Where and who was the Great City of Babylon? Part 2

As we saw in Part 1, the Harlot Babylon in the book of Revelation was a symbol of the Law of Moses and the unfaithful people of the old covenant Temple system. But John also called her a mother of harlots.

  • How was she a mother of harlots?

To discover how she was ‘a mother’ we need to go back into the Old Testament and look at the history of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Jacob had married two sisters, Leah and Rachel. Through these two women and their maidservants, Jacob became the father to 12 sons, who were the 12 tribes of Israel.

When God gave the Mosaic covenant to the 12 tribes they were the whole unified nation of Israel. The tribes remained united until after the death of Solomon. But eventually, they split and became two Kingdoms. Subsequently, each Kingdom had its own kings and many times in the Old Testament the Kingdoms were very hostile to each other.

These two kingdoms came out of unified Israel as a result of the two wives and two marriages of Jacob.

  • The Southern Kingdom was known as The House of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. It comprised of the tribe of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.
  • While the Northern Kingdom – The House of Israel had Samaria as its capital and comprised of all the other tribes.

But both Houses went off whoring after other gods and because of that, they each had to suffer the consequences of their idolatry.  They were the two daughters of the one mother, the WHOLE unified nation of Israel.

The capital cities of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah represented the people of those two kingdoms. Likewise, John portrayed the harlot of Revelation 17 as the mother (i.e. the source) of all the harlots and abomination of the earth (Rev. 17:5). 

Now we will take a brief look at two of her daughters…


The Two Harlot Sisters

Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah 

The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 2 “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; 3 and they played the harlot in Egypt. They played the harlot in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and there their virgin bosom was handled. 4 Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah. ~ Ezekiel 23 – 24


God Divorced Oholah/The Northern Kingdom

God divorced the Northern Kingdom due to her adultery and they were no longer in covenant with Him. But despite Judah’s harlotries, He could not divorce her as that would have made Jesus’ birth symbolically illegitimate.

And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel (~> Northern Kingdom), I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.  Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.  Yet in spite of all this, her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 3: 8-10


A Tale of Two Cities

In a previous post, The 2nd Exodus: The Significance of 40 years I showed that two cities were also represented by two mountains, two women – Hagar and Sarah and two covenants in Paul’s writings. 

The New Jerusalem City is a symbol of God’s new covenant people, the bride, while The Great City, Babylon is a symbol of God’s unrepentant old covenant people, the harlot.

John contrasted these two cities symbolically in chapters 17, 21 and 22 in the book of Revelation and it’s quite remarkable in the way that he did it. In order to make it easy for you to see the contrasts you can compare the chapters side by side in the charts below:

New Jerusalem

Represents a community of people – God‘s New Covenant people, the bride ~ Revelation 21:9-22:5


Represents a community of people – God’s unfaithful Old Covenant people, the harlot ~ Revelation 17

And one of the 7 angels And one of the 7 angels
Who had 7 bowls full of the 7 last plagues Who had 7 bowls
Came and spoke to me saying: Came and spoke with me saying:
Come, I will show you … ‘Come, I will show you …
The bride, The great prostitute …
The wife of the Lamb. With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication …
And he carried me away in the Spirit And he carried me away in the Spirit
To a great and high mount, Into a wilderness
And showed me And I saw …Rev 17: 1-3
The Holy City the great city Rev 17:18
Jerusalem Babylon Rev 17:5
Descending out of heaven Sitting on many waters
From God Rev 21:9-10 on a scarlet beast Rev 17:1,3
Having the glory of God And the woman was clothed
Her radiance was like In purple and scarlet and adorned
A precious stone, like a jasper stone sparkling Rev 21:11 With gold and precious stones and peals Rev 17:4
She offers the water of life, bright as crystal Rev 22:1 She holds a golden cup in her hand filled with abominations Rev 17:4
The tabernacle of God is among men Rev 21:3 The dwelling place of demons
Nothing unclean will enter into it And a prison of every unclean spirit
No one who practices the abomination and the lie And of every unclean bird and of every unclean and hated beast Rev 18:2
But only those who are written in the book of the life of the Lamb Those whose names are not written in the book of life
Will enter into it Will marvel seeing the beast Rev 17:8
The nations and the kings The nations and the kings Rev 17:15
Will bring their glory into it Will give their power and authority to the beast Rev 17:13
It is done Rev 21:6 It is done Rev 16:17
God will give freely to the thirsty God will give to Babylon
From the fountain The cup of the wine of fury
Of the water of life Of his wrath Rev 16:19
And no longer shall there be death, neither sorrow nor pain Rev 21:4 In one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine.
The nations will walk by its light Rev 21:24 And she shall be burned with fire Rev 18:8
The Lamb is its lamp The light of a lamp will
The Lord God will illumine them Rev 22:5 Never shine in you any longer Rev 18:23
Jerusalem has ‘the glory of God. Her brilliance was Babylon ‘adorned with gold and
Like a precious stone, like a jasper stone sparkling Rev 21:11 Precious stones and pearls is brought to ruin Rev 18:16-17
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it Babylon reigns as a queen Rev 18:7
And his servants But with her inhabitants
Will serve him Is doomed to destruction Rev 18:8
The Lord God shall illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever Rev 22:5 Babylon is thrown down with violence and will never be found any longer Rev 18:21

The following shows even more contrasts side by side between the two city communities.


New Jerusalem


outside are…fornicators. Rev 22:15I will show you the judgment of the great harlot. Rev 17:1
and he showed me a river of the water of life. Rev 22:1the great harlot sitting on many waters. Rev 17:1
And her gates were inscribed with the names of twelve tribes…and the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the apostles. Rev 21:12, 14And I saw a woman…being filled with names of blasphemy. Rev 17:3
and she had… a radiance like a precious stone…and the city was of gold…and her gates were twelve pearls. Rev 21:11, 18, 21And the woman was clothed in…gold and precious stones and pearls. Rev 17:4
And His name shall be on their foreheads Rev 22:4And on her forehead a name was written Rev 17:5
But there shall by no means enter…an abomination. Rev 21:27Babylon… mother of…the abominations of the earth. Rev 17:5
But only those (may enter) who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 21:27And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. Rev 17:8


Judaism had become not just like Egypt and Sodom but also like Babylon

It has never been unusual for Israel to be referred to as Egypt or Sodom as we can see from these Old Testament verses.

Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah. ~ Jeremiah 23:14

Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? ~ 1 Samuel 6:6


God saw the temple and the people who worshipped in it as spiritually being like Babylon and the people had become totally separated from Him. The people might have come out of Babylon, but Babylon did not come out of the people. They came out of Babylon as Babylon


Babylon is a Widow

When God called for His people to come out of the Great City of Babylon in Revelation 18, it wasn’t just those living in Judea as the 7 churches were in Asia. As stated earlier, earthly Jerusalem was symbolic of Old Covenant Judaism across the nations of the Roman Empire, which had its crowning jewel, the temple in Jerusalem.

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.  To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’  For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. ~ Rev 18: 4-8


The House of Judah had once been a wife but had become an adulteress, she killed her husband, God the Son at Calvary and was now a widow. Today we’d call that murder in our society. She denies that she’s a widow and still claims that she is His wife and queen. (Read my post on Paul and the Traditions of Men for more details on this symbolic marriage.)

They had disobeyed God and broke the Old Covenant, worshiped other gods, killed the prophets and rejected God, the Son and killed Him. Then they killed and persecuted His believers who preached the gospel of the Kingdom and judgment was about to fall on them as they were unrepentant reprobates.

As Jesus had warned …

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. ~ John 8:44        


37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! ~ Matt. 23:37-38


Paul wrote that they were corrupt and worthless.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness ~ Romans 1:18 – 32

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. ~ Titus 1:16


John described their synagogues as being ‘a synagogue of Satan’ in Revelation.

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ~ Rev 2:9

Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. ~ Rev 3:9


Babylon Split Into Three Parts

John wrote about the city being split into three parts in Revelation, which can also be read about in Josephus’s historical writings. Josephus wrote in great detail about the 3 zealot leaders Eleazar son of Simon, Simon son of Gioras and John of Gischala who split up the city into 3 sections prior to 70AD. [1]

The great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. ~ Rev 16:19


The cities of the nations represented the Jews that flocked to Jerusalem from all the nations that made up the Roman Empire. All male Jews were commanded to visit Jerusalem for the Spring feasts and even during the war thousands still traveled there. Plus many had already joined up with the Zealots to fight against the Romans. Once the 5-month Roman siege began in 70AD, there was no escape out of the city.


The Final Generation of the Mosaic Age

Jesus came to His own people, the lost sheep of Israel and most of them rejected Him. They preferred the company of Rome and ultimately called for Caesar to be their King when they forced Pilate to kill Jesus. Israel was the great harlot and that final generation cried for His blood to be upon them and their children.

That generation was so wicked and perverse that Jesus said they were similar to the man set free of demons who eventually ended up in a worse condition than when he began.

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” ~ Matthew 12: 41-45


After his deliverance, this man experienced a seven times worse possession. So it would be with that wicked generation. As a result, they became what John wrote in Revelation 18:2 the habitation of every unclean spirit.

 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. ~ Revelation 18:2


God would trap the unrepentant people in the city and He would also do likewise with the demons. The people would be imprisoned, the demons likewise would be imprisoned in the people, and there would be no escape. 


Finally, I will leave you with the words written in Ezekiel to the sister Oholibah, Jerusalem about her harlotries with the Babylonians. 

Woe to the bloody city … I, the Lord, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you,” declares the Lord God. ~ Ezekiel 24: 6.14


However, history was about to repeat itself as unrepentant Judah was now even worse than a prostitute, she was a murderer!

Click here to read part 3.


Further resources:

This is part of a subset of articles from The 2nd Exodus series on the blog.


[1] The Three Factions: The Romans and Josephus believed that Eleazer ben Simon, Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala were the three ‘homegrown’ evil geniuses of the Jewish war. Read all about the three factions in Jerusalem pre-70AD on my blog post: The End of Daniel’s People.

Picture of the stones on the HighPriest’s Breastplate that represented the 12 Tribes: The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. ~ Rev 17:4

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