Revelation 17:18
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
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(18) And the woman which thou sawest . . .—Read, And the woman whom thou sawest is (not “that,” but) the great city, which has a kingdom over the kings of the earth. With these words the angel’s explanation of “the mystery of the woman” (see Revelation 17:7) ends. The harlot is a city; the Babylon of the past lives again in Rome; the woman is Rome, the goddess of lands and peoples.”

“She who was named Eternal, and arrayed

Her warriors but to conquer—she Who veiled

Earth with her haughty shadow and displayed

Until the o’er canopied horizon failed

Her rushing wings—Oh! she who was Almighty hailed.”

17:15-18 God so ruled the hearts of these kings, by his power over them, and by his providence, that they did those things, without intending it, which he purposed and foretold. They shall see their folly, and how they have been bewitched and enslaved by the harlot, and be made instruments in her destruction. She was that great city which reigned over the kings of the earth, when John had this vision; and every one knows Rome to be that city. Believers will be received to the glory of the Lord, when wicked men will be destroyed in a most awful manner; their joining together in sin, will be turned to hatred and rage, and they will eagerly assist in tormenting each other. But the Lord's portion is his people; his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure, to his glory, and the happiness of all his servants.And the woman which thou sawest - Revelation 17:3.

Is that great city - Represents that great city.

Which reigneth over the kings of the earth - Rome would of course be understood by this language in the time of John, and all the circumstances, as we have seen, combined to show that Rome, in some form of its dominion, is intended. Even the name could hardly have designated it more clearly, and all expositors agree in supposing that Rome, either as pagan or as Christian, is referred to. The chapter shows that its power is limited; and that, although for purposes which he saw to be wise, God allows it to have a wide influence over the nations of the earth, yet, in his own appointed time, the very powers that have sustained it will become its foes, and combine for its overthrow. Europe needs but little further provocation, and the fires of liberty, which have been so long pent up, will break forth, and that storm of indignation which has expelled the Jesuits from all the courts of Europe; which has abolished the Inquisition; which has more than once led hostile armies to the very gates of papal Rome, will again be aroused in a manner which cannot be allayed, and that mighty power, which has controlled so large a part of the nations of Europe for more than a thousand years of the world's history, will come to an end.

18. reigneth—literally, "hath kingship over the kings." The harlot cannot be a mere city literally, but is called so in a spiritual sense (Re 11:8). Also the beast cannot represent a spiritual power, but a world power. In this verse the harlot is presented before us ripe for judgment. The eighteenth chapter details that judgment. And the woman which thou sawest: see Revelation 17:3.

Is that great city; that is, signifieth that great city, Babylon the great: see Revelation 17:5.

Which reigneth over the kings of the earth, commanding and punishing them as she pleaseth. To what person or power that either now is, or ever was, upon the earth, is this applicable, but to the pope, who makes emperors hold his stirrup, sends his edicts to princes to execute, excommunicates them, and interdicts their subjects, and arms them against them if they refuse? So that if the pope sits upon seven hills, or Rome he built upon them; if the papacy hath allured the inhabitants of the earth to idolatry; if in her idolatries she be the image of the old pagan idolaters; if to her many princes have given their power and strength; if she reigneth over the kings of the earth; and these things be applicable to no other person or government; there is no more doubt, whether the pope be antichrist, and Rome mystical Babylon, which shall certainly be destroyed for her idolatries and shedding the blood of God’s holy ones, than there is of what we have Revelation 1:1,2, that this book contains The Revelation of Jesus Christ, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; which he sent and signified by his angel unto his servant John; who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

And the woman which thou sawest,.... Revelation 17:3 as there described,

is that great city, often mentioned in this book; great Babylon, the city of Rome, Revelation 11:8 which reigneth over the kings of the earth; which then reigned in John's time over the kings of the earth; and this clearly points out the city of Rome, for there was no other city then, but that, which reigned over the kings of the earth; that was then the metropolis of the Roman empire, to which the whole world was subject; and therefore it is called all the world, Luke 2:1 and since, all the kings of the empire have been under the jurisdiction of Rome Papal. It was formerly called Urbs Regum, a "city of kings" (z), either for the reason in the text, or because its inhabitants looked like kings.

(z) Justin. l. 18. c. 2.

And the woman which thou sawest is that {35} great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

(35) That is, Rome that great city, or only city (as Justinian calls it) the king and head of which was then the emperor, but now the pope, since the condition of the beast was changed.

Revelation 17:18. The dramatic climax of the oracle: the great harlot is—Rome, domina Roma, the pride and queen of the world! Cf. Spenser’s Ruines of Rome, 360 f. (“Rome was th’ whole world, and al the world was Rome”). For the probable position of Revelation 19:9 b–10 at this point in the original form of the Apocalypse, see below (ad loc.).

After a prelude on the doom of this second and western Babylon (Revelation 18:1-3) two sublime songs follow: one of triumph in heaven (Revelation 17:4-8) one of wailing on earth (9 f.). Both are modelled in semi-strophic style upon the earlier taunt-songs (cf. Introd. § 4) over Tyre and Babylon (cf. also Apoc. Bar. lxxxii. 3–9). But the severe invective against Rome reveals the shuddering impression which this marvel and mistress of the world made upon the conscience of her provincial subjects, Jewish or Christian. They were half fascinated, even as they felt repelled, by the sight of her grandeur. This magnificent doom song (9 f.) like that of Apoc. Bar. 12. (cf. Revelation 17:13), however, celebrates her downfall, partly on grounds which might be justified from contemporary pagan authors (cf. Renan’s Apôtres, ch. xvii.). ver. 24 (note the sudden change from σοί to αὐτῇ) and 20 (in whole or part) are Christian editorial insertions, (a) either by some scribe or editor after the Apocalypse was completed, or (b) by John himself in an earlier source (Jewish or from his own hand). The presence of a special source is suggested by e.g., the unexampled use of οὐαί (cf. on Revelation 17:16, and Oxyrh. Fragment of Uncan. Gospel, 31), the large number of ἅπαξ εὑρημένα (στρήν. 3, διπλόω 6, διπλόος, cf. 1 Timothy 5:17, στρην. 7 and 9, σιρικοῦ, ἐλεφ., σιδήρου, μαρμάρου and θύϊνον in 12, κινν., ἄμωμον, σεμίδ., ῥεδῶν, and σωμάτων, [in this sense] in 13, ἀπώλετο (14), ἐργάζονται [in this sense in Apoc.] in 17, τιμ. 19, ὁρμ. 21, μους., σαλπιστῶν, κιθαρῳδῶν [only in Revelation 14:2] 22, ὀπώρα and λιπαρά, 14) and rare terms, for which the special character of the contents can hardly account. Differences of outlook also emerge; e.g., Revelation 18:9 f. is out of line with Revelation 17:17 and Revelation 16:13 f., Revelation 18:1-3 (Rome long desolate) hardly tallies with Revelation 18:9 f. (ruins still smouldering, cf. Revelation 19:3), and the kings of Revelation 18:9-10 lament, whereas in Revelation 17:16 they attack, Rome. These inconsistencies (Schön, Schmiedel) might in part be set down to the free poetic movement of the writer’s imagination, working in dramatic style and oblivious of matter-of-fact incongruities like the sauve qui peut of 4; just as the lack of any allusion to the Imperial cultus, the Lamb, or the martyrs (exc. 20 and 24) does not necessarily denote a Jewish origin. But the cumulative effect of these features points to 20 and 24 as insertions by John in a Jewish (cf. e.g., the special emphasis on the trader’s point of view, 11–17) Vespasianic source which originally formed a pendant to that underlying 17 (so variously in detail but agreeing on a source, probably Jewish—Sabatier, Rauch, Spitta, Weyland, Bousset, J. Weiss, Schmidt, Baljon, Pfleid., Wellhausen, von Soden, de Faye, Calmes). The original breathed the indignant spirit of a Jewish apocalyptist against the proud empire which had won a temporary triumph over the city and people of God. John applies it to the Rome which was also responsible for the persecutions. The tone of it has been severely censured, as if it breathed a malignant orgy of revenge. “It does not matter whether Jewish or Christian materials are the ultimate source. He who takes delight in such fancies is no whit better than he who first invented them” (Wernle, p. 370). So far as this is true, it applies to Revelation 19:17-21 (or 14–20) rather than to 18. But the criticism must be qualified; see notes on Revelation 18:7; Revelation 18:20. There is smoke in the flame, but a profound sense of moral indignation and retribution overpowers the mere vindictiveness of an unpatriotic fanatic who exults to see his oppressor humiliated.

18. that great city &c.] Again as in Revelation 17:9 the designation of Rome is unmistakeable. The words cannot be glossed, “Babylon is (now represented by) Rome,” but must mean “Babylon is Rome.”

which reigneth] Lit., which hath kingdom, or kingly power.

Verse 18. - And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. A repetition of the assertion made in ver. 5, viz. that the harlot and Babylon are identical (see on ver. 5). Many writers have been led by this verse to believe that Rome, either pagan or papal, is thus pointed out as the antitype of the harlot. That this is one fulfilment of the vision need hardly be doubted. Rome was in St. John's time the foremost embodiment of the hostile forces of the world. But this is not the whole fulfilment, which is in all time (see above, especially on ver. 1 of this chapter).

Revelation 17:18Reigneth (ἔχουσα βαοιλείαν)

Lit., hath a kingdom.

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