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Bible verses about Israel as Harlot
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 4:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Bible uses a large variety of metaphors, imagery, similes, types, parables, allegories, and analogies as teaching tools. They are used either to hide or cloud a meaning from outsiders, or sometimes to make them clear—so that God's people understand either way. Here, in Exodus 4:21, Israel is shown as a cohesive body—as a single, human son. In other places, Israel is portrayed as a virginal woman, married to God, and in yet other places, as a harlot who is still legally married but who, in reality, has left the marriage and pursued lovers.

In like manner, the church is typified as a body (of which Christ is the Head) and the firstborn of God. In another analogy, the church is portrayed as the firstfruits—not a body, but an assembly of individuals harvested as a crop. In another place, it is pictured as a loaf of bread that has leaven in it. The New Testament contains many other symbols for the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 12:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why did God give this instruction? Because He wanted to remove the temptation to be fickle, unfaithful, and compromising from her. He wanted to destroy everything that would be a temptation to her, so instead, He gives a warning that they are to seek only Him in His sole habitation, even in their homeland. He did this because Israel is terribly smitten with "the grass is always greener" disease. They even failed to dispossess the people of the land as God commanded them to do.

In its carnality, Israel is disastrously curious and inconstant in temperament, thinking that variety of experience rather than the truth of God's Word is the answer to the discontented, rebellious, unsettled impatience of her nature. This grossly fickle discontentment shows up very early in the history of God's relationship with Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Deuteronomy 12:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The existence of this exhortation to seek Him only and destroy the worship of Canaan's inhabitants is strong evidence that God foresaw that Israel was thoroughly smitten with "the grass is always greener" disease. They failed both to dispossess the land's inhabitants and to destroy their places of worship. History records that God was right, and Israel is left without excuse for its spiritual adultery.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Deuteronomy 26:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel had been redeemed from Egypt, made a covenant with God, and been told their responsibility. God makes it very clear that the relationship between Him and man is a two-way affair. Upon us devolves the duty of complete consecration and willingness to obey. We are called to faithfulness to Him and to each other as reflected in our lives by our keeping of His commandments. God on His part grants us access to Him by which He ministers great blessings of His Spirit, giving us the means to be faithful.

Israel failed miserably, being guilty of all manner of faithlessness. So great was their faithlessness that God sundered the relationship. Perhaps nowhere is Israel's faithlessness shown more vividly than in Hosea 2:2-5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

1 Samuel 8:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel had already deviated from faithfulness, but here, she formally rejects God as her Ruler, taking a major step toward being exactly like all the nations around her. This occurred between 1100 and 1000 BC or roughly 350 years after the original making of the covenant. Except for brief periods when Israel had a judge or king who did right in the eyes of God, the spiritual harlotry continued unabated until God formally divorced her, sending Israel and Judah into captivity.

We frequently gloss over the truly important part of this as we read through it. It is clear from Genesis 17:6 and Deuteronomy 17:14-20 that God anticipated Israel having a king or judge. The title is of little importance. Having a king was not the real issue because God had already planned for Israel to have a king. Every organization must have a leader, so God lays down instructions as to how the leader should conduct himself in office. They are designed to ensure that the king does not elevate himself above the people and rule as a despot. Instead, he is to be thoroughly familiar with and guided by the attitudes and laws of God. He must comprehensively know that his own nature is just like those he serves and be humbled.

However, the key to understanding the significance of Israel's demand in I Samuel 8 is that she desires a king just like the other nations. Spiritually, this demand confirms Israel's whorish behavior, and thus God tells Samuel to describe the national effects of her demand. On Israel's part, it is a complete rejection of her marriage vows; she wants her Benefactor and Husband—God—to have no say in her life, declaring herself free of Him and to be completely and totally a nation of this world, no longer the type of God's Kingdom on earth.

The issue between God and man is simply a matter of government—of sovereignty and providence. This appears as early as Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve reject God's rule over them. Once God reveals Himself through His calling, the issue of government comes to the fore. This is what we confront in decision-making. As the Bible has recorded in great detail, mankind has shown that it wants to retain this authority to itself. Yet, the naked truth is we cannot retain sovereignty to ourselves and still have what God is offering, entrance into the spiritual Kingdom of God. We cannot have it both ways. We will be submissive either to God's will or to our own fickle drives. Many of us do not get it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

2 Kings 17:14-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This was Israel's great sin, typified as prostitution: debasing themselves and God through the adoption and practice of the way of the heathen, and rejecting the way, providence, and sovereignty of God for something far inferior, corrupting, and shameful.

In the midst of His law, God warns Israel—and thus us as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—that to do things as the heathens do them constitutes harlotry. His terminology is in His instructions to Israel in Leviticus 20:2-8 is extremely clear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Nehemiah 9:13-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The record is clear. Israel rejected God and His way right from the beginning of their relationship. They not only rejected Him and His way but also became a major vehicle for facilitating the spread of the false ways of the heathen all over the world. Modern Israel has followed the same path as her ancestors. As Israel migrated into and through northwestern Europe and settled into the lands God had set aside for them, becoming wealthy, she has given the world a poisonous cultural brew to drink, influencing them through the power of her example. She has the wealth to enable her people to export it to other nations for their consumption and inevitable emulation.

God calls Israel's sins "fornication" because sexual sins are the most common way unfaithfulness in marriage is revealed to the public. Everybody can relate to it. However, the real spiritual sin behind all these sexual terms is gross idolatry. Israel simply did whatever she wanted to do, whenever and however she wanted to do it. The harlotry implied is clearly the breaking of the terms of the marriage covenant. Her harlotry is unfaithfulness and disloyalty, which are spiritual in nature. Her sin is primarily idolatry, but all other sins are included.

Israelites were unfaithful in conducting business both domestically and internationally, unfaithful in managing God's great, green earth, unfaithful in forgetting who their great blessings came from, and unfaithful in the way they treated one another in their personal marriages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Psalm 78:56-57   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A deceitful bow is one that gives every appearance of being good and true to its purpose until put to the test. In the pressure of battle, it fails to shoot arrows where the archer aims them.

This illustration is one of the many ways God describes His marriage relationship with Israel. He describes her in Ezekiel 16 as being like a beautiful woman, full of promise, who eagerly entered into marriage with Him, vowing to Him as she agreed to the covenant, "All that the LORD has said we will do and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7). However, under the tests of life, she did not behave like a faithful wife. She quickly broke her vows to be submissive to Him and Him only, unfaithfully behaving worse than a common street harlot (see Ezekiel 16:27-30)!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Psalm 78:56-57   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A deceitful bow is one that gives every appearance of being good and true to its purpose until put to the test. In the pressure of battle, it fails to shoot arrows where the archer aims them.

This illustration is one of the many ways God describes His marriage relationship with Israel. He describes her in Ezekiel 16 as being like a beautiful woman, full of promise, who eagerly entered into marriage with Him, vowing to Him as she agreed to the covenant, "All that the LORD has said we will do and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7). However, under the tests of life, she did not behave like a faithful wife. She quickly broke her vows to be submissive to Him and Him only, unfaithfully behaving worse than a common street harlot! Notice this description of their relationship in Ezekiel 16:27-30:

"Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. How degenerate is you heart!" says the Lord GOD, "seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot."

Israel's unbelief was the breeding ground for her capriciousness, and her insatiable curiosity and desire for variety continuously led her astray. In turn, this produced the mistrust and unreliability that characterized her relationship with God. We must not follow her example in this—our stakes are so much higher!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Proverbs 7:10-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Proverbs 7:10-21 details some of a harlot's characteristics. A careful study would find that she is described as deviously sly and cunning in that she feigns love, knowing how to pull a man's strings. Her "love" is strictly business—it is nothing but window dressing. Part of her eye-appealing attraction is her purposeful seduction and immodest dress, arousing lust. She is described as "loud," which might be better rendered as turbulent, flighty, confused, inconstant, and unstable. She lacks dignity and gravity, and she is stubborn, defiant, brazen, deliberately obstinate, and headstrong. Further, she is aggressive, impudent, contemptuous, presumptuous, and disrespectful.

Apart from Israel, the biblical record relates the story of one woman, Delilah, who exemplifies the harlot, helping us to zero in on what drives most prostitutes. Only two verses, Judges 16:4-5, are needed to isolate her reason for living as she did:

Now afterward it happened that [Samson] loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, "Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."

What motivates Delilah's harlotry, and what does it teach us from God's perspective? Harlotry has its base in lust, deceit, and treachery, entered into, executed, or performed for what the perpetrator believes is an immediate gain. Not every case of harlotry follows Delilah's exact pattern, but the motivations center on sinning for personal gain, an element that never seems to change.

Delilah illustrates a greedy, smooth-talking temptress. Biblically, she becomes a metaphorical image for the Israelites, who reject God's provision for her as Husband to seek personal, "more satisfying" gain by other means. The driving forces are unbelief and distrust combined with self-indulgence primarily expressed through greed.

The term "greed" may sound harsh, considering the circumstances some women get themselves into before choosing to prostitute themselves. However, we have to learn that nobody has to sin—but something motivates us to do so. Greed is "expressing excessive desire, especially for food, drink, or wealth." We give ourselves and others an almost endless stream of justifications for sinning, but the bottom line is that we are simply unwilling to pay the price to discipline ourselves to do what is right. In our impatience, we convince ourselves that righteousness will not get us anything.

Recall the Great Harlot's boast in Revelation 18:7: "I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow." This is the statement of one who would compromise rather than suffer the loss of what she felt is her due. Greed is a synonym for lust or covetousness. However, it is especially applicable here because of Israel's well-known desire for wealth and comfort.

Notice how clearly Hosea expresses this:

For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully. . . . She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now." For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal. (Hosea 2:5, 7-8)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Isaiah 1:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God has had it up to here with the hypocritical sacrifices that we make in mention of His name and so-called worship of the God of heaven. Our conduct on the streets and in business and in our homes nowhere near measures even to Sodom's standards. Now what is so weird about God comparing Israel to Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon? There is nothing weird about it at all! Thus God calling Israel "BABYLON, MYSTERY, THE GREAT HARLOT" (Revelation 17:5) continues to give evidence of the magnitude of Israel's unfaithfulness to her Husband and Benefactor—God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Jeremiah 3:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeremiah wrote this over 400 years after Israel's rejection of God as King and about 840 years after making the covenant at Mount Sinai. Even though by the time of this writing God had divorced the Great Harlot Israel, He still continued to have a fractious relationship with her in order to continue the outworking of His purpose and to fulfill His promises to Abraham, including all the end-time prophecies. In other words, He was not yet finished with Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Lamentations 1:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The symbol begins as a city. The city is obviously Jerusalem, and it is portrayed as a widow. Then Jerusalem is depicted as a princess whose friends have deceived her. Her lovers have rejected her, and she has become a slave. However, the symbol that represents the city is still female. It has gone from widow to princess.

In verse 3, Jerusalem next morphs into Judah the nation. Judah is clearly twice referenced as "she" in the middle of the verse. Jerusalem and Judah are then referenced as "Zion," and in verses 4, 5, and 6, is again referred to as "her." In verse 6, Jerusalem becomes the daughter of Zion, whose beauty has faded and is counterpoised with male princes who are of no help to her. In verse 7, we return full circle to Jerusalem, and again it is referenced as "her" five times, and as "she" once. Clearly, a woman symbolizes a city, and the city, its nation.

Each one of these female symbols is depicting the same thing—Jerusalem and Judah—but from slightly different perspectives. But within the context, it is not depicting a church. Is there any parallel with the church here in Lamentations? Yes, but it is indirect, and at best vague and secondary. Israel is never referred to as a church in the Old Testament. Why? Because there was no church. It is not until the New Testament that the Bible suggests that a woman symbolizes a church, and that symbol is restricted to the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), which is important in reference to Revelation 17. Thus, when we understand Revelation 17, Babylon (the great woman, the harlot) cannot be the church under any circumstance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Lamentations 1:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here, even before the woman symbol appears, the city is identified as female by feminine pronouns. It is more specifically designated as a widow, another female figure. Before the verse ends, it reflects back on an earlier time when she was a princess, another female figure, but now she is a slave.

In verse 3, the city morphs into Judah, the nation. Then in verse 4, an alternate name for Jerusalem, Zion, is used, and the female identity continues. In verse 6, the city becomes "the daughter of Zion." It is not until verse 7 that Jerusalem, the woman described throughout this context, is directly named. If one would read further, we would see that people have seen her nakedness, and her sin was in her skirts, referring to sins of idolatry, which God describes in sexual terms.

The New King James version uses feminine pronouns 28 times in those seven verses in reference to the entity variously called "a city," "Judah," "a widow," "the princess," "Zion, "the daughter of Zion," and "Jerusalem." Undoubtedly, a woman symbolizes a city, and city, a nation. Each of the female symbols depicts the same thing, Jerusalem and Judah, but from slightly different perspectives. Within this context, it is not depicting a church. Is there a parallel to the church in Lamentations? Yes, but it is indirect, imprecise, and at best secondary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?


 

Ezekiel 16:30-34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the language of the street, she paid the johns to have sex with her, rather than the other way around. That is why He called her "contrary." She did not do things the normal way but was far worse than a common street walker.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Ezekiel 16:44-49   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ezekiel 16:44-49 shows us another way that can be used to identify the Great Harlot of Revelation: by observing parallel conduct. The word "parallel" opens another avenue for consideration of duality, but this time not directly in a prophecy. At this point in God's narration concerning Judah and Jerusalem, He is showing the parallel behavior of Judah with Samaria to the north and with Sodom to the south.

Verse 47 is especially clear regarding parallel conduct. The Revised English Bible translates it as, "Did you not behave as they did and commit the same abominations?" Regarding their relationship, verse 49 declares they are "sisters under the skin," as we would say today, because their behavior is so similar.

This opens the door to consider the parallel conduct that leads Him to call Jerusalem by the derogatory names of "Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). At the time of the end, God observes parallel behaviors and attitudes in Jerusalem, Sodom, and Egypt. Thus Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, reveals her spiritual source, which is most certainly not the God of the Bible, despite what the Israelites might say in calling themselves "Christian." If God can name Israel "Sodom," why can He not also call her "Babylon"?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Ezekiel 16:48   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jerusalem shows the same characteristics as Sodom, as if they are part of the same family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Ezekiel 16:48   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sodom is known in all of history to be the worst in terms of sexual sins that has ever existed on the earth, but from God's point of view, Israel was even worse.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Ezekiel 23:1-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and especially Ezekiel and Hosea use this same metaphorical form to illustrate Israel's faithless relationship with God, connecting directly to the same usage in Revelation 17 and 18. Why is this important? Virtually the entire Bible is devoted to God's purpose for and relationship to Israel and the church. They are the focus of God's intention to reproduce Himself, beginning with His promises and then His covenant with Abraham. God went so far as to enter into a symbolic marriage with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, revealing the intimacy He considered their relationship to have.

He did this with no other nation. Even when the time came to summon Gentiles into His purpose, the great bulk of those called into the church have been Israelites dwelling among fellow Israelites in Israelitish lands. A person even becomes a spiritual Jew when converted! God's pattern of focusing on Israel continues throughout the Bible to the end-time prophecies. We live in the end time, and God's concern in Revelation, the ultimate end-time book, does not turn from this pattern. God's purpose for the nation of Israel is not yet complete, as Romans 9-11 makes clear.

Thus Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, and the church, the Israel of God, Abraham's spiritual descendants, are still His major focus. Other parts of the Bible reveal that Israel has fully earned the title of "the Great Harlot Babylon" even as she has earned the titles of "Sodom" and "Egypt."

The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is not a Gentile church or a Gentile nation because neither of these has ever qualified for that title by corrupting a covenant relationship with God as Israel has. Of this, God says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Having done only what comes naturally without the revelation of God, the Gentile world will have its opportunity to have a covenant relationship with Him following Christ's return.

In defiance of God, Israel has rebelled against her responsibilities and played the harlot with the world. She has embraced its ways to such an extent that she has outdone the Gentiles in their manner of life, becoming appropriately named "Babylon the Great." In Revelation 17 and 18, God is describing the influence and character of end-time Israel. He depicts all of Israel in close relationship with the Beast, influencing it, but with the two Joseph tribes, America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim), as the Woman's strongest components - and perhaps America is the one primarily described, as it is the most influential at the end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Ezekiel 23:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel vigorously pursued relationships with foreign cultures because she thought she saw a way to benefit from them. However, those who prostitute themselves become entangled in a web of greed and deceit that obscures realities essential to a clear understanding of what is really happening. Eventually, though, alienation occurs, as it did with Amnon in his lustful, one-sided relationship with his half-sister, Tamar (II Samuel 13:1-15). But it was too late. The dirty deeds had been done, and the painful penalties began to be exacted.

Like Gomer in Hosea, Israel prostitutes herself before her lovers/idols, who seem to promise much without demanding as much as God seems to require. She is pictured as throwing herself at what she thinks is easy gain—a quick profit without the hard work.

Israel has followed the pagan prostitutes' habits. Hosea saw this and declares in Hosea 9:1, "You have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute" (NIV). Here, clearly stated, is cause and effect. As a whole, Israel loves the way of the heathen; she has made it hers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Hosea 2:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel is so faithless to her duties, she openly invites adulteries and aggressively chases after her lovers. Her aggressiveness does not merely perpetuate a condition but creates a climate that increases its effects. Paul reveals this principle in Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." It is a law of nature that unless something intervenes to interrupt the growing cycle, more is reaped than is sowed.

The Bible uses a saying to describe this latter principle, "Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind" (see Hosea 8:7). It is like saying, "Fan a breeze and produce a hurricane!" Sowing faithlessness is no different: Unless real repentance interrupts it, it will produce more faithlessness until the spirit of harlotry, an attitude that causes many serious ramifications, permeates the entire nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Hosea 2:2-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel is seen as faithless wife and irresponsible mother—so faithless that she chases after her lovers! A spirit of harlotry, an attitude of faithlessness, was created in the whole nation, causing many detrimental ramifications and results. In other words, the deceit and its resulting infidelity are not confined to the God/Israel covenant marriage but affects personal relationships within families and the community. It even has a negative effect on the keeping of contracts in business and upholding promises of quality workmanship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment


 

Hosea 4:12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Undoubtedly, the fount of Israel's despicable behavior is what Paul concludes in Hebrews 3:12: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."

Israel, despite the fact that God voluntarily revealed much about Himself to her, simply does not believe what He says. The fruit of unbelief is betrayal expressed as departing from the relationship. However, an "evil heart of unbelief" is quite general. To begin, we need to explore one particular step in the process of sin beyond the "evil heart of unbelief."

In addition, we need to understand that our subject is not women who have been forced by their cultures into prostitution. Such a circumstance is far more understandable; women trapped in such a situation are truly victims and elicit our pity. We will be exploring those women who were free to pursue other courses in life yet deliberately chose to prostitute themselves, whether in service at a pagan temple as part of the worship of a god or in making a living. Israel deliberately chose to prostitute herself.

A prostitute is "a person, usually a woman, who provides sexual activity in exchange for material security." Dictionaries also define prostitution as "debasing oneself for personal gain," and this usage applies to either gender. Additionally, it is "a misuse of one's gifts, talents, or skills," and this too applies to either gender.

Because of these usages, in its broadest sense, prostitution is not confined either to sexual activity or to women alone. The selling of sex by a woman is only its best-known form. A prostitute is anybody who, as we would say today, "sells himself out" or makes compromises for personal gain. The gain does not have to be in the form of money. However, biblically, its descriptions and examples are confined to the illicit sexual activity of women because of Israel being symbolized as a woman.

A female prostitute is generally distinguished from an adulterer due to her lack of discrimination in choosing her partners. This lack of discrimination is important because it reveals a mindset, an attitude, that approaches what we today might call an "airhead," one who seriously ignores the harsh realities of sin. The attitude also exposes a stubborn addiction to gambling on sin's outcome. The prostitute usually justifies the sin because of her immediate needs.

All sin follows a pattern. The actual act is the next to the last step in a process that, once it starts, often does not take a great deal of time to complete. James 1:13-15 shows:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Here, simply stated, is the process of sin:

1. Temptation triggers desire.

2. Desire stirs the yearning for gratification.

3. Failure to consider the end and to discipline oneself prompt the sinful act.

4. The sinful act brings forth death.

Repeated frequently enough, this process becomes habitual. The Bible pinpoints the source of sin in another way in Matthew 15:18-20:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

This is another way of saying that it is within mankind's nature to sin. However, this does not justify sin because man's nature can be disciplined far better than mankind exhibits.

If sin is to be stopped, these two areas simply must be dealt with, or sin will continue unabated. The carnal mind—man's normal nature—is at war with God (Romans 8:7), and it is not subject to God's law because, out of sheer unbelieving stubbornness, it will not permit itself to submit completely. This is why God says that He will give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).

The Bible uses the word heart to represent all the internal intangibles of human personality. Today, we might say this heart is what makes us "tick." It is the spirit in that heart that lures us—indeed, drives us—to conduct ourselves in a way that is hostile to God. The Bible shows the prostitute having a specific spirit or heart driving her.

God says in Hosea 4:12: "My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God." He adds in Hosea 5:4, "They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the LORD." In a context like this, the Bible uses spirit to indicate an immaterial force or power, an attitude, leaning, inclination, outlook, position, propensity, or proclivity to move, act, or conduct oneself in a certain manner or direction.

In Hosea 5:4, the conjunction "for" shows the direct connection between the people's sinful, idol-worshipping conduct and "the spirit of harlotry." This spirit is one of the intangibles that comprise human nature, and its direction of conduct is to be disloyal and unfaithful to Israel's commitment to God ratified in the Old Covenant, in which she vowed, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7).

Remember, what we are considering is something the entire nation is guilty of, both men and women. We are looking at the streetwalker-type of prostitute only because the Bible provides a clear picture of what motivates her. Once we grasp her motivations, we can extrapolate them to illustrate the whole nation—and ourselves individually because we have participated in the same system, and its drives linger in us.

This, of course, is not to accuse anyone of being a streetwalker. Recall that two of the definitions of prostitution are "abasing oneself for personal gain" and "abusing one's gifts, talents, and skills" for the same. For instance, biographers of famous personalities, especially of artists, occasionally write that their subjects felt they had prostituted their gifts to become wealthy.

This is what God implies in Amos 3:2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." He expected more and better from them than from any other nation. In terms of the knowledge of God and their access to instruction in the way of life that would produce the most and best toward physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, no other nation came even close to what Israel had because God had chosen them to be His people. Nevertheless, in following the examples of pagan nations who did not know God, Israel frivolously prostituted herself for what she considered personal gain.

Have we not all debased ourselves by indiscriminately accepting the personal gain of the immediate gratification of an unlawful desire, and in the same process, ignored or consciously shoved aside our knowledge of the truth of God? Once we have knowledge of the truth, thus removing our ignorance of God, His way, and His law, if we did not prostitute ourselves, there would be no sin in our lives. The sad truth is that we do not discipline or control ourselves, but instead, we indulge ourselves, and sin occurs. We have prostituted ourselves. We must do better.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Hosea 7:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A "deceitful bow" is one that gives every appearance of being good and true to its purpose until it is put to the test. In the pressure of battle, it does not shoot arrows where the archer aims them. This illustration is a good one in many ways of God's marriage relationship with Israel. He describes her as being a very beautiful woman, full of promise, who eagerly entered into marriage with Him, vowing to Him in Exodus 24:7, where they said, following the reiteration of all of terms of the covenant: "All that You have said, we will do." It is just as if they said at the altar, "I do." But when she was put to the test—the test of life—she did not behave like a beautiful wife. She quickly broke her vows to be submissive to Him and Him only, and unfaithfully behaved worse than a common street harlot.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Amos 3:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Can two exist in a marriage relationship where one is constantly unfaithfully acting as a harlot? Yet, of all the nations that have existed on the earth, the only one that God made a covenant with did this to Him. God entered into no other relationship with any other nation in all of the history of mankind.

A person may have many friends, many family members, many business friends, fraternal friends, professional relationships, but by biblical standards for marriage, it is one spouse until death. God and Israel's relationship involved an intimacy normally associated only within marriage. Yes, God had relationships with other nations, but none even close to what He had with Israel. It was favored with gifts greater than any nation because of that intimacy, but perhaps the greatest gift of all was the revelation of God Himself, the knowledge of His purpose, and how to live life at its fullest. But because of these gifts, Israel's responsibility and deviancy was also the greatest on earth: great Jerusalem, great deviancy. The gift had never been given to any other people on earth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Amos 3:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This statement of relationship is vital to Babylon's end-time identification. Only Israel of all nations has been coupled to God through a binding covenant likened to a marriage. A marriage covenant implies an intimacy limited only to those making the covenant. Israel alone of all nations has rightly earned the title "the Great Whore," as she alone came to know God through His revelation of Himself to her. In the biblical sense, a whore is a woman unfaithful to a covenant or to revealed standards. Israel alone had God's way of life so intimately revealed to her.

No other nation in all the history of mankind entered into a covenant with Him, vowing that all He said she would do. Thus, she alone of all nations was unfaithful to that exclusive union. God provides many proofs of her unfaithfulness and records of how He dealt with it in the prophetic and historical books. The biblical facts, when combined with the external evidence of history, point to end-time Israel. Most reading this article live in Israel and are commanded to come out of end-time Babylon, thus the concern over the Great Harlot's identification.

A number of times during the course of these articles, Babylon has been referred to as a "system." Babylon is a system, an anti-God way of doing things, but it is characterized most specifically in a particular nation. This nation, the focus of the Babylonian system and the one that most effectively influences other nations to follow it, is also identified as "Babylon." Thus, Babylon is both. Protestant commentaries, however, almost unanimously refer to Babylon as a system.

Some evangelical Protestant organizations focus a considerable amount of attention to biblical prophecy, but most of them are weak in several areas of understanding. Perhaps the most glaringly important is the identity of modern Israel - almost all of them say Israel is limited to the Jews. Their interpretations of prophecy, then, are slanted toward that tiny, New-Jersey-sized, Middle Eastern nation of less than ten million people. They overlook almost entirely that, at the time of the scattering, the twelve tribes of Israel were two distinct nations, each having its own land, capital city, and government.

The ten-tribed nation of Israel in the north, dominated by the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, had its capital city in Samaria. It can be claimed that the name "Israel" belongs to these two Joseph tribes because Jacob ordained Ephraim and Manasseh to carry it (Genesis 48:16). To the south of Israel, the remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin - thereafter called the Jews - had their capital city in Jerusalem. II Kings 16-18 makes this two-nation fact clear. Both nations also had the priestly tribe, Levi, scattered among them, for the Levites were never given land to support themselves.

When God's time to act came in the eighth century bc, He strengthened and sent the Assyrian nation to conquer the northern ten tribes. The Israelites were taken into captivity, became assimilated amongst their conquerors, and migrated with them as time went on. Israel never returned to be reunited with the Jews. History combined with biblical clues places them in northern and northwest Europe, and also in the colonies the Anglo-Saxon peoples established in other parts of the world.

However, God dealt somewhat differently with the Jews. At the end of the seventh century bc, He raised up and sent the Babylonian nation to conquer and take the Jews into captivity. However, after 70 years, because of prophecies involving the coming Messiah to come out of Judah, a remnant of Jews returned to Judea, reestablishing themselves as a nation in Palestine.

Two thousand six hundred years later, at the time of the end, we find Israelitish people scattered all over the world and a small number of Jews back in the ancestral homeland God originally gave to all the tribes of Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Amos 3:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God entered into no other like relationship with any other nation or people in all the history of mankind.

A person may have many friends, many family members, many business, fraternal, and professional relationships, but the biblical standard for marriage is one spouse until death. The relationship God entered into with Israel—and now with us—involved an intimacy normally associated only within marriage. Yes, God had relationships with other nations and people, but none even close to what He entered into with Israel and us. We are favored with gifts greater than any other nation or people because of that intimacy. Our judgment is therefore sterner.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all is the revelation of God Himself and the knowledge of His purpose and how to live life at its fullest. But because of these gifts, Israel's responsibility and deviancy were also the greatest on earth. This is the basis for understanding Israel to be the Great Whore of the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Amos 5:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

By refusing to repent of their apostasy from God's way of life, the Israelites could only expect the coming of God's fearsome punishment. The people of Israel would recognize these words as a funeral dirge, a lamentation said over the dead. Amos speaks, not as if it were yet to occur, but as if it had already happened. This death came when Assyria conquered Israel from 721 to 718 BC and deported her people to foreign lands.

Israel is pictured as a virgin, though not a spiritual virgin. God frequently calls her an adulteress, harlot, and fornicator (Jeremiah 3:1-13; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:2-13), but He uses "virgin" here because Israel was cut off seemingly in the bloom of youth—before she could produce what she had the potential to produce. In a literal family, God could have expected a happy marriage and children from her (Isaiah 5:1-2). Israel, surrounded by luxury and prosperity, should have produced God's personality and character, but she failed miserably.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Revelation 11:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That identification is pretty clear: Sodom—Egypt—Jerusalem, all in one hand, each describing the other. God is giving evidence here to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Sodom is noted in all of the history of mankind for its sexual sins, and Egypt is known to all biblical students of a harsh and exacting slavery of the Israelitish people.

These two stunning and dramatic comparisons are of Israel's immoral characteristics, so why not compare Israel to Babylon? He has already compared Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Could it get any worse? None of those is a beautiful comparison. Every one of them is putting Jerusalem and Israel on the spiritual and moral level that they deserve—to be compared to Sodom and to Egypt. God reserved His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts in prideful self-indulgence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 11:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Babylon is called great (Revelation 14:8; 16:19) in the same way that Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, was called great (Revelation 11:8). When "great" is used in this manner in this kind of a context, it not complimentary. The word in the Greek is megas, and it literally means "big." It can mean big or great in size, magnitude, intensity, or rank, in either a good or a bad sense. It depends on the context. This is interesting, because when God symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jerusalem was known by its citizens as the "Holy City."

Tradition tells us (especially through Josephus) that God departed His residence there shortly before AD 70. The "Holy City" title for Jerusalem does not come back into the story-flow of the book of Revelation until Revelation 21:2-3.

In Revelation 21, the title "Holy City" is once again going to be applied to Jerusalem, but until that time, when God dwells there, it is known as the "great" city. It is great just like Babylon in its anti-God, sinful influence and economic, political, and military power. But most certainly it is not great in holiness. Israel's conduct puts its place next to Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and Babylon in great defiance against God, against His message and His messengers, and thus it lost its identification as "the Holy City" and became "great."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 17:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For her to be riding the Beast, there must be some relationship between the two. In fact, each, the Woman and the Beast, are part of the same general system, the Babylonish system. However, right up front - because one is depicted as a woman and the other as a beast - God is indicating two distinctly different sets of characteristics, personalities, or approaches within the system.

As depicted in Revelation 13:2, the Beast consists of the strongest parts of a leopard, bear, and lion. Unarguably, these three animals are vicious, wild beasts, and each is a very powerful animal that a woman on her own would ordinarily be no match for.

Obviously, a human woman would approach life and its events differently than an animal. Yet, the Woman is riding the seemingly super-powerful Beast. She, at this juncture in the prophecy, is the one in the position of strength and therefore is superior, greater, more powerful, and more influential than the Beast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Three): Who Is the Woman?


 

Revelation 17:1-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show the Woman, the harlot, sitting upon many waters, the Beast, and seven mountains (a mountain is a biblical symbol of a nation), and in verse 15 the waters of which the Beast consists are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. In such a context, sitting is the Bible's symbol of authority, having power over. It is as though she gives orders and is served.

This description conveys two characteristics: First, the scope of her influence is wide-ranging, over many nations. Second, the Beast consists of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Woman, however, is not described in that manner; she is depicted as one unit. Therefore, a distinct possibility is that God sees the Woman in this end-time prophecy as one powerful and influential people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse peoples who, at first, cannot combine and coordinate their strengths to counterbalance and perhaps overcome the more united Woman.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Revelation 17:1, the Woman sits on many waters; in verse 3, she sits on the Beast; in verse 9, she sits on seven mountains, symbolic of nations (Isaiah 2:2-3); and in verse 15, the "waters" are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The term "sits" appears more than 300 times in Scripture, and most of the time, it merely indicates a posture contrasting to "stands." However, sometimes it indicates qualities of far greater importance.

Proverbs 31:23 says, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land." This is a common positive usage and implies a measure of respect and authority. In contrast, Psalm 1:1 reads, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." Here, sitting is shown in a negative usage. Matthew 8:11; 23:2; and Acts 23:3 all show that "sit" indicates a position of prominence, authority, and influence for good or evil. One in this position is influential enough to teach, persuade, guide, or force another to follow, imitate, or submit.

This description of the Great Harlot "sitting" in Revelation 17 opens clues to help identify her among the nations: First, even as a person sits on a horse's back and influences it to go this way or that, walk, or run, the Woman teaches, guides, or coerces many nations, perhaps worldwide, to do her bidding.

Since the Beast is clearly an awesome, frightful entity, this fact suggests that her powers are vast. Adding to this evidence of strength, the Beast is described as consisting of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Beast is no pushover, yet at this time in the prophecy, the Woman is in control. Only the modern nations of Israel in the entire world possesses this combination of strength to control something as ferocious as the Beast. The Bible's description of the Beast having the strongest parts of several vicious, carnivorous animals adds to John's amazement over the Woman.

She is never described in any way as similar to the Beast. The Bible always depicts her as one unit. Because of this contrast between the Woman and the Beast, it is distinctly possible that God wants us to understand that the Woman in this end-time prophecy is one people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse, unrelated peoples.

Feeding this thought into present circumstances, God is describing all the nations of Israel in intimate association with the Beast. The world does not conceive Israel in this manner, but God does. It is an association of support, strong influence, and even control. Consider how entwined the nations of Israel are with Europe through political, trade, and military agreements. As the history of the last two centuries prove, the Joseph tribes—America and the United Kingdom—in particular, are the clearest end-time realization of the Woman.

Notice how God specifically mentions the tribe of Joseph in prophecies written in the last decades before Israel fell to Assyria in 721-718 BC:

[Woe to you] who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who chant to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. (Amos 6:4-6)

Why single out Joseph, even though all of the ten northern tribes were about to fall? Because "Joseph" is used here to represent the entire house of Israel just as "Jerusalem" is used to represent the entire house of Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh were the leading and strongest tribes just before Israel fell, even as they are today. Judah was the leading and strongest tribe in the south, and today, though small, it is again fairly strong and, interestingly, located to the south of the bulk of Ephraim and Manasseh.

In Amos 5:15, God adds, "Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." God may intend these prophecies for all of Israel, but He singles Joseph out because it was the leading tribe politically, economically, and militarily. Interesting, too, is the fact that most of the end-time church resides in Joseph.

Amos 6:1 adds yet another characteristic of Israel that helps identify her by revealing what some of her citizens were saying: "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the house of Israel comes!" In modern language, God is saying that the average, reasonably well-off Israelite boasted, "Look at the other nations. None are greater than we are." This arrogance echoed what their leaders, the notable persons, said. This boast was probably true, but beneath it, the cancer of their immorality and false spirituality was eating away at their vitals, and God would soon bring this powerful nation down. Amos paints a picture of a people so self-absorbed with pleasure, so self-confident in their power, that they feel free to indulge themselves, ignoring the fact that the entire nation is, in reality, walking on eggshells in every vital area of well-being.

Amos and Hosea, both prophets to the northern kingdom, were contemporaries during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel. Amos began preaching before Hosea, but Hosea preached for a longer time, ending his ministry just a few years before the northern tribes fell to Assyria. In Hosea, "Ephraim" appears 37 times, using it the same way Amos uses "Joseph." Sometimes, it is clear that God means all ten northern tribes, but at other times, He means Ephraim alone. Hosea 10:11 is typical: "Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain; but I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods." He means all of Israel here, but "Ephraim," the leading tribe's name, is used.

It is Israel, primarily the Joseph tribes, to which the Beast is currently submitting, but the time is coming when events will take a stunning turn, as Revelation 17:16-17 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Revelation 17:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 17:1 plainly declares that she sits upon many waters, and Revelation 18:17, 19 add related material through the mention of ships, sailors, and trading by sea. She sits, meaning that she rules, exercises her authority, operates, or is located, upon many waters. We cannot exclude the dual possibilities here of waters representing both peoples and literal waters. Please recall that this is a description of an end-time Babylon.

The ancient city of Babylon sat astride the Euphrates River, but the nation itself had relatively limited access to the sea. If God is describing the ancient nation, it is a poor application. By way of contrast, every nation of modern Israel except Switzerland sits on an ocean and has a multitude of deep-water seaports.

End-time Babylon has a large number of sea gates and is graced by great rivers and many large freshwater lakes. What this entire word picture in Revelation 17 and 18 describes is its political, military, economic, and geographic dominance. It is especially dominant worldwide in trade - so much so that Revelation 18:23 says that its merchants, not its priests, are called "the great men of the earth."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Revelation 17:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is added in this verse is that the woman is riding the beast (Revelation 13:1-4). This is a position of control, much like the rider of a horse, and this woman is identified as "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT." For her to be riding the beast, there must be at least some relationship between the two, because after all, this beast is pretty wild. In fact, each—the woman and the beast—is part of the same general system—the Babylonish system. Remember, Babylon became a worldwide, anti-God system. The Greek word for this is cosmos, meaning an orderly system that is against God. Both the woman and the beast are part of that same system, but they are obviously separate and different, yet having a relationship within the system.

God clearly reveals two distinctly different aspects, applications, or approaches within the Babylonish system, and the woman and the beast represent these. The beast is depicted in Revelation 13:2 as consisting of the strongest parts of a leopard, a bear, and a lion. Each of these beasts is unarguably wild, and each one, on its own, is a very powerful animal that a woman on her own would be no match for.

A human approach to life and its events would certainly be different than a bestial approach, and this "human" way is represented by the woman. We see in Revelation 17 that the woman, who would appear on the surface to be the weaker, is riding the beast—the seemingly super-powerful beast. She, at the point of time in which the prophecy is shown here, is superior, greater, more powerful and influential than the beast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The elegant clothing, jewelry, and precious metals illustrate her wealth. It is a wealth as among nations, not merely a church. As a group, the Israelitish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, grew to control around 60% of the world's wealth at the height of their prosperity.

Nobody else on earth is in the position to influence, persuade, and guide as Israel is. Through the misuse of these gifts, Israel has risen to worldly greatness in terms of evil too. Despite its material greatness, it is unfortunately also spiritually great in its immorality, great in its confusion, great in its deviance from responsibility, great in its polluted influence—so great in its power only it can hold the Beast in check and make it do its bidding until God's time comes.

In recent history, Israel—represented primarily by the Joseph tribes—has brushed the world aside politically and economically. No other nation of people on earth today fits the characteristics given in Revelation 17 and 18.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Revelation 17:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is interesting that God labeled this woman as a mystery. He goes on to say, through the angel, "I will show you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast." Revelation 17 and 18 contain many clues as to her identification.

Now the word mystery is Strong's #3466 in the combined Strong's Concordance and Vine's Expository Dictionary. The word is defined there as: "Mystery is that which denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit."

In other words, a "mystery"—in the biblical sense, in the Greek sense—is something that is unattainable by common human research but is revealed by God so that His children, His people, can understand.

This word then parallels Daniel 12:10, which says that at the end "the wise shall understand." Here we are, in the end-time, and God has revealed where Israel is. Israel is a mystery to those in the world. They do not believe, even though they are told. They do not believe that the people of Northwest Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand are the descendants of Israel. It just does not sink in. They can be presented with proof, not from the Bible, but from the world—from historical researches and such—and they still do not believe it. It is something that has to be revealed.

This revelation is not something that is just contained in words, but it is something that God gives to the heart and mind of His children so that they are desirous to believe it. And they do. It does not take a lot of brain power, but it takes instead a gift from God to believe, which His children will do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Now what about this statement that this woman is the mother of harlots? In the past we have referred to her harlot children as being the Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic church; however, there is a weakness in this concept found in the Bible's use of the terms "daughter," "son," "harlot," and other similar terms.

God had Hosea physically act out what had happened to God in God's relationship with Israel. He says, "Plead with your mother" (Hosea 2:2). Who would be the mother of Hosea and all the people of Jerusalem? It would be Jerusalem, or in a larger context, Israel.

"Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife." This makes it clear that He is talking about all of Israel. God did not marry just Jerusalem; He married all of Israel. Does Israel only consist of men or women? No, both. We are beginning to see that the term "wife" can include both male and female people, depending on the context in which it appears. And, obviously, so does the word "children" indicate both male and female.

The word "daughter" also includes men, the word "son" also includes women, and the word "harlot" means both men and women. It does not mean just women, because Israel was made up of men and women. Children are made up of men and women. The Bible uses these terms interchangeably, and one gender almost always includes the other.

Consider Hosea 2:2-4 and Hosea 4:11-13. Were women the only ones who committed whoredom? No. The men committed whoredom too. And spouses? Was it only women who were committing whoredom? No. "Spouses" includes men and women who were sinning. Hosea 7:4 says they were all adulterers—male and female.

Daughters, in Ezekiel 16:44-48, includes everybody within the city.

Ezekiel 16:53-55 describes the Jews coming back to their former estate in Jerusalem. Was it only women who came back? Can we see the way "daughters" is used? It is being used in a collective sense.

In Lamentations 3:51, God also refers to all of Jerusalem's inhabitants, male and female, as "daughters." Why is this true? The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 194, speaks about "daughters" or "daughters of":

The Hebrew idiom reflects a double metaphor common in the culture of the ancient Near East. A capitol city was personified as a woman, and the inhabitants of that city collectively as her daughter. Jerusalem remains distinct as she whose Husband is the One God, Yahweh. Thus her daughters, the collective inhabitants, depended on her for identity, but also shaped her future by their action.

Thus the terms "sons," "daughters," "children," "harlot," as well as other descriptive terms like "seed," "adulterers," and "liars" are used collectively without regard to specific gender when the sense of the term is "those showing the characteristics of." That is what a child does. A child shows the characteristics of its parents regardless if it is a male or female. And so the inhabitants of Jerusalem showed the characteristics of Jerusalem. That is why Hosea is told to write "they are all adulterers." Male and female.

Thus in Revelation 17, the city is Babylon (symbolically a woman) and is said to be the mother of harlots, which is used in the same way as "daughters"—that is, collectively, including the male gender; thus all of her offspring—male and female—are to be considered as harlots. It is not something limited to church denomination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Revelation 17:5, "harlot" is to be understood as including men too, involved in what the Bible specifies as "harlotry," something that in normal circumstances would only be said of a female, but biblically includes both men and women. Therefore, "MOTHER OF HARLOTS" specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific human sexual sin.

The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as churches. Neither was the Catholic Church unfaithful to God as a church. Why? Because they never entered into a covenant with Him! They were never His church! But the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the past, we have been taught that this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, does this truly refer only to a church, or is it something more politically, economically, and militarily powerful and influential? Notice her identification contains the name "Mystery." (I Corinthians 2:7-9 also uses this term.)

A biblical mystery is something that God must reveal for one to understand. It is not something right on the surface that anybody looking into Revelation can stumble across and quickly understand. This Woman's identification is not something easily seen. Of "mystery," William Barclay's The Letters to the Corinthians says: "The Greek word musterion means something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but crystal clear to those who have" (p. 26). Thus, commentaries are of virtually no help in identifying the Woman of these chapters.

Protestant biblical commentators pay little or no attention to the end-time twelve tribes of Israel. To them, that Israel does not exist! Conversely, evangelical writers and a few mainstream groups focus exclusively on the tiny nation of Israel in the Middle East. However, the Mystery Woman of Revelation 17 and 18 is much more than what that nation displays.

Commentators wholly disregard God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make Israel into a populous, powerhouse nation both physically and spiritually—promises that affect both race and grace. Ignoring the race aspect altogether, they teach that the promises of grace were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

However, God, as a blessing to His church, revealed the knowledge of the end-time location of Israel to Herbert Armstrong through other men who were seeking to find the "lost ten tribes." God did this so the church can make better sense of what is happening regarding the fulfillment of prophecy as the return of Christ approaches. In Daniel 12:10, God promises that the wise would understand, and the wise are those who keep the ways of the Lord (Hosea 14:9).

Almost all Protestants claim, as Herbert Armstrong did, that the Woman is the Roman Catholic Church, against which they have a prejudice. But Revelation 17 and 18 are a continued revelation of the same Woman, Israel, who appears in chapter 12!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is it really wild, unjust, and perhaps outright wrong that God could refer to Israel as a great prostitute, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots? Notice, however, Revelation 11:8: "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." In the same book, He calls Jerusalem "Sodom and Egypt"! Both were despicable places. God is providing evidence to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Jerusalem—representing all Israel—to Sodom, noted in history for its sexual sins, and Egypt, known to biblical students for its harsh slavery of the Israelites and as a type of the anti-God world we must come out of.

These are two stunning and dramatic comparisons of Israel's immoral characteristics! Why should God not also compare her to Babylon? God reserves His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts on prideful self-indulgence. Jesus says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48; see Amos 3:1-2).

In Ezekiel 16:46-51,56, God not only compares Jerusalem to both Samaria and Sodom, but He judges it to be more immorally vile than even those two well-publicized examples of ancient sin run wild! God portrays them as sisters under the skin! We all know the perversity of Sodom's sins. God goes so far as to say that Samaria had not committed half the sins that Jerusalem had. These verses put Israel's conduct into a perspective that we find difficult to accept, but it is true nonetheless—it is God's own judgment and testimony! That God calls Israel "Babylon" gives evidence of the magnitude of Israel's unfaithfulness to her Husband and Benefactor, God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The phrase "mother of harlots" in Revelation 17:5 might be misleading and therefore misinterpreted because of the Bible's peculiar practice of frequently using terms such as daughters, sons, harlots, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters collectively, fully intending both genders. In other words, sin is not limited to one gender.

In collective usage, the term "daughters" includes males; the word "sons" includes females; and words like "harlots," "adulterers," "idolaters," and "thieves" include both males and females. This practice is what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery calls a "double metaphor": one word, which may have a specific gender because the context demands it take that gender, but which actually includes both genders. Thus in Revelation 17:5, "harlots" is to be understood as including men involved in what the Bible specifies as harlotry.

Therefore, "mother of harlots," in Revelation 17:5 specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific, human, sexual sin. The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as His churches. They never made the Old Covenant with God, entering into a figurative marriage; they, as an entire nation, had never vowed to keep His laws. Nor were the Protestant and Catholic churches unfaithful to God as a church because neither ever had a New Covenant relationship with God as churches. However, the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship. Revelation 17 and 18 are describing a city/nation, not a church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Within the practical realities of international political, economic, and military affairs, the Beast may be resentful and unwilling to do as the Woman directs. As a wild animal would, it will undoubtedly buck and resist, but until God is ready, it ends up most of the time doing what the Woman wants. The Beast submits to the Woman because she possesses power greater in certain areas than the Beast, a power the Beast resents, envies, and plots to have for itself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Revelation 18:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Babylon the Great is clearly the economic nerve-center of world trade, not of religion. Notice, first the kings of the earth bewail her destruction, and then the businessmen follow suit. It is hard to imagine both the kings of the earth and hardheaded businessmen bewailing the destruction of a church! These leaders are bewailing the destruction of an entity in which their power and wealth are involved, placing them in grave danger of overwhelming loss because Babylon is no longer able to consume their products.

Notice in Revelation 18:3, 7, 19, and 23 how clear the inferences and direct statements are regarding wealth, not only of Babylon itself, but also of those who trade with her. How can these scriptures apply to a church? Modern Israel has been largely responsible for causing the prosperity of Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and now China through trade.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Revelation 18:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 18:7 provides us with three of Babylon's important characteristics: that she glorified herself; that she lived extravagantly; and that she proclaimed herself a queen, not a widow, and would see no sorrow. We are looking for an end-time city/nation that is exceedingly wealthy, influential, disdainful, contemptuous, and mocking. She is portrayed as proud to the point of arrogance, self-confident in her security, thinking she has produced the power by her own means. She lives extravagantly relative to the levels of other nations, seeking further gratification while simultaneously compromising with known standards.

We see three remarkable characteristics: arrogant pride; satiety ("fullness of bread," as God calls it elsewhere, a super-abundance of all the good things in life); and avoidance of suffering, a compromising, self-absorbed, self-indulgence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 18:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 16-19 show the political figures, merchants, and transportation industry figures weeping because, when the Harlot falls, no one is left to buy or, as we say today, consume, what they produce from afar. They weep because their power, too, has crumbled, and their hopes for even greater wealth have been dashed in her destruction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

 




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