(Rev 18:11) And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more.
So here we see the merchants are also upset about this. We are told why they are upset as well, and that is because “no man buyeth their merchandise any more.”
Now in the next two verses we are going to spend a lot of time on the specific items that these merchants used to sell to the capital city of the antichrist.
You should take note that these are not just any merchants.
Revelation 18:15 tells us that the merchants are the merchants of “THESE things.” Those are the particular items that we are about to study in depth. They are not all the merchants of the world, or symbolically representative of the world economy. I believe the primary reason we are told of the specific items sold to Mystery Babylon is so we can be absolutely sure of who she is and what she is doing during the time of her unfaithfulness.
(Rev 18:12) The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble
This is the first of two verses that contain items sold to Mystery Babylon.
Let me first give you the overall picture of what I think we are going to see in these verses.
These are mostly items specific to the reinstitution of the sacrificial system and the rebuilding of the temple. They also include various items that are required for the maintenance of the temple system. There are other fascinating items, too. For instance, take a look at this first phrase:
“…gold, and silver, and precious stones…”
Now we will see there are many uses for these items in the temple, and we could make all kinds of connections if we wanted to, but I think we should be careful to make sure we are looking for exact matches, not just general ones. I also think this phrase does have a very interesting exact match.
These words only appear in the same verse three other times in the Bible.
The first instance is in a kind of master list of the things needed to build the temple given to us by David. This is an important verse, and we will see a lot of interesting things in it later on. For now, notice the items are not in the order we have in our verse, that is, “gold, and silver, and precious stones.” They are simply included in the items.
“Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.” – 1Ch 29:2
That’s pretty significant, but let’s look at the other two instances of these items in the Bible to see if there is a more significant connection.
The next instance is talking about the great wealth of Israel’s King Hezekiah. Here it mentions that he made treasuries of silver, gold, and precious stones.
“And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels…” – 2Ch 32:27
The phrase is pretty close, like in the other one, but it reverses silver and gold and it’s also talking about treasuries. It could be a match, but I don’t really think so. Let’s check the third and last instance of these words.
“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.” – Dan 11:37-38
Here we have an exact match with our phrase. In my opinion, it is not a coincidence that it is found not only in a verse that is all about the antichrist, but also in a verse which is also about the items that will be used in the antichrist’s fake religious service. I say fake because in verse 37, it says he will not regard any god, but then it says, “BUT in his estate shall he honour… a god… with gold, and silver, and with precious stones.” So it seems to me that he says one thing and does another.
The main point is that the first phrase listed for items that will be sold to the city of the antichrist, just happens to be the exact same phrase as the items that the antichrist’s estate will offer to a god of forces during his reign. This is the only two times in the Bible this exact phrase is used.
“…pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet…”
These items also seem to be a part of a set. If you remember when we looked at Rev 17:4, we looked in depth at the “fine linen, purple and scarlet” as one of the most used phrases in the book of Exodus. There it is told how to make the curtains and dividers of the tabernacle, as well as the veil, the priests’ clothing, and almost anything else made of cloth that was in service of the tabernacle. They always used this phrase: “fine linen, purple and scarlet.” We also mentioned the notable lack of the word “blue” in this phrase in Revelation, which the Bible makes clear is a symbol of their right relationship with Him (Num 15:38-41.)
We have talked in this study about how in the Old Testament God speaks of Jerusalem as having dressed herself with precious materials in her youth, but then it describes how she goes astray after other gods and defiles the way God originally dressed her. I mention this because I think the word “silk” in our verse is an interesting clue.
Silk is not mentioned in any of the earlier passages about the types of clothing Mystery Babylon wears. In fact, this is the only time the word silk appears in the entire New Testament. It’s also rare in the Old Testament, appearing only 3 times. Each mention is important, and I think if we look at them it will confirm that we are on the right track with our interpretation.
The first one is from Proverbs 31. This is the famous proverb about a virtuous woman. It’s the great model for women of all ages, and it says here that she wears silk.
The last two times silk is mentioned in the Bible are both in the same chapter, chapter 16 of Ezekiel. This is a chapter we have looked at many times in the course of our study. It is the picture of the city of Jerusalem from God’s eyes, where He talks about how in her youth He clothed her as a virtuous woman with silk. In this way, it is a picture of the woman of Proverbs 31.
“I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.” – Eze 16:10
“Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.” – Eze 16:13
Now a few verses later we see that she commits adultery; but notice that she retains her original clothing and simply uses it to help her attract men who symbolically represent false gods, as we are told later.
“’And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee,’ saith the Lord GOD. ‘But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.’” – Eze 16:14-15
Later we see her using these garments, given to her by God, to further her worship of false gods on high places.
I believe the mention of silk here completes the garments of Mystery Babylon, which are symbolic and also show that she is the one who was decked by God Himself in her youth. In other words, she is Jerusalem. Also, the same language is used to point back to twenty-three mentions of these specific items in the book of Exodus – all items that have to do with service of the temple.
As a side note, I noticed while doing a word search that the only times these phrases like “fine linen, purple and scarlet” appear in the same verse is these twenty-three times in Exodus referring to the items in the temple and the priests’ clothing. The other two times are interestingly in the book of Revelation talking about Mystery Babylon. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
This one is extremely interesting. This word, thyine is not found anywhere else in the Bible. The wood itself is known to be a very expensive and rare wood used in the ancient world for building things such as ornate furniture, doors of temples, musical instruments, and idols.
As I said, this exact word only appears here in the Bible, but some like The Encyclopedia of Biblical literature, Volume 1, connect this wood to algum wood, or sometimes called almug wood, which is found in the Old Testament a few times, although still very rarely.110
All five instances of this word algum or almug trees in the Old Testament are referring to the exact same instance. That instance is when Solomon was building the first temple in Jerusalem, and how he had the merchants bring all kinds of materials and wealth to Jerusalem. We will look in depth at this time toward the end of our study, but for now let’s notice the use of this particular wood.
“And the servants also of Huram, and the servants of Solomon, which brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones. And the king made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the LORD, and to the king's palace, and harps and psalteries for singers: and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.” – 2Ch 9:10-11
In 1 Kings, we see basically the same thing, but there it calls this wood “almug,” although it is clear it’s talking about the same thing as Kings and Chronicles often do.
So we are told that this wood is used for terraces of the temple and for musical instruments. Then we are told that it was so rare and precious that it was not seen in Israel before this time. So we know that it was imported.
If you only noticed one thing about this, I would hope that it would be that the only time we see this wood used in the Bible is in the context of it being imported to Jerusalem by merchants for use in the building of the temple. Though the king used the remainder for himself, it is clear that the temple was its primary use.
“…vessels of ivory…”
Ivory is also a rare term in the Old Testament, but just like thyine wood, it shows up at this time of great wealth and building during Solomon’s reign.
“Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold…. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” – 1Ki 10:18-23
So again we see one of the few references to ivory in the Old Testament is talking about it being imported to Jerusalem by merchants. Here it is the merchants of Tharshish to service the king in his overabundant wealth, and it talks about a great throne being constructed out of ivory.
There is another reference to King Ahab of Israel building an entire palace of ivory during his reign. This is probably where we get the idea of kings living in “ivory towers.” I think the connection to the merchants, ivory, the buildup of Jerusalem, and the throne of ivory are all important clues. Again, we will look a little closer at this time of Solomon’s kingdom later on.
“...all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble…"
I am going to take this phrase as a unit. The only other time in Scripture that these words appear in the same verse is 1Ch 29:2. This is where King David lists the items he has acquired for Solomon to build the temple. Though God prevented David from building a temple, he was allowed to gather the materials for Solomon. As you read it, notice that it is almost an exact match of the entire verse of Revelation 18:12, but we are reading it here to show that precious wood, brass, iron, and marble are all specifically mentioned.
“Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for [things to be made] of gold, and the silver for [things] of silver, and the brass for [things] of brass, the iron for [things] of iron, and wood for [things] of wood; onyx stones, and [stones] to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.” – 1Ch 29:2
It should again be noted that this is an extremely rare collection of words. It is significant when we find the only other verse in Scripture that contains all of these words is all about the temple service. It wouldn’t be as meaningful if it only happened once or twice, but as we will see, it continually occurs.
(Rev 18:13) And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
Here is the next list of items that the merchants sell to Mystery Babylon, the capital city of the antichrist in the end times.
“And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense…”
These first four items should be taken as a set. I believe each word was carefully chosen to make sure we were pointed back to the same chapter in the Old Testament, Exodus chapter 30.
Exodus chapter 30 is where we find instructions regarding temple service, and this is also where we find two specific recipes: one for the incense to be offered on the altar of incense and another for holy anointing oil which was to consecrate priests and kings.
One interesting thing is that after each of these recipes is given, we have a warning about making anything like it.
Anointing oil – whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people – Exo 30:33
Incense/perfume – whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people – Exo 30:38
This should show us that these items are exclusively to be used in the service of the temple and its various duties.
Let’s look a little closer at the words in our passage and then at the recipes in Exodus 30.
Cinnamon is another rare word. In fact, this is the only time it is used in the New Testament, and it is used only three times in the Old Testament.
It is used once in Exodus 30 as part of the recipe for the sacred anointing oil. There is also a mention of cinnamon in Proverbs 7 as the adulterous woman who spices her bed while trying to seduce a man. The third is in Song of Solomon when Solomon compares a woman to expensive spices including cinnamon.
If this was the only connection that this list in Revelation 18 had to Exodus 30 (that is that cinnamon is a key ingredient in the holy anointing oil), I might consider this to be a coincidence, but as I mentioned, I think it becomes more and more clear that the words in Revelation 18 were carefully chosen so that we would make this connection to Exodus 30.
This word “odors” appears six times in the New Testament, and four of those times are in the book of Revelation. Each time it is referring specifically to incense on the altar of incense – the specific incense used in worshiping God in the temple.
In Exodus 30, the chapter I believe we are being pointed to, this word appears more times than any other chapter. It appears there seven times.
This word is used in the New Testament in a more general way to refer to the compounds of great value used as perfumes and for anointing. Sometimes they could be as costly as a year’s wages or more. This comes up in the New Testament several times.
However, in the Old Testament this takes on a much more specific usage. In fact, according to the Septuagint the corresponding Hebrew word is used just three times in the Old Testament. If you guessed that Exodus 30 was one of those times, you would be right.
In the following passage, it is translated as the word compound.
“And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office.” – Exo 30:25-30
Remember this was a compound that was specifically forbidden to be used in any other way than the service of the temple.
The next word, frankincense, is only used twice in the NT – in this verse, and in Matthew when it is referring to the gifts brought to Jesus by the Magi.
In the Old Testament, the first time this word appears is…you guessed it Exodus 30, as a part of the recipe for the holy incense for temple service.
It is also used as a part of the sacrificial offerings, and I believe it serves as a kind of bridge to the next set of items.
“…wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep…”
I am sure these items are meant to go together as a set since they are the exact things needed for the daily offerings at the temple.
Everything we need to know here is found not in Exodus 30, but in the chapter before it, Exodus 29. I would say that this is probably even part of the Exodus 30 passages considering that the chapter breaks are a recent addition.
In Exodus 29, we find instructions for the daily offering below. Compare Revelation 18:13 to this verse:
“And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.” – Exo 29:40
So we see that lambs, flour, oil, and wine are all mentioned here! Again we have the same pattern. The only times that these words appear in the same verses in Scripture are in Revelation 18:13 and Exodus 29:40.
This is, quite simply, a list of the components of the daily offerings.
It should not be missed that this daily offering is an exceedingly important aspect of the end time scenario, as it is when the daily offering ceases (by the antichrist’s sitting in the temple and declaring himself to be God) that the 3.5-year countdown begins. Daniel says this about it:
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” – Dan 12:11
So we know that the daily sacrifice will be instituted again in the time of the antichrist but there is something missing.
“Wheat” and “beasts” are mentioned as well in this verse. In Revelation 18:13, it contrasts wheat with flour so there is probably an intended distinction between them, and it contrasts sheep with the general term for beasts as well.
Back in Exodus 29 we find why this distinction is used.
“And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them.” – Exo 29:1-2
The first verses of this chapter, which is about the daily offerings, start with the necessary preparations in order to make these daily offerings. They had to first consecrate the priests and the altar. One bullock and two rams or beasts were needed as well as wheat flour. This is the only time wheat is mentioned in conjunction with sacrifice in this chapter.
So wheat and beasts are added to the list in Revelation 18:13 as an indispensable part of the preparation for daily offerings. So this set of items (wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep) represents a shopping list for everything you will need if you plan on making daily offerings in the temple.
“…horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.”
I think this last phrase begins a new class of items sold to Mystery Babylon by the merchants.
This is an interesting one, too. I think before we can fully understand its significance, we need to take a little detour and look at the life of King Solomon during the time of his building the temple.
In 1 Kings 10, it tells of Solomon’s rule, widely considered to be the most prosperous time in Israel’s history. You will hear that silver was considered nothing in those days, because there was so much gold, but there is an interesting parallel between everything we have seen so far and this time in Solomon’s life.
We will see that it is a time where the entire world is in service to Solomon, but it doesn’t seem to end well for him personally. In fact, the next chapter after this says the following of him:
“For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” – 1 Ki 11:4-5
It then talks about how he starts to build houses for these gods and is utterly devoted to them. We are not told whether Solomon repented of this or not. I think he probably did, but I have no biblical support for that.
The interesting section that I want to show you is just before these verses about him following other gods. We will start with a verse that I think represents a marker to show when things started to go wrong for Solomon. It says:
"The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold…” – 1 Ki 10:14
Now, 666 is a pretty interesting number. This is the only other time in the Bible it occurs besides the passage in the book of Revelation. I’m not claiming that this has any real significance as to the mark of the beast, or even that it is a clue of some sort. I only think it’s interesting that if you read between this verse and the verses about him going after other gods, you have a section of Scripture that I think is one of the most overlooked types (or prophetic foreshadows) of the antichrist and the time when he will reign in Jerusalem and when these merchants will grow rich of the opulence of the capital city of the antichrist.
“The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, besides that from the traveling merchants, from the income of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country. And King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. He also made three hundred shields of hammered gold; three minas of gold went into each shield. The king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold. … nothing like this had been made for any other kingdom. All King Solomon's drinking vessels were gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon. For the king had merchant ships at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys. So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. Now all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year. And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king's merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price. Now a chariot that was imported from Egypt cost six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse one hundred and fifty; and thus, through their agents, they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.” – 1Ki 10:14-29
If you look carefully at those verses, you can see a lot of parallels, but of note to us right now are horses. In that list it was obvious that Solomon was multiplying horses, but did you know that this act was in direct violation of the Law that God had set for kings, which we find in Deut 17:16?
“But [the king] shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, ‘Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.’” – Deu 17:16
Also notice the chariots mentioned here. He had so many that he had chariot cities. The word for chariots there is extremely rare. In fact, there is no other time in the Old or New Testaments that this is used. No references in the LXX or anywhere else. There are plenty of mentions of chariots in the Bible, of course, but none of them are like this word. I will give you the definition from a standard lexicon.
G4480 αrheda hred'-ah – Of Latin origin; a rheda, that is, four-wheeled carriage (wagon for riding): - chariot.121
That’s right. This kind of chariot has four wheels. I don’t have much to say about that except that I find the Bible to be fascinating.
“…slaves, and souls of men.”
I think this last section may be unnecessarily confusing, especially this last part: “souls of men.”
This same phrase is used in the Old Testament to refer to slaves. Not surprisingly, we find it in a passage about merchants. It says:
“Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.” – Eze 27:13
The word “persons” there is the Hebrew word nephesh which is translated “souls” 475 times in the Old Testament, but it is used in a variety of ways which you can see from this lexicon entry. I think that here in the Old Testament is the correct way to understand the idea of souls of men, and that is in terms of slaves. I’m sure the translators of Revelation simply rendered the word “nephesh” in its literal sense, “souls of men,” even though it clearly has a much broader use in Scripture.
However, if that is true, it causes a bit of a conflict in Revelation 18:13, because we already have a word translated as “slaves.” So am I saying that this verse should read they were selling “slaves and slaves?”
Let’s look at the first word they have rendered as slaves.
This word is soma in the Greek it is used 146 times in the New Testament, and it never means slaves other than this one time. The other 145 times it is rendered as bodies, either dead or living bodies. It is basically used the exact same way we use the word “body” in English.
So I think that this verse could have better been translated as “bodies and slaves.”
I am not exactly sure how this will manifest during the antichrist’s reign. I’m sure I could have un- earthed more interesting connections here, but at the very least, if we just take it at its face value and you consider that the antichrist will preside over the biggest genocide in history, you can start to make some guesses as to how this slavery could play out. To give an example of how much people will agree with this genocide, remember Jesus’ words in the Olivet discourse:
“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” – Mar 13:12
So with such disregard for human life among the world at this time I don’t know why we should expect them to care if these people, who they clearly hate and feel they are doing the world a favor by killing them, were used even as slaves.
(Rev 18:14) And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
All the delicious living that was described as being a part of the city of Mystery Babylon will cease when Judgment comes to it.
(Rev 18:15) The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing.
“The merchants of these things….”
We have already mentioned that this seems to refute the idea that these merchants are a general term for the world economy or “Economic Babylon” as is often said by those who would seek to spiritualize the above passages.
- The merchants…mourning = echoes the situation of the kings above. Their reaction is the same as the kings.
- Woe, woe, the great city = indicates that the lament of the merchants is the same as the kings’.