Revelation 17:9

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. Revelation 17:9

This verse continues the explanation of “the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns” as noted in verse 17:7. The angel has given some detail but proceeds with more. This will continue through the end of the chapter. For now, he says, “Here is the mind which has wisdom.”

What this means is that something will be stated that requires thought in order to grasp, but it can be grasped. Further, it has to be looked at from a Christ-centered perspective. As it says in the proverb –

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Those who are not pursuing a knowledge of the Lord will not even know that what is presented here is a clue to the end times events that are being symbolized. But for those who fear the Lord, pick up His word and study it, those things that are not known to most will be discernible.

In these words, the pattern of the Hebrew aleph-bet matching the corresponding chapter of Revelation continues. The 17th letter of the aleph-bet is pe. It is represented by a mouth. Hebrew4Christians says, “Pey follows the letter Ayin, suggesting the priority of the eyes (i.e., understanding, awareness) before verbal expression (negatively, reversing this order results in “blind consumption” or mindless chatter). The chokhmah (wise one) is swift to observe and then to offer an opinion about something.” In this, the letter/chapter connection is seen – an expression of wisdom – “Here is the mind which has wisdom” (v.9).

For now, the angel begins with an explanation of what the mind which has wisdom will be able to discern, saying, “The seven heads are seven mountains.”

This is the first enigmatic statement. The seven heads were referred to in verse 17:3 –

“And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”

The seven heads only symbolize something else, seven mountains. But this is possibly more complicated than it appears. The reason for this is that mountains in Scripture can refer to governments. This is the case, for example, in Isaiah 2:2 and Jeremiah 51:25 (among many other references). Therefore, this could be seven governments.

However, the mountains could be literal as well. The Greek word translated as “mountain” is oros. It signifies either a mountain or a hill. Some translations say, “seven hills.” Later in this chapter, it will say, “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18).

Because of this, it may be a literal city that rests on seven hills. Throughout the years, people have attempted to fit Jerusalem into this by choosing seven “hills” and saying that this is the city on seven hills. This is fanciful, but the hills chosen to accommodate this view do not realistically fit. Rather, they are a forced attempt at making the place fit the scenario. Further, this Mystery Babylon is set to be destroyed, once and for all, in the pages ahead. On the other hand, Jerusalem will continue on as the Bible clearly indicates.

On the other hand, Rome has been known as the “city on seven hills” well into antiquity. Rome, or as known by its original name Romulus, was built upon Palatine Hill. The other identifying hills are the Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, and Aventine. Therefore, this could be referring to Rome.

Another option is that it is referring to both Rome and to seven governments that will join together with a main capitol being Rome. As these things are future, only speculation is possible. Even if the speculation is correct, it can’t be certain that it is.

If the mountains are governments or empires, another possibility also arises. There are five major powers that have afflicted or had control of God’s people in the past, prior to John’s writing of Revelation – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. Rome was in that position when John did his writing and then Rome faded away. However, Rome will again come to be a great power that will afflict Israel (see Daniel 9). And so, it could be both the sixth and seventh empire to wield control over the people and the land.

This would have to assume that Israel is somehow placed under the authority of this entity. If so, this then could answer the previous verse about the beast – it was, and is not, and yet is. It does appear that Rome in particular is the center of the prophecy and because this is speaking of a harlot, there is a religious element to what is being relayed. It is a spiritual prostitution that will find its ultimate fulfillment in a complete rejection of the truth of the gospel.

Life application: In verse 13:18 it said, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Again, in this verse, we are shown that it is possible to discern the things that are presented, but that it takes wisdom. Unfortunately, we don’t know if this wisdom will only come about during the Tribulation period or if we are thinking right thoughts about these things now.

In other words, there are patterns which exist right now which could fill the requirements of this verse – some very insightful. However, if the final fulfillment of them is to be found in the Tribulation, then only at that time will the correct interpretation be known. Regardless, the fulfillment can be known and, when it is, there will be no excuse for those during the Tribulation to reject the truth of prophecy.

God has laid out these things in a form of mystery so that those who truly seek Him out, through Jesus Christ, will be able to discern what is going on during the Tribulation. This is true even now. God has revealed the mystery of the gospel through the New Testament epistles. Therefore, the world is without excuse if it does not simply pick up the book and read it. There, we find an explanation of what God has explicitly revealed. There, we find His provision for salvation through the gospel. There, we find JESUS.

Help us, O Lord, to focus our attention on You and not to get too sidetracked by the things which we may not fully understand. In the end, You know what will occur and who will respond to the truths in Your word at just the right moment in their lives. Help us to be a part of that by sharing the truth of the gospel now before the time of trial comes on the world. Amen.