The Whore of Babylon


The book of Revelation is difficult to understand, and is much twisted and misused in our day, as many Christians today are not well studied in the secular histories of either Israel or Rome, and without that knowledge it can be very hard to grasp all of the clues.   But, there are internal evidences in both Old and New Testaments to know many of the mysteries of the book of Revelation.

Revelation was deliberately “coded” or signified so that the early Christians to whom it was written in the first century A.D. would understand, without bringing it to the notice of the ruling emperor in Rome.   It was circulated under his nose, so to speak.

We know that Revelation is a book of prophesy, so the reader should recognize that, as with all Old Testament prophesy, most of the language will be the figurative prophetic language that God used when prophesying.   For instance, suns and moons and stars are ruling kings, princes, and governors.   Shaking the earth, and melting the mountains is an upset in, or overthrow of a ruling nation.   The earth and the heavens stand for a nation, and most often Israel. (See the previous post on “Heaven & Earth…)  The “sea” best known to the geographical area of the readers was the great Mediterranean Sea, and therefore represented the gentile nations around it, of whom the most prominent was Rome.

God used a great deal of numeric symbolism in the book.  Most of the numbers are not literal, just as other figurative language in the book is not literal.  For instance, the number 1,000 is a symbol of the completeness of fullness of time, and stands for God’s appointed time (Ex. 9:5; 2 Sam. 24:15; Dan. 8:19, etc.) .  The number 144 is generally recognized as the 12 tribes of Israel squared, which is another symbol of a perfectly complete number, and when multiplied again by 1,000 for 144,000  it becomes a double statement of perfectly completed fullness.  The number 7 also represents perfect completeness.

It is helpful to identify some of the players in the drama that unfolds in Revelation.   One of those is the “woman”.   There are many clues as to the woman of Revelation, but we will hit some of the critical ones here.

 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”  (Rev. 11:8, KJV,)

The “great city” is identified as the place where our Lord was crucified.   So, we know that the “great city” was Jerusalem.   Therefore, God called Jerusalem by two other names:  “Sodom” and “Egypt.”   Sodom had been destroyed for its wickedness (Gen. 18-19), and God was comparing that great city, Jerusalem, to the wicked and evil Sodom.  But, this is not the first time He has done so.

10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.  (Isa. 1:10, KJV)

14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.”  (Jer. 23:14, KJV)

46 And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.”  (Ezek. 16:46, KJV)

Sodom and Gomorrah were often used to identify the sins of adultery, fornication, pride, sloth, gluttony, without compassion (Ezek. 16:49).

God also compared Jerusalem to “Egypt”, another wicked nation that God had destroyed for its idolatry and tyranny, and with which Jerusalem had made treaties for protection.

15 But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?”  (Ezek. 17:15, KJV)

God compared Jerusalem to both Sodom and Egypt for their sins, and the language was familiar to the people from the OT prophesies.  Those believers of the first century AD would have recognized the comparisons.

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth.” (Rev. 17:4-5, KJV)

The woman was guilty of fornication.  God called her “Babylon The Great” and “The Mother Of Harlots.”   Fornication is a sin of intercourse without the bonds of marriage.  The woman was guilty of having intercourse with those to whom she was not married.  Then, we have another comparison to another nation which God destroyed for their evil, Babylon.  And, in the same sentence, and the same title on her forehead is the reference “The Mother Of Harlots”.

A harlot is a whore.   A whore is paid for her services.   Do you remember another reference to the whore of Babylon?

Ez. 23:17, “And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.”

Ez. Chap. 23 was discussing two sisters, two whores whom God identified as Samaria and Jerusalem in Ez. 23:3-4.

And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.

Jerusalem was the whore of Babylon in Ez. 23:17.

Ez. 23:30, I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols.     and….

Ez. 23:35, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.”

God called Jerusalem a whore, and an adulteress, because she was turning her back on her marriage with God, her covenant relationship with God, and following after idols.   She was making treaties, having intercourse with heathen nations, and forgetting her promise to God.   She was fornicating with the nations around her.

We go back again to Rev. 17 verses 4, 5 and now can see the mystery.  “Babylon The Great” and “The Mother Of Harlots” was the same whore of Babylon of Ezekiel Chap. 23, which was Jerusalem, and which was also called the “great city.”  The woman and the great city were the same.  They were Jerusalem.

Rev. 14:8,  And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

We have established that in Revelation God referred to Jerusalem as Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.  In the verse above, Jerusalem was again referred to as “that great city” just as in Rev. 11:8.   That great city was guilty of fornication with the nations around her.

Jer. 22:8-9, And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbour, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city? Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.”

The great city of Jeremiah was Jerusalem.  Just as in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, Jerusalem was again the “great city” of Revelation.   She was guilty again in the first century A.D. of following after idols because of her fornication and adultery with the heathen nations around her.   She was a great trading center of the day, and was making treaties for gain (profits) with all who came to her.

Rev. 18:9-11, 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:”

Rev. 18:17-19, 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.”

There had to be a relationship between the “great city” and God for the great city of Revelation to be accused as a harlot, or a whore.  The only city or nation that had a covenant relationship with YHWH in the first century AD was Jerusalem and Judea.  Rome did not have a covenant with God to break.  Jerusalem did.  The great city guilty of fornication and adultery had to be in Judea, and therefore was Jerusalem.

 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:(Jer. 31:32, KJV)

The Lord considered Israel as a bride, a wife.  After many years, before the Assyrian captivity, because they continually followed after idolatrous nations, God gave her a bill of divorcement. (Is. 50:1; Jer. 3:8.)

In Rev. 17:3 the woman is sitting upon a beast.  The beast has seven heads, and ten horns.  Not to digress here with a discussion of the beast as it deserves its own attention, but mostly to point out that the woman is sitting on the beast.  She is not the beast.  She is directing, or influencing the direction of the beast.

“So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

The woman is separate from the beast.   They are not the same.   As she is sitting upon the beast, this is a picture of a rider as one would sit upon a horse and direct the horse in the way it should go.

“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.(Rev. 17:6, KJV)

The woman, the great city, Jerusalem was drunk with the blood of the saints.  The saints are the Christians.  The woman was responsible for killing the Christians.  As she was directing the beast, she was using the beast (Rome) to kill and persecute the Christians, just as she had used Rome to crucify Christ.

That describes the political state of Jerusalem under the occupation of Rome in the first century A.D.  In the first century A.D., under the Roman policy of “religio licita” the Sanhedrin could stone people for what they believed were religious sins, but anyone transgressing Roman law had to be tried in Roman courts; which is what they did with Jesus.  They delivered Jesus up to Pilate for the crime of sedition and treason so that they could shift the blame for His death (Matt. 27:1ff).

So, in identifying the woman of Revelation, we have also identified the time period of the prophesy.  Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, most probably 66 – 68 A.D. to the first century Christians as a warning to know when to get out of Jerusalem, and to be prepared for the coming war with Rome.

I have detailed the time period for the dating of the book of Revelation in a previous post, “It’s Not The End of The World, Part V,” which provides many more evidences.

The woman of Revelation is that “great city“, and is the “Mother Of Harlots“, and is Babylon, Sodom and Egypt, which was Jerusalem.   It was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 that is the subject of the prophesy of Revelation.   Chap 14 continues the downfall of the great city, “Babylon” which is addressed in verse 8, where verses 19-20 conclude:

19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” (Rev. 14:19-20)

The wine press was the war, and the blood that was shed was all of the people who were killed in Vespasian’s scorched-earth campaign on his march inland from Galilee south to Jerusalem, approx. 1600 furlongs, or 200 miles of war path. (1) (2)

And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (Rev. 16:19)

‘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.” (Rev. 18:10)

God’s judgment was declared upon Jerusalem.  Revelation was the prophesy of that judgment to the first century Christians.  Everywhere you see the reference in Revelation to the “woman” or the “harlot” or “Babylon”, “Sodom”, or “Egypt” you need to decode it and read “Jerusalem”.

 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matt. 23:37-38)

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.(Rev. 18:19)

All bold emphasis is mine.

Edited and updated Aug. 1, 2019.

Notes:

1) First Jewish-Roman War: Siege of Jerusalem – https://www.historynet.com/first-jewish-roman-war-siege-of-jerusalem.htm

2) Jewish War (66-70) – Livius

Recommended reading:

http://www.preteristcentral.com/Exposition%20of%20Revelation%2022.html

http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/whore.html

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