Peeling the Onion: Revelation 17:1-8

Meet ‘the whore of Babylon’,

‘the scarlet woman’,

riding the red beast with 7 heads and 10 horns

She’s like a parody of the earlier birthing mother,

Who was fleeing the beast –

And sure enough, those polarities,

of woman as mother or whore,

victim to be saved or diabolical temptress,

have been tools of misogyny.

The Babylon labels are about imperial tyranny –

Babylon itself, our Iraq in goegraphy,

Where the elite of Judah and Jerusalem were exiled,

600 years before Jesus

500 years before Jesus,

Cyrus of Persia (Iran) beat Babylon,

And permitted return and rebuilding,

The ‘Second Temple’ and its era

When John writes Revelation,

Nearly 100 years after Jesus,

‘Babylon’ means a generic oppressive unjust tyranny

Roman rule through provincial clients

I see more imagery of wealth than of sex –

Even ‘fornication’ has more to do with commodification of humans

Than with erotic perversions –

It’s the readers that fetishize it

NJB Scarlet Woman and Beast

1 One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me, and said, 'Come here and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute who is enthroned beside abundant waters,

2 with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery.'

3 He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it.

4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her prostitution;

5 on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: 'Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on the earth.'

6 I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I was completely mystified.

7 The angel said to me, 'Do you not understand? I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the seven heads and the ten horns.

8 'The beast you have seen was once alive and is alive no longer; it is yet to come up from the Abyss, but only to go to its destruction. & the people of the world, whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world in the book of life, will be astonished when they see how the beast was once alive & is alive no longer, & is still to come.

9 'This calls for shrewdness. The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman is sitting.

10 The seven heads are also seven emperors. Five of them have already gone, one is here now, and one is yet to come; once here, he must stay for a short while.

NSRV

Scarlet Woman Rides Red Beast

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgement of the great whore who is seated on many waters,

2with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’

3So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;

5and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’

6And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly amazed.

7But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.

8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.