Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Chapter 18

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Apocalypse 18

Supplemental Commentary:

VI.  BABYLON THE GREAT  17, 1 -- 19, 10 (continued)

18, 1-3:  The Fall of Babylon.  In his explanation the angel proclaimed the overthrow of Babylon, the harlot.  In this vision the dramatic action is resumed, but we do not see the actual overthrow of the city; we learn of it through the four agencies that participated in her destruction.  The first agency is the angel who proclaims it (1-3).

Great authority: i.e., power given him for his work against Babylon.  The earth was lighted, etc.: in contrast to the tinseled splendor of Babylon.  Perhaps he executes his proclamation even as he pronounces it.  Babylon falls because she is the seat of idols and licentiousness, the great enemy of mankind, sharing her luxury with kings and nations and merchants.

18, 4-8:  Her Sins and Punishment.  Another voice, the expression my people, and the mention of God in 5, lead to the supposition that this is the voice of the Lamb.  Go out from her: in the sense of having no share in her works of darkness.  Render to her: in this reading of the Vulgate the order is given to the faithful, who are to join in the retribution; in most Greek and some Latin texts the order is given to the angels of 17, the ministers of divine justice.

18, 9-10:  Dirge of the Kings.  Standing afar off: fearing to be involved in her ruin.  As the dirge in 16 and 19, their cry begins with "Woe" and ends with "in one hour."

18, 11-17:  Dirge of the Merchants.  This lamentation more clearly rises out of fear and selfishness.  Cf. Isa. 23; Ezech. 26, 16.

18, 17b-20:  Dirge of the Mariners.    20.  The section closes with an invitation to the saints to rejoice, not because of the evil that has come upon the wicked, but because of the triumph of God over evil.

18, 21-24:  The Angel's Promise.  The taking up of the stone and casting it into the sea is a symbol drawn from Jeremias (28, 63), where the casting of a stone into the Euphrates signifies the sinking and destruction of Babylon.  The symbol here has the same meaning: she will be found no more.  The words "any more" are repeated six times in these verses as a funeral dirge over her departed greatness.  The power of her wealth is gone, her industrial life has ceased, the grinding of corn is at an end, her domestic life is over, nuptials shall no more be seen there.  These poetic verses are taken from Jeremias (25, 10).  In her was found blood: to the other causes of her destruction this adds her guilt for slaying the martyrs, and other victims.  With the destruction of Rome there disappears the first great world power hostile to Christianity.

Confraternity Bible:

The Fall of Babylon  1 And after this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was lighted up by his glory.  2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "She has fallen, she has fallen, Babylon the great; and has become a habitation of demons, a stronghold of every unclean spirit, a stronghold of every unclean and hateful bird; 3 because all the nations have drunk of the wrath of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and by the power of her wantonness the merchants of the earth have grown rich."

Her Sins and Punishment  4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Go out from her, my people, that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues.  5 For her sins have reached even to heaven, and the Lord has remembered her iniquities.  6 Render to her as she also has rendered, and give her the double according to her works; in the cup that she has mixed, mix for her double.  7 As much as she glorified herself and gave herself to wantonness, so much torment and mourning give to her.  Because in her heart she says, 'I sit a queen, I am no widow, and I shall not see mourning.'  8 Therefore in one day her plagues shall come, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be burnt up in fire; for strong is God who will judge her."

Dirge of the Kings  9* And the kings of the earth who with her committed fornication and lived wantonly will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning, 10* standing afar off for fear of her torments, saying,
"Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city,

For in one hour has thy judgment come!"
Dirge of the Merchants  11* And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her; for no one will buy their merchandise any more: 12* merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones and pearls, and fine linen and purple, and silk and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all vessels of ivory, and all vessels of precious stone, and of brass, and of iron, and of marble, 13* and cinnamon and amomum and spices, and ointment and frankincense, and wine and oil, and fine flour and wheat, and beasts of burden and sheep and horses, and chariots and slaves, and souls of men.  14* And the fruit which was the desire of thy soul departed from thee; and all the fat and splendid things perished from thee, and men will find them nevermore.  15* The merchants of these things, who grew rich by her, will stand afar off for fear of her torments, weeping and mourning, 16* and saying,
"Woe, woe, the great city, which was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and gilded in gold, and precious stone, and pearls;

17* For in one hour riches so great were laid waste!"
Dirge of the Mariners  And every shipmaster, and everyone who sails to a place, and mariners, and all who work upon the sea, stood afar off, 18* and cried out as they saw the place of her burning, saying, "What city is like to this great city?"  19* And they cast dust on their heads, and cried out weeping and mourning, saying,
"Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all who had their ships at sea were made rich out of her wealth;

For in one hour she has been laid waste!" 
20 Make merry over her, O heaven, and you the saints and the apostles and the prophets, for God has judged your cause upon her.

The Angel's Promise  21 And a strong angel took up a stone, as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, "With this violence will Babylon, the great city, be overthrown, and will not be found any more.  22* And the sound of harpers and musicians and flute-players and trumpet will not be heard in thee any more; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in thee any more; and sound of millstone will not be heard in thee any more.  23 And light of lamp will not shine in thee any more; and voice of bridegroom and of bride will not be heard in thee any more; because thy merchants were the great men of the earth, for by thy sorcery all the nations have been led astray.  24 And in her was found blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain upon the earth."


9-19: This passage does not appear to be an account of a vision but rather a direct prophecy, after the manner of the prophecies of Isaias and Ezechiel concerning Tyre. Tyre furnished a type of the vengeance of God upon pride and luxury.

22: The city had boasted previously of her craftsmen, skilled in every craft.