Revelation 17:7
And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
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17:7-14 The beast on which the woman sat was, and is not, and yet is. It was a seat of idolatry and persecution, and is not; not in the ancient form, which was pagan: yet it is; it is truly the seat of idolatry and tyranny, though of another sort and form. It would deceive into stupid and blind submission all the inhabitants of the earth within its influence, except the remnant of the elect. This beast was seven heads, seven mountains, the seven hills on which Rome stands; and seven kings, seven sorts of government. Five were gone by when this prophecy was written; one was then in being; the other was yet to come. This beast, directed by the papacy, makes an eighth governor, and sets up idolatry again. It had ten horns, which are said to be ten kings who had as yet no kingdoms; they should not rise up till the Roman empire was broken; but should for a time be very zealous in her interest. Christ must reign till all enemies be put under his feet. The reason of the victory is, that he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He has supreme dominion and power over all things; all the powers of earth and hell are subject to his control. His followers are called to this warfare, are fitted for it, and will be faithful in it.And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? - He was doubtless struck with the appearance of John as he stood fixed in astonishment. The question asked him, "why" he wondered, was designed to show him that the cause of his surprise would be removed or lessened, for that he would proceed so to explain this that he might have a correct view of its design.

I will tell thee the mystery of the woman - On the word "mystery," see the notes on Revelation 17:5. The sense is, "I will explain what is meant by the symbol - the hidden meaning that is couched under it." That is, he would so far explain it that a just view might be obtained of its signification. The explanation follows, Revelation 17:8-18.

And of the beast that carrieth her, ... - Revelation 17:3.

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.

The angel promiseth to open this vision, it being the key of the former vision, and is the only vision expounded throughout this whole book.

And the angel said unto me,.... The same as in Revelation 17:1

wherefore didst thou marvel? which is not said by way of reproof, as questions of this kind sometimes are, Acts 3:12 for John did not wonder at her with a sinful admiration, so as to have her in great veneration, and to do homage and worship to her, as the inhabitants of the world wondered after the beast, Revelation 13:3 but his admiration was an amazement, or stupefaction of mind, joined with indignation at her; and this is said by the angel to lead on to what he had to declare unto him.

I will tell thee the mystery of the woman; that is, what is mysteriously or mystically designed by her; for till it was made known to John by the angel, it was a mystery to him; and when it was revealed, the interpretation is given in such an obscure manner, that it is only understood by the mind that has spiritual wisdom; and still remains a mystery to carnal men, just as the Gospel itself does. The hidden meaning of this woman, or the mystery of her, is told by the angel in Revelation 17:18.

And of the beast that carried her, which hath the seven heads, and ten horns; the mystical sense of the beast, its heads and horns, and which is also delivered in a mysterious manner, is given in Revelation 17:8.

{11} And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

(11) The second part or place as I said in See Geneva Re 17:1. The narration of the vision promised in the verse following. Now there is delivered first a narration of the beast and his story, to verse fourteen. After, of the harlot, to the end of the chapter.

Revelation 17:7-14. The question of the angel, διὰ τί ἐθαύμασας, introduces the intended interpretation just as the question of the elders (Revelation 7:13), only that here the angel expects no answer whatever of John, but immediately himself promises: ἐγὼ ἐρῶ σοι τὸ μυστήριον, κ.τ.λ. This announcement marks that the two chief forms, the woman and the beast, which of course are explained each by themselves,—as they symbolize subjects that are actually different, the world-city and the world-kingdom,—nevertheless belong together essentially; there is but one mystery, the mystery “of the woman and of the beast.” Although the woman and the beast are distinguished, the present description remains, therefore, in essential agreement with that of ch 13. Nevertheless, the inner connection between the woman and the beast is expressed by the fact that the woman is seated upon the beast, (τ. βασταζ αὐτ., cf. Revelation 17:3.) In perfect harmony with this is the circumstance that the beast is first (Revelation 17:8) explained, and only then, that which is more special, which is first received from that further conception, the form of the woman.

Of the beast which John saw (Revelation 17:3 sqq.), it is said: ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ μέλλει ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου, κ.τ.λ., and this is again expressed as a foundation for the astonishment of the inhabitants of the earth:[3848] ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ πάρεσται. This summary πάρεσται—which simply means “shall be,” but in which an intimation of a parousia of the beast, to be opposed to the parousia of the Lord,[3849] dare be sought the less as the expression παρουσία is lacking in the Apoc.—briefly comprehends what was previously described in such a way that also the last end of the beast again coming forth might be designated therewith (καὶ μέλλει ἀναβ.

ὑπαγει). Finally, the important point of the interpretation—which, of course, is not itself without mystery, but is given after the manner of Revelation 13:18, because of which, also, just as there, the allusion (Revelation 17:9) is justified, in that it here pertains to an understanding endowed with wisdom—recurs for the third time in Revelation 17:11, where, notwithstanding the more minute determination that the beast is to return in the person of a true king, yet the identity of the subject is unmistakably designated by the formulas ὃ ἡν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν and καὶ εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει. That explanation, therefore, is utterly mistaken, which understands the beast (Revelation 17:11) differently from in Revelation 17:8 (and Revelation 17:3); in no way is the distinction possible that τὸ θηρίον is at one time Satan himself, and directly afterwards antichrist.[3850] For the more accurate explanation of the subject; see on Revelation 17:10; Revelation 17:18. In phraseology, the genitive βλεπόντων in Revelation 17:8 is remarkable. Entirely similar is the construction neither of Luke 8:20,—where the absolute gen. λεγόντων is in meaning construed with the impersonal ἀπηγγέλη,—nor of Matthew 1:18,[3851] where the absolute genitive construction μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρός precedes, and then, by a variation of construction, the subject is derived entirely from the first member (εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἕχουσα), which is not modified by the parenthetical limitation πρὶν ἤ συνελθεἰν αὐτους. In this passage, however, the definite subject οί κατοικοῦντες precedes, and the clause βλεπ. τ. θηρ. explains what is predicated of those κατοικοῦντες (θαυμασθήσονται), so that, according to the symmetry of the construction, only the nom. βλἑποντες can be expected; but the gen. is occasioned by the gen. parenthetical clause ὡν, κ.τ.λ., even though it dare not also be said that the βλεπόντων, κ.τ.λ., is expressly construed into the relative clause.[3852] The nearest indication given within ch. 17,—which is also in harmony with ch. 13,—for the understanding of what is said concerning the beast in Revelation 17:8 (and Revelation 17:11), lies in Revelation 17:9 sq., where the seven heads of the beast are interpreted: “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, and there are seven kings.”[3853] The seven heads, therefore, which in Revelation 12:3, Revelation 13:1 sqq.,—where they appeared adorned with crowns,—indicated royal sovereigns, receive here a twofold reference:[3854] thereby both seven mountains and seven kings are to be understood. In connection with the heads appearing here without crowns, the first reference is without difficulty; while the other to the seven kings, which indeed is not indicated here by crowns, nevertheless finds an essentially identical foundation with Revelation 13:1 sqq. in the description of the regal magnificence of the woman who sits upon the beast with seven heads. But at the same time, the reference to the seven mountains on which the woman sits serves to interpret the mystery of the woman and of the beast; for if, by the woman, the city mistress of the world (Revelation 17:8), of the Gentile empire forcing all inhabitants of the earth beneath her, be meant, and this city is designated as lying on seven hills, this significant point of the interpretation can be referred only to “the seven-hilled city,” to Rome, just as what is said (Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:10-11) concerning the relations of the βασιλεῖς, in complete harmony with Revelation 12:3, Revelation 13:1 sqq., applies only to the Roman rulers of the world. Mysteriously, therefore, as this interpretation sounds, yet the first reference of the seven heads to the seven well-known mountains has been made prominent with the manifest intent to actually attest the interpretation promised in Revelation 17:7.

Accordingly the seven hills are not themselves taken into further consideration; the interpretation stops (Revelation 17:10 sq.) with the seven kings. The transferal, already mentioned on Revelation 12:3 and Revelation 13:1 sqq., of the textual idea of seven ΒΑΣΙΛΕῖς, i.e., of seven persons who possess a kingdom, and that, too, the dominion of the world, to that of seven kingdoms or phases of the dominion of the world, depends, in Andr. and Beda, as well as in Hofmann, Ebrard, Hengstenb., and Auberlen,[3855] upon the presumption that the “temporal-historical” explanation of Hammond, Grot., Wetstein, Eichhorn, Ewald, Lücke, De Wette, Bleek, etc., removes the biblical conception of Apocalyptic prophecy.[3856] That this opposition is justified in one chief point, has been already referred to on Revelation 13:3; but exegetically incorrect, and without foundation in a further theological respect to the idea of prophetical inspiration, is the opposition to the acknowledgment of the fact that the entire force of the context allows the βασιλείς to be regarded only as concrete personalities, and then, that the form in general of the antichristian world-power hovering before the prophetic gaze is that of the heathen-Roman Empire. The first has been correctly understood, e.g., by Coccejus, whom Auberlen certainly will not accuse of the “temporal-historical” exposition of the Apoc., and has turned it to the advantage of his “ecclesiastical-historical” exposition: “The seven kings,” says Coccejus, “are the primates of the churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Rome, France, and Spain.” On the other hand, however, many “temporal-historical” expositors cross over into the sphere of the “ecclesiastical-historical,” by finding, especially in Revelation 17:12; Revelation 17:16, predictions concerning the incursions of the Goths, etc.[3857] That the ΒΑΣΙΛΕῖς ἙΠΤΆ are actually, as the expression declares,[3858] seven persons invested with the βασιλεία, results especially from the description, Revelation 17:10 (οἱ πέντε

ὁ εἶς

ὁ ἄλλος), and most of all from Revelation 17:11, since here the entire sense depends upon the fact that the still future eight kings are contemplated as the human-personal manifestation of the whole beast.

Five of the seven kings “are fallen,” i.e., dead; “the one,” therefore the sixth in the series, “is,” i.e., he at present possesses the βασιλεία, “the other,” therefore the last of the seven, “is not yet come,” he is not yet in possession of the βασιλεία, he has not yet made his appearance as βασιλεύς: but he shall come as the seventh, “and when he cometh,[3859] he must continue a short space;” i.e., his dominion shall soon come to an end.[3860] But the seventh is followed by yet another, the eighth (Revelation 17:11), who cannot be symbolized by a particular head on the beast,[3861] because, although connected with the seven (ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ὲστιν), yet he has a different position from all those; he is not as one in their series, but in his person is the embodiment of the beast himself; he himself is the one in whom the beast rising out of the abyss,[3862] which now “is not,” shall again appear, of which also it shall then be said, just as Revelation 17:8 of the beast as such: εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει, i.e., by the judgment at the Lord’s coming, he shall be delivered to everlasting destruction, and thus with him, then, the beast himself shall perish.

Before the expressions made in Revelation 17:8-11 concerning the beast and the seven (eight) kings are explained by their combination with one another, and with what is contained in Revelation 13:1 sqq., the meaning of the phrase καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν must be established. Hengstenb.’s explanation is incorrect: “His fate is that of the seven, viz., he must fall, he goes to ruin.” Too general is the explanation that the eighth—the eighth kingdom, as it is said—is to be of the same nature as the seven.[3863] But, on the other hand, the explanation which forms a decisive point in Ewald, De Wette, Volkm., Hilgenf., and the other expositors, who in the eighth king recognize the returned Nero,[3864] is not compatible with the words of the text. The formula ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν is supposed to declare: “He is one of the seven.” He has thus, and that, too, as one of the five fallen, already once existed, and shall return as a true king.[3865] But the more peculiar the idea, the more necessary would its unambiguous expression have been; and this would have been very easy to John; he would have written, according to the linguistic usage altogether customary with him,[3866] καὶ εἶς ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν. The fable of the return of Nero, which, in its actual foundations, must be regarded as far removed from Revelation 13:3, is also here unjustified in a simply exegetical respect. Grot., has shown the correct way,[3867] by explaining the ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν with a comparison of Romans 9:10; Matthew 1:3; Revelation 17:7-18. An explanation of the vision, cautiously but clearly outlining the Nero-saga.

The Interpretation of the Mystery, Revelation 17:7-187. Wherefore didst thou marvel?] Again the word should be wonder. For the angel’s surprise at the seer not comprehending at once, see on Revelation 7:14.

I will tell thee] The “I” is emphatic: “I will tell thee, since thou findest it so strange.”

the mystery] i.e. the mystical meaning: see on Revelation 17:5.

of the woman, and of the beast] The latter is explained first, Revelation 17:8-14 : the Woman is not clearly defined till Revelation 17:18.

Revelation 17:7. Τῆς γυναικὸςτοῦ θηρίου, of the woman—of the beast) There follows, by Chiasmus, a discussion concerning the beast, Revelation 17:8-14; and, with a repetition of the short preface, and he saith to me, a discussion concerning the woman, Revelation 17:15-18.

Verse 7. - And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? did thou wonder? — the same word as in ver. 6. Though the seer cannot fully comprehend the terrible significance of the sign he sees, viz. that a portion of the Church is one with the hostile world (see on ver. 6), yet there are sufficient marks wherewith to identify it. The woman, the wilderness, the reliance upon the world power, the inscription, the similar description of Judah in Jeremiah 2 and 3. (see on ver. 6), might have made the interpretation plain. I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns; the ten horns (cf. ver. 5, which declares that this essential unity is a mystery). Observe, too, that the "mystery of the woman and of the beast" is all one. (On the "beast," "the seven heads," and "the ten horns." see on previous verses, especially Revelation 13:1.) In ver. 1 the harlot is said to sit on the waters; here the beast carries her. The two statements are really identical; both the beast and the waters represent the worldly power found among "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" (ver. 14). Revelation 17:7
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