The Prostitute of Mankind: Revelation 16 – 17

Very Unhappy Bowls. A Derelict Prostitute for the Devil.

                        “BABYLON THE GREAT
Revelation 17:5 (NIV)

John has mentioned quite a few mythical devils throughout his Revelation, and each is more grotesque than the one before. We have Satan – of course, he’s an obvious one. There isn’t much in the way of physical description, but we all have that same image – trident, horns, deep red body. Then we have a dragon with a whole bunch of heads trying to eat the baby of a pregnant woman. I’m not even sure what is going on there. Also, we mustn’t forget the two beasts responsible for global domination, which are amalgamations of strange bestial parts – dragons, bears, leopards, and lambs. I suppose one of these folks is going to be the Antichrist. We’ll have to see.

Finally, we come to the last beast in the group – known as “Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast.” Her introduction is filled with sly riddles and metaphors. She lies by “many waters” (or: many men). She intoxicates the world with her adulteries (or: she has a siren’s call (that is also a metaphor)(she is very alluring)). She has a golden cup filled with her “adulterous things” (or: vibrator (that’s a joke)(she carries much guilt proudly)). The Lord has big plans for this woman. He imbues the beast and his fallen kings with the power to take her down, eat her flesh, and burn her remains. Even the beasts of mankind can be manipulated for God’s good purpose.

As it turns out, this prostitute is a reference to Babylon and its sure downfall.

We have two women so far in this testament. In Chapter 12, we have a beautiful woman clothed with the sun and moon who gives birth to an unknown child, and eventually, the angels whisk her off to Heaven for eternal protection. Then, we have a prostitute, the symbol of an entire city, tattooed with horrible blasphemy and committing acts of adultery.

I don’t like either of these portrayals, to be honest.

Come on, I have three entries left… I needed to fit in one last gender entry before I sail off into the wind.

I’m not sure if I have yet mentioned this, but I spent years as a ballroom dancer, trouncing around the country from one competition to another with my partner (female, dance). One of our teacher’s described ballroom dance as an artistic representation of the male-female courtship ritual – that the man asks for permission, and the woman, full of grace, accepts, and he leads them away. He was gay. I was queer. My partner was bisexual. But none of us felt offended by this, even given the old-school representations and gender roles.

Why not?

Because no one held onto ballroom dance as proof of the way we ought to treat gender relationships. Ballroom is entirely cultural, hearkening back to a time gone (or at least, a time with variants now). I find the gender roles of the Bible fascinating and even enlightening, floating us back to a specific culture with unique traditions. But I worry… That people read this and think of wayward women as prostitutes and holy women as needing the guidance of a man to get ahead. It works as artifact and fails as fact.

One last blog plea? Can’t we have the artifact, extract the important meaning, and leave the cultural bits behind?


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