Difficulties with Revelation 17:18.
Revelation 17:18 NASB, “The woman whom you saw, is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
The woman – which we know to be symbolic, is the great city.
When we talk about a city’s greatness, aren’t we describing the beauty, the government, the art, the people, and the architecture?
While that may have been Babylon, it is no longer. There is little about the Shinar region, in the modern physical realm, that makes Babylon great, with possibly one exception, its location between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The former tyrant, Saddam Hussein, had initiated a restoration program on the hanging garden, but that came to an end with the US invasion of Iraq in the early 1990s. There is also one of Saddam’s palaces sitting atop a nearby hill, but that is also in disrepair.
In speaking of the woman, Zechariah has much to say.
Then the angel who was speaking with me, went out and said to me, “Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.” I said, “What is it?” And he said, “This is the ephah going forth.” Again he said, “This is their appearance in all the land (and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.” Then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings, and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens. I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the ephah?” Then he said to me, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.” (Zechariah 5:5-11 NASB)
We just saw that “they” are building that “wicked woman,” a temple in Shinar’s plain. Shinar happens to be the place where the tower was being built, and after God dispersed them all, it was called Babel. But we have a problem. Look at how the New Living Translation reads.
Zechariah 5:11 NLT He replied, “To the land of Babylonia, where they will build a temple for the basket. And when the temple is ready, they will set the basket there on its pedestal.”
They are building a temple for the basket. Perhaps our assumption should be that the woman is included in this deal, but maybe not.
The word bayith, translated temple, can mean any of several things ranging from a house to a prison.
The Bible in Basic English tells us that they are merely making a place ready and put her there in the place, which is hers.
The first piece of information we are given about this woman is that the woman is representative of WICKEDNESS. Wickedness in the Hebrew is rish‛âh and means moral wickedness. Secondly, the angel throws her back down into the basket and slams the lead lid down upon her, demonstrating God’s total lack of respect for this entity. The third thing we need to consider is these two “women” that are coming out to gather up the basket. Look at the description of the two, as they have stork wings. These are not angels, and Dr. J. Vernon McGee points out, “They had wings like the wings of a stork”—that is, powerful wings. In Scripture, the stork is not a picture of an angel. It is a dirty bird, an unclean bird.” (and therefore unacceptable to a Jew.) Emphasis mine.
Since we are plainly told in Revelation 17:18 that the woman is the great city, then what city is being spoken of?
In Revelation 16:19, we get an answer.
The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (NASB)
Dr. J. Vernon McGee straightforwardly tells us, “This concludes the Great Tribulation period. There is a great earthquake, and it divides the “great city,” which is Jerusalem. The earthquake divides this city into three parts. Although the center of the quake is in Jerusalem, it is not confined to Jerusalem because we are told that “the nations’ cities fell.” This tells us something of the extent and the vast destruction of the earthquake.”
We already mentioned, Rev 14:8, where it says,
“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
To accept Babylon as a literal rebuild, as some would suggest, I have to set aside the bible’s clear communication that Jerusalem is referred to as Babylon. And, I have to ignore what Revelation 14:8 tells us, how that Israel/Jerusalem made all the nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornications.
How is that possible that the entire world must partake of the wrath?
Israel, even before they were called Israel, never stopped following after other gods. Evidence of this can be seen as Moses leads them out of Egypt. In short order, they had set up Moloch’s tent and had Aaron build them the god Moloch, upon which they roasted their babies in sacrifice.
Another possible example of Israel’s sins (fornications.) I have learned that not only is Isaiah 53 forbidden reading, but based upon an ancient Rabbi’s assessment, the book of Daniel is considered to be so holy that it defiles the one who touches it and is therefore forbidden reading material. In both these instances, we are dealing with prophetic books from the Tanakh that expressly define Yahshua as the Messiah. So there has been a united effort to keep the Jewish people away from the truth.
The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, tells us Babel or Babylon is the name of more than one city in the scriptures and other ancient writings.
The ISBE instructs us that Babylon is used in a literal sense and a symbolic sense. They continue by saying, “All the references to Babylon in Revelation are evidently symbolic. Some of the most important passages are Rev_14:8; Rev_16:19; Rev_17:5; Rev_18:2, Rev_18:10, Rev_18:21. In Rev_17:5, Babylon is designated as mustērion or mystery Babylon. “This undoubtedly indicates that the name is to be understood (in this instance) figuratively.” Emphasis mine.
The Greek word mustērion means a hidden thing, secret, mystery, and, according to Thayer, religious secrets confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals.
I can associate this aspect of the religious secrets to the Rabbis prohibiting the reading of Isaiah53 and all of Daniel.