And he said unto me, The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
All Commentaries on Revelation 17:15 Go To Revelation 17
George Leo Haydock
The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, signify the different nations, in all which is a multitude of wicked, especially among the great ones of this world. (Witham)
And the ten horns. Shall hate the harlot. That is, ancient Rome; they will make her desolate, by laying waste all her provinces; they will make her. Naked, by stripping her of her shining ornaments, her gaudy palaces, Egyptian obelisks, magnificent temples, theatres, triumphal arches
They will eat her flesh, by plundering her of her wealth and riches, with which she has fed herself by plundering the rest of the world; and lastly, they will burn her with fire; all which we know has been accomplished, even to a tittle. (Pastorini)
Alaric, the Goth, in 410, took the city, pillaged it, and delivered it over to fire and the plunder of his soldiers for three days. The only privileged places that escaped were the churches. (Calmet)
Genseric plundered it for fourteen days, in 455, and set fire to it. Odoacer took it, and deposed the emperor, in 476; and Totila, in 546, burnt it, and reduced it to a solitude. Procopius says he left not one human creature in the city. (Pastorini)
These shall hate the harlot. There is no true love or friendship among them: the wicked hate, envy, make war against the wicked, though they make alliances sometimes one with another.
For God hath put it into their hearts, permits them, and makes use of them as instruments of his justice, against one another: and they give their kingdom to the beast: the wicked reign under the prince of this world, the devil, as long as God pleases, and till his words and judgments are fulfilled. All the contents of the following chapters agree with this exposition. When the Angel cries, (chap. xviii.) Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, the false happiness of the wicked is come to its last period; though St. John speaks sometimes by anticipation, especially when the rejoicings of the saints are represented, and the miseries and consternation of the wicked, to encourage the servants of God to patience and perseverance under their trials and persecutions in this mortal life. Babylon will in a short time be the habitation of devils: and therefore the good are admonished by these words, go out from her, my people, avoid and detest her wicked ways. Almighty God hath remembered her iniquities, the provocations of the wicked, nor can they escape the hand of his justice. They lived as if they were never to be called to an account. Babylon, blinded with sensual delights, pride, and vanity, said in her heart, I sit as a queen above others, and sorrow I shall not see; like the wicked in the psalmist, who is Lord over us? (Psalm xi.) But all her plagues (chap. xviii. 8.) come in one day, at the day of death, or the day of judgment. Then are represented the weeping and mourning of all the accomplices of the wicked, like the disappointment of merchants by the burning and destruction of a great city, where they found so great profit in disposing and selling their merchandise. After this, in the 19th chapter, the blessed in heaven sing Alleluia the God Almighty hath reigned, or is about to reign. At the latter end of the 19th chapter, ver. 17, it is said, I saw an Angel standing in the sun; saying to all the birds Here are represented God's judgments on the wicked, as it were after a great battle, in which kings and many noblemen are slain, so that the birds are invited to drink of their blood.
The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet. We may take this as spoken by anticipation of antichrist, and his great impostor, or false prophet. For still after this, (chap. xx. 7.) is foretold, according to St. Augustine, the last persecution by the devil, and by antichrist with Gog and Magog; for it is then that fire came down from heaven, and was to devour them; and there it is expressed that the devil, who seduced them, and all the wicked, was cast into the lake of fire, into hell, where also the beast, antichrist, and the false prophet shall be tormented for ever and ever. Now to give a short account of the two other expositions. The first of them, followed by a great many, (as may be seen in Alcazar and Cornelius a Lap ide) holds that all these visions will come to pass in the short reign of antichrist, a little while before the end of the world. These interpreters are divided about the signification of Babylon: some understand Babylon the metropolis of Chaldea, where they think that antichrist will begin to reign; others understand Constantinople, the seat of the Turkish empire, which is also built upon seven hills: but many understand Rome, not Christian Rome, but Rome that was a heathen city in the first ages) they look upon all these visions till the last persecution under antichrist, (chap. xx. 7. 10.) to be already fulfilled by the destruction of the heathen Roman empire, as they are also expounded by Dr. Hammond. Babylon is the ancient heathen Rome, mother of fornication, i.e. of idolatry and of all kind of vices, sitting upon a scarlet beast, supported by the pagan emperors in all their grandeur, pomp, and vanity. When it is said of her, that she was, and is not, this is not to be taken with a regard to the visions one after another represented to St. John, nor with a regard to the time when he wrote under Domitian. She is said to come again out of the bottomless pit, when the same heathen worship was again renewed by Julian the apostate, who had a design and endeavoured to destroy the Christian religion. The seven heads are ingeniously applied to Dioclesian, Maximian Herculeus, Constantius Chlorus, Maximus, and Maxentius, which in a vision of St. John, are said to be the five that are fallen. One, to wit, Maxi minus, is the sixth, represented as then in being; and another, the seventh, it is said is not yet come; to wit, Licinius, whose persecution but a short time. The eighth, who is called also one of the seven, they take to be Maximian Herculeus, who had laid down the empire with Dioclesian, but took it up again, and so was the eighth, but of the seven mentioned before. The ten horns represented as not yet having a kingdom, but who are to receive power as kings, one hour after the beast, or at the fall of the empire, are those kings and princes by whom the Roman empire was destroyed; as the Goths, Vandals, Lombards, Burgundians, Franks, Huns, Alans, Suevi, also Persians and Saracens, who invaded and dismembered different parts of the empire: but no great stress need be laid on the exact number of ten; which, as St. Augustine says, may be taken for a great many. They all come with the same design, (ver. 13.) to enrich and settle themselves in the dominions of the empire; yet afterwards they gave their power to the beast, by entering into alliances with the emperors, as Alaric, the Goth, and others did. They at first fought with the Lamb, being then heathens, and afterwards many of them Arians, till the Lamb overcame them, and brought them to the true Christian faith. They are said to have hated the harlot, making her destitute by pillaging Rome and divers other cities: they devoured her flesh, her treasures, God putting it into their hearts, making use of them as instruments to punish these wicked persecuting idolaters; yet they afterwards sometimes agreed to give her their strength by agreements and alliances, till the time that God decreed the empire should be in a manner destroyed. These interpreters conclude that by Babylon must necessarily be understood Rome, because it is said that seven heads, upon which the woman sitteth, are seven mountains; and it is well known that Rome is built upon seven hills; and secondly, because the woman is said to be the city, which hath dominion over the kings of the earth. But first, those seven mountains are also called seven kings; secondly, Constantinople is also built upon seven hills; thirdly, seven may be taken for many. And I cannot but take notice, that some expressions in this and in the next chapter, seem to agree better with that exposition, which takes Babylon for the multitude of all the wicked: as when we read (chap. xviii. 3.) that all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; (ver. 23.) that all nations were deceived by her sorceries; (ver. 24.) that in her was formed the blood of the prophets, and of the saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. For though the Roman empire was of so large an extent, yet a greater part of the world was never subject to the Romans: many apostles and martyrs were not put to death at Rome, nor by the Romans, but by the Persians, and in India so these general expressions are more easily expounded, if by the great city of Babylon we understand the multitude of the wicked in all parts of the world: not but that these visions may also regard heathen Rome as the chief place where such persecutions were acted, and where all kind of vices were practices.
N. B. Some have taken notice, that the English Protestants print the 5th verse of this chapter in capital letters: Mystery Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. I will suppose that these words are only printed in this manner, because they contain an inscription; as when it is said, that he who was called the word of God, had written upon him, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, which words are also printed in great letters: but if our adversaries do this, to make the Church of Rome to be looked upon as the whore of Babylon, and the pope as antichrist, nothing can be more unfair, nothing more ridiculous, as I may show on the following chapters. (Witham)