Useful Bible Studies > Revelation Commentary > chapter 17

Babylon the great

Revelation 17:5

The woman in Revelation chapter 17 is a word-picture, to mean the greatest city in the world. Even her name is the name of a city, Babylon, which was a great city six centuries before Christ.

The greatest thing that people can achieve by their own efforts is to build a city like that. So the city called Babylon shows what human effort, without God, can achieve in this world. Human effort can achieve astonishing things, but they are often not good. This womanís titles of honour, which appear after her name, show that.

In verse 1, the woman is called a prostitute (a woman who sells her body for sex). Her titles show that she is the mother of prostitutes too. She has also brought all kinds of awful things into the world. Babylon was a great city, but it did terrible things. The best thing that it could achieve was to make other cities and nations like it. The nations after it learned from its evil behaviour, as a daughter learns from her mother.

John saw that the womanís name appeared on the front of her head. In the Book of Revelation, names appear on peopleís heads on several occasions. Godís people have Godís name upon their heads in Revelation 14:1 and 22:4. That shows that they belong to God. People accept the name of antichrist, Christís enemy, upon their heads in Revelation 13:16-17. That shows that they serve the antichrist, and therefore the devil.

This woman has her own name, Babylon, upon her head. That shows, therefore, that she serves herself. That is typical of people and of human organisations. They refuse to serve God; they only want to serve themselves. The result is that they do evil things for their own benefit. So really in the end, they are not even serving themselves; actually they serve the devil.

Next part: What causes great acts of cruelty? (Revelation 17:6)


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© 2016, Keith Simons.