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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 18 - Verse 13

Verse 13. And cinnamon. Cinnamon is the aromatic bark of the Laurus Cinnamomam, which grows in Arabia, India, and especially in the island of Ceylon. It was formerly, as it is now, a valuable article in the Oriental trade.

And odours. Aromatics employed in religious worship, and for making perfumes. Mr. Gibbon (i. 34) mentions, among the articles of commerce and luxury in the age of the Antenines, "a variety of aromatics that were consumed in religious worship and the pomp of funerals." It is unnecessary to say that the use of such odours has been always common at Rome.

And ointments. Unguents—as spikenard, etc. These were in common use among the ancients. See Barnes on "Mt 14:7; Mr 14:3".

 

And frankincenes. See Barnes on "Mt 2:11".

It is unnecessary to say that incense has been always much used in public worship in Rome, and that it has been, therefore, a valuable article of commerce there.

And wine. An article of commerce and luxury in all ages.

And oil. That is, olive oil. This, in ancient times, and in Oriental countries particularly, was an important article of commerce.

And fine flour. The word here means the best and finest kind of flour.

And beasts, and sheep, and horses. Also important articles of merchandise.

And chariots. The word here used—redwn—means, properly, a carriage with four wheels; or a carriage drawn by mules, (Prof. Stuart.) It was properly a travelling carriage. The word is of Gallic origin.—Quinctil, i. 9; Cic. Mil. 10; Att. v. 17, vi. 1. See Adams's Rom. Ant. p. 525. It was an article of luxury.

And slaves. The Greek here is swmatwn—"of bodies." Prof. Stuart renders it grooms, and supposes that it refers to a particular kind of slaves who were employed in taking care of horses and carriages. The word properly denotes body—an animal body—whether of the human body, living or dead, or the body of a beast; and then the external man —the person, the individual. In later usage, it comes to denote a slave, (see Rob. Lex.,) and in this sense it is used here. The traffic in slaves was common in ancient times, as it is now. We know that this traffic was carried on to a large extent in ancient Rome—the city which John probably had in his eye in this description. See Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, i. pp. 25, 26. Athenseus, as quoted by Mr. Gibbon, (p. 26,) says that "he knew very many Romans who possessed, not for use, but for ostentation, ten and even twenty thousand slaves." It should be said here, however, that although this refers evidently to traffic in slaves, it is not necessary to suppose that it would be literally characteristic of Papal Rome. All this is symbolical, designed to exhibit the Papacy under the image of a great city, with what was customary in such a city, or with what most naturally presented itself to the imagination of John as found in such a city; and it is no more necessary to suppose that the Papacy would be engaged in the traffic of slaves, than in the traffic of cinnamon, or fine flour, or sheep and horses.

And souls of men. The word used, and rendered soulsqucav— though commonly denoting the soul, (properly the breath, or vital principle,) is also employed to denote the living thing—the animal— in which the soul or vital principle resides; and hence may denote a person or a man. Under this form it is used to denote a servant, or slave. (See Rob. Lex.) Prof. Robinson supposes that the word here means female slaves, in distinction from those designated by the previous word. Prof. Stuart (in loc.) supposes that the previous word denotes a particular kind of slaves—those who had the care of horses— and that the word here is used in a generic sense, denoting slaves in general. This kind of traffic in the "persons" or souls of men is mentioned as characterizing ancient Tyre, in Eze 27:13: "Jayan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants; they traded in the persons of men." It is not quite clear why, in the passage before us, this traffic is mentioned in two forms—as that of the bodies and the souls of men; but it would seem most probable that the writer meant to designate all that would properly come under this traffic—whether male or female slaves were bought and sold; whether they were for servitude, or for the gladiatorial sports, (see Wetstein, in loc.;) whatever might be the kind of servitude that they might be employed in, and whatever might be their condition in life. The use of the two words would include all that is implied in the traffic—for, in most important senses, it extends to the body and the soul. In slavery, both are purchased; both are supposed, so far as he can avail himself of them, to become the property of the master.

{2} "slaves" "bodies" {e} "souls" Eze 27:13

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