'Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me,[a] Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
'Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.' ( Leviticus 19:29 )
'You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.' ( Deuteronomy 23:18 )
'Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.' ( Judges 8:27 )
'Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds.' ( Psalm 106:39 )
'How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers.' ( Isaiah 1:21 )
'Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.' ( Jeremiah 3:8 )
'But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.' ( Ezekiel 16:15 )
'Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; for she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts.' ( Hosea 2:2 )
'All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; all her idols I will lay desolate, for she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, and they shall return to the pay of a harlot.' ( Micah 1:7 )
'Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!' ( I Corinthians 6:15 )
Although individual members of the congregation of Israel had most certainly ( without doubt ) been guilty of committing fornication, or adultery against their husbands or wives, it is fairly clear that the 'harlotry' that the 'children' of Israel were guilty of was, not the physical act of adultery, but that they had been condemned by God for committing spiritual adultery against Him, their spiritual Husband, thereby breaking the first commandment, 'You shall have no other gods before Me' ( Exodus 20:3 ). Throughout their history, as you can see from reading the Hebrew Scriptures; Israel had been guilty of repeating a vicious cycle: the book of Judges shows this cycle most clearly, maybe, a cycle of Israel 'falling away' from God, God punishing them by giving them 'into the hand' of one of their God-less neighbors, Israel seemingly ( for awhile ) repenting and turning to God, then God would raise up a deliverer for them. This cycle was repeated numerous times, until they finally reached the point ( of apostasy ), that God had before ordained ( Jude 1:4 ), when He would 'judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained' ( Acts 17:30 & 31 ( Psalm 9:8, 96:12 & 13, 98:7-9 ). Some, I know, would ( vehemently, more or less ) argue that ancient Babylon ( or rather, her modern day equivalent ) is meant by 'the Great Harlot', but as Israel ( national, physical ) 'seems' to be the focus of the Hebrew Scriptures, and since John borrowed ( most heavily ) both his imagery and writing style from them; I think that it makes more sense, and is far more likely, that the 'Harlot' referred to is none other than apostate Israel ( after the flesh ). One argument that I remember , in regards to Israel being the 'Harlot' was that Israel, and no other, was the 'nation' that God had covenanted with ( as Moses told them, in Deuteronomy 10:15, 'The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.' ( see also Deuteronomy 29:10-15 ), therefore Israel ( apostate, 'after the flesh' ) would naturally be the one that John would see as the 'Great Harlot'!
As this 'harlot' was seen sitting on many waters, which, as we have noted before, are significant of the surrounding nations and peoples, we can read in Ezekiel 23, a parable the God revealed to the prophet, a parable in which He described the harlotry of Israel, how they had spurned the love of their God, offering her 'wares' to the nation around her, and even paying them for their 'love'! Again, as we have noted, regarding the phrase 'inhabitants of the earth', 'earth' might be more correctly translated 'land: God revealed through His prophet Isaiah, 'Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!' ( 28:1 ), and, in Isaiah 51:17, 'Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.'
So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
'Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' ( Isaiah 1:18 )
'After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It [ was ] different from all the beasts that [ were ] before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, [ were ] eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.' ( Daniel 7:7 )
'Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.' ( Exodus 16:2 )
'A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land [ is ] like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them.' ( Joel 2:3 )
'For thus says the LORD to the house of the king of Judah: You [ are ] Gilead to Me, the head of Lebanon; [ yet ] I surely will make you a wilderness, cities [which ] are not inhabited.' ( Jeremiah 22:6 )
'And now she [ is ] planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land.' ( Ezekiel 19:13 )
'Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.' ( Matthew 4:1 )
The fact that John was led into the 'wilderness' to receive his vision of the 'harlot & the beast' should be seen seen as significant. When God led His 'children', through Moses, into and through the wilderness, as seen in the Exodus; you can see, in a type, that, as He later led His Son, the true Israel, into the wilderness, later, so the 'children' of Israel were subjected to temptations, most of which they succumbed to, as we see in places like Ezekiel 20. Verse 15 shows that God, through the prophet revealed that, 'I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given [ them ], ‘flowing with milk and honey,’[d] the glory of all lands.' Psalm 106, along with several other Psalms, recounts the many sins that the 'children' of Israel had committed against God in their 'wilderness wanderings'.
The many rebellions of these 'children', not only in their 'wilderness wanderings', but even when they were settled in the 'Promised Land', and had 'tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come' ( Hebrews 6:5- the writer goes on, in the next few verses, to say 'For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, [ it is ] rejected and near to being cursed, whose end [ is ] to be burned.' ), and the time had come to reveal this 'harlot' for who she really was , by taking her back out to the 'wilderness', and un-veiling' ( Isaiah 3:17, Jeremiah 13:22 ), before finally and decisively putting an end to her harlotries ( Daniel 9:24, Hebrews 9:26 ( Psalm 85:2, Jeremiah 31:34 ).
As in so much of the book of Revelation; John borrowed much Old Covenant ( Hebrew ) imagery when describing what he 'saw' in his visions. Daniel 7 gives us a preview, if you will, of what God would reveal to His people in the 'last days', when He showed the prophet a vision of the Roman 'beast' upon whom is covenant 'children' would rely. This beast is seen as 'scarlet', because the luridity of the shade has made it, in some cases, almost synonymous with blatant sin and rebellion, as in the case of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter'.
The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.[b] And on her forehead a name was written:
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
'She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household [ is ] clothed with scarlet.' ( Proverbs 31:21 )
'Those who ate delicacies are desolate in the streets; those who were brought up in scarlet embrace ash heaps.' ( Lamentations 4:5 )
'And he made a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet [ thread ], and fine woven linen; it was worked [ with ] an artistic design of cherubim.' ( Exodus 36:35 )
'Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing [ was of ] fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate [ pastry of ] fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty.' ( Ezekiel 16:13 )
'And he decorated the house with precious stones for beauty, and the gold [ was ] gold from Parvaim.' ( II Chronicles 3:6 )
'He made of pure gold the utensils which were on the table: its dishes, its cups, its bowls, and its pitchers for pouring.' ( Exodus 37:16 )
'Babylon [was ] a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged.' ( Jeremiah 51:7 )
'I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah' ( Psalm 32:5 )
'Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.' ( Isaiah 28:15 )
'For My eyes [ are ] on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes.' ( Jeremiah 16:17 )
'I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; for now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled.' ( Hosea 5:3 )
'I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination.' ( Jeremiah 2:7 )
As His covenant 'children' entered the 'Promised Land', God had told them, 'When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations' ( Deuteronomy 18:9 ( Ezra 9:1 ); obviously, these 'children' did not listen very well, as we read throughout the book of Judges, and elsewhere in the recorded history of Israel.
The Greek μυστήριον, transliterated mystērion, means 'hidden thing, secret, mystery', and although certain Israelites like David, in Psalm 69:5, acknowledged that one could not hide sin from God; the rebellious 'children' thought that they could and had ( Ezekiel 9:9, Jeremiah 13:27 ( Isaiah 33:19 ).They were wrong of course!
I have noted before, that the 'children' of Israel had apostatized to the point that they were almost indistinguishable from the nations around them, whom God had rendered an adverse judgment upon for their wickedness. In Isaiah 1:9 & 10, the prophets lamented how the leaders of Israel had become so corrupt, that he likened them to, and even called them 'Sodom'! The apostle Peter, I believe, used the name 'Babylon', as a code-word for his persecuted brethren in the land ( of Judah ), in I Peter 5:13. This may be a bit questionable, and it's entirely possible that Peter was referring to brethren in the actual city of Babylon, but Scripture gives us no indication that any of the apostles had ever traveled that far east ( although it's quite possible ), and, as far as I know, neither does any extra-biblical work I've ever seen, read, or heard of, although, I will admit, it is quite possible, and very feasible that Peter did visit Babylon, for there was, no doubt, most like a church there.
It is significant that 'purple and scarlet' were used, not only in the making of the Tabernacle ( Exodus 26 ), and in the making of the priestly garments ( Exodus 28 ), but of the veil itself, the separating curtain between the 'holy place' ( the visible universe ) and 'the holiest' ( heaven ( as the Presence of God ), which veil was taken 'away in Christ' ( II Corinthians 3:14 ). Although symbolically removed at the cross, this veil, along with the Temple it was in, was not actually removed ( 'taken away'- Hebrews 8:13 ), until the destruction of the Temple, in AD70.
I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
'I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know that I, the LORD, [ am ] your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.' ( Isaiah 49:26 )
'For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates.' ( Jeremiah 46:10 )
'Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with intoxicating drink.' ( Isaiah 29:9 )
'Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.' ( II Kings 21:16 )
'Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity.' ( Micah 3:9 & 10 )
'When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.' ( Isaiah 4:4 )
We have noted before that the Scriptures, for the most part, concern Israel, God's covenant people. This is a well-established fact. I dare say, and we can even see this from Scripture ( Joel 3:19, Habakkuk 2:8 ( Jeremiah 51, Psalm 79:3 ), that the wicked leaders of Israel were not the only ones who had shed the blood of God's people, but, especially as the covenant 'children' of God ( Israel after the flesh ) are the primary focus ( physically speaking, anyway ) of both the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, it is more than safe, even necessary, to assume that Israel ( after the flesh ), if only by reason of her 'great harlotries', as we looked at previously, is signified by the 'harlot'.
But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
'Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise [ men ] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [ men ] shall be hidden.' ( Isaiah 29:14 )
'At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell [ you ], for you [ are ] greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision.' ( Daniel 9:23 )
'And He said to them, To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables,so that Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.[c]' ( Mark 4:11 & 12 )
As John marveled at this horrific and enigmatic vision, the angel, or messenger, who accompanied him revealed to John that the vision that he had just seen was indeed that, a vision with a hidden, or secret meaning.
That the 'angel refers to 'the woman' here, rather than 'the harlot', should be seen as significant as well, and most likely, for reasons that we have noted above, significant of the ( physical ) nation of Israel, at least, those who had apostatized.
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
'Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ[a] had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin[b] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God[c] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.' ( II Thessalonians 2:1-4 )
'But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.' ( II Peter 3:7 )
'Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.' ( Revelation 9:1 )
'And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.' ( Jude 6 )
Historically; I have heard, and you may have too, that this phrase 'was, and is not, and yet is' might refer to the idea that Domitian was a reiteration of Nero, who had apparently committed suicide, but, as my purpose here is to prove that the Revelation of Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of God ( Matthew 26:64 ), was in judgment on the apostate 'children' of Israel, and brought an 'end' ( I Peter 4:7 ( Daniel 12 ) to the Old Covenant economy; I wish to simply stick mainly with Scripture.
As we have seen, 'angel' simply means 'messenger': the religious leaders of Israel, many of whom led them astray, to one degree or another, and even and eventually ( irreversibly ( Hebrews 6:4-6 ) into apostasy, were to be 'messengers of the covenant' ( Malachi 3:1 ( Jeremiah 35:15 ), bringing, or 'revealing' ( Isaiah 56:1-8 ) the 'good news' ( Romans 1:16 ( Galatians 3:8, Hebrews 4:2 ) to His people: I believe that Jude referred to these 'messengers', when he spoke of those 'angels who did not keep their proper domain', who rather than remaining in the ministry to which they had been called, used their ministry to their own selfish ends.
Although this beast, as we shall see later, signifies Rome, and it's imperial power ( Daniel 2:40, 7:7 & 8 ), but let us remember too, that John also 'saw' a second, a beast from the earth, or 'land'. The Greek ἀπώλεια, translated 'perdition', means quite simply 'destroying, utter destruction', and is, interestingly enough, a feminine noun. As Jerusalem was often referred to in the feminine, and we know that 'she' was destroyed in AD70; it doesn't take much to see that this 'son of perdition' referred to Jerusalem. ( As to why it was a 'son' of perdition, referring back to Hosea 1:3-5, where He revealed, through the prophet, what would transpire in the 'last days', the 'Day of the Lord'.
Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.
'You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, [ in ] the place, O LORD, [ which ] You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, [ which ] Your hands have established.' ( Exodus 15:17 )
'He removes the mountains, and they do not know when He overturns them in His anger.' ( Job 9:5 )
'And He brought them to His holy border, this mountain [ which ] His right hand had acquired.' ( Psalm 78:54 )
'Now it shall come to pass in the latter days [ that ] the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.' ( Isaiah 2:2 )
'And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.' ( Isaiah 25:6 & 7 )
'But you [ are ] those who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who prepare a table for Gad,[a]and who furnish a drink offering for Meni.[b]' ( Isaiah 65:11 )
'Truly, in vain [ is salvation hoped for ] from the hills, [ and from ] the multitude of mountains; truly, in the LORD our God [ is ] the salvation of Israel.' ( Jeremiah 3:23 )
'I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth.' ( Jeremiah 4:24 )
'O My mountain in the field, I will give as plunder your wealth, all your treasures, [ and ] your high places of sin within all your borders.' ( Jeremiah 17:3 )
'Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, who destroys all the earth', says the LORD. 'And I will stretch out My hand against you, roll you down from the rocks, and make you a burnt mountain.' ( Jeremiah 51:25 )
'Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 'Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines, and to the valleys: Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places.' ( Ezekiel 6:1-3 )
'Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.' ( Daniel 2:35 )
'Hear now what the LORD says: 'Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, O you mountains, the LORD’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel.'
( Micah 6:1 & 2 )
Many of these passages do refer to actual mountains ( or can, anyway ), but they also have a typical, or spiritual meaning to them, as well; for example, when Isaiah refers to 'mountain of the LORD’s house', he is speaking of the future ( to him ) glory of God's New Covenant Church, the Body of Christ. When God spoke, through Jeremiah of His 'mountain in the field', He was lamenting to His people. The context of these passages, most referring to the coming judgment, or to future blessing of His covenant people, determines of what, or who God, or the prophet, is speaking. Several of these passages refer to a judgment upon Babylon, or some other 'adversary of God's people, but they are included to show that 'mountain' most often refers, really or actually ( or both ) to a certain people, not necessarily to an actual mountain.
It was further explained to John that this 'beast' with seven heads that the 'woman' sat upon was symbolic of her 'resting' on seven mountains. Now I have heard, and maybe some of my readers have too, concerning both Jerusalem and Rome sat upon, or were nestled among, seven hills. Whether or not that is the case ( both would make sense ); the point is, that this 'harlot' ( Israel 'after the flesh' ) was seeking her strength, and resting in that which was not God, contrary to the covenant she had made.
This language ( concerning the 'beast' ) can be somewhat confusing, although not too hard to figure out, with a little searching. The Wikipedia article that I found on the subject, lists, as the first five emperors of Rome, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The 'angel' told John that 'Five have fallen', so these first five 'kings had fallen, 'one' was, at the time of John's writing ( this is where it could get a bit confusing ), and the 'beast' himself symbolized the 'eighth'. The article lists four Roman emperors between Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem, Galba ( who ruled 7 months ), Otho ( who ruled 3 months, Vitellius ( who ruled a little over 7 months ), and finally, Vespasian, under whose reign Jerusalem fell. Were Galba, Otho, and Vitellius so inconsequential that John ( Jesus, really ) listed them as 'one' king ( emperor )? I believe that it is more than probable that this is so, and so do many other scholars and theologians. Whether or not this is the case, and can be historical proven or not, I believe, is beside the fact! Staying with the Scriptures, as I am aiming for, one cannot help but notice that most significant, although in most cases, historically accurate, number 'seven'. Deciphering the identity of the 'beast' upon which 'the woman' ( Genesis 2:21-23 ) isn't really that heard; referring to the historical context of the Greek Scriptures, physically speaking, the Romans were THE world power of the era, and had ruled over Israel for quite some time. It wouldn't be much of a stretch for a patriotic Israelite to refer to Rome as a 'beast', especially since Jews were known for referring to the Gentiles as 'dogs', which even Jesus did ( Matthew 15:26 ). As seven is the number of perfection and completeness, it is interesting that the 'harlot' would sit, or 'rest' upon 'seven' mountains. Did she think that this is where her strength lay?
The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
'The ten horns [ are ] ten kings [ who ] shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first [ ones ], and shall subdue three kings.' ( Daniel 7:23 )
'Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city.' ( Ecclesiastes 7:19 )
'Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”' ( Genesis 18:32 )
'But yet a tenth [ will be ] in it, and will return and be for consuming, as a terebinth tree or as an oak, whose stump [ remains ] when it is cut down.
so the holy seed [ shall be ] its stump.' ( Isaiah 6:13 )
'Then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men who were with him, arose and struck Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.' ( Jeremiah 41:2 )
'Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth [ day ] of the month, [ that ] Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and [ they ] built a siege wall against it all around.' ( Jeremiah 52:4 )
'For thus says the Lord GOD: The city that goes out by a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which goes out by a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.' ( Amos 5:3 )
'Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard [ that ] God [ is ] with you.' ( Zechariah 8:23 )
'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you [ such ] blessing that [ there will ] not [ be room ] enough [ to receive it ].' ( Malachi 3:10 )
To the rebellious house of Israel, earlier in the third chapter of Malachi; God posed this question 'Will a man rob God?' God indeed told them that they had robbed Him, by their tithes and offerings! In Matthew 23:23; Jesus later pronounced His judgment on these same Pharisees, because, while they were paying their tithes, as they had done for generations, they had 'neglected the weightier [ principles ] of the law: justice and mercy and faith', and that these should be done , while not leaving the other undone.
As with the number 'seven', the number 'ten' ( or a 'tenth' ) most often refers to a physically literal number, but it, like 'seven' is a very prolific number, Scripturally speaking, and can refer to a perfect amount, etc. Even an example in today's 'day and age' shows this; for instance, when referring to a wonderful example of womanhood ( especially physically ( aesthetically ) pleasing ) example, one might use the phrase, 'she's a perfect 'ten'!
God gave the 'Ten' Commandments ( or words ); according to Exodus 26:1, the tabernacle ( in the wilderness ) was made with 'ten curtains [ of ] fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet': David sent 'ten young men' to lay his righteous petition before Nabal, in I Samuel 25:4. According to I Kings 6, and like passages; the construction of the Temple fell in perfect tens, or multiples thereof ( I Kings 7:23, II Chronicles 4:8 ( Ezekiel 40 ); Job accused his friends of bringing reproach upon him 'these ten times' ( Job 19:3 ), and when Ismael assassinated the governor appointed by the conquering Babylonian king, he 'came with ten men', as recorded in Jeremiah 41:1.When Nebuchadnezzar tested Daniel and his three brethren, he found them 'ten times better' than the 'wise' men that he regularly employed ( Daniel 1:20 ).There are many other examples in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures that show this usage of the word 'ten' ( or 'tenth' ), and I'm almost as sure that it could be proven that there were ( at least ) ten actual 'kings' ( or the nations they ruled ) were involved in the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem.
Daniel 12 begins with these words,
'At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands [ watch ] over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, [ even ] to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame [ and ] everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.'
This is probably one of the clearest passages from the Old Covenant Scriptures that links 'The Finished Work of Christ' with the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem and the Temple, because, while this 'Michael' would 'stand up' in those days ( 'the Day of the Lord' ), 'He' would also 'wake' His people from their slumber, and the 'wise' ones would benefit from that awakening, while others would reap what they had sowed, and perish eternally.
Then he said to me, The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [ was ] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.' ( Genesis 1:1 & 2 )
'The earth [ is ] the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.' ( Psalm 24:1 & 2 )
'Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink; let me be delivered from those who hate me, and out of the deep waters.' ( Psalm 69:14 )
'Stretch out Your hand from above; rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand [ is ] a right hand of falsehood.' ( Psalm 144:7 & 8 )
'Blessed [ are ] you who sow beside all waters, who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey.' ( Isaiah 32:20 )
'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.' ( Isaiah 43:2 )
'Who [ is ] this coming up like a flood, whose waters move like the rivers?' ( Jeremiah 46:7 )
'And in that day it shall be [ that ] living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur.' ( Zechariah 14:8 )
We have noted before, as often in the prophetic Scriptures, that 'waters', while often a reference to actual water ( rivers, streams, seas, etc. ), very often has a deeper spiritual meaning. In many cases, 'waters' refers to a people, the nation ( Gentiles ), but it also can refer to the blessings of the Holy Spirit, or to God Himself. Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the more famous passages referring to the blessings of the Holy Spirit ( although this whole passage does have it's base in physicality-Psalm 114:8 ). Referring to Himself as 'the waters of Shiloah that flow softly' ( Isaiah 8:6 ); God revealed to His 'children' that He would bring upon them a flood ( as in Noah's day-Isaiah 28:2 ), with 'the waters of the River' overflowing and engulfing them. Another very familiar passage is found in Isaiah 55:1, where God calls His people to the blessings of abundant ( eternal ) life. God's main premise in His case against Israel ( after the flesh ) was that His people had forsaken Him, 'the fountain of living waters', and made their own 'cisterns', that could not hold 'water'. Almost quoting directly from Psalm 1:3, the prophet wrote, in Jeremiah 17:8, that the man who puts his trust in the Lord ( God ) would be like a 'tree planted by the waters'. Another famous passage, this time from Habakkuk 2:14, is 'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.'
And the ten horns which you saw on[d] the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
'Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness; yes, she sighs and turns away.' ( Lamentations 1:8 )
'For your sister Sodom was not a byword in your mouth in the days of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered. It was like the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria[c] and all [ those ] around her, and of the daughters of the Philistines, who despise you everywhere.' ( Ezekiel 16:57 & 58 )
'I will set My jealousy against you, and they shall deal furiously with you; they shall remove your nose and your ears, and your remnant shall fall by the sword; they shall take your sons and your daughters, and your remnant shall be devoured by fire. They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewelry.' ( Ezekiel 23:25 & 26 )
'Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: [ is it ] not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people,[a] and the flesh from their bones; who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop [ them ] in pieces like [ meat ] for the pot, like flesh in the cauldron.' ( Micah 3:3 )
The 'rulers' of the 'children' of Israel had been appointed to lead their followers in right paths, and as Jesus told Peter ( John 21:15-18 ( Isaiah 40:11 ); 'Feed My lambs', but instead they had 'eaten up the vineyard' ( Isaiah 3:14 ( 5:1-7 ). They had abused the position that God had placed them in, and used it to gain power over His people ( Hosea 4:8 ), to their own purpose and advantage. Now God had turned the tables on them, and brought in those of the nations ( Gentiles, 'dogs' ) to do the same to them ( I Kings 14:11, II Kings 9:36 ( Psalm 22:16 ), as they had done to the people of God.
For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
'But indeed for this [ purpose ] I have raised you up, that I may show My power [ in ] you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.' ( Exodus 9:16 )
'For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places [ that are ] not theirs.' ( Habakkuk 1:6 )
'Make the arrows bright! Gather the shields! The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes. For His plan [ is ] against Babylon to destroy it, because it [ is ] the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for His temple.' ( Jeremiah 51:11 )
'Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it.' ( Jeremiah 32:28 )
'He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction [ among them ].' ( Psalm 78:49 )
Speaking of the coming destruction and desolation of Jerusalem and the Temple, Jesus told His disciples, in Luke 21:22, 'these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.' As the prophet Jeremiah revealed above, it was 'vengeance of the LORD', vengeance for His 'temple' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ), His people, the 'Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ( Romans 9:6-8 ). God has revealed through His prophets, 'down through the ages', His complete and utter sovereignty, in using even the wicked to accomplish His purposes. In the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in AD70, and thus bringing a complete and final 'end' to the Old Covenant economy, and it's reign of terror and death; God utilized the strength ( kingdom-Daniel 7:23 ) of the Roman Empire to 'completely shatter' ( Daniel 12:7 ) the power of the 'holy people' ( Daniel 8:24 ), those who had rebelled against Him ( Jude 6 ), by plying their own righteousness ( Isaiah 64:6 ), rather than seeking His, who followed the 'letter', rather than the 'spirit' of the law.
And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.
'And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel;[b] for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.' ( Genesis 32:28 )
'Consume [ them ] in wrath, consume [ them ], that they [ may ] not [be ]; and let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah ' ( Psalm 59:13 )
'Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' ( Genesis 1:26 )
'I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion [ shall be ] ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’[b]' ( Zechariah 9:10 )
'He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.' ( Psalm72:8 )
David declared, in Psalm 8:6, 'You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all [ things ] under his feet,'; this was the stated purpose for God's creation of man, and whether or not you beliee in 'covenant creation' or not ( this, basically, is the idea that Adam was not simply the first human being on planet earth, but the first 'covenant man', one whom God made a covenant with ), this is an indisputable fact: man was made to have dominion over the rest of God's creation!
We've read above that God 'rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth', so from that, and really the context of Scripture as whole shows this, we can deduce that God created Israel as His special people, with which to rule the earth. One might make the argument that 'the Babylonian Empire was much greater than any 'empire that David, Solomon, or any of the other kings of Israel had': this is true enough; but God did not establish His covenant with that, or any other nation ( Genesis 17:4 ( Psalm 50:5 ). The Scriptures are a covenant book, a history of God's dealings with His covenant people, and as such; it should be clear that it is only secondarily ( through their dealings with the 'children' of Israel ) that we even hear about Babylon or an of those other nations in that 'region' of the world, so really, in the context of the covenant, as well as Scripture, it only make sense, that the 'woman' ( or 'city ), who 'reigns over the kings of the earth', is symbolic of Old Covenant Israel.
May God bless you with this study,
Charles Haddon Shank