Revelation 2.13-14

 

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The next Angel to be addressed is the Angel of the Church of PERGAMUM.  The Son of Man says, with a menace (mentioning the two-edged sword that comes from his mouth):

I know where you are living, where Satan’s Throne is.  Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed among your people where Satan lives.  But I have a few things against you, for some of your people follow the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block (skandalon)

 

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before the sons of Israel, to eat food sacrificed to idols and to behave whorishly.  (Rev. 2.13-14)

So at last we know where Satan lives!  It’s at Pergamum, the city renowned for pergamena, from which our word “parchment” comes.

But it sounds pretty odd, doesn’t it?  Like some kind of joke, perhaps.  Scholars have sought to explain the phrases as referring to some local landmark, and they have hit on several possibilities connected with the physical situation of Pergamum, which sat like a great fortress on a sharply protruding rock of a mountain.  The city featured various Pagan sites of worship, including a monumental altar to Zeus and a temple dedicated to Augustus and Rome, which served as the center of the cult of the Roman Emperor in Asia Minor.  Pergamum was in fact the capital of the Roman Province of Asia.

However, we will see that in the later parts of Revelation, Satan seems to be regarded as the Angelic Ruler of the Roman Empire, so it may be that Pergamum was regarded as Satan’s throne, at least one of them.  We recall also that in Matthew Satan took Jesus up a high mountain and showed him all of the kingdoms of the world, and in Luke, as we just noted above, he claimed that all of them had been given to him to rule.  It seems more likely that this is the sort of reference that is being made here, rather than that Satan is being associated with Pagan worship.  This latter notion, of Satan fostering Pagan rites and beliefs, would soon become evident among the Church Fathers, but it may be premature to find it here in Revelation.  Still, we have seen that Satan has been repeatedly connected with unbelievers, especially by Luke (Acts 26.17-18, above, chap. 4.3) and Deutero-Paul (1 Tim. 5.15, chap. 5.1), and perhaps by Paul himself, speaking of the God of This Age (2 Cor. 4.3-4, chap. 3.3).

The reference to Balaam does not reflect Balaam’s initial appearance in Numbers 22, where he and his jenny encounter the “satanic” Angel of Yahweh, but rather the rebuke that Moses makes to the Israelite army in chapter 31:  “Why have you spared the life of the Midianite women?  They were the very ones who, on Balaam’s advice, caused the Israelites to be unfaithful to Yahweh” (Num. 31.15-16).

 

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The “whorish behavior” of the Pergamenians may simply refer to participation in Pagan customs and not to sexual misconduct.