Exegetical look into Revelation 17:1-2

 

  • One of the seven angels, meaning a “tour guide.” This is a common image in apocalyptic writing—someone who guides the seer or reader to what these events mean (Rev. 1:4, 10; 14:8; 16:19; see Revelation 1:9-20 Study).
  • Prostitute/harlot/whore is from the Greek word, “porne,” from whence comes the English word “pornography.” It means promoting and/or partaking in the grievous sin of fornication that hurts, steals, and destroys. This is an image used in the Old Testament to mean the abandonment of one’s covenant to God or the unfaithfulness and faithlessness of Israel. Also, this means the seductions of the world and that we have to be on guard as Christians. It is people being allured into sin, yet knowing it is sin and being able to resist—as people seeking to disobey God and/or to serve evil. To choose sin is a deliberate choice, one that God hates passionately. This was also a term used by the early church for Rome (Lev. 17:7; Is. 1:21; 26:16-18;  57:3; Jer. 3:1-14; Ezek. Chaps 16 & 23; Hos. 4:15).
  • Who sits on many waters means confusion; this was also an early church “code word” for Rome, as Rome was a vast, Mediterranean empire mostly on the coast or near many bodies of water (Psalm 65:7; 137:1; Jer. 51:13).
  • Kings of the earth. This was an early church term that referred to the various states of Rome, such as Syria; each one had their own king, like Herod, who was over the Judea-Jerusalem province. This word also refers to “mortal men” and was a derogatory term for fornication and idolatry; it did not refer to angels or demons.
  • Committed adultery/sexual immorality means betraying God by committing acts of immorality. These people had no reservations or protests to following an evil empire and being used by them. Their belief was that one has a license to sin; thus, one does not need to be obedient to God, His precepts, civil law, or any moral standards, nor have a need to bear fruit. God says this is evil as it portrays evil as being good. This can also be a reference to the “Emperor cult” and the governors practicing and promoting it, using it as an excuse for extreme immorality and wickedness (Judges 17:6; Jer. 2:31-37; Rom. 6:1-2; 14-15; 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Gal. 5:22-25; James 2: 14-26; Jude 4; Rev. 2:20).   
  • Were intoxicated with the wine/Babylon’s wine refers to the evils of sin and how it corrupts and destroys, even for the people who use them thinking they are tools to get what they want (Jer. 51:7).
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