Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
First Special End-Judgment; Judgment upon Babylon. Earth-picture. (Ch. 18)
General.—That essential judgment of Babylon which lies in her very appearance, and has been manifested in the light of Heaven, is here unfolded on earth in a distinct series of evolutions.
The first Act of the judgment, as executed by the Angel from Heaven, consists of the verdict upon Babylon, the sentence of Divine justice.
The second Act is the incipient execution of the judgment in the social sphere of justice. It is divided into two actions: (1) The people of God go out of Babylon (Rev 18:4, 6), and (2) the world is commissioned to react against Babylon in pursuance of the same law of violence which she herself has exercised (Rev 18:6, 8). The universality of her judgment is expressed in the despair and lamentation of all her allies, who are too cowardly to take her part, but yet are stricken with her. The third Act is the complete historic repudiation of Babylon, executed by the strong Angel with a millstone, in a symbolic act.
The whole constitutes the greatest tragedy of the world, complete in three or five Acts, according to the greater or less prominence bestowed upon the middle items:
1. The guilt of Babylon towards humanity;
2. The exode of the people of God from her;
3. The reaction of the hostile world against her;
4. The lamentation of her friends—a prelude to the final catastrophe;
5. The final catastrophe.
The Angel who, descending from Heaven, lightens the earth with his radiance, and proclaims the fall of Babylon, is also, without doubt, the actual spiritual author of her judgment. For he has great authority, and transports her judgment from Heaven to earth. That is, that judgment which is already declared in the sphere of the celestial Spirit, with the delineation of the character of Babylon, now, through the heavenly illumination proceeding from the Angel, becomes a subject of the universal consciousness of mankind. We hold that the Angel represents evangelic Christianity in the full development of the beauty of its moral and humane principles. For Babylon has outraged all these principles, from liberty of conscience to the recognition of public law. She has perverted her claim to be the educator of mankind into the exact opposite, having become the seducer and destroyer of humanity.
The cry of this Angel is followed by the voice from Heaven, the sentence of the heavenly Spirit, the law of the Kingdom of God—declaratory, on the one hand, of the right of the Church (come forth out of her) and, on the other hand, of the right of the State (recompense to her), and expressing itself, thirdly, as the spirit of history and poetry, in the portrayal of the great lamentations. The tragic coloring of this entire judgment-scene is distinctly brought out in all this; it is particularly prominent, however, in the symbolic execution of the final catastrophe.
Special.—[Rev 18:1.] Who is the Angel who comes down from Heaven, and whose glory lightens the earth?—[Rev 18:2.] The mighty cry over Babylon. Fallen! fallen! or the perfect certainty that Babylon will fall on earth, even as she has already fallen in the sight of God.—Contrast betwixt what Babylon should be and what she has become.—[Rev 18:3.] Babylon’s transgression against mankind: (1) against the nations, (2) against the kings, (3) against the rich and great.—[Rev 18:4.] Call to the people of God, to come out from Babylon: 1. Meaning of the call; 2. Motive of the call; 3. Neglect of the call (latitudinarianism); 4. Misinterpretation of the call (separatism).—[Rev 18:4, 6.] Diverse conduct of the Church and the world toward guilty Babylon.—Retributory right of the world. This remains pure only in so far as it remains an execution of the right and keeps itself free from fanaticism.—[Rev 18:8.] Recompense of corporeal fiery judgments by a social and spiritual judgment of fire.—[Rev 18:7, 8.] Contrast between the haughty self-blinding of Babylon and her imminent and great day of judgment.—The City of the Seven Mountains: yesterday and today.—[Rev 18:9–19.] The three lamentations of the world over the fall of Babylon. Common characteristics of them: 1. A view of her fall; 2. A standing afar off and refraining from taking her part; 3. A participation in the stroke that has fallen upon her—but in the sorrow of this world, with no recognition of the justice of the blow, of its nature as a judgment, or of the Judge Who has inflicted it.—Heaven’s judgments, earth’s tragedies.—[Rev 18:9, 10.] Lamentation of the kings (see EXEG. NOTES).—[Rev 18:11, 15–17]. Lamentation of the great, the supporters of the luxury of the earth.—, [Rev 18:17–19]. Lamentation of the pilots or tradesmen.—Community and division of egoistical interests in the lamentations over the fall of Babylon.—Ironical enumeration of the depreciated goods of Babylon (Rev 18:12–14).—As the Church in its way, and the State in its way, so science and art in their way are concerned in the judgment upon Babylon.—The unspiritual lamentation of the world over the fall of Babylon contains the germ of that judgment which is later to descend upon the world.—[Rev 18:21.] The symbolic act of the strong Angel, a representation of the grand final catastrophe itself.—[Rev 18:22, 23.] Babylon’s desolation. Her spiritual desolation shall be followed by an æsthetic desolation, and to this a desolation of business and of home life shall succeed.
Rev 18:24. The summit of Babylon’s guilt: she is the murderess of the prophets and saints.—This verse is supplemental to Rev 18:3.
STARKE: Rev 18:2; comp. Is. 21:7; Jer. 51:8 The repetition of the word [fallen] is indicative of the greatness and certainty of the fall.
Rev 18:4. This exode is based upon a gracious leading out on the part of God. There are certain grades in the execution of it, and it is performed as follows: 1. With the heart, by a right belief and acknowledgment of the truth, and hatred of false doctrine; 2. With the mouth, by a public confession of the truth, and rejection of errors; 3. With the body, by a going away from those places in which Babylon has its throne and superstition.—God’s people and Church are, partially, still in Babylon, although hidden; otherwise God could not command them to come out.—[Rev 18:5.] Sins that cry unto Heaven (Gen. 4:10), whose measure is full, and upon which final ruin follows.
Rev 18:7. These words are taken from Isa. 47:5–10. The greater the security and pride of the wicked, the more terrible is their punishment.
Rev 18:8. As Babylon burned innocent martyrs with fire, so shall she herself be burned with fire.
Rev 18:10. The fear of torment may cause us (outwardly) to remove far from those with whom we have sinned, but love to God alone can make their sin odious to us.
Rev 18:12. QUESNEL: Let us gather treasures that will endure to eternity; nought is eternal save that which is done with a view to eternity. Rev 18:16. The world does not mourn over the loss of eternal salvation, but over the loss of riches and external magnificence.
Rev 18:20. It is at the downfall of evil, and at Divine vengeance that the pious rejoice; not out of a carnal mind and self-love, but by the ordinance of God and from the love of righteousness (Ps. 91:8).
Rev 18:21. The wicked fall into the abyss of perdition as stones fall into the abyss of the sea. That which the world regards as highly exalted finally meets with the deeper fall (Ezek. 21:26).
Rev 18:24. The slaughter of true believers under the papacy is like the murder of the saints in the beginning of the world.—Great cities are destroyed on account of the many and enormous sins that are committed in them.—God reckons to the charge of the wicked all the sins of their ancestors, because they tread in their foot-steps (and the guilt of their ancestors attains its consummation and meridian in them).
Schlüssel Offenb. Joh. durch einen Kreuzritter (p. 289): The most terrible thing for a human community is when the salt of the earth, that should preserve it from corruption, is taken out of it by death or emigration, when the props of the rotten building give way, when Lot is led forth from Sodom, because there are not even, ten righteous men therein.
[From M. HENRY: Rev 18:4. Those that are resolved to partake with wicked men in their sins must receive of their plagues.
Rev 18:5. When the sins of a people reach up to heaven, the wrath of God will reach down to earth.
Rev 18:7. God will proportion the punishment of sinners to the measure of their wickedness, pride and security.
Rev 18:9–19. The pleasures of sin are but for a season, and they will end in dismal sorrow.]
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.B.–EARTH-PICTURE OF THE FALL OF BABYLON.
1And [om. And]1 After these things I saw another angel come down [descending] from [ins. the] heaven, having great power [authority]; and the earth was lightened2 [lighted up] with his glory. And he cried mightily [om. mightily] with [in] a strong voice,2 saying, [ins. Fallen, fallen is] Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen [om. is fallen, is fallen], and is become the [a] habitation of devils [demons], and the [a] hold (φυλακή) of every foul [unclean] spirit, and a cage [hold] of everyunclean and hateful [hated] bird. 3For all nations have drunk of [or fallen by]3 the wine4 of the wrath [anger or rage]5 of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have [om. have] committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed [became] rich through the abundance [from the power or influence(δύναμις)] of her delicacies [luxury]. 4And I heard another voice from [ins. the] heaven, saying, Come [ins. forth] out6 of her, my people, that ye be not partakersof [partake not in] her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5For her sins have reached [heaped together]7 unto [ins. the] heaven, and God hath remembered6 her iniquities. Reward [Render unto] her even [om. even] as [ins. also] she rewarded [rendered] you [om. you]8, and double unto her [om. unto her—ins. the]9 double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled [or mingled10], fill to [ormingle10 for] her double. 7How much she hath [om. hath] glorified herself [herself], and lived deliciously [luxuriated], so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart [ins. that]11, I sit a queen, and am no widow [a widow Iam not], and shall see no sorrow [sorrow I shall not see]. 8Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning [sorrow], and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth [judged]12 9her. And [ins. there shall weep and wail over her] the kings of the earth, who [ins. with her] have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her [om. with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her], when they shall [om. shall] see the smoke of her burning, 10standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas [Woe], alas [woe], that [the] great city [,] Babylon, that mighty [the strong] city! for in one hour is [om. is] thy judgmentcome [came]. 11And the merchants of the earth shall [om. shall]13 weep and mourn 12[sorrow] over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise [lading] any more: The [om. The]14 merchandise [lading] of gold, and [ins. of] silver, and [ins. of] precious stones [stone], and of pearls, and [ins. of] fine linen, and [ins. of] purple, and [ins. of] silk, and [ins. of] scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory [every ivory article], and all manner vessels [every article] of most 13precious wood, and of brass, and [ins. of] iron, and [ins. of] marble, and cinnamon, ins. and amomum,]15 and odors [incense (θυμιάματα)], and ointments [ointment], and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts [cattle], and sheep, and [ins. of] horses, and [ins. of] chariots, and [ins. of] slaves [bodies (σωμάτων)],14and souls (ψυχἅς) of men. And the [thy]16 fruits [fruit-time (ὀπώρα)]17 that thy soul lusted after are [om. that thy soul lusted after are—ins. of the desire of the16 soul is] departed from thee, and all [ins. the fat] things [ins. and the bright things] which were dainty and goodly [om. which were dainty and goodly] are [have] departed from thee, and thou shalt [they18 shall] find them no [never, never] moreat all.19 15The merchants of these things, which were made [who became] rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing [sorrowing],16And [om. And]20 saying, Alas [Woe], alas [woe], that [the] great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked [gilded] with gold,17and precious stones [stone], and pearls [pearl]! For [Because] in one hour [ins. was made desolate] so great riches [wealth] is come to nought [om. is come to nought]. And every shipmaster [pilot], and all the company in ships [every one sailing in the region (or any whither],21 and sailors, and as many as trade by [ply the] sea,stood afar off, 18and cried when they saw [or seeing] the smoke of her burning, saying,What city is [om. is] like unto this, the great city! 19And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing [sorrowing], saying, Alas [Woe], alas [woe], that [the] great city, wherein were made [became] rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is [was] she made desolate.20Rejoice over her, thou [O] heaven, and ye holy [om. ye holy—ins. the saints, and the] apostles and [ins. the] prophets; for God hath avenged you [om. hath avenged you—ins. judged your judgment]22 on her.21And a [or one] mighty [strong] angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it [om. it] into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall [ins. be cast] that great city [om. that great city] Babylon [ins., the great city] be thrown down [om. be thrown22 down], and shall be found no more at all.23 And the [a] voice of harpers, and [ins. of] musicians [or singers], and of pipers, and [ins. of] trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no [any] craftsman [artisan], of [ins. any art] whatsoever craft he be [om. whatsoever craft he be], shall be found any [no] more [ins. at all] in thee; and 23the [a] sound [voice] of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the [a] light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the [a] voice of the [om. the] bridegroom and of the [om. the] bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth;24 for by thy sorceries [sorcery] were all [ins. the] nations deceived [seduced or misled (ἐπλανήθησαν)]. 24And in her was found the [om. the] blood25 of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were [have been] slain upon the earth.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL.
With the vision of the heavenly counsel of judgment upon Babylon and the ideal judgment itself, is conjoined the proleptical representation of the actual judgment as taking place on the earth. Hence, together with the unity of the two sections, we must also recognize the contrast between these two pictures of Babylon. In the light of Heaven, Babylon appears as a Woman, who, in the pomp of false magnificence and beauty, has lapsed into the extreme of hideousness; a Harlot,—drunken with blood—the blood of the saints; bearing still the golden cup of holy consecration, but riding upon the blood-colored Beast of Antichristianity, the organ of the abyss. In her earthly self-sufficiency and in the lament of the earth on her account (Rev 18), she is a Queen, to whom the kings of the earth have paid homage, who has been magnified by the rich, the merchants, and the sea-farers, glorified by the artisans, and marvelled at, in her splendor, possessions and enjoyment, by the inhabitants of the earth.
A strong Angel, who descends from Heaven to earth, comes upon her. His strength is signalized by the fact that the earth is lighted up by his glory. There is but one enlightenment for the earth—viz., the light of the gospel; but there is a distinction between the stage of apostolic embassage, that of reformatory confession, dogma and cultus, and this spiritual day-light of evangelic truth—appropriated by all good spirits,—which, in Divine-human beauty, in Christian humanity, finally, as in one instant, extends from land to land, and illumines the fallen Woman in all her hate-fulness, thus executing upon her the ideal judgment and denouncing (Rev 18:2, 3) the first real judgment, which appears as a self-judgment of the great Babylon in her internal relations. The ideal judgment is the heavenly proclamation of her fall, loudly promulgated through the earth. Fallen! fallen! is the judicial cry of Heaven. The fall agrees in greatness with the height which she claimed as Babylon the Great (see Is. 14).
First Fundamental Form of the Actual Judgment. Revelation of the Inner Judgment of the Fallen Church [Rev 18:2, 3].
She has become a habitation or dwelling-place of demons;—does not this, considered in the light of Heaven, signify a sort of Hell on earth? A watch-tower [hold] of all manner of unclean spirits;—does not this mean a concentration of the most diverse evil motives and egoistical characters? A coop or poultry-yard [hold] of all unclean and hated birds;—does not this mean a gathering-place of all volatile minds, intent upon the prey of earthly profits? (See Matt. 13:32.) The Spirit of prophecy has indicated a firm and exclusive organization by a three-fold term: a fixed habitation, a watch-tower, a secure receptacle for birds.26 It is true that φυλακή, in both instances of its occurrence, may be significant of a prison; this term would not here have been applicable to the demons. The cause of this destruction of Babylon is the wine of the anger [or rage] of her fornication, i. e., the riotous enthusiasm of her anger [rage] or fanaticism in favor of her idolatries, her deifications of all sorts. Of this wine she has given to all nations to drink, and has intoxicated them more or less, instead of truly sobering them for the milk of the Gospel and wholesome nourishment, in accordance with the reiterated instructions of the Apostles Peter and Paul (1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:34; 1 Thess. 5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Titus 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26). In distinction from this popular fanaticism, the kings of the earth, with the political consciousness of refined worldly-mindedness, have committed fornication with her—have deified her, permitted themselves to be deified by her, and shared all manner of other deifications with her.27 Another pernicious effect is that the merchants, i. e., those speculators of earth who are bent upon mammon, have become rich through her luxury. The very one who should equalize earthly relations by the spirit of Christian brotherliness [i. e., the Church], has, by self-deification and the deification of earthly powers, brought to a culmination that false pomp and love of magnificence by which the normal distinction of rich and poor has been perverted into unnatural and pernicious extremes of luxury and pauperism. The poisoning of popular life, of politics, of social ordinances—such is the three-fold and yet unitous effect of her three principal sins:  the presentation of the wine of anger [or rage (see NOTES 5, p. 318; and 16, p. 274).—E. R. C.];  seduction to fornication;  luxurious external show.
Second Judgment. Social Judgment of Separation between the People of God and the City of Babylon (Rev 18:4, 5).
This separation is brought about by the command of a voice from the Heaven. Whilst the Angel who descended from Heaven has executed the judgment of the Spirit of truth, this voice comes from the height of Heaven, and, as appears from the context, from the judgment-throne of God Himself. The exode of the people of God from fellowship with Babylon, not only brings her internal judgment to view, but also serves as an introduction to the external judgment, because it is itself the dynamical social judgment. Thus must Noah go forth from the antediluvian race that had incurred the judgment of God; thus Lot must depart from Sodom; thus Israel, from Egypt; thus the primitive Christians, from fallen Jerusalem; and so on. This exode, which includes within itself the abrogation of all relations of religious fellowship, is demanded by truth, by righteousness, by fidelity to the Lord. Thus believers execute the minor ban in just reaction against the great ban, and the Church finally goes forth from the Church, in order that it may continue to be the Church (Heb. 13:13).28 The conservation of human relations of duty will come out all the more clearly, the more the religious and moral errors of a false humanism are discarded in pure and strict freedom of spirit. This exode also becomes necessary, however, for the self-preservation of believing souls, as is declared by the warning: That ye partake not in her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. How easily an accompliceship in guilt originates through implication in the sins of others, the Old Testament has typically demonstrated in the institution of the sin-offering (Lev. 5), as well as in many historical occurrences (Joshua 7.). The modern world’s sensorium for these mysterious relations of guilt is much enfeebled. Even an entrance into the heritage of the heaviest ancient blood-debts is performed by many with as little misgiving as if they were stepping into a child’s room pervaded with the breath of innocence, or even into a temple of pure spirit, pervaded with spirit-breath. The judgment of God, however, must be executed, because the sins of the City do not simply cry unto Heaven, like the sins of Sodom (Gen. 18), but they have become interlinked with each other and tower up upon each other even to Heaven, until they have become a demonic offence against the very Throne of God. Hence, God has become mindful of her iniquities—not simply of the last and newest, but of the entire series of them. The culmination of these iniquities has—humanly speaking—again made present to Him the whole history of their development, and with these words, the conclusion of His refraining long-suffering and the dawn of His infliction of judgment are expressed. At the basis of the expression in our passage lies a reference to the history of Sodom, the more obviously since here, also, a fiery judgment is at hand.
Third Judgment. The Recompense of Babylon (Rev 18:6–8).
The command to execute the judgment of retribution is not, like the preceding words, addressed to the people of God, as has been supposed in accordance with the reading of minuscules: as she rewarded [rendered to] you.29 But neither is the command addressed to the Angels of the plagues, as Bleek supposes, for this retribution is, according to Rev 17:16, to be executed by the Ten Horns and the Beast. The same judgment which, in the chapter cited, is spoken of as to be accomplished by them, is mentioned here, again, in Rev 18:8. The address is to those to whom she has presented the cup (Matt. 7:6). De Wette with justice remarks: A challenge to the executioners of the penal judgment. ̓Αποδιδόναι has at its second occurrence the meaning of the Hebrew נָמַל. It shall be done to her as she has done to others. This is the law of historic retribution which runs through the whole of the Sacred Writings (see Rev 13:10). It shall, moreover, be recompensed double to her. As repentance has a double value in proportion to the punishment which preceded it (Is. 40:2), so the guilt which is heaped up for the Day of Wrath has, similarly, a double value in reference to the succeeding punishment. So, in particular, the cup of the wine of anger is to be filled double for her. At the time of judgment, negative fanaticism falls, with double fury, upon the guilt of positive fanaticism.—But not simply the torments which she has inflicted upon men are to be recompensed to her, but also her self-glorification and arrogant ostentation are to be punished, in a corresponding degree, with torment and sorrow. The heavenly voice also gives the ground of this severe sentence. For, even now in the hour of judgment, she, hardened and without a foreboding of approaching ill, gives utterance in her heart to her false security thus: I sit [Lange: am enthroned as] a queen, and a widow I am not (comp. Luke 18:3;—not the Church that misses her heavenly Christ on earth), and sorrow I shall not see. This obduracy is the motive which doubles her guilt and punishment. Therefore, also, shall her plagues come in one day—i. e., she does not gradually sink into ruin, but she plunges into it in one grand historic catastrophe. The plagues branch out into the number of the world, the worldly number of completeness, four: Death, mourning [sorrow], hunger, fire. Death, doubtless, should not be interpreted as the death of her children (Düsterdieck), but as a presentiment of ruin which now comes over her. With this death, her egoistic lamentations correspond, amid which, again, her hunger after world-empire is augmented to fury, whilst the fire of judgment is already coming upon her. These plagues now attack her with inevitable certitude, for God has already commenced to judge her (ὁ κρίνας), and He is mighty in His judgments, which He executes through the medium of mighty earthly powers.
Hereupon the heavenly voice denounces a simultaneous judgment upon those classes which have mingled with Great Babylon and involved themselves in her guilt; representing them as mourners over the fallen one (Rev 18:9–20).
The unitous idea of these lamentations lies in the premise that the mock-holy City has her sympathies, her roots, in the worldliness of the world, especially the great world; that she has, however, brought this world, which it was her duty to convert to God, itself to the brink of perdition. For she has made self-deification, the titanic glorification of her own dignity and authority, the centre of all corruption. She has thereby induced the kings or potentates of the earth to push their authority also to a degree exceeding a right human measure, to exchange reciprocal deifications with her and either in pride to compete with her, or to make fellowship with her. Thus have been formed the spheres of a morbid luxury, far exceeding the measure of morality, and as the merchants of the earth, or the organs of this luxury, have attained to a colossal and morbid greatness, so, likewise, have their riches reached a corresponding grandeur. Even wholesale trade, in the most extensive sense of the term, or supermarine intercourse of the world with the world, has been drawn into this great vortex of feverish worldliness. Thus the most thorough men of the world, far and wide, have lived and sinned with Great Babylon, and are most profoundly shaken and discomfited by her fall. But they care not to share her lot with her; they are faithless to her in her hour of need. The kings stand afar off for the fear of her torment (Rev 18:10). The merchants stand afar off for the fear of her torment (Rev 18:15). The sea-farers and marine traders stand afar off and cry (Rev 18:17). Doubtless, together with the ideas of their participation in her guilt, their grief, and their cowardly desertion of their mistress, there is likewise expressed the fact that Great Babylon is involved in a tremendous conflagration, which illuminates the whole earth, which admits of no remedy, which none dare approach, which, however, is visible from the remotest spots—so far, at least, as its pillar of smoke is concerned—holding all spectators spellbound with fear and amazement. It might be queried: why the great detailedness of the description, especially of articles of luxury (Rev 18:12–14)? Here we encounter the same masterly skill of the prophetic spirit which is displayed by Isaiah in his portrayal of the luxury of the Hebrew women (Is. 3). For the worldly mind, this very detail of articles of pomp and pleasure is of supreme importance; the prophecy, therefore, ironically enters into this mode of view—the more, since for Babylon every particle of her pleasure becomes a particle of torment. It is, further, characteristic that the kings shall weep and passionately and loudly lament (κόπτεσθαι) over the fall of Babylon, yet shall hold themselves aloof even at the ascending of the smoke from the beginning conflagration. That which caused them to become worshippers of the City, were the greatness and (magic) power of it. The merchants of the earth weep also; their sorrow, however, takes the form of mourning for the loss which has assailed them. Together with the greatness of the City, its magnificence and wealth have dazzled them. The sea-farers express their mourning for Babylon most passionately, in accordance with their life on the water; they were enchained by the incomparableness of the City and the great gain which it brought them.
The first lament is that of the kings of the earth; not the kings as such, but those rulers who, by the aid of the Hierarchy, have despotically governed, and, to enable them thus to do, have worked into the hands of the Hierarchy, being, therefore, bearers of a reciprocal deification.
The heavenly voice describes the lament of the merchants most comprehensively. The splendor of the merchandise of the City is expatiated upon, as consisting of: (1) Precious things [metals, jewels] and splendid stuffs; (2) Costly material (fragrant citron [thyine-] wood) and costly vessels of precious stuffs of all sorts; (3) Spices, ointments, incense; (4) Delicious articles of enjoyment and nourishment; (5) Articles of a princely household, from draught-cattle and flocks of sheep to the souls of slaves—or slavish souls, which are the permanent fundamental condition of every Babylonish power. It might be thought strange that after all this, mention is made of delicious fruit,30 and that here the enumeration passes into the form of an address to Babylon itself; but in this region the smallest thing is in many respects the greatest, and, moreover, a special category of gastronomical delicacies is in point—those, particularly, which belong to a princely dessert. Whilst the kings designated the great disaster of one hour, the catastrophe, as a judgment upon Babylon, the merchants lament that in one hour the great wealth of luxury in which Babylon arrayed herself, is destroyed.
Still more openly do the sea-farers express their egoistical interest in their cry of woe and lamentation for Great Babylon.
After this fore-description of the special judgments which, with the fall of Babylon, come upon her companions, the judgment upon Babylon herself is represented in a symbolic act.
The heavenly voice replies to all the unworthy lamentations of earth with a cry of exultation. All those who long ago pronounced the spiritual sentence of Babylon’s lost state, without its appearing that their sentence was of any value in the actual world, are exhorted to rejoice. Now their sentence is ratified by the judgment of God. For such is the meaning of the passage; reference is not again had to the false judgment which they have previously experienced from Babylon, for how would such a reference be applicable to Heaven? Babylon has been judged from of old: 1. By the Heaven in general, the whole ideal world of God; 2. By the Saints, and 3. By the Apostles—nay, 4. Even before them, by the Prophets of the Old Covenant.
Next follows the symbolic representation of the final consummation of the judgment. A strong Angel takes up a stone, like a great millstone, and casts it into the sea, making this act, the violent casting of the stone, the great whirlpool occasioned by it, and the precipitate sinking of the stone, a symbol of the imminent, sudden and violent reprobation of Babylon. The Angel, because he is a fore-runner of the close Parousia of Christ, is conceived of as a personal being (see Rev 19:9, 10); his action, however, is thoroughly symbolical. The allegorical symbol gains in expressiveness, it becomes typical, if we consider that the sea denotes the life of the nations, that the millstone is already familiar as the instrument of punishment for offence given (Matt. 18:6), that, finally, the proclamation of the strong Angel, in connection with his action, is expressive of the surest certainty of the Spirit of God in His Church. The judgment upon Babylon superinduces a great agitation in the sea of nations. This agitation is occasioned by a great stone of stumbling or most flagrant offence given by Babylon to the world, in particular to the “little ones;”31 and it is the Angel of the Christian faith who has in this world awakened the consciousness of the life of the nations in respect of this offence, as is expressed by the fore-runner of Christ from the other world, one, in angelic form, of the glorified ones who shall appear with Christ. The City, as Great Babylon, is destroyed; as a ruin, as a desert place, she continues, for a memorial of terror. Hence the Angel describes her imminent desolation, not simply in order to intimate that her own destruction is illustrated by the destruction of her glory. This has been previously declared. The design is, rather, to sketch the desolation of the ruin of this spiritual Babylon in negative traits, even as Isaiah depicted the desolation of the ancient Asiatic Babylon in positive traits. No musical sound from any festivity can be heard any more in the deathly stillness of Babylon. Not a single artist of any art can be found any more in the desert of her ruins. No sound of a mill betrays a trace of business or domestic life; no light of a candle occasions the inference of life or of a social circle; with the voice of bridegroom and bride, every festal presage of a future laden with new life has vanished. And now again, to conclude the picture, the grounds for the judgment are laid before us—viz.: Babylon’s double guilt. On the one hand, she has fully corrupted the corrupt world. For the great of the earth, the possessors of power, were her merchants, i. e., the agents and abettors of her affairs (οἱ ἔμποροι is the predicate, according to Eichhorn; see also Ebrard). Note well the distinction. The ἔμποροι τῆς γῆς (Rev 18:3) have become rich through the Woman; the μεγιστᾶνες τῆς γῆς have become the ἔμποροί σου, i. e., of the Woman. [See TEXT. AND GRAM., NOTE 24, Rev 18:23.—E. R. C.] Her love of magnificence has driven luxury to its acme, and converted the dealers in it into great lords; it is still worse, however, that she has made the great of the earth agents of her interests. It was her fault that the merchants32 could in many cases become barons and princes—that the princes could in many cases become merchants [Krämer], e. g., of indulgences, hierarchical stocks, and the like. Thus she has instituted a reciprocal action between egoistical mammon-service and egoistical power. The nations have been led astray by her sorceries of all sorts. Thus she has seduced the world in its great and little ones. Of the kernel of the Church, however—the Prophets and Saints—not the living images, but the bloody traces of martyrdom, were found in her. The Angel, truly, seems to conclude his accusation in a very hyperbolical manner. Is the blood of all who have been slain on earth to be placed to the account of Babylon? We might say: Undoubtedly it is, inasmuch as, at the day of reckoning, Babylon forms the centre of all human guilt and blood-guiltiness. The choice of the verb, however, constitutes a very important item for consideration. Σφάζειν, the verb in question, denotes; at least in a predominant degree, slaying from a religious point of view; here, therefore, are indicated the slain upon the earth who have been slain as sacrifices to fanaticism in general, and especially in the religious wars and religious criminal courts of earth. The centre of these specific crimes is Babylon; it is manifest, however, that Babylon is not here intended simply as a local centre, for the like blood-guiltinesses make their appearance sporadically all over Christendom—though, indeed, always as fanatical radii, having a fanatical centre.33
[ABSTRACT OR VIEWS, ETC.]
By the American Editor.
[ELLIOTT: (See on pp. 281, 296.) The section extends to the close of Rev 19:4. In it we have—I. Rev 18:1. An angelic proclamation of the approaching destruction of Babylon;—a proclamation, (1) similar to that of Rev 14:8, but with additional circumstances (Rev 18:3); (2) anticipative, but as immediately preceding the catastrophe. II. A warning voice to Christ’s true servants to come out of her; which implies that (1) there would be some of the holy seed in the mystic Babylon, (2) their danger of participation in her destruction would be imminent. III. A vivid description of the catastrophe, in which are depicted: 1. Its nature, (1) unexpected (she sits a queen, etc.); (2) instantaneous (in an hour); (3) total (all life destroyed); (4) by eternal (superhuman?) fire (19:3): 2. The lamentations over the fall,—(1) of the kings who committed fornication with her; (2) of the merchants, etc., who were enriched by her. IV. The reasons for the judgment,—(1) her deception of all nations; (2) her persecution of the saints. V. The heavenly song of praise over the destruction,—(1) twice by the heavenly host, Hallelujah (19:1–3); (2) once (and it is the last act related of them) by the Elders and Living-beings, Amen—Hallelujah (19:4).—From this passage the following conclusions, as to the probable progress of fast-coming future events, may be drawn that—I. The destruction of Rome, the mystic Babylon (comprehending not only the City and the Ecclesiastical State; but, probably, the political tri-partition adhering to it, 16:19), shall, very soon after the tri-partition, and unexpectedly, be effected by an earthquake and volcanic fire.34 II. Immediately before this event there will be a diffusion of great religious light, and a sounding forth of strong appeals on the character and imminent doom of both Rome and the Popedom, alike in the Church and in the world. III. The Jews will probably at, or just after, the catastrophe, be converted (indicated by the Hebrew HALLELUJAH—this being the first introduction of a word from that language in praise). IV. Down to the time figured by this chorus (a song represented as being in Heaven), no translation of the living saints or resurrection of the departed will have taken place.
BARNES: This chapter is a still further explanatory episode designed to show the effect of the pouring out of the seventh Vial (16:17–21) upon the Antichristian power; the description is that of a rich merchant-city reduced to desolation, and is but carrying out the general idea under a different form. We have—(1) the angelic descent and proclamation, Rev 18:1–3; (2) a warning to the people of God to be partakers neither of her sins nor plagues, accompanied by a description of the latter, Rev 18:4–8; (3) lamentation over her fall—by those who had been, (a) connected with her, (b) corrupted by her, (c) profited by her, Rev 18:9–19; (4) rejoicing over her fall, Rev 18:20; (5) the final (and total) destruction, Rev 18:21–24. (Whilst this writer regards the Papacy, and not the city of Rome, as the object specially contemplated by the prophecy, he thinks it possible that there may be a literal fulfillment of the prophecy burned with fire, Rev 18:8, in the destruction of the city as in order to the destruction of the power; for quotations tending to support this view, see the preceding foot-note. For special comments, see EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL in loc.)
STUART: In his Introduction to Rev 17, this commentator remarks: “Before any attack was made upon the Kingdom of the Beast, an Angel proclaimed the fall of great Babylon (i. e., ‘persecuting and pagan Rome’), 14:8. This, however, was only in general terms. But now the seventh Vial has been poured out, and the city has been shaken to its very foundation, and thus a ruinous state of things has already commenced, Rev 16:17–21. Final and utter extinction, however, still remains to be achieved. Accordingly an Angel next appears, and not only renews the proclamation of the fall of Babylon, but describes this in such terms as necessarily to imply its utter ruin.”35
WORDSWORTH: “Fuller description of the future fall of the Mystical Babylon. It is to be carefully observed that though Babylon falls, the Beast still remains. Therefore, the fall of Papal Rome will not be the destruction of the Papacy.”
ALFORD: Chaps. 18:1–19:10 relate to the Destruction of Babylon. I. Announcement of the destruction (Rev 18:1–3). II. Warning to God’s people to leave her on account of the greatness of her crimes and coming judgments (4–8). III. Lamentations over her on the part of those who were enriched by her, by (1) the kings of the earth (9, 10); (2) the merchants (11–16); (3) the shipmasters, etc. (17–19). IV. The calling of the heavens and God’s holy ones to rejoice over her (20). V. Symbolic proclamation of Babylon’s ruin (21–24).
LORD: The Angel of Rev 18:1 symbolizes a body of men who shall with resistless light unveil the Apostate character of Babylon (i. e., the nationalized hierarchies, see pp. 310 sq.). The fall of Babylon is her dejection from her nationalized position; it is to be (1) in consequence of her idolatry, Rev 18:3; (2) followed by (a) her becoming the resort of the most detestable of (human) beings, Rev 18:2, (b) another proclamation by another body of men calling upon those true Christians who remain in her to come out of her, Rev 18:4; (3) effected (a) violently, Rev 18:21; (b) by the multitude, and not by the kings and great men who are to mourn over it, Rev 18:9–19. The fall is to be distinguished from the punishment (plagues); the latter is speedily and suddenly to follow the former, Rev 18:4–6. The destruction is to be entire, Rev 18:21–24.
GLASGOW: Rev 18:1 introduces an account of what accompanies or follows close upon the full effusion of the seventh Vial. The Angel of Rev 18:1 is the Holy Ghost, who announces the coming fall of Babylon, i. e., the Roman State; the voice of Rev 18:4 is that of Christ. By the kings of Rev 18:9, 10, the traffickers of Rev 18:11–16, the mariners of Rev 18:17–19, are indicated the three parts into which the City is divided (Rev 16:19); “as ancient Babylon exists now only in the palace of her kings, the temple of Belus, and the tower of Nimrod, so over the fall of the mystic city are heard the wailings of superstitious rulers in the palace, of trafficking priests of simony in their cathedrals, and of far-travelled colonizers and missionaries, propagators of her errors.”
AUBERLEN: “The judgment on the Harlot (i. e., Babylon—the apostate Church) is described more minutely in its various aspects (18:1; 19:5), first by an Angel having great authority; then by another voice from Heaven (Rev 18:4–20); after this, thirdly, by a strong Angel (21–24); and this is succeeded by great voices of much people in heaven (19:1–5), who praise God for, the judgment executed.—E. R. C.]
EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL.
According to Düsterdieck, the judgment upon Babylon is still imminent at the close of Rev 18 (“note the future βληθήσεται”), whilst in Rev 19:1 sqq., it is rejoiced over as actually accomplished. The judgment itself, therefore, [the act of judgment], would not be found in the description. As an external scene, it is, indeed, not to be portrayed. What, however, appertains to a judgment? Is not the heavenly sentence itself the ideal judgment (Rev 18:2, 3)? Is not the separation of the people of God from Babylon, which must ensue directly upon the heavenly command, the decisive dynamical judgment (Rev 18:4 and 5)? Next follows the historic recompense; first for Babylon herself (Rev 18:6, 7). And this is presupposed as an accomplished fact in the lamentation in which all her companions appear as sharers in the stroke which has fallen upon herself, (Rev 18:9–19). The rejoicing of Heaven and all the saints (Rev 18:20) clearly expresses the accomplishment of the judgment, and the symbolical act and speech of the Angel (Rev 18:21–24) are but declarative of the perfect reprobation of Babylon, together with its consequences, her guilt being once more solemnly affirmed. Thus is the judgment executed in four main acts. According to Hengstenberg, the Seer here describes what has already taken place. Exegesis, with him, steers backwards; it, probably, already sights the Millennial Kingdom—and this it is anxious to avoid, as though it were a rocky wall.
Rev 18:1. Another Angel.—A symbolic angelic form, suggestive of Michael, not precisely Christ (Calov., Hengst.), for the Parousia is not to come until after this. The Holy Ghost (Vitringa), however, is no angel of external events, and Luther’s embassage did at least not bring Babylon with violence to her fall. Historically defined, Christianity, in a new, glorious, and therefore mightily efficacious phase of development, must be understood by the Angel. Hence alone is his glory to be explained, which lights up the whole earth. A couple of wretched and disorderly negations can, of course, not be intended by this.
Rev 18:2. Fallen, fallen.—A certain future, which shall some day become both present and past. The cry of Rev 14:8 is reflected here; that, however, applied to the universal Babylon. In the first place, doubtless, the complete spiritual fall of Babylon is intended, as is manifest from the context: and is become, etc. But along with the complete spiritual fall, her historic fall is also decided. According to Düsterdieck, indeed, the words: a habitation of demons, etc., already denote external desolation, like the description Is. 13:22. Similarly Hengstenberg, vol. 2, p. 268. Düsterd. even regards it as singular that Ebrard should yet understand the birds “spiritually.” A naïve “yet!” According to Bengel, the “unclean spirits” are departed souls, and “this passage very clearly treats of such spirits as, when they appear to the living, are called ghosts.” The reverend divine would, however, surely not transfer Babylon to Wurtemberg! According to Hengstenberg, [also Stuart and Alford,—E. R. C.], the φυλακή denotes a prison—thus: a prison of unclean spirits and unclean birds. The expression, however, when used with reference to a fallen city, is applicable neither to spirits nor to birds. “The law of their essential character banishes them thither.” To the desert of pagan Rome? This would be the worst that could possibly be affirmed of Christian Rome! In respect of the birds, Hengstenberg cites Ps. 102:6; Is. 13:21, 22; 34 [11, 13] 14 ; Jer. 50:39; Zeph. 2:14.
Rev 18:3. For … of the wine, etc.—This is the offence which is judged primarily by a falling under the dominion of demonic powers. Babylon has offended against three classes of men—the nations, the kings, and a middle class, the merchants of the earth. We must again distinguish these merchants of the earth from the specific merchants whom the Woman has raised up for herself from the great of the earth (Rev 18:23, see SYN. VIEW). If we examine the arrangements of the Seer, we shall find that he has a more general and a more special arrangement. The more general one distinguishes between the kings, or the mighty of the earth, and the nations. The Woman has seduced the former to the fornication of world-deification, and intoxicated the latter with the rage-wine of fanaticism, according to Rev 17:2; 18:23. The more special arrangement inserts a third class, the merchants of the earth, a transition-form between the kings and the nations, in which the money-agents can become money-princes, and the princes agents of the Woman. But again, the class of mercantile people is, in our chapter, sub-divided into two classes, viz.:  the eminent merchants, who, as immediate servants of the Woman, participate in her luxury, and  the ordinary trades people of the world, here designated by sea-farers, whose interests are likewise, in a more general sense, involved in the luxury of the Woman. It was clear to the Seer that the super-human exaggeration of magnificence, the pomp of world-seeking in the heart of mankind, in the very place whence the forces of world-renunciation, simplicity and simple culture, should go forth, would place the whole organism of worldly life in a condition of morbid bloatedness, and feverishly egoistic agitation. [See NOTE 16 on chap. 14, p. 274.—E. R. C.]
From the power (or influence) [Lange: mighty operation], etc.—According to Düsterdieck (with Grot, et al.), ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ στρήνιυς “refers to the vast wealth [gewaltige Vermögen] of the City, employed in the service of luxury.” This would, undoubtedly, be more applicable to pagan than to Christian Rome. Be it well remembered, however, that the “world kingdom” did not become rich through the “world city,” but vice versâ. It is also better, from philological considerations, to regard δύναμις as the mighty operation of that central luxury. The interpretation: On account of her powerful luxuriousness (De Wette), really involves an obliteration δύναμις. [“Δύναμις, copia, as Vitringa, who remarks, ‘alluditur ad Hebræam voce חיל, cujus hæc significationis vis est. Job 31:5; Ezek. 28:4.’ We have πλούτου μεγάλου δύναμιν in Jos.: Antt. III. 2. 4.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:4. Another voice from the Heaven.—It is noteworthy that the voice from Heaven, speaking from Rev 18:4–20, is interposed between the two mighty Angels of Rev 18:1 and Rev 18:21. In the two Angels, we behold the denouncer and the executioner of God’s judgment upon Babylon, as that judgment appears on earth; in the voice from Heaven, we find the cry of the Church Triumphant—the Church not simply in the other World, but also in this world,—addressed to the Church of God on earth. For whilst there is, in the Church on earth, in respect of its individual members, a constant wavering between premature separation from Babylon (by which name even the evangelical Church is designated by sectarian spirits) and a tardy tarrying in the communion of a true Babylon, aggravated by manifold fanatical lapses into the captivitas Babylonica, there resides in the heavenly Church the true sense for the determining of the hour of need when the general exode from Babylon before the judgment shall be as necessary as the exode of the Christians of John’s time from Jerusalem to Pella. Too early a departure is opposed to humility and love; too late a departure is hostile to faith and fidelity; both acts, that of precipitancy and that of undue delay, are a fanatical opposition to the truth. According to Bengel, the voice from Heaven is the voice of God or Christ, against which Düsterdieck judiciously remarks that such an origin does not accord with the descriptive tone of its discourse. Mediately, of course, every angelic and every heavenly voice is to be referred to God and Christ.
Come forth out of her, my people.—This can refer only to the complete rupture of religious and churchly fellowship. If we regard the words as having reference to an external departure of the Christians from Rome, all Christian Rome would be a contravention of the heavenly voice. [“In Isa. (48:20; 52:11) the circumstances differed, in that being a joyful exodus, this a cautionary one:36 and thus the warning is brought nearer to that one which our Lord commands in Matt. 24:16, and the cognate warnings in the O. T., viz., that of Lot to come out of Sodom, Gen. 19:15–22, when her destruction impended, and that of the people of Israel to get them up from the tents of Dathan and Abiram, Num. 16:23–26. In Jer. (50:8; 51:6, 9, 45) we have the same circumstance of Babylon’s impending destruction combined with the warning; and from those places probably, especially Jer. 51:45, the words here are taken. The inference has been justly made from them (Elliott IV., pp. 44 sq.), that there shall be even to the last, saints of God in the midst of Rome; and that there will be danger of their being, through a lingering fondness for her, partakers of her coming judgment.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.] See Jer. 51:6, 9, 45.
That ye partake not in her sins.—See Gen. 19:15. This fellowship of sins is to be understood in a peculiar sense as a fellowship in guilt—a view which Düsterdieck combats, but which finds its sufficient explanation in the distinction between the Biblical ideas of sin (Sünde) and guilt [Schuld=reatus].37 A fellowship of sins, in the narrower sense (Luthardt), is as little intended as a fellowship in punishment for sins (Düsterd.) is exclusively meant. A guiltless participation in punishment would certainly be akin to propitiatory suffering. Fellowship with the sinner, however, on an equal moral footing, without the re-action of discipline, chastisement, excommunication, is fellowship in his guilt. Hence the πληγαί are not simply strokes; they are deserved [verschuldete] strokes (see Josh. 7; Numb. 16:21–24).
[“It is implied here that by remaining in Babylon they would lend their sanction to its sins by their presence, and would, in all probability, become contaminated by the influence around them.” BARNES.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:5. For her sins have heaped together unto the Heaven.—See SYN. VIEW.
Rev 18:6, 7. Render unto her.—See SYN. VIEW. Address to those injured by Babylon, as such. [Should we not rather, with Alford, regard these words as “addressed to the executioners of judgment?”—E. R. C.] With the double measure, the qualitative retribution is expressed in quantitative form. See SYN. VIEW. Comp. Is. 40:2. The expressions διπλώσατε, διπλᾶ, διπλοῦν, are, therefore, not simply “rhetorical.” The consummation of her punishment is furnished with a three-fold motive, being the punishment (1) Of her evil deeds against the suffering party generally; (2) Of the cup, in particular—by which we are here to understand the cup of bitterness; (3) Of her self-glorification and pride, which involved a like measure of humiliation and oppression for the sufferers. For she saith in her heart.—Even now; so unforebodingly secure is she in face of the signs of the times. A queen.—Isa. 47:7. And a widow I am not.—A widow in the more general sense, as one deserted. See Is. 47:8, 9. Neither is she a bride or a wife any more, but a polyandria. Sorrow I shall not see.—Sorrow, particularly, for her many daughters (which, of course, are not the cities and peoples subject to pagan Rome). Thus she also regards herself as elevated above the universal law of earthly vicissitude, elevated above historic dooms.
[These expressions, in addition to reasons presented in Add. Comm. on Rev 17:18, and ADD. NOTE, p. 317, identify the objective of Babylon with that of the Harlot. As in Rev 17, where the main figure was the Harlot, a portion of the symbolization was drawn from the City,—so here, where the main figure is Babylon, a portion of the symbolization is taken from the Woman.38—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:8. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day.—Precisely therefore (לָכֵן). In antithesis to her pride. Death.—Since death can not come upon her twice, and since the death of her children is expressed by sorrow or mourning [Rev 18:7], the term doubtless embraces the death-doom in general, coming upon her primarily as a presentiment of ruin, and then developing into mourning, hunger, and fiery death. In one day—in one great catastrophe (see Isa. 47:9).[Without succession through a protracted period—all-together.—E. R. C.] For strong.—The whole omnipotence of God opposes itself in judgment to the haughtiness of Babylon, and this judgment has already begun (κρίνας). The whole Providence of God executes the judgment of the Lord, for it is as such that God has primarily to do with Babylon.
Rev 18:9, 10. And there shall weep and wail over her.—In Rev 18:9–20  are presented the three laments over Babylon, in which the three classes associated in her guilt appear, in antithesis to the people of God, as sharers in the stroke which has fallen upon her. They represent the peripheries of the judgment, forming about its centre. Comp. Ezek. 26, 27. The kings of the earth.—Düsterdieck rightly discards the view of Hengstenberg, who finds in the οὐαί, οὐαί a reference to “double to her double.” Highly significant is the kings’ standing afar Off: they will not be burned up with her, for their friendship with Babylon was based upon egoism. They must, however, together with her, be afflicted by the stroke which has descended upon her. Their lamentation is expressive of two things—on the one hand, that they have been dazzled by the grandeur and power of Babylon, and on the other, that they are aware of her guilt, for they speak of her judgment, although they do not come to the penitent consciousness that they have committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her.
[Standing afar off.—“The general sentiment here is that in the final ruin of Papal Rome the kings and governments that had sustained her, and had been sustained by her, would see the source of their power taken away, but that they would not, or could not, attempt her rescue. There have been not a few indications already that this will ultimately occur, and that the Papal power will be left to fall without any attempt on the part of those governments which have been so long in alliance with it, to sustain or restore it.” BARNES.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:11. And the merchants of the earth.—Second lamentation. Here, egoism is more plainly visible. They weep and sorrow because no one will buy their merchandise any more. The vividness of the description is also augmented by the picturesque present: they weep, etc., and no less, by the circumstantiality with which their merchandise, the entire exposition of their secularized industry, is described (see SYN. VIEW). No one buyeth their lading any more.—That is, the fall of Babylon is accompanied by a thorough contempt for all splendor and luxury; it ushers in the fashion of simplicity.
Rev 18:12–16. The wares are arranged in order (see SYN. VIEW). “The alternation of accusatives and genitives dependent on τὸν γόμον, prevailing till the close of Rev 18:13, may serve as explanatory of the dubious construction found in Rev 14:4” (Düsterd.). The fact that the vision draws the picture of these articles of luxury from the view of antiquity—of ancient Rome for instance—proves nothing for the import of Babylon. On the individual articles comp. the Lexicons. Special consideration, as less known, is demanded by the ξύλον θύϊον, ἄμωμον, ὀπώρα. The distinction, σώματα and ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων, is noted by commentators and differently explained (see Düsterdieck, p. 527); the distinction, at all events, is not a very sharp one, and the second expression is indicative of an augmentation, the extreme consequence of slave-holding. The renewal of these circumstances, even in Christian Babylon, is well known. The strong emphasis laid at the end upon the missing of the favorite fruit39 is highly characteristic as an ironical trait. It is well known that fallen great men often grieve most for the loss of the veriest trifles. Conjoined with these delicacies in the way of fruit, are all sorts of delicious things; “τὰ λιπαρά, literally the fat, but its conjunction with τὰ λαμπρά admonishes us to take the expression in the usual unliteral sense (Is. 30:23; comp. Hesych., who explains λιπ. as καλόν, ἔλαφρον), with Luther, Bengel, Hengstenberg” (Düsterd.). There seems, however, to be a distinction made between articles of gastronomic and æsthetic taste.
Rev 18:15. The merchants of these things.—Here the style changes again from a vivid presentation of the Babylonish world-mart to the prophetic future. These merchants [Kaufleute] also bemoan the City in a characteristic manner. For them, the greatness of the City consisted, not, as for the kings, in her power, but in her outward splendor, her beauty of attire.
[Rev 18:11–16. “The description … is perhaps drawn, in its poetic and descriptive features, from the relation of Rome to the world that then was, rather than from its relation at the future time depicted in the prophecy. But it must not for a moment be denied that the character of this lamentation throws a shade of obscurity over the interpretation, otherwise so plain from the explanation given in Rev 17:18 (viz., ‘that the prophecy regards Rome pagan and papal, but from the figure of an harlot and the very nature of the predictions themselves, more the latter than the former’). The difficulty is, however, not confined to the application of the prophecy to Rome Papal, but extends over the application of it to Rome at all. … For Rome never has been, and from its position never could be, a great commercial city. I leave this difficulty unsolved, solved, merely requesting the student to bear in mind its true limits, and not to charge it exclusively on that interpretation which only shares it with any other possible one. The main features of the description are taken from that of the destruction of and lamentation over Tyre in Ezek. 27., to which city they were strictly applicable. And possibly it may be said that they are also applicable to the Church which has wedded herself to the pride of the earth and its luxuries.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]40
Rev 18:17. And every pilot, etc.—Marine affairs are sketched as that form of world-commerce and industry which was, proportionally, most remote from the City. Even this general mercantilism is affected by the fall of Babylon, because the blow inflicted upon the kings and upon the luxury of the great world touches it likewise. From the pilots, who can sail in all directions, are distinguished those who take ship for definite ports—from these latter, all who do business at sea (τήν θάλασσαν ἐργάζεσθαι). [See TEXT and NOTE 21, p. 319.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:18. The smoke of her burning.—As Rev 18:9. Not to be confounded with the smoke, Rev 14:11. The impression which the City has made on them is, proportionally, the most indefinite: she was incomparable. If a reference to Rev 13:4 was intended, it could yet not be satirical in the mouth of seamen (as Ebrard claims). The expression is, besides, the most general and, therefore, most indefinite form of worldly astonishment. It is thus that popular travellers and seafarers have spoken from time immemorial. [At the same time it should be noted that in reference to both Rome actual and Rome symbolical the expression is strictly true. BARNES comments, “What city is like unto this great city? In her destruction. What calamity has ever come upon a city like this?”—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:19. And they cast dust, etc.—A well-known sign of passionate mourning. Hence we need not ask, Whence came the dust at sea? The idea may be, however, that they viewed the conflagration from different ports. The narrative has changed to the preterite. The lamentation of these last is particularly passionate, and the egoistic motive is expressly assigned.
Rev 18:20. Rejoice over her.—In face of the threefold lamentation of the world, the heavenly voice (not John himself) expresses the jubilation of Heaven. We might here discover the indications of a three-fold jubilation: that of Heaven, with the Saints—that of the Apostles—that of the Prophets. Düsterdieck claims a distinction betwixt “earthly believers”—as Saints, Apostles, Prophets—and Heaven. But even in Nero’s time, there were several Apostles in Heaven, to say nothing of Prophets.
For God hath judged your judgment [Lange: executed your sentence] upon her.—We cannot apprehend the judgment [Urtheilsspruch=sentence of judgment], κρίμα, passively, with Hengstenb., De Wette, et al., in the sense: God hath recompensed the judgment which ye suffered as martyrs. For how would that apply to Heaven? The rejoicing in this form would, moreover, express the satisfaction of the desire for vengeance, in a style savoring somewhat too strongly of the Old Testament. The fitting expression for that satisfaction is found in Rev 18:24, which is a sort of repetition when the above-cited exegesis is adopted. The higher satisfaction, however, which Heaven itself must experience in connection with all the Saints, particularly the Apostles and Prophets, consisted in the fact that their primeval prophetic sentence upon Babylon, accompanying her throughout her historic career, but appearing for so long a mere melancholic fancy, at which the world hooted, has been finally sealed by God Himself through His judgment. The rejoicing over this satisfaction is a rejoicing over the truth and righteousness of God Himself. [ALFORD comments, God “hath exacted from her that judgment of vengeance which is due to you.”—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:21. And a (or one) strong Angel.—On εἶς see Winer, p. 126. As we shall have occasion to recur to this Angel in Rev 19:9, 10, we may here refer to the predicates there given by the Angel to himself. Düsterd. remarks that the strength of the Angel receives mention on account of the action which he is represented as performing. Like a great mill-stone.—See Jer. 51:63, 64. See SYN. VIEW. With violence.—In a catastrophe. And shall be found no more at all,—i. e., as the magnificent City which it had been. That, however, it should continue as a desolate ruin, for a memorial of judgment, is evident from the following context. See Ezek. 26:13; Jer. 25:10, et al.
Rev 18:22. And a voice of harpers.—Art stood high in Babylon [and in Rome, and in the Visible Church—especially as she increases in worldliness,—E. R. C.]; it was, however, completely under the influence of vanity and in the service of idolatry. With art business vanishes (the mill); with business, family life (the candle); with family life, family festivals [and relationships] (bridegroom and bride).
Rev 18:23. For thy merchants were the great men of the earth [Lange: the princes of the earth were thy merchants].—The vision closes, most appropriately, with a brief recapitulation of the guilt of Babylon. For this reason, also, we cannot, with Düsterd., Ewald, De Wette and Hengstenberg [also Lillie, Alford, Glasgow, et al.,—E. R. C.], read: thy merchants were the great of the earth.41 No leading reproach would be involved in the statement that some few money-changers became lords and princes under the influence of absolutist luxury. At all events, we should expect first a repetition of the two leading categories of the transgression of Babylon against the world related to her. The first transgression is the seduction of the kings, or the great, generally, whom she has made her merchants, abettors and brokers (her associates in fornication). The second transgression is against the nations, which she has seduced or intoxicated with her sorcery or poison-mixing (= wine of rage). Düsterdieck interprets φαρμακεία as the love-potions of the Harlot; “comp. Is. 47:9, 12 sq.; Ewald, De Wette.” Our Seer, however, keeps the two categories separate, Rev 17:2; 18:3. The nations have not been so much intoxicated by love-potions as by rage-potions (of fanaticism). A connection between the two forms is of course unmistakable. [The objective of φαρμακέια may be the instruments of seduction by which she either allures the nations into unholy alliance with herself, or by which she causes them to wander in unrighteous paths. See the TEXT.—E. R. C.]
After the transgression of Babylon against the world, ensues her transgression against the people of God—a transgression still greater than the former, yet connected with it.
Rev 18:24. See SYNOPTICAL VIEW. Ebrard: “Hengstenberg, who makes the Millennial Kingdom commence with Charlemagne, must, to be consistent with his own view, point out the terrible destruction of Babylon depicted in Rev 18, as occurring at some period during the time before Charlemagne. Nor does he find this difficult; to be sure, in the City of the Seven Hills the voices of lutists and pipers have never for one moment been silenced; neither is the City thrown into the sea, or burned, nor has an end been put to her commerce and her magnificence, nor has any one mourned over her downfall—on the contrary, she has quietly continued to subsist in the midst of the billows of national migrations: but—‘Rome here comes under consideration solely as the pagan mistress of the world’—and as pagan she is fallen, burned, desolated, etc.: and all this simply inasmuch as at about the time of Constantine she was gradually transformed from a pagan to a Christian City! In Rev 18., therefore, we have, according to the exegesis of Hengstenberg, an entirely new portrayal of a—conversion.”
[ADDITIONAL NOTE ON REV 18]
By the American Editor
[This chapter, introduced by the disjunctive phrase, Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, and immediately followed by a chapter having a similar introduction, forms, apparently, a supplementary section. In it are set forth events preceding the fall of Babylon. The direct vision of that fall occurred during the outpouring of the vials, Rev 16:18, 19. As, however, that series of visions could not with propriety have been interrupted by the introduction of others descriptive of matters other than the plagues, supplementary visions were vouchsafed descriptive of important matters necessarily omitted, or barely indicated, in the main series. This chapter narrates a series of visions having reference (probably) to “the voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and earthquake” mentioned Rev 16:18. It consists of three parts, in which are narrated visions of—I. A glorious, heaven-descended Angel giving a proleptical prediction of the approaching destruction of the City, Rev 18:1–3, II. A voice from Heaven making a threefold call upon (1) the people of God, who should remain in the doomed City to come out of her, Rev 18:4, 5; (2) the executioners of judgment to destroy, Rev 18:6–19; (3) the inhabitants of Heaven to rejoice, Rev 18:20. III. An Angel giving a symbolic prophecy of the destruction.—An analogue of this section, as to its subject matter, is to be found Jer. 50, 51, where we have a similar threefold division, viz.: 1. A proleptical declaration of destruction, 50:2. 2. A call upon (1) the people of God to escape, 1. 8; 51:6, 45; (2) the executioners of judgment, 1:14 sqq. 3. A symbolical prophecy of the destruction, 51:63, 64.—One great distinction between the two sections should be noted. The one in the Apocalypse is the record of a prophecy of events (including prophecies); that in Jeremiah is simply a record of events (also including prophecies). John prophesied of a Divinely appointed messenger (Angel) who should prophesy. Jeremiah was himself the messenger (Angel) who foretold.
[In the judgment of the writer, the events here symbolized are yet future; nothing in the history of the world has occurred which adequately meets the symbolization, A comparison of this section with the one in Jeremiah, suggests the thought that by the glorious Angel of Rev 18:1–3 may be symbolized a Divinely called and gifted man, or body of men, who, in the spirit of the old Prophets, shall declare the approaching fall of the spiritual Babylon. By the Voice from Heaven of Rev 18:4 may be designated the inspired voice of these latter Prophets uttering the calls foretold; or, as the change in figure (another voice) probably indicates a change in instrumentality, by it may be indicated some other Divine influence exerted upon the three classes mentioned. By the strong Angel casting the millstone into the sea, Rev 18:21, may be symbolized some great catastrophe in history or nature—possibly the destruction of the great City that symbolizes the apostate Church.—An objection to the suggested interpretation may arise in the minds of some from the fact that the Voice of Rev 18:4 (an influence) and the Angel of Rev 18:2 (the agent of a catastrophe) are both represented in the context as prophesying. In answer it may be said that it is altogether in keeping with the dramatic nature of the Apocalypse to represent these symbols of Divine instrumentalities as themselves declaring the results of their agency.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:1. Καί is omitted in accordance with א. A. B*. [P.], etc.
Rev 18:2. The true reading is ἐν ἰσχυρᾷ φωνῆ, in accordance with decisive authorities. [So read Crit. Eds. generally; the ἐν with A. P.; the ἰσχυρᾷ φωνῇ with (א.) A. (B*.) P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:3. [Tisch. reads πἐπωκαν, πεπω- (πεπο) with P., -καν with A. C.; Treg. πέπτωκαν with A. C.; Alf. brackets the τ; א. and B*. give πεπτώκασιν.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:3. [Tisch. gives τοῦ οἴνου with א. B*., Clem., etc.; Lach. and Alf. omit with A., Am., Fuld., Tol., Lips.; Tregelles brackets.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:3. [For the rendering rage, see NOTE 16 on Chap, 14, p. 274.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:4. There are various forms of this; we, with Lach. [Ed. Maj., Tisch. (1859)], read ἔξέλθε, with B*. C., and also from internal reasons. [Lach. (Ed. Min.), Tisch. (8th Ed.), Treg., Alf., give ἔξέλθατε with א. A.; P. reads ἐξέλθετε.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:5. ̓Εκολλήθησαν in accordance with א. A. B*. C. [P.]. De Wette translates: “they have reached unto the heaven.”
Rev 18:6. The ὑμῖν is omitted. [Om. by Crit. Eds. generally with א. A. B*. C. P., Am., Fuld., Demid., Tol., et al.; it appears in 1, 31, 91, 96, Clem., Lips., et al.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:6. The αὐτῇ is unfounded. [Om. by Crit. Eds. Tisch. and Treg. insert τά with א. C.; Lach. omits with A. B*. P.; Alf. brackets—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:6. [See NOTE 19 on Chap. 14, p. 274.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:7. [Crit. Eds. give ὅτι with א. A. B*. C. P.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:8. [Crit. Eds. give κρίνας with א*. A. B*. C. P.; κρίνων is given by אo.1, 6, etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:11. [Crit. Eds. generally give κλαίουσιν καὶ πενθοῦσιν with א. A. C. P.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:12. [The article is without authority.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:13. In accordance with א*. A. C. [P. 6, 11, Am., Fuld., Tol., Lips.] etc. In the Rec. ἄμωμον is omitted.
Rev 18:14. Codd. א. A. C. read σου τῆς ἐπιθυμίας.
Rev 18:14. [The primary meaning of ὀπώρα is, “the part of the year between the rising of Sirius and Arcturus, …. and so, not so much the Lat. Auctumnus, as our dog-days or, at most, the end of summer … It was the proper time for both the field and tree fruits to ripen” (Liddell and Scott sub voce).—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:14. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch. (8th Ed.) give εὑρησουσιν with א. A. C. P. Vulg., etc.; Tisch. (1859) gave εὑρής with B*.; 7 reads εὑρείς.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:14. [The expression never, never more at all is adopted as the best idiomatic rendering of the threefold negative of the original, οὐκέτι οὐ μή.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:16. [Crit. Eds. omit καί with א. A. B*. C.; it appears in P., Vulg., Æth., et. al.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:17. [Crit. Eds. give καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἐπὶ τότον πλέων with א. A. B*. C., Am., Fuld., etc. (B*. inserts τόν before τόπον). Lange adopts this reading, declaring the Rec. (ἐπὶ τῶν πλοίων ὁ ὅμιλος) to be unfounded; he translates, however, all who sail to definite places. Alford translates, every one who saileth any whither. The first of the renderings given above is regarded as most in accordance with the presumptive meaning of the expression ἐπὶ τόπον; see Robinson under Επι, iii. a; and τόπος, d. (γ).—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:20. [̓́Εκρινεν—τὸ κρίμα ὑμῶν ἔξ αὐτῆς. Lange translates: hath executed your sentence upon her.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:21. [The negatives in this and the following verses are merely double; see NOTE 19.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:23. [Lange translates: for the princes of the earth were thy merchants. See on pp. 323, 328 sq.—E. R. C.]
Rev 18:24. Cod. B*. gives αἵματα; A. C. [א. P.] give αἵμα. [Tisch, adopts the former reading; Lach., Alf., Treg. the latter.—E. R. C.]
[In the second and third instances one and the same term is employed, viz.: φυλακή; and in the first, κατοικητήριον.—E. R. C.]
[For another exposition of the fornication, see Abstract of Auberlen, pp. 311 sq.—E. R. C.]
[See ADD. NOTE and foot-note, p. 317.—E. R. C.]
[The ὑμῖν should be omitted. See TEXT. AND GRAM., NOTE 8. Rev 18:6.—E. R. C.]
[See TEXT. AND GRAM., NOTE 17.—E. R. C.]
[Above, the stone was the symbol of Babylon; its being cant into the sea, the symbol of her punishment by God; but here the stone is the symbol of Babylon’s sin, and its casting, that of her own sinful conduct!—E. R. C.]
[Krämer—a word of lower significance than Kaufleute, previously translated merchants; the latter denotes the great wholesale dealers, whilst the former signifies retailers—shopkeepers, as we say in English.—TR.]
[See EXPLA. IN DETAIL, Add. Comment on Rev 18:24.—E. R. C.]
[“A mode of destruction not obscurely intimated by certain very striking allusive expressions in other prophecies both of the Old and New Testament (Isa. 34:9,10; 30:33; Jer. 51:25; Luke 17:28–32, etc.), and thus expected, as we find, alike by ancient Jewish Rabbis and Christian Fathers of the Church; not to add that the very nature of the Italian soil has forced on many a mind, in different ages, the thought of its physical preparedness almost for such a catastrophe.” ELLIOTT.—BARNES, in support of the probable correctness of this view, writes as follows: “Gibbon (Rev 15), with his usual accuracy, as if commenting on the Apocalypse, has referred to the physical adaptedness of the soil of Rome for such an overthrow. Speaking of the anticipation of the end of the world among the early Christians, he says, ‘In the opinion of a general conflagration, the faith of the Christian very happily coincided with the tradition of the East, the philosophy of the stoics, and the analogy of nature; and even the country, which, from religious motives, had been chosen for the origin and principal scene of this conflagration, was the best adapted for that purpose by natural and physical causes; by its deep caverns, beds of sulphur, and numerous volcanoes, of which those of Ætna, of Vesuvius, and of Lipari, exhibit a very imperfect representation.’ As to the general state of Italy in reference to volcanoes, the reader may consult, with advantage, Lyell’s Geology. B. II., chs. 9.–12. See also Murray’s Encyclopedia of Geography, II. 2. . . . . The following extract from a recent traveller will still further confirm this representation: ‘I behold every where—in Rome, near Rome, and through the whole region from Rome to Naples—the most astounding proofs, not merely of the possibility, but the probability, that the whole region of central Italy will one day be destroyed by such a catastrophe (by earthquakes or volcanoes). The soil of Rome is tufa, with a volcanic subterranean action going on. At Naples, the boiling sulphur is to be seen bubbling near the surface of the earth. When I drew a stick along the ground, the sulphurous smoke followed the indentation; and it would never surprise me to hear of the utter destruction of the southern peninsula of Italy. The entire country and district is volcanic. It is saturated with beds of sulphur and the substrata of destruction. It seems as certainly prepared for the flames as the wood and coal on the hearth are prepared for the taper which shall kindle the fire to consume them. The Divine hand alone seems to me to hold the element of fire in check by a miracle as great as that which protected the cities of the plain, till the righteous Lot had made his escape to the mountains.’—Townsend’s Tour in Italy in 1850.”—E. R. C.]
[It is exceedingly difficult to determine what is the idea of STUART as to the interpretation of this chapter. This arises from the fact that nowhere in the special comment on it does he define what he means by Babylon; his meaning has to be sought through General and Special and Particular Introductions, and through excursuses and textual comments. His comment on 14:8 can leave no doubt that there he regards Babylon as the City of Rome; that this interpretation is contemplated throughout this portion of the Apocalypse, is implied in numerous remarks. But the peculiar scheme of STUART requires him to regard the woe as having been accomplished; and manifestly the City of Rome has never yet become a desolation. The most plausible idea concerning his interpretation is that he regards the prophecy as having its specific fulfillment in the destruction of Rome long ago commenced, but not yet accomplished; and its generic accomplishment in the overthrow of all Antichristian powers. The view as to the specific fulfillment is suggested by the following remark under 14:8: “The reader is not to suppose, that fallen, while it denotes absolute certainty, at the same time denotes complete and instantaneous excision. The predictions respecting ancient Babylon were fulfilled only in the lapse of several centuries; but they were at last fully accomplished. And so of the tropical Babylon. The Apocalypse itself gives sufficient intimation of a gradual fulfillment; comp. Rev. 16:19–21 with 18:4–8, 20–24 and 19:11–21.”—E. R. C.]
[A cautionary exodus may be a joyful one. The cautioned escapers may rejoice in view of their escape.—E. R. C.]
[The distinction here referred to seems to be that contemplated by the theologians of the Reformation in the use of the Latin terms macula and reatus potentialis—the former indicating the stain of sin; the latter, the exposure to punishment proper to the persons sinning. Thus Turretin (Vol. I., p. 654), “Macula est pollutio spirituals et ethica, quâ hominis anima inficitur. Reatus Esther obligatio ad pœnam ex prævio delicto. … Duplex oritur reatus; alius qui potentialis dicitur, qui notat meritum intrinsecum pœnæ, quod à peccato inseparabile est; alius verò actualis, qui per Dei misericordiam ab eo separari potest,’ etc. As the term guilt is technically employed by a large class of English Theologians as the equivalent of reatus, and as it is the term generally employed in the E. V., where Schuld occurs in the G. V., it is here adopted. It should he carefully noted, however, that it is employed, not in its ordinary meaning, but in the special sense indicated above.—E. R. C.]
[The true condition of the Church during the personal absence of her Husband and Head is that of a widow, comp. Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:19, 20; Luke 5:34;—she should ever be looking, with longing, for His appearing, Tit. 2:13. The Am. Ed. cannot resist the thought that these expressions are indicative of a state of the Church in which she shall believe and assert that the personal absence of Jesus is no bereavement,—that already as a Queen she has entered upon the possession of the promised Kingdom,—that, during Christ’s personal absence, without material hindrance, she is to go on to complete supremacy over the nations. Already in Rome, and to a great extent throughout Christendom, is this cry heard.—E. R. C.]
[On the meaning of ὀπώρα see the TEXT, and NOTE 17, p. 319. The entire clause is probably figurative, declaring that the period of temporal prosperity has passed away.—E. R. C.]
[The Am. Ed. entertains the view that by Babylon is meant the City of Rome, and, still further, that by the City of Rome is symbolized the Visible Church (apostate in the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy). It seems to him that the difficulties suggested by Alford are imaginary rather than real in reference to both these hypotheses. It should be remembered that, in the days of the Apocalyptist, Rome was not only the centre of the Empire, but in a peculiar sense her boundaries were coterminous with those of the Empire; the commerce of the entire State was hers,—at once resulting from, and ministering to, her wealth and power. A peculiar relation of headship continued to be borne by the City to the nation dwelling within the pale of the old Empire, even after that Empire had been shattered into fragments. Even to the present day she is in a sense the capital of Papal Europe. And still further—the relation of Rome to the peoples of whom she was and is the acknowledged capital, well symbolizes the relation of the Visible Church to Christendom. She is its inspiring centre,—the source, and to a large extent a partaker, of its power and splendor. The commerce of the world is, in a peculiar sense, hers. To Rome actual, and Rome symbolical (in the sense set forth), the description of these verses is applicable.—E. R. C.]
[The order of the Greek requires this translation. The reproach is, not “that some few money-changers became princes,” but that her merchants, her men of business generally, busied themselves with the affairs of this world, became worldlings, and assumed the position of its leaders and great men.—E. R. C.]