Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
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 Her Fall.
1. And—so Vulgate and Andreas. But A, B, Syriac, and Coptic omit "And."
with—Greek, "owing to."
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 … 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.
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. 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.
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, 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.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
5. her sins—as a great heap.
reached—Greek, "reached so far as to come into close contact with, and to cleave unto."
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. Addressed to the executioners of God's wrath.
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 14:8; 17:4).
fill to her double—of the Lord's cup of wrath.
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. How much—that is in proportion as.
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.
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. 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.
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,
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."
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. 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 harlot.
mighty—Rome in Greek means strength; though that derivation is doubtful.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
11. shall—So. B. But A and C read the present, "weep and mourn."
merchandise—Greek, "cargo": 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 Roman Ceremonial.
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. (See on Re 17:4).
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."
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. 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 Latins [Alford].
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].
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. Direct address to Babylon.
the fruits that thy soul lusted after—Greek, "thy autumn-ripe fruits of the lust (eager desire) of the soul."
dainty—Greek, "fat": "sumptuous" in food.
goodly—"splendid," "bright," in dress and equipage.
departed—supported by none of our manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "perished."
thou shalt—A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "They (men) shall no more find them at all."
The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
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 Re 18:10).
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. 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."
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 naught—Greek, "is desolated."
shipmaster—Greek, "steersman," or "pilot."
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 apostate Christendom.
And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
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 "place."
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 world."
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.
that had ships—A, B, and C read, "that had their ships": literally, "the ships."
costliness—her costly treasures: abstract for concrete.
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
20. holy apostles—So C reads. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas read, "Ye saints and ye apostles."
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 God.
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—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 be fulfilled.
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. pipers—flute players. "Musicians," painters and sculptors, have desecrated their art to lend fascination to the sensuous worship of corrupt Christendom.
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. 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, "lamp."
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 merchants."
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
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."