Exegetical look into Revelation 18:11-24

 

  • No one buys. A mourning for Rome and its benefits, or sadness for the loss of sin as a drunk might wish for the bottle when he is “dry.” It means seduction by things that are meaningless and thus being distracted from what is really meaningful, such as chasing wealth and forgetting character, Fruit, and faith, or bowing to luxury as your main comfort rather than to Christ.
  • Cargoes/merchandise of gold… articles of every kind … souls of men. Means the lament of the missing commodities of luxury. Refers to the ancient luxury trade between Egypt, Rome, India, and the Orient, the focus being on non-essentials while ignoring the essentials. Their focus was so much on gold that crop planting and harvest were neglected and people were burdened and starved! This was Isaiah’s lament to Tyre, saying a city is great because of its opulence while its character is rotten. The human lives refer to slave trade and its extreme evils and gladiator performances (Is. 23:1-8; Ezek. 27-28).
  • Splendor have vanished… weep and mourn/wailing refers to financial loss from people’s careless ease of taking life for granted to being corrupted by greed and the mourning that comes with it.  Purple is a very expensive dye, extracted from shellfish one drop at a time. Citron/thyine wood is a very rare, dark wood from North Africa used for rich people’s furniture. Marble was used to overlay and adorn Roman buildings and the homes of the very rich. Myrrh and frankincense, famed for the gifts by the Magi to Jesus (Matt 2:11), was very expensive. Bodies and souls of men is the slave trade. The greatest fear of the wealthy is to lose their wealth. John is challenging those fears, saying they will come true unless they repent (Ezek. 26:17-18)!
  • Great city… throw dust on their heads. Another reason to mourn as the merchants will lose their commerce and earnings. Rome was one of the greatest of ancient cities—a hub for international trade and a hot bed of evil activity, thus, both good and bad people will be distressed and disappointed. God is not condemning trade or wealth; He is condemning the evils often associated with them. Ancient writers and orators would praise cities as one today would praise their favorite sports team. God is making a distinction between His splendor and the façade of splendor—wickedness and iniquity. He uses their own words, their rhetoric of praise, to condemn them for following sin. Ironically, Rome was destroyed after it became Christian. Augustine commented it was because of its past sins; others said it was because the Church became corrupted and was heading toward the same faults (Ezek. 27:30). 
  • Large millstone…. Babylon will fall God will/has seen to it! This was a very large stone moved by a donkey or team of donkeys, thus never able to be recovered. It is referring that judgment is final and it is vindication for the righteous. In ancient times, millstone was also seen as a representation of a capital city, such as Rome (Jer. 51:63-64; Mark 9:42; Rev. 6:9-11).
  • Never be heard refers to silence as a term for complete devastation (Is. 13:20-22).
  • Voice of bridegroom and bride refers to the joy and celebration of life and community (Jer. 16:9; 25:10; Joel 1:8).
  • Magic spell may refer to pagan priests and practices, the mixing in of various pagan ideas and vain philosophies. The trust in the supernatural is not better than the trust in the wealth; both/either the love of money or the occult leaves you broken and then condemned (Is. 47:8; Acts 19:9; Rev. 9:21).
  • Blood of prophets. God hates those who oppress the innocent or commit perjury (to bring false accusations). Take heed; He will pay back fully to those who engage in evil (Deut. 19:16-19; Jer. 2:3-4; Ezek. 24:7; Matt. 23:35; Rev. 6:10; 17:6; 19:2)!
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