J. Paul Tanner, Daniel (EEC)

Tanner, J. Paul. Daniel. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xxii+803 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

In the 122-page introduction to Daniel, Tanner suggests the primary theme of Daniel is the revelation of Israel’s future in relation to gentile kingdoms, now that the nation has gone into exile, and the exaltation of Daniel as a channel through which God will reveal his will. The book establishes God is sovereignly in control of the nations under whom Israel is being disciplined, but also that Israel will be ultimately restored and blessed in the messiah’s Kingdom after the nation has undergone tribulation and suffering imposed by the Antichrist (113).

Tanner, DanielTanner divides the book into two major sections based on the language. Chapter one is the historical setting of the book, followed by an Aramaic section (chapters 2-7) and a Hebrew section (chapters 8-12). As is often observed, there are clear parallels between chapters two and seven, three and six, and four and five. He compares Lenglet (1972) and Gooding (1981) and suggests an “interlocking literary pattern” which recognizes this parallelism, but also includes chapter 7 in the second half of the book (the four visions).

Tanner devotes the largest section of the introduction to date and authorship. For Tanner, Daniel wrote the book shortly after 536/535 BC, in its entirety (39). The bulk of this unit deals with objections to this traditional view. He deals with twelve historical inaccuracies, along with linguistic, theological, and literary objections. The most difficult historical objection is the identity of Darius the Mede. He surveys five possibilities offered by various commentators. First, Darius is an alternative name for Cyrus (Wiseman). Second, Darius refers to Ugbaru or Gobaru, (Shea). Ugbaru conquered Babylon prior to Cyrus entering the city, then Cyrus appointed him to rule Babylon. Third, Darius is another official by the name Gobaru, but not Ugbaru (Waltke). Fourth, Darius refers to Cambyses II (Boutflower). Tanner advocates for a fifth position, that Darius is a throne name for Cyaxares II. This was Calvin and C. F. Keil’s view and, more recently, Anderson and Young in a 2009 BibSac article. This view accepts Xenophon’s assertion that a Median king, Cyaxares II, was the head of the government when Cyrus led the army against Babylon. Herodotus does not mention Cyaxares. Oddly, he cites seven points taken from a 2015 Wikipedia article favoring Xenophon over Herodotus. Although these are valid points, it seems strange to see Wikipedia cited in a professional commentary.

In addition to dealing with arguments against the traditional view of Daniel’s authorship, he makes nine positive arguments in favor of the traditional authorship. For example, Matthew 24: 15 Jesus implies Daniel is the author of the book. He argues 1 Enoch 14:18 alludes to Daniel 7:9-10. The problem, of course, is which came first, Daniel or Enoch? In addition, Accepted Daniel into their Canon seems to imply an earlier date. A date in the second century B.C. would mean Daniel was immediately accepted into the canon just after it was written, which Tanner thinks is unlikely.

The introduction also includes a survey of the historical context of the book. This section deals with the chronology of the end of the kingdom of Judah and a survey of Babylonian and Persian history, as well as the conquests of Alexander the Great and Judah under the Roman Empire. (There is a helpful summary chart on page 105). He also has a short section on the religious context of Babylon. This includes descriptions of some Babylonian gods, and the practice of magic and divination.

In the commentary’s body, each unit begins with a brief introduction and textual notes followed by a Tanner’s translation and extremely detailed footnotes. These notes include lexical and syntactical issues behind the translation and comparisons to various versions of the Septuagint. The commentary itself is verse by verse, but since all the technical details appear in the footnotes to the translation, the commentary itself rarely deals with Hebrew or Greek text. Tanner provides an efficient and readable commentary.

The commentary must deal with matters of interpretation of prophetic details. Tanner doesn’t excellent job laying out all the positions possible, with footnotes literature on the various positions. I will provide several examples of this to illustrate his method. Commenting on “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, he begins with the translation of the phrase in both the Old and New Testaments and compares this to phrase the use in the Parables of Enoch. He then summarizes four views: the son of man is a human, a collective or personification, the son of man is an angel, or the son of man is the Messiah. The last is Tanner’s view: the son of man is Jesus, or at least Jesus understood himself to be Daniel’s son of man.

Since Tanner has previously written several articles on the “seventy sevens” in Daniel 9:24-27, this is a lengthy section in the commentary. Tanner summarizes this data in a helpful appendix, comparing seven views on almost every detail of this prophecy in pre-critical and critical scholarship. Tanner calls his own view “Messianic postponement view” using a “prophetic-year calculation.” The seventy weeks begin with Artaxerxes’s authorization to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. The first sixty-nine weeks end with the crucifixion of Jesus in A.D. 33 and the anointed one is Jesus. The last seven is a future seven-year period before the return of Christ (the great tribulation). The “prince to come” is the antichrist (as opposed to Antiochus IV, Titus, etc.) This is all very consistent with traditional dispensational interpretations, as represented by Robert Anderson, John Walvoord, and Dwight Pentecost. But Tanner is also similar to Gleason Archer, Stephen Miller (NAC), or Leon would except for how the years are calculated.

With respect to the interpretation of Daniel 11-12, Tanner argues Daniel 11:2-12:4 are predictions of the near future, now historically fulfilled. Daniel 11:2-20 deals with the Persian Empire up to Antiochus, 11:21-35 concerns the reign of Antiochus (his rise to power, vv. 21-24; the rivalry with Egypt, vv. 25-28, the persecution of the Jews, vv. 29-35). Antiochus is a biblical type illustrating “the evil and sinister persona that will characterize the future Antichrist (684). The problem for Daniel 11 is the fulfillment of 11:36. For most scholars, Daniel is suddenly inaccurate: Antiochus does not die in the way described in these verses. For most of critical scholarship, this means that Daniel was written shortly before and Antiochus died, which is why the details are not quite right. For Tanner and most evangelicals, verse 36 is where the text “leaps forward in time” (685). Once again, Tanner surveys four views for these verses, summarizing them in a handy chart (689) with examples of scholarship for each.

There are several excurses throughout the commentary of “additional exegetically comments.” These deal with technical aspects that may not be of interest to every reader. For example, he has four pages on the placement athnach of the in Daniel 9:25.

The final two sections in each unit are comments on the biblical theological implications followed by application and devotional implications. Neither of these sections is lengthy, the quote devotional implications in quote are brief meditations on the theology of the section. Since this is not an application commentary, these application comments do not dominate the commentary.

Each unit ends with any detailed “selected bibliography,” although these are anything but brief. Virtually all the literature written in recent years appears in these bibliographies. These bibliographies make this an invaluable resource for anyone studying the book of Daniel.

For some readers, Tanner’s dispensationalism and commitment to a traditional view of the authorship and date of the book will be enough to reject this commentary as serious scholarship. This would be a mistake. The extremely detailed footnotes on the text of Daniel concerning both textual criticism, lexical and transition translation history are incredibly valuable. The amount of detail on Hebrew and Aramaic syntax in the notes makes this one of the best exegetical commentaries available. The substance of Tanner’s commentary will valuable even if one disagrees with his conclusions.

As with other volumes of this series, Lexham published the commentary simultaneously in print and in the Logos Bible Software. Tanner’s commentary first appeared in the Logos Library in 2020. The print edition was not available until February 2021. Reading this commentary using the Logos Bible Software (or the iOS app) is enjoyable because it obscured the footnotes. Readers who do not want the exegetical detail will not be distracted by the footnotes. The ability to copy and paste the bibliographies will benefit students developing their own bibliographies as they study sections of Daniel. The Logos book takes advantage of all the resources of the software, including tagging cross references and links to other resources when available.

To date, thirteen commentaries of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary are available to Logos users, with forty-four volumes planned. Since the series was launched, Lexham redesigned the covers and named Andreas Köstenberger editor for the New Testament. Logos users can purchase all thirteen volumes at 20% off through the Lexham website or subscribe to the series and receive new volumes as they are published.

 

Review of other commentaries in this series:

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book, both in print and Logos format. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

The Rider on the White Horse – Revelation 19:11-16

The Return of the KingVirtually everyone agrees this passage describes the triumphal return of Christ. But as David Aune notes, the imagery used is not derived from other early Christian traditions concerning the return of the Lord (Revelation, 3:1046). The description of the return of Jesus as conquering king are drawn from a wide variety of texts in the Old Testament and Second Temple literature. In fact, the rider on a white horse is the culmination Jewish expectations for a restoration of the kingdom.

The rider is described in somewhat familiar terms to those who read apocalyptic literature. His eyes are like a fiery flame (v 12).  Eyes like flaming torches are associated with heavenly beings, as in Dan 10:6 (Theodotian LXX). He has many crowns (diadems) on his head (12). In the Greco-Roman world, multiple crowns is an indication of sovereignty over territories.

Just as the dragon had seven crowns and the kings to come had crowns, so the rider has many crowns, perhaps so many they are not counted. He wears a robe dipped in blood (13). Normally blood is associated with the atonement, but this is not the case here.  The blood is that of the enemies of God, and is likely an allusion to Is 63:1-3.

A sharp sword comes out of his mouth (15a). This is a reference to the power of his word (Rev 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21), but the image appears elsewhere in Jewish apocalyptic.

4QIsaiah Peshera 8-10 iii 15-19 (tr. García Martínez, Dead Sea Scrolls, 186): [He will destroy the land with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he will execute the evil] ? [The interpretation of the word concerns the shoot] of David which will sprout [in the final days, since with the breath of his lips he will execute] his enemies.

The rider has several names. First, he is named Faithful and True. These titles are used for Jesus in Revelation 1:5 and 3:14. Second, he has another name inscribed which he alone knows (12b). Divine beings sometimes had a secret name or were unwilling to give their true names. In Gen 32:29, for example, God does not give his name when asked. Third, his name is “the Word of God” (13b), reminiscent of John 1:1 where Jesus is called the Word. Finally, on his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed: King of kings and Lord of lords (16).

Mantiklos Apollo with inscription on its thigh

Mantiklos Apollo with inscription on its thigh

James Edwards has recently published several examples of writing on the thigh of statues. The article includes photographs of statues of Apollo found in Miletus (fifth century BCE) and Claros (sixth century BCE) with writing on Apollo’s thigh indicating who offered a sacrifice to Apollo. These two statues date centuries before Revelation was written, but there are literary references to inscribed statues in Cicero and Pausanias indicate the practice of inscribing a name to honor the donor was well-known. Since all but one of his examples are dedicated to Apollo, Edwards argues this is an allusion to the Apollo cult, something he argues appears in Revelation 12 (Edwards, 529-535). For Edwards, the name on the thigh is therefore a “divine rejoinder to the inscription on the forehead of the great harlot” (535).

In Jesus the Bridegroom, I suggested Isaiah 49:14-26 adapted elements of Lamentations and Jeremiah 2 into a complaint song. In Isa 49:14 Lady Zion complains that her husband has forsaken her. The Lord protests, however, stating that he has in no way forgotten his bride. The Lord cannot forget his bride Zion because her name is “inscribed on his palms.”

While the vocabulary is different, “inscribing on the arm” is an indication of love in Song 8:6. Fox sees a parallel between Song 8:6 and the Cairo Love Songs (COS 1.150) in which a young man expresses his desire to always be near his beloved: “If only I were her little seal–ring, the keeper of her finger! I would see her love each and every day.”  As Marvin Pope suggests, anatomical descriptions in poetry are quite flexible. An “arm wearing a ring” in Song 8:6 should likely be understood as a hand.

But there is considerable difference between a mark or symbol on one’s hand and a name inscribed on one’s thigh. However, in the context of the final chapters of Revelation, the rider on the white horse is coming to the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-8). In Isaiah 49:18, the Lord swears an oath that Zion will adorn herself as a bride once again as her children return to Jerusalem. These verses are likely an allusion to Jeremiah 2:32, “can a girl forget her ornaments?”

I suggest, therefore, that the name on the thigh is part of the marriage imagery present in Revelation 19-22 and draws on the rich imagery of Israel’s marriage relationship with God in the Hebrew Bible. As in Isaiah 49, God has not forsaken his bride Israel and is now returning to rescue her from her oppressors.

The rider has come in order to judge in righteousness (11b).  That the messiah will be God’s righteous judge is a theme of several texts in the Hebrew Bible (Ps 98, 72:2, 96:13, Isa 11:4). He will wage war in righteousness (11b) and smites the nations with the sharp sword (15a).  He will rule the nations with a rod of iron (15b). That the Messiah will be something of a true shepherd is common in the Hebrew Bible (Ps 2:9) as well as Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25.

Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25 See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God.  Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction; in wisdom and in righteousness to drive out the sinners from the inheritance; to smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar; To shatter all their substance with an iron rod; to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth; At his warning the nations will flee from his presence; and he will condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts.

John describes this judgment as treading “the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” This is yet another familiar metaphor for the anger of God in Revelation and the est of the prophets. John has already used this metaphor in Rev 14:19.

The Rider on the White horse therefore represents the culmination Jewish expectations for a restoration of the kingdom. God intervenes in history by means of a mighty warrior who renders justice. He will punish the enemies of Israel, destroying them utterly. But he will also vindicate those who have suffered on behalf of their testimony for Jesus: they are raised to new life in Rev 20.

 

Bibliography: James R. Edwards, “The Rider on the White Horse, the Thigh Inscription, and Apollo: Revelation 19:16,” JBL 137.2 (2018): 519-536.Long, Jesus the Bridegroom: The Origin of the Eschatological Feast as a Wedding Banquet in the Synoptic Gospels (Pickwick, 2013).

 

 

 

 

Three Woes against Babylon – Revelation 18:9-20

Revelation 18:9-20 contains a series of three “woes” against the great city, Babylon. As with the Great Prostitute in Revelation 17, this city is the Roman Empire. Chapter 18 focuses on the economic allure of the Empire.

Roman trade Vessel

What is a woe? The word translated woe (“alas” in the ESV) is οὐαί, a transliteration of the Hebrew הוֹי, אוֹי. The word is an “interjection denoting pain or displeasure…hardship or distress” (BDAG) and it is used on the Old Testament frequently to introduce impending judgment (Zeph 3:1; Nahum 3:1). The repeated phrase “woe, woe, the great city” may evoke Revelation 11:8; the two witnesses lie dead in “the street of the great city.” In that context, the “great city” is Jerusalem (where their Lord was crucified), which is also called Sodom and Egypt. But the great city in chapter 18 is Babylon, a cipher for Rome and the Roman empire.

Revelation 18:9-20 can be divided by the phrase “Woe, woe” and a statement about Babylon, or by the three sets of mourners (kings vv. 9-10; merchants, vv. 11-17a; and seafarers, vv 17b-19; Fanning, Revelation, 456). The difference between a merchant and a sea merchant is less clear in Greek than in English. The word translated merchant (ἔμπορος) is often used for “one who travels by ship for business reasons” (BDAG) and is sometimes used for a passenger on a ship (BrillDAG). Think of this term as a wholesaler who imports goods from distant lands (by sea).

In the first woe, the kings of the earth weep and moan when the see the prostitute (Babylon/Rome) in flames (18:9-14). This whole section uses common language associated with a funeral. Weeping (v. 9, 15, 19, using synonyms κλαίω and πενθέω) is commonly associated with death. To moan (κόπτω) refers to beating one’s chest in response to a tragic event, such as a death (Gen 23:2, Abraham mourns when Sarah died). In verse 19 the sea merchants throw dust on their heads, another common sign of mourning.

Is it possible Revelation 18 describes the great prostitute as “burned alive”? Babylon is descried several times as tortured and the reaction of the kings and merchants is terror at her torture (18:15). The great prostitute of Babylon is now described as a corpse, consumed by a funeral pyre, and her partners in adultery stand at a distance, horrified by her shocking death.

Fiery judgment is standard prophetic language in the OT, for example, Jeremiah 34:21 anticipates the burning of Jerusalem; Isaiah 34:10 describes a fire that will never be quenched. Other apocalyptic literature anticipates the fiery end of the city of Rome (Sib. Or. 2.15-19; 3.52-54; 5.158-161).

Sib. Or. 2.15–19 Then indeed the tenth generation of men will also appear after these things, when the earth-shaking lightning-giver will break the glory of idols and shake the people of seven-hilled Rome. Great wealth will perish, burned in a great fire by the flame of Hephaestus.

Sib. Or. 3.52–54 Three will destroy Rome with piteous fate. All men will perish in their own dwellings when the fiery cataract flows from heaven.

Sib. Or. 5.158–161 …a great star will come from heaven to the wondrous sea and will burn the deep sea and Babylon itself and the land of Italy, because of which many holy faithful Hebrews and a true people perished.

It is possible the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is in the background here, although it may be the case Genesis 18 is the prototype for all fiery judgments in the Old Testament and literature of the Second Temple period. In Genesis18:28 Abraham observes the dense smoke of the fiery destruction of the two cities “like smoke from a furnace.” Although there is no reference in Genesis to Abraham mourning over the destruction of the cities, he did intercede on their behalf earlier in the story.

All three categories, kings, merchants and sea farers “stand far off” (v. 10, 15, 17). The kings and merchants are “in fear of her torment (βασανισμός).” This specific word was used in Revelation 9:5b (the locust tormented people for five months) and several times in Revelation 18.

The merchants of the earth mourn because of the loss of income (18:10-13). The merchants have become wealthy from their economic relationship with Babylon/Rome. For John, this is sharing in the wages of the prostitute. In verse 15 the merchants are terrified by the prostitute’s torture, here their mourning is motivated by their loss of income. When Babylon/Rome falls, there is no one left to buy their cargo.

This list of trade goods is limited to luxury items, some of which come from as far away as Arabia (frankincense), Egypt (fine flour). East Africa (cinnamon) and India (ivory; spices). This cargo list may allude to Ezekiel 27:12-25. This is a taunt-song against the king of Tyre. That chapter describes the far-flung trade of Tyre and the dreadful end of their trading empire. Like Babylon in Isaiah 14, the prince of Tyre is described in Ezekiel 28 as utterly arrogant, thinking of himself as god because of his widespread trade.

Based on the letters to the seven churches, it appears that some early Christians in Asia Minor adapted themselves to the imperial cult or to participation in banquets at local temples. Revelation compares any compromise with the imperial cult with being intoxicated and committing adultery with the mother of all prostitutes. Some early Christian readers of Revelation separated the economic prosperity they enjoyed as a result of Rome’s widespread trade from participation in the imperial cult. But here in Revelation 17-18, everyone who thrived from Rome’s economic power will weep and mourn in the empire is finally judged.

Come Out of Babylon! Revelation 18:4-8

Yet another voice from heaven calls God’s people out of Babylon. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah called on Israel to flee Babylon; John is using language from both prophets to call for another exodus out of Babylon.

In a clear allusion to the original Exodus, Isaiah 52:11 tells the people to depart from Babylon. They are not to go out in haste because God himself will lead them and also be their “rear guard.” Since Revelation has frequently alluded to the ten plagues to describe the ongoing judgment of the kingdom of the beast, it should be no surprise John picks up on the language of the Exodus to call his people to flee Babylon. Revelation 18:4 and Isaiah 52:12 both use the aorist imperative ἐξέλθατε, “come out.”

Bob Marley ExodusJeremiah 50:8-10 calls on Israel to flee Babylon because God is stirring up the nations to plunder her. Rather than the Exodus, Jeremiah is looking forward to the fall of Babylon when nations from the north (Persia and the Medes) plunder the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah 51:6-10 is clearly in the background of Revelation 18:4-8. Jeremiah describes Babylon as a fallen and broken woman. Like Revelation 18:5, her judgment has “reached up to heaven” (51:9).

If Babylon refers to Rome in Revelation 17-18, some scholars suggest Revelation 18 is a call for Christians to leave the literal city of Rome (perhaps in anticipation of persecution). However, just as the call to “come out of Babylon” in Isaiah and Jeremiah referred to leaving the Babylonian empire in general, John’s intention is for God’s people to leave the Roman Empire. This cannot mean leave Rome and go to another place, since there is no other place to go! As David Aune says, this is a “the summons to flee from the city is used symbolically, with the city referring to the demonic social and political power structure that constituted the Roman empire” (Revelation, 3:991).

The reason they are to “come out” is so that they do not share in her sins, her since are “piled up to heaven” and God remembers her crimes. After the exile, Ezra confessed guilt “as high as the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). If they share in her sins, they will also share in the plagues which punish those sins.

Babylon’s judgment will repay her double for what she has done, a clear allusion to Jeremiah 50:29 (cf. 51:24). The Lord will give her a double portion of punishment to drink, as much torture and grief as she gave herself luxury

In Revelation 18:4-8 God’s people are called to separate from the social structure of the Roman world. This is a radical calling that is consistent with the rest of Revelation. In the Seven Letters believers are called to live different from prevailing culture, later they resist the power of the beast and refuse to take the mark of the beast even though this results in their death.

This is perhaps the most challenging portion of Revelation for Christians living in various cultures and times in history. How should Christians “come out of Babylon” today? How do we refuse the “demonic social and political power structure” and not take part in the sins of contemporary culture?  As 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, God’s people are called to be separate from the world, “touching no unclean thing.” This is not just talking about clear, ugly sins, but also participation in a political and social structure that is objectively evil.

In the context of Revelation, there are people claim to be Christians who do not separate from the world and do in fact “touch unclean things,” Jezebel (2:20) and Balaam (2:14), the Nicolaitans (2:6, 15) and those who worship the beast and take his number. These are Christians who think they are serving God while they participate in the imperial cult and all that comes along with that. Although the details are different, it is clear many Christians today have little trouble supporting and participating in modern demonic social and political power structures.

 

A Lament for Fallen Babylon – Revelation 18:1-3

 After an angel explains the image of the great prostitute, John sees another angel coming down from heaven to announce that Babylon has fallen.

Fall of Babylon, Angers Tapestry

This angel has great authority and “the earth was made bright with his glory.” Normally only God is described as glorious, this is the only time in Revelation the word is applied to an angelic being. Aune (3:985) suggests an allusion to Ezekiel 43:2, “the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.” The wording in the LXX is considerably different even if there is a similar theme.

The angel announces Babylon has fallen (18:2-3). The angel’s announcement repeats the phrase “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” from Revelation 14:8. Most scholars consider this a clear allusion to Isaiah 21:9, John considers the fall of ancient Babylon as a model for the impending fall of Rome.

But is the Babylon of Revelation 18 the same as the great prostitute in Revelation 17? Although the consensus view both Revelation 17 and 18 refer to, some commentators think Revelation 18 refers to Jerusalem. Iain Provan, for example, rejects common view that the chapter condemns Roman economic exploitation and argues the chapter condemns religious idolatry of Jerusalem, consistent with the many allusions to the Old Testament in the chapter. Following Massyngberde Ford, he cites the 1Q Pesher to Habakkuk from Qumran. In this text, Babylon’s economic oppression of the nations in Habakkuk 2:8a is applied to the “last priests in Jerusalem”:

1QpHab Col. ix:3 Since you pillaged many peoples all the 4 rest of the nations will pillage you». Blank Its interpretation concerns the last priests of Jerusalem, 5 who will accumulate riches and loot from plundering the nations. 6 However, in the last days their riches and their loot will be given into the hands 7 of the army of the Kittim. (trans. Martı́nez and Tigchelaar).

1QpHab Col. xii:6  And as for what he says: Hab 2:17 «Owing to the blood 7 of the city and the violence (done to) the country». Its interpretation: the city is Jerusalem 8 in which the /Wicked/ Priest performed repulsive acts and defiled 9 the Sanctuary of God.

These two examples do in fact apply the destruction of Babylon to impending judgment on the corrupt priesthood currently in charge of the Temple when the commentary was written. But everything in Habakkuk is interpreted as a condemnation of the Wicked Priest.

Babylon will become a “dwelling place for demons” (18:2). In Isaiah 13:21-22 the prophet describes the fall of Babylon and the utter desolation of the city. “Howling animals” will live in the city. The noun (אֹחַ) refers to “howling desert animals” (HALOT). The Septuagint translated this as “divine beings (demons?) will dance there” (καὶ δαιμόνια ἐκεῖ ὀρχήσονται, LES2), or “there goat-demons will dance” (NRSV). Jeremiah 51:37 describes Babylon as a heap of ruins and a haunt of jackals. The ESV’s “haunt” translates φυλακή, most often a literal prison in the New Testament. But in Revelation, the word is used to refer to “the nether world or its place of punishment” (BDAG), as in 20:7.

Desolate cities are frequently described as a place where wild animals live. Jeremiah 9:10-12 for example, Jerusalem will be a heap of ruins and a lair of jackals. Many texts associate the presence of jackals and owls with demons: “all the spirits of the ravaging angels and the bastard spirits, demons, Lilith, owls and [jackals …]” (4Q510 Frag. 1:5). In Zephaniah 2:13 Nineveh is desolated and “the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals” and “a lair for wild beasts” (2:15).

The kings of the earth committed adultery with Babylon through economic exploitation (18:3). Revelation 18:11-13 will pick up the economic oppressive of the merchants. In this verse, the merchants have “grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” As Richard Bauckham says, it is a mistake to think John condemns Rome “only because of the imperial cult and the persecution of Christians. Rather, this issue serves to bring to the surface evils which were deeply rooted in the whole system of Roman power” (“The Economic Critique of Rome,” 58).

I do not think there is a sharp separation between economic exploitation and the imperial cult in Revelation. Even in Revelation 13, those who do not have the mark of the beast cannot participate in economic activity. Those who “buy or sell” includes local merchants in every city in Asia Minor as much as merchants who imports goods from across the seas to sell at a high profit in Rome.

 

Bibliography: Richard Bauckham, “The Economic Critique of Rome in Revelation 18,” in Images of Empire, (ed. Loveday Alexander, JSOTSup 122; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991); Alan J. Beagley, The Sitz im Leben of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church’s Enemies (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987); Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 from an Old Testament Perspective.” JSNT 64 (1996) 81-100.