Revelation 17:16

the ten horns which you saw on the beast
The TR stands alone in having the ten horns on the beast. Both MT and NU texts say “the ten horns which you saw and (καὶ [kai] ) the beast.” [emphasis added]

hate the harlot
Many expositors seem to downplay or overlook the angel’s identification of The Great Harlot with the city of Babylon (Rev. Rev. 17:18+) and interpret her as denoting a separate ecclesiastical system. Thus, they see two separate destructions set forth in chapters 17 and 18. This destruction they relate to the Harlot, whereas the destruction in the next chapter they relate to the literal city: “These graphic words clearly portray the downfall of the apostate world church of the future.”1 We disagree with interpretations which divide the unity of the larger passage at the chapter boundary. The Harlot is said to be a city (Rev. Rev. 17:18+) and the city is said to be the Harlot (Rev. Rev. 18:21+-Rev. 19:2+). She is the object of destruction both here and in the next chapter. See Mystery Babylon? Because the city Babylon involves both spiritual and commercial aspects (both aspects are seen in Revelation Rev. 17:1+ and Revelation Rev. 18:1+), there is no reason to separate the Harlot from the city as an independent ecclesiastical system of the end. The motivation of the Beast to destroy the city could simply be to throw off her control (or the need to support her) which has become burdensome. Or, it could involve his belief that her idolatrous system ultimately provides an unwanted alternative to his own global worship (2Th. 2Th. 2:4; Rev. Rev. 13:15+). However, it is important to recognize that Scripture does not give the specific reason why the kings hate her and destroy her . It could just as easily be commercial, political, or religious. Scripture doesn’t say. In any event, she experiences what Jeremiah described long before: regardless of her ornaments and attraction, her lovers eventually despise her and seek her life (Jer. Jer. 4:30). Fruchtenbaum believes the Beast is the king of Babylon who is away at war and reacts with alarm to the news of her destruction (Jer. Jer. 50:43; Jer. 51:31-32).2 If the king of Babylon is the Beast and he reacts with alarm to the destruction of his capital, how could it be said that the Beast (along with the ten kings) hates the city and participates in its destruction? There are several possible solutions to this puzzle:3
  1. The TR text is correct and the Beast is not to be included among those who hate the Harlot and come against her. Perhaps the ten kings, although allied with the Beast for a season, eventually betray him and attack the seat of his throne during an opportune moment when he is distracted elsewhere.4
  2. The Beast may not be the king of Babylon at the time of its destruction. “He shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain” (Dan. Dan. 11:45a). Perhaps he relocates his seat of authority to the Holy Land to be near his image in the Temple (Mtt. Mat. 24:15; 2Th. 2Th. 2:4; Rev. Rev. 13:14-15+) after which he and his kings turn against Babylon.
  3. The Harlot is a separate entity from the city of Babylon. The Harlot is destroyed by the Beast and his kings, but the city is destroyed by God directly. Although this view is held by many, it minimizes or overlooks passages which identify the Harlot as the city (e.g., Rev. Rev. 17:18+).5
See One or Two Babylons? We believe a separate ecclesiastical system is neither called for nor explicitly warranted from a simple reading of both Revelation Rev. 17:1+ and Rev. 18:1+ which relates a single city with both commercial and spiritual aspects opposed to God. See An End-Time Religious System?

make her ... eat her ... burn her
The repetition of the pronoun “her” provides emphasis. Her destruction is determined, violent, and comprehensive.

make her desolate
Desolate is ἠρημωμένην [ērēmōmenēn] , used Mat. 12:25).”6 At its destruction, Babylon comes “to nothing (ἠρημώθη [ērēmōthē] )” (Rev. Rev. 18:17+), for “in one hour she is made desolate ἠρημώθη [ērēmōthē] )” (Rev. Rev. 18:19+).

and naked
Originally clothed in expensive finery (Rev. Rev. 17:4+), she will be stripped of her commercial splendor: “Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.” (Rev. Rev. 18:16-17+). In her destruction and the stripping of her riches, onlookers will recognize her nakedness (cf. Eze. Eze. 16:37-39; Eze. 23:29).

eat her flesh
They shall eat is φάγονται [phagontai] : Heb. 10:27).”7 Similar phrases describe the intended harm of an enemy (Ps. Ps. 27:1-3; Jer. Jer. 51:35; Mic. Mic. 3:1-3) or the conquest of a kingdom (Dan. Dan. 7:5). The destruction of Babylon’s flesh will fulfill the desire of the inhabitants of Zion: “ ‘Let the violence done to me and my flesh be upon Babylon,’ the inhabitant of Zion will say” (Jer. Jer. 51:35).

burn her with fire
They shall burn her is κατακαύσουσιν [katakausousin] , to “destroy by fire, burn (up), consume by fire,”8 used of “being burned at the stake as a martyr.”9 Used to describe the burning of the third of the earth with its trees and grass (Rev. Rev. 8:7+). This provides further evidence of the identity of the woman as Babylon (Rev. Rev. 17:18+), for what is said of the Harlot is said of Babylon. Babylon is to be “utterly burned with fire” (Rev. Rev. 18:8+). The “smoke of her burning” is visible from a great distance (Rev. Rev. 18:17-18+).

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; the people will labor in vain, and the nations, because of the fire; and they shall be weary.” (Jer. Jer. 51:58)

Although Babylon fell to Persia in 539 B.C., it was never destroyed as predicted by Scripture. See The Destruction of Babylon.


1 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), Rev. 17:16.

2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 327.

3 Bullinger suggests an additional solution: the city is burned by the ten kings in a preliminary judgment which is followed later by the final judgment by God. [E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 18:3]

4 Two weaknesses of this view are: (1) The TR text stands alone in having the ten horns on (instead of and ) the beast in Revelation Rev. 17:16+; (2) The ten kings are found in alliance with the Beast against the Lamb at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. Rev. 17:14+). The second weakness could possibly be explained as the unified response of all the kings of the earth, regardless of political intrigue, when faced with their ultimate enemy: Christ.

5 “The distinction between the two chapters is that between two systems or networks that have the same geographical headquarters. In chapter 17 it is a religious system that operates independently of and in opposition to the true God, but in chapter 18 it is an economic system that does the same. . . . The two chapters tell how two aspects of the city’s function will come to a dramatic end and how this will affect other world entities at the time. Whether they fall simultaneously or consecutively is yet to be determined, but they both will mark the internal deterioration of the beast’s empire prior to the defeat of his political structure by the returning warrior-king (Rev. Rev. 19:11-21+).”—Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 18:1.

6 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 172.

7 Ibid., 174.

8 Ibid., 218.

9 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), 411.