Vincent's Word Studies
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
Sitteth upon many waters
Said of Babylon, Jeremiah 51:13; the wealth of Babylon being caused both by the Euphrates and by a vast system of canals. The symbol is interpreted by some commentators as signifying Babylon, by others pagan Rome, Papal Rome, Jerusalem. Dante alludes to this passage in his address to the shade of Pope Nicholas III., in the Bolgia of the Simonists.
"The Evangelist you pastors had in mind,
When she who sitteth upon many waters
To fornicate with kings by him was seen.
The same who with the seven heads was born,
And power and strength from the ten horns received,
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing."
"Inferno," xix., 106-110.
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Have committed fornication
The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets, representing the defection of God's Church and its attachment to others. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8; Ezekiel 16:15, Ezekiel 16:16, Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:35, Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:19, Ezekiel 23:44; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3; Hosea 4:14. The word is applied to heathen cities in three places only: to Tyre, Isaiah 23:15, Isaiah 23:16, Isaiah 23:17; to Nineveh, Nahum 3:4; and here.
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
To manage and guide the beast.
A scarlet-colored beast
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
See on Luke 16:19.
Precious stones (λίθῳ τιμίῳ)
Lit., precious stone.
Compare Jeremiah 51:7.
See on Matthew 24:15.
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Upon her forehead a name
As was customary with harlots, who had their names inscribed on a ticket. Seneca, addressing a wanton priestess, "Nomen tuum pependit a fronte," thy name hung from thy forehead. See Juvenal, Satire vi., 123 sqq., of the profligate Messalina, "having falsely assumed the ticket of Lycisca."
Some understand this as a part of the name, others as implying that the name is to be interpreted symbolically.
See on 1 Peter 5:13. Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Jerome use Babylon as representing the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages Rome is frequently styled the Western Babylon. The sect of the Fraticelli, an eremitical organization from the Franciscans in the fourteenth century, who carried the vow of poverty to the extreme and taught that they were possessed of the Holy Spirit and exempt from sin - first familiarized the common mind with the notion that Rome was the Babylon, the great harlot of the Apocalypse (see Milligan, "Latin Christianity," Book xii., ch. vi.). On the passage cited from Dante (v. i.), Dean Plumptre remarks: "The words have the interest of being a medieval interpretation of Revelation 17:1-15, in which, however, the harlot and the beast seem somewhat strangely blended. The harlot is the corrupted Church of Rome; the seven heads are the seven hills on which the city is built; or perhaps, with an entirely different exegesis, the seven gifts of the Spirit, or the seven sacraments with which that Church had, in its outset, been endowed: the ten horns are the ten commandments. As long as the Church was faithful to her spouse, she had the moral strength which came from those gifts, and the divine law which she represented. When that failed, she became as a harlot, and her whoredom with kings was the symbol of her alliance with secular powers for the oppression of the nations" (On "Inferno," xix., 110).
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Saints - martyrs
The saints include the martyrs or witnesses, but the latter word emphasizes the testimony of the saints which has been the cause of their death. For martyr; see on 1 Peter 5:1.
And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
To go into perdition (ὑπάγειν)
In the book (ἐπί)
From the foundation of the world
And yet is (καίπερ ἐστίν)
Read καὶ πάρεσται, and shall come. Lit., shall be present.
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Here is (ὧδε)
Bespeaking attention and spiritual discernment for that which follows. See on Revelation 13:18.
The mind (ὁ νοῦς)
I. Νοῦς is the organ of mental perception and apprehension - of conscious life, the mind, comprising the faculties of perceiving and understanding, of feeling, judging, determining.
(a) The intellectual faculty or understanding (Luke 24:45). So here, according to some.
(c) The power of calm and impartial judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
II. Νοῦς is a particular mode of thinking and judging: moral consciousness as a habit of mind or opinion. Hence thoughts, feelings, purposes (Romans 14:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Some render here meaning.
Many interpreters regard this as conclusively defining the reference of the woman to Rome, which was built upon seven hills. Others deny the local reference, and understand the principle of worldly greatness and ambition. Others again claim that many cities besides Rome can boast of their seven hills, as Constantinople, Brussels, and especially Jerusalem.
Redundant, the idea being already expressed by where. A Hebraism.
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Are fallen (ἔπεσαν)
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Kings which (οἵτινες)
The compound relative classifying: "of the kind which."
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
Shall give (διαδιδώσουσιν)
διδόασιν, the present tense, give. The force of διά is over; give over.
Power and authority (δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν)
For the distinction, see on 2 Peter 2:11.
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Peoples and multitudes, etc.
And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Upon the beast (ἐπί)
Read καὶ and: "the ten horns - and the beast."
Lit., desolated, the verb being in the perfect participle.
Shall eat her flesh
A token of extreme hostility. See Psalm 27:2; Micah 3:3. Xenophon, speaking of the hatred between the pure Spartans and the Helots, says that no one of the pure Spartans could conceal his readiness to eat the Helot raw. Notice the plural σάρκας flesh, and see on James 5:3.
Rev., giving the force of κατά down, burn utterly. According to some interpreters the figure is changed from the woman to a city; but this is unnecessary, as the language is probably taken from the punishment of fornication on the part of a priest's daughter (Leviticus 21:9; compare Leviticus 20:14).
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Hath put (ἔδωκεν)
Rev., with stricter rendering of the aorist, did put. Lit., did give.
To fulfill His will (ποιῆσαι τὴν γνώμην αὐτοῦ)
See on Revelation 17:13. Rev., more literally, to do his mind.
To agree (ποιήσαι μίαν γνώμην)
Lit., to make one mind. Rev., come to one mind.
The words (τὰ ῥήματα)
But read οἱ λόγοι the prophetic words. For the distinction, see on Luke 1:37.
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Reigneth (ἔχουσα βαοιλείαν)
Lit., hath a kingdom.