Roman Ship Captain
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71. Roman Ship Captain
Revelation 18.17b-20

"Every sea captain, and all who traveled by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out, 'Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles, and prophets! God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you." (Revelation 18.17b-20)✞

Alexandrian Sailing Ships

Alexandrian Sailing ShipThe kings, the merchants, and now every Roman Ship Captain utters their lament over Rome. John of Patmos is no doubt recalling a similar picture of the fall of Tyre in Ezekiel 27.28-30, where Ezekiel explains, "The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out. All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the sailors will stand on the shore. They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes."


OstiaThe City of Rome is not situated upon the sea coast but lies twenty miles inland to the northeast. Its port is called Ostia, set back from the sea at the mouth on Rome's principal river, the Tiber. The merchandise of the world flows from ocean-going ships into Ostia and then to Rome. The captains and sailors lament, for the trade which brings so much wealth is gone.

Ostia Merchants Lament

FeastThe Ostia merchants lament with weeping and mourning can be heard because of their loss of wealth from the ancient port of Rome. There is something quite pathetic about this Ostia merchants lament. Ostia is the old silted up port of Rome, though some beautiful floor mosaics advertising the services of merchants still exist. In every case, the merchants' lament is not for Rome but themselves. It is one of the laws of life that, if people place all their trust in material things, they will likely miss the most important things of all, like love and friendship with others. From the lamenting comes the sound of joy of those who are glad to see the vengeance of God on his enemies and persecutors. We find this note more than once in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 32.43, we read, "Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people." "Rejoice, you nations, with his people," can be translated as "Make his people rejoice, you nations." The Dead Sea Scrolls found in a desert cave interestingly add as a footnote "and let all the angels worship him." Jeremiah 51.48 says of the doom of ancient Babylon, " 'Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,' declares the Lord."

Making Enemy Friends

Abraham LincolnMaking enemy friends is a possibility. Abraham Lincoln's friends told him that he was too lenient with his opponents and that he must destroy his enemy, he answered, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" The people here in Revelation are not praying for those who despitefully use them. But two things have to be remembered. Whatever we may feel about this voice of vengeance, it is none the less the voice of faith. These men and women have utter confidence that no one on God's side can ultimately be on the losing side. There is no personal bitterness. People who are destroyed are not so much a personal enemy as the enemy of God. At the same time, this is not the most excellent way. Jesus encourages us to make our enemies into our friends. The real Christian attitude is to seek to destroy enmity, not by force, but by the power of that love, which wins the victory of the cross at Calgary.

"Roman Ship Captain"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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