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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 17 - Verse 5

Verse 5. And upon her forehead. In a circlet around her forehead. That is, it was made prominent and public, as if written on the forehead in blazing capitals. In Re 13:1, it is said that "the name of blasphemy" was written on the "heads" of the beast. The meaning in both places is substantially the same, that it was prominent and unmistakable. See Barnes on "Re 13:1"

Compare Barnes on "Re 14:1".

 

Was a name written. A title, or something that would properly indicate her character.

Mystery. It is proper to remark that there is nothing in the original as written by John, so far as now known, that corresponded with what is implied in placing this inscription in capital letters; and the same remark may be made of the "title" or inscription that was placed over the head of the Saviour on the cross, Mt 27:37; Mr 15:26# Lu 23:38; Joh 19:19. Our translators have adopted this form, apparently, for the sole purpose of denoting that it was an inscription or title. On the meaning of the word mystery, see Barnes on "1 Co 2:7, Compare Barnes on "1 Ti 3:16".

Here it seems to be used to denote that there was something hidden, obscure, or enigmatical under the title adopted; that is, the word Babylon, and the word mother, were symbolical. Our translators have printed and pointed the word mystery as if it were part of the inscription. It would probably be better to regard it as referring to the inscription thus: "a name was written—a mysterious name, to wit, Babylon," etc. Or, "a name was written mysteriously." According to this it would mean, not that there was any wonderful "mystery" about the thing itself, whatever might be true on that point, but that the name was enigmatical or symbolical; or that there was something hidden or concealed under the name. It was not to be literally understood. Babylon the great. Papal Rome, the nominal head of the Christian world, as Babylon had been of the heathen world. See Barnes on "Re 14:8".

 

The mother of harlots.

(a) Of that spiritual apostasy from God which in the language of the prophets might be called adultery, see Barnes on "Re 14:8";

(b) the promoter of lewdness by her institutions. See Barnes on "Re 9:21".

In both these senses, there never was a more expressive or appropriate title than the one here employed.

And abominations of the earth. Abominable things that prevail on the earth, Re 17:4. Compare Barnes on "Re 9:20-21".

 

{b} "drunken" Re 16:16

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