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CHAPTER 17

17:16. THE VISION OF BABYLON SEATED ON THE BEAST .


1. .] (writes Hippolytus, de Antichr.
36), , ,
, and the reader of the Apocalypse who has reached this chapter reciprocates
the demand. Twice already he has been told that Babylon is doomed (14:8, 16:19), but
the Seer has given no clue to the meaning of the name, and no description of the city or
its downfall. These are to form the subject of a new revelation (1718.) which St John
now receives under the guidance of an Angel, one of the Seven who had been charged
with the Plague-bowls ( = ; cf. 15:1, 15:6, 21:9). For
see 1:12, and for , 4:1; the phrase as a whole is repeated in 21:9.
.] Cf. Jer. 28. (51.) 9 )
(sc. ). St John has heard the sentence pronounced, and is now to see it
carried into effect. On see 14:8, note; cf. Primasius: meretricem vocans,
quia relicto Creatore daemonibus se prostituitone reason, doubtless, for the use of
the name, but not that which the Apocalyptist has chiefly in view, as the next verse will
shew. is borrowed from Jer. 28. (51.) 12 f.
,
(, Q) ; the significance of the phrase as applied to the
New Babylon appears below, v. 15. For =, , see 14:6,
note.
2. .] Again the imagery comes from the
O.T.; see note on c. 14:8. The clause is repeated in c. 18:3; or
is an Apocalyptic phrase for human rulers in general, as contrasted with the
(1:5, 6:15, 16:14, 21:24), or, as here and in 17:18, 18:3, 18:9, 19:19, with
the rulers of territories which had been absorbed into the Empire or were allied to it, and
promoted its ends. The of which these kings were guilty consisted in
purchasing the favour of Rome by accepting her suzerainty and with it her vices and
idolatries. (cf. Jo. 2:10 ), answers to in 14:8;
if Rome was the temptress, the nations and their rulers had shewn themselves ready to
comply. Few such kings remained within the Empire; but St John is speaking of the
past. He could remember e.g. the princes of the Herod family.
3. ] The angel-guide not only invites
(), but carries the Seer away, transporting him to the scene of the vision. The verb
is used of the ministry of angels at the moment of death (Lc. 16:22

), or during an ecstasy (as here and in 21:10): for the latter cf. Bel 36

; Ev. sec. Hebr. (ap. Orig. in Ioann. t. 2:6)
,
; and St Pauls (2 Cor. 12:4). The Desert into
which the Seer is transported is not the retirement and solitude of the inner life (12:6,
12:14, notes), for he would not have found the vision of Babylon there, but the

desolation of a life without God (Primasius: desertum ponit divinitatis absentiam, cuius
praesentia paradisus est). Or possibly it anticipates the time when the busy suburbs and
neighbourhood of the city will be left without inhabitant; cf. Isa. 14:23
. Or may have been suggested by the heading to Isa. 21.

, w


, which the LXX. render simply . For the
vision of the New Babylon the Seer is carried into a desert; for the vision of the New
Jerusalem he ascends a mountain (21:10, note).
The movement took place , i.e. in the sphere of the Seers spirit,
impelled by the Spirit of God; cf. 1:10, 4:2, notes. St John does not share St Pauls
doubt: , (v. 4 ) (2 Cor.
12:2). He probably has in view the frequent ecstasies of Ezekiel; cf. e.g. Ez. 3:14 f.
, ...
, 8:3 ...
, 11:24
... .
] The Great Harlot appears
riding on a monster which, notwithstanding the absence of the article (cf. in
13:11), is doubtless to be identified with the Wild Beast from the Sea (13:1, 13:14; cf.
19:20); i.e. the World-power regarded as the enemy of Christ and the Church, and ruling
by brute force. On this the Harlotcity reposes; it gives her a proud preeminence, and
carries her to victory. The colour of the Beast is now seen to be scarlet, or perhaps
crimson. , dyed with the colouring matter derived from the , a parasite
of the ilex coccifera, represents in the LXX.
or
, or

( see the lexicons s.vv.); the colour was much used for textile materials; cf.

Num. 4:8 (sc. )


, 2 Regn. 1:24 ...
, Jer. 4:30 , Mt.
27:28 ; with it were blended the dark blue known
as (Isa. 3:23; cf. Apoc. 9:17, note), and the red-blue known as (Ex.
39:13(1), 2 Chr. 2:7 (6)), while the white of the often completed the makeup (2
Chr. 3:14, Apoc. 18:16). A thread or cord dyed with the was attached to an
object with the view of arresting the eye (Gen. 38:28, Jos. 2:18). Thus the epithet
conveys the idea of splendour and distinction; the colour it describes enters into the
clothing of the woman herself (v. 4), while the Beast she rides is completely dyed with
it. There is probably no reference to the blood of the martyrs, or to the fires in which
they perished; in either case would have been more appropriate (cf. 6:4, 12:3);
rather it is the ostentatious magnificence of the Empire which is represented by the
colour of the Beast (cf. Juv. 3:283 f. cavet hunc, quem coccina laena | vitari iubet et
comitum longissimus ordo), while its very name indicates its policy of persecution
(Andreas:
).
.] The Seer personifies the Beast and writes
... accordingly; ; , are obviously corrections. governs a

gen. elsewhere in the Apoc. (4:6, 4:8, 5:8, 15:7, 21:9), in the rest of the N.T. (Mt. 23:27,
Lc. 11:39, Rom. 3:14, cf. Mt. 23:25 ) and in the LXX.; on the acc.
here see WM., p. 287, and for the construction in v. 4, see below. For . cf.
13:1, note; there they stand on the Beasts seven heads, here they cover his body. The
Empire reeked with the blasphemous worship of the Emperors; not its heads only but
the whole body politic did this dishonour to the Living God. It is a first charge against
Babylon that she is supported by a system such as this.
, as in 13:1; for the interpretation see vv. 9 f., 12, notes.
4. .] In Babylons
clothing the scarlet or crimson is relieved by purple. The colours were so near to one
another that the of Mt. 27. is called or in
Mc. 15:17, 15:20, Jo. 19:2, 19:5; here they blend, but are distinct, as in Ex. 26:1
... . On , the
colour of clotted blood, see Mayor on Juv. 1:27. Andreas regards it as symbolizing the
imperial power of Rome (
) but mixed with crimson perhaps it rather points to the
luxurious living of the metropolis (cf. Lc. 16:19) than to its being the seat of empire. St
John shares the old Roman dislike of rich attire: cf. Juv. 14:187 ff. peregrina ignotaque
nobis | ad scelus atque nefas, quaecumque est, purpura ducit.
The whole passage was used by the Carthaginian Fathers as a persuasive against the
love of dress; cf. Tert. de cult. fem. 2:12 quam maledicta sunt sine quibus non potuit
maledicta et prostituta describi; Cyprian de hab. virg. 12 fugiant castae virgines et
pudicae incestarum cultus, habitus impudicarum, lupanarum insignia, ornamenta
meretricum.
.] Not content with costly and splendid clothing,
Babylon wears all her jewellery and even gilds her person (cf. Ex. 26:37
); she is inaurata auroa meretricious display which proclaims her vile
trade; cf. Juv. 6:122 f. (quoted in note on v. 5). The commentators compare Ez. 28:12,
where it is said of the King of Tyre ... , but the
Apocalyptist more probably reminds himself of the finery of the temple prostitutes of
Asia Minor, or recalls the reports which reached the provinces of the gilded vice of the
capital. (


, w
) depends by zeugma upon
, from which the reader must mentally supply some such participle as
(21:2, 21:19). is collective, cf. 18:12, 18:16; = . .
(21:19). On see 21:21, note.
.] Adapted from Jer. 28. (51.) 7
, . From one point
of view a great centre of heathenism and vice is a cup in the Hand of God, the
instrument of His righteous wrath: from another the cup is in the hand of Babylon
herself, for it is she that prepares and administers it (18:6 ). The
cup is of goldanother sign of luxury (cf. Juv. 10:26 f. illa (sc. aconita) time cum
WM. Winer-Moulton, Grammar of N. T. Greek, 8th Engl. ed. (Edinburgh,
1877).

pocula sumes | gemmata et lato Setinum ardebit in auro)but it is full of


abominations, as the Beasts scarlet body is covered with names of blasphemy; its
contents contrast strangely with its external beauty; cf. Mt. 23:25
, (Lc.
). , a rare word in the N.T. (Mc.
13:14=Mt. 24:15, a quotation from Daniel,Lc. 16:15, Apoc. 17:4 f., 21:27) is

frequent in every part of the LXX., where it usually represents either
or
(e.g. Lev. 21:10 ff., Dan. 9:27), or

( so with few exceptions in Deut. 3, 4 Regn.,

Prov.), in the sense of ceremonial or moral impurity, or an object of idolatrous worship
or an idolatrous rite (cf. 3 Regn. 11:6=5 , 4 Regn.
23:13 . ). Both meanings suit the present context; the
which filled the cup of Rome may include both the cults and the vices of
Roman life. lays special emphasis on the
impurities of Romes traffic with the nations, the imperial and commercial relations in
which she played the (14:8, 17:1, notes).
A striking parallel to a part of this picture is to be found in Cebes, tab.: ...
... ,
, ; , ; .
, , ... ...
; , .
5. ] A name written on the forehead
may be either that of the person who bears it (cf. 19:16, where however the name is
written ), or that of one with whom the bearer stands in
a near relation (cf. 14:1, 22:4). Here the name and style are those of the woman herself,
and there is probably an allusion to a custom observed by the Roman ; cf. Seneca
rhet. 1:2. 7 stetisti puella in lupanari nomen tuum pependit a fronte [but the
meaning is doubtful]; Juv. 6:122 f. [Messalina] papillis | constitit auratis, titulum
mentita Lyciscae. Cf. Arethas: ,
.
, .] The legend borne by the titulus on the
Harlots forehead. , which stands in apposition with ., is used
nearly as in 1:20 ... ... ,
where see note. The Woman on the Beast represents, is the symbol of Babylon the
Great, while Babylon itself is a mystical name for the city which is now the mistress of
the world. Her gaily attired, jewelled, gilded person, and her cup of abominations
proclaim her to be the Mother-Harlot of the Earth. All the of all the subject races
are her children; all the vices and superstitions of the provinces were suckled at her
breasts. The of the Empire is the source and fountain-head of its impurities,
the mother of harlots, even as the Church is the mother of Christ and His Saints (12:5,
12:17). Cf. Andreas: []
. The maternal character of Rome was recognized
by the provincials themselves as late as the end of the fourth century, but from a

different point of view; cf. Libanius, ep. 247 ,


.
6. .] As the Seer contemplates
the Woman, he sees that she is drunken, not with wine (Isa. 51:2
), but with blood. The dreadful conception is familiar to Roman writers; cf. Cic.
Phil. 2:29 gustaras civilem sanguinem vel potius exsorbueras; Plin. H.N. 14:22. 28
[Antonius] ebrius sanguine civium; Suet. Tib. 59 fastidit vinum, quia iam sitit iste
cruorem. Babylon is drunken with the blood of the citizens of the City of God, the
Saints and the Witnesses of Jesus; cf. 16:6 , 18:24
. On in this book see 2:13 note. The
distinction suggested by the repeated is apparent only, for the saints
whose blood was shed were by that very circumstance also witnesses to the Faith; but
the repetition serves to enhance the guilt of Rome. She had not sinned in ignorance, for
testimony had been borne to Christ by more than one generation of saintly sufferers in
the presence of high officials of the Empire. For see WH.2, Notes, p. 171.
.] The Seer had been invited to see the
downfall of Babylon; the angel offered to shew him her sentence executed. He expected
to see a city in ruins. But instead of this there had risen before him on the floor of the
desert the picture of a woman gilded, jewelled, splendidly attired, mounted on a scarlet
monster, drunk with blood. It was a complete surprise, the greatest marvel of the entire
Apocalypse. Who was this woman? what was the meaning of the Beast? The Seer had
lost his clue; he was bewildered by a vision so widely different from that for which he
looked. An interpreter is needed, and he is at hand in the person of the angel who had
undertaken to act as guide; see v. 7.
718. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION OF BABYLON AND THE BEAST .
7. ; .] The Angel has read St Johns
amazement in his face or it has been betrayed by an exclamation; and he proceeds to
explain to the Seer the symbolism of the Woman and the Beast. The two belong to the
same ; hence . , not . . .
. : the Harlot-city is a burden which the Beastthe Empire
has to support; cf. 2 Esdr. 23:15 ... .
. : the articles point back to 17:3, and ultimately to 12:3.
8. .] The interpreter begins with the Beast, for
if the Beast is rightly understood, it will not take many words to explain the Woman.
: cf. Gen. 42:36 , ( , w
;) there is
perhaps an intentional antithesis to 1:4 . The description seems at first to
contradict c. 13., where the Beast is said to have recovered from his deadly wound (vv.
3, 14 ...
). Here the Beast is represented as having died of his wound ( ), and
gone down to the abyss (cf. 9:1 ff., 11:7), though he is about to return to life (
= ), before he meets his final doom (
, cf. 19:20). On this apparent inconsistency see below, v. 10 f., notes.
WH. Westcott and Hort, N.T. in Greek second edition (1896).

.] Cf. 13:3
, and see note there. The Seer had wondered (v. 7) with the amazement of a
horrible surprise; the world will wonder and admire. .
recalls 13:8
, omitting the reference to the Lamb (see note ad
loc.).
.] The admiration of mankind for the Beast is due to his
vitality, his recuperative power, his power to reassert his authority when they had
believed him to be dying or dead. An Empire which could endure the strain upon its
resources and the shock to its prestige and authority sustained by Rome during the
period between the death of Nero and the accession of Vespasian might well earn the
respectful homage of a world which makes success the gauge of strength and right. The
Church alone was not deceived, but could foresee the end. is probably not a
gen. absolute, but follows the case of by attraction. , ventura est; the Beast,
like the Lamb, has a future Parousia; cf. 2 Th. 2:8 f. ...
. But the Lamb descends from Heaven, the
Beast rises from the Abyss; the Lamb comes to celebrate His triumph, the Beast to
receive his final doom. The travesty is complete, and it is to the disadvantage of the
Beast.
9. ] Cf. 13:18 ., where
see note. What is to follow will put to the proof the spiritual discernment of the hearer
or reader. The formula is a call to vigilance and close attention, like
(2:7, etc.); but whereas . follows the words which challenge
consideration, . precedes them. As Arethas points out, the wisdom which is
demanded is a higher gift than ordinary intelligence:
, ,
.
The interpretation now begins, but (as the reader has been warned) it is itself an
enigma, for which more than one solution may be found. In the notes which follow an
attempt is made to offer the explanation which on the whole seems to be the best.
] No reasonable doubt can be entertained as to the
meaning of these words. The Seven hills of Rome were a common-place with the Latin
poets; cf. e.g. Vergil, Aen. 6:782 illa inclyta Roma | imperium terris, animos aequabit
Olympo, | septemque una sibi muro circumdabit arces; Horace, carm. saec. 7 di
quibus septem placuere colles; Propertius, 3:10 septem urbs alta iugis, quae toti
praesidet orbi; Ovid, trist, 1:4. 69 sed quae de septem totum circumspicis orbem |
montibus, imperii Roma deumque locus; Martial, 4:64 hinc septem dominos videre
montes | et totam licet aestimare Romam; Cicero, ad Attic. 6:5 .
The epithet is freely applied to Rome in the later Sibyllines (2:18, 13:45,
14:108).
] Cf. v. 1 , v. 3
. Rome sits mystically on the waters (v. 15) and on the Beast. i.e.
the subject races and the Empire, which support her; geographically, as the seven heads

of the Beast which carries her suggest, she is seated on the seven hills that rise from the
banks of the Tiber.
10. .] But the heads of the Beast have a further significance:
they are kings (cf. 13:3, note). In Dan. 7:17 the four kings (

) symbolized by the
Four Beasts are interpreted both by the LXX. and Th. as , and this
interpretation is supported by vv. 23, 24, where the fourth Beast is said to be the fourth
Kingdom (

or


) . But in the present passage, where there is but one
, and the kings are his heads, no such ambiguity can arise; if the Beast is the
Roman Empire, his seven heads are Emperors.
, , .] , not simply
, for at death, notwithstanding his apotheosis, each of the five had in fact
fallen from his exalted position; for this use of cf. 2:5. The vision seems to be
dated in the reign of the sixth Emperor. Putting aside the name of Julius Caesar, who
though he claimed the praenomen Imperatoris (Suet. Jul. 76) was a Dictator rather
than an Imperator in the later sense, the Roman Emperors of the first century are
Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus,
Domitian, Nerva, Trajan. It is, however, more than doubtful whether a writer living
under the Flavian Emperors would reckon Galba, Otho, or Vitellius among the Augusti.
If we eliminate these names, the vision belongs to the reign of Vespasian (A.D. 6979),
and probably, as suggests, to the last years of that reign, when the
accession of Titus was already in sight. Titus certainly fulfilled the prediction
., for he died Sept. 13, 81, imperii felix brevitate, as Ausonius (De ord. xii imp.
11) cynically remarks.
11. , .] On
see v. 8, note. The eighth in the series of Emperors indicated in the last note is Domitian.
But in what sense could he be described as the Beast , or be said to be
of the seven (cf. Acts 21:8)? The mystery reaches its climax here, and is not resolved
by placing a full stop after , as WH. have done. A more promising key may be
found in the circumstances of the age to which the Apocalypse belongs. One of the
seven had left a reputation which even in the last years of the century made his name a
terror. Nero was the very impersonation of the Beast, the head (13:9) which seemed to
gather into itself all the worst qualities of the body politic. Nero was gone for the time
( ), but he would return as an eighth, the topstone to the heptad, a reincarnation
of the Beast, a Nero redivivus though not in the sense which popular rumour attached to
the phrase (13:3). Even pagan writers recognized the resemblance between Domitian
and Nero; cf. Juv. 4:37 f. cum iam semianimum laceraret Flavius orbem | ultimus, et
calve serviret Roma Neroni; Mayor (1. p. 223) compares Pliny, pan. 53, where
Domitian is [Neroni] simillimus, and Ausonius, l.c. 12 [Titum] secutus | frater,
quem calvum dixit sua Roma Neronem. In Mart. 11:33 Nero is supposed by some to
stand for Domitian. With St John, living under Domitian and unable to refer to him by
name, Domitian takes Neros title, as John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power
of Elijah, is called Elijah by our Lord (Mt. 11:14, Mc. 9:13). As late as the beginning of
WH. Westcott and Hort, N.T. in Greek (Cambridge, 1891).

the third century the name of Nero stuck to Domitian at least in Christian circles; to
Tertullian he is not only portio Neronis de crudelitate (apol. 5), but a sub-Nero (De
pall. 4).
One question remains. How can the date which appears to be assigned to this vision
by the writer himself be reconciled with the traditional date of the Apocalypse? It may
of course be that the Apocalyptist incorporates at this point an older Christian prophecy,
or reedits his own earlier work. But it is equally possible that in the vision of the
Woman and the Beast he purposely transfers himself in thought to the time of
Vespasian, interpreting past events under the form of a prophecy after the manner of
apocalyptic writers. Either of these solutions sufficiently accounts for the change of
standpoint which is perceptible when the reader compares 17:8, 17:10 f. with 13:3,
13:8; see note on 17:8.
received a dramatic fulfilment. Domitian was assassinated
(Sept. 18, 96), after a terrible struggle with his murderers. The tyrants end was a
symbol of the end to which the Beast which he personated was hastening.
12. .] Cf. Dan. 7:24
(sc. ) , where if the
Fourth Beast be Alexanders Empire, the ten horns must be explained either as the
kingdoms which arose out of it, or the successive kings of one of the kingdoms of the
Diadochi, probably the Seleucidae; see Driver, Daniel, p. 101 ff. The Apocalyptic Beast
from the sea has also ten horns, which are crowned (13:1 ...
), i.e., as the writer himself now interprets, ten
kings. These have been taken to represent (1) the Parthian satraps, who according to
Mommsen were practically independent rulers; or (2) the subordinate potentates of Asia
Minor, or (3) unknown future allies of the Roman Empire; or (4) the seven Emperors
already referred to, plus the three who held rule between Nero and Vespasian. The last
suggestion is excluded not only by the contrast of with , but by the plain
statement that not one of the ten had yet begun his reign; and the same objection holds
against (1) and (2), notwithstanding Boussets plea that was
true of the Parthian satraps regarded from the Roman point of view. Far nearer to the
Apocalyptists words is the comment of Irenaeus (5:26. 1): de novissimo tempore, et
de his qui sunt in eo decem regibus, in quos dividetur quod nunc regnat imperium,
significavit Ioannes; cf. Arethas:
. The ten kings belong to a period which in
St Johns time was still remote; they belong, as the sequel will shew, to the last days of
the Roman Empire, and represent the forces which arising out of the Empire itself, like
horns from a beasts head, and carrying on many of the worst traditions of the Empire,
would turn their arms against Rome and bring about her downfall. It is unnecessary to
press the number in this case; it has been suggested by the reference to Daniel (l.c.), and
it is a well-known symbol of completeness (Enc. Bibl. 5437) which leaves the exact

Enc. T. K. Cheyne and J. S. Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica (London, 1899


1903).

figure uncertain, cf. 2:10, note. With the indefinite ... cf. 1:7, 2:24, 9:4,
20:4, and see Blass, Gr. p. 173.
.] The new potentates, though not Emperors, will in
some sense succeed to the position of the Caesars, possessing quasi-imperial powers,
which they will exert in concert with the Beast and to the detriment of Rome. With
cf. 1:10 , 4:6 , 9:7 , 13:3
, 14:3 , 16:21 ; in such contexts
compares without identifying; the ten are not in the same sense as the
seven, but resemble them. Cf. Arethas: .,
; the remark of Bede, tamquam reges dixit, quia velut in somnis
regnant qui Christi regno adversantur, true as it is, misses the Apocalyptists point.
With compare Dan. 4:16 (19), LXX., , Apoc. 18:10,
18:16, 18:19 . Great leaders and even dynasties and empires have a relatively
brief existence, as compared with the world-power of the Beast, though for the time
they share his authority (cf. 13:2).
13. .] The ten kings are of one mind: cf. v. 17.
, purpose, as in Acts 20:3 , 1
Cor. 1:10 . The unanimity
of the ten appears in their support of the Beast, i.e. in their worldly policy and hostile
attitude towards Christ. The Seer entertains no illusions on this point; he does not
anticipate that the rise of new and unknown forces will bring any immediate
improvement; the Beast will remain, and the new powers will be his allies. With the old
uncontracted form , cf. (-, -) in Mt. 5:15, 23:4, Mc. 15:17; the
contracted present occurs in c. 3:9; see W.Schm., pp. 118, 121 f. and
are combined, as in 13:2; the Beast can rely both on the actual fighting power
of his allies and on the moral force which belongs to their position.
14. .] The allies of the Beast must be
enemies of the Lamb. As in 16:13 ff., the Seer sees the kings gathering for battle. That is
one certain fact, and another is the victory of the Lamb; He
will conquer the hostile coalitions of the future as in the past He has overcome the solid
resistance of a great empire. The Seer produces his reason for this assurance: for the
Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings. The stately phrase, so familiar to us in
Christian hymns, goes back to Deut. 10:17 ,
(
, w


, w
) , and is heard again in the post-exilic
Psalms (135. (136.) 3 , and during the Maccabean
struggle (Dan. 2:47
(

, w

;) cf. 2 Macc. 13:4
). In the N.T. St Paul (1 Tim. 6:15) uses
in reference to the Father. The Apocalypse, in its usual manner, transfers
such titles to the Son; He is (1:5) the ; He is (here and
19:16) and . The words have a special
appropriateness if written in the time of Domitian; cf. Suet. Domit. 13: adclamari etiam
in amphitheatre epuli die libenter audiit domino et dominae feliciter pari arrogantia

cum procuratorum suorum nomine formalem dictaret epistolam sic coepit; dominus et
dens noster hoc fieri iubet; see Mart. 5:8 edictum domini deique nostri. If the
Roman Emperor, a Nero or a Domitian, could be styled princeps, imperator, dominus,
the Head of the Church was moreprinceps regum, rex regum, dominus dominorum;
crowned heads were His subjects and would one day be put under His feet.
] Sc. (as R.V., Benson),
not (as A.V.). The Saints will share the victory of the Lamb, as they have shared
His conflict. suggests a contrast with () (v. 12 f.); cf.
14:1, 14:4 ...
. They are known by three notes; they are
, , . The first two are contrasted in Mt. 22:14
; stands often in good company (Rom. 1:1where see
note in SH., 1 Cor. 1:2 , Rom. 8:28 , Jude
1 ), yet it falls
short of ; to have been chosen by God is more than to have been called by
Him. In order of time precedes , the calling being the outward
expression of the antecedent choosing (Hort on 1 Pet. 1:1), but in the order of moral
significance this is reversed, and is followed by . Yet neither of these
qualifications exhausts St Johns description of those who have part in the victory of the
Lamb; though on Gods side no failure is to be feared (Rom. 8:29 f. ,
... , , ,
... ), on mans part there is no such security (2 Pet. 1:10
); the climax is only
reached when the called and chosen are found faithful. For cf. 2:10, 2:13.
15. .] A new point is reached in the interpretation
of the vision; cf. v. 8 , v. 12 . At a first glance
the point to which attention is now called seems to break the thread of the angels
teaching; but in fact it forms a connecting link between vv. 14 and 16. Romes greatest
danger lay in the multitudes which were under her sway, and out of which would arise
the ten kings who were to be the instruments of her downfall.
The waters on which the Harlot had been seen to dwell (v. 1) represented the
teeming and mixed populations of the Empire. Cf. Isa. 8:7
,
; Jer. 29. (47.) 2 ,
. The Harlot-city sits on the brink of a seething flood (contrast Ps. 28.
(29.) 10)the polyglott races of the Empire, her support and strength at present, but if
they rose, as at some future time they might rise, the instrument of certain and swift
destruction. For the phrase . see 5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6; it rests
ultimately on Dan. 3:4, 3:29, 4:1, 5:19, 6:21, 7:14.
16. .] The fall of the City is to come
from the new powers destined to proceed from the Horns and from the Beast himself,
SH. Sanday and Headlam, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
(Edinburgh, 1895).

who will turn against the Harlot he has long maintained. Sudden changes from fierce
love to bitter hatred, familiar enough in private history (cf. e.g. 2 Sam. 13:15), find their
parallel in the history of nations, and the Seer foresees that the downfall of Rome will
come in this way. Already within his memory the capital had been twice in one year
(A.D. 69) the scene of carnage and plunder; and although the Flavian Emperors
inaugurated a peace which had lasted more than thirty years, there were ominous signs
of fresh trouble; Domitian had no obvious heir, and his life was menaced by
conspiracies; at any moment Rome might be sacked again. But St John looks beyond
the end of Domitians reign to a future which he does not attempt to fix. He has a divine
vision of forces within the Empire taking shape under the leadership of many who,
without the Imperial purple, would possess Imperial powers, and would use them for the
destruction of Rome. His forecast was verified by the long series of disasters sustained
at the hands of Alaric, Genseric, Ricimer, Totila, the representatives of the hordes which
overran the West in the 5th and 6th centuries; not to mention later sieges by less
barbarous foes. No reader of the Decline and Fall can be at a loss for materials which
will at once illustrate and justify the general trend of St Johns prophecy.
With his description cf. Hos. 2:3 (5): ...
; Ez. 23:29 ... ...
. The phrase finds a parallel in c. 12:15
. : for the metaphor cf. Ps.
26. (27.) 2 . Mic. 3:3
. The pl. denotes, as in classical Greek,
portions of flesh, or the muscles that compose the flesh; contrast the use of the sing. in
Jo. 6:53 ff., where the whole nature of man is intended.
: the legal punishment of certain gross sins (Lev.
20:14, 21:9, Jos. 7:15). Compare Jeremiahs threat, 41. (34.) 22 (the
forces of Nebuchadnezzar) ,
... ,
.
17. .] The angel anticipates the
objection that the success of such a coalition against Rome is incredible; the ten kings
will surely fall out among themselves. They will not fall out, for their unanimity is of
God, Who has chosen them as instruments of His Will; and it will continue until His
words (i.e. those of the prophets speaking in His Name, cf. 19:9, 21:5, 22:6) shall be
fulfilled. For (
) see 1 Th. 4:8, Heb. 8:10 (Jer. 38.=31:33); for
cf. v. 13. , His purpose, His royal decree, a sense which the
word often bears in 1 and 2 Esdras and Daniel, where reference is made to the edicts of
the Persian kings. , cf. Lc. 18:31, 22:37, Acts 13:29, Apoc. 10:7.
18. .] Lastly, the Harlot herself
receives interpretation. The words leave no doubt that Rome is meant, even if doubt
could have remained after v. 9. Babylon is the Imperial City of the world, the seat of the
one great Empire which was left ( .). Cf. Tert. adv. Marc. 3:13,
adv. Jud. 9 (cited in note to 14:8); Aug. de civ. Dei 16:17 ante conditam Romam veluti

alteram in Occidente Babyloniam, 18:2 ipsa Roma quasi secunda Babylonia est.
Even in a series of non-Christian inscriptions (Audollent, Defixionum tabellae, inscrr.
160, 161) seems to occur as a synonym for Rome.
But Rome does not, of course, exhaust St Johns conception of Babylon. His vision
sounds a note of warning which may well be taken to heart by any great metropolis
which prostitutes its wealth and influence to base or self-seeking ends. The city of the
Caesars was the contemporary representative of Babylon; other ages may witness the
rise and fall of other mistresses of the world not less magnificent and depraved.
1

1The Apocalypse of St. John ( ed. Henry Barclay Swete;, 2d. ed.; New York:
The Macmillan company, 1907), 209.