Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
A luminous angel proclaims the fall of Babylon, and the cause of it, Rev 18:1-3. The followers of God are exhorted to come out of it, in order to escape her approaching punishment, Rev 18:4-8. The kings of the earth lament her fate, Rev 18:9, Rev 18:10. The merchants also bewail her, Rev 18:11. The articles in which she trafficked enumerated, Rev 18:12-16. She is bewailed also by shipmasters, sailors, etc., Rev 18:17-19. All heaven rejoices over her fall, and her final desolation is foretold, Rev 18:20-24.
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.
Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen - This is a quotation from Isa 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.
The wine of the wrath - The punishment due to her transgressions, because they have partaken with her in her sins. See the note on Rev 14:8.
Come out of her, my people - These words appear to be taken from Isa 48:20; Jer 1:8; Jer 51:6, Jer 51:45. The poet Mantuanus expresses this thought well: -
Vivere qui sancte cupitis, discelite; Romae
Omnia quum liceant, non licet esse bonum.
"Ye who desire to live a godly life, depart; for, although all things are lawful at Rome, yet to be godly is unlawful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The kings of the earth - Those who copied her superstitions and adopted her idolatries.
Standing afar off - Beholding her desolations with wonder and astonishment, utterly unable to afford her any kind of assistance.
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.
"And her mitred marchantes, hyr shorne souldiers, hir massemongers, hyr soulesellers, and hir martbrokers, waxed very riche, through the sale of hir oyles, creme, salt, water, bread, orders, hallowings, houselinges, ashes, palme, waxe, frankensence, beades, crosses, candlesticks, copes, belles, organes, images, reliques, and other pedlary wares.
"They have gotten in unto them pallaces and princely houses, fat pastors and parkes, meadowes and warrens, rivers and pondes, villages and towns, cities and whole provinces, with the divill and all els; besides other men's wives, daughters, mayde servantes, and children, whom they have abhominably corrupted. What profites they have drawen unto them also by the sale of great bishopricks, prelacies, promocions, benefices, tot quoties, pardons, pilgrymages, confessions, and purgatory; besides the yearely rents of cathedrall churches, abbayes, colleges, covents, for sutes and suche other. - Specially shal they be sore discontented with the matter, which have with hir committed the whordom of the spyrite, by many externe worshipings of drye waffer cakes, oyles, roods, relyques, ladyes, images, sculles, bones, chippes, olde ragges, showes, (shoes), bootes, spurres, hattes, breches, whodes, night capes, and such like.
"And they that have lived wantonly with hir, (Rev 18:9), in following hir idle observacions, in mattenses, houres, and masses; in sensinges, halowings, and font halowing; in going processions with canapye, crosse, and pyx; with banneres, stremers, and torche light; with such other gaudes to folish for children.
"Alas, alas, that great cyty (Rev 18:10) that beautiful Babilon, that blessed holy mother the Church, which somtime had so many popes pardons, so many bishoppes blessinges, so many holye stations, so many cleane remissions a pena et culpa, so many good ghostly fathers, so many religious orders, so much holy water for spirites, and Saint John's gospel, with the five woundes and the length of our Lord for drowning, is nowe decayed for ever!
'Alas, alas, who shall pray for us now? Who shall singe dirges and trentoles? Who shal spoile us of our sinnes? Who shal give us ashes and palmes? Who shal blesse us with a spade, and singe us out of purgatory when we are deade? If we lacke these things we are like to want heaven. These are the desperate complaints of the wicked."
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: -
"They will pay no more money for the housell sippings, bottom blessings; nor for 'seest me and seest me not,' above the head and under of their chalices, which in many places be of fine gold. Neyther regarde they to kneele anye more downe, and to kisse their pontificall rings which are of the same metal. They will be no more at coste to have the ayre beaten, and the idols perfumed with their sensers at pryncipall feastes; to have their crucifixes layde upon horses, or to have them solemply borne aloft in their gaddings abroade; with the religious occupyings of their paxes, cruettes, and other jewels which be of silver.
"Neyther passe they greatly to beholde precyous stones any more in their two-horned miters, whan they hollow their churches, give theyr whorishe orders, and tryumphantly muster in processions. Nor in costuous pearles in theyr copes perrours, and chysibilles, whan they be in their prelately pompous sacrifices. Men, knowing the worde of God, supposeth that their ornaments of silk, wherewith they garnishe their temples and adorne their idolles, is very blasphemous and divillish. They thinke also, that their fayre white rockets of raynes, or fine linnen cloath; their costly gray amices, of calaber and cattes tayles; theyr fresh purple gownes, whan they walke for their pleasures; and their read scarlet frockes, whan they preach lyes in the pulpit, are very superfluous and vayne.
"In their thynen wood (whom some men call algume trees, some basill, some corall) may be understande all theyr curious buildings of temples, abbeys, chappels, and chambers; all shrines, images, church stooles, and pews that are well payed for; all banner staves, paternoster scores, and peeces of the holy crosse.
"The vessels of ivory comprehendeth all their maundye dyshes, their offring platters, their relique chestes, their god boxes, their drinking horns, their sipping cuppes for the hiccough, their tables whereupon are charmed their chalises and vestiments; their standiches, their combes, their muske balles, their pomaunder pottes, and their dust boxes, with other toyes.
"The vessels of precious stone; which after some interpretours, are of precious stone, or after some are of most precious wood; betokeneth their costuous cuppes, or cruses of jasper, jacinct, amel, and fine beral; and their alabaster boxes, wherwith they annointe kinges, confirme children, and minister their holy whorish orders. Their pardon masers, or drinking dishes, as St. Benit's bole, St. Edmond's bole, St. Giles's bole, St. Blythe's bole, and Westminster bole, with such other holy re-liques.
"Of brasse, which containeth latten, copper, alcumine, and other harde metals, are made all their great candlesticks, holy water kettles, lampes, desks, pyllers, butterasses, bosses, bels, and many other thinges more.
"Of strong yron are the braunches made that holde up the lightes before their false gods; the tacks that sustayne them for fallinge; the lockes that save them from the robberye of thieves; their fyre pans, bars, and poolyes, with many other straunge ginnes besides.
"With marble most commonlye pave they their temples, and build strong pillers and arches in their great cathedrale churches and monastries; they make thereof also their superalities, their tumbs, and their solemne grave-stones; besides their other buildinges, with free-stone, flint, ragge, and brick, comprehended in the same.
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.
"By the smellynge odours, the swete herbes that they strewe abrode at theyr dedications and burials; besydes the damaske waters, bawmes, muskes, pomaunder, civet, and other curious confections they yet bestow upon theyr owne precious bodyes.
"The oyntments are such oyles as they mingle with rose water, aloes, and spike, with other mery conceits, wherwith they anoynt their holy savours and roods, to make them to sweat, and to smell sweete when they are borne abrod in procession upon their high feastfull dayes.
"Frankinsence occupye they ofte as a necessarie thinge in the sensyng of their idols, hallowinge of their paschal, conjuringe of their ploughes; besydes the blessing of their palmes, candles, ashes, and their dead men's graves, with requiescant in pace.
"With wine synge they theyr masses for money, they housell the people at Easter, they wash their aultar stones upon Maundy Thursday; they fast the holy imber dayes, besydes other banketinges all the whole years, to kepe theyr flesh chaste.
"With oyle smere they yonge infantes at baptisme and bishopping; they grease their massmongers, and gere them the mark of madian; they anele their cattell that starveth; and do many other feates els.
"Fyne floure is suche a merchandyse of theirs as far excedeth all other, and was first geven them by Pope Alexander the first, thinkinge Christes institution not sufficient, nor comly in using the common breade in that ministerie. For that ware hath brought them in their plentifull possessions, their lordshippes, fatte benifices, and prebendaries, with innumerable plesures els.
"Wheat have thei of their farms, whereof they make pardon bread and cakes, to draw people to devocion towardes them.
"Cattell receive they, offered unto their idols by the idiots of the countries, for recover of sondrye diseases; besides that they have of their tithes.
"Shepe have they, sometime of their owne pastures, sometime of begginge, sometime of bequestes for the dead, to cry them out of their feareful purgatorye, when they be asleepe at midnight.
"Great horses have they, for mortuaries, for offices, for favers, giftes, and rewardes, to be good lords unto them, that they may holde still their farmes, and to have saunder waspe their sonne and their heire a priest; or to admitte him unto a manerly benefice, that he may be called 'maister person,' and suche lyke.
"Charets have they also, or horse litters, of al manner of sorts, specially at Rome, with foote men runninge on both sides of them, to make roome for the holy fathers. Of whom some carye their owne precious bodyes, some theyr treasure, some the blessed sacramente, some holy reliques and ornamentes, some their whores, and some their bastardes. The bodyes of men must needes be judged to be at their pleasure, so long as Christen provinces be tributaries unto them, princes obediente, people subject, and their lawes at their commaundement to slea and to kyll. And to make this good, who hath not in England payd his Peter peny, sometime to acknowledge hymselfe a bondman of theirs, at the receit of his yerely howsell? Furthermore yet, besides their market muster of monkes, fryars, and priestes, they have certayne bondmen, of whom some they sell to the Venicians, some to the Genues, some to the Portingales, and some to the Turks, to row in their galleis. And laste of all, to make up their market, least any thing should escape theyr hands, these unmercifull bribers maketh marchaundise of the soules of men, to deprive Christe of his whole right, sending many unto hell, but not one unto heaven, (unlesse they maliciously murther them for the truths sake), and all for mony. After many other sortes els, abuse they these good creatures of God, whom the Holy Ghost heere nameth. Much were it to shew here by the cronicles severally of what Pope they have received authorytie, power, and charge, to utter these wares to advauntage, and how they came firste by the old idolatrous."
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: -
- Assyrium vulgo nascetur amomum.
"The Assyrian amomum shall grow in every soil."
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, Rev 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.
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.
Stand afar off - See Rev 18:10.
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.
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 Eze 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.
What city is like unto this great city! - Viz. in magnitude, power, and luxury.
They cast dust on their heads - They showed every sign of the sincerest grief. The lamentation over this great ruined city, Rev 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 Rev 18:22, given some information to the curious antiquary.
"But be certaine," says he, "and sure, thou myserable Church, that thou shalt no longer enjoy the commodious pleasures of a free cittye. - The merry noyes of them that play upon harpes, lutes, and fidels; the sweet voice of musicians that sing with virginals, vials, and chimes; the armony of them that pipe in recorders, flutes, and drums; and the shirle showt of trumpets, waits, and shawmes, shall no more be heard in thee to the delight of men. Neyther shall the sweet organs containing the melodious noyse of all maner of instruments and byrdes be plaied upon, nor the great belles be rong after that, nor yet the fresh discant, prick-song, counter-point, and faburden be called for in thee, which art the very sinagog of Sathan. Thy lascivious armonye, and delectable musique, much provoking the weake hartes of men to meddle in thy abhominable whordom, by the wantonnes of idolatry in that kinde, shall perish with thee for ever. No cunning artificer, carver, paynter, nor gilder, embroderer, goldsmith, nor silk-worker; with such other like of what occupacion soever they be, or have bene to thy commodity, shall never more be found so agayne.
"Copes, cruettes, candelstickes, miters, crosses, sensers, crismatoris, corporasses, and chalices, which for thy whorishe holines might not somtime be touched, will than for thy sake be abhorred of all men. Never more shall be builded for marchants of thi livery and mark, palaces, temples, abbeys, collages, covents, chauntries, fair houses, and horcherds of plesure. The clapping noise of neyther wyndmil, horsemil, nor watermil, shal any more be heard to the gluttenous feeding of thy puffed up porklings, for the maintenaunce of thine idle observacions and ceremonies. For thy mitred marchaunts were sumtimes princes of the earth, whan they reigned in their roialty. Thy shorn shavelinges were lordes over the multitude whan they held their priestly authority over the soules and bodies of men. Yea, and with thy privy legerdemain, with thy juggling castes, with thy craftes and inchauntmentes of thy subtile charmes, were all nacions of the world deceyved."
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.