Revelation 18

Babylon's Ruin

Unclean Birds

She has become . . . a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird (Revelation 18:2).

Inhabitation by birds, sometimes with other animals, expresses desolation of a city in various prophetic texts, such as Isaiah 13:21, 34:11, and Zephaniah 2:14. Notably the birds mentioned in these texts, such as the owl, are unclean according to Leviticus. This picture shows an eagle owl, an unclean bird, at the Yotvata Haibar Nature Reserve.

Merchant Ships

And the merchants of the earth became rich from her sensuality and excess (Revelation 18:3).

This statement indicates a high level of commercial activity that enriches many. In the 1st century, much of the most lucrative commerce was associated with trade by sea, and both staples and luxury goods were transported throughout the Mediterranean basin and even into the Atlantic Ocean. This relief depicts a merchant ship on a funerary relief from Narbonne.

Wine Cup

In the cup which she mixed, mix for her double (Revelation 18:6).

This ornate Roman silver wine cup from the 1st century AD features a scene from the story of Ulysses. When John’s audience pictured a wealthy woman drinking from a cup, they might have thought of something like this. This cup was photographed at the Getty Villa in southern California.

Wealthy Woman

She who was . . . adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls (Revelation 18:16).

The woman portrayed on this Romano-Egyptian mummy portrait is clothed in purple and wears jewelry made of gold, emeralds, and pearls. This painting was created circa AD 100 and photographed at the Getty Villa in southern California.


For all the nations were deceived by your sorcery (Revelation 18:23).

The word “sorcery” (Gk. pharmakeia) is a broad term that could include a rather large range of ideas, from noxious drugs to healing potions to incantations or enchantments. The context here seems to suggest the idea of witchcraft or psychic activity (cf. Gal 5:20). This mosaic by the mosaicist Dioscurides of Samos depicts a comedy scene in which two women consult a witch. The fact that it is from a comedy scene is evident from the fact that the players wear masks with exaggerated features. This fresco comes from the Villa of Cicero at Pompeii and was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

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