Revelation 17:6
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.
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Revelation 17:6-7. I saw the woman, &c. — Infamous as the woman is for her idolatry, she is no less detestable for her cruelty, which are the two principal characters of the antichristian empire. She is drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs — Or witnesses; of Jesus — So that Rome may well be called, the slaughter-house of the martyrs. “This may indeed be applied both to pagan and to Christian Rome, for both have in their turns cruelly persecuted the saints and martyrs of Jesus; but the latter is more deserving of the character, as she hath far exceeded the former both in the degree and duration of her persecutions. It is very true, as it was hinted before, that if Rome pagan hath slain her thousands of innocent Christians, Rome Christian hath slain her ten thousands. For not to mention other outrageous slaughters and barbarities, the croisades against the Waldenses and Albigenses, the murders committed by the duke of Alva in the Netherlands, the massacres in France and Ireland, will probably amount to above ten times the number of all the Christians slain in all the ten persecutions of the Roman emperors put together. St. John’s admiration also plainly evinces that Christian Rome was intended: for it could be no matter of surprise to him that a heathen city should persecute the Christians, when he himself had seen and suffered the persecution under Nero: but that a city, professedly Christian, should wanton and riot in the blood of Christians, was a subject of astonishment indeed; and well might he, as it is emphatically expressed, wonder with great wonder.” And the angel said. Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery — It was not thought sufficient to represent these things only in vision, and therefore the angel, like the αγγελος, nuntius, or messenger, in the ancient drama, undertakes to explain the mystery, the mystic scene or secret meaning, of the woman, and of the beast that carries her: and the angel’s interpretation is indeed, as Bishop Newton observes, the best key to the Revelation, the best clew to direct and conduct us through this intricate labyrinth.

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.And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints - A reeling, intoxicated harlot, for that is the image which is kept up all along. In regard to the phrase "drunken with blood," compare Jeremiah 46:10. "The phraseology is derived from the barbarous custom (still extant among many pagan nations) of drinking the blood of the enemies slain in the way of revenge. The effect of drinking blood is said to be to exasperate, and to intoxicate with passion and a desire of revenge" (Prof. Stuart, in loco). The meaning here is, that the persecuting power referred to had shed the blood of the saints; and that, in its fury, it had, as it were, drunk the blood of the slain, and had become, by drinking that blood, intoxicated and infuriated. No one need say how applicable this has been to the papacy. Compare, however, the Daniel 7:21, Daniel 7:25 notes; Revelation 12:13-14; Revelation 13:15 notes.

And with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus - Especially with their blood. The meaning is, that the warfare, in which so much blood was shed, was directed against the saints as such, and that, in fact, it terminated particularly on those who, amidst cruel sufferings, were faithful witnesses for the Lord Jesus, and deserved to be called, by way of eminence, "martyrs." Compare the notes on Revelation 2:13; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 11:5, Revelation 11:7. How applicable this is to the papacy, let the blood shed in the valleys of Piedmont; the blood shed in the Low Countries by the Duke of Alva; the blood shed on Bartholomew's day; and the blood shed in the Inquisition, testify.

And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration - I was astonished at her appearance, at her apparel, and at the things which were so significantly symbolized by her.

6. martyrs—witnesses.

I wondered with great admiration—As the Greek is the same in the verb and the noun, translate the latter "wonder." John certainly did not admire her in the modern English sense. Elsewhere (Re 17:8; 13:3), all the earthly-minded ("they that dwell on the earth") wonder in admiration of the beast. Here only is John's wonder called forth; not the beast, but the woman sunken into the harlot, the Church become a world-loving apostate, moves his sorrowful astonishment at so awful a change. That the world should be beastly is natural, but that the faithful bride should become the whore is monstrous, and excites the same amazement in him as the same awful change in Israel excited in Isaiah and Jeremiah. "Horrible thing" in them answers to "abominations" here. "Corruptio optimi pessima"; when the Church falls, she sinks lower than the godless world, in proportion as her right place is higher than the world. It is striking that in Re 17:3, "woman" has not the article, "the woman," as if she had been before mentioned: for though identical in one sense with the woman, Re 12:1-6, in another sense she is not. The elect are never perverted into apostates, and still remain as the true woman invisibly contained in the harlot; yet Christendom regarded as the woman has apostatized from its first faith.

And I saw the woman, the papacy, drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; filled with the blood of those holy ones, which she caused to be slain for bearing testimony to Jesus Christ.

And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration; which he would not have done had it been a pagan Rome he had seen in this vision. But that any that owned Christ, and called themselves the holy church, should kill men for bearing testimony to Christ, and adherence to his rule of faith and life, this caused in John a just wonderment.

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints,.... To see a woman drunk is a shameful sight; but to see one drunk, not with wine, but with blood, is monstrous, cruel, and shocking; the sword, when it devours, and is satiate, is said to be drunk with blood, Jeremiah 46:10 but for a woman to be so is unexampled; and not with her own blood, as she will be, Isaiah 49:26 but with the blood of others; and not with the blood of wicked men, but with the blood of saints; such as God the Father has set apart from everlasting, and chosen to be holy; whom Christ has sanctified by his blood, or whose sins he has expiated, and to whom he is made sanctification; and who have principles of grace and holiness wrought in them by the Spirit of God, and live holy lives and conversations:

and of the martyrs of Jesus; the saints, whose blood is shed by antichrist, are martyrs also; but they seem to design the common people, and these the ministers of the Gospel, who are the martyrs of Jesus, both in life and death; they are his martyrs or witnesses, by their doctrine and ministry, bearing testimony to him as Jesus, a Saviour; testifying that he is the only Saviour, that there is salvation in no other, in opposition to the antichristian doctrines of merit, penance, purgatory, &c. for which they have been cruelly put to death, and in great numbers, and so have sealed their doctrine by their blood. Now the woman being drunk with their blood, denotes the blood thirstiness of the church of Rome, her greedy aud insatiable desire after the blood of the saints, and her delight in it, being exceeding mad against them; and the multitude of it shed by her, as the slaughters of the Waldenses and Albigenses, the butcheries of the duke d'Alva in the Low Countries, the massacres in France, Ireland, and other places, the burning of the martyrs in Queen Mary's days here, with numerous other instances, show.

And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration; not at the sight of the beast, which he had seen before, but at the sight of the woman, as, upon the beast; he wondered that one of her sex, generally timorous and fearful, should ride on such a monstrous creature; he was amazed at her dress, and grand appearance, whereas the church in his time consisted of poor persons, meanly arrayed; it was astonishing to him that one bearing the name of a Christian church should rise to such grandeur; and he wondered at the name upon her forehead, what the whole of that inscription should mean; but, above all, at her drunkenness with the blood of the saints; at her inhumanity and cruelty, being as savage as the beast she rode on; and also at God's forbearance of her, that he, who is a pure and holy Being, a lover of his saints, an avenger of his elect, should suffer such a brutish, barbarous, and blood thirsty creature, to live upon earth; see Habakkuk 1:13.

{9} And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: {10} and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

(9) In manner of deeds: She is red with blood, and sheds it most licentiously, and therefore is coloured with the blood of the saints, as on the contrary part, Christ is set forth imbued with the blood of her enemies; Isa 63:1.

(10) A passage to the second part of this chapter, by occasion given of John, as the words of the angel do show in the next verse.

Revelation 17:6. Cf. Nahum’s “bloody city” (of Assyrian cruelty to prisoners, Revelation 3:1), and for the metaphor Cic. Phil. ii. 24, 29, or Suet. Tiberius, 59, or Pliny, H. N. xiv. 28, “quo facile intelligatur ebrius jam sanguine ciuium, et tanto magis eum sitiens,” also Jos. Bell. Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:2. When a Jewish source is postulated, καὶἸησοῦ is bracketed (e.g., by Vischer, Spitta, S. Davidson, Briggs, Charles and others) as from the hand of the later Christian editor, who here, as in Revelation 18:24 (Mommsen), is thinking of the condemnation of provincial prisoners to fight with gladiators or wild beasts in the arena of the capital. The ἅγιοι of the source would thus be defined as, or supplemented by, Christian martyrs. They are not contaminated, like the rest of men, but their purity is won at the expense of their life. The Jewish martyrs would be those killed in the war of 66–70, primarily. The whole verse, however, might be (cf. Revelation 18:24) editorial; it is the contaminations, rather than the cruelties, of Rome which absorb the interest of this oracle.

6. with the blood of the saints &c.] Revelation 18:24.

martyrs] See on Revelation 2:13.

admiration] Better, wonder, the substantive used being cognate to the verb. Of course “admiration” is not meant in the modern sense of the word.

Revelation 17:6. Μεθύουσαν) Μεθύω, I become intoxicated, or, I am intoxicated.

Verse 6. - And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; of the witnesses (cf. Revelation 11:7). Another point of contrast between this woman and the woman of Revelation 12; the former persecutes, the latter is persecuted. It may be asked - How can these words be applied to professing Christians, as they must be, if such be the interpretation of the "harlot"? The answer may be found in Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 2:33, 34 and Jeremiah 3:1-11 we find the origin of this passage. Judah is a harlot (Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1, 8) with a sign upon her forehead (Jeremiah 3:3), who causes transgression in others (Jeremiah 2:33; and compare above, "Mother of harlots "), and in whose "skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents" (Jeremiah 2:34). She is clothed in crimson (Jeremiah 4:30) and golden ornaments (cf. Revelation 17:4); her lovers will despise her (Jeremiah 4:30) and seek her life (cf. Revelation 17:16). Just as it was declared that in Judah was found the blood of the innocent poor, so here we are told that the faithless part of the Church is guilty of the blood of the saints. The reason is found in the inscription. The harlot is absolutely identified with Babylon. No distinction in guilt can be allowed between the openly hostile world and the faithless Christian. "He that is not with me," God declares, "is against me" (Matthew 12:20). The description "drunken with," etc., is similar to that of Babylon in Revelation 18:2; and also in Jeremiah 51:7. And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration; with a great wonder (Revised Version). Probably because the seer can scarcely realize that some who are professing Christians must be held guilty of such enormities; that the harlot, representing a portion of the Church, faithless even though it be, should be classed with the world, as represented by Babylon and the beast. Perhaps the wonder is caused by the fact that such a thing should ever be permitted to be; this leading to the following explanation, which shows how the unfaithfulness is avenged. Revelation 17:6Saints - martyrs

The saints include the martyrs or witnesses, but the latter word emphasizes the testimony of the saints which has been the cause of their death. For martyr; see on 1 Peter 5:1.

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