This chapter contains another representation of those things that had
been revealed before concerning the wickedness and ruin of antichrist.
This antichrist had been before represented as a beast, and is now
described as a great whore. And here,
I. The apostle is invited to see this vile woman,
II. He tells us what an appearance she made,
III. The mystery of it is explained to him,
IV. Her ruin foretold,
Revelation 17:13-18, &c.
The Fall of Babylon.
A. D. 95.
1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven
vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will
show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication,
and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the
wine of her fornication.
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and
I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of
blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and
decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden
cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her
5 And upon her forehead was a name written,
BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and
with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I
wondered with great admiration.
Here we have a new vision, not as to the matter of it, for that is
contemporary with what came under the three last vials; but as to the
manner of description, &c. Observe,
1. The invitation given to the apostle to take a view of what was here
to be represented: Come hither, and I will show thee the judgment of
the great whore, &c.,
This is a name of great infamy. A whore [in this passage] is one that
is married, and has been false to her husband's bed, has forsaken the
guide of her youth, and broken the covenant of God. She had been a
prostitute to the kings of the earth, whom she had intoxicated with
the wine of her fornication.
2. The appearance she made: it was gay and gaudy, like such sort of
creatures: She was arrayed in purple, and scarlet colour, and decked
with gold, and precious stones, and pearls,
Here were all the allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and
pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds.
3. Her principal seat and residence--upon the beast that had seven
heads and ten horns; that is to say, Rome, the city on seven hills,
infamous for idolatry, tyranny, and blasphemy.
4. Her name, which was written on her forehead. It was the
custom of impudent harlots to hang out signs, with their names, that
all might know what they were. Now in this observe,
(1.) She is named from her place of residence--Babylon the
great. But, that we might not take it for the old Babylon literally
so called, we are told there is a mystery in the name; it is some other
great city resembling the old Babylon.
(2.) She is named from her infamous way and practice; not only a
harlot, but a mother of harlots, breeding up harlots, and nursing and
training them up to idolatry, and all sorts of lewdness and
wickedness--the parent and nurse of all false religion and filthy
5. Her diet: she satiated herself with the blood of the saints and
martyrs of Jesus. She drank their blood with such greediness that
she intoxicated herself with it; it was so pleasant to her that she
could not tell when she had had enough of it: she was satiated, but
The Fall of Babylon.
A. D. 95.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I
will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that
carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend
out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that
dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in
the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they
behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are
seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is,
and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must
continue a short space.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth,
and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which
have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one
hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength
unto the beast.
Here we have the mystery of this vision explained. The apostle wonders
at the sight of this woman: the angel undertakes to open this vision to
him, it being the key of the former visions; and he tells the apostle
what was meant by the beast on which the woman sat; but it is so
explained as still to need further explanation.
1. This beast was, and is not, and yet is; that is, it
was a seat of idolatry and persecution; and is not, that
is, not in the ancient form, which was pagan; and yet it is, it
is truly the seat of idolatry and tyranny, though of another sort and
form. It ascends out of the bottomless pit (idolatry and cruelty
are the issue and product of hell), and it shall return thither and go
2. This beast has seven heads, which have a double
(1.) Seven mountains--the seven hills on which Rome stands; and
(2.) Seven kings--seven sorts of government. Rome was governed
by kings, consuls, tribunes, decemviri, dictators, emperors who were
pagan, and emperors who were Christian. Five of these were extinct when
this prophecy was written; one was then in being, that is, the pagan
emperor; and the other, that is, the Christian emperor, was yet to
This beast, the papacy, makes an eighth governor, and sets up idolatry
3. This beast had ten horns; which are said to be ten kings which
have as yet received no kingdoms; as yet, that is, as some, shall
not rise up till the Roman empire be broken in pieces; or, as others,
shall not rise up till near the end of antichrist's reign, and so shall
reign but as it were one hour with her, but shall for that time
be very unanimous and very zealous in that interest, and entirely
devoted to it, divesting themselves of their prerogatives and revenues
(things so dear to princes), out of an unaccountable fondness for the
The Fall of Babylon.
A. D. 95.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall
overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and
they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where
the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these
shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and
shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to
agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of
God shall be fulfilled.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which
reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Here we have some account of the downfall of Babylon, to be more fully
described in the following chapter.
I. Here is a war begun between the beast and his followers, and the
Lamb and his followers. The beast and his army, to an eye of sense,
appear much stronger than the Lamb and his army: one would think an
army with a lamb at the head of them could not stand before the
great red dragon. But,
II. Here is a victory gained by the Lamb: The Lamb shall
overcome. Christ must reign till all enemies be put under his
feet; he will be sure to meet with many enemies, and much
opposition, but he will also be sure to gain the victory.
III. Here is the ground or reason of the victory assigned; and this is
1. From the character of the Lamb: He is King of kings and Lord of
lords. He has, both by nature and by office, supreme dominion and
power over all things; all the powers of earth and hell are subject to
his check and control.
2. From the character of his followers: They are called, and chosen,
and faithful. They are called out by commission to this warfare;
they are chosen and fitted for it, and they will be faithful in it.
Such an army, under such a commander, will at length carry all the
world before them.
IV. The victory is justly aggrandized.
1. By the vast multitude who paid obedience and subjection to the beast
and to the whore. She sat upon (that is, presided over) many waters;
and these waters were so many multitudes of people, and nations, of all
languages; yea, she reigned not only over kingdoms, but over the kings,
and they were her tributaries and vassals,
2. By the powerful influence which God hereby showed he had over the
minds of great men. Their hearts were in his hand, and he turned them
as he pleased; for,
(1.) It was of God, and to fulfil his will, that these kings agreed
to give their kingdom unto the beast; they were judicially blinded
and hardened to do so. And,
(2.) It was of God that afterwards their hearts were turned against the
whore, to hate her, and to make her desolate and naked, and to eat
her flesh, and burn her with fire; they shall at length see their
folly, and how they have been bewitched and enslaved by the papacy,
and, out of a just resentment, shall not only fall off from Rome, but
shall be made the instruments of God's providence in her
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Revelation' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".