John refers to ‘kings of the earth’ in verse 9, and ‘traders of the earth’ in verse 11. He is not referring to responsible, careful rulers and traders, who sincerely desire to serve God and to help people. Instead, he means those rulers and traders who belong very much to this world. They show the same selfish and greedy attitude that Babylon had.
So, the traders here regret the loss of their opportunity for profit. Their attention is not on other people’s pain, but their own troubles. For many centuries, the great city gave them the opportunity to become rich, but now that has ended. The result is that the financial systems of the world have failed. Traders will never again be able to do business in that same selfish way. They weep because of Babylon, but their sad feelings are really about themselves.
John is still writing about Babylon, but Revelation 18:11-20 refers strongly to the defeat of another great city called Tyre (Ezekiel chapter 27). By that, John shows that ‘Babylon’ in Revelation chapters 17 and 18 does not just refer to one particular city.
Like Babylon, Tyre was a rich and powerful city. Babylon became successful because of its military strength and its rulers’ political skills. However, Tyre used its position on the Mediterranean coast to become rich by means of trade. Babylon’s power was mainly over the land; Tyre’s power was mainly over the sea. Together, of course, the land and the sea mean the whole world. The ancient cities of Babylon and Tyre did not actually rule the whole world; but the whole world suffers because of the use of selfish human power. John combines the descriptions of both cities to show that, in the end, all that power must end.
It is interesting to compare Isaiah 14:11-15, about Babylon, with Ezekiel 28:14-19, about Tyre. The real ruler of both cities - and of all selfish human behaviour - is the devil.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.