Revelation 17:1-18 – Babylon the Great Whore
SummaryAn angel shows John the judgment of a whore named Babylon, who represents the violence and destruction that nations inflict. In the end, the beast with whom she is associated destroys her.
AnalysisThe whore personifies the city that exerts an oppressive yet seductive power over the earth. As a prostitute, she reduces intimate relationships to a commercial transaction and relates to anyone who is willing to pay. Enamored with luxury, she wears opulent clothing and jewels, yet she is drunk with the blood of the saints. Revelation recognizes that many people find the pursuit of wealth to be intoxicating and that violence can be seductive.
The name of the city is Babylon, which recalls that in the Old Testament Babylon conquered Jerusalem and destroyed its temple. The fact that John pictures Babylon sitting on seven hills also draws on the idea that Rome--the power that conquered Jerusalem again in John's day--was situated on seven hills (17:9). Both ancient Babylon and Rome were commercial powers, and both used violence to achieve their purposes. The city represents a form of influence that has existed in various times and places. Eventually, however, the whore is destroyed by the beast that had been its ally (17:16). The powers of evil are self-destructive. This gives readers good reason to distance themselves from the tendencies that Babylon represents.