What does Revelation 17:5 mean?
ESV: And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
NIV: The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.
NASB: and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery: 'BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.'
CSB: On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Detestable Things of the Earth.
NLT: A mysterious name was written on her forehead: 'Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.'
KJV: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Verse Commentary:
This symbolic "great prostitute" seen by John (Revelation 17:1) is identified by the name John saw on her forehead. She is "Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations." This figure is frequently described as the "Whore of Babylon" in discussions of the end times. This name is not incidental; major cities are often used as a shorthand reference to politics (Revelation 11:8). This is seen when substituting "Washington D.C." for the United States or "Moscow" for Russia. Cities are also common titles given to religious ideas, as "Rome" is frequently used shorthand for Catholicism, or "Mecca" can be a reference to Islam.

Babylon, in the Bible, shares this same literal-and-symbolic usage. The history of the city of Babylon goes back to Noah's descendants who settled in the Euphrates valley and founded a city, called Babel at the time (Genesis 11:1–9). Babel was the site of a tower built to unify their people, to bring them fame, to worship the stars, and possibly to protect them from another flood. Their efforts stood in direct disobedience to God's order to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1). Babylonian worship involved prostitution and worship of the so-called queen of heaven.

During the time of the kings of Judah and Israel, worship of the Canaanite deity Baal was common. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel made the worship of Baal the state religion (1 Kings 16:29–33). Later, invading ruler Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol in Babylon, and commanded everyone to worship it (Daniel 3:1–7). After the Persians overthrew Babylon, the Babylonian worshipers of Baal moved to Pergamum, where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was located. Jesus rebuked that church for allowing the practice of idolatry to continue (Revelation 2:14).

In both literal and symbolic terms, Babylon is condemned in Scripture for its idolatry and blasphemy (see Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17–19, 25 and Ezekiel 8:14). The term is both a literal city and an abbreviated reference to ungodly, worldly spirituality.
Verse Context:
Revelation 17:1–7 depicts a system of corrupt religion from which God calls upon His people to withdraw (Revelation 18:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14–18). This religious system is referred to using the name Babylon; the following chapter will use similar names and symbols to describe a ''political Babylon.'' This religion is state-sponsored, like the Baal worship imported from Phoenicia by Jezebel, King Ahab's wife (1 Kings 16:29–33). Just as Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4), so religious Babylon will murder many tribulation believers. In a literal sense, this suggests the one-world religion of the Antichrist and the False Prophet, but it also has implications for worldly and false religious teachings of our present time.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 17 zeroes in on God's judgment of Babylon as the center of religious corruption in the tribulation. The target of this wrath seems to be an eclectic form of all apostate religions. This might be a concrete, single religion. Or, it might be a near-religious blending or equalizing of all spiritual beliefs. God views religious Babylon as ''the great prostitute'' that has support from heads of state. This system is both extremely rich and murderous, guilty of martyring saints. It has a past and a renewed existence as a religious-political system. Together, the political heads of state and religious Babylon battle Jesus, the Lamb, but He defeats them. The end of religious Babylon comes when the ten kings turn against her and ruin her. They destroy religious Babylon because God puts it in the hearts to do so.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 16 resumed explaining God's pattern of end times wrath, this time describing the seven bowl judgments. As the last bowl is poured out, John is called to see a vision, which seems to incorporate events occurring throughout the tribulation. This chapter focuses on the fall of religious Babylon. Revelation 14:8 and 16:19 mention Babylon's collapse under the wrath of God in the tribulation. Babylon's ultimate fall may actually occur before the bowl judgments, anytime during the second half of the tribulation. Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 50 and 51 predict the fall of Babylon. Revelation 18 also speaks of the ruin of Babylon, but from a political and economic perspective.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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