The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18 Part 2 -- By: Charles H. Dyer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 144:576 (Oct 1987)
Article: The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18 Part 2
Author: Charles H. Dyer

The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18
Part 2

Charles H. Dyer

Executive Vice-president and Associate Professor
Washington Bible College and Capital Bible Seminary, Lanham, Maryland

A study of the parallelism between Revelation 17 and 18 has led to the conclusion that only one Babylon is present in the two chapters.1 However, the exact identity of that Babylon still needs to be determined. A more precise identification can be achieved by studying the interpretive keys within the chapters and by isolating and interpreting the Old Testament themes on which John was drawing in the chapters.

The Interpretive Keys within the Chapters

John’s picture of a harlot astride a scarlet beast in chapter 17 could be entitled “Beauty on the Beast.” The vision is described in the first 6 verses and then interpreted in the next 12 verses. Chapter 18 focuses on the response of individuals to Babylon’s destruction. Within the two chapters are four interpretive keys that are crucial to the identity of Babylon.

The Description of Babylon As a Harlot

The first interpretive key is the descriptive identification of Babylon in 17:1 as “the great harlot who sits on many waters.” The allusion to a harlot has caused many to identify Babylon as a false religious system.

The frequently recurring allusion to harlotry (17:1, 2, 4, 15, 16; 18:3, 7) is an echo of the Old Testament prophets, who used the term to describe the infidelity of man to God, especially in connection with idolatry. The first chapter of Isaiah denounced Jerusalem as “the faithful city become a harlot” (1:21). Jeremiah condemned Jerusalem in almost the same words: “under every green tree thou didst bow thyself, playing the harlot” (2:20), and the figure was applied later both to Israel and to Judah in this prophecy (Jer 3). Ezekiel, in similar fashion, drew the portrait of the sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, representing Israel and Judah, who f...

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