babylon, some great foe to the cause of Christ and of piety is represented, at first in a state of great activity and power, and afterwards overwhelmed with a very sudden and complete destruction. The terrible severity of this overthrow is enforced by a variety of images and representations in Revelation 18:1-24, which are followed by an account of rejoicings among the people of God at the great deliverance.

Many waters. The meaning of this expression is explained in Revelation 17:15.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Scofield's Reference Notes

angels (See Scofield "Hebrews 1:4").

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Revelation 17:1". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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:

Ver. 1. And there came] This and the following chapters are set for the explanation of the dark and difficult passages in the former, in the three last vials especially.

One of the seven] Probably the seventh.

And talked with me] ελαλησε λαλια, familiarly as the Samaritess with her countrymen, John 4:42, or as the master with his scholar.

I will show unto thee] Thou shalt not only be an ear but an eye witness.

" Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,

Quam quae sunt oculis commissa fidelibus."


The judgment] The damnation of her; the destruction is reserved to the next chapter.

Of the great whore] The whore of Babylon, more infamous and notorious than any Thais, Lais, Phryne, Messalina, Orestilla ( cuius praeter formam nihil unquam bonus laudavit, Sallust), or Pope Joan, of whom Funccius the chronologer speaketh thus; Ego Funccius non dubito quin divinitus ita sit permissum ut femina fieret Pontifex eadem meretrix, &c.; I doubt not but that God therefore permitted a notorious harlot to be advanced to the popedom (and this about the very time when the popes were most busy in subjecting the kings of the earth, and making them their vassals), that he might point out to men this whore here mentioned, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 17:1.— The former vision represented a very afflicted state of the church; the true worshippers of God, few in number, driven out from society, flying into desart places for safety from persecution, prophesying in sackcloth, in a state of oppression and mourning, and often put to death for their testimony to the truth: yet the time of this afflicted state is limited to 1260 years; at the end of which period the oppressive persecuting power shall be destroyed; and purity, truth, and righteousness, which were oppressed and persecuted, shall flourish in a state of great safety, peace, and happiness. This is a much longer period of prophesy than either of the foregoing. To make the true meaning of it more clear, one of the angels who poured out the cup of God's wrath, is sent to St. John as a messenger, more fully to explain it; and we may justly look upon his interpretation as a sure key, which will warrant an application of the several representations; and so far as an angel from heaven explains it, we may be satisfied we have the true meaning of it: so that by the help of this explication in the prophesyitself, we have a sure interpretation of some of the more important parts of the vision, and of such as will make the interpretation of the rest very likely and probable.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The angel's invitation to the subsequent vision, One of the angels, talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee, &c.

Where we see the readiness of those ministering spirits, the holy angels, to do any good office for the saints, and with what cheerfulness they are employed about things for our consolation, and the sweet familiarity that is between them and the saints, evidenced by that expression, He talked with me, saying, Come hither.

Observe, 2. The promise which the angel makes to St. John, namely, to show him the judgment of the great whore. By the whore, all understand the city of Rome; only some will have it Rome Pagan, others Rome Papal, or the great idolatrous city and church of Rome. Idolatry is often in scripture style called whoredom; and idolaters are said to go a whoring from God. A whore is a person married to an husband, who afterwards proves false to his bed. The Papal present church of Rome deserves this name, having been guilty of the greatest defection and apostasy from the true evangelical doctrine and worship that ever was in the world; and she is deservedly also called the great whore, because of her whoredoms committed with so many under her power and jurisdiction, having many people subject to her, and for that reason is here said to sit upon many waters.

The true church is Christ's bride and spouse, she is betrothed unto him in righteousness, in loving-kindness, and in tender mercy; and at any time by idolatry to apostatize from him is spiritual whoredom, which shall not pass without deserved punishment.

Learn hence, How hateful idolatry is to God, and how highly it provokes God's wrath, even as the whoredom of a woman who plays the common harlot provokes the jealousy of her husband. Verily, never was husband more jealous of the chastity of his suspected wife, than God is jealous in point of worship.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 17:1. τὸ κρίμα) משפט, the account [reckoning], Revelation 17:16.— καὶ τῆς πόρνης, of the whore) Comp. Gloss, pp. 1195, 1440.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible


Revelation 17:1-4 John’s vision of the great whore, sitting upon the

scarlet coloured beast, arrayed in

purple and scarlet, with a golden cup in her hand.

Revelation 17:5 Her name.

Revelation 17:6 She is drunken with the blood of saints.

Revelation 17:7-17 The interpretation of the mystery of the beast, and

of his seven heads and ten horns,

Revelation 17:18 and of the woman.

This whole verse is but a preface to a new vision which John had; not new, as to the matter revealed in it; for it plainly revealeth matters relating to antichrist; and the matter of it contemporizeth with the three last vials, about the final ruin of antichrist, who was before described under the notion of a beast, here under the notion of a

great whore. A whore properly signifies one that is married, and is false to her husband’s bed; and so very well suits the Church of Rome, (if they yet deserve that name), whose faith was formerly spoken of throughout the world, Romans 1:8, but is long since turned idolatrous (idolatry, in the prophetic style, being quite through the Scripture called whoredom). She is said to

sit upon many waters, either because she exerciseth a jurisdiction over much people, or with allusion to old Babylon, (which gave her her name), which was situated near Euphrates, a river in which there was a great collection of waters. John is called to hear the counsels of God concerning her destruction, which though more generally and shortly revealed before, yet God here designs to reveal to John more fully, particularly, and plainly.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

из семи Ангелов Ссылка на этих ангелов соединяет главы 17-ю и 18-ю с чашами гнева (гл. 16), которые идут до второго пришествия Христа (см. пояснение к 16:17). Главы 17-я и 18-я сосредоточивают внимание на одном аспекте этих чаш гнева – на суде над Вавилоном. Уже описанные суды рассматриваются как суды против последней мировой системы.

великою блудницею См. пояснение к 14:8. Идолопоклонство или религиозное отступничество часто обозначается как блудодеяние, прелюбодеяние (ср. Иер. 3:6-9; Иез. 16:30 и послед., 20:30; Ос. 4:15; 5:3; 6:10; 9:1). Ниневия (Наум. 3:1-4), Тир (Ис. 23:17) и даже Иерусалим (Ис. 1:21) также описаны как блудные города.

сидящею на водах многих Эта картина усиливает представление о верховной власти блудницы. Это изображение правителя, сидящего на троне, управляющего водами, которые символически обозначают народы мира (см. ст. 15).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

After the accomplishment of the mystery of God by the pouring out of the seven vials, the prophet has a further and more particular vision of the same great persecuting power whose doom has been foretold. He is carried by one of the seven angels into the wilderness, and there sees a harlot riding upon a scarlet-colored beast, which is manifestly the same as the beast that rose out of the sea. Chap Revelation 13:1. A harlot is the appropriate symbol of an apostate church, and her riding upon the beast represents the fact that the beast supports her, and she uses it for the accomplishment of her base purposes. She is therefore the same for substance as the two-horned beast that "exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him." Chap Revelation 13:11-12.

The great whore; the great persecuting power, whose destruction had been foretold; called by this name on account of her awfully corrupting influence.

Sitteth upon many waters; ruleth over many nations. Verse Revelation 17:15.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


Under the Representation of a Woman, arrayed in purple and scarlet is shown unto John, the Whore of Babylon. Her Character given. The Victory of the Lamb. The Whore's Punishment.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

(1) The harlot sitting upon the waters--17:1-2.

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters." The term harlot has been used always in a figurative sense to denote wicked cities, as of Nineveh in Nahum 3:4; and of Jerusalem in Isaiah 1:21; and of Israel, when the nation became a harlot by the practice of idolatry in Revelation.

So here apostate Jerusalem, in broken relation with God, was given the mystic name Babylon, the mother of harlots. From generations past the execration of Israel had increased from the time of prophet's reprobations in Isaiah 1:21 to the Lord's lamentations in Matthew 23:29-39. By the elders of Israel the official responsibility for crucifying the Christ was placed upon Jerusalem in Matthew 27:25. The martyr Stephen laid upon Jerusalem with the criminal charges of "betrayers and murders" in Acts 7:52. The descriptions in Revelation, chapters 14:8; 17: l-6; 18: l-2 were but extensions of the same exposures in the continuing apostasies of Jerusalem.

The vision of the harlot that sitteth upon many waters was based upon the fact and the history that Jerusalem depended on her affiliations with the Roman Empire and its tributaries for commerce, revenue and support.

This statement has been considered an indication that the Harlot was Rome, sitting on the waters. But the same figure of speech was applied to Babylon in Jeremiah 51:13 : "0 thou that dwellest upon many waters." It was not a reference to a literal geographical location, but to commercial sources of revenue and support; and it was a very impressive imagery of Jerusalem's dependence on affiliations with the heathen tributaries of Rome.

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Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". 1966.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The fact that this chapter describes the judgment of Babylon referred to in Revelation 14:8 and Revelation 16:19 seems clear. It was one of the angels who poured out the bowl judgments who served as John"s guide as he viewed these events in his vision. The "great harlot" (Gr. pornes tes megales) is Babylon ( Revelation 17:5). The connection between Babylon and immorality (Gr. porneia) was evident as early as Revelation 14:8. She is the personification of spiritual fornication or idolatry (cf. Isaiah 23:15-17; Jeremiah 2:20-31; Jeremiah 13:27; Ezekiel 16:17-19; Hosea 2:5; Nahum 3:4). [Note: Ford, Revelation, p277; Wall, p205.]

"In OT prophetic discourse the imagery of the harlot is commonly used to denote religious apostasy." [Note: Mounce, p307.]

It is probably better to translate epi as "beside" rather than "on" many waters since the harlot sits astride the beast ( Revelation 17:3). Evidently the beast and she were on the shore in John"s vision (cf. John 21:1). The "many waters" represent humankind ( Revelation 17:15), not a specific geographical site. This fact indicates that it is Babylon as a symbol that is in view here rather than the physical city. Babylon dominates humankind. It is also true, however, that literal Babylon stood beside many waters; it was built on a network of canals ( Jeremiah 51:13). This description helps make the identification more certain.

"She leads the world in the pursuit of false religion whether it be paganism or perverted revealed religion. She is the symbol for a system that reaches back to the tower of Babel ( Genesis 10:9-10; Genesis 11:1-9) and extends into the future when it will peak under the regime of the beast." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp282-83. Cf. Seiss, pp387-90.]

There is similarity between this angel"s invitation to John and the one in Revelation 21:9. This is the first of many clues that the New Jerusalem ( Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5) is the divine counterpart of humanistic Babylon. [Note: Lee, 4:735; Wall, p205.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 17:1. One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls speaks to the Seer, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters. The judgment spoken of, as appears by the word used in the original, is judgment executed, not in process of execution. The harlot is obviously Babylon, but the name is a mystical one (Revelation 17:5), and the Seer will afterwards more fully explain it. ‘Many waters’ are interpreted by the angel in Revelation 17:15 as ‘peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues, and the fourfold division shows that we have a representation of the whole world. The figure is taken from Jeremiah 51:13, where Babylon is addressed, ‘O thou that dwellest upon many waters.’—‘Sitting’ is the emblem of authority and rule, accompanied by the thought of ease (comp. chap. Revelation 14:6).—The term ‘harlot’ points to the fact that this city seduced men from the true God to worldliness and sin (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Ezekiel 16:15).

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

must repeat what I have already taken notice of, both in the preface to the Apocalypse, and sometimes in the annotations, that there are three ways of expounding all the visions of this revelation, from the end of chap. iii. to the end of ver. 10. chap. xx. all of which seem grounded on the opinions of the ancient Fathers. According to the first, all these visions are only to be fulfilled in antichrist's time, a little before the end of the world. According to the second, the visions may be applied to particular events, which happened in the first three or four ages [centuries], under the persecuting heathens, till by Constantine, and the succeeding Christian emperors, idolatry by degrees was extirpated, and the faith of Christ triumphed over all its enemies, whether Jews or pagans. According to the third, by the great city of Babylon, is mystically and metaphorically signified all wicked great cities in the world, all the multitude of the wicked dispersed in all nations, their short and vain happiness, their persecutions and oppressions of the good and faithful servants of God, who live piously in this world, and who are called to be citizens of the celestial Jerusalem in the kingdom of God, where he reigneth for ever with his Angels and saints, and where they all reign with him, happy in his sight and enjoyment. I am more and more inclined to this third exposition, by reading this 17th chapter, with the contents of the 18th, 19th, and 20th chapters, till the 11th verse, and by reading what St. Jerome says in general terms, in his epistle to Marcella, tom. 4, part 1, p. 166, Nov. edit. "that all this book (of the Apocalypse) is either to be expounded spiritually, or if we follow a carnal interpretation, we must content ourselves with Jewish fables. And especially by reading what St. Augustine has delivered us upon the chief difficulties of the Apocalypse, in his 20th book de Civ. Dei [The City of God], from chap. vi. to chap. xvi. and from p. 578. to p. 594. tom. 7. Nov. edit. To expound then these chapters together according to this third interpretation. (Witham) --- Of the great harlot. Nothing can be better applied than this epithet to ancient Rome, which had conquered almost all the kingdoms of the known world, as it is said in ver. 18. she is the great city, a kingdom, which hath dominion over the kings of the earth; ver. 9. it was built upon seven mountains; ver. 6. was watered with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus Christ; and in fine, ver. 5. it was the great Babylon, as St. Peter, in his first epistle, pleases to call it. (Calmet) --- Come, I will show thee the condemnation of the great harlot,...Babylon....the mother of the fornications. By this harlot, and this Babylon, is signified the multitude of all the wicked of all times and places, who have abandoned themselves to sensual pleasures, and sought for their happiness in riches and worldly grandeur; for this reason she is said to carry on her forehead this inscription, a mystery; that is, to be understood in a mystical sense of all the wicked, who make up as it were one city, as St. Augustine observes, which may be called Babylon, the city of confusion, the city of idolatry, and of all manner of vices. --- The beast, that is, the devil, carries her, whose suggestions the wicked follow. He comes out from the bottomless pit. He was, i.e. had a much greater and more extensive power over the wicked world before Christ's coming and incarnation; and he is not, i.e. according to St. Augustine, his power hath been much extenuated and lessened since that time. He is bound or chained up for a thousand years, as it is said, chap. xx. 2. By which may be understood all the time from Christ's coming, and the establishing of his Christian Church, till the last and severest persecution under antichrist. See St. Augustine, lib. xx. de Civ. Dei. chap. vii. And when he shall come again, and be let loose, as it were, in antichrist's time, he must continue a short while: for all the ancient fathers agree, by the interpretations they give to the Scripture, that antichrist, and consequently the devil with antichrist, must reign but a short time. The scarlet coloured beast, the devil, called the prince of this world, on whom the harlot gilded with gold sat; that is, all the wicked, and particularly all wicked kings and princes, with their worldly greatness, who were drunk with the wine of her prostitution; that is, who abandoned themselves and indulged their passions with all sensual pleasures, and contented themselves with the vain and deceitful happiness of this life; to be convinced of which, the Angel is said to have taken St. John in spirit into a wilderness from the company of the wicked world, the better to see and contemplate the vanity of their short and false happiness. This woman, the harlot, this Babylon, this multitude of the wicked, especially the heathen persecuting emperors at Rome, and in all other places, (and they who acted against the Christians under them) are said to be drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs, by putting the Christians, the Catholics and the servants of God to death, from the foundation of the world to its consummation, by the instigation of the beast, the devil. The beast, the devil, is represented with seven heads and ten horns; that is, with many heads and many horns, signified by the numbers seven and ten. See St. Augustine, chap. xxiii. p. 606. --- The seven heads, as it is said, ver. 9, are seven mountains and seven kings, i.e. a great many. And also the ten horns, (ver. 12.) are ten kings. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The angel tells John he will show him the condemnation of the harlot. Tyre was called a harlot by Isaiah (Isaiah 23:16-17), as was Ninevah by Nahum (Nahum 3:4 f) Also, Jerusalem was described as a harlot when the people turned from proper service to spiritual adultery. (Isaiah 1:21; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:12; Hosea 9:1; Jeremiah 2:20) The waters are identified in verse 15 as peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues. It seems possible to this writer that we first have a picture of Rome as the capital city of the empire and then as the head of the spiritually apostate church gone whoring after false religion.

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

seven angels . . . vials. See Revelation 15:7.

talked. App-121.

unto me. The texts omit.

unto = to.

judgment. App-177.

waters. See Revelation 17:15.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(1) And there came . . .—One of the vial-bearing angels summons the seer, saying, Hither I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters (or, the many waters—comp. Revelation 17:15). The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and they who inhabit the earth were made drunken (lost their reason and self-control) from the wine, the delicious and delirious draught of her fornication. Before we go further, it is well to make sure of our ground. Babylon was the great city, whose splendour dazzled, and whose power destroyed Jerusalem (Isaiah 39:1-8; Isaiah 13:19; Isaiah 14:4; Isaiah 14:13-14; Isaiah 47:5-8). Against Babylon the voices of the prophets were lifted up (Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 51:25); she seemed to them the embodiment of splendid vice and resistless power; “the glory of kingdoms,” “the golden city,” “who exalted her throne above the stars of God,” “who sat as a lady given to pleasures, and flattering herself that she would see no sorrow.” In her greatness and her hostility to Jerusalem she became a type of later world-powers; and, in St. John’s vision, Babylon, in her purple and her pomp, in her luxurious ness and her tyranny, takes her place. And it is explained in the vision that Babylon is no longer the literal Babylon, but the power which has taken her place of pride and empire. That power was Rome. Rome was in St. John’s day just what Babylon had been in the days of the prophets—“the hammer of the whole earth,” the “golden cup that made all the earth drunken” (Jeremiah 50:23; Jeremiah 51:7; comp. Revelation 17:2 of this chapter). At the same time, the way in which the Evangelist transfers to the Rome of his day the prophetic language which earlier prophets applied to ancient Babylon (compare these chapters, Revelation 17, 18, with Isaiah 47, Jeremiah 51:6-14) ought to be sufficient to warn us against limited and local interpretations, even if the seven-headed wild beast did not show us that the world-power, like the moral principles of which Babylon and Rome were examples, is not confined to one age. If we remember this, we shall see that the Babylon of the Apocalypse, while, undoubtedly, Pagan Rome, cannot be limited to it. Is it, then, the question must be asked, Papal Rome? The answer is: In so far as Papal Rome has wielded tyrant power, turned persecutor, stood between the spirits of men and Christ, depraved men’s consciences, withheld the truth, connived at viciousness, sought aggrandisement, and been a political engine rather than a witness for the righteous King, she has inherited the features of Babylon. The recognition of these features led Dante to apply this very passage in the Apocalypse to Rome under the rule of worldly and tyrant popes, when he exclaimed to the shade of Nicholas III. (Il compiuto):—

“Of shepherds like to you the Evangelist

Was ware, when her who sits upon the waves

With kings in filthy whoredom he beheld:

She who with seven heads tower’d at her birth,

And from ten horns her proof of glory drew

Long as her spouse in virtue took delight.

Of gold and silver ye have made your god,

Differing wherein from the idolater,

But that he worships one, a hundred ye!”

—Inferno, Cant, xix., 109-117.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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:
15:1,6; 17:1-17; 21:9
4:1; 21:15; Luke 9:30; 24:32
I will
16:19; 18:16-19
the great
4,5,15,16; 19:2; Isaiah 57:3; Nahum 3:4,5
that sitteth
15; Jeremiah 51:13
Reciprocal: Exodus 34:15 - whoring;  Leviticus 17:7 - gone a whoring;  Numbers 24:7 - many waters;  Judges 2:17 - whoring;  2 Samuel 22:5 - the floods;  2 Chronicles 21:11 - fornication;  Psalm 73:27 - that go;  Psalm 106:39 - went;  Psalm 124:4 - the waters;  Psalm 137:8 - who art;  Proverbs 23:28 - increaseth;  Isaiah 13:1 - of Babylon;  Isaiah 17:12 - mighty;  Isaiah 27:1 - in the sea;  Isaiah 57:5 - Enflaming;  Jeremiah 47:2 - waters;  Jeremiah 51:25 - which destroyest;  Ezekiel 16:25 - and hast made;  Ezekiel 16:30 - the work;  Ezekiel 24:8 - I have set;  Ezekiel 30:19 - GeneralEzekiel 31:4 - waters;  Daniel 11:38 - a god;  Hosea 1:2 - for;  Hosea 2:5 - their mother;  Micah 7:10 - she that;  Nahum 2:8 - like;  Zechariah 1:9 - the angel;  Zechariah 5:7 - is;  Ephesians 4:19 - with;  Revelation 11:8 - the great;  Revelation 15:7 - seven;  Revelation 17:7 - I will;  Revelation 22:15 - whoremongers

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation


(Revelation 17:1-6).


1. — The Seer first beholds the great harlot sitting "upon the{*The insertion of the article is a questioned reading. Its place, however, in the text is supported by many competent authorities. The definite article in introducing subjects of interest is a characteristic feature of the Apocalypse. It marks the definiteness and importance of the subject so spoken of. See "the Heaven," "the rainbow," "the seven thunders" (Revelation 10:1-11), "the beast" (Revelation 11:7), "the two wings of the great eagle" (Revelation 12:14), etc. The use of the article brings into prominence subjects which might otherwise be regarded as of trivial moment.} many waters" (see Jeremiah 51:13).

In the explanation of the vision (vv. 7-18) we are informed who these waters signify: "The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." The introduction of "multitudes" into the usual formula expressing universality marks the heterogeneous character of those subject to her sway. "The great harlot sits upon the many waters." She rules and dominates the nations religiously, as the Beast does politically. Her following is an almost universal one. She herself is a vast religious system. The woman and the Beast represent distinct ideas. The former is the religious system; the latter the civil power. Corruption of the truth is characteristic of Babylon. Daring self-will and open opposition to God are marked features of the Beast. Corruption and self-will have been at work from earliest ages, and in fact were the two great evils let loose amongst the race in the period preceding the flood (Genesis 6:11). Here we witness the full-blown development of the same crimes. Corruption is Godward; violence manward. The former is embodied and concentrated in the woman, who is a licentious one, for she is termed a harlot and the mother of harlots; the Beast is openly bad and exercises brute force, trampling down ruthlessly all that opposes, and at the end daringly comes out in military force and array against Christ and His heavenly army (Revelation 19:19).

The Beast first destroys the woman, then flushed with victory and intoxicated with power madly and impiously leads on his armies against the Lamb and His militant host. The principles of Babylon have been at work from earliest times, but its highest development is yet future. It is not the papal system alone,{*"It cannot be doubted that our most eminent divines have commonly held and taught that the apocalyptic prophecies concerning Babylon were designed by the Holy Spirit to describe the Church of Rome. Not only they who flourished at the period of the Reformation, such as Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Jewel, and the Authors of the Homilies, but they also who followed them in the next, the most learned age of our theology — I mean the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century — proclaimed openly the same doctrine. And it was maintained by those in that learned age who were most eminent for sober moderation and christian charity as well as profound erudition. It may suffice to mention the illustrious names of the two brightest luminaries of the English Church: Richard Hooker and Bishop Andrewes." — Wordsworth on the Apocalypse. Does pagan Rome or papal Rome inherit the character and features of the apocalyptic Babylon? The latter surely. In so far as popery has corrupted the truth, persecuted the saints of God, advanced arrogant and blasphemous claims, assumed universal dominion, and otherwise drunk into the spirit and adopted the principles and practices of the "Great Harlot" — she is in character the Babylon of the Apocalypse, but as we have already remarked, the Babylon of prophecy is worse — infinitely more than ever the papal system has been. We look for a fuller development of evil. Babylon is future.} but the fusion of parties bearing the Christian name into one vast system of evil. The characteristics of the papacy in the Middle Ages are evidently witnessed in the whore of the Apocalypse. "The great whore" is not only Satan's counterfeit of the true Church, but is the concentrated expression of every antichristian movement and sect then in existence, consolidated and controlled by Satan. The pretensions of the whore, or harlot, are supported by the military forces and prestige of the apostate empire, whilst her influence extends throughout the known world. This gigantic system of spiritual whoredom is, without doubt, Satan's masterpiece, and the vilest thing beneath the sun.

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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation".

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

This chapter (like some others) goes back to the time just before the Reformation, and will make symbolic predictions of that revolution. It should be stated that while the institution of church and state (which has not yet been dissolved as to the start of this chapter), is regarded as Babylon the Great and an enemy of God, the church part of the combination will seem to receive the more attention from the Lord in his condemnations. That is because it deals with the affairs of the soul which are more important than those of the secular government. Yet because the apostate church was supported by the political power of Rome and her Empire, much of the language in the symbols will be based upon the geographical and political features of that city. Show unto thee the judgment or give John a prediction of God"s judgments in a vision. The great whore is said of the apostate church because false religions of all kinds are likened to immorality in figurative language. Sitteth upon many waters. Waters in symbolic language means people upon whom the corrupt institution pressed down with her desolating weight of intolerance and persecution.


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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 17:1

Revelation 17:1 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:

This was the fifth angel who poured the fifth vial upon the throne of the beast, { Revelation 16:10} who invited John to him, saying,

Come hither;

that Isaiah, to the place where he had the vision

of the great whore,

and her judgment from Almighty God revealed unto him, as he testified in this and Revelation 18:1-24 and Revelation 19:1-21. This great whore is called by name, mystery Babylon the great. { Revelation 17:5}

That sitteth upon many waters.

Which waters are expounded by the angel to the peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. { Revelation 17:15}

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation".

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible


1. Picture of the harlot mounted on the beast, Revelation 17:1-6.

1.And—Antichrist’s capital has fallen; but antichrist himself is not dead nor imprisoned until Revelation 19:20; and his harlot still lives, and her destiny is not revealed until Revelation 17:16.

One of the seven angels—For, doubtless, one of the destroyers is one of the best expounders of the destruction. Which of the seven is not clear, but perhaps the seventh, as the last and greatest.

The judgment—John first shows the character and the sentence of judgment in Revelation 17:15-16.

Great whore— On the question whether the harlot represents pagan Rome or the papal Church, Alford forcibly says: “The figure here used, of a harlot who has committed fornication with secular kings and peoples, is frequent in the prophets, and has one principal meaning and application, namely, to God’s Church and people, that had forsaken him, and had attached herself to others. In eighteen places out of twenty-one, where the figure occurs, such is its import, namely, in Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:8; Ezekiel 16:15-16; Ezekiel 16:28; Ezekiel 16:31; Ezekiel 16:35; Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 23:5; Ezekiel 23:19; Ezekiel 23:44; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3-4, [Micah 1:7.] In three places only is the word applied to heathen cities, namely, in Isaiah 23:15-16, to Tyre, where, Revelation 17:17, it is also said, ‘She shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth;’ and in Nahum 3:4, to Nineveh, which is called the ‘well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.’”

And here, we note, it appears that Israel, though a corrupt Church, was still a true Church, and the truly pious within her limits were heirs of salvation. She was, at her worst, better than heathendom. And so of Rome. And in regard to the better side of Rome, see our note 2 Thessalonians 2:9. There is no fair doubt that the Christian Church appears as a woman in Revelation 12:1. And the antithesis between the harlot of antichrist and the bride of Christ is very decisive. Note on Revelation 11:1.

Sitteth upon many waters—Rome on the Tiber was not seated on many waters. It was more true of Babylon on the Euphrates. But Rome as a commercial power, especially with those nations subject to her power, was based upon many waters.

Fornication, the latter more deeply have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. Such was not a true picture of the relation of Rome to the kings and peoples of the world. She conquered them by force, and ruled them by equitable civilizing force, save when her own domination required injustice. In religious matters she stood aloof, and allowed each nation its own national superstition. She was no seducer or fornicator. These qualities belong to a later than pagan Rome.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 17:1. A fresh vision commences (cf.Revelation 4:1), still punitive (Revelation 16:1), but with an exchange of angelic cicerones (as Slav. En. xxi.). The Beast which has already (in 13) done duty as the empire is now the support of the capital. Rome, personified (so Sib. Or. iii. 46–92, before 80 A.D.) as a feminine figure, rides on a beast of the same colour, like a Bacchante on the panther, or like the Syrian Astarte on a lion.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

1. Come, and I will show you. So far five enemies of Christ have been introduced to us: the dragon (Satan); the beast from the sea (anti-christian government); the beast from the earth, who is the false prophet (anti-christian religion and philosophy); the prostitute Babylon (anti-christian seduction); and the men who have the mark of the beast (who are rebels against God). We saw the doom of those who have the mark of the beast in chapters 15 & 16. We will see the doom of Babylon in Revelation 18:2; the doom of the sea beast and the false prophet (earth beast) in Revelation 19:20; and the doom of the dragon (Satan) in Revelation 20:10. How the great prostitute is to bepunished. Note that she is a prostitute, not an adulteress! She is not an apostate church, but rather the world as it symbolizes LUXURY, VICE, and GLAMOUR (1 John 2:16).




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 17:1". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.