Lange Commentary - Revelation 17:1 - 17:18

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Lange Commentary - Revelation 17:1 - 17:18


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

SECTION SIXTH

(Second Division.)

The Seventh Vial of Anger, or the Three Great End-Judgments

Rev_17:1 to Rev_20:10

I.–FIRST SPECIAL END-JUDGMENT. JUDGMENT UPON BABYLON

Revelation 17-18

A.—THE JUDGEMENT UPON BABYLON AS A HEAVEN-PICTURE, OR THE HEAVENLY PROPHECY OF THE FALL OF BABYLON

Rev_17:1-18

1And there came one of the seven angels which [who] had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me [om. unto me], Come [om. Come] Hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore [harlot] that sitteth upon [or ins. the] many waters; 2with whom the kings of the earth have [om. have] committed fornication, and the inhabitants of [they who inhabit] the earth have been [were]3made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So [And] he carried me away in the [om. the] spirit into the [a] wilderness: and I saw a woman sit [sitting] upon a scarlet colored [om. colored] beast [wild-beast], full of [or ins. the] names ofblasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4And the woman was arrayed [clothed] in purple and scarlet color [om. color], and decked [gilded] with gold and precious stones [stone] and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness [the uncleannesses] of her fornication: 5And upon her forehead was [om. was] a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF [ins. THE] HARLOTS AND [ins. OF THE] ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs [witnesses] of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration [wonder]. 7And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel [wonder]? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast [wild-beast] that carrieth [beareth] her, which [that] 8hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast [wild-beast] that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall [is about to ( ìÝëëåé )] ascend out of the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [abyss] and [ins. to] go into perdition ( ὰðþëåéáí ): and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were [of whom the name is] not written in [upon] the book [scroll] of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold [see] the beast [wild-beast] that [ins. he] was, and is not, and yet is [om. 9yet is—ins. shall be present]. And [om. And] Here is the mind which [that] hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth 10[or where the woman sitteth upon them], [,] and there [om. there—ins. they] are seven kings: [ins. the] five are fallen, and [om. and—ins. the] one is, and [om. and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh [is come], he must continue a short space [little while]. 11And the beast [wild-beast] that was, and is not, even he is the [an] eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. 12And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which [who] have [ins. not yet] received no [om. no—ins. a] kingdom as yet [om. as yet]; but [ins. they] receive power [authority] as kings one hour [ins. together] with the beast [wild-beast]. 13These have one mind ( ãíþìç ), and shall [om. shall] give their power and strength [authority] unto the beast [wild-beast]. 14These shall make [om. make] war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome [conquer] them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are [om. are] called, and chosen, and faithful. 15And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore [harlot] sitteth,are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. 16And the ten horns which thou sawest upon [om. upon—ins. and] the beast [wild-beast], these shall hate the whore [harlot], and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn [consume] her with [or in] fire. 17For God hath [om. hath] put in [gave into] their hearts to fulfill [perform] his will [mind ( ãíþìç )], and to agree [perform one mind ( ðïéῆóáé ìßáí ãíþìçí )], and [ins. to] give their kingdom unto the beast 18[wild-beast], until the words of God shall be fulfilled [finished]. And the woman which [that] thou sawest is that [the] great city, which [that] reigneth [hath kingdom] over the kings of the earth.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

SYNOPTICAL VIEW

When we say: the fall of Babylon as a Heaven-picture, we mean, the fall of Babylon sub specie æterni, or, in other words, the phenomenon of Antichristianity in the Church, in all its historical bearings, illuminated by the light of revelation and designated for judgment by the rule of Divine Providence.

We must, above all, keep fast hold of the following points: 1. That the Babylon here spoken of, the Harlot, is to be distinguished from the general Babylon (Rev_16:19), and yet that it coincides with the latter as its first [last?] historical culmination. 2. That the Beast which bears the Harlot is identical with the Beast out of the sea (Revelation 13), as the peculiar antitheocratic and Antichristian organ of Satan; that, however, it here comes under consideration provisionally in a special aspect only, as bearing the Woman for a time, and, finally, judging her. Hence, also, the history of the Beast is more special here than in Revelation 13. In the latter passage, Rev_17:3, one of his heads is mortally wounded; here, the whole Beast disappears for a time (Rev_17:8). 3. That the heads and horns of the Beast here resolve themselves into a special history consisting of two parts—a history which must by no means be confounded with the history of the Beast presented in Revelation 13.

That we are still in the sphere of the seventh Vial of anger is manifest, in the first place, from the bare fact that one of the seven Angels who had the Vials, shows the Seer the judgment of the great Harlot. The latter is preliminarily signalized by two marks: 1. She sits upon many waters; she is an authority based upon many nationalities, many national dispositions, peculiarities and currents. 2. With her the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and they who inhabit the earth have become drunk with the wine of her fornication. She herself has become for the kings of the earth, of earthly states and seats of culture, an idol, a subject of idolatry which has seduced them to a thousand-fold apostasy from the laws of religion, humanity, truth and righteousness; and not only have they departed from the true God and served false gods in company and connection with her, but they have also done the same independently, as her followers and imitators. They have, however, in many respects been swept along in this direction by those who inhabit the earth—by absolute hangers-on of the soil and of authority, who have become intoxicated in the fanatical enthusiasm of the bigotry of the world.

The Angel takes the Seer in spirit into a wilderness. Here, it seems, we a while ago left the Woman, once clothed with the sun (Revelation 12). And such is indeed the fact: it is the same wilderness, and not the same; the same Woman, and not the same. History sufficiently instructs us concerning the fact that the holy wilderness of world-renunciation, of asceticism, which so long guarded the integrity of the Woman, became in course of time a wilderness of spiritual and intellectual moral corruption—that the heavenly flight from the world was changed into a demonic seeking of the world, embodied in the wild career of false monks—that a wilderness of hypocrisy, pia fraus, fanatical terrorism and demoralizing dogmas of all kinds was gradually developed. But the Woman—is she, indeed, the same? Those who cannot understand how the one Woman (Revelation 12) can in the course of time have divided into the two figures of the Harlot and the Bride, should consider the fact that the wheat and the chaff grow on the same ear; that the same Theocracy which, in respect of its internal essence, bore Christ, also crucified Him, in respect of its external hierarchical figuration; and that thus the development of the Harlot and the Bride has not been effected in two separate lines, but in an original organic unity, in which the contrast has been continually maturing (see the foot-note on p. 25).

The following considerations now successively demand our attention:

1. The Woman and her relation to the Beast.

2. The Beast in his relation to the seven Heads.

3. The seven Heads in relation to the ten Horns.

1. The Woman and her relation to the Beast.

That the Woman here depicted is significant of the fallen Church there can be no doubt, when we consider the import of the Woman (the congregation of God) and of womanhood (religiosity)—(see Rink, p. 238 sqq.). The exclusive reference of this figure to pagan Rome fails to recognize, in the first place, the broad scope of the eschatological vision; secondly, the fact that even in the time of Domitian, and far more in the time of Nero, it would have been impossible for the Apocalyptist to speak of Roma as cherishing a true Antichristian thirst for the blood of the saints. Thirdly, such a reference misapprehends the idea of Antichristianity, which takes its rise only in corrupt Christianity. From these considerations it will also be evident, first, that not simply the fallen Romish Church, Rome, is here intended;—this is the further from being the fact since imperial Rome has been transferred to Byzantium and its centre of gravity has been thence removed to Moscow and St. Petersburg; moreover, the hierarchical principle radiates far and wide throughout the Church. It is also further evident, however, that nothing but Christian Rome can constitute the symbolical and historical apex of this whole body of the fallen Church. The Muscovite hierarchism is too rude to be this apex; sporadic hierarchism too theoristic; the mean lies where hierarchism is in its whole demonic depth. Nevertheless, we regard the seven mountains whereon the Woman sits, as but an allusion to terrestrial Rome, it being agreeable to the consistency of the Book to take the seven mountains as a symbolical figure, of which we must speak further on. The Seer declares that he wondered much to see the Woman as he saw her. We apprehend this utterance in the same sense with those expositors who have assigned the contrast of this figure with the appearance in Revelation 12 as the ground of the Seer’s wonderment. In the earlier passage, we behold a celestial Woman, clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, adorned with a garland of chosen stars, equipped with eagle’s wings. Here we have a Harlot, riding or sitting upon a scarlet Beast, a Beast signalized with the hue of blood and blood-thirstiness (into which the fiery hue of the Dragon has darkened), and thus herself founded upon the Beast and its blood-thirstiness, i. e., upon an Antichristian world-power and bloody violence. The Beast is full of the names of blasphemy—there is no form of irreligion which is not comprehended in the absolute Machiavelism of world-monarchy: religious persecution, contempt of humanity, despotism over consciences, breach of promise, a doctrinal system of faithlessness—and the like—are some of the first articles. The incongruence of the seven Heads and ten Horns is brought into view here likewise, in order to the signalizing of the power indicated, as possessing the semblance, and but the semblance, of holiness. On this demonic Beast the poor Woman has prepared her a sort of throne for her exaltation; no longer is the moon beneath her feet—vanished are the stars of elect spirits, and the eagle-wings. She herself is clothed with a party-colored double red—with the royal hue of purple and the scarlet of blood—and over this is spread the sheen of gold brocade, of precious stones and pearls, the richest worldly adornment of every sort. In her band the Woman holds the magical means of her dominion and glory, the golden cup, the symbolical vessel of consecrate and holy communion, solace and refreshment—but full of abominations; and, together with the cup, the uncleannesses of the fornication, i. e., the idolatry, of the earth—i. e., all those iniquities that follow in the train of idolatry. The abominations denote all manner of unnaturalnesses; the uncleannesses of the fornication of the earth are all those immoralities which are the consequential issues of the earth’s departure from the true God and its service of false divinities. On her forehead she has a name written as a mystery; i. e., whoever is able to read the name, will read the following inscription: Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth. She herself knows not that her proper escutcheon—absolute sovereignty over the consciences of earth—means only this, and can mean nothing else. Most repulsive is her appearance: A drunken woman! Through fanaticism intoxicated to the verge of frenzy! Drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus! Blood-guiltiness produces excitement, confusion of the mind; and this remark applies in the fullest sense to that blood-guiltiness whose measure is filled up in the persecution and destruction of the holiest witnesses of God and Christ. Grotius depicts this phenomenon with drastic vividness, like a Dutch genre-picture: Vidit eam ore rabido, despumante et evomente sanguinem, ut ebrii solent.—But now arises the question—how can the Beast lend himself to bear the Woman, when it is declared that the ten Horns and the Beast shall hate the Harlot and make her desolate (Rev_17:16)? The weight of the future tense must be observed here. At first the Beast is subject to the Woman, for it is the Woman who helped the Beast out of his apparent annihilation. The absolutism of the hierarchy has promoted the growth of the absolutism of despotism. Finally, however, there is a reversal of the relation, the Beast having made a pupil of the Woman’s, the False Prophet, subservient to himself; and in the end it is the deep-lying antagonism between the demonic ground-forms of the two [the Woman and the Beast] which gives occasion to the full outbreak of hostility and the destruction of the Woman—possibly in a conflict in which the Beast will prove himself more human than the Harlot.

The Seer marvels to see the Woman in this situation—or, let us rather say, to see her again. According to the speech of the Angel, that which most surprises John is her fellowship with the Beast, her riding upon him—this most horrible Amazon-equipment. Hence the answer of the Angel [to John’s wonderment] has in view an explanation of the origin of this mystery of the fellowship of the Woman and the Beast. The utterance runs thus: The Beast was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss, in order to go speedily into damnation. This declaration [of the Beast’s vanishment and re-appearance] is, certainly, a parallel to the mortal wounding of a head of the Beast (Rev_13:3), but it must be distinguished from the declaration concerning the king who “is not yet come” (Rev_17:10). The wounding of the Beast’s head is the cause, the disappearance of the Beast the result; the return of the Beast is the transition from the seventh to the eighth head. For at that very moment of the vision [not the moment depicted by the vision, but the time at which the vision was vouchsafed.—Tr.], the Beast was not—he seemed to have vanished—whilst the sixth king was in being. We, therefore, understand the declaration of the Angel as of the following import: The Antichristian world-power was in being before Christ; it then seemed, for a period reaching to the time of the vision, to be annihilated by the victory of Christ—as indeed it was principially annihilated; it however was to return later as an external apparent power. And it was as the returned Beast that the Beast carried the Woman, for in that interval of his vanishment it was only in the saintly seeming of subserviency to the Woman that he could make his appearance again. But, again, it was also his wonderful re-appearance which induced the Woman to trust herself to him. From the wonder of all people dwelling upon the earth at the apparent invincibility of the Beast—that is, from the renewed belief in the irresistible power of evil—the complete fall of the Woman resulted—the vain fancy that with the help of the Beast, with the help of ungodly and God-opposed state-maxims, she might attain to greatness and ever-increasing glory. Hence this unblest concordat in which, for a long time, the Woman seems to rule the Beast, until she is finally deposed and destroyed by him.

2. The Beast in his relation to the seven Heads.

Hither [let] understanding [come]. The mystery which the Angel here pronounces can be solved only through the union of worldly understanding [or an understanding of the world—Weltverstand] and spiritual wisdom. In the application of this problem to the Nero tradition, there would certainly have been no wisdom; at most, it could only have contained such an understanding as the Apocalyptist would have declared to be devoid of wisdom. To proceed, the seven Heads of the Beast are seven mountains, on which the Woman sits, and are seven kings. Here our task is, to abide by the laws of symbolism and not take a leap into geography, although we assume that there is an allusion to the City of the Seven Hills. Neither is it advisable to regard the sentence, and are seven kings, as tautological. As in the Book of Daniel, the world-monarchies (Revelation 2) are, in respect of their bright side, represented in the human image of metal, and (Revelation 7) in respect of their dark side, in the four beasts, so there is also here, doubtless, an antithesis to be taken for granted. The seven mountains are seven forms of empire—in the sacred number, because the State, taken in the abstract, is subservient to the purposes of the Divine Kingdom. The kings, however, seem here, in accordance with chs. Rev_17:2 and Rev_18:3, as despots, to represent the dark side of the world-monarchy, its God and Christ-opposed conduct—hence, pre-eminently, its bestial nature. The reference is not to individual kings; such a reference is impossible on this account, if for no other reason, viz.: because the kings must be in exact correspondence with the seven mountains. Otherwise the Apocalyptist must necessarily have seen fourteen heads, for, in accordance with the laws of allegory, the heads cannot denote two entirely different groups—the seven mountains as diverse from the seven kings. We reckon once more, therefore, the four world-monarchies of Daniel and add to them the Roman-Herodian government as the fifth monarchy. The sixth king is the Roman Empire at the time of the vision, and the Seer proleptically beholds the coming of a seventh, a world-monarchy, on which the Woman can ride for a short time. Then the Beast that was, and is not, again undisguisedly appears. In the seventh king it was, to a greater or less extent, the still anonymous bearer of the Woman; in the eighth, which issues from all the seven, as their evil extract, it will become the open enemy and destroyer of the Woman, and then, when it has fulfilled its judicial mission, it will go into perdition.

3. The Seven Heads and the Ten Horns.

The ten horns are distinct from the seven heads; they seem finally, however, to be comprehended together above the eighth head (eight is the number of the world), in which the Beast manifests himself again openly. The number ten is the number of the ripe development of the world, in antithesis to the number seven as the number of complete Divine order. And so, also, the horns denote bare power or force, in antithesis to the heads which symbolize the government of intelligence. They, therefore, together with the eighth king-picture from the life of the Beast, issue forth as ten kings of abstract power, as absolute radicalism. They had hitherto not yet received a kingdom; now they obtain, for one hour, complete imperial power in the world together with the Beast. This hour is, again, the great and fear-inspiring hour of the decisive conflict between open Antichristianity and the hypocritically disguised Antichristianity of the Woman. The ten kings rule, not successively, but conjointly; they are also not real kings, but mock-kings ( ὠò âáóéëåῖò ), and if they have one mind, it is but the spirit of Antichristian coalition. By the declaration: They shall war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall conquer them, etc., the finale is indicated—the judgment upon the Beast (Rev_19:19). But to what purpose this interruption here? It explains that hatred of the Woman which finally bursts forth in completeness. A bold change of allegorical images is visible in the first and third verses, where the same Woman is spoken of as sitting upon many waters, and as sitting in the wilderness. Here [Rev_17:15] the reference is again to the waters on which the Harlot sits (and when we read: the waters which thou sawest, this inaccuracy reminds us of similar expressions in the Johannean Gospel). The sovereignty of the Harlot is based not only upon the wilderness and the Beast, but also, through these, upon the peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And she becomes in the end, by means of the semblance of Christocracy that clings to her, an object of hatred to the ten Horns and the Beast. She is destroyed by four principal strokes. In the first place, she is wasted, desolated: an allusion to the Harlot as a city, or to her false eremite estate. Secondly, she is stripped, exposed in her nakedness, a frequently cited punishment of courtesans, whose meretricious adornment has been a means of seduction. Thirdly, she is, while still living, robbed of her flesh, which her enemies devour: her goods, her territories, all her possessions become the prey of the foe. And fourthly, she is, in a sarcastic auto da fé, suggestive of so many like proceedings, burned with fire; amid the wrath-fire of open, bold Antichristianity, hypocritical Antichristianity meets its end.—For God gave into their hearts. As, in accordance with the grand view of the Seer, in the wrath of the heathen, the wrath of God is manifest in an ironical mode of judgment, so in the one mind and unanimity of these kings, the purpose of God is visible, and in the surrender of their kingdom to the Beast, the consummation of the prophetic words of God may be seen, as in that dark hour when Caiaphas and Pilate were made to subserve His Providence (Joh_11:51; Joh_19:11). The Angel at the close comprehends the characteristics of the Woman in one expression: The Woman that thou sawest is the great city that hath kingdom over the kings of the earth. In the Woman, Great Babylon shall be judged specially as Babylon.

[ABSTRACT OF VIEWS, ETC.]

By the American Editor.

[Elliott: This chapter contains a vision (Rev_17:3-6), and a descriptive statement by the Angel (Rev_17:7-18); both the vision and statement are introductory to the judgment upon Babylon, and explanatory of its causes and reasonableness. In the Vision, the Woman represents Papal Rome; the Beast, the Roman Empire under its last or Papal head (see p. 259); the desert, the Roman Campagna. The period of time contemplated in the vision is the 1260 years of the Beast’s life under his last head (p. 260).—In the description, the Angel contemplates the entire history of both the Woman and the Beast—the former representing Rome, Imperial and Papal (see Rev_17:18); the latter (identical with the Beast from the sea of Revelation 13), the Roman Empire under all its heads or forms. (It is on the ground of the general nature of this description that Elliott denies that the burning of Rev_17:16 is the final burning foretold in Rev_18:8. He explains the destruction referred to in the former instance as preceding the vision—as that effected by the ten Gothic powers in the Fifth and Sixth centuries. These horns of the Beast (p. 260) then spoiled and burned the City, and so desolated the surrounding Campagna as to produce the ἕðçìïò or desert, in the midst of which Papal Rome arose, and in which (Rev_17:3) the vision was located).—The riding of the Woman on the Beast (Rev_17:3) symbolizes that the Western Papal Empire, as a whole, with the power of its ten secular kingdoms and many peoples, should uphold and be ruled by Papal Rome.—The double character of the Woman, as a Harlot with the ten kings and a tavern-hostess vending drugged wines to the common people (Rev_17:1-2; Rev_17:4), symbolizes her unholy alliance with the former, and her unholy and corrupting traffic (in indulgences, relics, transubstantiation-cup, etc.) with the latter.—The adornment of the Harlot (Rev_17:4) presents, “as applied to the Romish Church, a picture characteristic and from the life; the dress coloring specified being distinctively that of the Romish ecclesiastical dignitaries, and the ornaments those with which it has been bedecked beyond any Church called Christian.”—The word Mystery, Rev_17:5 (allusive to the mystery of iniquity, 2Th_2:7-8), “was once, if we may repose credit on no vulgar authority, written on the Pope’s tiara.”—The title “Mother of harlots, etc.,” is a parody of the title, “Rome, Mother and Mistress.”—The drunkenness with the blood of saints, Rev_17:6, symbolizes the martyr blood shed by Rome throughout the 1260 years of her prosperity.

Barnes: This chapter commences a more detailed description of the judgment inflicted on the Antichristian power referred to in Revelation 16; it contains a description of the sequel of the seventh Vial, which is continued (in various forms) to the close of Revelation 19; it embraces the following: 1. Introduction, Rev_17:1-3; Revelation 2. A particular description of this Antichristian power, Rev_17:3-6; Revelation 3. An explanation of what is meant by the Woman, and of the design of the representation, which comprises (1), a promise of the Angel that he would explain; (2) an enigmatical representation of the design of the vision (containing a description of the Beast, etc.), Rev_17:8-14; (3) a more literal statement of what is meant by this, Rev_17:15-18.—The Harlot symbolizes Papal Rome; her adornment, fornication, cup, drunkenness, many waters, substantially as Elliott; her inscription, see Expl. in Detail, Rev_17:6.—The Beast is identical with that of Rev_13:1, and designates the Roman power (see p. 260)—the period of the vision being that of the Eighth or Papal head and the ten horns, or ten subordinate kingdomsviz.: the 1260 years of Papal supremacy.—The destruction of Rev_17:16-17, is the final destruction of Rev_18:8, to be effected by the instrumentality of the ten secular powers who now uphold and are governed by the Harlot.—The ἕñçìïò , Rev_17:3, is the Roman Campagna.

Stuart: Ch. 17 is wholly occupied with an explanatory vision designed for the purpose of making the reader understand whose destruction is going on.—The Woman symbolizes the City of Rome, “altogether in the manner of the Old Testament prophets, who everywhere personify great cities by women.”—“The Beast means the Roman Emperors, specifically Nero, of whom the report spread throughout the empire is (was) that he will revive, after being apparently slain, and will come as it were from the abyss or Hades; but he will still perish, and that speedily. The Beast symbolizes him of whom it is said, that all the world will wonder at and worship him, when they see him thus returned, as they suppose from the under-world” (see also p. 261).—The ten horns denote the subordinate and tributary kings of the empire, who unite with the Beast in persecuting the Church.

Rev_17:16 indicates “that tyrants like Nero, and persecutors such as his confederates, would occasion wasting and desolation to Rome, even like that already inflicted by Nero, who had set Rome on fire and consumed a large portion of it. In a description so highly figurative as the one before us, nothing more seems to be necessarily meant.”—The ἕñçìïò of Rev_17:3, is “appropriate to symbolize the future condition of the Beast.”

Wordsworth. The views of this commentator concerning the Woman and her session upon the Beast, coincide generally with those of Elliott and Barnes.—For his interpretation of the Beast and the heads, see p. 261.—By the horns he understands “the kingdoms growing out of the Roman Empire at its dismemberment.”—The ἕñçìïò , he declares, may indicate the Campagna, pagna, or the moral wilderness in which Rome is situate, or both.—The destruction of Rev_17:16 he interprets as Barnes.

Alford. This commentator also adopts the generally accepted Protestant hypothesis (that advocated by Elliott and Barnes) concerning the Woman, her adornment, fornication, session upon the Beast, etc.—For his interpretation of the Beast and the seven heads, see pp. 261 sq.—Concerning the eighth head he writes: “This eighth, the last and worst phase of the Beast, is not represented as any one of his heads, but as being the Beast himself in actual embodiment. He is ἐê ôῶí ἑðôÜ , not ‘one of the seven,’ but the successor and result of the seven, following and springing out of them. And he åἰò ἀðþëåéáí ὑðÜãåé —does not fall like the others, but goes on and meets his own destruction at the hand of the Lord Himself. There can be little doubt in the mind of the student of prophecy, who is thus described; that it is the ultimate Antichristian power, prefigured by the little horn in Daniel, and expressly announced by St. Paul, 2Th_2:3 sqq.”—He interprets the ten horns as “ten European powers, which, in the last time, in concert with and subjection to the Antichristian power, shall make war against Christ. In the precise number and form here indicated, they have not yet arisen.”—He regards the destruction as the final destruction mentioned Revelation 18.

Lord: It is apparent from Rev_17:1-2, that the Woman had been beheld in a previous but unrecorded vision, sitting where there were seven mountains and many waters. The scene was the site of Rome; the seven mountains were the seven hills of that city, and were symbols of the seven kinds of rulers who had exercised the government of the ancient empire; the waters were symbols of the peoples, etc., of the empire; the Woman symbolized the nationalized hierarchies of the Apostate Church, and the actions ascribed to her show that the kings of the earth united with her in her idolatry.—The vision exhibited (Rev_17:3-6) and the explanation (Rev_17:7-18) represent the Woman in her relations to the rulers, first as her supporters, and finally as her destroyers.—The Beast on which the Woman was borne, was, and is not, and yet is: it was, as the successions of rulers of the ancient empire, which its heads symbolize, had been; it is not, as a government of a head is no longer exercised over the empire as anterior to its fall; and yet it still is, in an eighth form, inasmuch as the cotemporaneous kings who now reign over the kingdom into which it is divided exert a sway essentially the same—they are a combination of rulers and under their several governments one, by exercising their authority on the same principles and on the same authority as the seventh head, and in that respect they are an eighth appropriately symbolized by the same monster under the horns.—The names of blasphemy symbolize the arrogation by the rulers of the rights of God, in assuming to dictate the faith and worship of their subjects, legislating over Divine laws, making their will the reason that they are to offer worship, etc.—The session of the Woman on the Beast denotes that the combination of hierarchies whom she symbolizes is nationalized and established by the civil rulers.—The destruction of Rev_17:16 has already begun in the disallowance and scorn of the claims of the Established Church in most of the European States, the confiscation of her property in France, the conquest of the Papal States, etc.; and these judgments are to be carried on to a greater severity

Glasgow. This writer adopts the generally accepted Protestant view that the Woman symbolizes Rome ecclesiastical.—The Beast he identifies with the Beast of Rev_13:1, and the Dragon of Revelation 12 (see p. 263), and regards it as symbolizing, in its entirety, the world-power, and at the period contemplated by the vision, the Roman Empire in and after the fall of the Western Empire, A. D., 493.—The heads have here a double symbolization; they are: 1. Seven mountains, i. e., the seven forms of government through which the Beast (since his emergence from the sea, Rev_13:1) has passed, viz.: (1) the state of ten horns represented in Italy for a time by Odoacer and Theodoric, (2) the government of Justinian in the West, (3) the Kingdom of the Lombards, (4) that of Pepin and Charlemagne, (5) that of Otho the Great, (6) that of Charles V., (7) that of the Emperors after Protestantism obtained political equality, A. D. 1555; 2. Seven kings, i. e., the original kingdoms out of which the Roman power rose, as on p. 242.—The horns he interprets as Elliott, see p. 259.—The session on the Beast he interprets as Elliott and Protestant interpreters generally.—The period of the vision he places in the latter part of the effusion of the seventh Vial; the Woman “is revealed to view in the same condition in which she has existed for a long period.”

Rev_17:16 foretells the assaults that have from the era of the Emperors been made, from time to time, upon the Romish Church, to result in a complete destruction.

Auberlen: This chapter describes the Harlot and the Beast, ripe for judgment. (For the views of this writer concerning the Woman and the Beast, generically considered, and the wilderness, see pp. 243 sq., and 263 sq.). The Harlot is identical with the Woman of Revelation 12, who symbolizes the Church of God in the world; she is the Church conforming to the world. The identity is established by, 1. The place where she is seen, the wilderness, comp. Rev_12:6; Rev_12:14; Rev_17:3. 2. The fact that the same expressions are used in chs. 12 and 17 for wilderness and Woman ( ἔñçìïò and ãõíÞ ). 3. The fact that the Beast in the two chapters is identical;—but Beast and Woman are in both placed in immediate connection; if the identity of the one is conceded, how is it possible to doubt that of the other? 4. The expression used by the Seer: “When I saw her I wondered:”—the wonder finds its only explanation in the extraordinary change which had passed over the Woman; the impression made on John may be expressed by the words of Isaiah (Isa_1:21): “How is the faithful city become a harlot!” 5. The reason which lies in the expressions: Harlot (Rev_17:1; Rev_17:5; Rev_17:15-16; Rev_19:2), to commit fornication (Rev_17:2; Rev_18:3; Rev_18:9), fornication (Rev_14:8; Rev_17:2; Rev_17:4; Rev_18:3; Rev_19:2); Woman means the Church (see on p. 243); Harlot throughout both Testaments the Apostate Church, comp. Jeremiah 2, 3; Ezekiel 16, 23; Hosea 1-3; Mat_12:39; Mat_16:4; Mar_8:38; Rev_2:21. 6. The objective parallelism between Babylon and New Jerusalem; both are cities—the one a harlot, the other a bride (Rev_17:1; Rev_17:3; Rev_17:5; Rev_21:9); but as the latter is acknowledged to mean the transfigured Church, it follows that Babylon means the Church in its worldliness. 7. The contrast in Rev_19:2; Rev_19:9, between the Harlot and the Wife of the Lamb. 8. The word Mystery on the forehead of the Harlot (Rev_17:5); this word warns us not to adopt a literal, but to look for a spiritual interpretation of those which follow, an interpretation to which we may be guided by Eph_5:31-32.—The word Harlot describes the essential character of the false Church; she retains her human form, remains a woman, does not become a beast—she has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof (2Ti_3:8). Her adultery “appears in its proper form when she wishes herself to be a worldly power, uses politics and diplomacy, makes flesh her arm, uses unholy means for holy ends, spreads her dominions by sword or money, fascinates the hearts of men by sensual ritualism, allows herself to become ‘Mistress of ceremonies’ to dignitaries of this world, flatters prince or people, the living or the dead—in short, when she, like Israel of old, seeks the help of one worldly power against the danger threatening from another;” it appears in a less gross form (comp. Mat_5:28) “whenever she forgets that she is in the world, even as Christ was in the world, as a bearer of the cross and pilgrim, that the world is crucified to her and judged, whenever she regards the world as a reality and lusts after its power and pleasures.” “Herein consists the essence of whoredom, in leaning and listening, and conforming to, and relying on the world. Hence, there could not be a better description of it than that given, Rev_17:3; Rev_17:7; Rev_17:9; the Woman sits on the Beast.” (See also below). —The Harlot cannot be found exclusively either in the Romish Church, or in the Established State Churches. Christendom (the Church) as a whole, in all its manifold manifestation of sects, is the Harlot; the boundaries between Woman and Harlot are not denominational—true believers are hidden and dispersed, the invisible Church is within the visible, as the kernel within the shell; nevertheless it is true that the Roman and Greek Churches are in a more peculiar sense the Harlot, than the evangelical Protestant. “The Roman Catholic Church is not only accidentally and de facto, but in virtue of its very principle, a harlot, … whereas the Evangelical (Protesta ***) Church is, according to her principle and fundamental creed, a chaste woman; the Reformation was a protest of the Woman against the Harlot.”—As yet the mystery of Babylon is not fully developed. Bengel was probably correct in his expectation that Rome will once more rise to power; it is probable that the Greco-Russian Catholicism will likewise become of importance; the adulterous, worldly elements, in all churches and sects, lean towards that false Catholicism, and pave the way for its progress;—and thus may it attain again to power.—In like manner as the Woman, the Beast also appears in this chapter in a shape other than before; the deadly wound (Rev_13:3) is healed (see Extracts from Auberlen in foot-notes, pp. 263 sq.)—he recovers life and returns, but now not only from the sea (Rev_13:3), but out of the abyss (Rev_17:8), whence he has drawn new Anti-christian strength of Hell; he is now scarlet-colored, a symbol of his blood-guiltiness; the names of blasphemy formerly on his heads (Rev_13:1) now cover his whole body, as a sign that his opposition to God is now to manifest itself perfectly; the crowns which were formerly on the horns (Rev_17:3) have now disappeared. In such manner the Antichristian Kingdom comes into existence;—“a new kingdom in which all the Beast’s opposition to God is concentrated, and raised to a power such as it had had never before; therefore we read of an eighth, which proceeds from the seven (Rev_17:11), and is the full manifestation of the beast-nature.” The final apostasy will consist in the union of the pseudo-Christian and Antichristian elements, which the Apocalypse expresses by the Harlot sitting on the Beast; this alliance likewise appeared in the concluding period of the Old Testament—apostate Israel, which was then the Harlot, formed an alliance with the heathen world-power against Jesus and His Apostles, see Luk_23:12; Act_17:5; Act_17:9.—The abominations committed by the Jews, drew down the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, that is the judgment of the Harlot by the Beast (Dan_9:26-27)—an exact parallel to the future judgment set forth in Rev_17:16-17.—The judgment on the Harlot has already begun; see extract in foot-note (first column), p. 264.—E. R. C.]

EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL

Rev_17:1-2. One of the seven, etc.Which, is not to be determined, though the judgment upon Babylon in the narrower sense is indicated under the fourth Vial of anger.—Hither, äåῦñï (comp. Rev_21:3).—The reference is not to a local motion, but to a certain direction of the contemplation in accordance with the guidance of the Angel.— I will show unto thee the judgment.—“The fulfillment of the promise is not found immediately in Rev_17:3 (contrary to the opinion of Hengstenberg), nor is it contained at all in Revelation 17” (Düsterdieck). It is doubtless, however, the idea of the Angel that John must already be able to see the judgment in this appearance of this Woman—ch. 17 being the judgment in a Heaven-picture, and Revelation 18 the same in an Earth-picture.—Of the great harlot.—Pagan Rome, according to Düsterdieck. The following description is simply inappropriate to this conception.—That sitteth [Lange: is enthroned] upon many waters.—Pagan Rome did indeed reign over many peoples, but its throne did not rest upon the superstition of those peoples (Jer_51:13 does not apply here). Still more forcibly does the following pronounce against the application of the passage to pagan Rome.—[Rev_17:2]. With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication.—Pagan Rome did not allure the kings of the earth by blandishments; she destroyed them. There is one case—that of Antony and Cleopatra—which might be recommended, as a make-shift, to the “historical interpretation,” but even there the genders would have to be reversed before it could properly be regarded as applicable.—And they who inhabit the earth were made drunk, etc.—Not even this could be said, with reference to pagan Rome, either of the Spaniards, or of the Britons, or of the Germans, or of the Parthians, or of the Jews.

Rev_17:3. And he carried me away in spirit.—This is to be understood only of a change effected in the ecstatic direction of the spirit [of the Seer]. “The confounding of this wilderness with that mentioned in Rev_12:6; Rev_12:14—a proceeding which, on account of the lack of the article is, even from a mere formal point of view, properly impossible—is in Auberlen’s case connected with his view of the identity of the Harlot of Revelation 17 and the Woman of Revelation 12” Duesterdieck. Most certainly, the ascetic wilderness in which Jesuitism has its being is, spiritually, utterly diverse from the wilderness of Saint Anthony, and yet the two stand in the relation of historic continuity, and, hence, external unity. In like manner, the relation of the Harlot to the Woman is determined. According to Düsterdieck, et al., the Woman is seen in the wilderness because of the desolation imminent upon her in accordance with Rev_17:16! The symbolical interpretation of the wilderness is abundantly illustrated both by the Old and the New Testaments (Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, etc.); we must, therefore, wonder at the perverted interpretations of it (Bengel: Europe, especially Italy; other interpretations, see in Düsterdieck, p. 506). The fact that the same Woman who here sits in the wilderness, is subsequently represented as sitting on many waters, must necessarily give trouble to the “historical interpretation.”—And I saw a Woman sitting upon a scarlet Beast.—De Wette and Züllig embellish the Beast with a scarlet covering. The Beast must wear the color of blood (Andr., Lyra, et al.), just as the Dragon wears the color of flame, which is allied to blood-color. The Woman’s attire is variegated; together with the blood-color, the honorable hue of purple appears. In general, the Beast of the present passage is identical with that of Revelation 13; observe, however, the formal distinction that in the latter passage the Beast is spoken of in its general, world-historical shape, whilst here the primary and special reference is to it in its re-appearance after its vanishment, as the bearer, at first, of the Harlot.—Full of the names of blasphemy.—The ãÝìïí with the accusative is remarkable. Hebraizing: An emphatic expression: now filled up with writing; all the names of blasphemy. [“The names of blasphemy, which were found before on the heads of the Beast only (Rev_13:1), have now spread over its whole surface. As ridden and guided by the Harlot, it is tenfold more blasphemous in its titles and assumptions than before. The heathen world had but its Divi in the Cæsars as in other deified men of note; but Christendom has its ‘Most Faithful’ and ‘Most Christian’ kings, such as Louis XIV. and Philip II.; its ‘Defenders of the Faith,’ such as Charles II. and James II.; its society of unprincipled intriguers called after the sacred name of our Lord, and working Satan’s work ‘ad majorem Dei gloriam;’ its ‘holy office’ of the Inquisition, with its dens of darkest cruelty; finally its ‘Patrimony of St. Peter,’ and its ‘Holy Roman Empire;’ all of them, and many more, new names of blasphemy, with which the Woman has invested the Beast. Go where we will, and look where we will in Papal Christendom, names of blasphemy meet us. The taverns, the shops, the titles of men and places, the very insurance badges on the houses are full of them.” Alford.—E. R. C.]

Rev_17:4. And gilded with gold and precious stone and pearls.—“The êå÷ñõóùìÝíç is zeugmatical” (Düsterdieck). Both precious stones and pearls, however, must have been set in gold. As a decoration of the Church, such an apparel rudely anticipates the adornment of the celestial congregation.—A golden cup.—Even the cup [Kelch=chalice] or goblet [Becher=beaker] would look very strange in the hand of pagan Rome. The cup is, apart from the symbolism of measure, here the symbol of fellowship; the golden cup symbolizes the holiest fellowship—the fellowship of salvation. But, filled with abominations, it is certainly akin to hypocrisy, as in accordance with Bede—a strange equivalent for the “poculum missaticum” (Calov.). According to Düsterdieck, the golden cup means merely a cup that is golden, agreeably to the “historical interpretation.” The accusative êáὶ ôὰ ἀêÜèáñôá is remarkable. The most plausible construction of this is, apparently, that of Düsterdieck, who maintains that ἀêÜèáñôá should be taken as parallel with the accusative ðïôÞñéïí . It contributes to the characterism of the Woman when it is intimated that together with the cup she has all sorts of other things in her hand—things which the Spirit of truth designates as uncleannesses, and which are the issue of the fornication, i.e., idolatry, of the earth. [“This language is probably taken from Jer_51:7, ‘Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunken; the nations have drunken of the wine, therefore the nations are mad.’ ” Barnes on Rev_14:8.—E. R. C.]

Rev_17:5-6. A name written.—The ìõóôÞñéïí does not belong to the inscription, but it characterizes it—i. e., it is declaratory that the name Babylon and the rest of the title—the mother of the harlots and the abominations, etc.—is to be symbolically understood. [So also Barnes, Stuart, et al. On the other hand, Hengstenb., Wordsworth, Alf., et al. Lillie thus powerfully combats the former, and advocates the latter view: “1. While the Apocalypse is full of ìõóôÞñéïí , in no other instance does the narrator herald one as such. 2. Supposing the inscription to have included ÌõóôÞñéïí , an explanation was thus formally invited which is furnished in Rev_17:7; and the interpreting Angel is then to be considered as taking up the very word, and as personally ( ἐãþ ) confronting the difficulty which it announced. 3. As the Angel uses it the term is attached not to the name, but to the Woman herself and her equipment. 4. In that reference it might very well characterize her origin, nature, history, and destination; graciously to know the evil—‘the depths of Satan’ (Rev_2:24)—‘the mystery of iniquity’ (2Th_2:7)—this, not less than the knowledge of the good, requires heavenly teaching and ‘an unction from the Holy One’ (1Jn_2:20). 5. Even if not intended thus to be itself descriptive of the Woman, ÌõóôÞñéïí might yet stand in the inscription as a sort of prelude or index to her name, somewhat like̔ Ùäå ἡ óïößá ἐóôßí in Rev_13:18.”—E. R. C.]

BABYLON THE GREAT.—This symbolism is introduced as early as in Genesis, with the history of the building of the tower, and carried on especially by Isaiah and Jeremiah; this special Babylon, however, must not be identified with the general Babylon (Rev_14:8 and Rev_16:19), as is ordinarily done.—The MOTHER OF HARLOTS has also a more special import; the mother is reflected in spiritually, or rather fleshly, kindred daughters, some of whom compete with the mother in magical power. Grotius is correct in supposing that the aspect of the Woman must proclaim her drunkenness—and that a drunkenness with the blood of the saints, even the witnesses of Jesus (see Syn. View). Prelusive examples of blood-thirstiness and its augmentations are to be found in the old pagan world; this blood-thirstiness, however, is fulfilled in the specific lusting of the Woman after the blood of the witnesses of Jesus, prefigured, it is true, by the death of Abel (see Matthew 23). [“The phraseology is derived from the barbarous custom (still extant among many pagan nations) of drinking the blood of enemies slain in the way of revenge. Here, then, the fury of the persecutors is depicted in a most graphic manner. Blood is drunk by them even to intoxication, i. e., copiously, in great quantities. The effect of drinking blood is said to be, to exasperate, and to intoxicate with passion and a desire of vengeance. But the copiousness of the draught, and so the extent and bitterness of persecution, is particularly marked by the expression here.” Stuart.—E. R. C.]—And I wondered.—The Seer could hardly have expressed so great astonishment at the blood-thirstiness of pagan Rome—a quality long notorious and, proportionably, not so extraordinary. Bat this Woman! The Jewish hierarchy had, certainly, already nailed Christ to the cross. But that such a Woman could finally be the product of the historical development of the Church of faith then existent, must appear even to the Seer, with his knowledge of the world, a thing unheard of. Düsterdieck here reverts to Auberlen, stating that it is the opinion of the latter that the Seer marvels at recognizing in the Harlot the degenerate Woman of Rev_12:1. Düsterdieck calls this assumption an “egregious mistake.” Not even Auberlen, however, could have looked upon the Woman herself as the Harlot; that which he so regards, is but the Woman’s last historical representation—in antithesis to her internal essence, the finally emergent Bride. Similar utterances of amazement at the degeneracy of the Church are to be found even in the Old Testament, Isa_5:1 [sqq.], Jer_2:1 [sqq.], Revelation 18, Ezekiel 16; Mat_24:37, 1 Timothy 4., etc. According to Bengel, the Seer wondered at the phenomenon of so powerful a Beast being constrained to carry the Woman; according to Züllig, Düsterdieck, et al., he marvelled because he knew not the import of the phenomenon; according to Ebrard, his astonishment was occasioned by the change in the Beast which he had seen in Revelation 13. According to Hengstenberg, who frequently makes a point, of discovering moral failings even in the visional moods of the Seer, the wonderment of John is censured as foolish. The object of astonishment is, doubtless, intelligible to the Seer—it is the contrast between the Woman and the Harlot; in regard to the origin and development of this contrast, however, he stands in need of enlightenment from the Angel. [The object of wonder is doubtless the complex mystery (the mysteries, for each object is in itself a mystery) concerning which the Angel gives an explanation, viz.: the Woman, the Beast, and their relation to each other. This is evident from the words of the Angel (Rev_17:7): Wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell (explain to) thee the mystery, etc. The explanation extends through Rev_17:18.—E. R. C.] According to Düsterdieck, the Beast denotes the world-kingdom, and the Woman the world-city.

Rev_17:7. I will tell thee the mystery.—The mystery which he is to know, is the relationship betwixt the Woman and the Beast [see above]. How has it come to pass that the Woman could seat herself upon this terrible Beast? Or how is it that the wild-Beast suffered itself to be mounted by the Woman, like a gentle palfrey? In this query lies the key to the dark words that follow. The first explanation is contained in the history of the Beast.

Rev_17:8. The Beast … was, and is not, and is about to ascend out of the abyss.—The historic re-emergence of the world-power, spiritually wounded to death by Christianity—an event proleptically beheld by the Seer at a time when the Beast seemed to be really destroyed—serves as an occasion of offence and fall to the world and, consequently, to the majority of the men in whom the external and visible form of the Woman consists. The earthly-minded dwellers on the earth, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world—who, therefore, do not belong to the selection of the sealed—shall wonder when they see this apparent revival and gain of dominion on the part of the Beast. This is the history of the waning faith in the world-overcoming victory of Christ and the simultaneously waxing faith in the omnipotence of the world-power. It is the history of all who can see the Kingdom of God only in a tangible Church, a tangible salvation, a tangible Head of the Church—in a word, in external things. All of these have lost all heart for the powers of the world to come; through them, the Beast rises and the Woman descends, in a spiritual sense, or, in respect of outward appearance, the Woman is elevated on the back of the Beast—by means of a compromise between the two. [For an exposition of the Abyss, see Excursus, pp. 364 sqq—E. R. C.]

Rev_17:9. Herewith is connected the history of the Woman. It becomes intelligible only for the mind [Lange: understanding] that hath wisdom, the cultivated connoisseur of world-history, who views the same in the light of the Kingdom of God. The seven heads (of the Beast) are, primarily, seven mountains, on which the Woman sits. The fact that the Woman sits upon the seven mountains is, considered in and for itself, perfectly natural, for mountains are Divine political world-ordinances (see Romans 13), and the seven mountains constitute the totality of the ground-forms of the political order of the world. But this natural conditionality of the Church upon worldly state ordinances becomes fatal from the fact that the seven mountains are at the same time seven kings, i. e., here, despotic powers; in other words, that the noble human image of metal (Daniel 2) has a reverse side, in accordance with which it is composed of four rapacious beasts. Through the despotism of the world-monarchies, the Woman is continually drawn more and more into the parallel path of hierarchism, and her character becomes more and more corrupt. [See Add. Note, p. 317.—E. R. C.]

Rev_17:10. After the general history of the Beast and the Woman, the Angel gives the Seer a world-historical exposition of his stand-point in time. Five kings, i. e., world-monarchies, from a theocratic point of view, are fallen. The one is now subsisting—the sixth king, i. e., the sixth world-monarchy, behind which the Beast seems, for the instant, to be annihilated by young Christianity. This view was, assuredly, more entertainable by the Seer at the time of Nerva or even Domitian than at the time of Nero. The other king is the seventh wor
SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section Fourteenth

First Special End-Judgment: The Judgment upon Babylon, as a Heaven-picture. (Ch. 17)

General.—Babylon, in the wider sense of the term, is the entire anti-Godly world, conceived of in its concentration; Babylon, in the narrower sense of the term, is the secularized, ungodly and anti-Godly, external Church; a birth-place of Antichristianity, in which the Antichristian essence often appears very undisguisedly, though the Beast, Antichrist himself, does not manifest himself therein. Here, the reference is to Babylon in the narrower sense, and primarily in respect of the heavenly appearance of her judgment.

According to this Heaven-picture of the judgment, the horrible appearance of the Woman is itself the judgment. Conformably to her general appearance, she is the great Harlot (Rev_17:1-2), i. e. the object and subject of idolatry, the patroness of, and seducer to, apostasy from the living God. Her appearance is presented in abominable contradictions: 1. A Woman in the wilderness of a seemingly holy renunciation of the world and asceticism, and yet riding, like an Amazon, upon a royally decorated Beast, a many-headed monster, marked with names of blasphemy. 2. The Woman in magnificent princely attire, with the golden cup in her hand—and yet in, and together with, the cup, abominations and uncleannesses of idolatry, and even bearing on her forehead, for all who are acquainted with spiritual characters, the following title: Babylon the Great, the mother of the fornications and abominations of the earth. 3. The Woman, claiming the purest womanliness, in the religious sense of the term (see Revelation 12), drunken—with the blood of the saints; with the blood, even, of the martyrs of Jesus—of Jesus, Whose mother, sister, bride, she would fain be called.

The Beast on which she rides has also great contradictions attaching to it. 1. It was and is not. The ungodly world-power was and is not—is in principle annihilated by Christianity. 2. It is not, and it will ascend out of the abyss, to a new development of ungodly worldly glory in face of Christianity. 3. It will ascend, to the end that it may go down into perdition. 4. It is the hardest riddle to all the pious, the admiration of all the earthly-minded. 5. Its seven heads are seven mountains, which, however, are in reality identical with many ebbing and flowing waters. 6. It goes to destruction in the consecrated septenary of its kings, only to revive again in the profane decenary of kings. 7. It has long borne the Woman on its colossal body, and will at last destroy her with its ten horns. 8. The monstrous dividedness of the Beast is transformed into perfect unitedness in the warfare against the Harlot. 9. The Woman goes to destruction through the contradiction of her similarity to the Lamb and her affinity to the Beast.

Special.—[Rev_17:1.] Come, I will show thee the judgment of the great Harlot. Her appearance itself, therefore, is, primarily, her judgment. We are not to shun speaking of this judgment; but we must not interpret it rudely, in a manner offensive to the legal system of faith and worship. We have, therefore, to distinguish (1) between the Woman and the Beast which bears her; (2) between the symbolic form of the Woman, which embraces a symbolic Babylon, and her historic and most prominent organs and central points; (3) at the same time we are to recognize the fact that the corruption of the Church converges, more or less, to historic nodes, and is therein consummated. Babylon is everywhere in the Church, and yet is nowhere perfectly palpable; it, however, has its historic zenith-points. (Who, for instance, could refuse to reckon consummate Byzantinism, Mormonism and other sects based upon a pretension to inspiration, as forming portions of Babylon?)—As many Antichrists appear in the fore-ground of Antichristianity (1Jn_2:18), so in the foreground of the consummate Babylon of the last time there are many Babylons, especially predominantly spiritual and predominantly secular figures of Babylon.—A leading mark of Babylon is the universal ruinous effect which proceeds from the very city which pretends to be and once was a teacher and educator of the nations; this effect is two-fold and in many respects antithetic: the seduction of kings to fanatical worldliness, and of nations to fanatical mock-holiness.—[Rev_17:2.] With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication. An old and yet in many respects new story. History points to a whole series of dynasties which have been ruined by fanaticism, or have at least been brought to the very verge of ruin.—History tells us of nations that have been made drunk, and that have, more or less, sunk into national ruin. Fallen or sunken Christian kingdoms in the East and West.—[Rev_17:3-4.] The similarity and the difference between the picture of Revelation 12 and that of the present chapter: 1. Between the phases of the Woman; 2. Between the phases of the wilderness; 3. Between the relative positions of the Woman and the Beast.—Contrast between the wilderness abode of the Woman and her luxury.—Contrast between her perilous equestrian seat, figuring a taming of the Beast, and her festal attire. (There is also a distinction between warboots—Eph_6:15—and slippers.)—Contrast between the golden cup and the abominations contained in it.—[Rev_17:5.] The name on the forehead—manifest and yet a mystery.—The old antithesis: Babylon and Zion.—[Rev_17:6.] Amazement of John (see Exeg. Notes).—Horror of the holy mind at a caricature of the holy.—Strange manifestation of unnaturalness in the corruptions of the Church.

Rev_17:8. How the earthly-minded are, by the terrible aspect of the Beast, kept in a state of dependence upon the Woman, as long as the latter sits upon the Beast.

Rev_17:9. Hither an understanding that hath wisdom. Profane learning can only misinterpret this enigmatical phenomenon.—The world-monarchies, see Exeg. Notes.—Waverings of unredeemed humanity between the false unity of the world-monarchy and a dissipation into heathenism, barbarism, savageness.—Continuance of this wavering in the antithesis of the Hierarchy and separatism, absolutism and radicalism.—[Rev_17:12 ] The ten horns: Or the fall of religious absolutism is followed by the rule of an irreligious radicalism.—[Rev_17:13.] Demonic union of the ten horns. The principle of this union is to be found in their hatred of the Lamb, whose shadow they still persecute in the Woman.

Rev_17:14. The Lamb shall conquer them. Find the agreement between this and Rev_13:7. Of a conquest through [seeming] defeat, and a defeat through [seeming] conquest. What contrasts between the inner and the outer world, between the passing moment and the future, between seeming and being, are contained in the preceding paragraph.—The Beast as the conqueror of the Harlot, conquered by the Lamb.—Comp. the Old Testament prophecies against Babylon, especially Jeremiah 51.—Fearful mission of the ten kings (Rev_17:17).—[Rev_17:16.] Threefold judgment upon the Woman.—[Rev_17:12.] The Antichristian power lasts but one hour, i. e., a short time; but it is an hour in the theocratico-religious sense, a sore and painful hour of temptation [trial]. The union of the wicked occurs only in special moments of judgment and never, through an abolition of their inner egoistical division, attains to the oneness of the saints.

Rev_17:18. in relation to Rev_17:7. In Heaven, the unnatural appearance of the Woman is itself, already, “the judgment of the great Harlot.”

Starke: Application of the judgment upon Babylon to the “idolatrous Church of the Papacy.” Reasons for this application: “the great magnificence and ostentation of this Church in the external worship of God; the blandishments and flatteries which it employs to draw people to itself, etc.Fornication is interpreted as spiritual adultery, apostasy from Christ, the Husband of the Church. It is easy to learn who this Harlot is, from the description of her, and from her antithesis, the Bride of the Lamb. Her equestrian posture indicates that she derives her might and authority from the Beast and that she rules over it;—that she has arbitrarily subjected the Roman Empire to herself, has placed herself above emperors and kings, and has instated and deposed them. The crimson and bloody hue [of the Beast] is indicative of the bloodthirstiness excited in it by the persuasions of the Harlot.—[Rev_17:4.] Arrayed in purple and scarlet: purple, to indicate her usurped royal exaltation and pre-eminence above all potentates; and scarlet, to indicate her thirst for the blood of the saints. The true Church is resplendent only in the robe of Christ. There is nothing so abominable and unclean that it cannot be disguised and decorated with a tinsel of this world.

Rev_17:5. The whole essence of false religion is a mystery, but a mystery of iniquity and all godlessness (2Th_2:7). As the mystery of Christ passes all understanding and incites to godliness, so the mystery of iniquity is conceived by pure serpent-cunning and contains nothing but deception; note, e.g., the miraculous power resident, as the Church of Rome pretends, in certain pictures and images, etc.—[Rev_17:6.] A leading mark of the false Church: pagan Rome, in the three centuries [of her existence subsequent to the Christian era], shed less blood, by far, than so-called Christian Rome. (Starke adduces the example of France, in particular.)

Rev_17:8. And yet is: This is not to be understood as referring to Antiochus himself or to such Antichristian regents as stood in the fiercest spirit of Antiochus (Hoffmann’s view?).

Rev_17:9. Understanding and wisdom are two different things. There may be understanding without wisdom, but there can be no wisdom without understanding.—(Starke mentions the seven mountains of Rome; he remarks, however, that the Apocalyptic seven mountains have also been interpreted as seven famous Popes.)

Rev_17:12. Marginal gloss, (Luther): These are the other kings,—for instance, of Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, France (!).—Quesnel: The Lamb suffers and succumbs in His members, and the members, whilst they are oppressed, conquer in the Lamb (Rom_8:37).

Rev_17:16. This verse is entirely subversive of the opinion that the Beast denotes the Pope.—Great cities, great sins; and by the example of such cities, whole countries are seduced (Jer_23:15).

Auberlen (p. 317 [Eng. Trans.]): The fact that the Harlot is judged first, is not only in harmony with the general principle, that judgment must begin at the house of God (Jer_25:29; Eze_9:6; 1Pe_4:17), but a restoration of actual truth is also designed. The object which, in effect, alone continues to exist—is recognized as existing—at the time indicated [the time of the judgment of the Harlot], is the world; for even the Church now courts only its favor, even for the Church it is the only reality. Against such a Church, the world must carry the day; and therefore the Harlot is not judged by the Lord Himself, but by the Beast and its kings.

Graeber: [Rev_17:5.] A mother of harlots is one who brings up others to harlotry.

Rev_17:6. It must needs be a subject of highest amazement that Christians, or those who pretend to be Christians, can reach such a pass.—[Rev_17:16.] The Catholic States will in great part themselves accomplish the work of the destruction of the papacy.

Laemmert (Das Thier und der falsche Prophet, p. 36): “The origin of Babel [Babylon] is related, Genesis 11. (comp. with Rev_10:8-11). This [Genesis 11.] is the same chapter which, in its second part, gives the genealogy of the chosen Shemite, Abraham, and closes by describing the exode of Terah and his family from Chaldea and their entrance into Canaan. Here, therefore, we already have the foundation and beginnings of that grand dualism which runs through the whole of the Sacred Writings and the entire history of mankind down to the consummation. The founder of Babel was a grandson of him who scoffed at his father, and his name was Nimrod, i. e., rebel. Human arrogance built the city and the tower, to make itself a name—not to the honor of God’s name; of its own strength and will—not at the behest of God. The inner motives were thoughts of arrogance, of the deification of man and of self.”

Chantepie de la Saussaye, De Toekomst, p. 117. Man kann zeggen, dat de grand der tegenstelling der beide rijken reeds ligt in de paradijs-belofte. Doch wat daar nog slechts in het allgemeen gen?md wordt het zaad der slang, etc., verkrijgt immer meer kleur en gestalte.

[From The Comprehensive Commentary.—The Lord takes pleasure in satisfying His people concerning the reason and equity of His judgments on His enemies; that they may not be intimidated by the severity of them, or fail to adore and praise Him on that account.—Great prosperity, pomp and splendor, commonly feed the pride and lusts of the human heart; yet they form no security against Divine vengeance.—Those who allure or tempt others to sin, must expect more aggravated punishment, in proportion to the degree of the mischief done by them. (Scott.)]