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Adam Clarke Commentary

Revelation 18

Introduction

A luminous angel proclaims the fall of Babylon, and the cause of it, Revelation 18:1 -3. The followers of God are exhorted to come out of it, in order to escape her approaching punishment, Revelation 18:4 -8. The kings of the earth lament her fate, Revelation 18:9 , Revelation 18:10 . The merchants also bewail her, Revelation 18:11 . The articles in which she trafficked enumerated, Revelation 18:12 -16. She is bewailed also by shipmasters, sailors, etc., Revelation 18:17 -19. All heaven rejoices over her fall, and her final desolation is foretold, Revelation 18:20 -24.

Verse 1

The earth was lightened with his glory - This may refer to some extraordinary messenger of the everlasting Gospel, who, by his preaching and writings, should be the means of diffusing the light of truth and true religion over the earth.

Verse 2

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen - This is a quotation from Isaiah 21:9 : And he said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. This is applied by some to Rome pagan; by others to Rome papal; and by others to Jerusalem.Is become - the hold of every foul spirit - See the parallel passages in the margin. The figures here point out the most complete destruction. A city utterly sacked and ruined, never to be rebuilt.

Verse 3

The wine of the wrath - The punishment due to her transgressions, because they have partaken with her in her sins. See the note on Revelation 14:8 .

Verse 4

Come out of her, my people - These words appear to be taken from Isaiah 48:20 ; Jeremiah 1:8 ; Jeremiah 51:6 , Jeremiah 51:45 . The poet Mantuanus expresses this thought well: - Vivere qui sancte cupitis, discelite; RomaeOmnia quum liceant, non licet esse bonum.

Verse 5

Her sins have reached unto heaven - They are become so great and enormous that the long-suffering of God must give place to his justice.

Verse 6

Reward her even as she rewarded you - These words are a prophetic declaration of what shall take place: God will deal with her as she dealt with others.

Verse 7

How much she hath glorified herself - By every act of transgression and sinful pampering of the body she has been preparing for herself a suitable and proportionate punishment.

Verse 8

Therefore shall her plagues come - Death, by the sword of her adversaries; mourning on account of the slaughter; and famine, the fruits of the field being destroyed by the hostile bands.Utterly burned with fire - Of what city is this spoken? Rome pagan has never been thus treated; Alaric and Totilas burnt only some parts with fire. Rome papal has not been thus treated; but this is true of Jerusalem, and yet Jerusalem is not generally thought to be intended.

Verse 9

The kings of the earth - Those who copied her superstitions and adopted her idolatries.

Verse 10

Standing afar off - Beholding her desolations with wonder and astonishment, utterly unable to afford her any kind of assistance.

Verse 11

The merchants of the earth - These are represented as mourning over her, because their traffic with her was at an end.Bishop Bale, who applies all these things to the Church of Rome, thus paraphrases the principal passages: - The mighty kinges and potentates of the earth, not havinge afore their eyes the love and feare of God, have committed with this whore moste vile filthynesse; abusinge themselves by many straunge or uncommaunded worshippings, and bynding themselves by othe to observe hyr lawes and customs. At the examples, doctrines, counsels, and perswasions of hyr holy whoremongers, have they broken the covenaunts of peace; battailed, oppressed, spoyled, ravished, tyrannously murthered innocents; yea, for vain foolish causes, and more vaine titles, as though there were neither heaven nor hel, God nor accounts to be made.

Verse 12

The merchandise of gold, and silver, etc. - The same author, Bishop Bale, who was once a priest of the Romish Church, goes on to apply all these things to that Church; and whether the text have this meaning or not, they will show us something of the religious usages of his time, and the real mockery of this intolerant and superstitious Church. Speaking in reference to the Reformation, and the general light that had been diffused abroad by the word of God, which was then translated into the vulgar tongue, and put into the hands of the people at large, he says: -

Verse 13

And cinnamon - "By the sinamon is ment all maner of costly spyces, wherewith they bury their byshops and founders, lest they shoulde stinke when they translate them agayne to make them saintes for advauntage.Several of the most reputable MSS. versions, and some of the fathers, after cinnamon, add και αμωμον, and amomum. What this shrub was is not easy to say, though mentioned and partially described by Pliny and Dioscorides. Some think it was a species of geranium; others, the rose of Jericho. It was an odoriferous plant supposed to be a native of Assyria; and is thus mentioned by Virgil, Eclog. iv., ver. 25: - This is translated by some spikenard; by others lady's rose.Thyine wood - The Thyne or Thyin is said to be a tree whose boughs, leaves, stalks, and fruit, resemble the cypress. It is mentioned by Homer, Odyss, lib. v., ver. 60; by Theophrastes, Hist. Plant, Revelation 18:5 ; and by Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. xiii. c. 16. How much the different articles mentioned in the 12th and 13th verses were in request among the ancients, and how highly valued, every scholar knows.Slaves - Σωματων· The bodies of men; probably distinguished here from ψυχας, souls of men, to express bondmen and freemen.

Verse 14

And the fruits that thy soul lusted after - και ἡ οπωρα της επιθυμιας της ψυχης σου. As οπωρα signifies autumn, any and all kinds of autumnal fruits may be signified by the word in the above clause.Dainty and goodly - Τα λιπαρα· Delicacies for the table. Τα λαμπρα, what is splendid and costly in apparel.

Verse 15

Stand afar off - See Revelation 18:10 .

Verse 16

Clothed in fine linen, and purple, etc. - The verb περιβαλλεσθαι, which we here translate clothed, signifies often to abound, be enriched, laden with, and is so used by the best Greek writers; see many examples in Kypke. These articles are not to be considered here as personal ornaments, but as articles of trade or merchandise, in which this city trafficked.

Verse 17

Every shipmaster - Captains of vessels; some think pilots are meant, and this is most likely to be the meaning of the original word κυβερνητης. This description appears to be at least partly taken from Ezekiel 27:26 -28.And all the company in ships - Και πας επι των πλοιων ὁ ὁμιλος· The crowd or passengers aboard. But the best MSS, and versions have και πας ὁ επι τοπον πλεων, those who sail from place to place, or such as stop at particular places on the coast, without performing the whole voyage. This sufficiently marks the traffic on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Some might debark (in sailing from Rome) at the island of Sicily, others at different ports in Greece; some at Corinth, others at Crete, or the various islands of the Aegean Sea; some at Rhodes, Pamphylia, etc., etc.; as in those times in which the compass was unknown, every voyage was performed coastwise, always keeping, if possible, within sight of the land.

Verse 18

What city is like unto this great city! - Viz. in magnitude, power, and luxury.

Verse 19

They cast dust on their heads - They showed every sign of the sincerest grief. The lamentation over this great ruined city, Revelation 18:9 -19, is exceedingly strong and well drawn. Here is no dissembled sorrow; all is real to the mourners, and affecting to the spectators.

Verse 20

Rejoice over her, thou heaven - This is grand and sublime; the fall of this bad city was cause of grief to bad men. But as this city was a persecutor of the godly, and an enemy to the works of God, angels, apostles, and prophets are called to rejoice over her fall.

Verse 21

Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down - This action is finely and forcibly expressed by the original words: Οὑτως ὁρμηματι βληθησεται Βαβυλων ἡ μεγαλη πολις. The millstone will in falling have not only an accelerated force from the law of gravitation, but that force will be greatly increased by the projectile force impressed upon it by the power of the destroying angel.Shall be found no more at all - In her government, consequence, or influence. This is true of ancient Babylon; we are not certain even of the place where it stood. It is also true of Jerusalem; her government, consequence, and influence are gone. It is not true of Rome pagan; nor, as yet, of Rome papal: the latter still exists, and the former is most intimately blended with it; for in her religions service Rome papal has retained her language, and many of her heathen temples has she dedicated to saints real or reputed, and incorporated many of her superstitions and absurdities in a professedly Christian service. It is true also that many idols are now restored under the names of Christian saints!

Verse 22

The voice of harpers, etc. - This seems to indicate not only a total destruction of influence, etc., but also of being. It seems as if this city was to be swallowed up by an earthquake, or burnt up by fire from heaven.

Verse 23

By thy sorceries - Political arts, state tricks, counterfeit miracles, and deceptive maneuvers of every kind. This may be spoken of many great cities of the world, which still continue to flourish!

Verse 24

In her was found the blood of prophets, etc. - She was the persecutor and murderer of prophets and of righteous men.And of all that were slain upon the earth - This refers to her counsels and influence, exciting other nations and people to persecute and destroy the real followers of God. There is no city to which all these things are yet applicable, therefore we may presume that the prophecy remains yet to be fulfilled.Bishop Bale, who applies this, as before, to the Romish Church, has, on Revelation 18:22 , given some information to the curious antiquary.This is very plain language, and thus on all hands a monstrous system of superstition and idolatry was attacked by our Reformers; and with these unfurbished weapons, directed by the Spirit of the living God, popery was driven from the throne, from the bench, from the universities, and from the churches of this favored kingdom. And by a proper application of Scripture, and by the universal diffusion of the word of God, it may be soon driven from the face of the universe. And when the inventions of men are separated from that Church, and it becomes truly regenerated, (and of this it is highly capable, as, among its monstrous errors and absurdities, it contains all the essential truths of God), it will become a praise and a glory in the earth. Protestants wish not its destruction, but its reformation.Some there may be, who, in their zeal for truth, would pull the whole edifice to pieces; but this is not God's method: he destroys what is evil, and saves what is good. It is reformation, not annihilation, that this Church needs.

Revelation 18


  1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
  2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
  3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
  4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
  5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
  6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
  7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
  8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
  9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
  10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
  11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
  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,
  13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
  14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
  15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
  16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
  17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
  18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
  19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
  20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
  21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
  22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
  23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
  24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

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