The Revelation of John Chapter 17: The Great Whore

9 Dec

I am continuing on with Revelation. In this series I have been comparing John’s vision with books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST – given in red).

See also chapter one,  two, three, four, five, first five seals, Sixth Seal I, Sixth Seal II, Seventh Seal Opens, First Four Trumpets, Fifth Trumpet, Sixth Trumpet, Ten, Witnesses, Seventh Trumpet, Twelve I, Twelve II, The Beast, The Mark, Three Angels, Two Harvests, Righteous, Plagues

Chapter 17

Chapters 17 and 18 describe the downfall of Babylon. This was listed as part of the seventh plague in chapter 16, but is given greater detail here.

Chapter 17 gives a fair description of Babylon, using some great imagery and symbolism. I will present this chapter in two parts, as my comments are rather extensive.

 

Verses 1-2 tell us what John is about to see. One of the seven angels from chapter 16 comes to John and says he will show John “the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 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.”

In this there are a few things to note. Babylon is the great whore, or the most corrupt of the earth. This also establishes Babylon as a woman. She sitteth on many waters, or is supported by all the peoples of the earth (see verse 15). Kings have had relationships with her, and the people are intoxicated with the corruption that she represents; this is a testament to the great social and political power the whore has over people.

This is to set up what comes next, so keep it in mind.

 

Verse 3

…I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

There is some dispute as to the meaning of the beast in this verse. It is reminiscent of the beast in chapter 13 of revelation, as both have seven heads and ten horns. As that beast represents a number of earthly kingdoms this beast may also represent those same kingdoms, and their moral corruption. However, there is also some speculation that it represents only Rome, which was built on seven hills, and certain emperors of the first century AD. In either case it is likely also a general commentary on all corrupt governments and organizations. However, just as verse 15 gives an interpretation of the water in verse 1, there is an interpretation of this beast later in the chapter. When we get to that I will explain what my belief is regarding the beast.

 

Verse 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 fornication:

This verse describes the woman. Her clothes show her to be wealthy and powerful. The cup conveys the idea that all the wickedness that she represents is internalized, or becomes a part of those who partake. This is the wine on which the people are drunk (verse 2).

 

Verse 5

And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.

The names here written show the various corruptions and immoralities that Babylon engages in.

  • Mystery speaks of secret combinations, such as the drug lords, mafia, and even local gangs.
  • Babylon the Great refers to the corruptions of governments and political organizations.
  • Mother of Harlots shows that this great wickedness is the source of other organizations and corruptions around the world.
  • Abominations of the Earth refers to a general culture that embraces evil and wickedness.

 

Verse 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.

The corrupt of the earth have always been hostile to the saints of God, and John is here seeing that this pervasive culture of corruption is responsible for the deaths of many of the saints. Babylon the great will always thirst for the blood of the righteous.

It also says here that John ‘wondered with great admiration.’ An alternate Greek translation renders the word admiration as astonishment. John sees the power and influence of Babylon and is amazed at just how far the people have fallen into wickedness and how this culture of sex, greed, and violence has gotten such a hold on the hearts of men.

 

Verse 7

…Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her…

Here the angel begins to explain the meaning of the images John has seen.

 

Verse 8

The beast that thou sawest…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…when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

There are a few things to note here.

  1. The beast comes from the bottomless pit, or has its origin in Hell. This indicates that the power that upholds the beast is Satan.
  2. The beast goes into perdition, which tells us of the eventual triumph of God over Satan, who is cast into hell.
  3. Note the description that it was, is not, and yet is. This shows us two things. That this culture of evil is a reoccurring thing throughout the earth’s history, and that it is a temporary influence on men. There have been cities and nations that have embodied the decadence of Babylon in all eras, but all have fallen to the judgments of God. The great Babylon of the last days will suffer the same fate.

This concludes the first half of the chapter. The rest of the chapter continues the interpretation of the symbols.

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