A Mystery—Who Is the Harlot Babylon the Great?
A WOMAN, an infamous prostitute, who has influenced the lives of billions of people, is killed, executed. But this is no ordinary execution. What makes it different? The executioner is an animal, a wild beast that strips her naked, devours her flesh, and then leaves her remains to be destroyed by fire. Who is this influential woman? Why does a wild beast attack her? What has she done to deserve this violent end?*—Revelation 17:16, 17.
This could be the basis for an intriguing mystery story—except that it is not the plot for a novel. It is a historical reality that is in the course of being fulfilled. And it matters to you because this infamous prostitute may be influencing your life right now. Furthermore, whether you stay with her or break away will mean the difference between life and death. So who is she?
The Mystery Woman’s Clients
This femme fatale, this shameless seductress, is described by John in the prophetic Bible book of Revelation, where we read: “And [the angel] carried me away in the power of the spirit into a wilderness. And I caught sight of a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored wild beast that was full of blasphemous names and that had seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and was adorned with gold and precious stone and pearls and had in her hand a golden cup that was full of disgusting things and the unclean things of her fornication. And upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.’”—Revelation 17:3-5.
Now this “Babylon the Great” must be a formidable woman, for the account says in Re 17 verse 1 that she “sits on many waters.” What does that mean? God’s angel explained to John: “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is sitting, mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.” (Revelation 17:15) Without a doubt this is a prostitute with worldwide influence. But she is no commonplace whore. She is “the mother of the harlots,” the madam of the institution. When it comes to fornication, she gives the orders. But she also has special clients.
The angel reveals who these favored clients of the great harlot are. How does he identify them? He says that Babylon the Great is the one “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:2) This has to be an alluring harlot with good connections to be able to attract the political rulers of the world, the very “kings of the earth”! So who is she?
The angel says she has a name, a mystery name, “Babylon the Great.” Now here are two clues as to her identity—one is the clients she favors and the other is her name, Babylon the Great. To what conclusion do those clues lead?
This is the first of four issues of The Watchtower that will address these and related questions regarding this mysterious woman.