The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5

1. The ruin of the harlot, Babylon, 17:1-19:10

iv] The three woes - a lament for Babylon


John's vision continues with the voice from heaven describing the world's response to the fall of Babylon. The kings of the earth, the merchants and every sea captain will cry out in mourning.


Those dependent on the material wealth of the secular city can only but mourn.


i] Context: See 17:1-6a.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8.


iii] Structure: The three laments for the fall of Babylon the Great:

The lament of the kings of the earth, v9-10;

The lament of the merchants, v11-17a;

The lament of all the sea captains, v17b-19.


iv] Interpretation:

The allhn fwnhn ek tou ouranou, "other voice from heaven", now describes the sorrow expressed by those who have long enjoyed the fruits of their partnership with Babylon the Great, or as John would describe it, their adulterous liaison with the whore of Babylon. As already noted, "the voice" may be "the voice of another angel from heaven", rather than "another voice from heaven", but however we read John's intended sense, the words are best taken as a divine announcement from the throne of God, possibly from Christ himself, if we follow Blount.

The past / present aorist (cf., 18:1) of the announcement now moves to the future tense as "the voice" describes the response of Babylon's partners to her fall; "they will weep." John's language reflects Ezekiel 27-28. Ezekiel's words were directed to Tyre, a wealthy city state on the Mediteranian coast of Palestine. Like Babylon, Sodom, etc., she possessed the harlots finery, and was well able to seduce the nations.

First we have the "kings of the earth" who mourn the loss of Babylon's power and thus their opportunity to enjoy its fruits. Then we have the "merchants of the earth" who similarly mourn the fall of Babylon and the loss her wealth. Who now is going to buy all their goods? Finally we have "every sea captain" who, like the others, mourns the fall of Babylon. They are left with no one to pay for transportation and so they have no way to get rich.

Exposed is Babylon, the secular city. She is nothing but a political force, bloated by wealth and luxury, co-opting others to share her fat of plenty, accumulated by exploiting human misery, eg., slavery, v13b - in Babylon, the rich get richer and the poor get nothing. Here is materialism in all its darkness, seducing humanity with the vanity of things. "This point ... seems well understood by Muslims in their suspicion of the West, but frequently lost on Christians in spite of the warnings in Mark 4:18-19, etc.", Richardson.

Text - 18:9

The three woes - a lament for Babylon, v9-19: i] The lament of the kings of the earth, v9-10. "Kings" is used in a general sense for the ruling class - the class of leaders who consort with the secular city in self-serving commercial ties and in advantageous political associations. Of course, these advantages are ephemeral in the face of divine judgment. In a more literal sense, Rome allowed the leaders of vassal states to call themselves kings, and so John may be drawing on Roman polity, but he is more likely drawing on prophetic imagery, cf., Isa.23, Ezk.26-27.

kai "when" - and. Transitional. Introducing a step in the narrative.

thV ghV (h) "[the kings] of the earth" - [the kings] of the earth [will weep and wail over her]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "the kings who rule over the earth." Babylon's allies bewail her fall, Jer.51:8.

oi ..... porneusanteV (proneuw) aor. part. "who committed adultery" - the ones [with her having committed adultery and having lived in sensuality]. As with "having lived in sensuality", the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "kings"; "the kings ...... who were lewd and wanton with her", Berkeley.

met (meta) + gen. "with [her]" - Expressing accompaniment / association, as NIV.

oJtan + subj. "[see]" - when [they see]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever .....", translated definitely; "as they watch the smoke of her burning", Moffatt.

thV purwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "of [her] burning" - [the smoke] of the burning [of her]. The genitive could be classified as ablative, source / origin, "the smoke from her burning", but better adjectival, attributive, idiomatic, "the smoke that comes from her burning."


dia + acc. "-" - [having stood from far off] because of. Causal use of the preposition; "because of, on account of."

tou basanismou (oV) gen. "[terrified at her] torment" - [the fear] of the torment, torture [of her]. Smalley, Beale, Osborne, Mathewson, ... classify the genitive as verbal, objective; "for horror at her torment", Cassirer. Osborne takes the gen. pro. "her" as a genitive of accompaniment, so "they were afraid of being tormented with her." Subjective is also possible, "the fear produced by her torture; "her sufferings will frighten them", CEV. Of course, from a Semitic perspective, the genitive is usually viewed adjectivally, limiting the noun, here probably epexegetic - the kings will be filled with fear, namely, of getting caught up in the sufferings about to be inflicted upon Babylon, sufferings they certainly will not want to share, which is why they will stand far off.

eJsthkoteV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "they will stand" - having stood. The function of this participle in the sentence is somewhat awkward such that most translations use it in a new sentence, often as a finite verb, as NIV. It may be adverbial, temporal, modifying the main verbs "weep" and "wail", v9 (although Beale simply classifies it as a temporal modifier of "weep" and "wail". Osborne, on the other hand, classifies it as attendant on the temporal clause, ie., "they weep at the torment, but stand far off" - they feel sorry, but are not going to get involved); "the kings of the earth who committed fornication with her and lived in luxury, shall weep and wail over her, when they see the smoke of her burning, while standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying ..." Given that the participle stands in agreement with oiJ basileiV, "the kings", v9, it may be viewed as adjectival, attributive, limiting "kings" by description; "the kings of the earth who committed adultery ........ who stand far off in fear of her (Babylon's) torture and who say ......." Those authorities who have gained from Babylon's power will stand off at a distance and mourn at her fall.

apo makroqen "far off" - from from afar, far off. The redundant use of the preposition "from" with the adverb "from afar" is stylistic.

legonteV (leg) pres. part. "and cry" - saying. We could classify this participle as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the weeping and wailing, or adjectival, attributive, further limiting / modifying "kings", as for "having stood" above, but note how John tends to introduce speech in a vision with the participle "saying", cf., legwn 1:17.

oJti "-" - [woe, woe, the great city, babylon the strong city] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is "Woe" to Babylon; "for your doom ......." The word "Woe" is often followed by a dative, but here by a nominative serving as a vocative. "Oh no, Babylon, you great city, you powerful city, for in just one hour your judgment came", Koester.

mia/ wJra/ dat. "in one hour" - [the judgment of you came] in one hour. The dative is adverbial, of time, here probably with the sense, "instantly, in a moment, in one second", given that an hour was the shortest period of time known to the ancients, so Beale. "In a moment your doom has come upon you", REB.


ii] The lament of the merchants, v11-17a. John alludes to Ezekiel 27:12-24 and the destruction of trade with the fall of Tyre. John may also know something of Rome's trading power, a trade which was massive even by today's standards. Only in recent times have archeologists uncovered Rome's port facilities, all of which fell into disuse with the collapse of the empire. Those dependent on the secular city will be left stranded when it falls. As to the list of products, Mounce suggests John divides them into six lots, although Beckwith argues for seven lots by including "ripe fruit", v14, but Smalley works up seven lots without the awkward inclusion of "ripe fruit."

thV ghV gen. "[the merchants] of the earth" - [the merchants] of the earth [cry and grieve over her]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the world's merchants", Barclay, or idiomatic / local, "every merchant on earth", CEV, or just "The traders will cry and carry on because the bottom dropped out of business, no more market for their goods", Peterson.

oJti "because" - because [the cargo of them no one buys any more]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the merchants "wail and lament", namely, because of the loss of trade with the fall of Babylon.


With the fall of Babylon, there was no one to buy ton gamon, "the cargo, merchandise", which belonged to the merchants. This verse serves as an appositional which lists the cargo.

omon (oV) "cargoes" - Standing in apposition to ton gomon, "the cargo of them no one buys anymore, a cargo of gold, ......."

crusou (oV) gen. "of gold" - of gold, [and of silver, and of precious stone, and of pearls, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all citron wood, and all ivory vessel]. As with "silver", "precious stone", "pearls" ......., the genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic; "a cargo which consists of gold, ..."

ek + gen. "[articles of every kind] made of [ivory]" - [and every citron wood and every ivory vessel and ever vessel] of [rare wood, and bronze, and iron, and marble]. The preposition expresses source / origin here; "made from ......" The "rare wood" may be ebony, the most expensive timber available. The word "rare, precious" is a superlative adjective which probably gives the sense "very"; "very fine wood."


qumiamata (a atoV) neut. acc. "[cargoes of cinnamon, and spice, and] of incense, [myrrh and frankincense]" - [and cinnamon and spice and] incense, [and myrrh and frankincense and wine and oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and of horses and of chariots and of bodies / slaves]. We would have expected the series of adjectival genitives to continue, as in v12, but the list of spices and foods is accusative (direct object of the negated verb "to buy"; indicating what they are no longer able to buy) before returning to the genitive "of horses and of chariots, and of bodies / slaves" (adjectival genitive, "cargoes which consist of .....", cf., v12). Rather than trying to classify the elements, we are best to follow Osborne who argues that it is "purely stylistic", an approach which is followed by the NIV in repeating the noun gamon, "cargo", from v12, and translating the cargo as genitives. Smalley suggests that the kai after "incense" is epexegetic, so "incense, namely / that is, myrrh and frankincense", as NIV.

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. " human [beings sold as slaves" - [and souls] of men. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "souls"; "human souls", ESV. The kai after "slaves" is probably epexegetic, "slaves, that is, human souls", ESV; "slaves - human cargo", Cassirer.


John seems to return to the idea conveyed in v11, of the day when the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over the fall of Babylon and the consequent loss of their trade. The NIV establishes this link by providing "They will say." Verses 12-13 is nothing more that a list of the goods that can no longer be traded when the buyer is no more. "The merchants allied with the systemic evil of Babylon lament her vanished luxuries, and their corresponding economic loss", Smalley.

thV epiqumiaV (a) gen. "[the fruit you] longed for" - [and the fruit] of the desire [of the soul of you]. We have here a string of three genitives, all of which function adjectivally, and together limit "fruit". There is "the desire" which is characteristic of (possessive) "the soul" which "you" possess (again possessive) = "your soul's desire." The genitive "of your soul's desire" is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fruit", "the fruit which is your soul's desire." The simple face is that this fruit "has departed from you", Cassirer. "The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you", NRSV, ESV.

apo + gen. "from [you]" - [departed] from [you and all the luxurious things and the splendid things have departed] from [you]. Expressing separation; "away from you."

ou mh + fut. "never [to be recovered]" - [and no longer] no no = never [will they find them]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation, although with the future ind. rather than a subjunctive.


In v15-17a John repeats the thoughts of v9-10. The traders who had become rich from the excesses of Babylon now mourn for her fall, not so much out of sympathy for her ruin, but for the loss of their own trade / livelihood and ultimately, their own ruin.

toutwn gen. pro. "[the merchants] who sold these things" - [the merchants] of these things. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, "the merchants who dealt in these things", Barclay, as NIV. Aune suggests verbal, objective, "the traders in these commodities", so also Mathewson, although emporoi, "merchants", is not really a verbal noun.

oiJ plouthsanteV (ploutew) aor. part. "and gained their wealth" - the ones having become rich. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "merchants"; "those who gained wealth from her."

ap (apo) + gen. "from [her]" - Expressing source / origin.

apo makroqen "far off" - [will stand] from from afar. Again stylistic, but a redundant use of the preposition apo.

dia + acc. "-" - because of. Causal use of the preposition; "because of, on account of."

tou basanismou (oV) gen. "[terrified at her] torment" - [the fear] of the torment, torture [of her]. See v10.

klaionteV (klaiw) pres. part. "They will weep [and mourn]" - weeping and mourning. As with "mourning", the participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their standing far off; "they stood at a distance crying and mourning", CEV.


legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and cry out" - saying. The NIV treats the participle as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying "weeping and mourning", although virtually redundant and may be ignored, but at the same time it could be classified as adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "weeping and mourning aloud", ESV. None-the-less, note legwn 1:17.

hJ poliV (iV ewV) "to you, great city" - the city [the great]. We may have expected a dative, as NIV, but the nominative probably serves as a vocative / nominative of address; "Alas! Alas! You great city."

hJ peribeblhmenh (periballw) perf. mid. part. "dressed in" - having put on [fine linen and purple and scarlet]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Great City", "which was clothed in fine linen, purple and scarlet." The three adjectives serve as substantives, accusative objects of the participle, unless we assume the noun "clothing"; that was dressed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet clothing."

kecruswmenh (crusow) perf. mid. part. "glittering" - [and] having been gilded. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Great City", "which was gilded."

en + dat. "with [gold]" - in [gold, and precious stone and pearl]. This variant preposition is probably instrumental, expressing means, "by / with." Even without the preposition, the datives would similarly indicate means. "Bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls", Phillips.


oJti "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the "Alas" for the Great City; "for in a moment ...."

mia/ wJra/ "in one hour" - in one hour [so great riches was made desolate]. Adverbial use of the dative, temporal, as NIV. As noted in v10, a period of one hour was the shortest period of measured time, so the sense may be "in an instant"; "Such wealth laid waste in a moment", REB. In 17:16 the agent of destruction is fire.


iii] The lament of all the sea captains, v17b-19. The third group, standing off at a distance and weeping over the city, are maritime agents and sailers, those who transport the goods for the merchants. They too mourn over the destruction of the secular city, but also for their own loss; they had "become rich through her wealth", and now they are damned along with her. For this section John draws on Ezekiel 27:1-2, 28-34, a prophecy concerning the trading city of Tyre. Again, John is likely to have Rome in mind for his own day.

oJ ... plewn (plew) pres. part. "[all] who [travel by] ship" - [and all navigator (captain, shipmaster), and all] the one sailing [to a place]. The participle serves as a substantive. John's favorite spacial preposition epi, here + acc., probably takes the sense "to, toward"; "everyone who sails toward a place." Probably John is referring to the merchants who travel with their goods, so something more specific than just "passengers", as TEV, rather, "all those merchants who travel by sea."

oJsoi pro. "all [who earn a living from the sea]" - [and sailers, and] as many as [work the sea]. Nominative subject of the verb "to work." The antecedent of "as many as" is probably "sailors". Not technically standing in apposition, but the clause serves that purpose; "sailors, those who make a living by the sea", Cassirer. Probably more specifically "sailers, the crew of the trading vessels who make their living by the sea."

apo makroqen "far off" - [will stand] from from afar. Again a stylistic, but redundant use of the preposition apo. "Stood a long way off and cried as they saw the city burn ...."


bleponteV (blepw) pres. part. "when they see [the smoke]" - [and they were crying], seeing [the smoke]. The participle is adverbial, either temporal or causal, so Beale, but probably best treated temporally, as NIV. "They stood off at a distance and cried their lament when they saw the smoke from her burning. 'Oh what a city! There was never a city like her!'", Peterson.

thV purwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "of [her] burning" - of the burning [of her]. The genitive is probably best viewed as adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting "smoke", "which bellowed up at her burning", but it could be classified as ablative, source / origin, "the smoke from her burning."

legonteV (legw) "they will exclaim" - [they were crying out .....] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to cry out", "they cried out ...... and said", although virtually redundant. It may also be viewed as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their crying out, so Mathewson. As a matter of form John uses the participle "saying" prior to speech in a vision, see legwn 1:17. Note that the verb ekrazon, "they were crying out", is imperfect, a shift from the fut./pres. of the previous verses. The NIV opts to maintain the future tense. Maybe it is used to emphasize the durative aspect of their "crying out", even iterative (repeated action)"; "they cried out (they will cry out repeatedly ??) amidst their weeping and mourning, 'Alas, Alas, for the great city ....'", Cassirer - see Mathewson.

tiV oJmoia pro. + adj. "was there ever [a city] like.......?" - what is like [the great city]? = nothing. This construction forms a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer; it has Semitic precedence, eg., Deut.33:29.

th/ polei (iV ewV) dat. "this [great] city" - the [great] city. Dative complement of the adjective "like".


epi + acc. "on [their heads]" - [and they threw dust] on, upon [the heads of them]. John's favorite spacial preposition, here with the accusative, but still meaning "on, upon", as with the gen.

klaionteV (klaiw) pres. part. "with weeping [and mourning cry out]" - [and were crying out] weeping [and mourning]. The participle , as with "mourning", is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their crying out. See v18 on the imperfect ekrazon, "they were crying out."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to cry out"; redundant. Typical use of this participle prior to speech, cf., legwn 1:17.

en + dat. "where" - [woe woe the great city] in [which became rich]. The preposition may be instrumental, expressing the means, "by which" the sea-captains became rich, "through which", Berkeley (the antecedent of h|/, "which", is "city", so "by / through which city"), but possibly local, "in which city" = "where", as NIV, NEB, ESV, Moffatt, Phillips, ..... "Alas, alas for the great city by whose lavish way of living riches were provided for all who had ships on the sea", Cassirer.

oiJ econteV (ecw) pres. part. "[all] who had" - [all] the ones having [ships in the sea]. If we take the adjective panteV, "all, every", as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone".

ek + gen. "through [her wealth]" - from [the abundance of her]. Here instrumental, expressing means, a means consisting of a source, as NIV.

oJt mia/ wJra/ "in one hour" - because in one hour [she was made desolate]. See v17a.


Revelation Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]