Revelation 17:3
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.
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(3) So he carried. . . .—Better, And he carried me away into a wilderness in spirit: and I saw a woman sitting upon a wild beast of scarlet colour, teeming with names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. We recognise the wild beast as that described in Revelation 13. Now the wild beast carries the woman; for she draws her support from the great world-power. The scene is the wilderness. The contrast between the desolation around her and the splendour of her appearance is striking and suggestive. The woman clothed with the sun (Revelation 12:1), persecuted by the dragon, finds a home in the wilderness into which she is driven. She is persecuted, but not forsaken; she can joy in tribulation. The scarlet-clad woman, amid all her dazzling surroundings, is still in a wilderness. The runagates continue in scarceness. Sansjoy is the brother of Sansloy. The wild beast is scarlet in colour. The dragon was red (Revelation 12:3); the woman is clothed in scarlet. Is it the emblem of lawlessness ending in violence? (Comp. Isaiah 1:18). It has also a show of sovereignty.

Full of names.Teeming with names, &c.—The living creatures (Revelation 4:8) teemed (the same word as here) with eyes, the tokens of ready obedience and true intelligence. The wild beast teems with tokens of lawlessness and self-sufficiency.

Revelation 17:3. So he carried me away, &c. — Namely, in the vision. As Ezekiel, while he was a captive in Chaldea, was conveyed by the Spirit to Jerusalem, (Ezekiel 8:3,) so John is carried away in the Spirit into the wilderness; for there the scene is laid, being a scene of desolation. When the woman, the true church, was persecuted and afflicted, she was said (Revelation 12:14) to flee into the wilderness: and, in like manner, when the woman, the false church, is to be destroyed, the vision is presented in the wilderness. For they are by no means, as some have imagined, the same woman, under various representations. They are totally distinct and different characters, and drawn in contrast to each other, as appears from their whole attire and behaviour, and particularly from these two circumstances, — that during the one thousand two hundred and sixty years, while the woman is fed in the wilderness, the beast and the scarlet whore are reigning and triumphant, and, at the latter end, the whore is burned with fire, when the woman, as his wife, hath made herself ready for the marriage of the Lamb. And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet- coloured beast — The same which is described chap. 13., but he was there described as he carried on his own designs only; here he is connected with the whore. A woman sitting upon a beast is a lively and significative emblem of a church or city directing and governing an empire. In painting and sculpture, as well as in prophetic language, cities are often represented in the form of women: and Rome herself is exhibited, in ancient coins, as a woman sitting upon a lion. Here the beast is a scarlet-coloured beast, bearing the bloody livery, as well as the person of the woman, called so for the same reason that the dragon (Revelation 12:3) was termed a red dragon, namely, to denote his cruelty, and in allusion to the distinguishing colour of the Roman emperors and magistrates. The beast is also full of names of blasphemy — He had before a name of blasphemy upon his heads, (Revelation 13:1,) now he has many: from the time of Hildebrand, the blasphemous titles of the Roman pontiff have been abundantly multiplied; having seven heads — Which reach in a succession from his ascent out of the sea to his being cast into the lake of fire; and ten horns — Which are contemporary with each other, and belong to his last period. So that this is the very same beast which was described in the former part of chap. 13: and the woman, in some measure, answers to the two-horned beast, or false prophet; and consequently the woman is not pagan, but Christian Rome; because Rome was become Christian before the beast had completely seven heads and ten horns; that is, before the Roman empire experienced its last form of government, and was divided into ten kingdoms.

17:1-6 Rome clearly appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries. She left the nations in general to their ancient usages and worship. But it is well known that by crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations. Here were allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp, and splendour, feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the Divine vengeance. The golden cup represents the allurements, and delusions, by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and kept her influence, and seduced others to join her abominations. She is named, from her infamous practices, a mother of harlots; training them up to idolatry and all sorts of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. She intoxicated herself with it; and it was so pleasant to her, that she never was satisfied. We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion. Let us avoid the mysteries of iniquity, and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that we may learn humility and gratitude from the example of Christ. The more we seek to resemble him, the less we shall be liable to be deceived by antichrist.So he carried me away in the spirit - In vision. He seemed to himself to be thus carried away; or the scene which he is about to describe was made to pass before him as if he were present.

Into the wilderness - Into a desert. Compare the notes on Revelation 12:6. Why this scene is laid in a wilderness or desert is not mentioned. Prof. Stuart supposes that it is because it is "appropriate to symbolize the future condition of the beast." So DeWette and Rosenmuller. The imagery is changed somewhat from the first appearance of the harlot in Revelation 17:1. There she is represented as "sitting upon many waters." Now she is represented as "riding on a beast," and of course the imagery is adapted to that. Possibly there may have been no intentional significancy in this; but on the supposition, as the interpretation has led us to believe all along, that this refers to papal Rome, may not the propriety of this be seen in the condition of Rome and the adjacent country, at the rise of the papal power? That had its rise (see the notes on Daniel 7:25 ff) after the decline of the Roman civil power, and properly in the time of Clovis, Pepin, or Charlemagne. Perhaps its first visible appearance, as a power that was to influence the destiny of the world, was in the time of Gregory the Great, 590-605 a.d. On the supposition that the passage before us refers to the period when the papal power became thus marked and defined, the state of Rome at this time, as described by Mr. Gibbon, would show with what propriety the term "wilderness" or "desert" might be then applied to it.

The following extract from this author, in describing the state of Rome at the accession of Gregory the Great, has almost the appearance of being a designed commentary on this passage, or is, at anyrate, such as a partial interpreter of this book would desire and expect to find. Speaking of that period, he says (Decline and Fall, 3:207-211): "Rome had reached, about the close of the sixth century, the lowest period of her depression. By the removal of the seat of empire, and the successive loss of the provinces, the sources of public and private opulence were exhausted; the lofty tree under whose shade the nations of the earth had reposed was deprived of its leaves and branches, and the sapless trunk was left to wither on the ground. The ministers of command and the messengers of victory no longer met on the Appian or Flaminian Way; and the hostile approach of the Lombards was often felt and continually feared. The inhabitants of a potent and peaceful capital, who visit without an anxious thought the garden of the adjacent country, will faintly picture in their fancy the distress of the Romans; they shut or opened their gates with a trembling hand, beheld from the walls the flames of their houses, and heard the lamentations of their brethren who were coupled together like dogs, and dragged away into distant slavery beyond the sea and the mountains.

Such incessant alarms must annihilate the pleasures, and interrupt the labors of a rural life; and the Campagna of Rome was speedily reduced to the stale of a dreary wilderness, in which the land is barren, the waters are impure, and the air is infectious. Curiosity and ambition no longer attracted the nations to the capital of the world; but if chance or necessity directed the steps of a wandering stranger, he contemplated with horror the vacancy and solitude of the city; and might be tempted to ask, Where is the Senate, and where are the people? In a season of excessive rains, the Tiber swelled above its banks, and rushed with irresistible violence into the valleys of the seven hills. A pestilential disease arose from the stagnation of the deluge, and so rapid was the contagion that fourscore persons expired in an hour in the midst of a solemn procession which implored the mercy of Heaven. A society in which marriage is encouraged, and industry prevails, soon repairs the accidental losses of pestilence and war; but as the far greater part of the Romans was condemned to hopeless indigence and celibacy, the depopulation was constant and visible, and the gloomy enthusiasts might expect the approaching failure of the human race. Yet the number of citizens still exceeded the measure of subsistence; their precarious food was supplied from the harvests of Sicily or Egypt; and the frequent repetition of famine betrays the inattention of the emperor to a distant province. The edifices of Rome were exposed to the same ruin and decay; the mouldering fabrics were easily overthrown by inundations, tempests, and earthquakes; and the monks who had occupied the most advantageous stations exulted in their base triumph over the ruins of antiquity.

"Like Thebes, or Babylon, or Carthage, the name of Rome might have been erased from the earth, if the city had not been animated by a vital principle which again restored her to honor and dominion. The power as well as the virtue of the apostles resided with living energy in the breast of their successors; and the chair of Peter, under the reign of Maurice, was occupied by the first and greatest of the name of Gregory. The sword of the enemy was suspended over Rome; it was averted by the mild eloquence and seasonable gifts of the pontiff, who commanded the respect of heretics and barbarians." Compare Revelation 13:3, Revelation 13:12-15. On the supposition, now, that the inspired author of the Apocalypse had Rome, in that state when the civil power declined and the papacy arose, in his eye, what more expressive imagery could he have used to denote it than he has employed? On the supposition - if such a supposition could be made - that Mr. Gibbon meant to furnish a commentary on this passage, what more appropriate language could he have used? Does not this language look as if the author of the Apocalypse and the author of the Decline and Fall meant to play into each other's hands?

And, in further confirmation of this, I may refer to the testimony of two Roman Catholic writers, giving the same view of Rome and showing that, in their apprehension also, it was only by the reviving influence of the papacy that Rome was saved from becoming a total waste. They are both of the middle ages. The first is Augustine Steuchus, who thus writes: "The empire having been overthrown, unless God had raised up the "pontificate," Rome, resuscitated and restored by none, would have become uninhabitable, and been a most foul habitation thenceforward of cattle. But in the pontificate it revived as with a second birth; its empire in magnitude not indeed equal to the old empire, but its form not very dissimilar: because all nations, from East and from West, venerate the pope, not otherwise than they before obeyed the emperor." The other is Flavio Blondas: "The princes of the world now adore and worship as perpetual dictator the successor not of Caesar but of the fisherman Peter; that is, the supreme pontiff, the substitute of the aforesaid emperor." See the original in Elliott, 3:113.

And I saw a woman - Evidently the same which is referred to in Revelation 17:1.

Sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast - That is, either the beast was itself naturally of this color, or it was covered with trappings of this color. The word "scarlet" properly denotes a bright red color - brighter than crimson, which is a red color tinged with blue. See the notes on Isaiah 1:18. The word used here - κόκκινον kokkinon - occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Matthew 27:28; Hebrews 9:19; Revelation 17:3-4; Revelation 18:12, Revelation 18:16 - in all which places it is rendered "scarlet." See the Matthew 27:28 note and Hebrews 9:19 note. The color was obtained from a small insect which was found adhering to the shoots of a species of oak in Spain and Western Asia. This was the usual color in the robes of princes, military cloaks, etc. It is applicable in the description of papal Rome, because this is a favorite color there. Thus it is used in Revelation 12:3, where the same power is represented under the image of a "red dragon."

See the notes on that passage. It is remarkable that nothing would better represent the favorite color at Rome than this, or the actual appearance of the pope, the cardinals, and the priests in their robes, on some great festival occasion. Those who are familiar with the descriptions given of papal Rome by travelers, and those who have passed much time in Rome, will see at once the propriety of this description, on the supposition that it was intended to refer to the papacy. I caused this inquiry to be made of an intelligent gentleman who had passed much time in Rome - without his knowing my design what would strike a stranger on visiting Rome, or what would be likely particularly to arrest his attention as remarkable there; and he unhesitatingly replied, "The scarlet color." This is the color of the dress of the cardinals - their hats, and cloaks, and stockings being always of this color.

It is the color of the carriages of the cardinals, the entire body of the carriage being scarlet, and the trappings of the horses the same. On occasion of public festivals and processions, scarlet is suspended from the windows of the houses along which processions pass. The inner color of the cloak of the pope is scarlet; his carriage is scarlet; the carpet on which he treads is scarlet. A large part of the dress of the body-guard of the pope is scarlet; and no one can take up a picture of Rome without seeing that this color is predominant. I looked through a volume of engravings representing the principal officers and public persons of Rome. There were few in which the scarlet color was not found as constituting some part of their apparel; in not a few the scarlet color prevailed almost entirely. And in illustration of the same thought, I introduce here an extract from a foreign newspaper, copied into an American newspaper of Feb. 22, 1851, as an illustration of the fact that the scarlet color is characteristic of Rome, and of the readiness with which it is referred to in that respect: "Curious Costumes - The three new cardinals, the archbishops of Thoulouse, Rheims, and Besancon, were presented to the president of the French Republic by the Pope's nuncio. They wore red caps, red stockings, black Roman coats lined and bound with red, and small cloaks." I conclude, therefore, that if it be admitted that it was intended to represent papal Rome in the vision, the precise description would have been adopted which is found here.

Full of names of blasphemy - All covered over with blasphemous titles and names. What could more accurately describe papal Rome than this? Compare for some of these names and titles the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; and notes on Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:5.

Having seven heads and ten horns - See the notes on Revelation 13:1.

3. the wilderness—Contrast her in Re 12:6, 14, having a place in the wilderness-world, but not a home; a sojourner here, looking for the city to come. Now, on the contrary, she is contented to have her portion in this moral wilderness.

upon a scarlet … beast—The same as in Re 13:1, who there is described as here, "having seven heads and ten horns (therein betraying that he is representative of the dragon, Re 12:3), and upon his heads names (so the oldest manuscripts read) of blasphemy"; compare also Re 17:12-14, below, with Re 19:19, 20, and Re 17:13, 14, 16. Rome, resting on the world power and ruling it by the claim of supremacy, is the chief, though not the exclusive, representative of this symbol. As the dragon is fiery-red, so the beast is blood-red in color; implying its blood-guiltiness, and also deep-dyed sin. The scarlet is also the symbol of kingly authority.

full—all over; not merely "on his heads," as in Re 13:1, for its opposition to God is now about to develop itself in all its intensity. Under the harlot's superintendence, the world power puts forth blasphemous pretensions worse than in pagan days. So the Pope is placed by the cardinals in God's temple on the altar to sit there, and the cardinals kiss the feet of the Pope. This ceremony is called in Romish writers "the adoration." [Historie de Clerge, Amsterd., 1716; and Lettenburgh's Notitia Curiæ Romanæ, 1683, p. 125; Heidegger, Myst. Bab., 1, 511, 514, 537]; a papal coin [Numismata Pontificum, Paris, 1679, p. 5] has the blasphemous legend, "Quem creant, adorant." Kneeling and kissing are the worship meant by John's word nine times used in respect to the rival of God (Greek, "proskunein"). Abomination, too, is the scriptural term for an idol, or any creature worshipped with the homage due to the Creator. Still, there is some check on the God-opposed world power while ridden by the harlot; the consummated Antichrist will be when, having destroyed her, the beast shall be revealed as the concentration and incarnation of all the self-deifying God-opposed principles which have appeared in various forms and degrees heretofore. "The Church has gained outward recognition by leaning on the world power which in its turn uses the Church for its own objects; such is the picture here of Christendom ripe for judgment" [Auberlen]. The seven heads in the view of many are the seven successive forms of government of Rome: kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors, the German emperors [Wordsworth], of whom Napoleon is the successor (Re 17:11). But see the view given, see on [2730]Re 17:9, 10, which I prefer. The crowns formerly on the ten horns (Re 13:1) have now disappeared, perhaps an indication that the ten kingdoms into which the Germanic-Slavonic world [the old Roman empire, including the East as well as the West, the two legs of the image with five toes on each, that is, ten in all] is to be divided, will lose their monarchical form in the end [Auberlen]; but see Re 17:12, which seems to imply crowned kings.

So he carried me away in the spirit; that is, being in an ecstasy; see Revelation 4:2; whether in the body or out of the body he could not tell, as Paul expresseth it, 2 Corinthians 12:2.

Into the wilderness; a place not, or not much, inhabited, either as fittest for contemplation. or to signify that this great whore, which had driven the spouse of Christ into the wilderness, should shortly herself come into her state, according to the fate of old Babylon, Jeremiah 1:13.

And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast; the great whore, mentioned Revelation 17:1, upheld by the Roman emperors.

Full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns; the same which is mentioned Revelation 13:1:

See Poole on "Revelation 13:1". Here a great question ariseth, who this

woman is, or, (which is the same, as appeareth by Revelation 17:5), what city is meant by Babylon, mentioned Revelation 17:5; a question (as Mr. Pool noteth) of high concernment; for whoever this woman is, or whatsoever this Babylon signifieth, the people of God are upon pain of damnation admonished to avoid any communion with her, and to come out of her, Revelation 14:9,10. Mr. Pool hath diligently collected into his Latin Synopsis all opinions about it, and showed what is to be said for or against them; I will give my reader the sum of what he saith.

1. Some would have it to be the whole world of wicked men. Against this it is said:

(1.) That John speaks here of a certain great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth, Revelation 17:18: this cannot be meant of the wicked world.

(2.) The world of wicked men are those inhabitants of the earth, whom this woman made drunk with the wine of her fornication: now she that made them drunk, and those that were made drunk, cannot be the same.

(3.) This woman sitteth on seven mountains, Revelation 17:9, and so do not all the wicked of the world.

(4.) We are commanded to come out of this Babylon, but we are not obliged to go out of the world.

2. Others would have this woman, or this Babylon, to be the old Chaldean Babylon. But:

(1.) Where then is the mystery, mentioned Revelation 17:5?

(2.) The Babylon here mentioned, is by all agreed to be the seat of antichrist; so was that never.

3. The generality agree it to be Rome. Amongst the ancients, Tertullian, Jerome, Ambrose, CEcumenius, Augustine, Eusebius: of later writers, Beda, Aquinas, Salmeron, Pererius, Bellarmine, Lapide, Ribera, (all papists), besides a multitude of protestant writers.

(1.) That city is also like old Babylon for power and greatness, for oppression and tyranny of and over God’s Israel; besides, the city here mentioned is described by two characters, agreeing to none but Rome, Revelation 17:9, dwelling upon seven hills.

(2.) Reigning over the kings of the earth: for the first Rome is the only city in the world founded upon seven hills, and famed for it by its old poets, Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, &c. It is attested to be so founded by Plutarch, Pliny, Dionysius, Halicarnassaeus. The names of these hills are known: Palatinus, Quirinalis, Aventinus, Celius, Veminalis, Esquilinus, Capitolinus. Both papist and protestant writers agree that here by Babylon Rome is meant; but they are divided, whether it be to be understood of Rome in its old pagan state, or in its present state, or in a state yet to come.

4. Some would have it to be Rome in its pagan state; of this mind are Grotius, and Dr. Hammond, and some others. But against this many things are said:

(1.) It is manifest that God here describes Rome not as under its sixth head, viz. the pagan emperors, but as it was under its last head, the eighth king, Revelation 17:11, as it should ascend out of the bottomless pit, Revelation 17:8.

(2.) What John saw herein mentioned as a secret about the blood of the saints, which he wondered at; now the pagan emperors’ spilling the blood of saints was a thing long since done.

(3.) The desolation of the Babylon here mentioned was to be final, never to be repaired, as appears by Revelation 18:21-23; but pagan Rome was never made so desolate.

(4.) If Rome pagan be here meant, then, after its fall, Rome Christian was the habitation of devils, Revelation 18:2.

(5.) Rome pagan fell upon our saints with downright blows, not with allurements, making them drunk with the wine of her fornication, as Revelation 17:2.

5. The papists, who grant that by Babylon Rome is meant, would have it to be Rome toward the end of the world, when, they say, Rome shall apostatize from the pope to paganism again; but for this opinion there is no foundation in Scripture, nor the judgment of the ancients, and some of the papists themselves reject it as improbable and detestable.

6. The generality and best of protestant writers understand by Babylon, and by this woman, Rome, as it is at this day under the conduct of the pope, for which they give these reasons.

(1.) Because it cannot be understood of Rome in either of the other notions, as hath been proved.

(2.) Because antichrist is to sit in the temple of God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, as God, therefore not in any pagan city. The mystery of iniquity was working in the apostle’s time, but, Revelation 17:7, the Roman empire hindered the appearance of antichrist till the popes had wrung Rome out of their hands, and were the sole rulers there; then antichrist showed himself.

(3.) Because there is nothing said of this great whore, or this Babylon, but admirably agreeth to Rome in its present state.

So he carried me away in the spirit,.... Not in body, as if he was removed from the isle of Patmos to some other place; but in a visionary way, just as Ezekiel was carried between earth and heaven, in the visions of God, to Jerusalem, Ezekiel 8:3. It was represented to the mind of John, to his spirit, or soul, as if he had been taken up by the angel and carried through the air:

into the wilderness; by which may be meant either the wilderness of the people, the world, the church hereafter described, being a worldly one, and consisting of worldly men; or Gentilism, the Gentile world is often in the prophecies of the Old Testament called a wilderness; the Romish church having much of Heathen worship, and Heathen customs and practices in it, hence its votaries are called Gentiles, Revelation 11:2 or this circumstance may be mentioned, and the thing so represented to John, because that a wilderness is a solitary place, and fit for retirement and meditation; and where he might, without any interruption, take a full view of the following sight, and make proper observations upon it; and it is worth notice, that this is the place where the true church and became out of sight, in the room of which this apostate church appears: or, as others have thought, John is had into the wilderness, where the true church was hid and nourished, and the false one is there shown him, that seeing both together, he might compare them, and observe the difference between them; to all which may be added, that a wilderness is a fit place for such a beast as hereafter described to be seen in:

and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast; the beast is the same with that in Revelation 13:1 as the description shows, and is no other than the Roman empire as Papal; the "scarlet" colour is expressive of its imperial dignity, its power and authority, it received from the dragon; and also of this beast's cruelty and tyranny, and of its shedding the blood of the saints: the woman sitting upon it is the great city of Rome, as is manifest from Revelation 17:18 or the Romish antichrist, the apostate church of Rome, represented by a woman, as the true church is, Revelation 12:1 but in a very different form, and is the same with the second beast in Revelation 13:11 and the false prophet; and as the two beasts respect the same, under different considerations, namely, the Papacy, in its civil and ecclesiastic capacity, so this strange phenomenon, a woman sitting on such a beast, means one and the same thing as the horse and his rider in the seals, though in different views; the woman designs the Romish church, with the pope at the head of it, and the beast the Roman Papal empire as civil, by which the former is supported and upheld, bore up on high, and exalted in the manner it has been: moreover, as purple and scarlet are the colours of garments wore by the pope, and cardinals, hence the woman in the next verse is said to be "arrayed in purple and scarlet colour", so even the very beasts on which they rode were covered with scarlet. Platina (h) says that Pope Paul the Second

"ordered by a public decree, on pain or punishment, that no man should wear a scarlet cap but cardinals; to whom also, in the first year of his popedom, he gave cloth of the same colour, to put upon their horses and mules when they rode; and besides, would have put into the decree, that the cardinals' hats should be of scarlet silk:''

upon which Du Maulin (i) makes this remark;

"Pope Paul the Second was the first that gave scarlet to the cardinals, as well for themselves as for their mules, to the end that this prophecy, which agreeth in general with the see of Rome, might likewise appertain particularly to everyone of the pillars of the said see, which is to be set upon a "scarlet coloured beast".''

It follows,

full of names of blasphemy: that is, the beast, or Roman Papal empire, was full of them; in Revelation 13:1 a name of blasphemy is said to be upon his head, and he to have a mouth speaking blasphemy; but here his whole body is represented as full of them, and may refer to the blasphemous doctrines of worshipping of images, of pardons and indulgences, of transubstantiation, &c. and to the multitude of images, of the virgin Mary, and other saints, in the antichristian state, in every part of it; and to those blaspheming persons, the cardinals, priests, and Jesuits, which abound in it; as well as to those blasphemous names and titles which are given to the pope, the head of it, or assumed by him; such as God on earth, the vicar of Christ, the head, and husband, and foundation of the church, with many others:

having seven heads, and ten horns: the seven heads are the seven mountains, on which the city of Rome, the metropolis of the empire, is seated; and the seven kings, or seven forms of government, under which it has been, as appears from Revelation 17:9; see Gill on Revelation 13:1 and the "ten horns" signify the ten kings over the ten kingdoms, into which the empire was divided, when overrun by the Goths and Vandals; and which ten kings gave their kingdoms to the beast, the Romish antichrist; they gave their strength and power to him, being of his religion, and have been his horns, his defenders and supporters, ever since, as may be gathered from Revelation 17:12.

(h) De Vitis Pontiticum, p. 312. (i) Defence of the Catholic Faith, &c. c. 3. p. 38.

{3} So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a {b} scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

(3) Henceforth is propounded the type of Babylon, and the state of it, in four verses. After, a declaration of the type, in the rest of this chapter. In the type are described two things, the beast (of whom chapter thirteen speaks), in this verse and the woman that sits on the beast in Re 17:4-6. The beast in process of time has gotten somewhat more than was expressed in the former vision. First in that it is not read before that he was apparelled in scarlet, a robe imperial and of triumph. Secondly, in that this is full of names of blasphemy: the other carried the name of blasphemy only in his heads. So God teaches that this beast is much increased in impiety and injustice and does in this last age, triumph in both these more insolently and proudly then ever before.

(b) A scarlet colour, that is, with a red and purple garment: and surely it was not without cause the romish clergy were so much delighted with this colour.

Revelation 17:3-6. The view of the harlot promised John, Revelation 17:1 sq., is afforded after the angel has carried him away in the spirit into the wilderness.

ἀπήνεγκε-g0- με-g0-. Revelation 21:10. De Wette explains the idea from Luke 16:22; but the ἐν πνεὑματι in this passage does not mention so much an actual abandonment of the body,[3806] as rather that this change of standpoint has been wrought to the ecstatic consciousness of the seer by an angel.[3807]

εἰς ἔρημον. The identification of this wilderness with that mentioned in Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:14, impossible in a formal respect, because of the omission of the art., coincides in Auberlen with the view that the harlot, ch. 17, is identical with the woman, ch. 12.[3808] Why the harlot, with all her ostentation, is beheld in a wilderness, the text itself indicates, Revelation 17:16 :[3809] for complete desolation is impending over her.[3810] Incorrect, therefore, are the explanations of the wilderness by Beda: “The absence of divinity;” Coccej.: “That part of the world wherein, at John’s time, idolatry and persecution prevailed;” Bengel: “Europe, especially Italy.” Incorrect also Vitr.: “Deserted of nations;” yet Vitr. has felt that the seeming contradiction between Revelation 17:1 (καθημ. ἐπὶ ὑδάτων πολλ.) and Revelation 17:3, in the sense of the passage already compared by him, Isaiah 21:1, with which he improperly combines Ezekiel 20:35 (ἔρημος τῶν λαῶν), is explained, of course, not by the allegorical exposition that the wilderness, like the waters, designates many nations, but so that the sitting on the waters, i.e., the dominion over the nations (Revelation 17:15) does not exclude the impending devastation.

θηρίον κόκκινον. That now, since the form of the harlot, i.e., of the metropolis, is so expressly distinguished from that of the beast, i e., of the empire, this beast appears in some features different from in ch. 13, in no way destroys the identity of both beasts, clearly designated by the similarity of the chief features.[3811] This identity is not definitely marked; it was just the partial change in form of manifestation that did not permit John to write ἐπὶ τὸ θηρ., but he reports his vision which revealed to him figures in a form such as in fact they had not yet appeared: He saw a woman seated upon a scarlet-colored beast. The κόκκινον designates not the color of a covering which is to be ascribed to the beast,[3812] but the color of the beast itself. It is, like the fiery-red color of the dragon whom the beast serves,[3813] a sign of the blood shed by it.[3814] The difference from the representation, Revelation 13:2, is, therefore, not a proof of an actual difference of beasts, because in both forms the same thing is brought to sight; only this passage points more definitely to the blood actually shed, while in Revelation 13:2, in the form of the O. T. types, the dreadful power of the fierce beast, as that of a monstrous beast of prey, was first symbolized.

γέμον τὰ ὀνόματα βλασφ. This also, as well as the succeeding description ἔχον κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ, κ.τ.λ., agrees in essentials with Revelation 13:1; not all of the heads of the beast, however, bear a name of blasphemy, but that the whole beast is covered with that name of blasphemy is what is now stated. The art. τὰ ὀν., which has been omitted through a misunderstanding,[3815] refers back to Revelation 13:1. The accus. ὀνόυατα stands here with γέμον, for the same reason as possibly with πεπληρωμένον;[3816] yet this construction remains remarkable, since elsewhere in the Apoc. the gen. stands with γέμον.[3817]

The woman herself (Revelation 17:4) appears “arrayed” (περιβεβλ. Revelation 12:1) “in purple and scarlet-colored” garments.[3818] The first garment[3819] indicates royal sovereignty. Even the κόκκινον could in itself[3820] have this meaning; but it is, on the one hand, superfluous by two emblems to designate the same thing; on the other hand, from the reference to Revelation 17:3 (θηρ. κόκκ.), another significant interpretation of the scarlet, i.e., blood-colored, garment of the woman, excellently agreeing with Revelation 17:6, results: both are indicated; viz., the royal dominion,[3821] and the being stained with the blood of the saints.[3822] Beda errs in a twofold way: “The purple of feigned dominion.”


μαρλαρίταις. Further description of royal and most rich display.[3823] The κεχρυς. stands zeugmatically to λίθ. τιμ. and μαργ.

ἔχουσα ποτήριον χρυσοὺν, κ.τ.λ. The precipitate allegoristics, which could find indicated in the words κεχρυσ., κ.τ.λ., “the enticements of feigned truth,”[3824] results here in arbitrary explanations: The golden cup, with its abominable contents,[3825] is regarded as hypocrisy,[3826] “worldly happiness, the majesty of government,”[3827] “the body of words which are read in Scripture, but distorted by wicked interpretations,”[3828] “the system of papal doctrine,” “the cup of the mass.”[3829] The text allows us to think only that the harlot who renders all kings and nations drunk with the wine of her fornication[3830] has a cup in her hand which is golden, just as she herself is adorned with gold and precious jewellery, but is full “of abominations,” because the wine of her fornication is therein. With γέμον the accusat. Κ. ΤᾺ ἈΚΆΘΑΡΤΑ is construed[3831] in the same sense[3832] as the genitive ΒΔΕΛ.; but this harshness, which is the more remarkable as the genitive limitation is given in a single word, can scarcely be explained by the fact[3833] that the threefold genit. ΤῶΝ ἈΚΆΘΑΡΤΩΝ Τῆς ΠΟΡΝ. ΑὐΤ. was to be avoided. It appears, accordingly, more correct[3834] to regard the accusat. ΚΑῚ ΤᾺ ἈΚ. parallel with the accusat. ΠΟΤΉΡΙΟΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ., and to make it depend upon the ἜΧΟΥΣΑ in such a way that the words ΚΑῚ ΤᾺ ἈΚ., Κ.Τ.Λ., themselves bring later an interpretation of the ΠΟΤΉΡ. ΧΡΥΣ. ΓΈΜ. ΒΔΕΛ.

More expressly still than the corresponding appearance does the name, which stands written on the forehead of the woman,[3835] designate her lewd, abominable nature. The name runs: ΒΑΒΥΛῺΝ Ἡ ΜΕΓΆΛΗ, Ἡ ΜῆΤΗΡ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The name ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ is not the first constituent of the proper name,[3836] but designates with a certain parenthetical independence, like a premised “Nota bene,” that the name now to be mentioned is meant spiritually,[3837] or in a manner accordant with revelation, not without the covering; that beneath the external brilliancy the secret nature, and, in spite of the secular dominion presented to the eyes, the unmistakable corruption of the woman, are asserted.[3838] Nevertheless, the word ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ dare not be regarded precisely as an adjective attribute to ὈΝΟΜΑ[3839]

The mysterious proper name βαβ. ἡ μεγ. is expressly the same as has already designated in Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:9, the chief city as the concrete representative of the entire empire. The further designation expresses appellatively, by another change of figure, essentially what was delineated in the manifestation itself (Revelation 17:4, ἜΧ. ΠΟΤ. ΧΡΥς.), to which the significant name also is to correspond. As “the mother of harlots,” etc., this great Babylon has shown herself by the circumstance that she has made her daughters, i.e., the cities of the Gentiles,[3840] harlots, given them to drink of her own cup of abominations, and filled the whole world with her own abominations.[3841]

Finally, John beholds, Revelation 17:6, the woman in a condition to which the scarlet color of her garment, and of the beast whereon she sits, corresponds: “Drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” On the expression, cf. Plin., H. N., xiv. 28: “Drunken with the blood of citizens, and thirsting the more for it;”[3842] on the subject itself, cf. Revelation 16:6, Revelation 18:24.

ἘΚ Τ. ΑἸΜ. Cf. Revelation 16:10, Revelation 8:11.

Τ. ΜΑΡΤΎΡΩΝ ἸΗΣ. Cf. Revelation 2:13. The martyrs of Jesus are not in kind distinguished from the saints; but the former designation brings into prominence the fact as to how this testimony of Jesus, which the saints have given, becomes the cause of their death.[3843]

ΚΑῚ ἘΘΑΎΜΑΣΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The accus. ΘΑῦΜΑ ΜΕΓΑ with ἘΘΑΎΜ., as Revelation 16:9. The ground of John’s great astonishment is in general the just-described sight of the woman (ἸΔῺΝ ΑὐΤΗΝ); but in how far must this sight have occasioned such great astonishment? The most forcible reason would be that named by Auberlen, if he had the right to recognize again in the harlot the degenerate woman of Revelation 12:1. This would, in fact, be something completely incomprehensible; but neither the angel (Revelation 17:7 sqq.) attempts to explain this impossibility, neither does there exist anywhere else in the text an occasion for the egregious mistake of such a conception. Arbitrary, because not based upon Revelation 17:7 sqq., are the explanations of Bengel: “John wondered, because so mighty a beast has to serve the woman in carrying her;” of Hengstenberg, who describes the astonishment of the seer as “unreasonable, foolish,”[3844] because the harlot, in spite of her dreadful guilt, still maintains her greatness; of Ebrard: because the beast appears to be entirely different from in ch. 13. The angel designates in Revelation 17:7, entirely in agreement with the ἸΔῺΝ ΑὐΤῊΝ, Revelation 17:6, the mystery of the woman, and the beast carrying her, as the cause, to be explained by interpretation, of the astonishment of John, who himself did not understand[3845] the ΣΗΜΕῖΟΝ ΘΑΥΜΑΣΤΌΝ[3846] thus beheld by him.

[3806] Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2.

[3807] Cf. Luke 4:1 sqq., Luke 10:8 sqq., Luke 11:1Revelation 17:3. The wilderness was the traditional site of visions, but there may be an allusion here to Isaiah 21:1 or even to the Roman Campagna (Erbes). The woman in 12. is in the desert to be delivered from the dragon; the woman here is in the desert to be destroyed by the Beast. κόκκινον “crimson or scarlet,” = luxurious and haughty splendour (Mart. ii. 39; Juv. Sat. iii. 283 and xiv. 188 for purple). The Beast which in Revelation 13:1 bore the names of blasphemy upon its head, now wears them spread over all its body. Baldensperger (Revelation 17:15-16) conjectures a similar reference to Rome in En. 52. (seven hills?); here at any rate the author is sketching the Roman Empire in its general magnificence and authority under the Cæsars, and the inconsistencies in his description (waters and wilderness, seat on waters, seat on the Beast) are natural to this style of fantastic symbolism. It is curious that no attack is directed against the polytheism of the Empire. Cf. Cebes’ Tabula: “Do you see a woman sitting there with an inviting look, and in her hand a cup? She is called Deceit; by her power she beguiles all who enter life and makes them drink. And what is the draught? Deceit and ignorance.” The mounting of divine figures on corresponding beasts is a Babylonian trait (S. C. 365).

3. in the spirit] Cf. Revelation 1:10, Revelation 4:2, Revelation 21:10.

into the wilderness] In Isaiah 21:1 the situation of the ancient Babylon is apparently conceived as in a desert: and in fact Babylonia has been reduced to one, despite its unsurpassed natural fertility. It may be relevant to compare the present desolation of the once populous Campagna of Rome.

a scarlet coloured beast] Undoubtedly the same as the Beast of Revelation 13:1-8, though there his colour was not mentioned. It is symbolic (compare that of the dragon, Revelation 12:3), as being the colour of blood: perhaps also suggestive of the imperial purple.

full of names of blasphemy] So Revelation 13:1, but here the blasphemies are even more all-pervading. The construction in the Greek, according to the best text, is irregular and peculiar, but cannot alter the sense.

Revelation 17:3. Ἔρημον, wilderness) Europe, in particular Italy.—θηρίον κόκκινον, a scarlet-coloured beast) as the dragon was red. The Roman Ceremon. teaches this. The text speaks respecting the time of the woman sitting on the beast.

Verse 3. - So he carried me away in the spirit; and he carried, etc. (cf. Revelation 1:10 and Revelation 21:10). In the latter reference the analogy is sufficiently close to lead us to believe that it is intended. Into the wilderness; a wilderness, according to the Revised Version, which is the rendering of Wordsworth and others; but Alford strongly supports the Authorized Version rendering, notwithstanding the absence of the Greek article (see Alford, in loc.). Some commentators have thought that the "wilderness" signifies the desolation which is the lot of the harlot (see ver. 16; Revelation 18:2, 19; also Jeremiah 51:26). But we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the "wilderness" here is that spoken of in Revelation 12:6, 14, which is symbolical of this world, particularly when we remember that the "wilderness" in both cases is the abode of a woman, who moreover is representative of the Church; though in Revelation 12. she represents the Church of God as a whole, persecuted by Satan, and in this place the woman is representative of the faithless part of the Church (see also below on "beast"). Vitringa, referring to Isaiah 21:1, and Revelation 17:1, 15, and Ezekiel 20:35, arrives at a similar conclusion; it is a "wilderness of the people." And I saw a woman. There is no article, but this vision, occurring immediately after the words of ver. 1, "I will show thee... the great harlot," identifies this woman with the harlot of ver. 1. This woman represents the faithless portion of the Church (see on ver. 1); that part which, following after worldly things, has thereby rendered to the beast the love and honour due to God alone. This woman is not identical with the woman of Revelation 12. The latter represents the faithful, the former the faithless, part of the Church. Sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. Here again, as in "wilderness" (vide supra), we have θηρίον, "beast," without the article; but the identity of this "beast" with that of Revelation 13:1 is established by

(1) the same outward characteristics of names of blasphemy, seven heads and ten horns;

(2) its connection with "kings," etc. (vers. 12-14 and Revelation 19:19, 20);

(3) its connection with the "false prophet" (Revelation 13. and Revelation 19:20);

(4) its connection with the harlot - the one representing the world power, the other the faithless, worldly portion of the Church. That the woman sits upon the beast denotes, not that she exercises control and guidance over it (as Alford), for comp. ver. 16, but rather that the woman relies upon the beast for support and safety; thus presenting an accurate description of those who prefer to trust to the power and influence of the world rather than to God. Scarlet (whether the colour of the beast itself or of its trappings is immaterial) may signify either

(1) the worldly pre-eminence and power of which it is the sign, and for which the woman allies herself with the beast; or

(2) the blood-stained persecution of which the beast is the author. The first interpretation coincides best with the words which immediately follow; the second one agrees with the description in ver. 6 and Revelation 13:7. (On the "names of blasphemy," as signifying opposition to and rivalry with God, see on Revelation 13:1.) The seven heads denote universality of (earthly) dominion, and the ten horns denote plenitude of power (see on Revelation 13:1). Revelation 17:3Sitting

To manage and guide the beast.

A scarlet-colored beast

The same as in Revelation 13:1. This beast is ever after mentioned as τὸ θηρίον the beast. For scarlet, see on Matthew 27:6.

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