17:1 And 1 there came one of the seven angels which had the
seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come
hither; I will shew unto 2 thee the a judgment of the
great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
(1) The state of the Church militant being declared, now
follows the state of the church overcoming and getting
victory, as I showed before in the beginning of the tenth
chapter. This state is set forth in four chapters. As in
the place before I noted, that in that history the order of
time was not always exactly observed so the same is to be
understood in this history, that it is distinguished
according to the people of which it speaks, and that the
stories of the people are observed in the time of it. For
first is delivered the story of Babylon destroyed in this
and the next chapter (for this Babylon out of all doubt,
shall perish before the two beasts and the dragon).
Secondly, is delivered the destruction of both the two
beasts, chapter nineteen and lastly of the dragon, chapter
eighteen. In the story of the spiritual Babylon, are
distinctly set forth the state of it in this chapter, and
the overthrow done from the first argument, consisting of
the particular calling of the prophet (as often before) and
a general proposition.
(2) That is, that damnable harlot, by a figure of speech called
"hyppalage". For John as yet had not seen her. Although
another interpretation may be thought of, yet I like this better.
(a) The sentence that is pronounce against this harlot.
17:33 So he carried me away in the spirit into the
wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a b scarlet
coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven
heads and ten horns.
(3) Henceforth is propounded the type of Babylon, and the state
of it, in four verses. After, a declaration of the type, in
the rest of this chapter. In the type are described two
things, the beast (of whom chapter thirteen speaks), in
this verse and the woman that sits on the beast in
(Re 17:4-6). The beast in process of time has gotten
somewhat more than was expressed in the former vision.
First in that it is not read before that he was apparelled
in scarlet, a robe imperial and of triumph. Secondly, in
that this is full of names of blasphemy: the other carried
the name of blasphemy only in his heads. So God teaches that
this beast is much increased in impiety and injustice and
does in this last age, triumph in both these more
insolently and proudly then ever before.
(b) A scarlet colour, that is, with a red and purple
garment: and surely it was not without cause the romish
clergy were so much delighted with this colour.
17:4 And 4 the woman was arrayed 5 in purple and scarlet
colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and
pearls, having 6 a golden cup in her hand full of
abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
(4) That harlot, the spiritual Babylon, which is Rome. She is
described by her attire, profession, and deeds.
(5) In attire most glorious, triumphant, most rich, and most
(6) In profession the nourisher of all, in this verse and
teaching her mysteries to all, (Re 17:5) setting forth
all things most magnificently: but indeed fatally besetting
miserable men with her cup, and brings upon them a deadly
17:57 And upon her forehead [was] a name written, MYSTERY,
8 BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND
ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
(7) Deceiving with the title of religion, and public
inscription of mystery: which the beast in times past did
(8) An exposition: in which John declares what manner of woman
17:69 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the
saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: 10
and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
(9) In manner of deeds: She is red with blood, and sheds it
most licentiously, and therefore is coloured with the blood
of the saints, as on the contrary part, Christ is set forth
imbued with the blood of her enemies; (Isa 63:1).
(10) A passage to the second part of this chapter, by occasion
given of John, as the words of the angel do show in the
17:711 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou
marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of
the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and
(11) The second part or place as I said in )See Geneva
"Re 17:1"). The narration of the vision promised in the
verse following. Now there is delivered first a narration
of the beast and his story, to verse fourteen. After, of
the harlot, to the end of the chapter.
17:812 The beast that thou sawest 13 was, and is not; and
14 shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into
perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder,
whose names were not written in the book of life from the
foundation of the world, 15 when they behold the beast
that was, and is not, and yet is.
(12) The story of the beast has a triple description of him. The
first is a distinction of this beast from all that ever have
been at any time: which distinction is contained in this
verse: The second is a delineation or painting out of the
beast by things present, by which he might even at that time
be known by the godly: and this delineation is according to
his heads in (Re 17:12-14). This beast is that empire of
Rome, of which I spoke in (see Geneva (15) "Re 13:11")
according to the mutations and changes of which then had
already happened, the Holy Spirit has distinguished and set
out the same. The apostle distinguishes this beast from all
others in these words "the beast which thou saw, was and is
not." For so I expound the words of the apostle for the
evidence's sake, as I will further declare in the notes
(13) The meaning is, that beast which you saw before in
(Re 13:1) and which you have now seen, was (was I say)
from Julius Caesar in respect to beginning, rising up,
station, glory, dominion, manner and family, from the house
of Julius: and yet is not now the same, if you look to the
house and family: for the dominion of this family was
translated to another, after the death of Nero from that
other to a third, from a third to a fourth, and so on, was
varied and altered by innumerable changes. Finally, the
Empire is one, as it were one beast: but exceedingly varied
by kindreds, families, and persons. It was therefore (says
John) in the kindred or house of Julius: and now it is not
in that kindred, but translated to another.
(14) As if he should say, "Also this same that is, shall shortly
not be: but shall ascend out of the depth, or out of the
sea" (as was said) in (Re 13:1) that is, shall be a new
stock from among the nations without difference and shall in
the same state go to into destruction, or run and perish:
and so shall successively new princes or emperors come and
go, arise and fall, the body of the beast remaining still,
but tossed with many frequent alterations, as no man can but
marvel that this beast was able to stand and hold out, in so
many mutations, verily no empire that ever was tossed with
so many changes, and as it were with so many tempests of the
sea, ever continued so long.
17:916 And here [is] the mind which hath wisdom. The c
seven heads 17 are seven mountains, on which the woman
(16) An exhortation preparing for the readers in the same
argument, as that of Christ "He that hath ears to hear let
him hear". I would rather read in this passage "Let there
be here a mind, etc". So the angel passes to the second
place of this description.
(c) Children know what the seven hilled city is, which is
so much spoken of, and where of Virgil thus reports,
"And compasses seven towers in one wall", that city it
is, which when John wrote these things, had rule over
the kings of the earth. It was and is not, and yet it
remains to this day, but it is declining to
(17) This is the description of the beast by things present (as I
said before) by which John endeavoured to describe the same,
that he might be both known of the godly in that age, and be
further observed and marked of posterity afterwards. This
delineation has one tip, that is, his heads, but a double
description or application of the type: one permanent, from
the nature itself, the other changeable, by the working of
men. The description permanent, is by the seven hills, in
this verse, the other that flees, is from the seven kings,
(Re 17:10,11). Here it is worthy to be observed, that
one type has sometime two or more applications, as seems
good to the Holy Spirit to express, either one thing by
various types, or various things by one type. So I noted
before of the seven spirits in (see Geneva "Re 1:4").
Now this woman that sits on seven hills, is the city of
Rome, called in times past by the Greeks, "upon a hill" i.
of seven tops or crests and by Varro, "septiceps" i. of her
seven heads (as here) of seven heads, and by others, "septem
collis" i. standing upon seven hills.
17:1018 And there are seven kings: 19 five are fallen, 20
and one is, 21 [and] the other is not yet come; and when
he cometh, he must continue a short space.
(18) The beginning of these kings or emperors is almost the same
as the beginning of the Church of Christ, which I showed
before in (see Geneva (2) "Re 11:1"). Namely from the
25th year after the passion of Christ, at which time the
temple and church of the Jews was overthrown. In this year
it came to pass by the providence of God, that that saying
"The beast was, and is not" was fulfilled before the
destruction of the Jews immediately following, came to pass.
That was 809 years from the building of the city of Rome at
which time John counted the emperors who had been, when he
wrote these things, and foretells two others next to come:
and with this purpose, that when this particular prediction
of things to come should take effect, the truth of all other
predictions in the Church, might be the more confirmed. God
in ancient times mentioned this sign in the Law and Jeremiah
confirmed it in (De 18:1-22,Jer 28:8).
(19) Whose names are these: the first, Servius Sulpitius Galba,
who was the seventh emperor of the people of Rome, the
second Marcus Salvius Otho, the third Avlus Vitellius, the
fourth, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the fifth, Titus
Vespasianus his son, of his own name.
(20) Flavius Domitian, son of the first Vespasian. For in the
latter end of his days John wrote these things, as
witnesses Irenaus; Lib. 5 adversus hareses.
(21) Nerua, The empire being now translated from the family of
Flavius. This man reigned only one year, four months and
nine days, as the history writers tell.
17:1122 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is 23
the eighth, and is 24 of the seven, 25 and goeth into
(22) This is spoken by synecdoche, as if to say, as that head
of the beast which was and is not, because it is cut off,
and Nerua in so short time extinguished. How many heads
there were, so many beasts there seemed to be in one. See
a similar speech in (Re 13:3).
(23) Nerua Traianus, who in various respects is called here the
seventh and the eighth.
(24) Though in number and order of succession he is the eighth
yet he is counted with one of these heads, because Nerua
and he were one head. For this man obtained authority
together with Nerua and was Consul with him, when Nerua
(25) Namely, to persecute the Churches of Christ, as history
agrees, and I have briefly noted (see Geneva "Re 2:10").
17:1226 And the ten horns which thou sawest are 27 ten
kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive
power as kings 28 one hour with the beast.
(26) The third place of this description, as I said in
(see Geneva "Re 17:8") is a prophetical prediction of
things to come, which the beast should do, as in the words
following John does not obscurely signify, saying, "which
have not yet received the kingdom, etc". For there is an
antithesis or opposition between these kings, and those that
went before. First the persons are described in this verse,
then their deeds, in the two verses following.
(27) That is, arising with their kingdoms out of that Roman
beast: at such time as that political empire began to fall
by the plotting of the popes.
(28) Namely, with that second beast, whom we called before a
false prophet, who ascending out of the earth, got to
himself all the authority and power of the first beast,
and exercised the same before his face, as was said in
(Re 14:11,12). For when the political empire of the
west began to bow downwards, there arose those ten kings,
and the second beast took the opportunity offered to usurp
for himself all the power of the former beast. These kings
long ago, many have numbered and described to be ten, and
a great part of the events plainly testifies the same in
this our age.
17:1329 These have one mind, and shall give their power and
strength unto the beast.
(29) That is, by consent and agreement, that they may conspire
with the beast, and depend on his call. Their story is
divided into three parts, counsels, acts, and events. The
counsellors some of them consist in communicating of
judgments and affections: and some in communicating of
power, which they are said to have given to this beast, in
17:14 These shall make war with the 30 Lamb, and the Lamb
shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of
kings: and they that are with him [are] called, and
chosen, and faithful.
(30) With Christ and his Church, as the reason following
declares, and here are mentioned the facts and events
which followed for Christ's sake, and for the grace of God
the Father towards those that are elected, called, and are
his faithful ones in Christ.
17:1531 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest,
where the whore sitteth, 32 are peoples, and multitudes,
and nations, and tongues.
(31) This is the other part of the narration, as I said in
(see Geneva "Re 17:7") belonging to the harlot, showed
in the vision, (Re 17:3). In this history of the harlot,
these three things are distinctly propounded, what is her
magnificence, in this verse, what is her fall, and by whom
it shall happen to her, in (Re 17:16-17): and lastly,
who that harlot is, in (Re 17:18). This passage which by
order of nature should have been the first, is therefore
made the last, because it was more fit to be joined with the
(32) That is, as changing and variable as the waters. Upon
this foundation sits this harlot as queen, a vain person,
on that which is vain.
17:16 And the ten 33 horns which thou sawest upon the beast,
these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate
and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with
(33) The ten kings, as (Re 17:12). The accomplishment of
this fact and event is daily increased in this our age by
the singular providence and most mighty government of God.
Therefore the facts are propounded in this verse, and the
cause of them in the verses following.
17:1734 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will,
and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until
the words of God shall be fulfilled.
(34) A reason rendered from the chief efficient cause, which is
the providence of God, by which alone John by inversion of
order affirms to have come to pass, both that the kings
should execute on the harlot that which pleased God, and
which he declared in the verse before: and also that by
one consent and counsel, they should give their kingdom to
the beast, etc. (Re 17:13-14) for as these being
blinded have before depended on the call of the beast that
lifts up the harlot, so it is said, that afterward it
shall come to pass, that they shall turn back, and shall
fall away from her, when their hearts shall be turned into
better state by the grace and mercy of God.
17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that 35 great city,
which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
(35) That is, Rome that great city, or only city (as Justinian
calls it) the king and head of which was then the emperor,
but now the pope, since the condition of the beast was