What does Revelation 18:17 mean?
ESV: For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off
NIV: In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!' 'Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
NASB: for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and all who make their living by the sea, stood at a distance,
CSB: for in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed!And every shipmaster, seafarer, the sailors, and all who do business by sea, stood far off
NLT: In a single moment all the wealth of the city is gone!' And all the captains of the merchant ships and their passengers and sailors and crews will stand at a distance.
KJV: For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
NKJV: For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance
Verse Commentary:
Overconfidence often comes with prosperity (James 4:13–16), especially when people assume their worldly wealth isn't subject to God's sovereignty (Psalm 14:1). This verse emphasizes again that Babylon's wealth disappeared in a single hour—though this is not meant to imply that a literal sixty minutes describes the entire fall. Rather, the obliteration of Babylon will come rapidly: so quickly that it can't be prevented, avoided, or grasped until everything is all over (Revelation 18:21). Both physically, through weapons of mass destruction, and economically, through rapid changes in commerce, an entire nation can be struck down in a matter of moments.

Here, in John's vision (Revelation 17:1–3), fire destroyed everything the residents of Babylon thought was valuable. What the people considered worthwhile quickly became worthless and fleeting. In Matthew 6:19–20 Jesus instructed, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."

This verse specifies all whose trade is on the sea as joining the world's merchants (Revelation 18:11–16) in their extreme mourning over Babylon's destruction. We can picture those onboard ships approaching Babylon's port with high hopes of gaining riches at Babylon but finding the city in ruin. Like the merchants, these individuals find their hopes dashed, and in fear of sharing in Babylon's fate, they stand afar off.
Verse Context:
Revelation 18:9–20 reports the reactions of kings, merchants, and seafarers to the fall of Babylon. While the fall of ''religious Babylon'' in chapter 17 was un-mourned, these men will passionately lament the demise of ''political Babylon.'' Ezekiel 26:15–21 records similar lamenting at the demise of Tyre. Realted passages such as Revelation chapter 16 described the bowl judgments directed at the beast and his kingdom. Jesus warned about the folly of building one's life on material things instead of on his Word (Matthew 6:19–24; 7:24–27). Paul and James did the same (1 Timothy 6:3–10, 17–19; James 5:1–6). Revelation 19:11–21 reveals the destructive end of the beast and his followers at the return of Jesus to the earth.
Chapter Summary:
A glorious angel announces the fall of Babylon, here used to name a dwelling place for demons and the source of corrupt commercialism. Another angel summons believers to get out of Babylon and avoid being caught up in the judgment for her sins. God is ready to punish Babylon for extensive wickedness. He promises to burn the city with fire. The kings of the earth mourn Babylon's demise, and they keep a safe distance from her as she burns. Merchants, too, weep because no one can purchase cargo from her and profit from selling her goods. Like the kings, the merchants try to put distance between themselves and Babylon for fear of sharing her destructive fate. Their mourning is intense. They throw dust on their heads, weep, mourn, and lament how quickly she fell from prominence and prosperity to a wasteful state. A mighty angel announces Babylon's doom and desolation. The city that once included renowned merchants, deceived the nations, and martyred believers, is now shattered into silence and desolation.
Chapter Context:
Revelation 18:1–8 contains a glorious angel's pronouncement of doom on Babylon. This Babylon here appears to be a literal physical city, whereas the Babylon described in chapter 17 is a corrupt religious system. The Babylon of chapter 17 was associated with a political system but was not the political power. The Babylon of chapter 18 is the center of a demonic political, commercial, and economic system. The fall of Babylon parallels what happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1–29). Religious Babylon falls in the middle of the tribulation to the delight of kings. Commercial Babylon falls at the end of the tribulation, and kings lament her fall.
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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