Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Judgement on Babylon
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.Her Glory and Sudden Plagues. Chap. 18 Revelation 18:1-81. another angel] See on Revelation 14:6.
great power] Apparently for destruction: see note on the use of the word in Revelation 9:19.
the earth was lightened with his glory] Ezekiel 43:2, translated rather more literally than in the LXX.
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.2. mightily with a strong voice] We should read, with a mighty voice.
Babylon … is fallen] Revelation 14:8; Isaiah 21:9.
the habitation of devils] Better, an habitation. Similar vengeance is denounced on the literal Babylon, Isaiah 13:21-22, and on Edom, id. Isaiah 34:13-15. It is not quite certain which of the words used in those passages are names of demons or goblins, and which of terrestrial birds and beasts: but there is little doubt that Isaiah, like St John, means to describe both as occupying the desolated city.
the hold] Probably a prison, not a fortress. It is the same word that is translated “cage” in the next clause, and “prison” in 1 St Peter Ephesians 3:19.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.3. the wine of] Should perhaps be omitted: it may have come in from the parallel passage, Revelation 14:8.
the kings of the earth &c.] Revelation 17:2.
the merchants of the earth] Merchants are alluded to as frequenting the literal Babylon in Isaiah 47:15; but the prominence given to them suggests the analogy, not of Babylon but of Tyre: see on Revelation 17:1. Rome was in St John’s day a wealthy and luxurious city, not a commercial city primarily, in the same sense as ancient Tyre and modern London, but a city with an immense commerce, the commerce really belonging to the city, though the port of Ostia was considerably further from the Capitol than the Docks are from Westminster. What Rome was then it may, and probably will, be again: and there is thus no need to look elsewhere than at Rome for the literal fulfilment of St John’s description, though some have thought it inappropriate to the geographical position of the city.
abundance of her delicacies] More literally, power of her luxury.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.4. Come out of her] Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 52:11; Jeremiah 50:8; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:9; Jeremiah 51:45, all referring to the flight of Israel from the literal Babylon. This passage is nearest to the last of those cited: but in the second there is also the suggestion, that the Lord’s people must depart to secure their purity, as well as that they will depart to secure their liberty. They are, however, presumably dwellers at Babylon as captives, not as citizens: it can hardly be meant that any of them really belong to Babylon, or are loth to quit her (like Lot in Sodom) till the very eve of her fall.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.5. have reached] Lit., have cleaved together.
Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.6. rewarded you] “You” should be omitted: a better translation would be, Render to her as she herself rendered. The thought is founded on Psalm 137:8; Jeremiah 50:15; Jeremiah 50:29, and the expression on the former passage.
double unto her] See Jeremiah 16:18; where however the vengeance is on jerusalem.
hath filled fill] Lit. mixed mix: cf. Revelation 14:10.
How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.7. for she saith in her heart &c.] Isaiah 47:7-8 : in Revelation 18:8 we have a reminiscence of the next verse of Isaiah, but less verbally close.
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.8. she shall be utterly burnt with fire] So Revelation 17:16. While literally true of the city, the doom may refer to that pronounced by the Law on certain cases of foul fornication, Leviticus 21:9, &c.
for strong is the Lord God] Jeremiah 50:34.
that Judgeth] Rather, that hath judged.
And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,The Lamentation over them on Earth, Revelation 18:9-199. the kings of the earth] Who bore a more or less immediately active part in her destruction, Revelation 17:16 : see note there.
shall bewail her] Read simply, shall weep.
the smoke of her burning] Cf. Genesis 19:28.
Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.10. for the fear] i.e. because of their fear. Their regret for her destruction is sincere, but does not make them forget themselves.
Alas, alas] The interjection is the same as is elsewhere rendered “Woe.” So in Revelation 18:16.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:11. shall weep and mourn] Read, weep and mourn (in the present tense).
for no man buyeth &c.] Their sorrow is even more purely selfish than that of the kings.
merchandise] Strictly, cargo.
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,12. This whole passage should be compared with Ezekiel 27, where the wealth and trade of Tyre is described in detail.
and scarlet] Thus far the goods enumerated have been expressed by genitives, “merchandise of gold … and of scarlet.” Here they cease to be so, as far as the word “sheep.”
thyine wood] Wood of the thyia or thyion, a kind of cypress or arbor vitae: apparently the same that was called citrus by the Romans, and used for the costliest furniture.
And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.13. and cinnamon] Add “and amomum,”—a precious oriental ointment. The word was accidentally omitted by copyists, from its likeness to the latter part of the preceding one.
and horses] Lit., of horses,—the genitive dependent on “merchandise” is resumed.
chariots] Not war-chariots like those mentioned in the O. T., but luxurious carriages.
slaves] Comparing Ezekiel 27:14, perhaps we are to understand grooms or coachmen, attached to the horses and chariots. The word means literally bodies, but the sense “slaves” was recognised in Greek, though not strictly classical.
souls of men] Ezekiel 27:13. As “horses and chariots and bodies” are genitives, and “souls” accusative, we can hardly connect the last two words, “bodies and souls of men.” But while we never find in the Bible an Englishman’s horror of slavery as an institution, we are no doubt to understand that St John—perhaps even that Ezekiel—felt it to be cruel and unnatural to regard human beings as mere merchandise.
And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.14. fruits … lusted after] Lit., the fruit-harvest of the desire of thy soul.
thy … thee … thee … thou] It seems as though the writer had forgotten the construction with which the long sentence, Revelation 18:11-13, began: this verse stands as if the lamentation of the merchants were being quoted. In the next verse, it is described again, and then is quoted more regularly.
goodly] Lit., bright. R. V. “sumptuous.”
thou shalt find] Read, they shall find.
The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!16. Alas, alas] See on Revelation 18:10.
decked] Lit., gilded, as at Revelation 17:4.
stones … pearls] Both these words should be collective singulars.
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,17. is come to nought] Lit., is made desolate.
all the company in ships] Read with R. V., and everyone that saileth any whither. The words will probably stand for the merchants travelling in ships with their own goods, which they intend to sell on arriving at their destination—Lat. vectores.
sailors] Cf. Ezekiel 27:29 sqq.
trade by sea] Lit., work the sea. The sense is more general than the A. V.: it will include all three classes, shipmasters, sailing merchants, and sailors.
And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!18. What city is like &c.] Ezekiel 27:32.
And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.19. they cast dust &c.] Ibid. 30.
had ships] Read, had the ships or their ships.
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.The Rejoicing over them in Heaven, Revelation 18:20-2420. Rejoice over her] Revelation 12:12. There may be a reminiscence of Jeremiah 51:48. We cannot tell if the words are those of the angel of Revelation 18:1, of the voice of Revelation 18:4, or of the seer himself: perhaps the second is most likely.
holy apostles and prophets] Read, the saints and the apostles and the prophets.
avenged you] Lit., judged your judgement, condemned her for her condemnation of you. Notice the mention of “apostles” as well as other “saints,” as proving that apostles suffered in Rome; and so confirming the unanimous tradition as to the martyrdom there of SS. Peter and Paul. Notice also (in reference to the theory mentioned on Revelation 2:2) St John’s recognition of the latter as an apostle. Whether he had himself been condemned to death at Rome cannot be determined: the tradition to that effect was ancient, but not demonstrably so ancient, nor so wide-spread or so confirmed by scriptural evidence (see on St John’s Gospel John 21:18-19).
And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.21. a mighty angel] Lit., one strong angel.
cast it into the sea &c.] Jeremiah 51:63-64.
with violence] Lit., with a rush or dash. R. V. “with a mighty fall.”
And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;22. the voice of harpers &c.] Isaiah 14:11, of Babylon, Ezekiel 26:13, of Tyre, are certainly parallels: compare also Isaiah 24:8, which is as similar as the passages of Jeremiah referred to on the following passage, and apparently, like them, spoken of the unfaithful Jerusalem.
the sound of a millstone &c.] Jeremiah 25:10.
And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.23. the voice of the bridegroom &c.] Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9.
for thy merchants &c.] Isaiah 23:8, of Tyre. Some read “for the great men of the earth were thy merchants”, which makes the resemblance less close, but does not forbid our seeing a reference.
by thy sorceries] Compare especially Nahum 3:4.
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.24. And in her] St John passes from recording the angel’s denunciation to the impression made on his own mind by the judgement he witnessed.
of all that were slain upon the earth] Cf. Jeremiah 51:49, where however, if the A. V. be right, the sense is rather different. “The slain of all the earth” here seem to mean “the slain of (the spiritual) Israel,” there, the allies of Babylon who share in her fall.