Rev. 17:15 – He also said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. 16 The 10 horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His plan by having one purpose and to give their kingdom to the beast until God’s words are accomplished. 18 And the woman you saw is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth.” (HCSB)
The waters you saw
The angel tells John in verse 15, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” This is in contrast to – perhaps even a parody of – Psalm 29, in which the voice of the Lord is “above the waters. The God of glory thunders – the Lord, above vast waters…. The Lord sat enthroned at the flood” (vv. 3, 10). Everything Satan does is a counterfeit, and we see this in full force throughout Revelation. The notorious prostitute who sits on many waters no doubt has a global impact. Her voice reaches around the world and draws many followers. Just as we see men and women “from every tribe and language and people and nation” in heaven (Rev. 5:9b), there are “peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages” responding to the siren song of Babylon the Great.
The imagery in this scene draws from Old Testament passages that compare nations and armies with floodwaters. In Isa. 8:7, for example, we are told that “the Lord will certainly bring against them [Jews of the southern kingdom] the mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates River – the king of Assyria and all his glory. It will overflow its channels and spill over all its banks.”