Revelation 17

The Doom of Babylon

1 1Then one of the 2seven angels who had the 3seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you 4the judgment of the 5great harlot who 6sits on many waters,
2 with whom 7the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and 8those who dwell on the earth were 9made drunk with the wine of her immorality."
3 And 10he carried me away 11in the Spirit 12into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a 13scarlet beast, full of 14blasphemous names, having 15seven heads and ten horns.
4 The woman 16was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand 17a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,
5 and on her forehead a name was written, a 18mystery, "19BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF 20THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
6 And I saw the woman drunk with 21the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly *.
7 And the angel said to me, "Why * do you wonder? I will tell you the 22mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the 23seven heads and the ten horns.
8 "24The beast that you saw 25was, and is not, and is about to 26come up out of the 27abyss and 28go to destruction. And 29those who dwell on the earth, 30whose name has not been written in the book of life 31from the foundation of the world, will 32wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.
9 "33Here is the mind which has wisdom. The 34seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits,
10 and they are seven 35kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.
11 "The beast which 36was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he 37goes to destruction.
12 "The 38ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast 39for one hour.
13 "These have 40one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.

Victory for the Lamb

14 "These will wage 41war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will 42overcome them, because He is 43Lord of lords and 44King of kings, and 45those who are with Him are the 46called and chosen and faithful."
15 And he said to me, "The 47waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are 48peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
16 "And the 49ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her 50desolate and 51naked, and will 52eat her flesh and will 53burn her up with fire.
17 "For 54God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by 55having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the 56words of God will be fulfilled.
18 "The woman whom you saw is 57the great city, which reigns * over the kings of the earth."

Revelation 17 Commentary

Chapter 17

One of the angels who had the vials, explains the meaning of the former vision of the antichristian beast that was to reign 1260 years, and then to be destroyed. (1-6) And interprets the mystery of the woman, and the beast that had seven heads and ten horns. (7-18)

Verses 1-6 Rome clearly appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries. She left the nations in general to their ancient usages and worship. But it is well known that by crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations. Here were allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp, and splendour, feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the Divine vengeance. The golden cup represents the allurements, and delusions, by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and kept her influence, and seduced others to join her abominations. She is named, from her infamous practices, a mother of harlots; training them up to idolatry and all sorts of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. She intoxicated herself with it; and it was so pleasant to her, that she never was satisfied. We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion. Let us avoid the mysteries of iniquity, and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that we may learn humility and gratitude from the example of Christ. The more we seek to resemble him, the less we shall be liable to be deceived by antichrist.

Verses 7-14 The beast on which the woman sat was, and is not, and yet is. It was a seat of idolatry and persecution, and is not; not in the ancient form, which was pagan: yet it is; it is truly the seat of idolatry and tyranny, though of another sort and form. It would deceive into stupid and blind submission all the inhabitants of the earth within its influence, except the remnant of the elect. This beast was seven heads, seven mountains, the seven hills on which Rome stands; and seven kings, seven sorts of government. Five were gone by when this prophecy was written; one was then in being; the other was yet to come. This beast, directed by the papacy, makes an eighth governor, and sets up idolatry again. It had ten horns, which are said to be ten kings who had as yet no kingdoms; they should not rise up till the Roman empire was broken; but should for a time be very zealous in her interest. Christ must reign till all enemies be put under his feet. The reason of the victory is, that he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He has supreme dominion and power over all things; all the powers of earth and hell are subject to his control. His followers are called to this warfare, are fitted for it, and will be faithful in it.

Verses 15-18 God so ruled the hearts of these kings, by his power over them, and by his providence, that they did those things, without intending it, which he purposed and foretold. They shall see their folly, and how they have been bewitched and enslaved by the harlot, and be made instruments in her destruction. She was that great city which reigned over the kings of the earth, when John had this vision; and every one knows Rome to be that city. Believers will be received to the glory of the Lord, when wicked men will be destroyed in a most awful manner; their joining together in sin, will be turned to hatred and rage, and they will eagerly assist in tormenting each other. But the Lord's portion is his people; his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure, to his glory, and the happiness of all his servants.

Cross References 57

  • 1. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 21:9
  • 2. Revelation 15:1
  • 3. Revelation 15:7
  • 4. Revelation 16:19
  • 5. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Nahum 3:4; Revelation 17:5, 15; Revelation 19:2
  • 6. Jeremiah 51:13; Revelation 17:15
  • 7. Revelation 2:22; Revelation 18:3, 9
  • 8. Revelation 3:10; Revelation 17:8
  • 9. Revelation 14:8
  • 10. Revelation 21:10
  • 11. Revelation 1:10
  • 12. Revelation 12:6, 14; Revelation 21:10
  • 13. Matthew 27:28; Revelation 18:12, 16
  • 14. Revelation 13:1
  • 15. Revelation 12:3; Revelation 17:7, 9, 12, 16
  • 16. Ezekiel 28:13; Revelation 18:12, 16
  • 17. Jeremiah 51:7; Revelation 18:6
  • 18. 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 17:7
  • 19. Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19
  • 20. Revelation 17:2
  • 21. Revelation 16:6
  • 22. 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 17:5
  • 23. Revelation 17:3
  • 24. Daniel 7:7
  • 25. Rev 13:3, 12, 14; Revelation 17:11
  • 26. Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1
  • 27. Revelation 9:1; Revelation 13:1
  • 28. Revelation 13:10; Revelation 17:11
  • 29. Revelation 3:10
  • 30. Psalms 69:28; Revelation 3:5
  • 31. Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8
  • 32. Revelation 13:3
  • 33. Revelation 13:18
  • 34. Revelation 17:3
  • 35. Revelation 10:11
  • 36. Rev 13:3, 12, 14; Revelation 17:8
  • 37. Revelation 13:10; Revelation 17:8
  • 38. Daniel 7:24; Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:16
  • 39. Rev 18:10, 17, 19
  • 40. Revelation 17:17
  • 41. Revelation 16:14
  • 42. Revelation 3:21
  • 43. 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16
  • 44. 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16
  • 45. Revelation 2:10
  • 46. Matthew 22:14
  • 47. Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 47:2; Revelation 17:1
  • 48. Revelation 5:9
  • 49. Revelation 17:12
  • 50. Revelation 18:17, 19
  • 51. Ezekiel 16:37, 39
  • 52. Revelation 19:18
  • 53. Revelation 18:8
  • 54. 2 Corinthians 8:16
  • 55. Revelation 17:13
  • 56. Revelation 10:7
  • 57. Revelation 11:8; Revelation 16:19

Footnotes 11

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains a vision of a beast, and a woman on it, and the interpretation of it; one of the seven angels that had the seven vials proposes to John to show him the whore of Babylon, the Jezabel before spoken of, who sits on many waters, with whom the kings and inhabitants of the earth have committed fornication, being intoxicated by her, Re 17:1,2 in order to which he carries him into the wilderness, and there he sees a woman, who is described by the beast she sat on, of a scarlet colour, full of blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns; by her array, in purple and scarlet, decked with gold, pearls, and precious stones; by a cup she had in her hand, full of abominable filth; by a name written on her forehead, given at large, and by the condition she was in, drunk with the blood of the saints; which sight filled John with great wonder and admiration, Re 17:3-6 wherefore, to remove his astonishment, the angel proposes to explain to him the mystery of the woman, and the beast she sat on, Re 17:7 and first the mystery of the beast is explained, by its several states, past, present, and to come; by its original and end, ascending out of the bottomless pit, and going into perdition; by the veneration it would be had in by the reprobate part of the world, Re 17:8 its seven heads are interpreted of the seven mountains on which the city of Rome, designed by the woman, stood, and of seven kings, or forms of government, five of which had ceased, and one was in being in John's time, another was to come, which should not continue long, and the beast would be an eighth, Re 17:9-11 its ten horns are explained of ten kings, described by their kingdom they had not as yet received, and which they should have one hour with the beast; by their agreement in mind and conduct; and by their war with the Lamb, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and those that are with him, the called, chosen, and faithful, and the issue of it, Re 17:12-14 the waters on which the whore sat are interpreted of a multitude of people, nations, and tongues, Re 17:15 the hatred and destruction of her by the ten kings, and the manner of it, are declared, Re 17:16 which is owing to the will of God, who put it into their hearts to agree to give their kingdom to the beast till the prophecies and promises were fulfilled respecting this matter, and now to destroy the whore that sat upon it, Re 17:17 which woman is explained of the great city of Rome, that reigns over the kings of the earth, Re 17:18.

Revelation 17 Commentaries

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