The Fall of Babylon, 1-24

The chapter, which forms the climax and completion of Rev 17:12-18, recollects all those OT prophecies that pronounce doom on the prosperous but oppressive nations.  See esp. Isa 13, 21, 47; Jer 50, 51; Ezek 26, 27. (NBC)

Rev 18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.  3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” – a quotation from Isa 21:9.  See also Rev 14:8.

‘Babylon’ represents Rome (identified most clearly in Rev 17:9,18), ‘as the incarnation of the spirit of evil that has ever assaulted God’s people’ (NBC).  It is true that Rome itself became the worldwide centre of Christianity, but that prospect is scarcely within John’s sights here.

‘Already in the OT (cf. Isa 13:1-22, esp. the ultimacy of the language in Isa 13:9-13; 14:3-23) and certainly in the NT (e.g., 1 Pet 5:13; cf. 1:1; 2:11), Babylon stands not for a specific power but more generally for world power in opposition to God-the empire where God’s people live in exile. This is particularly clear in Revelation, which draws heavily on OT imagery in portraying the end times. Here stands Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes. She is the harlot, drunk on the blood of the martyrs, making others drunk with the wine of fornication (Rev 17:1-6), forced by God to drink a double draught of judgment in her own cup (Rev 18:3-6). She is the arrogant and secure queen of the whole earth, now smitten suddenly and decisively with pestilence, mourning and famine (Rev 17:15-18, 18:7-8); desolate, naked and destroyed (Rev 17:16); deprived of all her previous luxuries (Rev 18:11-19). She is the ruin inhabited by demons and birds (Rev 18:2). The force of the imagery is the more strongly felt in Revelation because of the deliberate contrast drawn toward the end of the book between Babylon and the new Jerusalem, which is presented as the Bride of Christ (Rev 19:6-9; 21:1-27).’ (DBI)

Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;

Rev 18:5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.

Rev 18:6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.

Rev 18:7 Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’

Rev 18:8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

Rev 18:9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.

Rev 18:10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’

Rev 18:11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more–

Rev 18:12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;

Rev 18:13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.

Bodies and souls of men – indicating the trafficking of human slaves; cf. Ezek 27:13.

NBC quotes Swete: ‘The world of St. John’s day ministered in a thousand ways to the follies and vices of Babylon, but the climax was reached in the sacrifice of human life which recruited the huge familiae of the rich, filled the brothels, and ministered to the brutal pleasures of the amphi-theatre.’

Rev 18:14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’

Rev 18:15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn

Rev 18:16 and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!

Rev 18:17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.

Rev 18:18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’

Rev 18:19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!

Rev 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'”

Rev 18:21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.

Rev 18:22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.

Rev 18:23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

Magic spell – probably meant figuratively – ‘‘the witchery of gay luxurious vice and its attendant idolatries, by which the world was fascinated and led astray.’ (Swete)

Rev 18:24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.”

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