Re 18:1-24. Babylon's
Fall: God's People Called Out of
Her: The Kings and Merchants of the
Earth Mourn, While the Saints Rejoice at
1. And—so Vulgate and Andreas. But A, B, Syriac, and
Coptic omit "And."
with—Greek, "owing to."
2. mightily … strong—not supported
by manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic
read, "with (literally, 'in') a mighty voice."
is fallen, is fallen—so A, Vulgate,
Syriac, and Andreas. But B and
Coptic omit the second "is fallen" (Isa 21:9; Jer
51:8). This phrase is here
prophetical of her fall, still future, as Re 18:4 proves.
the hold—a keep or prison.
3. drunk—Re 14:8, from which perhaps "the wine" may have
been interpolated. They have drunk of her fornication, the
consequence of which will be wrath to themselves. But A, B, and
C read, "(owing to the wrath of her fornication all nations) have
fallen." Vulgate and most versions read as English
Version, which may be the right reading though not supported by the
oldest manuscripts. Babylon, the whore, is destroyed before the beast
slays the two witnesses (Re 11:7), and
then the beast himself is destroyed.
the wine—so B, Syriac, and
Coptic. But A, C, and Vulgate omit.
delicacies—Greek, "luxury." See
on 1Ti 5:11, where the Greek verb "wax
wanton" is akin to the noun here. Translate, "wanton luxury." The
reference is not to earthly merchandise, but to spiritual wares,
indulgences, idolatries, superstitions, worldly compromises, wherewith
the harlot, that is, the apostate Church, has made merchandise
of men. This applies especially to Rome; but the Greek, and even
in a less degree Protestant churches, are not guiltless. However, the
principle of evangelical Protestantism is pure, but the
principle of Rome and the Greek church is not so.
4. Come out of her, my people—quoted
from Jer 50:8; 51:6, 45. Even in the Romish Church God has a
people: but they are in great danger; their only safety is in coming
out of her at once. So also in every apostate or world-conforming
church there are some of God's invisible and true Church, who, if they
would be safe, must come out. Especially at the eve of God's judgment
on apostate Christendom: as Lot was warned to come out of Sodom just
before its destruction, and Israel to come from about the tents of
Dathan and Abiram. So the first Christians came out of Jerusalem when
the apostate Jewish Church was judged. "State and Church are precious
gifts of God. But the State being desecrated to a different end from
what God designed it, namely. to govern for, and as under, God, becomes
beast-like; the Church apostatizing becomes the harlot. The true woman
is the kernel: beast and harlot are the shell: whenever the kernel is
mature, the shell is thrown away" [Auberlen]. "The harlot is not Rome alone (though she
is pre-eminently so), but every Church that has not Christ's mind and
spirit. False Christendom, divided into very many sects, is truly
Babylon, that is, confusion. However, in all Christendom the true
Jesus-congregation, the woman clothed with the sun, lives and is
hidden. Corrupt, lifeless Christendom is the harlot, whose great aim is
the pleasure of the flesh, and which is governed by the spirit of
nature and the world" [Hahn in Auberlen]. The first justification of the
woman is in her being called out of Babylon the harlot, as the
culminating stage of the latter's sin, when judgment is about to fall:
for apostate Christendom, Babylon, is not to be converted, but to be
destroyed. Secondly, she has to pass through an ordeal of persecution
from the beast, which purifies and prepares her for the transfiguration
glory at Christ's coming (Re 20:4; Lu 21:28).
be not partakers—Greek, "have
no fellowship with her sins."
that ye receive not of her plagues—as
Lot's wife, by lingering too near the polluted and doomed city.
5. her sins—as a great heap.
reached—Greek, "reached so far
as to come into close contact with, and to cleave unto."
6. Addressed to the executioners of God's
she rewarded—English Version
reading adds "you" with none of the oldest manuscripts. But A, B, C,
Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit it. She had not
rewarded or repaid the world power for some injury which
the world power had inflicted on her; but she had given the
world power that which was its due, namely, spiritual delusions,
because it did not like to retain God in its knowledge; the unfaithful
Church's principle was, "Populus vult decipi, et decipiatur."
"The people like to be deceived, and let them be deceived."
double—of sorrow. Contrast with this
the double of joy which Jerusalem shall receive for her past
suffering (Isa 61:7; Zec 9:12); even as she has received double
punishment for her sins (Isa 40:2).
unto her—So Syriac, Coptic, and
Andreas. A, B, and C omit it.
in the cup—(Re 18:3; Re
fill to her double—of the Lord's cup
7. How much—that is in proportion
lived deliciously—luxuriously: see on
Re 18:3, where the Greek is akin.
sorrow—Greek, "mourning," as
for a dead husband.
I sit—so Vulgate. But A, B, and
C prefix "that."
I … am no widow—for the world
power is my husband and my supporter.
shall see no sorrow—Greek,
"mourning." "I am seated (this long time) … I am no
widow … I shall see no sorrow," marks her complete
unconcerned security as to the past, present, and future [Bengel]. I shall never have to mourn as one bereft
of her husband. As Babylon was queen of the East, so Rome has been
queen of the West, and is called on Imperial coins "the eternal
city." So Papal Rome is called by Ammian
Marcellin [15.7]. "Babylon is a former Rome, and Rome a latter
Babylon. Rome is a daughter of Babylon, and by her, as by her mother,
God has been pleased to subdue the world under one sway" [Augustine]. As the Jew's restoration did not take
place till Babylon's fall, so R. Kimchi
on Obadiah, writes, "When Rome (Edom) shall be devastated, there shall
be redemption to Israel." Romish idolatries have been the great
stumbling-blocks to the Jews' acceptance of Christianity.
8. death—on herself, though she thought
herself secure even from the death of her husband.
mourning—instead of her feasting.
famine—instead of her luxurious
delicacies (Re 18:3, 7).
fire—(See on Re
17:16). Literal fire may burn the literal city of Rome, which is
situated in the midst of volcanic agencies. As the ground was cursed
for Adam's sin, and the earth under Noah was sunk beneath the flood,
and Sodom was burnt with fire, so may Rome be. But as the harlot is
mystical (the whole faithless Church), the burning may be mainly
mystical, symbolizing utter destruction and removal. Bengel is probably right in thinking Rome will once
more rise to power. The carnal, faithless, and worldly elements in all
churches, Roman, Greek, and Protestant, tend towards one common center,
and prepare the way for the last form of the beast, namely, Antichrist.
The Pharisees were in the main sound in creed, yet judgment fell on
them as on the unsound Sadducees and half-heathenish Samaritans. So
faithless and adulterous, carnal, worldly Protestant churches, will not
escape for their soundness of creed.
the Lord—so B, C, Syriac, and
Andreas. But A and Vulgate omit.
"Strong" is the meaning of God's Hebrew name, "EL."
judgeth—But A, B, and C read the
past tense (Greek, "krinas"), "who hath
judged her": the prophetical past for the future: the charge in
Re 18:4 to God's people to come out of
her implies that the judgment was not yet actually executed.
9. lived deliciously—Greek,
"luxuriated." The faithless Church, instead of reproving, connived at
the self-indulgent luxury of the great men of this world, and
sanctioned it by her own practice. Contrast the world's
rejoicing over the dead bodies of the two witnesses (Re 11:10) who had tormented it by their
faithfulness, with its lamentations over the harlot who had made
the way to heaven smooth, and had been found a useful tool in keeping
subjects in abject tyranny. Men's carnal mind relishes a religion like
that of the apostate Church, which gives an opiate to conscience, while
leaving the sinner license to indulge his lusts.
bewail her—A, B, C, Syriac,
Coptic, and Cyprian omit "her."
10. God's judgments inspire fear even in the
worldly, but it is of short duration, for the kings and great men soon
attach themselves to the beast in its last and worst shape, as open
Antichrist, claiming all that the harlot had claimed in blasphemous
pretensions and more, and so making up to them for the loss of the
mighty—Rome in Greek
means strength; though that derivation is doubtful.
11. shall—So. B. But A and C read the
present, "weep and mourn."
wares carried in ships: ship-lading (compare Re 18:17). Rome was not a commercial city, and is
not likely from her position to be so. The merchandise must
therefore be spiritual, even as the harlot is not literal, but
spiritual. She did not witness against carnal luxury and
pleasure-seeking, the source of the merchants' gains, but
conformed to them (Re 18:7). She
cared not for the sheep, but for the wool. Professing Christian
merchants in her lived as if this world not heaven, were the reality,
and were unscrupulous as to the means of getting gain. Compare
Notes, see on Zec 5:4-11, on the same
subject, the judgment on mystical Babylon's merchants for unjust
gain. All the merchandise here mentioned occurs repeatedly in the
12. (See on Re
stones … pearls—Greek,
"stone … pearl."
fine linen—A, B, and C read
Greek, "bussinou" for "bussou," that is, "fine
linen manufacture" [Alford]. The
manufacture for which Egypt (the type of the apostate Church,
Re 11:8) was famed. Contrast "the fine
linen" (Eze 16:10)
put on Israel, and on the New Testament Church (Re 19:8), the Bride, by God (Ps 132:9).
thyine wood—the citrus of the
Romans: probably the cypressus thyoyides, or the thuia
articulata. "Citron wood" [Alford].
A sweet-smelling tree of Cyrene in Lybia, used for incense.
all manner vessels—Greek,
"every vessel," or "furniture."
13. cinnamon—designed by God for better
purposes: being an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and a plant in
the garden of the Beloved (So 4:14); but
desecrated to vile uses by the adulteress (Pr 7:17).
odours—of incense. A, C,
Vulgate, and Syriac prefix "and amomium" (a precious hair
ointment made from an Asiatic shrub). English Version reading is
supported by Coptic and Andreas,
but not oldest manuscripts.
frankincense—Contrast the true
"incense" which God loves (Ps 141:2; Mal 1:11).
fine flour—the similago of the
beasts—of burden: cattle.
souls of men—(Eze 27:13). Said of slaves. Appropriate to
the spiritual harlot, apostate Christendom, especially Rome, which has
so often enslaved both bodies and souls of men.
Though the New Testament does not directly forbid slavery, which would,
in the then state of the world, have incited a slave revolt, it
virtually condemns it, as here. Popery has derived its greatest gains
from the sale of masses for the souls of men after death, and of
indulgences purchased from the Papal chancery by rich merchants in
various countries, to be retailed at a profit [Mosheim, III, 95, 96].
14. Direct address to Babylon.
the fruits that thy soul lusted
after—Greek, "thy autumn-ripe fruits of the lust
(eager desire) of the soul."
"sumptuous" in food.
goodly—"splendid," "bright," in dress
departed—supported by none of our
manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic
thou shalt—A, C, Vulgate, and
Syriac read, "They (men) shall no more find them
15. of these things—of the things
mentioned, Re 18:12, 13.
made rich by—Greek, "derived
riches from her."
stand afar off for the fear—(Compare
16. And—so Vulgate and Andreas. But A, B, and C omit.
stones … pearls—Greek,
"stone … pearl." B and Andreas
read "pearls." But A and C, "pearl."
17. is come to naught—Greek, "is
all the company in ships—A, C,
Vulgate, and Syriac read, "Every one who saileth to a
place" (B has "… to the place"), every voyager.
Vessels were freighted with pilgrims to various shrines, so that in
one month (A.D. 1300) two hundred
thousand pilgrims were counted in Rome [D'Aaubigne, Histoire de la Reformation]: a
source of gain, not only to the Papal see, but to shipmasters,
merchants, pilots, &c. These latter, however, are not
restricted to those literally "shipmasters," &c., but mainly refer,
in the mystical sense, to all who share in the spiritual traffic of
18. when they saw—Greek,
"horontes." But A, B, C, and Andreas read, Greek, "blepontes,"
"looking at." Greek, "blepo," is to use the eyes,
to look: the act of seeing without thought of the object seen.
Greek, "horao," refers to the thing seen or
presented to the eyes [Tittmann].
smoke—so B, C. But A reads
What city is like—Compare the similar
beast as to the beast, Re 13:4: so closely do the harlot and beast
approximate one another. Contrast the attribution of this praise to
God, to whom alone it is due, by His servants (Ex 15:11). Martial
says of Rome, "Nothing is equal to her;" and Athenæus, "She is the epitome of the
that had ships—A, B, and C read, "that
had their ships": literally, "the ships."
costliness—her costly treasures:
abstract for concrete.
20. holy apostles—So C reads. But A, B,
Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas read, "Ye saints and ye
avenged you on her—Greek,
"judged your judgment on (literally, exacting it from) her."
"There is more joy in heaven at the harlot's downfall than at that of
the two beasts. For the most heinous of all sin is the sin of those who
know God's word of grace, and keep it not. The worldliness of the
Church is the most worldly of all worldliness. Hence, Babylon, in
Revelation, has not only Israel's sins, but also the sins of the
heathen; and John dwells longer on the abominations and judgments of
the harlot than on those of the beast. The term 'harlot' describes the
false Church's essential character. She retains her human shape as the
woman, does not become a beast: she has the form of
godliness, but denies its power. Her rightful lord and husband,
Jehovah-Christ, and the joys and goods of His house, are no longer her
all in all, but she runs after the visible and vain things of the
world, in its manifold forms. The fullest form of her whoredom is,
where the Church wishes to be itself a worldly power, uses politics and
diplomacy, makes flesh her arm, uses unholy means for holy ends,
spreads her dominion by sword or money, fascinates men by sensual
ritualism, becomes 'mistress of ceremonies' to the dignitaries of the
world, flatters prince or people, and like Israel, seeks the help of
one world power against the danger threatening from another" [Auberlen]. Judgment, therefore,
begins with the harlot, as in privileges the house of
21. a—Greek, "one."
millstone—Compare the judgment on the
Egyptian hosts at the Red Sea, Ex 15:5, 10; Ne 9:11, and the foretold doom of Babylon, the
world power, Jer 51:63, 64.
with violence—Greek, "with
impetus." This verse shows that this prophecy is regarded as still to
22. pipers—flute players. "Musicians,"
painters and sculptors, have desecrated their art to lend fascination
to the sensuous worship of corrupt Christendom.
23. What a blessed contrast is Re 22:5, respecting the city of God: "They need
no candle (just as Babylon shall no more have the
light of a candle, but for a widely different reason), for the Lord
God giveth them light."
candle—Translate as Greek,
bridegroom … bride … no more …
in thee—Contrast the heavenly city, with its Bridegroom,
Bride, and blessed marriage supper (Re
19:7, 9; 21:2, 9; Isa 62:4, 5).
thy merchants were—So most of the best
authorities read. But A omits the Greek article before
"merchants," and then translates, "The great men of … were thy
24. Applied by Christ (Mt 23:35) to apostate Jerusalem, which proves
that not merely the literal city Rome, and the Church of Rome (though
the chief representative of the apostasy), but the WHOLE of the faithless Church of both the Old and
New Testament is meant by Babylon the harlot; just as the whole Church
(Old and New Testament) is meant by "the woman" (Re 12:1). As to literal city, Aringhus in Bengel says, Pagan Rome was the "general shambles"
for slaying the sheep of Jesus. Fred.
Seyler in Bengel calculates that
papal Rome, between A.D. 1540 and 1580,
slew more than nine hundred thousand Protestants. Three reasons for the
harlot's downfall are given: (1) The worldly greatness of her
merchants, which was due to unholy traffic in spiritual things.
(2) Her sorceries, or juggling tricks, in which the false
prophet that ministers to the beast in its last form shall exceed her;
compare "sorcerers" (Re 21:8; 22:15), specially mentioned among those doomed
to the lake of fire. (3) Her persecution of (Old Testament) "prophets"
and (New Testament) "saints."