Sunday, January 14, 2024

Fallen Is Babylon (14.6–11)


And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having eternal good news to announce well over the ones who dwell on the earth and over every nation and tribe and language and people, saying in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship the one who made heaven and the earth and sea and streams of waters.’

And another, second angel followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is the great Babylon, who gave all the nations a drink from the wine of her sexual immorality’s passion.’

And another, third angel followed them, saying in a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the wild animal and its image, and receives the mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink from the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured in fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the lamb. And the smoke of their torture rises for ever and ever. And those who worship the wild animal and its image, and receive the mark of its name, will have no rest day and night.’


Within the flow of the book, this reference to ‘great Babylon’ is abrupt, but not incomprehensible. The natural antecedent would be the similarly titled ‘great city’ from chapter 11, especially because both ‘great Babylon’ and the ‘great city’ are allied with the wild animal. The symbolic naming of the city in chapter 11 as ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt’ immediately suggests that ‘Babylon’ is a third such symbolic name, and the most important because it is used alone in this passage. The seductive nature of Babylon was anticipated in the description of ‘Jezebel’ in chapter 2.

The author heaps together a series of images taken from the Hebrew Bible to describe the punishment which awaits Babylon and ‘anyone’ who likewise allies with the wild animal. The merging of these images heightens their severity collectively. Most noteworthy is that the author inverts the language taken from Isaiah 34. Instead of the residents of an enemy land being utterly annihilated and the land left perpetually desolate, the author is emphatic that sinners will be eternally locked in perpetual suffering: they will suffer ‘undiluted’ divine wrath, which consists of being ‘tortured in fire and sulfur’, and ‘the smoke of their torture rises for ever and ever’, such that they ‘will have no rest day or night’. This idea of eternal torture is alluded to or mentioned in previous texts, such as Daniel and Judith, as well as some parts of the New Testament.



21.9 Then he responded, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon’

34.9–10 And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulphur; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever.

66.24 And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.


25.15 For thus Yhwh, the god of Israel, said to me: Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and go out of their minds because of the sword that I am sending among them.

51.8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and is shattered; wail for her!


23.32 Thus says the Lord Yhwh: You shall drink your sister’s cup, deep and wide; you shall be scorned and derided, it holds so much. You shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation


19.24, 28 Then Yhwh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from Yawheh out of heaven […] and [Abraham] looked down towards Sodom and Gomorrah and towards all the land of the Plain, and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.

Sibylline Oracles

2.203–205 All the souls of men will gnash their teeth, burning in a river, and brimstone and a rush of fire in a fiery plain, and ashes will cover all.

2.354 For no longer will death give rest to those, or night.

3.301–303 how many grievous woes the Immortal devised for Babylon, because it destroyed his great temple. Woe to you, Babylon

3.504–507 Woe to you, Crete, of many sorrows. To you will come affliction and fearful, eternal destruction. The whole earth will again see you smoking and fire will not leave you forever, but you will burn.

F 3.38–40 Leaving all these things, you all with foolishness and frenzied spirit guzzled a goblet full of judgment, very pure, strong, well fortified, quite unmixed.

F 3.44 You will be burned with torches all day, throughout eternity


16.17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgement; he will send fire and worms into their flesh; they shall weep in pain for ever.

Psalms of Solomon

8.14 Therefore God mixed for them a spirit of confusion; he gave them a cup of undiluted wine to drink, that they might become drunk.

2 Enoch

J 11.2 And I measured their movements and I compared their light. And I saw that the sun has a light seven times greater than the moon. And I saw his circle and his wheels on which he always goes, going past always like the wind with quite marvelous speed. And his coming and his return give him no rest, day and night.

4 Ezra

3.1–2 In the thirtieth year after the destruction of the city, I was in Babylon—I, Salathiel, who am also called Ezra. I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon.

2 Baruch

13.8 You who have drunk the clarified wine, you new drink its dregs, for the judgment of the Most High is impartial.

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