An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 18 June 2011; Revised 22 May 2016
Scripture: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found here. The Revelation Scripture text is taken from the NASB (1977 Edition) and unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are from the NASB 1995 Updated Edition. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.
Ancient Sources: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers are available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library or Early Christian Writings. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.). Online.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from Walter Bauer, W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1957), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Judgment Against Babylon (18:1-8)
1― After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
After these things: John again authenticates his testimony by referring to the vision just completed concerning the seven-headed beast and the woman, and reports seeing another or a different angel. John repeatedly distinguishes his writing from fictional tales by his assertion of a personal experience with God and His heavenly messengers. Unlike the other angelic messengers John saw (5:2; 7:1, 2; 8:2; 10:1, 5; 14:6), this one is said to possess a “glory” or a radiance emanating from his body that shed great light on the earth as he passed over. Whether this was a personal characteristic ("his" glory) or an effect from having just come from the presence of God (cf. Ps 104:2; Ex 34:29-35; 1 Tim 6:16) is not clear. The angel is given great authority, which may refer to both ability and latitude in decision-making. Given what follows “authority” may be used in the sense of having the commission from God to make the pronouncement of verses 2-3, or it may refer to the personal characteristic which enabled him to project his light over the earth.
2― And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great: The angel elevates his voice to be heard far and wide and repeats the funeral dirge of 14:8 (cf. Isa 21:9; Jer 51:8). Robertson characterizes the lament as a solemn dirge of the damned. God has been waiting to pronounce His judgment and the hour has now arrived. Note that the announcement of Babylon's fall precedes her actual demise and the verbs “fallen, fallen” are in the past tense to indicate an accomplished fact. God not only knows the end from the beginning, but He has the necessary power to accomplish all He decrees.
She has become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. ind., to be or to become. The aorist tense of ginomai used here and elsewhere in Revelation generally denotes a qualitative change in circumstance as a result of God’s judgment, particularly in the trumpet and bowl plagues (6:12; 8:7f, 11; 11:13; 16:2ff, 10, 18f and here). While there is no supporting preposition in this verse to indicate direction ginomai can also denote a change of location and mean “to come or go.” The prophetic meaning then may be that Babylon will go to the place she emulates. a dwelling place: Grk. katoikētērion refers to a place of living or habitation (Rienecker). of demons: Grk. daimonion means demon or evil spirit and occurs 63 times in the apostolic writings. Daimonion was historically derived from daiomai, to divide or apportion and may be connected with the idea of the god of the dead as a divider of corpses (DNTT, I, 450). and a prison: Grk. phulakē means a watch or guard in the sense of a place of guarding prisoners. The NIV has “haunt,” giving the interpretation that instead of being held prisoner the demons and unclean spirits are keeping watch over fallen Babylon (Johnson).
of every unclean spirit: The angel declares that in the aftermath of judgment Babylon has become both a prison and dwelling place of demons, unclean spirits and unclean birds. The terms “demon” and “unclean spirit” are essentially synonymous in Scripture (cf. Luke 9:42). Neither term refers to a ghost or a spirit of a dead person. Demons are subordinate to Satan and are his angels (Mark 3:22-23; Eph 2:2) and while active in the world (Eph 6:12), they are destined for judgment (Matt 8:29; 25:41). Worship in idolatrous religions brings people into contact with demons that are the true reality behind the pagan deities (Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17; 2 Chron 11:15; Ps 106:37; 1 Cor 10:20f; Rev 9:20).
Many scholars believe this description to be an allusion to the prophecy that God’s judgment on the ancient city of Babel would cause such desolation that only desert animals would continue to live there (cf. Isa 13:21; 34:11; Jer 50:39). Upon examining the texts the only correspondence between that prophecy and the one here is one of theme. An animal is not a demon and the historic site of Babel has never been devoid of some human population. However, there is a prophecy against Babylon that may have a more direct bearing on this verse – “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (Isa 14:15). In other words, the prison of demons and unclean spirits may refer to Hades. Babylon will certainly join the other nations in the pit of Hades (cf. Ezek 32:17-30), the dwelling place of all that belongs to the devil.
In addition, the prophecy could refer to false beliefs, idolatry and pseudo-science that descended from Babel and dominated in the Roman Empire, all of which had demonic origins. The apostle Paul warned of three specific demon inspired practices that were gaining a foothold in some congregations – religious syncretism (1 Cor 10:21), vegetarianism and the prohibition of marriage (1 Tim 4:3), all of which persist to this day. The tragedy is that Christian churches, institutions and organizations can become dwelling places of demons without resorting to strange satanic rituals or black magic. From a human point of view we would be tempted to correct Paul and declare these other beliefs as simply different points of view. However, any belief or practice, even one that appears beneficial, may be considered demonic when it contradicts or opposes God’s intentions and instruction as expressed in Scripture (cf. 9:20; Matt 16:23; Acts 5:3; 1 Cor 10:20-21; 2 Cor 11:14; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 5:14f; James 3:13-16). Such false teaching continues because human nature does not really want to live under God’s authority.
and a prison of every unclean and hateful: Grk. miseō, perf. pass. part., to have a strong dislike for some person or thing, to hate or disdain. bird: “Hateful” is not an adjective describing the bird. The verb indicates that the bird receives hatred (Rienecker). An unclean and hated bird would be an allusion to the birds prohibited as food in the Torah, specifically predator or scavenger birds (Lev 11:13-19) and points to the lack of discrimination as to things that should be avoided. The judgment simply recognizes that what has been the character of Babylon from the beginning is its condition at the end of the age.
3― “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”
For all the nations: The angel continues by indicting Babylon’s political and commercial connections. The nations have drunk of the harlot’s wine, which speaks of her worldwide influence. have drunk: Grk. pinō, perf. act. ind., to take in a liquid, in a physical sense of water or wine. NETN suggests the most likely reading is to depict a drunken stupor, but the verb simply refers to consumption and not the degree. The verb for imbibing to the point of drunkenness is methuskō (Eph 5:18), not pinō. of the wine: As a metaphor in this context “wine” may refer to the wealth and prosperity the nations enjoy from Babylon’s commerce. The pursuit of wealth can be addictive and dull spiritual sensitivities.
of the passion: Grk. thumos, anger or wrath. of her immorality: Grk. porneia. See 14:8 on “passion of her immorality.” The word “passion” literally means “anger,” and the phrase “passion of her immorality” most likely depicts not lust for her paramours but hatred of God’s standards of holiness. Yeshua said that one cannot serve both God and wealth (Matt 6:24), but Babylon rejects any religious scruple to impede her goals or impugn her greed. The harlot openly and defiantly pursues her sinning ways. and the kings of the earth: The angel also adds the comment from 17:2 that not only have countries and citizens been involved with Babylon, but the kings of the earth especially committed immorality with her, which reinforces the view of the harlot’s international appeal and clever stratagems.
and the merchants: Grk. emporos is from poros, meaning a journey, and thus may refer to merchants who dealt in foreign exports and imports (Mounce). The angel adds a third group to the indictment - merchants. The harlot Babylon not only is successful in her political relationships, but also prospers as an enterprising entrepreneur. have become rich: Grk. plouteō, aor. act. ind., to possess in abundance, to be rich or wealthy. by the wealth of her sensuality: This phrase actually translates a single word, Grk. strēnos, which means strong, mighty, arrogant, or complacent luxury (Rienecker). “Sensuality” would only apply if understood in the narrow sense of having material possessions that are pleasing to the senses. The noun represents a craving for the finest in material possessions.
In ancient times Babylon’s immense riches came from its far-reaching commercial traffic. Among the Greeks and Romans the word "Babylon" was proverbial for its trade and magnificence (DNTT, I, 140), and powerful alliances developed between the wealthy class and the ruling aristocracy. There were no anti-trust laws in ancient times, so those with the money and the sword were able to forge strong political partnerships that dominated commerce and limited competition. So, too, Babylon of these last days is the home of significant international commercial operations.
Of the four principal candidates for Mystery Babylon, Rome qualifies the best by the commercial criteria set forth in this chapter. As the Jesuit scholar Malachi Martin has emphasized in his book Rich Church, Poor Church, the modern Vatican is not merely a church headquarters, but a city-state that controls most of Rome, operates a bank with financial tentacles that reach throughout the world, posts ambassadors in over 100 countries and exercises tremendous political influence around the world (195). Nino Lo Bello, a Catholic journalist, points out in his book The Vatican Empire that the Vatican even played a key role in influencing the formation of the European Common Market and the drafting of the Common Market Treaty that was signed in Rome on March 25, 1957 (185).
The Vatican also inserts itself into many international controversies without being invited. When the Pope speaks, world leaders listen. Indeed, there is hardly a national president or dictator that does not consider the Vatican’s power in political decisions, as distasteful as it may be to them. Certainly the Vatican state is defenseless and lacks the military power to commit aggression or enforce its will on any other state. But, as Soviet Foreign Minister Andre Gromyko once stated, “Nobody gives you power. Power is something you take” (186). And, Martin goes on to observe, "Sovereignty and papal temporal power mean something else today, and they accrue to the papacy because, as Gromyko asserted, the papacy was and is strong enough to take that power. This is probably what galls its enemies and spurs its critics" (194).
Not many are aware that with the aid of its powerful bank and many commercial enterprises the Vatican has amassed so much wealth as to rival the richest international conglomerate. In addition, Rome has become the site for the headquarters of many multinational corporations and agencies, including United Nations programs that are part of the International Monetary Fund. Rome indeed makes the merchants of the world rich. For an extensive chronicle of the Vatican’s wealth see the aforementioned books by Martin and Lo Bello. Martin has serious criticism of his church’s extensive wealth, but Lo Bello sees nothing wrong with the Vatican stockpiling gold bullion or running commercial corporations.
The point of this discussion about the Vatican is to consider who would possess the global political influence and economic power to rival that of the beast, and to engender such hatred as to become the object of the wrath of the ten horns and the beast. The Vatican certainly qualifies on those grounds. Thus, when Babylon falls, the merchants and their customers will suffer severely from her condemnation.
4― And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
Another voice from heaven, probably that of the Chief Shepherd. Come out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. act. imp., stated as a command, means to come out or to depart from (Rienecker). Yeshua urgently commands His people to leave Babylon, echoing a similar prophetic call, “Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech 2:7; cf. Isa 48:20; 52:11; Jer 50:8; 51:6, 45). The exhortation to Israel must have had more meaning than just physical leaving, because the Jews could not of their own volition leave Babylon once they were in captivity. However, when they were given permission to return to their homeland many were reluctant to leave their comfortable homes and vineyards (which they had been encouraged to build and to plant, Jer 29:5) for the difficult journey and uncertain conditions in a desolate land (Baron 70). The long captivity had cooled their love for Jerusalem and bred toleration of worldly values.
The “coming out” of the last days could have two kinds of application. First, the divine command may apply to disciples of Yeshua living in Babylon and throughout Babylon’s kingdom to flee before destruction falls. Lot and his family were given the opportunity to leave Sodom before the “fire of God” fell (Gen 19:20). In similar fashion in A.D. 70 Messianic Jews in Jerusalem were warned by a prophet of the impending Roman invasion, fled to a town called Pella and so were spared (Stern 139). Even though God may permit saints to be martyred by Babylon (17:6; 18:24), He still seeks to spare His saints from harm when the beast and the ten kings execute His judgment on her.
The second kind of application is to view the command to leave, even flee, from a culture or a system that encourages the idolatry of greed and investing more in the earth than in heaven (Matt 6:19; 19:21; Luke 12:33; 1 Cor 10:14; 2 Cor 6:14-17; Eph 5:3, 11; Col 3:5; 1 Tim 6:9ff). Every believer needs to examine whether his lifestyle tends toward materialism or any practice that would interfere with the Lordship of Yeshua. A disciple’s duty in those circumstances is clear, since God and money are competitive masters (Matt 6:24). When God’s commandments are violated by organizations or businesses the one that professes to know and follow Yeshua must refuse to sacrifice godliness for expediency, and even speak against wrongdoing (cf. Matt 23:3; Eph 5:11).
so that you will not participate: Grk. sugkoinoneō means to be a partner with or a copartner (Rienecker) and carries the intent of both fellowship and agreement (cf. Eph 5:11). in her sins and receive of her plagues: Cowardly compliance with Babylon risks the divine indictment of being an accessory after the fact, which is the most likely meaning of “participate in her sins.” It is better for the believer to shift investments and to leave membership, employment, association or any other relationship, if necessary, to keep one’s integrity and the favor of the Lord. God does not want the elect in danger of falling into sin and receiving the just punishment for sin. Better to die a martyr’s death, if it should come to that, than a sinner’s death.
5― for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
her sins have piled up: Grk. kollaō, "pile up," means to stick to or to join to (Rienecker). The noun kolla refers to gluten or glue (Robertson). The Lord offers a word picture of the egregious nature of Babylon’s rebellion. as high as: Grk. achri, “as high as,” is a preposition meaning “as far as” to denote relative distance when used with a place. Marshall renders the preposition “up to.” heaven: Her sins have been joined one to another and the sheer quantity creates a pile that reaches to “heaven,” lit. “the heaven” (Marshall), which may refer to the sky overhead the city or to God’s dwelling place. Either interpretation carries the sense of the number of sins being beyond counting.
and God has remembered her iniquities: Grk. adikēma means an unrighteous act or injustice (Rienecker). The mention of God memory points to an accumulation over time, most likely dating from the Tower of Babel rebellion. The blessing for the saints is that through the blood of Yeshua forgiven sins are not remembered (Isa 43:25; 64:9; Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12). Many Christians speak of God dropping their sins into the "sea of forgetfulness" (cf. Mic 7:19), but the omniscient God does not have amnesia nor can He forget anything. The gracious God certainly overlooks the many mistakes committed by His saints and offers instant forgiveness for any sin (1 John 1:8 - 2:1), yet He will remember a person’s sins should he turn away from faithfully following the Lord (Jer 14:10; 44:21; Ezek 3:20; 18:24; 21:24; 33:13; Hos 7:2; 9:9; Matt 7:21ff).
6― “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
Pay her back: Grk. apodidomi, aor. act. imp., has a range of meaning, including (1) give away, give up, give out; (2) give back, return; or (3) render, reward, or recompense. even as she has paid: Grk. apodidomi, aor. act. ind. The Lord decrees that justice be done and refers to two principles in the Torah for determining the just judgment. The phrase “pay her back even as she has paid” is drawn from the proportional (eye-for-eye) standard of punishment and compensation of the Torah (Ex 21:24; Deut 19:21), which recognized three levels of causation in cases of personal injury and property loss.
(1) For accidental property loss the damages were divided equally between the parties (Ex 21:35). Accidental loss of life was not to be punished and God called for measures to protect the life of the offender from revenge of the victim’s family (Ex 21:13; Deut 19:4-6). (2) For negligence the offender must bear the full loss by restitution or satisfaction (Ex 21:36; 22:6). If negligence caused a death the offender deserved death, but the death penalty could be averted by means of a ransom (Ex 21:29-30). (3) For intentional harm the offender should bear the full loss plus punitive damages (Ex 22:1.) For intentional murder the offender was to be executed without pity (Ex 21:14; Lev 24:19; Deut 19:11-13).
The translation of “paid” may seem to fit the commercial activities of Babylon, but the NIV translation “give back to her as she has given” is closer to the literal meaning. The Complete Jewish Bible gives the sense as “render to her as she rendered to others.” Babylon deserves to be treated as she has treated others and to receive a just punishment for her crimes (cf. Ps 137:8). God has always destroyed those who have slain the saints. (See Lactantius, Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died, a chronicle of God’s judgment on Roman emperors.) Thus, Babylon earns destruction by fire.
give back to her double: The second justice principle is found in the phrase “give back to her double,” which may be literally translated “double ye the double” (Marshall). In the Torah a thief was required to pay double the value of the stolen property that was found in his possession (Ex 22:4, 7, 9). For stolen livestock that was slaughtered or sold, the thief was required to pay at least four times the value (Ex 22:1), i.e., double the double. Babylon has amassed her wealth through legal exploitation and thus deserves to suffer double the loss of her property. God’s judgment of double retribution may also be comparable to the concept of multiple punishments, such as was meted out to Israel (Jer 16:18; 17:18). Babylon’s sins are so horrific (v. 24) that double punishment is not sufficient, and so the Lord decrees four punishments (double the double), which are detailed in verse 8.
7― “To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT AS A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.’
To the degree that she glorified: Grk. doxazo means to praise, honor, or magnify someone for something done. herself and lived sensuously: Grk. strēniaō means to live in luxury or live sensuously. See 18:3 on use of the corresponding noun strēnos. to the same degree give her torment: Grk. basanos referred to torture, torment or severe pain. The language of the proportional judgment in verse 6 continues by associating the punishment with the amount of Babylon’s self-congratulation and self-indulgence. In modern terms, Babylon has enjoyed the prestige of royalty and the profits of luxurious living while committing crimes against humanity, for which only God can punish as she deserves. Babylon is lulled into thinking that she will be able to co-exist with the Antichrist and the beast’s kingdom.
she says in her heart: The self-assurance that Babylon expresses is probably an allusion to Isaiah 47:7-8,
“Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’ These things you did not consider nor remember the outcome of them. ‘Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, who dwells securely, who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I will not sit as a widow, nor know loss of children.’ But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day: loss of children and widowhood.
The harlot has placed her security in a fickle lover who will turn against her when she has served her purpose, and the Antichrist will achieve God’s purpose by serving as the instrument of her destruction.
8― “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.
in one day her plagues will come: Conflict between the money and the sword will accelerate until the sword ends the matter in a fiery conflagration (17:16), fulfilling the prophecy of 14:8, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great.” Babylon’s confidence in her position and favor with the beast’s political machine will give way to horrible shock when judgment comes “in one day” as prophesied in Isaiah 47:9. While the reference to "day" may be a metaphor for suddenness, there is no reason not to take it literally. The idiom simply means that from the viewpoint of the attacker one specific day is chosen for the assault and from the viewpoint of Babylon the attack is totally unexpected. Since Babylon is a kingdom as well as a city, the phrase would indicate a coordinated plan to strike all assets of Babylon on one specific day. The time also argues against the preterist interpretation because when Nero set fire to Rome the city burned for six days (Seutonius, VI, 38).
pestilence: Grk. thanatos, “pestilence,” lit. means “death” (Rienecker). In some contexts the word refers to the manner or cause of death, such as disease. and mourning and famine and she will be burned up: Grk. katakaio means to burn up, burn down, or consume completely with fire. The character of her judgment is incredible for it includes death, sorrow and famine, and total destruction by fire. God promised that He would destroy Babylon “as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors…no man will live there nor will any son of man reside in it” (Jer 50:40). Of course, the historic city of Babel has never been destroyed “as Sodom and Gomorrah.” Babel eventually fell into ruins after the overthrow by the Medes and then the Persians, but it continued to be partially inhabited down through the centuries. Since the agents of Babylon’s destruction are the ten kings at the end of the present age (17:16), then the perpetrators will have more potential weapons to destroy the modern “Babylon” than the ancient Medes had in their day. The fire could be from man-made weapons or even from satanic power, such as the “fire from heaven” which the false prophet demonstrated (13:13; cf. Job 1:16).
The action of the beast and its regime is parallel to the "Vandal Solution" (Martin 192). Historians attribute the term to Frederick Barbarosa, the German Emperor from 1152-1190. The phrase comes from the fifth century when the Germanic tribe swept over the Christianized Roman Empire. To be "vandalized" originally meant to lose everything by destructive violence and forcible robbery. In similar fashion the beast will apply the "Vandal Solution" to free himself from any further entanglements with the harlot. Of course, the beast’s action is foolhardy because the financial losses, as indicated by the lament that follows, will be staggering and may lead to global economic collapse.
the Lord God who judges her is strong: The Scriptures repeatedly affirm that the God of Israel is the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25; Judg 11:27; Ps 75:7; Heb 12:23; James 5:9). Unlike human judges that rely on the goodwill and cooperation of other agencies of government to enforce their decrees, the Lord God is strong enough to cause His judgments to come to pass without anyone's aid (cf. Isa 10:23). What the Lord decrees no man can reverse or frustrate and so Babylon's doom is certain.
Lamentation of the Kings (18:9-10)
9― “And the kings of the earth, who have committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,
the kings … will weep and lament: Grk. kopt, "lament," means to beat upon one’s self or to beat one’s breast as an act of mourning (Rienecker). The national leaders subservient to the beast’s ten vice-regents, are shocked and dismayed at the decision to destroy Babylon. the smoke of her burning: Grk. puroō means to set on fire, burn up or be inflamed. When these leaders see the smoke of her burning (cf. Gen 19:27f), they will realize their party is over. The fact that it is the smoke that is seen, instead of the burning, gives some indication of distance and could refer to an explosive plume rising high into the sky. It is noteworthy that the rulers who lament are identified as the ones who engaged in the illicit relations with Babylon mentioned in verse 3. Those who had the closest relationship will express the greatest lament.
10― standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
the fear of her torment: Grk. basanismos. See 9:5 on “torment.” The kings mentioned in verse 9 are seen "standing" at a safe distance due to fear, which may indicate the destruction took place coincidental with a major meeting of world leaders. The Antichrist may call the meeting on the pretence of making some great announcement of public interest and surprise the delegates with his decision to destroy Babylon. Why should those at a distance fear Babylon’s torment? “Torment” typically refers to lingering or continuing torture (cf. Matt 18:34). The “fear of her torment” may simply be a euphemistic restating of the “smoke of her burning” or it could also refer to something more specific such as physical suffering experienced by the survivors in the area.
The words used to describe the destruction and aftermath may well indicate that the actual instrument of death is a nuclear device. Bomb technology is very sophisticated and nuclear devices can be designed to destroy a specific size area. However, the detonation of any nuclear device does cause collateral damage and radioactive fallout outside of “ground zero” for many miles, depending on the size of the bomb. The kings, merchants and shipmasters would fear her torment if it was radiation remaining from a nuclear bomb (cf. 18:10, 15, 17). Radiation does linger, and, unlike the physical destruction, cannot be confined to a specific area, but will spread with the prevailing wind. If a nuclear device is assumed then the devastation will also affect the power grid for a large area (cf. 18:23).
Woe, woe: Grk. ouai. See 8:13 on “woe.” A “woe” is a calamity of such proportions that it stretches the mind to think of anything worse and the double “woe” then indicates the severity of the grief. Babylon, the great city: The repetition of “the great city” five times in this chapter (also verses 16, 18, 19, 21) should not be overlooked. Babylon is not a synonym for the beast empire or the Antichrist. Babylon is not just a metaphor of societal decay, materialism or secularism. Babylon is an actual city that rules over a kingdom. Babylon is Rome of John’s day, and probably Rome of the last days. God has given plenty of notice that He will cause this city to be destroyed with such violence that it will never be rebuilt (cf. Isa 13:19f). Those who are rebuilding Babel should take warning also and not count their profits prematurely.
the strong city: In the eyes of the kings of the earth Babylon was a “great city” of prestige and a “strong city,” a kingdom that could withstand any assault. (See 17:18 on “great city.”) in one hour: Yet, the news report indicates the destruction took only “one hour,” which emphasizes the shortness of time to achieve the goal. Before the invention of the nuclear bomb total obliteration of a city in one hour could only be accomplished by God, as in the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24f). As an event of the last days, the suddenness of the attack, the completeness of destruction in such a short period, the “torment,” and the kings and merchants keeping away from Babylon all point to nuclear devastation. In one hour on one day total destruction comes and so alters the landscape of life that nothing will be the same anymore.
11― “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more —
the merchants of the earth weep: Destruction means that Babylon’s wealth is gone and with it the markets for commercial goods. The loss of Babylon’s wealth means no payment for the merchants. The merchants immediately recognize their financial position and weep. For them this may be the worst financial disaster of their lives. Indeed, the loss of Babylon’s capital and market strength may be devastating to the world economy.
no one buys their cargoes: Grk. gomos means a load, freight or cargo of a ship. The word "cargoes" is actually singular so the list of twenty-eight commercial items in verses 12 and 13 represent a manifest list as if the items were in a single shipment on a merchant ship. The merchants remember all the shipments of products brought from around the earth. With Babylon’s investment and commercial contracts business was lucrative. The reader must decide whether the cargo list that follows should be treated as import or export. The phrase “their” is associated with the merchants, so “no one buys” implies that the goods are either financed by Babylon or imported by Babylon.
The lament over Tyre in Ezekiel 27:5-24 contains a similar, and longer, list of items, which Johnson erroneously assumes was the source material for the list given in this chapter. Ezekiel notes that his lament came as a word directly from the Lord, emphasizing the fact that he would not have voluntarily offered any lamentation for that idolatrous city. John, who wrote based on direct revelation (1:1, 11), is not directed to lament, but only records the fact that others mourn their losses. In contrast to Ezekiel, the saints are told to rejoice over Babylon’s downfall (verse 20).
12― cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from every costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,
cargoes: The cargo list encompasses a broad range of products and begins with manufactured goods, including precious metals, textiles, rare items, fine works of craftsmen, and finished wood products. “Purple” and “scarlet” (see 17:3 on "scarlet") are generally thought to refer to dyed fabrics, but the reference could also be to the actual dyes, very costly products themselves in ancient times. “Silk” products from India and China became much sought after in ancient Rome as a result of Alexander the Great opening the way to the east (Robertson).
every kind of citron wood: Grk. thuinos, citron wood, refers to the wood of a citrus tree from North Africa (Rienecker). The word “citron” is drawn from citrinus, the Latin name of the tree (Mounce). “Citron wood” was an expensive dark wood and the best specimens simulated the eyes of the peacock’s tail or the stripes of the tiger and spots of the panther or the seeds of parsley. At Rome citron wood was much sought after for dining tables, but it was also used for veneering, inlay work and small works of art (Rienecker). In ancient times elephant ivory was used to make dinner plates and down through history has been prized in ornamental and decorative products. The list in the verse closes out by including the most expensive articles made from the finest wood, metal and stone. As a group the list in verse 12 would be considered luxuries and handled by merchants catering to the wealthy.
13― and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives.
The manifest continues with plants raised and harvested, such as grains, spices, herbs and olive oil. Cinnamon is the aromatic bark of the Laurus Cinnamomam, which grows in Arabia, India, and especially in the island of Ceylon (Barnes). Spice referred to a plant from India that was used as a perfume (Rienecker). Incense was burned for its fragrant odor and “myrrh” was used medicinally and as a perfume (Mounce). Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin obtained from the Boswellia tree and used as incense in religious ceremonies and as a perfume. Olive oil was (and is) a major product of Israel. Fine flour (Grk. semidalis) referred to the finest grade of wheat flour and was imported especially for use by the wealthy (Rienecker). Wheat is the most important cereal grass mentioned in the Bible and was cultivated from ancient times (Gen 30:14). Wheat was used mainly for bread, but the grain was also roasted for eating.
The livestock in the list were common commodities for sale and essential for personal, religious and military needs. Cattle (Grk. ktēnos) may mean a domesticated animal, a pet, a pack animal or an animal used for riding. Ktēnos is probably translated as “cattle” due to the mention in the verse of sheep and horses, but the intention of the term is unclear. Cattle, sheep and horses are still important, though modern technology has made international commerce far more sophisticated. For example, in an effort to minimize transporting disease in livestock, international companies now sell animal semen and embryos to develop herds. Selling seed is also just as important as the harvested grain. The list ends with a couple of interesting items. Ancient horse-drawn chariots came in different designs (as modern cars) for different purposes. Many were two-wheeled. The word for chariot here refers to a four-wheel vehicle manufactured in Gaul (France) (Rienecker).
Last on the manifest are slaves and human lives. Commentators are divided over whether the phrase represents two separate items or one item. The phrase would be literally translated “bodies and souls of men” (Marshall). The Greek word translated "slaves" is not the normal word for “slave,” but its usage in standard Bible versions is probably owed to the fact that ancient slave traders were dubbed “body merchants” (Grk. somatemporos), though that word does not appear in the apostolic writings. It is estimated that as many as 60,000,000 were enslaved in the Roman Empire to serve the wealthy and middle class (Mounce). In the ancient world the status of a slave was regarded no differently than a beast of burden. Mounce points out that the term “human lives” (Grk. psuchas anthrōpon) translates an old Hebrew phrase that means essentially human livestock (cf. Num 31:35; 1 Chr 5:21; Ezek 27:13). One commentator distinguishes the “human lives” from slaves as referring to those destined for the amphitheatre or prostitution. Morris believes the phrase may allude to the modern international “white-slave” trade in prostitution, which relies on kidnapping boys and girls.
Whether one takes the phrase “bodies and souls of men” as separate items or not, applying the interpretation of slaves is problematic since nowhere else in the apostolic writings is this meaning applied to the Greek words. Other interpretations have been offered. Historicist commentators, in believing Babylon to be papal Rome, regarded the reference to “souls of men” as the traffic in indulgences, dispensations, absolutions, masses, and papal bulls (Gregg). A parallel interpretation is that in both pagan religion and papal Rome thousands of men and women in every culture were enticed into sacred devotion to the state religion, renouncing marriage and taking a vow of celibacy. They belonged literally “body and soul” to their religion. Watchman Nee, taking a spiritual interpretation, suggested that at the end of the age Satan and the evil spirits under him would promote man’s soul power to serve as a substitute for the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit in preparation for the Antichrist (The Latent Power of the Soul 33).
There is one last interpretation to be considered. While all these commodities were imported to ancient Rome, the reader needs to remember that the Babylon described here exists at the end of the age and the list represents commercial enterprise. Therefore, “bodies and souls of men” could refer to the commercial practice of transporting paying passengers (cf. verse 17 below) or to groups of people who travel at the direction and payment of others, such as soldiers or workers. In ancient times passengers and cargo traveled on the same vessel and in Acts 27:10 Paul used the word “souls” to refer to the passengers on the ship. In modern times commercial transportation of people is very big business.
14― “The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.
The sentence of the court continues with a summary of the impact of judgment, that Babylon’s deepest longings will go unfulfilled. The fruit: Grk. opora refers to autumn fruit ripe for gathering (Rienecker). Barnes adds that opora means dog-days—the time when Sirius, or the dog-star, is predominant. In the East, this is the season when the fruits ripen, and hence the word comes to denote fruit. In context “fruit” is probably a colloquial expression for profits from commercial ventures financed by Babylon. you long for: The phrase “long for” would be lit. translated “the lust of the soul” (Marshall). has gone from you:
all things that were luxurious: Grk. liparos which comes from lipos (grease) and so refers to the fat of food. The "luxurious” things may refer to rich gourmet food. and splendid: Grk. lampros, meaning bright and shining, and was used to refer to fine clothing (Robertson). Rienecker suggests that lampros may refer to costly furniture, the brightness indicating the sheen of the wood’s finish. men will no longer find them: The phrase “no longer” is a shortened version that literally says “no more by no means,” a double negative that is as emphatic a negation as one could make in the Greek language (Robertson). All of the best things so eagerly desired for investment and enjoyment are gone – quickly and permanently. Yeshua warned His disciples against the illusion of security and happiness in material things (Matt 6:19; Luke 12:15). Instead of the pursuit to acquire, God’s people are challenged to care for the poor and invest in what is eternal (Luke 12:33-34). Unbridled greed is sure to result in God’s judgment.
15― “The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning,
The merchants: For the second time the prophecy specifically identifies the business owners who directly benefited from Babylon’s wealth, which probably refers to Babylon’s capital investment in their import and export commercial ventures. who became rich: The term “rich” here would mean exceedingly wealthy. These merchants are not retail shop owners, but tycoons in their own right over large entrepreneurial enterprises. will stand at a distance: Grk. makrothen means from far away, from a distance. While an indefinite term the distance is not so great as to prevent watching someone or something of interest (cf. Matt 26:58; 27:55). The merchants, unlike the kings of verse 9, may be in the area and remain at a distance, concerned about the same “torment” of which the kings were afraid.
16― saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;
Woe, woe: The lament of the merchants parallels the statements of the kings (verse 10) and the double “woe” reflects their sense of the great tragedy that has befallen Babylon. the great city: See the note on verse 10 above. she who was clothed: The lament of the merchants recounts the same possessions listed in 17:4 with the addition of linen. The reference to the great city being “clothed” probably means the prominent buildings of the city, including mansions and palaces of the wealthy, government and religious buildings. However, because of their materialism the business owners do not mourn over the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who lose their lives, or their grieving families or survivors. The merchants think first of the loss of their business and their security, and as the reality of the catastrophe washes over their emotions they cannot help but weep.
17― for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance,
for in one hour: In 18:8 the destruction comes “in one day,” referring primarily to its planning by the attacker. For “one hour” see the comment on 18:10 above. such great wealth: The callousness of the merchants is emphasized again in only thinking of the loss of wealth and not the loss of life. The verse goes on to identify four different maritime eyewitnesses, watching from ships at sea or in the port on the coast, about 8 miles from Rome. And every shipmaster: Grk. kubernētēs, from kubernaō (to steer), means a helmsman or sailing-master (Acts 27:11) (Robertson). The word refers to a steersman or pilot, such as those who come aboard a ship to guide it into port. and every passenger: Grk. pleō, to travel on the water or by sea. Marshall gives the lit. translation as “every one sailing to a place” (Marshall). The word means particularly a merchantman that goes with his goods, or the chance passenger (Rienecker). The verb primarily refers to those who sail from one place to another along the coast, or who do not venture out far to sea; and thus the phrase would denote a secondary class of sea-captains or officers called “coasters,” those less venturesome, or experienced, or bold than others (Barnes). In the first century most trading ships plied courses that kept them within sight of the shoreline.
and sailor: Grk. nautēs, one engaged in the operation of a ship. Sailors served on merchant vessels and helped to load the ship, manned oars and hoisted sails. as many as make their living by the sea: The last group encompasses in the broadest possible category all those whose livelihood depends on the sea, whether mariners or tradesmen. Knowledge of shipbuilding is as old as Noah (Gen 6:14) and traversing the seas must date from the dispersion over the whole earth that resulted from God’s creation of languages at Babel (Gen 11:9). Seafaring was a thriving industry in the first century and all the nations that had outlets to the sea had ships that navigated around the shores of the Mediterranean. The world economy is still highly dependant on goods transported by sea. The list of shipmasters, passengers, sailors and those who make their living from the sea reflect the social strata standing on the decks of the merchant vessels observing the smoke of the burning.
18― and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’
“They saw” is actually a present participle and literally means that the mariners kept staring, perhaps incredulous at first in shock of the sight and then when the mind could no longer deny the reality with its frightful implications, they succumb to waves of grief and despair. The fact that the shipmasters see the smoke of the burning is important. If the point of observation were from the sea, then Rome would be preferred over Babel, which is over 300 miles from the Persian Gulf. A nuclear bomb plume would not be visible 300 miles away due to the curvature of the earth. However, if the observers were on a commercial barge on either the Tigris or Euphrates Rivers, then Babel would be a possible candidate. In any event the mourning causes some in the crowd to ask the rhetorical question - “What city is like the great city?” The expected reply, of course, would be “none,” but their focus represents the values of this world. John will be given a vision of a far better city very soon.
19― “And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’
And they threw dust on their heads: The intensity of the mourning is illustrated to John by the people in the vision throwing dust on their heads, a very ancient custom in the East, although sometimes mourners threw the dust into the air (cf. Josh 7:6; 2 Sam 1:2; Job 2:12; Ezek 27:30; Acts 22:23). The dust throwing implies that the one’s engaging in the practice would be of Middle Eastern nationality. Woe, woe, the great city: See the note on verse 10 above for "the great city." As the people cannot imagine an equal to the beast in attractiveness and power (13:4), so the merchants and the mariners cannot consider any city to be equal to Babylon. For the third time in this chapter John is reminded that Babylon is the source of the merchants’ financial success. Barnes reminds that while the luxury of a great city may enrich many individuals, it may also impoverish itself.
in one hour she has been laid waste: Grk. erēmoō, aor. pass. ind., to be made desolate. See 17:16 on “desolate.” The verb tense indicates a completed event. For the third time the shortness of time required for the devastation is emphasized. Such repetition in Scripture, especially in such close proximity, serves to emphasize the certainty of the events. Like the kings and merchants, the mariners are stunned at how quickly all that made the city wealthy and beautiful is gone. The infrastructure of the city is broken, the lavish office buildings are in ruins and the places that made special memories for visitors are no more. The gravity of the circumstances compel the mariners to join the others in announcing the double “woe,” realizing that they never could have imagined anything so horrible happening to their favorite city.
The Tragedy of Babylon (18:20-24)
20― “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”
Rejoice over her, O heaven: Even as those who loved Babylon are weeping and mourning, a command from the unnamed voice in verse 4 (probably the Father) is directed to heaven, as well as to the saints, apostles and prophets to rejoice. The divine injunction stands in contrast to Solomon’s admonition, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it and be displeased and He turn away His anger from him" (Prov 24:17-18). Yeshua chastised his disciples for suggesting that a Samaritan village be destroyed for rejecting their message (Luke 9:54).
However, these verses are consistent with the biblical message that justice and vengeance belong to the Lord who dispenses both at the proper time. The terminology is legal in nature and describes a case that has been accepted for trial (Robertson). Yet, God goes further and not only accepts their plea, but grants a summary judgment without the requirement for a trial. The omniscient God does not need the formality of a trial to know Babylon’s crimes. Thus, the Lord tells the saints in heaven that they can give voice to praise that their petition of 6:10 has been heard and accepted.
O heaven: “Heaven” would mean all those resident in heaven, including the angels and saints. saints: Saints is the standard term for those devoted to the God of Israel and His Messiah. (See 5:8 on “saints.”) Listed second after “heaven,” these saints may be limited to those alive on the earth. apostles and prophets: The mention of apostles and prophets is significant. There is only one other reference to Yeshua’ “apostles” in Revelation (cf. 21:14), but seven other mentions of “prophets” (10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:24; 22:6, 9). As for the apostles Johnson surmises that if those mentioned in this verse are martyrs (cf. v. 24), then perhaps John had in mind Herod’s martyring of James (Acts 12:1-2), Rome’s killing of Peter and Paul and the martyrdom of the other apostles in various fields of service. Of course, this reference to “apostles” does not specifically identify the twelve and there were other apostles at that time (Acts 1:26; 14:14; Rom 16:7; 1 Cor 4:6, 9; 15:7). The real issue is what the Lord had in mind.
The combined phrase “apostles and prophets” alludes to Paul’s declaration that the commonwealth of Israel is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The prophets are those who produced the Old Covenant Scriptures and the apostles are those to whom Yeshua gave the authority to superintend the execution of the Great Commission and the discipleship of new believers in New Covenant Torah, thereby building His great congregation. The Lord’s reference to apostles in heaven presents the sober reality that most, if not all of the original apostles, except John, had by this writing died or been martyred.
God has pronounced judgment for you against her: God has promised to do justice for the saints (5:9-11) in accordance with his directive that those who murder should be executed (Gen 9:6). (See my article Biblical Basis for the Death Penalty.) Paul had already spoken of this promised retribution:
"This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day." (2 Thess 1:5-10)
21― And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.
And a strong angel: Grk. ischuros means strong, mighty or powerful. When used to denote living beings ischuros may refer to physical strength, or mental or spiritual power, especially of superhuman beings such as angels. This is the third time John reports seeing a "strong angel." See the notes on 5:2 and 10:1.
took up a stone like a great millstone: The Greek phrase mulinon megan refers to a large millstone that required a donkey to turn (cf. Matt 18:6), rather than the small millstone that could be turned by a woman (cf. Matt 24:41) (Robertson). God directs an angel to enforce the edict of the court and he does so by performing a symbolic act with a millstone. In ancient times the millstone was a tool for producing flour. Millstones were flat stones on which grain was placed and crushed as other stones rolled over the grain. The size of the stone mentioned here refers to the stone used in a commercial mill and the strength of an angel is emphasized, as no individual man could lift this size millstone.
and threw it into the sea: The angel acts out a parable of Babylon’s destruction as God pronounces that Babylon will be found no longer. As the millstone is violently hurled into the sea and quickly sinks out of sight, so the greatest energy will be used to violently vaporize Babylon and remove it from sight. Jeremiah was told to carry out a similar act by writing the judgment of Babel on a scroll and, weighted by a rock, throwing it into the Euphrates River (Jer 51:61-64). The position of this prophetic statement presents a puzzle. Does it refer to the destruction brought about by the ten kings (17:16) or to the geological cataclysm of the seventh bowl (16:19)?
will not be found any longer: Morris thinks the millstone hurling will take place in the Persian Gulf to symbolize the final destruction of Babel. Not only will the shaking destroy Babel, but if the Mesopotamian plain were to open up from the earthquake the waters of the Persian Gulf would rush into the Euphrates valley and fill the void, overwhelming Babel as foreseen in Jeremiah 51:41-42. With the faults in the area such a scenario is certainly geologically possible. Against this interpretation is that “Babylon” in Jeremiah 51:42 probably refers to the country or empire, not the city, since the next verse refers to “her cities.” In addition, being overwhelmed by water probably was intended as a metaphor for the invasion of the Medes and Persians.
While there is a parallel between the prophecies of Jeremiah and John, the point of the angel’s action is not to portend that Babel will be thrown into the sea but that a great object will fall out of the sky onto Babel bringing catastrophe and leaving a huge crater in the earth. Such devastation also means that mystery Babylon cannot be Jerusalem as Sevener supposes, because God will protect His beloved city (cf. Zech 12:7ff).
22― “And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;
And the sound of harpists and musicians: Grk. mousikos, "musicians," refers to people skilled in music, which may be instrumentalists or vocalists (Rienecker). The list of the losses to Babylon continues and sources of sound in three specific categories cease (cf. Jer 51:55). Music is important in all cultures for it is a medium of expression of the soul. The specific mention of harpists, musicians, flutists and trumpeters, in Babylon’s list of commercial activities likely alludes to symphony orchestras, chorales and musicals that highlight the performing arts of all great cities. Unfortunately, the notes of musical events that previously filled the air will no longer bring times of festivity and enjoyment in Babylon.
and no craftsman: Grk. technitēs means a skilled worker. It may refer to an artist in metal, in stone, or even in textile fabrics (Rienecker). The second commercial loss mentioned is the highly skilled work of craftsmen. The terminology refers to every kind of artisan that excels in making desirable products from wood, metal or fabric (cf. Ex 36:1f). The verse specifically emphasizes that the craftsmen, not merely their goods, are casualties in the death toll.
the sound of a mill: Grk. mulos. The third loss is the sound of a mill. The word "mill" refers to the whole apparatus as distinguished from a millstone. In ancient times mills were found in both households and commercial settings. Mills in modern times range from simple water wheel driven devices to large complexes producing various ground products, whether edible, such as flour, or mineral, such as cement. will not be heard in you: The "sound" of the mill refers to the grinding noise of the mill process, which in modern large operations can be deafening and require the wearing of ear protection. The fact that the sound ceases in “a mill…in you” points to a specific mill operation in Babylon, but it is very likely that mills financed by Babylon would be shut down due to the loss of capital to pay workers.
23― and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.
and the light of a lamp: Grk. luchnos refers to an oil-burning lamp. The translation of “candle” in the KJV is inappropriate, since the molded candle in use today did not exist in the first century. The last clause of verse 22 and the first half of this verse allude to the prophecy of Jeremiah,
“Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp” (Jer 25:10).
In ancient times to give any one a lamp in a place meant to establish his house and generational line (cf. 1 Kgs 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kgs 8:19). In homes at least one lamp was kept burning continually, so if a lamp were out at night, it normally would be because the house was empty and the occupant gone (Neil 91f). The total destruction by fire will, of course, extinguish every light in the city, but as with the mills, the light producers will also be shut down. The loss of utilities in Babylon could affect a wide area.
the voice of the bridegroom and bride: It is interesting that in the midst of all the commercial losses the voice of bride and bridegroom are included. The mention of bride and bridegroom may be an allusion to the popularity of Babylon for weddings, but could also refer to Babylon as a honeymoon destination, and in both cases such demand would qualify as a commercial enterprise. The lament of this verse notes especially that Babylon could boast some of the most distinguished merchants and business owners in the world, perhaps alluding to leaders in all the preceding categories of commercial enterprise.
all the nations were deceived by your sorcery: Grk. pharmakeia, the practice of mixing drugs and potions, including engaging in manipulation through incantations, spells, substances or combinations thereof. The related word “sorcerer” (Grk. pharmakos), which corresponds to the practice of divination, occurs only twice in Revelation (21:8; 22:15) and must be deliberate. See 9:21 on “sorcery.”
The verse closes with a passing comment by the angel that all the nations were deceived by Babylon’s sorcery, which is parallel to Nahum’s prophecy about ancient Nineveh, “The charming one, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations by her harlotries and families by her sorceries” (Nah 3:4). In a general sense sorcery may include any deception that draws a person away from a personal relationship with God. Yeshua particularly warned His disciples that the belief in the security of wealth is an illusion that can endanger eternal life (cf. Matt 13:22; Luke 12:15-21).
Leaders of ancient Babylon used divination to make important political, military and economic decisions (Isa 47:9, 12; Ezek 21:21ff). Magic arts were also widely practiced in ancient Rome for the benefit of commerce (Mounce). Modern times have witnessed the widespread use of astrology and other fortunetelling methods for decision-making. Related to sorcery are the New Age and Eastern philosophies and practices that have likewise infiltrated Catholic and Protestant churches and institutions, and major corporations, secular institutions and government agencies have introduced the same deceptive philosophies into managerial and employee training. God has declared His hatred of divination (Lev 19:26; Deut 18:10; 1 Sam 15:23; 2 Kgs 17:17; 21:6) and, thus the angel’s statement may reflect God’s rationale for the promised severe judgment. Babylon has followed after doctrines of demons and relied on darkness to supply light. She will pay the price of eternal darkness.
24― “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain upon the earth.”
And in her was found: The voice from heaven closes the funeral dirge by repeating and expanding the indictment of 17:6, and in so doing draws attention to the second reason for God’s judgment. Those whom Babylon could not deceive, she destroyed and murdered, and God has decreed from the time of Noah, “whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Gen 9:6). all who have been slain: The perfect tense of “slain” suggests that the perspective of this verse must have its beginning point with the original Babel, reinforces the charge that Babylon is responsible for the deaths of “all who have been slain on the earth” and explains why Babylon’s sins are piled to heaven (18:5). The hyperbole of historical slaughter probably refers to either wars of aggression or genocidal massacres rather than to individual murders that have occurred since Cain.
Yet, how does the first Babel bear such “cumulative responsibility?” Only God, who knows the full span of history, can evaluate the long-term consequences of sin. Just as the Euphrates has its source in the mountains of Turkey so ancient Babel was the fountain of rebellion against God in the post-flood world. Babylonian idolatrous religious practices and pseudo-science have infiltrated every succeeding empire, realm, kingdom, territory, nation and culture on the face of the earth down to the present day and have motivated continual attacks against the biological and spiritual seed of Jacob with such horrific ferocity that millions of Jews and disciples of Yeshua have perished. Moreover, the lust for political and economic power that began at Babel has left a legacy of wholesale suffering, devastation and death. Babel was truly the “mother” of abominations. The final indictment lends an even more compelling reason for God’s saints to come out of any institution manifesting the characteristics of the harlot to avoid sharing in her judgment.
Copyright © 2011-2016 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.