Revelation 17:4

arrayed in purple and scarlet
Her purple and scarlet clothing is called “fine linen” (Rev. Rev. 18:12+). Fine is βύσσινον [byssinon] , which is used of “fine linen goods”1 and speaks of her external finery and wealth (Est. Est. 8:15; Lam. Lam. 4:5; Luke Luke 7:25; Luke 16:19). Her attire reflects her commercialism: “Merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet” (Rev. Rev. 18:12+, Rev. 18:16+). Purple and scarlet were also the colors of royal vestment (Jdg. Jdg. 8:26; Est. Est. 1:6; Mtt. Mat. 27:28). The scarlet may reflect her identification with the Beast who carries her, who is also scarlet. The color of her garments contrast with the fine white linen of the overcomers, the saints (Rev. Rev. 3:5+, Rev. 3:18+; Rev. 19:8+, Rev. 19:14+). Those who attempt to make the Harlot Jerusalem note the similarities between aspects of the harlot and what is said concerning apostate Israel and her leaders:

Gentry points out that the color and adornment of the harlot in Revelation Rev. 17:4+ reflects the Jewish priestly colors of scarlet, purple, and gold (Ex. Ex. 28:33). These same colors were also found in the tapestry of the temple. Beale notes that the combination of the words in the Greek that describe the harlot’s garb is identical to the LXX description of the Jewish high priest’s garments. According to Beagley, the outward beauty of the cup and its inward impurity is reminiscent of Christ’s denunciation of the Pharisees in Matthew Mat. 23:35. In addition, the woman’s title of harlot written across her forehead in Revelation Rev. 17:5+ is a direct reference to Jeremiah Jer. 3:3 where God told apostate Judah that she had a harlot’s forehead.2

While such parallels are interesting, it is important to note that the Harlot is closely identified with Babylon and there are many reasons we can be certain that Babylon cannot be Jerusalem. See Babylon is Jerusalem?

adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls
The woman not only practices spiritual harlotry (idolatry), she is also consumed with materialism and wealth.

In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day-death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. (Rev. Rev. 18:7-8+)

She shares this characteristic with the Beast she rides who disregards all gods, exalts himself above them, and in their place shall honor another god with gold, silver, and precious stones (Dan. Dan. 11:38). The Harlot wears identical attire as the city. “That great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Rev. Rev. 18:16+). This indicates that the Harlot and the city are one and the same (Rev. Rev. 17:18+). See One or Two Babylons?

a golden cup
This is the cup which she herself drinks and wherein she has mixed what she proffers to the nations (Jer. Jer. 51:7; Rev. Rev. 14:8+; Rev. 18:6+). Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the outside of the cup is lustrous and beautiful, but inside it is “full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Mtt. Mat. 23:25-26).

full of abominations
Abominations is βδελυγμάτων [bdelygmatōn] : “Anything that must not be brought before God because it arouses his wrath.”3 “Anything connected with idolatry.”4 God warned Israel through Moses:

When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. (Deu. Deu. 18:9-12)

She is the mother of harlots and of abominations of the earth (Rev. Rev. 17:5+). Thus, she birthed the abominations which are found in the cup which she serves. From this, we know that the woman is not just a figure of the time of the end, but has her roots stretching back to early history. Thus, both the Harlot and the Seven Heads on the Beast which she rides stretch back to early history. See Five Fallen Kings. See Babylon of Old. Those who confuse the Harlot with Jerusalem fail to consider important aspects of the OT record which preclude such an identity:
  1. The abominations which Israel practiced were learned from the surrounding nations (1K. 1K. 14:24) “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations” (Deu. Deu. 18:9 cf. 1K. 1K. 14:24; 2K. 2K. 16:3; 2K. 21:2; 2Chr. 2Chr. 28:3; 2Chr. 33:2; 2Chr. 36:14; Eze. Eze. 20:7-8). Thus, neither Israel nor Jerusalem can be the mother of these practices.
  2. The city of Jerusalem is first mentioned in the book of Joshua (Jos. Jos. 10:1).5 As a city associated with harlotry and abomination, Jerusalem lacks the necessary significance in early history necessary to fulfill all of what is said of the Harlot.
  3. The Great Harlot is associated with Babylon, not Jerusalem. See Babylon is Jerusalem?.
The cup is full indicating her readiness for God’s judgment.

and the filthiness of her fornication
Filthiness is ἀκάθαρτα [akatharta] , meaning that which is “impure, unclean.”6 Her fornication results in defilement, for she is unclean. This describes that which is morally indecent as well as ritually not acceptable.7 In the previous chapter, the same term described the “three unclean (ἀκάθαρτα [akatharta] ) spirits” (Rev. Rev. 16:13+). Her idolatrous practices and abominations led to impurity and defiled the land: “The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity” (Ezra Ezra 9:11b). Her own fornication was promoted to foreign nations across the globe (Rev. Rev. 14:8+). The MT text has the fornication of the earth.

Notes

1 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 94.

2 Andy Woods, What is the Identity of Babylon In Revelation 17-18?.

3 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 137.

4 Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 89.

5 Although some point to mention of Melchizedek as king of Salem.

6 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 29.

7 Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 39.

Read Revelation 17:4