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Buist Fanning: In a final climactic section “a mighty angel” (cf. 5:2; 10:1) symbolically enacts Babylon’s fall and declares repeatedly her irreversible destruction and the reason for it (vv. 21-24).  The angel adapts a script set forth in Jeremiah 51:63-64 for this dramatic representation (v. 21a).  The “rock”, perhaps better a “boulder” because it is the size of a large millstone, is thrown into the sea with the declaration (v. 21b) that Babylon’s future judgment will be like this: violent and forceful as well as irrevocable and eternal.  The strong denial (v. 21c), “she will never be found again,” is reminiscent of Ezekiel 26:21 and launches a series of five additional statements like this in vv. 22-23b. . .

The first of these strong denials in v. 21c gives the summary statement (Babylon herself will disappear forever as a result of God’s judgment). The remaining clauses in the series take up specific aspects of her everyday life—the beautiful and the mundane—that will be gone forever. First, pleasing music “will never be heard in you again,” with mention in v. 22a of those who play the kithara (cf. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2), general music (cf. Ezek 26:13), the flute (Matt 11:17; 1 Cor 14:7), and the trumpet (1 Cor 14:8; Rev 8:2, etc.). Also gone forever (v. 22b) will be artisans and their useful crafts or trades (cf. Acts 17:29; 18:3; 19:24–25) and one of the background sounds of basic life: “the sound of a mill” to grind grain for bread (v. 22c; this feature is clearly drawn from Jer 25:10). . .

The two remaining features, also under the direct influence of Jeremiah 25:10, are “the light of a lamp” and the sounds of joy from a “bridegroom and bride” at their wedding celebration.  These poignant reminders of the everyday as well as the special days of life reinforce the tragic loss that stubborn resistance to God ultimately brings upon itself.  The causal clauses that begin in v. 23c (cf. two uses of oti) bring reminders of the worldwide impact of Babylon’s evil hostility against God and his ways.  They give the grounds for the destructive effects on Babylon described in vv. 21-23b.

Kendell Easley: Main Idea: Because she persecuted God’s people, all activities in Babylon will cease as quickly and totally as a boulder thrown into the sea sinks from view. . .

When God destroys the final product of civilization, a great wicked city, its commerce, religion, and culture will vanish forever because it enticed people away from true religion and holiness and into false religion and impurity.

John Walvoord: With the graphic description of Babylon’s fall contained in chapters 17 and 18, the way is cleared for the presentation of the major theme of the book of Revelation, the second coming of Christ and the establishment of His glorious kingdom.

Richard Phillips: While this verse no doubt contains a condemnation of occult magic, more generally Rome cast a spell of temptation that lured all around her into the grossest depravity.


A.  Imagery of the Fall of Babylon = Hurling a Millstone into the Sea

And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea,

Charles Swindoll: A stone of that size makes a huge splash with rippling waves as it sinks forever into oblivion. In the same way, the destruction of the world system under the Antichrist will shake heaven and earth as it vanishes from the world scene, never to be recovered (18:21).

Kendell Easley: Now an angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone (several hundred pounds) and threw it into the sea, symbolizing the conclusion of the judgments. A similar action had symbolized the fall of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51:59–64; note particularly Jer. 51:64, “So will Babylon sink to rise no more”).

Grant Osborne: This millstone is not the small stone used by women “grinding [grain] with a hand mill” (Matt. 24:41) but the “large millstone” of Mark 9:42 (and par.), a stone so large it had to be driven by a donkey. It was used to grind large amounts of grain and weighed several tons.

B.  Impressions from the Fall of Babylon

  1. Fall Characterized by Violence

saying, ‘Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence,’

  1. Fall Characterized by Finality

and will not be found any longer.

Daniel Akin: The great city will be violently thrown down “never to be found again.” She is gone forever. There will be no record of her.


John Walvoord: The angel now expounds on the cessation of Babylon’s activity. The vocal and instrumental music that characterized the city’s life and luxurious existence is now silent. Similarly, the craftsmen who produced the ultimate in luxurious goods are no longer to be found. The sound of the millstone grinding out the grain is silent. In like manner, the light of the candle is now out, the city cold and dead, and no longer do its streets ring with the voices of the bridegroom and the bride. Of the nine different features mentioned, seven are described by the Greek word phōnē, literally “sound.” The very silence of the city is a testimony to God’s devastating judgment.

G.K. Beale: Vv. 5-7 and 20 have asserted that Babylon’s judgment is suited to its crime, and vv. 22-23 reveal how the punishment fits the crime, which continues to depict the effects of Babylon’s destruction, especially most immediately from the millstone portrayal in v. 21. The point of vv. 21b-23 is to show that the persecutor will be punished by means of her own sin. Babylon’s economic system persecuted Christian communities by ostracizing people from the various trade guilds if they did not conform to worship of the patron deities of the guilds. This usually resulted in loss of economic standing and poverty (so 2:9). Christian craftsmen were removed from the marketplace, and the common pleasures of life enjoyed in normal economic times were taken away from them. In answer, God will remove Babylon’s loyal tradesmen: and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer, and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer. Even as the blood of the saints “was found” in her (v. 24), Babylon’s economic basis will no longer be found, and in fact Babylon herself will “not be found” (v. 21). The daily pleasures taken from Christians through economic, social, or political persecution (2:9-10; 6:10; 13:16-17; 16:6; 17:6) will be taken from the world system:

Grant Osborne: The utter desolation is depicted in the complete absence of all that makes life in this world worthwhile—music, work, food, light, and weddings.

A.  (:22a) No More Joy from Harmonious Music

And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters

will not be heard in you any longer;

James Hamilton: Revelation 18:22, 23 details all the pleasant things that filled Babylon but will never be enjoyed by her again, beginning with music. . .  Music should be used to praise God, to enjoy God, and to point people to God. Babylon has abused the refreshing and inspiring gift of music and used it for pride and sensual indulgence. The good gift of music will be taken from Babylon and replaced with the howls of unclean birds and detestable beasts (18:2).

Daniel Akin: Song and dance stop because there is nothing for the earth dwellers to celebrate.

Grant Osborne: These are the artists who brighten everyday life and make the simple moments joyous. Any city without them would be desolate indeed. This builds on Isaiah’s bleak picture in 24:8 (“The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent”; and on Ezekiel’s diatribe in 26:13, “I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more.” Music has always been the special provenance of the wealthy class, and so this is an economic judgment as well.

William Barclay: The harpists and the minstrels played and sang on joyous occasions; the flute was used at festivals and at funerals; the trumpet sounded at the games and at the concerts; but now all music was to be silenced.

Richard Phillips: The contrast with heaven is obvious and severe: whereas the glorified choirs above sing hallelujahs to the Lord, the music of earth that glorified idolatry and sin will be silenced forever.

B.  (:22b) No More Beauty from Skilled Builders

and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer;

David Aune: The presence of various crafts was an essential feature of the ancient city. The crafts typically included metalworking, brick-making, glassmaking, carpentry, perfume-making, tent-making, spinning, weaving, tanning, dyeing, pottery-making, carving, sculpture, and stonemasonry.

Robert Mounce: The entire economy has abruptly ceased.

James Hamilton: We are capable of art and skillful workmanship because we are like God, the ultimate Creator. The right use of these gifts is to honor him. If we do not honor him with his gifts, he takes them away.

Richard Phillips: This judgment may in part represent God’s rebuke on the trade guilds of Asia from which Christians were barred because they would not render worship to Caesar and to the patron idols (see 2:9).

C.  (:22c) No More Prosperity (or Food Preparation)

and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;

Grant Osborne: Not only is there to be no economy, there will not even be food. That primary staple of life in the ancient world, grain, will also disappear forever, for there “the sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.” It is difficult to know whether this refers to business (the large millstone spoken of in 18:21) or the normal affairs of the home (the “hand mill” used by women in Matt. 24:41). In light of the transition from business in the second line (craftsmen) to the home in the fourth (the lamp), either is possible. In light of the centrality of economics in this chapter, however, the broadest interpretation is better, namely, the production of food for the populace with the “large millstone.”  [Ed: Disagree – I favor the interpretation by Aune below]

David Aune: The dual form rēḥayim indicates that these handmills consisted of two implements (KB3, 1134), a concave bottom stone ( pelaḥ taḥtît, Job 41:24[MT 41:16]) and a small loaf-shaped “rider” stone ( pelaḥ rekeb, Judg 9:53; 2 Sam 11:21), which was moved back and forth by hand to crush the grain in the bottom stone (ADB 4:831–32). Because meal and flour were staples, milling was a daily activity performed by slaves (Exod 11:5; Judg 16:21) or the woman (and daughters) of the household (Isa 47:2), and the possession of a handmill was absolutely essential (Deut 24:6; Jos. Ant. 4.270). This incessant scraping sound of the handmill, a normal and frequent sound coming from all homes, is referred to here.

D.  (:23a) No More Light from the Darkened City

and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer;

Grant Osborne: These are not the torches that lit the way for groups traveling at night (there were no street lamps in the ancient world) but rather the small lamps of the home (see Thomas 1995: 346, building on Swete and R. Charles).

David Aune: Lamp light in the early evening, seen through the windows of homes in a city, indicates the presence of people and of life.

Richard Phillips: Whereas God promised to make “his face to shine upon” his people in the blessing of grace (Num. 6:25), there is only darkness for those under his curse. Lights bathed the streets of wealthy Tyre, luxurious Babylon, and glorious imperial Rome, just as garish lamps assault the eyes in today’s New York City and Las Vegas. Without light, who could enjoy, or even notice, the lavish wealth symbolized by gold, silver, and precious jewels? William Hendriksen writes: “Utter darkness reigns supreme, a darkness that can be felt, a darkness which symbolizes the final and complete effusion of God’s wrath upon this wicked, pleasure-loving, seductive world!”

E.  (:23b) No More Falling in Love and Creating New Households

and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer;

Kendell Easley: This, too, signals the total collapse of domestic life in the dominion of secular civilization. (By contrast, there will be a great wedding in the holy city of the Lamb, 19:7–9.)

Robert Mounce: Jeremiah describes the years of Israel’s exile as a time when God will banish from them “the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp” (Jer 25:10). The parallels in these two passages are not accidental. John writes out of an extensive acquaintance with the prophetic literature of his Jewish predecessors.

Richard Phillips: Finally, Babylon will hear no more of “the voice of bridegroom and bride” (Rev. 18:23). The blessings of love and merriment, the covenant bonds of human fidelity, and the voice of tender romance will be stilled in the great city (see Jer. 25:10–11), for even love, man’s highest blessing, will have ended for those consigned to hell.


Grant Osborne: Once more the reasons for such judgment are made known (18:23b–24). In the ancient law court, the crimes were always read as the sentence was carried out. Thus, in addition to the other lists of her crimes in 18:2–3, 7, one final enumeration is given. In summary there are three primary sins: economic tyranny, sorcery, and murder.

James Hamilton: This statement [Regarding the merchants] seems to imply that Babylon’s great merchants could have been used for good. They could have communicated truth, goodness, beauty, and love for the glory of God. Instead they were used for godless, selfish purposes that rob God of glory and rebel against his truth. They used their power for “sorcery” and deception rather than for the worship of God in truth. Not only that, 18:24 tells us that Babylon actively opposed God’s people and his word: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” Murderers of the martyrs, Babylon would not tolerate those who told her what the world was for. She would not extend protection and life to those who championed the true cause and purpose of the universe. She would hear nothing of those who told her how she could have her sins of prostitution forgiven by the blood of Christ. She was so offended by the message of how she could have the stains of her sin washed away that she killed those who told her the good news.

A.  (:23c) Humiliation of Her Grandiose Pride (and Economic Exploitation)

for your merchants were the great men of the earth,

Daniel Akin: There Will Be No Respect for Her

The prostitute’s judgment is just. Her merchants were filled with arrogance and pride as “the nobility of the earth.” Not anymore! And all nations were deceived and led astray by her sorcery, her magic spells. She bewitched the nations and led them into destructive foolishness. Now that she is exposed, no one has any regard or respect for her. Her merchants were great but not anymore. Her sorceries worked for a time but never again.

John MacArthur: Three final reasons are given for Babylon’s judgment. First, her merchants were the great men of the earth, using their wealth to ascend to positions of power, prominence, and influence. The abuses of the proud, arrogant rich are well documented in Scripture. “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?” asked James (James 2:6). Later in his epistle James further indicted the rich for their abuse of the poor:

Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. (James 5:4–6) Isaiah (Isa. 3:14–15; 5:8) and Amos (Amos 4:1; 5:11; 8:4–6) also condemned the rich for their self-aggrandizement and maltreatment of the poor.

G.K. Beale: Babylon’s judgment because of self-glory has already been announced in v. 7. One expression of that was the overwhelming pride of her merchants, the great men, who will be laid low. The point is that the chief purpose of humanity according to Revelation is to glorify God and to enjoy Him, not to glorify oneself and enjoy one’s own achievements (e.g., 4:11; 5:12-13; 7:12; 15:3-4; 16:9; 19:1, 7). Self-glorification necessitates judgment in which a forced humbling occurs. It is idolatrous for Babylon and her allies to see themselves as “great” (11:8; 14:8; 16:19; 17:5, 18; 18:2, 10, 16, 19, 21, 23; even though it is angels or men who use the word with reference to Babylon, they do so with reference to Babylon’s self-understanding). In truth, only God is truly great (see on v. 10). This title is reserved only for the true God (cf. “the great God” in manuscripts 051 and א of 19:17, as well as “great” in descriptions of various attributes of God in 6:17; 11:17; 15:3; 16:14). To focus on humanity as the center of everything and to forget God is the greatest sin — it is idol worship.

Robert Mounce: [They] had become the “magnates of the earth” (NRSV)—a title scarcely able to conceal considerable arrogance. Through their places of business had passed into the capital city enormous cargoes of extravagant and luxurious goods from around the world. The merchants’ personal fortunes had grown alongside the insatiable appetites of their patrons. Wealth had made them “the great ones.”

B.  (:23d) Negation of Her Seductive Influences

because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.

John MacArthur: A second reason for Babylon’s being judged is that all the nations were deceived by her sorcery. Sorcery is from pharmakeia, the root word of the English words “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals.” The word is used in the New Testament to refer to magic and occult practices (9:21; Gal. 5:20). Babylon’s hold on the world will not be entirely due to her military and economic power, but also to her occult influence.

Kendell Easley: She and they had every opportunity to use their influence for good. Instead, by your magic spell all the nations were led astray into false religion and the seductive belief that security can be found in the multitude of possessions.

Buist Fanning: Babylon’s businessmen (“your merchants”) carried great influence across the world: they were “the great ones of the earth”.  In world trade they were the “magnates” (NRSV) or “tycoons” (NET), which in itself would not be objectionable.  But v. 23d adds the evil influence that their elite stature produced: leading “all the nations” away from God and his ways.  This evil deception (cf. 13:14) was accomplished through Babylon’s “sorcery”, a word that with its cognates refers to the practice of magic, the use of potions, spells, or related rituals to gain power over spirits or humans.

G.K. Beale: By magic Babylon deceived the nations into worshiping idols instead of the true God. Sorcery, immorality, and idolatry are very closely related. In Rev. 9:20-21, idolatry, sorcery, and immorality (Greek porneia) are linked together (as also in Gal. 5:19-21). Immorality (Greek porneia), as we have seen, is a common term for idolatry in Revelation (2:14, 20-21; 14:8; 17:1-2, 4-5; 18:3, 9). Sorcery and idolatry are also linked in the OT (2 Chron. 33:5-7; Mic. 5:12-14; sorcery, idolatry, and immorality in Isa. 57:3-7). The OT Jezebel was judged for immorality and sorcery (2 Kgs. 9:22). Jezebel’s similar operation in Rev. 2:20-21 is why she is associated with Babylon and why her punishment is described as “death” (2:22-23), as is Babylon’s in 18:8. Earthly Babylon was judged for her sorcery and immorality (Isa. 47:9-15), where sorcery is linked with seeking guidance from astrologers, rather than the Lord. In Rev. 21:8 and 22:15, sorcery is placed in close conjunction with immorality and idolatry.

Robert Phillips: While this verse no doubt contains a condemnation of occult magic, more generally Rome cast a spell of temptation that lured all around her into the grossest depravity.

C.  (:24) Retribution for Her Bloody Slaughter of the Righteous (Deadly Persecutions)

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints

and of all who have been slain on the earth.

John MacArthur: A final reason given for Babylon’s judgment is her murderous slaughter of God’s people. . .  The heavenly rejoicing over Babylon’s downfall also mentions this: “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her’” (19:1–2).