I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch18, which amounts to a long celebration of the fall of Babylon.
I'm going to be asking the question; what are these descriptions telling us about the nature of Babylon?
The chapter is clearly modelled on various passages in the Old Testament prophets, which were anticipating the fate of hostile nations.
So the implication is that Revelation's Babylon can be compared with the nations in the older prophecies.
The city Babylon
A large part of the chapter, not surprisingly, is modelled on the warnings which were directed against the original city of Babylon.
The opening proclamation, that "Babylon the great has fallen", was first heard in one of the visions of Isaiah;
"Falllen, fallen, is Babylom. and all the images of her gods"- Isaiah ch21 v9
Another prophecy (Isaiah ch13 v20-22) predicts that Babylon will never be inhabited except by satrys and ostriches, and other wild beasts and "howling
creatures", and this finds an echo in the rest of v2.
Jeremiah is another source of prophecy against Babylon.
The opening words of v3 recall the way Jeremiah sums up the effects of Babylon's power;
"Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord's hand, making all the earth drunk.
The nations drank of her wine, therefore the nations went mad." Jeremiah ch51 v7
Then the "voice from heaven" takes up the story with further echoes from both prophets.
"Come out of her, my people" reflects Jeremiah's
"Go out of the midst of her, my people,Let every man save his life from the fierce anger of the Lord"- Jeremiah ch51 v45
And the beginning of v5 recalls his previous observation that "her judgement has reached up to heaven"- Jeremiah ch51 v9
(So that's the only sense in which the tower of Babel had achieved its original ambition)
Then the voice from heaven declares that Babylon will be paid back double for her deeds, because "God has remembered her iniquities".
This can be seen as an unfavourable contrast with the promise given to Jerusalem; her own double payment means that "her iniquity has been pardoned"-
Isaiah ch40 v2
And there's also a precedent for the smug self-confidence which Babylon shows in v7;
"I shall be mistress for ever...
I am, and there is no-one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow, or know the loss of children"- Isaiah ch47 vv7-8
Obviously the purpose pf these echoes is to present the fall of Babylon as a fulfilment of the older prophecies, to point us back to the Old Testament
Babylon as one of the models for the Revelation version.
I've already looked at this connection in the attached discussion- Harlot Babylon-
The comparison implies that Revelation's Babylon is about the exercise of political and religious power over other people, in combination with
The city Tyre
The next part of the chapter resembles the gloating "lament" in Ezekiel chs 26&27, about the anticipated destruction of Tyre.
So vv9-10 can be compared with Ezekiel ch26, which predicts the lamentations of "the princes of the sea".
In the next chapter of Ezekiel, attention turns to the merchants of the world, and to the sailors, lamenting the loss of trade and the opportunities
to gain wealth.
We're given a detailed description of the commerce of Tyre, which builds up into a very instructive "trade map" of Ezekiel's world.
For example, Judah and Israel are the source of "wheat and olives and early figs; honey, oil, and balsam".
This shows, amongst other things, the decline of the pastoral tradition of that land; anyone looking for lambs and rams and goats will be trading with
We learn that the Edomites are good for embroidered work, that the merchants of southern Arabia (Sheba and Raamah) will bring you spices, probably
from India, and that Spain (Tarshish) is the place to go for any kind of metal ore.
All this trade will vanish when the city has been destroyed.
Ezekiel doesn't spell out what the city of Tyre has done to deserve destruction, but there's a good summary of the charge in the words of Joel;
"You have taken my silver and my gold and have carried my rich treasures into your temples.
You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border"- Joel ch3 vv5-6
So Tyre was among the nations which took advantage of the vulnerability of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem.
And it seems that the slave trade of Tyre was partly responsible for the Dispersion of the Jewish nation through the Mediterranean world.
The middle part of Revelation ch18 follows the pattern of Ezekiel ch27 (with occasional verbal echoes like "threw dust on their heads").
That is to say, it describes the mourning of the merchants and sailors because of their loss of trade.
There's another list of articles of trade, but the last item on the list is the one that really matters;
"Slaves- that is, human souls".
The resemblance between the old city of Tyre and Revelation's Babylon is that they both take captive the "souls" which belong to God and make
merchandise of them.
Babylon does this partly by drawing them into beliefs and practices which belong to other gods, like the sorcerers and false prophets addressed in one
of Ezekiel's prophecies;
"Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep other souls alive for your profit?.You have profaned me among my people...by your lies to my
people, who listen to lies."-Ezekiel ch13 vv18-19
This brings us back to the interpretation of Babylon as the power of attraction found in other religions.
I've already looked at this connection in the attached discussion-Harlot Babylon-
Obviously the purpose of the comparison is to point us towards Tyre as one of the models for Revelation's Babylon.
It implies that "Babylon" is about the exercise of economic power over other people, including the ability to profit from their idolatry.
The city Jerusalem
Then, at the end of the chapter, another mighty angel throws a great millstone into the sea.
He's imitating some of the Old Testament prophets by "acting out" the first words of his proclamation;
"So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more".
This resembles what Seraiah had been told to say at the end of Jeremiah ch51.
Jeremiah had instructed him to read out the words of his prophecy, in Babylon, and then throw them into the middle of the Euphrates, attached to a
At the same time, though, the use of a millstone recalls the warning Jesus gave to anyone who caused one of his "little ones" to stumble;
"It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea"- Matthew ch18 v6
The image implies that Babylon cause people to "stumble" in their faith.
And why do I associate this episode with Jerusalem?
Because the following speech echoes one of the prophecies of Jeremiah;
"I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the
millstones and the light of the lamp"- Jeremiah ch25 v10
And this was a warning addressed to Jerusalem, because of her infidelity.
It serves as a reminder that such features of "Babylon" as selfishly motivated control, economic exploitation, and idolatry, can also be found amongst
those who are nominally part of God's people.
Obviously the purpose of this allusion is to point us toward the infidelities of Old Testament Israel as one of the models for Revelation's
I've already looked at this connection in the attached discussion- Harlot babylon-
It implies that "Babylon" is about disloyalty to God, neglecting his claim to obedience.
Finally, the last verse relates to the blood-guilt of Babylon, for the deaths of saints and prophets.
(I've already looked at this connection in the attached discussion-Harlot Babylon-
It resembles the warning which Jesus gave to the Pharisees, telling them that they would become persecutors, "that upon you may come all the righteous
blood shed on earth"- Matthew ch23 v35
The last words of this chapter are similar to those words of Jesus, with one very important difference-
The omission of the word "righteous".
The effect of this omission is that Babylon becomes responsible for all the blood shed in human history- including, presumably, all the deaths in war,
and all the individual, personally motivated, acts of murder.
How can "Babylon" be at the root of all this bloodshed?
There may be a clue in one of Zechariah's visions. The prophet is shown a woman trapped in a pot; he's told that this is "Wickedness", and that
they're taking her away to a new home to be built in the land of Shinar, the location of the original Babel- Zechariah ch5 vv5-11
So here is a model for the Harlot of Babylon as a representation of Iniquity in general.
We can see the progression of sin in the early chapters of Genesis.
The Fall- the self-will of Adam and Eve in disobedience to God.
Violence- the self-will of Cain, in conflict with brethren
Pride-the corporate self-will of Babel, in rivalry with God.
It's natural for us to identify Babylon with the last of these, as a corporate body which is essentially about the exercise of power.
But if Babylon is responsible for ALL the blood shed upon the earth, that is really the province of Violence. It is entering into the actions of
This seems to lead to the conclusion that "Babylon", in one sense, can be identified with human self-will in resistance to God, the existence of
In which case "the destruction of Babylon" would really be nothing less than the reversal of the effect of the Fall.
And that would be an even more significant reason for celebration.
edit on 23-1-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)