Tagged: whore of Babylon

The waters and the woman – Revelation 17:15-18

Previously: The seven heads and 10 horns – Revelation 17:9-14

The scripture

TsunamiRev. 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.”
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Judgment of the notorious prostitute – Revelation 17:1-6

Previously: Every island fled – Revelation 16:20-21

The scripture

JudgmentRev. 17:1 –Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the judgment of the notorious prostitute who sits on many waters. 2 The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on the earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual immorality.” 3 So he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and 10 horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile and with the impurities of her prostitution. 5 On her forehead a cryptic name was written: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE VILE THINGS OF THE EARTH. 6 Then I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. (HCSB)

A tale of two cities

Revelation contrasts two women who also are depicted as cities. First, there is the faithful bride of Christ represented as the New Jerusalem. Second, there is the great prostitute, who is denoted as Babylon. John draws from the Old Testament to help us identify these women. In the Old Testament, Israel appears either as a pure bride (Isa. 54:5-6; 62:5; Hosea 2:19-10) or as a prostitute or adulteress (Jer. 3:6-10; Ezek. 16:15-22; 23:1-49; Hosea 4:12-13; 5:3), depending on her relationship with God at the time the prophets spoke.

This imagery is carried forward into the book of Revelation. It’s important to note that sometimes the harlot is not Israel but evil foreign lands such as Nineveh (Nahum 3:4) or Tyre (Isa. 23:17).

In addition to the prostitute imagery, John draws from the ancient city of Babylon, well-known for materialism and immorality. Revelation combines the images of the great city of Babylon with that of a prostitute to describe a center of pagan power. The image appears in Revelation as the “prostitute” (Rev. 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2), the “great city” (Rev. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21), and “Babylon” (Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21).

John’s focus in Revelation 17-18 is on God’s judgment of the prostitute. She has aligned herself with the beast from the sea and demonic spirits. Her own idolatry and immorality have corrupted the nations around her. Her wealth and power accelerate her corrupting influence.

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