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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 17

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1 ONE of the seven angels who held the seven bowls came and spoke to me; ‘Come,’ he said, ‘I will show you the verdict on the great whore, she who is enthroned over many waters. 2The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and people the world over have made themselves drunk on the wine of her fornication.’ 3He carried me in spirit into the wilderness, and I saw a woman mounted on a scarlet beast which was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls. In her hand she held a gold cup full of obscenities and the foulness of her fornication. 5Written on her forehead was a name with a secret meaning: ‘Babylon the great, the mother of whores and of every obscenity on earth.’ 6I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God's people, and with the blood of those who had borne their testimony to Jesus.

At the sight of her I was greatly astonished. 7But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you astonished? I will tell you the secret of the woman and of the beast she rides, with the seven heads and the ten horns. 8The beast you saw was once alive, and is alive no longer, but has yet to ascend out of the abyss before going to be destroyed. All the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life since the foundation of the world will be astonished to see the beast, which once was alive, and is alive no longer, and has still to appear.

9‘This calls for a mind with insight. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits enthroned. 10They also represent seven kings a 17:10 kings: or emperors. : five have already fallen, one is now reigning, and the other has yet to come. When he does come, he is to last for only a little while. 11As for the beast that once was alive and is alive no longer, he is an eighth–and yet he is one of the seven, and he is going to destruction. 12The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet begun to reign, but who for a brief hour will share royal authority with the beast. 13They have a single purpose and will confer their power and authority on the beast. 14They will wage war on the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are called and chosen and faithful.’

15He continued: ‘The waters you saw, where the great whore sat enthroned, represent nations, populations, races, and languages. 16As for the ten horns you saw, and the beast, they will come to hate the whore. They will strip her naked and leave her destitute; they will devour her flesh and burn her up. 17For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, by making common cause and conferring their sovereignty on the beast until God's words are fulfilled. 18The woman you saw is the great city that holds sway over the kings of the earth.’

Notes:

a 17:10 kings: or emperors.

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