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The Gospel From Patmos
Everyday Insights For Living
From The Last Book Of The Bible
Daily Devotional
Friday, October 31, 2014

            Seeing the smoke of her fiery ordeal they cry out, “Who is like the Great City?” They threw dust on their heads and cried out weeping and mourning, “Woe, woe, the Great City, by which everyone who had ships on the sea prospered on account of her wealth, for in one hour it was laid waste.”  Rev 18:18-19.



            Kings, merchants and sailors all take their turns mourning the passing of Babylon. Rev 18:9-19 contains the longest extant list of products from the Roman period. John adapts Ezekiel’s list of 40 products that Tyre traded in his day (Ezek 27:2-24). Ezekiel’s list is arranged geographically, John’s list is arranged topically, by type of cargo (see Rev 18:12-13). The focus in Revelation is largely on luxury items, not trade in general.
            Rome’s new rich in the First Century flaunted their gold and silver. These metals were imported from Spain, where the Empire owned a number of mines, but the human cost was high. Slaves who worked these mines rarely lived more than a few years. Precious stones were imported from India mostly, and pearls were retrieved from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
            Fine linen was imported from Spain, Asia Minor and Egypt. Purple and scarlet cloths were symbols of affluence and luxury. Silk was imported from China, so only the ultra rich could afford it. Citron wood was imported from North Africa, but was rare enough that a table made with it could cost as much as a large estate. Elephants became virtually extinct  within the Empire because of the ivory trade.
            Cinnamon came from Somalia and southward in East Africa, the voyage from Rome was a two-year round trip (that means expensive). Other spices came from India, incense and perfumes came from Arabia and Somalia. The best wine came from Sicily and Spain. In John’s day the Empire experienced a grain shortage at the same time as it had a wine surplus (cf. Rev 6:6), because the wine trade was more profitable than grain. “Fine flour” was definitely a luxury item compared to course grain, the best flour was imported all the way from Africa.
            Even the rich rarely ate beef, cattle were used more as work animals. Some sheep were used for mutton, but most were used to produce wool. Italy did not have sufficient pasture for horses, so the promoters of chariot races imported horses from Africa and Spain in order to provide public entertainment.
            John concludes his list (Rev 18:12-13) with the “bodies and souls of men.” Since the empire was at peace, there was no steady supply of slaves from captives of war. So babies discarded by the poor were rescued for slavery. Other slaves were “imported” from Asia.



            Lord, help me understand the true cost of self-indulgence. I want to develop a spirit of service instead.




 
 
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