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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

Revelation Chapter 17

Revelation 17:1

rev 17:1

Sitteth upon many waters

Said of Babylon, Jer 51:13; the wealth of Babylon being caused both by the Euphrates and by a vast system of canals. The symbol is interpreted by some commentators as signifying Babylon, by others pagan Rome, Papal Rome, Jerusalem. Dante alludes to this passage in his address to the shade of Pope Nicholas III., in the Bolgia of the Simonists.

"The Evangelist you pastors had in mind,

When she who sitteth upon many waters

To fornicate with kings by him was seen.

The same who with the seven heads was born,

And power and strength from the ten horns received,

So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing."

"Inferno," xix., 106-110.

Revelation 17:2

rev 17:2

Have committed fornication

The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets, representing the defection of God's Church and its attachment to others. See Isa 1:21; Jer 2:20; Jer 3:1, Jer 3:6, Jer 3:8; Eze 16:15, Eze 16:16, Eze 16:28, Eze 16:31, Eze 16:35, Eze 16:41; Eze 23:5, Eze 23:19, Eze 23:44; Hos 2:5; Hos 3:3; Hos 4:14. The word is applied to heathen cities in three places only: to Tyre, Isa 23:15, Isa 23:16, Isa 23:17; to Nineveh, Nah 3:4; and here.

Revelation 17:3

rev 17:3


To manage and guide the beast.

A scarlet-colored beast

The same as in Rev 13:1. This beast is ever after mentioned as τὸ θηρίον the beast. For scarlet, see on Mat 27:6.

Revelation 17:4

rev 17:4

Purple (πορφύρουν)

See on Luk 16:19.

Decked (κεχρυσωμένη)

Lit., gilded.

Precious stones (λίθῳ τιμίῳ)

Lit., precious stone.

Golden cup

Compare Jer 51:7.

Abominations (βδελυγμάτων)

See on Mat 24:15.

Revelation 17:5

rev 17:5

Upon her forehead a name

As was customary with harlots, who had their names inscribed on a ticket. Seneca, addressing a wanton priestess, "Nomen tuum pependit a fronte," thy name hung from thy forehead. See Juvenal, Satire vi., 123 sqq., of the profligate Messalina, "having falsely assumed the ticket of Lycisca."


Some understand this as a part of the name, others as implying that the name is to be interpreted symbolically.


See on Pe1 5:13. Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Jerome use Babylon as representing the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages Rome is frequently styled the Western Babylon. The sect of the Fraticelli, an eremitical organization from the Franciscans in the fourteenth century, who carried the vow of poverty to the extreme and taught that they were possessed of the Holy Spirit and exempt from sin - first familiarized the common mind with the notion that Rome was the Babylon, the great harlot of the Apocalypse (see Milligan, "Latin Christianity," Book xii., ch. vi.). On the passage cited from Dante (v. i.), Dean Plumptre remarks: "The words have the interest of being a medieval interpretation of Rev 17:1-15, in which, however, the harlot and the beast seem somewhat strangely blended. The harlot is the corrupted Church of Rome; the seven heads are the seven hills on which the city is built; or perhaps, with an entirely different exegesis, the seven gifts of the Spirit, or the seven sacraments with which that Church had, in its outset, been endowed: the ten horns are the ten commandments. As long as the Church was faithful to her spouse, she had the moral strength which came from those gifts, and the divine law which she represented. When that failed, she became as a harlot, and her whoredom with kings was the symbol of her alliance with secular powers for the oppression of the nations" (On "Inferno," xix., 110).

Revelation 17:6

rev 17:6

Saints - martyrs

The saints include the martyrs or witnesses, but the latter word emphasizes the testimony of the saints which has been the cause of their death. For martyr; see on Pe1 5:1.

Revelation 17:8

rev 17:8

To go into perdition (ὑπάγειν)

Some good texts read ὑπάγει, goeth. For the verb, see on Joh 6:21; see on Joh 8:21.

In the book (ἐπί)

Lit., upon.

From the foundation of the world

In ordinary New Testament Greek these words would belong to are written. construe with the words immediately preceding. Compare Rev 13:8, and Mat 25:34.

And yet is (καίπερ ἐστίν)

Read καὶ πάρεσται, and shall come. Lit., shall be present.

Revelation 17:9

rev 17:9

Here is (ὧδε)

Bespeaking attention and spiritual discernment for that which follows. See on Rev 13:18.

The mind (ὁ νοῦς)

I. Νοῦς is the organ of mental perception and apprehension - of conscious life, the mind, comprising the faculties of perceiving and understanding, of feeling, judging, determining.

(a) The intellectual faculty or understanding (Luk 24:45). So here, according to some.

(b) The reason, regarded as the faculty of perceiving divine things: of recognizing goodness and hating evil (Rom 1:28; Rom 7:23; Eph 4:17).

(c) The power of calm and impartial judgment (Th2 2:2).

II. Νοῦς is a particular mode of thinking and judging: moral consciousness as a habit of mind or opinion. Hence thoughts, feelings, purposes (Rom 14:5; Co1 1:10). Some render here meaning.

Seven mountains

Many interpreters regard this as conclusively defining the reference of the woman to Rome, which was built upon seven hills. Others deny the local reference, and understand the principle of worldly greatness and ambition. Others again claim that many cities besides Rome can boast of their seven hills, as Constantinople, Brussels, and especially Jerusalem.

Upon them

Redundant, the idea being already expressed by where. A Hebraism.

Revelation 17:10

rev 17:10

Are fallen (ἔπεσαν)

Lit., fell. Constantly used in the Septuagint of the violent fall or overthrow of kings or kingdoms. See Eze 29:5; Eze 30:6; Isa 21:9; Jer 50:15; Jer 51:8.

Revelation 17:12

rev 17:12

Kings which (οἵτινες)

The compound relative classifying: "of the kind which."

Revelation 17:13

rev 17:13

Mind (γνώμην)

Meaning primarily the faculty of knowing, mind, reason; then that which is thought or known; opinion, purpose. See Act 20:3; Co1 7:25; Plm 1:14.

Shall give (διαδιδώσουσιν)

διδόασιν, the present tense, give. The force of διά is over; give over.

Power and authority (δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν)

For the distinction, see on Pe2 2:11.

Revelation 17:15

rev 17:15

The waters

The explanation of the symbol given here is in accordance with Isa 8:7; Psa 18:4, Psa 18:16; Psa 124:4.

Peoples and multitudes, etc.

See on Pe1 2:9; see on Mar 12:37.

Revelation 17:16

rev 17:16

Upon the beast (ἐπί)

Read καὶ and: "the ten horns - and the beast."

Desolate (ἠρημωμένην)

Lit., desolated, the verb being in the perfect participle.

Shall eat her flesh

A token of extreme hostility. See Psa 27:2; Mic 3:3. Xenophon, speaking of the hatred between the pure Spartans and the Helots, says that no one of the pure Spartans could conceal his readiness to eat the Helot raw. Notice the plural σάρκας flesh, and see on Jam 5:3.

Burn (κατακαύσουσιν)

Rev., giving the force of κατά down, burn utterly. According to some interpreters the figure is changed from the woman to a city; but this is unnecessary, as the language is probably taken from the punishment of fornication on the part of a priest's daughter (Lev 21:9; compare Lev 20:14).

Revelation 17:17

rev 17:17

Hath put (ἔδωκεν)

Rev., with stricter rendering of the aorist, did put. Lit., did give.

To fulfill His will (ποιῆσαι τὴν γνώμην αὐτοῦ)

See on Rev 17:13. Rev., more literally, to do his mind.

To agree (ποιήσαι μίαν γνώμην)

Lit., to make one mind. Rev., come to one mind.

The words (τὰ ῥήματα)

But read οἱ λόγοι the prophetic words. For the distinction, see on Luk 1:37.

Revelation 17:18

rev 17:18

Reigneth (ἔχουσα βαοιλείαν)

Lit., hath a kingdom.

Next: Revelation Chapter 18