Revelation 18:12
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
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Revelation 18:12-14. The merchandise, &c. — There is an end of all traffic or commerce with her, whether spiritual or temporal; of gold and silver, &c. — Almost all the things here named are still in use at Rome, both in their idolatrous service and in common life; fine linen — The sort of which here mentioned, βυσσος, is exceedingly costly; thyine-wood — A sweet- smelling wood, not unlike citron, used in adorning magnificent palaces. Vessels of most precious wood — Ebony in particular, which is often, as here, mentioned with ivory, the one excelling in whiteness, the other in blackness, and both in uncommon smoothness. And cinnamon — Bengelius adds, και αμωμον, and amomum, a shrub whose wood is a fine perfume; and ointments. Μυρον, liquid and fragrant ointment; and beasts — Cows and oxen; and chariots Ρεδων, a word purely Latin, but here inserted in the Greek, doubtless, on purpose to show more fully the luxury of Rome; and slaves Σωματων, bodies; a common term for slaves; and souls of men — For these also have been and are continually bought and sold at Rome. And this, of all others, is the most gainful merchandise to the Roman traffickers. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after — And for which alone thy degenerate nature had any remaining relish. From what was imported, the narrative proceeds to the domestic delicacies of Rome; none of which is in greater request there than the particular sort of fruits here mentioned. The word οπωρα properly signifies such fruit as pears, peaches, nectarines, and all the apple and plum kinds; and all things Λιπαρα και τα λαμπρα dainty — Or delightful to the taste; and splendid — To the sight; as clothes, buildings, furniture. “It is plain,” says Lowman, “this is designed to be a figurative, and not a literal description; therefore readers seem to be at liberty to apply the figurative expressions to such literal meanings as will agree to the general and certain intention of them. But whether each of these wares is designed to point out some particular gainful corruption of Popery, may very well be questioned. It is sufficient, to answer the general intention of the prophecy, to observe, that Rome shall be deprived of all her wealth, which she procured by her management and intrigues, in the several places where her agents resided, who continually made her returns of great riches, and plentifully supplied her excessive pride and luxury. It is a pretty observation of Daubuz, “Rome receives all the luxurious wares mentioned, but she has so infatuated the world that she pays nothing for them but trumpery; her money is her enchantments and sorceries. Her merchants, her superior clergy, engross the real wealth of the world to bring it to her; and her returns and exportations are paper and bills drawn upon heaven and hell, never to be accepted; however, they pass among the common people for payment, as if they were of real value. The merchant who finds means to get shut of them takes no care about their intrinsic value, finding gulls who take them off his hands for real wealth.” Whether these wares were designed to signify pardons, indulgences, dispensations, and the like trifles, with which Rome purchases gold, silver, and whatever ministers to pride and luxury, this is a plain and manifest meaning, that she shall be deprived of all her wealth and luxury at once, and of all the means by which she used to procure them.18:9-19 The mourners had shared Babylon's sensual pleasures, and gained by her wealth and trade. The kings of the earth, whom she flattered into idolatry, allowing them to be tyrannical over their subjects, while obedient to her; and the merchants, those who trafficked for her indulgences, pardons, and honours; these mourn. Babylon's friends partook her sinful pleasures and profits, but are not willing to share her plagues. The spirit of antichrist is a worldly spirit, and that sorrow is a mere worldly sorrow; they do not lament for the anger of God, but for the loss of outward comforts. The magnificence and riches of the ungodly will avail them nothing, but will render the vengeance harder to be borne. The spiritual merchandise is here alluded to, when not only slaves, but the souls of men, are mentioned as articles of commerce, to the destroying the souls of millions. Nor has this been peculiar to the Roman antichrist, and only her guilt. But let prosperous traders learn, with all their gains, to get the unsearchable riches of Christ; otherwise; even in this life, they may have to mourn that riches make to themselves wings and fly away, and that all the fruits their souls lusted after, are departed from them. Death, at any rate, will soon end their commerce, and all the riches of the ungodly will be exchanged, not only for the coffin and the worm, but for the fire that cannot be quenched.The merchandise of gold, and silver - Of course, these constitute an important article of commerce in a great city.

And precious stones - Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, etc. These have always been important articles of traffic in the world, and, of course, most of the traffic in them would find its way to great commercial cities.

And pearls - See the notes on Matthew 7:6; Matthew 13:46. These, too, have been always, and were, particularly in early times, valuable articles of commerce. Mr. Gibbon mentions them as among the articles that contributed to the luxury of Rome in the age of the Antonines: "precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the first rank after the diamond," vol. i. p. 34.

And fine linen - This was also a valuable article of commerce. It was obtained chiefly from Egypt. See the notes on Isaiah 19:9. Linen, among the ancients, was an article of luxury, for it was worn chiefly by the rich, Exodus 28:42; Leviticus 6:10; Luke 16:19. The original word here is βύσσος bussos, "byssus," and it is found in the New Testament only in this place, and in Luke 16:19. It was a "species of fine cotton, highly prized by the ancients." Various kinds are mentioned - as that of Egypt, the cloth which is still found wrapped around mummies; that of Syria, and that of India, which grew on a tree similar to the poplar; and that of Achaia, which grew in the vicinity of Elis. See Robinson, Lexicon.

And purple - See the notes on Luke 16:19. Cloth of this color was a valuable article of commerce, as it was worn by rich men and princes.

And silk - Silk was a very valuable article of commerce, as it was costly, and could be worn only by the rich. It is mentioned by Mr. Gibbon as such an article in Rome in the age of the Antonines: "Silk, a pound of which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound of gold," vol. i. p. 34. On the cultivation and manufacture of silk by the ancients, see the work entitled, "The History of Silk, Cotton, Linen, and Wool, etc.," published by Harper Brothers, New York, 1845, pp. 1-21.

And scarlet - See the notes on Revelation 17:3.

And all thyine wood - The word used here - θύΐνον thuinon - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes an evergreen African tree, from which statues and costly vessels were made. It is not agreed, however, whether it was a species of cedar, savin, or lignum-vitae, which latter constitutes the modern genus Thuja, or Thyia. See Rees' Cyclo., art. "Thuja."

And all manner vessels of ivory - Everything that is made of ivory. Ivory, or the tusk of the elephant, has always been among the precious articles of commerce.

And all manner vessels of most precious wood - Furniture of costly wood - cedar, the citron tree, lignum-vitae, etc.

And of brass, and iron, and marble - Brass or copper would, of course, be a valuable article of commerce. The same would be the case with iron; and so marble, for building, for statuary, etc., would likewise be.

12. (See on [2736]Re 17:4).

stones … pearls—Greek, "stone … pearl."

fine linen—A, B, and C read Greek, "bussinou" for "bussou," that is, "fine linen manufacture" [Alford]. The manufacture for which Egypt (the type of the apostate Church, Re 11:8) was famed. Contrast "the fine linen" (Eze 16:10) put on Israel, and on the New Testament Church (Re 19:8), the Bride, by God (Ps 132:9).

thyine wood—the citrus of the Romans: probably the cypressus thyoyides, or the thuia articulata. "Citron wood" [Alford]. A sweet-smelling tree of Cyrene in Lybia, used for incense.

all manner vessels—Greek, "every vessel," or "furniture."

Ver. 12-14. Here is a large enumeration of several sorts of wares, such as were most precious,

gold, silver, precious stones; such as were most useful for ornament,

fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet; most gratifying the exterior senses,

thyine wood, odours, ointments, & c.; most necessary,

beasts, sheep, horses, chariots; all which, as is prophesied, shall depart from Rome: that is, whatsoever she had, which allured men into her idolatrous communion; all their idols and images, cardinals’ caps, priests’ copes, all their preferments and dignities, whatsoever served the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life; whatsoever their own carnal and ambitious minds, or the carnal and ambitious minds of others that courted this whore, thirsted after, which brought them to seek her communion; they should all perish, and she be despoiled of them. It is very remarkable, that here is one piece of merchandise to be had no where but at Rome, viz. the

souls of men; which lets us know they are no earthly merchants that are here understood. As souls are to be sold a thousand ways, so they are to be bought; by paying for pardons, indulgences, dispensations, so the silly chapmen think they buy their own souls; by purchasing of cardinals’ caps, bishoprics, great livings, all manner of ecclesiastical dignities and preferments, so they really buy the souls of others; but when the papacy shall be wholly destroyed, none of these things shall any more be found. The merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls,.... Things for treasure and ornament, and with which the great whore is said to be decked, Revelation 17:4 and, literally understood, may denote the vast riches which these spiritual merchants, or factors for Rome, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, monks, and friars, bring into their own coffers and the pope's, by the trade they drive in her wares with the souls of men; and may have also a regard to what their images, chalices, crowns, mitres, &c. are made of, and what some of them are adorned with; and as Tyre, to whom the reference is in the several particulars of this account, had her merchants for these things, Ezekiel 27:12 so Mr. Brightman thinks that in these, and in some following ones, Spain is Rome's merchant, which fetches them from the Indies for her: but these things, mystically taken, sometimes design the doctrines of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 3:12 and which are to be preferred to, and more to be esteemed than thousands of gold and silver; and these Rome's merchants pretended to deliver out; but instead of them, they put off wood, hay, and stubble, yea, doctrines of devils, and lies in hypocrisy; and sometimes the grace of God is meant, Revelation 3:18 which is more precious than gold that perisheth; and this they pretend to convey to men "ex opere operato", in the ordinances, as baptism, &c. and to communicate the Spirit, with his gifts and graces, for money, which is direct simony; yea, they pretend to sell eternal life, nay, Christ, and God himself:

and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet: things which belong to apparel and dress; and, literally taken, the "fine linen" is for their copes, wore by bishops and by chanters, and sub-chanters, and for surplices wore by their priests, in imitation of the Jewish priests, and for Mass clothes, &c. the "purple, silk", and "scarlet", were for the popes, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops; so the woman on the scarlet coloured beast is said to be arrayed in purple and scarlet, Revelation 17:4, Tyre had its merchants for these, Ezekiel 27:7 the fine linen and silk may mystically denote the holy lives, good works, and merits of the saints, those of them called works of supererogation, which become the church's stock, and they sell out for others that want; which is a monstrous kind of ware, and a dreadful imposition upon men, since men cannot be saved and justified by works; and the best of men are so far from having a redundancy of works, that in everything they sin and offend, and are greatly deficient: and they are so far from helping others, that they are unprofitable servants themselves: the purple and scarlet may signify the blood of Christ, which they pretend to sell in the Mass; nay, they have pretended to have had the very liquid blood of Christ, which they have carried in a crystal glass, thick on one side, and transparent on the other; and so could not be seen by persons in a mortal sin, until they had given a good deal of money, and then the clear side was by sleight of hand turned to them; and which was no other than the blood of a duck, renewed weekly by the priest; which trick for a long time brought in vast sums of money, and was detected at Hales in Gloucestershire, in Henry the Eighth's time; or these may intend the sufferings of the saints, which likewise come into the treasure of the church, and are at its dispose for money, the virtue of which being very great for the salvation of men's souls:

and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble: things for utensils and furniture, not so much for their houses, as for their churches; Tyre had its merchants for these, Ezekiel 27:5. "Thyine wood", Pliny says (i), was very durable, and of it the rafters of ancient temples were made; and may design such like lasting and odoriferous wood as cypress, cedar, &c. used in the Popish churches, for the embellishing of them, and for images in them; it may be the same with the wood of the Almug, or Algum trees, since these are rendered thyine wood in the Vulgate Latin version in 1 Kings 10:11 vessels of ivory may be boxes made thereof, in which the host is put, and the relics of saints are preserved: and "vessels of most precious wood", or "stone", as the Alexandrian copy, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions read,

and of brass, iron, and marble, may intend various vessels used in their churches; as vessels for holy water, fonts of marble, and other valuable stones, for baptism, censers of iron and brass to burn incense in. Cocceius thinks that by these vessels of different materials are meant good men; who are like sweet smelling wood for the fragrancy of their doctrines and lives; and like iron, brass, and marble, for their courage, constancy, and patience; and who have been canonized for saints, which has brought in much money into the pope's coffers: this is a practice in imitation of the Heathens, who deified men, and set them over particular days and affairs; and the privileges of such canonization among the Papists are, that such a saint has his name set in the calendar in red letters, may have churches and altars dedicated to him, and his image set up in them, and a holiday be kept for him, and may be prayed to, and worshipped; a practice dreadfully derogatory to the glory of Christ's person and office, but is that in which these merchants have found their account; for through references, commissions, and reports, for proof of the saint's character and miracles, his friends are at very great expense before the affair is issued, especially if rich; our King Henry the Seventh was very desirous of having his kinsman Henry the Sixth canonized, and solicited the pope for it, but he would not do it under fifteen hundred ducats of gold, which the king thought was too much, and so declined it.

(i) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 16.

The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
Revelation 18:12. βυσσίνου (sc. ἱματίου) = “of fine linen”; from βύσσος the delicate and expensive linen (or cotton) made out of Egypt an flax (Luke 16:19); σιρικοῦ = “silk,” muslin, or gauze, chiefly used for women’s attire (Paus. iv. 110 f.); πᾶν ξύλον θύϊνον = “all citron (citrus)-wood,” a fragrant, hard, dark brown, expensive material for furniture, exported from N. Africa. Note the extensive range of Roman commerce to supply the needs of luxury (interea gustus elementa per omnia quaerunt, Juv. xi. 14; pearls, e.g., from Britain as well as Red Sea), also the various demands in order: ornaments, wearing apparel, furniture, perfumes (for personal and religious use), food, and social requirements. Wets, cites a rabbinic saying: decem partes diuitiarum sunt in mundo, nouem Romae et una in mundo uniuerso.12. This whole passage should be compared with Ezekiel 27, where the wealth and trade of Tyre is described in detail.

and scarlet] Thus far the goods enumerated have been expressed by genitives, “merchandise of gold … and of scarlet.” Here they cease to be so, as far as the word “sheep.”

thyine wood] Wood of the thyia or thyion, a kind of cypress or arbor vitae: apparently the same that was called citrus by the Romans, and used for the costliest furniture.Revelation 18:12. Θύϊνον) θύα is, according to some, citria:[200] but citria is κιτρία, θύα thya. The latter tree is also fragrant; and thus the citria is not unlike some kinds of thya. See Plin. 50:13. ch. 16 throughout. There is no place here for ebony, but shortly afterwards.—ἐκ ξύλου τιμιωτάτου, of most precious wood) For ξύλου, some African copies read ΛΊΘΟΥ, from the alliteration to the preceding words.[201] Vessels are not made out of most precious stone, but out of precious stone, or out of most precious wood. Such especially is ebony, which is often mentioned together with ivory. The one excels in whiteness, the other in blackness; each is of remarkable smoothness. See Fuller’s Misc. l. 6, c. 14.—χαλκοῦ, κ.τ.λ.) of brass, and iron, and marble.

[200] Citria) [rather ‘citrea,’ the citrus-tree of Africa: Plin. xvi. 44, xiii. 15. Citria are gourds. The citrus is the Greek Thuega articulata, Desfont.—E.] a fragrant wood used by the Romans for furniture.—T.

[201] And thus Ed. ii., together with Vers. Germ., gives the palm to the reading ξύλον, the judgment of Ed. maj. being abandoned.—E. B.

A and Vulg. read λίθου: so Lachm. But BCh, ξύλου: so Tisch.—E.Verse 12. - The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet. (On "precious stone" and" linen," see on Revelation 15:6.) Such was the attire of the harlot (Revelation 17:4). Writers have endeavoured to classify in various ways the articles mentioned, in order to obtain some signification from the numbers used. Thus Hengstenberg sees four hard and then four soft articles mentioned, and he reminds us that the number four is symbolical of the world: but this does not carry him beyond ver. 12. The articles enumerated seem naturally to fall into six classes (from which we can gather no information, unless we look upon six as typifying the world, as in Revelation 13:18). First, articles of personal adornment; second, articles used for furniture, etc.; third, objects of sensual gratification - smell, etc.; fourth, articles of food; fifth, animate possessions; sixth, souls of men. These certainly seem to be arranged in a kind of progressive order of importance. All the articles mentioned in the text above were of the highest value. Purple and scarlet (see Revelation 17:3) were the prerogative of kings; silk was so scarce, that its use was forbidden in the reign of Tiberius. And all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and every ivory vessel, and every vessel, etc. Thyine wood is "that of the Thuya articulata, Desfont., the Callitris quadrivalvis of present botanists. This tree was much prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans, on account of the beauty of its wood for various ornamental purposes. By the Romans the tree was called citrus, the wood citrum. It is a native of Barbary, and grows to the height of fifteen to twenty-five feet" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible '). In this passage the accusative case is used; the preceding nouns are in the genitive. Fine Linen (βύσσου)

See on Luke 16:19.

Purple (πορφύρας)

See on Luke 16:19.

Silk (σηρικοῦ)

Properly an adjective, meaning pertaining to the Seres. From Σῆρες Seres, a people of India, perhaps of modern China.

Before the time of Justinian, when silkworms were first brought to Constantinople, it was thought that the Seres gathered or combed the downy substance woven by the worms from the leaves of certain trees. Hence Virgil speaks of the Seres, how they comb (depectant) the fine fleeces from the leaves ("Georgics," ii., 121).

Silk was a costly article of luxury among the Romans, so that Tacitus relates that in the reign of Tiberius a law was passed against "men disgracing themselves with silken garments" ("Annals," ii., 33). "Two hundred years after the age of Pliny," says Gibbon, "the use of pure or even of mixed silks was confined to the female sex, till the opulent citizens of Rome and the provinces were insensibly familiarized with the example of Elagabalos, the first who, by this effeminate habit, had sullied the dignity of an emperor and a man. Aorelian complained that a pound of silk was sold at Rome for twelve ounces of gold" ("Decline and Fall," ch. xl.).

At the time of Justinian the Persians held a monopoly of this trade. Two missionary monks residing in China imparted to Justinian the project of introducing the eggs of the silkworm into Europe, and returning to China concealed the eggs in a hollow cane and so transported them.


See on Matthew 27:6.

Thyine wood (ξύλον θύΐ́νον)

Only here in the New Testament. From θυία or θύα the citrus, a North-African tree, a native of Barbary, used as incense and for inlaying. Pliny speaks of a mania among the Romans for tables made of this wood. The most expensive of these were called orbes, circles, because they were massive plates of wood cut from the stem in its whole diameter. Pliny mentions plates four feet in diameter, and nearly six inches thick. The most costly were those taken from near the root, both because the tree was broadest there, and because the wood was dappled and speckled. Hence they were described by different epithets according as the markings resembled those of the tiger, the panther, or the peacock.

Vessel (σκεῦος)


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