This symbol resembles a like prediction respecting ancient Babylon: "A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up," (Jer.50:38); and "I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry," Jer.51:36. Ancient Babylon was situated on the river Euphrates, which contributed to the wealth and greatness of the city, and was a means of its defence. The kings of Media and Persia, from the east of Babylon, subjugated it by diverting from the city the waters of the river, and entering by its unprotected bed. The turning of the waters into other channels, fulfilled the prediction that it should be dried up.
Waters, when used as a symbol, are explained to be "peoples, nations," &c., Rev.17:15. In the 17th chapter of the Apocalypse, the angel informs the revelator that he will show him "the judgment of the great harlot who sitteth on many waters," (17:1); which implies that he had already seen a vision to that effect. He is then shown a woman on a scarlet-colored beast (v.3), who is spoken of as sitting "on many waters" (v.1), and on seven mountains (v.10), and who is affirmed to be the "great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth," v.18. Under the seventh vial, the "great city," which is "great Babylon," is divided into three parts (16:19); and the inference is, that the harlot and ancient Babylon are analogous symbols of the same organized agency; and, that the city was here exhibited on the great river Euphrates.
As a woman clothed with sunbeams and crowned with stars (Rev.12:1), and a city illuminated with the glory of God (Rev.21:10), are each symbols of the true church, corresponding symbols of opposite moral characteristics are appropriate representatives of a corrupt and apostate church. As Jerusalem was the seat of the ancient church, so was Babylon the seat of her oppressors. The former is addressed as a woman, and told to put on her "beautiful garments," (Isa.52:1); and Babylon is called the "daughter of the Chaldeans," and "the lady of kingdoms," (Isa.47:5): so that a woman, and a city of corresponding character, may, interchangeably, symbolize the same object. Consequently, the "Babylon," and the "harlot" of the Apocalypse, both symbolize the corrupt Roman hierarchy.
Ancient Babylon is described as a harlot, and is addressed as one who "dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures," (Jer.51:13); whose end was to come by her waters being dried up, 51:36. That city sustained a relation to the waters on which it was situated, analogous to that held by the Roman Catholic church to the people who support and defend her pretensions. Their alienation and withdrawal from her support, must therefore be symbolized by the drying up of the great river Euphrates, which becomes diverted into other channels. This is now apparently being fulfilled in the marked alienation of feeling from the church of Rome, which is evident throughout the ten kingdoms. During the last twenty years, the hold of that community on the affection of her supporters in Europe, has been constantly becoming weaker and weaker. Infidel principles have been extensively propagated. Her cathedrals have been comparatively deserted; and her existence has been endured more as a matter of expediency than of affection. At the present moment, probably, the mass of the people have little confidence in her pretensions; but it will require a more marked withdrawal from her support than has yet been witnessed, to fulfil, in all its significance, the meaning conveyed in the symbol.
The "kings of the east," whose way is to be thus prepared, are doubtless her enemies, who, having produced the desired alienation from her support, will take advantage of her defenceless position, and hasten her ruin; as the kings of Media and Persia, in like manner, subjugated old Babylon.
Under the operation of the sixth vial, and, according to the fulfilment of the preceding symbols, corresponding with the present time, are to be developed: