An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 3 June 2011; Revised 23 September 2017
Scripture: The Scripture text of Revelation used below is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers may be found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Sign of the Woman, 12:1-2
Sign of the Dragon, 12:3-4
Seed of the Woman, 12:5-6
War in Heaven, 12:7-9
Victory Hymn, 12:10-12
War Against the Woman, 12:13-17
Sign of the Woman (12:1-2)
1― And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
a great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. The adjective may suggest size, complexity or significance. sign: Grk. sēmeion occurs seven times in Revelation and means sign, miracle or wonder. Three times the word is singular and refers to a special vision revealed to John (12:1, 3; 15:1). The other four times sēmeion is plural and refers to miracles performed by the beast or demons to deceive the populace (13:13, 14; 16:14; 19:20; cf. Matt 24:24; 2Th 2:9). Sēmeion is used in a similar sense in the Gospels to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f).
In the LXX sēmeion is predominately a translation of the Heb. word oth and like it means (a) sign, mark, token; (b) miraculous sign or miracle, occurring first in Genesis 1:14 (DNTT 2:626). Signs are sometimes promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. The term "sign" in Scripture has a variety of important uses in the Tanakh. The first usage is in Genesis 1:14 in which the stars would serve as signs with significant importance (cf. Ps 19:1f; Jer 10:2). "Sign" also referred to a visible manifestation of God's grace and favor, as the rainbow, circumcision and the Sabbath are covenantal signs (Gen 9:12f, 17; 17:11; Ex 31:13, 17; Ezek 20:12).
Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, such as the plagues on Egypt (Ex 7:3) and the shadow's advance on the palace steps (2 Kgs 20:9). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaron's rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). These meanings frequently overlap and the use of the word "sign" may point backward to a historical event or even forward to the fulfillment of a promise (TWOT 1:18f).
was seen: Grk. horaō, aor. pass., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The aorist tense points to an event in the past. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." heaven: Grk. ouranos, with the definite article, refers to the area above the earth that encompasses three areas: (1) the atmosphere, (2) interstellar space and (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Ps 148:1-4; cf. 2Cor 12:2). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). John no doubt means that he saw this sign in the third heaven.
a woman: Grk. gunē may mean any adult female, but sometimes more specifically a married woman. Two other women are mentioned in Revelation, Jezebel in 2:20, and the great harlot in 17:3. Unlike those two women who committed evil, this woman is depicted as being a victim of evil. clothed: Grk. periballō, to throw clothes around one's self, which may allude to the robe-like design of ancient clothing. with the sun: Grk. hēlios, (for Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Even though the sun is 93,000,000 miles from the earth, Scripture affirms that in both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6).
and: Grk. kai. the moon: Grk. selēnē (for Heb. yareach), the earth's natural satellite, orbiting the earth at a mean distance of 238,857 miles and having a diameter of 2160 miles. Like the sun the moon was created on the fourth day to "govern the night" (Gen 1:16). The "glory" of the moon is light reflected from the sun. As a result of the space program and lunar landings, the moon is now known to be completely void of life (just as the Bible indicates) but to be composed of similar rocks and minerals to those of earth. At the same time, the structure of the moon, as well as the proportions of the different rocks and minerals, is so vastly different from the corresponding attributes of Earth as to make it certain that the two could not have had a common evolutionary origin (BBMS 164).
under: Grk. hupokatō, adv. indicating a position that is at a lower level than; under, beneath. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. Apparently the rays of the sun were coming from behind the woman and surrounding or "clothing" her with the moon in a relative position below her as seen from John's location.
The woman's covering of light, both direct and indirect, may be comparable to the description of God as covering Himself with "light as with a cloak" (Ps 104:2) and Yeshua's transfiguration when his face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light (Matt 17:2). The appearance of the sun and moon might have reminded John of their function as witnesses of God's covenantal faithfulness to Israel as the Psalmist says, "His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful" (Ps 89:36-37). and: Grk. kai. on: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of 'hovering,' used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' her: Grk. autos. head: Grk. kephalē, the head as an anatomical term.
a crown: Grk. stephanos, referred to a wreath or crown, often made from palm branches and a symbol of distinction. In the LXX stephanos translates the Heb. atarah, the royal crown and corresponding figurative uses (e.g., 2Sam 12:30; 1Chr 20:2; SS 3:11) (DNTT 1:405). In the Besekh stephanos is used both literally and figurative. First, literal uses include the crown of thorns (Matt 27:29), a winning athlete's wreath (1Cor 9:25), the crown worn by the heavenly elders (Rev 4:4), an adornment of the pit locusts (9:7), and the crown worn by the Son of Man (14:14). Second, stephanos is used figuratively of a spiritual prize or reward (2Tim 4:8; 1Pet 5:4; Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10). Relevant to this context is that Paul described those whom he nurtured in the Lord as "his crown" (Php 4:1; 1Th 2:19).
of twelve: Grk. dōdeka, the number twelve. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, generally of a luminous heavenly body other than the sun (Matt 24:29; 1Cor 15:41), whether the heavenly portent that brought the Magi to Jerusalem (Matt 2:2), a particular planet such as Venus (Rev 2:28; 22:16), or a moving body, such as a comet, meteor or asteroid (Jude 1:13; Rev 8:10). Astēr is also used fig. of angelic beings (Jude 1:13; Rev 9:1) and congregational overseers (Rev 1:16, 20; 3:1). In the LXX astēr renders the Heb. kokab (SH-3556), star or heavenly body, first occurring in the creation narrative (Gen 1:16). In the Tanakh the term is generally literal for the points of light in the night sky, but also fig. of the Messiah (Num 24:7), and angels (Jdg 5:20; Job 38:7; Isa 14:13; Dan 8:10).
Symbolic meaning is first given to stars as the descendants of Abraham: "And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be'" (Gen 15:5; cf. Ex 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 1Chr 27:23; Neh 9:23; Heb 11:12). However, the stars not only represented the children of Abraham through Isaac but must also have included the children of Abraham by faith (Rom 4:16), the company of nations promised to Jacob (Gen 35:11; Eph 2:12).
In the context of Revelation the twelve stars no doubt point to Israel as the number twelve generally does in this book. The number twelve (Grk. dōdeka) occurs in the number 12,000 in reference to each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 7:5-8), and in the number of 1,260 days in which the two witnesses prophesy in Israel (11:3). Then chapter 21 features the number in the mention of twelve gates that bear the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12) and twelve foundation stones that bear the names of the twelve apostles (21:14).
What does the sign mean?
John is not provided an explanation of the sign of the woman, but there has been much speculation down through history as to its meaning. Modern speculation found on the Internet has treated the sign as a coincidence of the constellations of Virgo and Leo, functioning as a portent of the end times. The problem with this point of view is that not only does John or the Lord not provide any corroborating testimony, but interpreting the woman to be Virgo would require interpreting the dragon to be an astronomical phenomenon as well. As the rest of the chapter details John saw a woman, not an outline of stars that the Greeks imagined to be a woman or a lion. Any attempt to formulate an end-time prediction based on this verse is equivalent to false prophecy, concerning which Scripture provides stern warnings (Ezek 13:9; Matt 7:15; 24:11; 2Pet 2:1; 1Jn 4:11).
So the question becomes, who is the woman? Many commentators have applied a spiritual interpretation to the vision. Victorinus interpreted the woman to be "the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles." Morris extends this viewpoint to include the great body of redeemed people through all ages. The problem with this interpretation is that the narrative the follows clearly makes the woman the mother of the Messiah. Barclay, as other commentators, rejects the idea the woman is Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, because he views the woman here as a "superhuman figure" (2:76). Yet, nothing in the description identifies her as superhuman.
Among Messianic Jewish commentators, as Juster and Stern, and the majority of evangelical futurist commentators (listed in Gregg 255), the sign of the woman symbolizes Israel (or the faithful remnant of Israel) and the twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel based on Isaiah 66:7-10. Ladd modifies this view by referring to the woman as Zion, the true Israel, but this amounts to the same thing. Ladd bases his viewpoint primarily on Paul's use of Isaiah's prophecy, "The Deliverer will come from Zion" (Isa 59:20). The Psalmist expressed a parallel sentiment, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth" (Ps 50:2).
Barclay notes that in the Tanakh the chosen people, the ideal Israel is often described in marriage terms, the bride of God (Isa 49:18; 54:5; 61:10; 62:5; Hos 2:19-20). Similar descriptive language is used in the Besekh of the Body of Messiah, the Commonwealth of Israel (John 3:29; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27, 32). In Revelation we read of the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7) and the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven adorned as a bride (21:2, 9; 22:17).
The identification of the woman as Israel is further strengthened in the minds of many by the similarity of the sign with Joseph's dream (Gen 37:9), even though the absence of any woman or child in the dream is ignored. Joseph actually had two dreams, but the second captures the imagination more than the first. In the second dream the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. Jacob on hearing the report of the dream interpreted the sun as representing himself, the moon as his wife Rachel, and the stars as Joseph's eleven brothers. Jacob was probably correct in his interpretation of the eleven stars, since the second dream is parallel to the first in the aspect of the brothers bowing down to Joseph.
However, Jacob was wrong in his interpretation of the "moon" because Rachel died before Joseph was sold into slavery. She was not alive to bow down to Joseph in Egypt with the rest of the family. This illustrates the difficulty in interpreting visions from God. In Joseph's situation the sun, moon and stars more likely referred to Egypt's political and religious leadership since they worshiped the heavenly bodies and did bow down to Joseph at the order of Pharaoh (Gen 41:40). Finally, Joseph saw eleven stars, not twelve as in the sign that John saw. While Joseph's dream and John's sign may have some elements in common, that is where the similarity ends.
Many commentators have rejected the idea that the vision refers to the nativity of Yeshua, because that was in John's past and he was well acquainted with the historical reports of Matthew and Luke. However, the plain meaning of the description of pregnancy and being in labor in the next verse and then giving birth in verse 5 cannot be dismissed. There is no satisfactory symbolic interpretation. Remember this vision was something John saw and in that light John is shown the nativity from the point of view of spiritual warfare. The apostolic narratives present the threat of Herod against the life of the infant Yeshua (Matt 2) and later the threat of religious leaders who sought to kill the adult Yeshua (John 8:59; 10:39). Yet, those narratives do not focus on these threats as originating from Satan.
2― and she had a child in the womb; and she cried out, being in labor and being in pain, to give birth.
and: Grk. kai, conj. she had: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: e.g., (1) hold in one's hands, wear, preserve, seize; (2) have as one's own or at hand, possess; (3) have with oneself or in one's company (BAG). The third meaning applies here. a child in: Grk. en, prep. the womb: Grk. gastēr, the region of the body containing the stomach and in a woman the womb. The verb combined with the noun is used idiomatically for being pregnant. and: Grk. kai. she cried out: Grk. krazō, pres., may mean (1) to utter a loud cry; scream, cry out, or (2) express something with a vigorous voice; call out. The first meaning is likely intended here.
being in labor: Grk. ōdinō, pres. part., experience labor pains preparatory to giving birth. and: Grk. kai. being in pain: Grk. basanizō (from basanos, a tormenting trial), pres. mid. part., subject to severe distress, vex with grievous pain. to give birth: Grk. tiktō, pres. inf., to cause to come into being, to beget, to bring forth. The description of this verse indicates that this sign was no ordinary constellation of the night sky. The woman John saw was nine months pregnant and ready to deliver a child, in fact a male child (verse 5 below).
The view of this writer, as succeeding verses further support, is that the sign of the woman refers to Chavah ("Chavah"), the mother of all the living, giving birth to Yeshua. After all, the first use of the word "woman" in Scripture is in Genesis 2:22, which recounts the creation of the woman from Adam's side. (It was Adam who named her "Chavah.") God's woman was there in the beginning when the Serpent came calling and seduced the woman whose only clothing was the sun (cf. Gen 2:25). It was also the first woman who was promised a Seed, a Deliverer who would crush the Serpent's head and do justice for the woman who had been so cruelly deceived. God also promised Chavah that He would greatly multiply her pain in childbirth.
It may be that Chavah, as the whole creation, would groan under God's curse of corruption as she waited for God's promised deliverance (cf. Rom 8:22-23). Indeed, Chavah's suffering would come from her sense of responsibility for causing God to impose His penalty of death (cf. 1Tim 2:14) and longing for the Seed who would set things right (cf. Gal 3:16). However, the fulfillment was not to be in her lifetime. This longing would pass from generation to generation as every Hebrew woman desired to be the mother of the Messiah. Thus Elizabeth called Miriam "blessed above all women" (Luke 1:42), because she was privileged to fulfill the dream and end the travail of birthing the Redeemer.
Another possibility is that the woman in the heavenly sign represents Sarah who is the mother of Israel (Isa 51:2). Out of all the families on the earth who came from Chavah, God chose to make a covenant with Abraham to bring redemption through his son Isaac (Gal 4:22-31). Thus, when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she gave birth to Yeshua (cf. Heb 7:9-10). Yet, Chavah seems to fit this context.
Sign of the Dragon (12:3-4)
3― And another sign was seen in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
And: Grk. kai, conj. another: Grk. allos, adj., other, another (of more than two), different. HELPS adds "another of a similar type." sign: Grk. sēmeion. See verse 1 above. was seen: Grk. horaō, aor. pass. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos with the definite article. See verse 1 above. The second sign now appears before John, also in heaven. a great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. red: Grk. purrhos, fire-colored or red. dragon: Grk. drakōn means serpent or dragon, a figurative term for the devil, and is a loanword in rabbinic literature, often as a synonym for the Grk. word ophis, "serpent" (Gen 3:1 LXX).
In the LXX drakōn is used to translate the Heb. words tan or tannin, which means dragon, serpent, monster or sea monster (e.g., Deut 32:33; Job 7:12; 26:13; Ps 74:13; 148:7; Lam 4:3; Ezek 29:3; 32:2; Amos 9:3; Jer 51:34) (ISB, ad. loc., TWOT, II, 976). The first use of tannin is in Genesis 1:21 where they are described as "great," no doubt referring to their size. It was probably the enormous size of these ancient monsters, as well as their power and intimidation, that prompted the use of tannin or tannim as a figurative term for Israel's most powerful opponents (e.g., Egypt, Isa 51:9 and Babylon, Jer 51:34). For the same reasons, the dragon became an appropriate metaphor for the principal enemy of God.
having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See the previous verse. seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. heads: pl. of Grk. kephalē, head as a term of anatomy and also fig. used of a position to which others are subordinate. and: Grk. kai. ten: Grk. deka, the numeral ten. horns: pl. of Grk. keras, horn or horn-like projection. In Hebrew the horn is a symbol of power (Mounce). The enemy of God and every believer is known by many names in Scripture, but in Revelation is principally seen as a dragon. Associated with the name Satan (verse 9 below), the dragon was a frequent visitor to heaven at least in the early earth history (Job 1:6).
For most modern people, dragons are just figments of ancient imaginations and myths. Robertson notes that Homer used the word "dragon" for a great monster with three heads coiled like a serpent that ate poisonous herbs, and the term also appears in Hesiod, Pindar, and Eschylus. The Babylonians feared a seven-headed hydra and Typhon was the Egyptian dragon that persecuted Osiris. He muses that perhaps these and the Chinese dragons are race memories of conflicts with the diplodocus and like monsters before their disappearance. Robertson's suggestion is in accord with the teaching of creation science that dinosaurs actually coexisted with man.
Scripture presumes the existence of dragons in the past (Gen 1:21; Ps 91:13; Isa 34:13). The great animals, behemoth and leviathan, that God discusses with Job were probably dinosaurs (Job 40:15-41:34). Henry Morris asserts that Bible versions translate the Heb. words tan or tannin variously as monster, sea monster, whale or jackal because of the reluctance of translators to commit the Scriptures to teaching the existence of something they regard as purely mythical. Modern translators are so committed to the uniformitarian view of earth history that they miss the obvious fact that the tan/tannin were simply extinct animals, but still preserved in the fossil record.
In fact, these Hebrew words could be translated "dinosaur" (BBMS 351f). See also John D. Morris, Did Dinosaurs Survive the Flood, Institute for Creation Research: 1 May 1993. The reason the dinosaurs do not exist today is the same reason why thousands of species no longer exist. They were killed off by man for food, for sport or out of fear, or they died from natural calamities. The dragon of Revelation, though, is no ordinary dragon.
and: Grk. kai. on: Grk. epi, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. heads: pl. of Grk. kephalē. seven: pl. of Grk. hepta. diadems: pl. of Grk. diadēma, a royal symbol, crown. The noun occurs only three times in the Besekh, all in Revelation and worn by the dragon, the beast (13:1); and the Messiah (19:12). The ancient diadem was a blue headband trimmed with white, on the tiara, and served as the sign of royalty among the Persians. While the sign appeared in heaven, the dragon's crowns and horns point to his earthly orientation.
The crowns indicate governance and illustrate that Satan is the god of this world (1Jn 5:19). It is generally assumed this sign represents the beast's kingdom, but in 13:2 the beast has 10 crowns, not seven. While horns on earthly animals typically protrude from the head, John does not further describe the position of the horns. Since the sign represents Satan, the heads, horns and crowns may represent his demonic organization. Just as God seeks to duplicate on earth what is in heaven, so Satan inspires the beast to imitate his model of organization.
4― And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
And: Grk. kai, conj. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. tail: Grk. oura, a tail, the hindmost part of an animal, especially that forming a distinct, flexible appendage to the trunk. The noun occurs 5 times in the Besekh, all in Revelation. drew: Grk. surō, pres., cause to move by dragging (e.g., John 21:8); drag, pull, draw, or force away. The verb includes the idea of using force (e.g., Acts 8:3; 17:6). Many versions translate the verb as "swept" or "swept away." However, other versions as the KJV translate the verb as "drew." a third: Grk. tritos, the ordinal number three. of the stars: pl. of Grk. astēr. See verse 1 above. of heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 1 above.
and: Grk. kai. threw: Grk. ballō, aor., used of action directed toward a position, and may intend (1) force and effort; cast, thrust or send; (2) without force or effort; put, place, lay or bring; or (3) to move, give motion to, not with force yet with attention and for a purpose (Thayer). Commentators generally believe the first usage applies here, but the third usage fits equally well, assuming "stars" are angels. them: pl. of Grk. autos. to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, towards.
the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). The term probably means the planet, but "land" might be intended, i.e., the Land of Israel. In biblical history the locus of satanic and demonic activity was in Israel and certainly the events of verse 5 below took place in Israel.
Most commentators suggest that the "third of the stars" could be an allusion to the number of angels who followed Satan in his rebellion against God. Johnson's conjecture that the "stars" here are "saints" over whom Satan has gained a victory (cf. Dan 8:10, 24; Php 2:15) is inconsistent with the context and unconvincing. For commentators adopting this interpretation the assumption of the use of force by the dragon presents a conundrum. It seems inconceivable that Satan would gain angelic followers by anything other than deception. Yet, the verb ballō does not necessarily imply a violation of choice and might only indicate being moved. Given the angelic hierarchy in heaven these angels were likely under Satan's direct command and as such were duty-bound to follow his orders.
Some commentators have taken the stars here to mean heavenly bodies in a physical sense, as in other passages in Revelation (6:13; 8:8, 10, 12; 16:21), and suggest a catastrophe unleashed by Satan on the earth. The reference to "stars" would then be interpreted as meteorites or space debris. While Scripture speaks of "falling stars," or meteorites, it was not until the nineteenth century that modern astronomers began to acknowledge the existence of meteor impacts on the earth. The NASA space program has further revealed that the surfaces of the moon, Mercury, Mars, and the satellites of the various planets all have craters caused by bombardment with meteorites, asteroids or comets at some time or times in the past.
A closer study of the earth's surface has likewise revealed many similar craters though largely masked by erosion and plant growth. These craters all speak of catastrophic collisions in the heavens (BBMS 182-183). The expression "a third of the stars" would then refer to a portion of the interstellar bodies moving within intersecting orbits of earth's "heaven" or atmosphere. Taking the view of a heavenly catastrophism a step further, a number of writers since the early nineteenth century have needlessly attempted to reconcile the creation account of Genesis 1 and evolution by assuming a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. It was during this "gap" that Satan's rebellion supposedly occurred and the rest of Genesis 1 is the story of God reconstructing what Satan had destroyed.
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a Scottish theologian, has been credited with being the most responsible for the Gap Theory, because others have quoted him as their source. The Scofield Reference Bible (1909) was a champion of the Gap Theory (or the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory) and has influenced many conservative Christians. Commenting on the phrase "without form and void" in Genesis 1:2, Scofield says,
"Jeremiah 4:23-27; Isaiah 24:1; 45:18 clearly indicate that the earth had undergone a cataclysmic change as the result of divine judgment. The face of the earth bears everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe. There are not wanting imitations which connect it with a previous testing and fall of angels."
See Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland, What is the "Gap Theory? ed. Don Batten. Answers in Genesis: 2000. Besides the Scofield Reference Bible, the Gap Theory is advocated in Dake's Annotated Reference Bible and The Newberry Reference Bible. Another 19th century writer to popularize this view was G.H. Pember in his book Earth's Earliest Ages, first published in 1884. In the 20th century Arthur C. Custance offered an academic defense of the Gap Theory in his work Without Form and Void.
A thorough critique of the Gap Theory is beyond this scope of this commentary, but it has been ably discredited by creation scientists as being both inconsistent with Scripture and devastating to Christian theology (BBMS 115-125). This writer concurs that if this verse depicts a heavenly catastrophism it had no connection with God's creation. In fact, the "star-throwing" event could have occurred at any time during ancient history. Henry Morris suggests it may even have been a trigger event for opening the "windows of heaven" (Gen 7:11; 8:2) that unleashed the global flood of Noah's day (BBMS 184). Unfortunately, the present tense of "drew" and the aorist tense of "threw" make it impossible to assign a date when this event may have occurred.
And: Grk. kai. the dragon: Grk. drakōn. See the previous verse. stood: Grk. histēmi, perf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; or (2) be in an upright position, used of bodily posture. The second meaning applies here. before: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' the woman: Grk. gunē. See verse 1 above. being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. to give birth: Grk. tiktō, aor. inf. See verse 2 above. so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. when: Grk. hotan, temporal adv. indicating 'when' or 'whenever.'
she should give birth: Grk. tiktō, aor. subj. he might devour: Grk. katesthiō, aor. subj., consume by eating; eat up, devour. her: Grk. autos. child: Grk. teknon, normally refers to man or woman's immediate biological offspring. When used of immediate offspring a teknon is older than an infant, but younger than bar/bat mitzvah age. Not only did the dragon take his anger and hatred out on God's creation, but from the moment God promised Chavah a deliverer would come, Satan "stood before" every woman in the Messianic line and attacked every descendant who might possibly be the Seed of his destruction.
It is no accident that the world's pagan religions, following the Babylonian model, adopted stories of a powerful female deity with an unborn prince pursued by a dragon.) In the Greek myth of the birth of Apollo, the dragon Python sought to kill the goddess Leto and her unborn child. Leto found sanctuary on the island of Delos where she gave birth to the god Apollo. Four days after his birth, Apollo found Python at Parnassus and killed him in his Delphic cave. In Egypt the myth told the tale of Set the red dragon that pursues Isis, the pregnant mother of Horus. When the child is grown, he too kills the dragon (Johnson).
Since Satan could not be sure who the Deliverer might be, he started immediately with Cain and Abel. By inciting murder Satan eliminated two potential candidates, since the Seed would have to be sinless and alive. Throughout history Satan maintained his malevolent birth watch and every potential heir of the promise was seduced into some form of sin. In the case of Yeshua, the attack of Satan began with the birth in Bethlehem by inciting the jealousy and rage of King Herod (Matt 2:16-18) and continued with many attempts on His life (Matt 12:14; Mark 11:18; Luke 4:28-39; John 7:19; 8:59; 10:31; 11:8). Satan's persistence seemed to be rewarded on Golgotha. Although Satan was not successful in tempting Yeshua to sin, he no doubt thought that victory was within his grasp with the death of Yeshua.
Seed of the Woman (12:5-6)
5― And she birthed a son, a male who is about to shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
And: Grk. kai, conj. she birthed: Grk. tiktō, aor. subj. See verse 2 above. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son," "son of"). The labor and pain mentioned in verse 2 accomplishes its goal and "she gave birth," meaning that Chavah gave birth, not to Abel but to Yeshua. After all, Genesis 3:15 implies that Yeshua was genetically in Adam. The concept may sound strange, but it is scientifically accurate and was revealed by God long before the modern study of genetics (cf. Heb 7:9-10). Paul also argues that even though Chavah was deceived, women will be saved through the birth of her son Yeshua (1Tim 2:13-15).
Barry Setterfield in his article The Christmas Star suggests that the vision of the woman hints at the date of Yeshua's birth. There is historical evidence that the birth of Yeshua was heralded by the constellation Virgo. Indeed, there are a few occasions near the time of the nativity in which Virgo appeared with the sun and the moon "under her feet." (Click here for a list of astronomical events occurring from 7 BC to 1 BC, all heavenly witnesses to the coming of the Messiah.) In Persia, the home of the Magi, there was a belief that a King Messiah would be born to the Jews, and that His coming would be heralded by a sign in the heavens in the constellation Virgo. This particular sign occurred on 10 September 3 BC. (See my commentary on Matthew 2.) Even though this information has relevance to the nativity it is not really helpful in interpreting the meaning of the vision to John.
a male: Grk. arrēn, male. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. is about: Grk. mellō, pres. See the previous verse. to shepherd: Grk. poimainō, pres. inf., to act as a shepherd, serving as tender of a flock. The verb occurs 11 times in the Besekh, only two of which has the literal meaning (Luke 17:7; 1Cor 9:7). The usage of the verb in Scripture indicates a close association of tending and ruling. In the LXX poimainō occurs 50 times (ABP), and translates Heb. ra'ah, (SH-7462), graze, pasture, rule, shepherd, or tend, first in Genesis 30:31 (DNTT 3:564).
The use of poimainō for ra'ah occurs first in instances of shepherding or tending flocks of sheep, including in reference to notable figures, as Jacob (Gen 30:36), Moses (Ex 3:1) and David (1Sam 16:11). Then, the verb is used figuratively of a ruler or teacher and the people of Israel regarded as a flock (2Sam 5:2; 7:7; 1Chr 11:2; 17:6; Ps 78:71-72; Jer 3:15; 23:2, 4; Ezek 34:2, 3, 8, 10, 23; Zech 11:4, 7; 11:9; cf. Acts 20:28; 1Pet 5:2). God Himself is depicted as shepherding His people (Ps 23:1; 28:9; 48:14; Hos 13:5; Mic 7:14). The Messiah is also depicted as acting in the role of a shepherd for Israel (Ps 2:9; Isa 40:11; Mic 5:4; Zech 13:7) and this prophetic understanding is echoed in the Besekh (Matt 2:6; Rev 2:27; 7:17; 12:5; 19:15).
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). In the Besekh ethnos may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israel (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5). with: Grk. en, prep. a rod: Grk. rhabdos refers to any rod, stick or staff, ordinarily wood, and wielded by hand. Rhabdos also referred to the ruler's staff or scepter, which is probably the intent here. of iron: Grk. sidēros, adj., made of iron.
The Seed of Chavah, Miriam's son, will one day rule as King of Kings. The Lord will redeem many out of the nations and protect his flock from those in the world opposed to His reign. The promise to "shepherd all the nations" appears to be the opposite of the first century Jewish expectation that God would destroy the Gentile nations. The promise of Psalm 2:8-12 says:
"Ask Me, and I will give the nations as Your inheritance, and the far reaches of the earth as Your possession. 9 You shall break the nations with an iron scepter. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s jar." 10 So now, O kings, be wise, take warning, O judges of the earth! 11 Serve ADONAI with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish along your way— since His wrath may flare up suddenly. Happy is everyone taking refuge in Him!" (TLV)
The original Hebrew phrase "break … with an iron scepter" can also mean "rule with a scepter," but the apparent parallelism "dash them" supports the standard translation. Jews had a reasonable expectation of justice in return for their sufferings. The promise is reiterated in Revelation in those portions dealing with God's judgment on the kingdom of this world and the beast's reign (cf. 19:15). However, in Psalm 2 God clearly offers the way of grace to the Gentiles. The enemies of Israel among the nations would be defeated and destroyed, but God issued an invitation to the Gentiles to join His people in worship (Ps 2:11) and promises the blessing of refuge, because He always intended to give them a place in Israel (cf. Ex 12:48f; Isa 45:22; 66:18; Ezek 47:22f; Rom 11:17). This is the mystery Paul refers to that God revealed to him (Eph 3:4-6).
Going further, shepherding with a rod is a very different thing than shattering with a rod. The rod stands for God's guidance in experiencing the kind of life envisioned by keeping the standards of the Torah (Ps 23:4; 119:67, 71, 75; Prov 22:15; 13:24). For the nations God offers salvation to those who will repent and submit to the Messiah's reign of righteousness. To shepherd with the rod of iron means a synthesis of mercy and discipline. The greatest security, protection and blessing are found by living within the boundaries God has established.
and: Grk. kai. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. child: Grk. teknon. See the previous verse. was caught up: Grk. harpazō, aor. pass., to take away by seizure, to carry off by force; take, seize. Mounce adds to convey away suddenly, transport hastily." Paul used this same verb to refer to the gathering of followers of Yeshua from the earth to meet him in the air during his Second Coming (1Th 4:17). Here the verb is passive, which means that Yeshua did not transport himself. He was caught up by the power of His Father. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near" or "facing," generally depicts motion toward a destination or goal ("to, toward"), but here of proximity after arrival.
God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context, and here the God of Israel. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
and: Grk. kai. to: Grk. pros. His: Grk. autos. throne: Grk. thronos, refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment (DNTT 2:611-615). God is often depicted as exercising His sovereignty and dominion from a throne in heaven (Ps 11:4; 45:6; 47:8; 103:19; Ezek 1:26; 10:1; Dan 7:9; Matt 5:34; 23:22; Heb 1:8; 12:2; Rev 7:10, 15; 19:4; 22:1).
The woman's son being "caught up to God" is no doubt an allusion to Yeshua' resurrection, glorification and ascension to heaven, and "to His throne," referring to taking His place at the right hand of the Father (Matt 26:64; Acts 2:33; 7:56; Rom 8:34). All the dragon's efforts to devour the promised Seed failed not only to keep the Savior in the ground, but on the earth. Yeshua came into Satan's domain and defeated him. To be caught up to heaven further validated His divinity and superiority over Satan. Yeshua also became the firstborn of many brethren who will experience the same glory and triumph (Rom 8:29).
6― And the woman fled into the wilderness where she has there a place prepared by God, so that there they might nourish her one thousand two hundred sixty days.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the woman: Grk. gunē. See verse 1 above. fled: Grk. pheugō, aor., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard, to flee or to escape. into: Grk. eis, prep. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. The opening clause seems reminiscent of wilderness wanderings of Israel (Deut 8:2ff), Elijah's flight (1Kgs 17:2f; 19:3f), flight of the Jews from Antiochus Epiphanes (1Macc 2:29), flight of Joseph and Miriam to Egypt (Matt 2:13), and the flight of Messianic Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:14 ) (Robertson).
In the vision the woman seeks sanctuary in the desert to escape the dragon's murderous aims. When Moses led Israel into the wilderness, God intended to use the experience to test her loyalty to Him.
"You are to remember all the way that ADONAI your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness—in order to humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His mitzvot or not." (Deut 8:2 TLV)
The wilderness was not only a testing time, but also a protective time. During those 40 years God protected them from snakes and scorpions and met their need for food and water. In addition, their sandals and clothing were kept from wearing out (Deut 29:5). The wilderness was a place to teach Israel to walk by trusting in God's faithfulness, being utterly dependent on God's sovereign care. Morris suggests that the "wilderness" into which she flees must be the desert and mountain regions east and southeast of the Dead Sea, occupied in ancient times by the peoples of Ammon, Moab and Edom (DSB).
where: Grk. hopou, adv. of place; where, in what place. she has: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 2 above. there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place, there. The use of ekei following hopou is a feature of Hebrew grammar of introducing a redundancy to give emphasis (Thayer). a place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, here of a geographical terrain; place. prepared: Grk. etoimazō, perf. pass. part., which means to put, keep in readiness or to prepare. The perfect tense emphasizes that which has been prepared and now stands ready (Rienecker). by: Grk. apo, prep, lit. "from," with two functional uses: (1) to denote separation or (2) to denote origin or cause. The second usage applies here. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the previous verse.
In the face of the dragon's assault, God provides a refuge, a place prepared in advance. so that: Grk. hina, conj. there: Grk. ekei, i.e., in the wilderness. they might nourish: Grk. trephō, pres. subj., 3p-pl., to feed, nourish, support, and provide with food. The subjunctive is the mood of potential and here the verb has a future reference. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The form of the verb indicates that the woman receives help from others. While there is no plural antecedent for the verb, Johnson suggests the third person plural is likely a Hebraism for the simple singular passive.
There are two possibilities of who "they" are. "They" could be a reference to divine help as the angels who assisted Yeshua in the wilderness (Matt 4:11) and as God took care of the ancient Israelites in the wilderness (Deut 2:7). "They" could be people as in the parable of the sheep and goats where the sheep help followers of Yeshua when they are in prison and have lost everything (Matt 25:34-40; cf. Luke 16:9). In any event, the woman in the sign is fed, supported and protected in the wilderness.
one thousand: pl. of Grk. chilioi, adj., properly, a thousand; the product of 10 x 10 x 10 (HELPS). two hundred: pl. of Grk. diakosioi, cardinal number from dis ("twice") and hekaton ("one hundred"), two hundred. sixty: pl. of Grk. hexēkonta, cardinal number from hex ("six") and a modified form of deka ("ten"), sixty. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The second and third meanings apply here.
The wilderness experience corresponds exactly to the period of time the two witnesses prophesy (11:3) and likewise equals the time given to the power of the beast (13:5). The specific length of the wilderness protection cannot be coincidental, but points to a fulfillment in the time of the two witnesses and the beast. Considering the reference to the woman's other children in 12:17, the flight drama may be realized by residents of Israel, perhaps represented by the 144,000, who turn to their redeemer and follow their true Messiah.
War in Heaven (12:7-9)
7― And war took place in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war,
And: Grk. kai, conj. war: Grk. polemos, armed conflict, generally a state of hostilities (war), but also a hostile encounter as part of a war (fight, battle). In the LXX polemos commonly translates Heb. milchamah (SH-4421), war, battle, first in Genesis 14:2. took place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 1 above.
Consequent to the sign of the dragon is the scene of a war between angels. The first mention of angelic fighting in Scripture is in Judges 5:20 where God provided heavenly assistance in Barak's battle against Sisera. The past tense of the verb here and the context of the Woman's travail (verse 3 above) suggests that this war occurred at a very early time in earth history. Warfare has been going on since the beginning when Satan rebelled and enticed Adam and Chavah into sin. Scripture gives no information about the creation of angels, although they must have been created very early in the creation week (cf. Job 38:4-7). Precisely when and how Satan became evil remains a mystery.
Michael: Grk. Michaēl (for Heb. Mikha'el, "who is like God?") is described as one of the chief princes (Dan 10:13). "Chief," Heb rishon, may mean former, first or chief (BDB 911). In Jude 9 he is called an archangel. It could be that Michael was one of the first angelic beings created and from the beginning was the guardian of the Messianic line, which later extended to the nation of Israel. Michael was apparently sent because Daniel's intercession directly concerned Israel (Miller 285). In Daniel 10:13 Michael fights the demonic prince over Persia to permit God's messenger to reach Daniel. Daniel is told that Michael is one "who stands guard over the sons of your people" (i.e. Israel, Dan 12:1). Thus, Michael is Israel's guardian angel. Michael also has an intercessory role in Jude 1:9 where he contends with the devil over the body of Moses.
and: Grk. kai. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In Greek culture angelos originally referred to an ambassador in human affairs who speaks on behalf of another, including as a messenger of the gods (DNTT 1:101f). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human relies primarily on the context. About half of the occurrences in the Tanakh refer to humans and the other half to divine messengers speaking or acting on behalf of God. The fact that the angels are referred to as "his" means these angels are under Michael's direct command and do not include all of God's angels.
Stern comments that for many modern Jews angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism. However, angels have a prominent place in the Tanakh, although Gabriel (Dan 8:16) and Michael (Dan 10:21) are the only ones identified by name. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology. Michael is included in a list of seven archangels, called the "angels of the presence" in 1Enoch 9:1, which also include Uri'el, Rafa'el, Ragu'el, Gavri'el, Saraka'el, and Remi'el. 1Enoch 20:1-7 assigns special functions to each angel and says that Michael presides over human virtue and commands the nations. In 1Enoch 40:8 he is one of four angels who stand before God and is described as "the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael."
Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14) and are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings are never called angels.
waging war: Grk. polemeō, aor. inf. Johnson, citing two linguistic experts, says that the infinitive form of the verb "waging war," is a pure Hebrew construction and the phrase should be translated as "had to fight." Rienecker concurs. Almost all translations fail to catch this nuance, so illuminating to the context. with: Grk. meta, prep. generally used to mark association or accompaniment, but here denotes a hostile or adversarial relationship. the dragon: Grk. drakōn. See verse 3 above. It is difficult to imagine a war in the paradise of heaven. The purpose of war is to disarm the enemy and to force him to submit to one's will. So, as the woman enters the wilderness her angel is fighting for her in heaven.
And: Grk. kai. the dragon: Grk. drakōn. and: Grk. kai. his: Grk. autos. angels: pl. of Grk. angelos. As with Michael these angels had been assigned to the dragon in the beginning. waged war: Grk. polemeō, aor. The nature of angelic war is unknown. Since angels are created with superhuman strength and intelligence, their battles would be of far greater intensity than anything man has ever done. It is not immediately clear whether the angelic war refers to an historical event or to a war in the future, but as other Scriptural prophecies it may have a dual application. The historical event probably happened before the "serpent of old" visited Chavah.
Previous to Satan's rebellion the angels had shared the great music of God and their existence was of light and joy. They lived in the mountain of God and "walked in the midst of the stones of fire," referring to the beauty of heaven (cf. Job 38:7; Gen 1:3, 14; Ps 89:5; Ezek 28:13-15). Then Satan developed a desire for a higher place, his character became depraved and the war began (cf. Isa 14:12f; Ezek 28:15-19; John 8:44). A future war of the angels may occur in the days immediately preceding, perhaps resulting in, the great tribulation. Revelation frequently uses the past tense to speak of future events.
8― and he did not prevail, nor was there a place of them found anymore in heaven.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he did not: Grk. ouk, the inflected form of ou, a particle used in denial or strong negation; not. prevail: Grk. ischuō, aor., to have the capacity for accomplishing, and in this case combined with the negative particle, means lacking the ability, power or strength to secure victory. The defeat of the dragon is reported with a sublime understatement. The dragon has deceived himself from the beginning that he was God's equal or even superior and failed to comprehend that he was not just attacking another group of angels. He dared to assault the stronghold of the omnipotent Creator God. There is no power, human or angelic, sufficient to defeat God. How appropriate are the words of the Psalmist, "He who sits in heaven laughs, ADONAI mocks them" (Ps 2:4 TLV).
nor: Grk. oude, conj., links a negative statement as complement to a preceding negative; nor. was a place: Grk. topos. See verse 6 above. The adverb may refer to assigned quarters, but also a position of status and responsibility. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Many versions render the noun as "for them," but the genitive case requires "of them." found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. pass., to come upon by seeking; find, locate, discover, acquire, obtain. anymore: Grk. eti, adv. that generally expresses continuance of an action or circumstance, but combined with the preceding negative particle denies continued presence. in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 1 above.
With a touch of irony John offers a fitting epitaph for anyone who would dare attack God. Satan's "place" would have included quarters appropriate to his rank and honor for being a chief cherub, holding a significant leadership position over many angels. However, with this attack he and his cohorts lose their access and are designated as persona non grata. Their visas have been revoked. God has foreclosed their quarters and put out the "no vacancy" notice for them now. Much later Satan would be permitted entry to heaven (Job 1:6), but he would never regain his place.
9― And the great dragon was cast out, the serpent, the ancient, the one called devil and the satan, the one deceiving the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. dragon: Grk. drakōn. See verse 3 above. was cast out: Grk. ballō, aor. pass. See verse 4 above. the serpent: Grk. ophis with the definite article, a snake. In the LXX ophis renders the Heb. word nachash, the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1). Of relevance to John's explanation is that drakōn is a loanword in rabbinic literature as a synonym for ophis (BAG). the ancient: Grk. archaios, adj. with the definite article, that which has been from the beginning; original, primeval, old, ancient (Thayer). The serpent has existed since the beginning of creation (cf. Job 38:4-7; Ezek 28:13).
the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) express something aloud; say, call, summon; (2) solicit participation; call, invite; or (3) identify by name or give a term to, call. The third meaning applies here. devil: Grk. diabolos, slanderer, accuser. Diabolos occurs 21 times in the LXX to translate the Heb. word satan, "adversary," mostly of the angelic adversary (13 times in Job alone), but also a wicked human opponent (e.g. 1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25). Diabolos occurs 37 times in the Besekh, primarily in reference to Satan, but also twice of human adversaries (John 6:70; 1Tim 3:11) (DNTT 3:468f).
and: Grk. kai. the satan: Grk. satanas, with the definite article, a transliteration of the Heb. satan (SH-7854, "sah-tahn"), adversary. The words "devil" and "satan" are not personal names, but are used in Scripture to describe the activity of a person, whether human or supra-human, who opposes other humans (e.g., Num 22:22; 1Sam 29:4; 1Kgs 11:14, 24, 25; 1Chr 21:1; Job 2:1; Zech 3:1). In the Besekh Satan is portrayed as an opponent of Yeshua (Mark 1:13) and the word of God (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). The association between "satan" as adversary and "devil" as slanderer was offered by Peter, "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1Pet 5:8; cf. John 10:10).
F.F. Bruce explains the nature of Satan's office,
"In the story of Job, for example, where Satan (better, ‘the satan') is said to have presented himself at a session of the heavenly court (Job 1:6), the expression means ‘the adversary' or, as we might say, ‘counsel for the prosecution.' This is the regular function of this unpleasant character in the Old Testament. Every court must have a prosecutor, but this prosecutor enjoys his work so much that, when there are not sufficient candidates for prosecution, he goes out of his way to tempt people to go wrong, so that he may have the pleasure of prosecuting them (cf. 1Chr 21:1). His role as tempter is thus secondary to his role as prosecutor." (The Hard Sayings of Jesus, 147)
the one: Grk. ho. deceiving: Grk. planaō, pres. part., to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct, hence to mislead or deceive. The present participle indicates a habitual character trait (Rienecker). the whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. world: Grk. oikoumenē (from oikeō, inhabit), may mean (1) the world as inhabited area; or (2) the world under Roman jurisdiction. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times, mostly in Psalms and Isaiah (DNTT 1:518).
Oikoumenē translates three different Heb. words: First, tebel (SH-8398), world (27 times); second, erets (SH-776), earth, land (12 times), and third, cheled (SH-2465), world, one time (Ps 49:1). The noun oikoumenē is used in the LXX of (1) the earth as created and established by God and over which He rules, or (2) lands or the earth as the object of God's judgment. The adjective holos occurs together with oikoumenē six times in the LXX (Isa 10:14, 23; 13:11; 14:26; 24:1; 37:18), all in the context of devastation and judgment.
Satan's principal weapon is deception, which began when he enticed the woman in the Garden of Eden to break God's commandment (Gen 3:1). Adam, as Paul points out (1 Tim 2:14), was not deceived, and, because of his disobedience, it is in Adam that all die (rather than "in Eve"). Since that first lie to Eve the entire world has been mislead and lured to destruction (cf. 2 Cor 4:3f; 1 John 5:19).
Yeshua said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). The greatest lie of all was told in the beginning that God is not really the compassionate creator or the righteous judge who will punish sin with death, and thus, God's Word and rule may be replaced with a personal pursuit of godhood. Satan could only have deceived others by first deceiving himself and basing the lie on the assumption that the universe must have always existed or exists independently of a creator and is able to evolve itself into higher and higher orders of being (DSB). The terrible consequence of the delectable deception, though, to the woman and all her children was death.
he was cast out: Grk. ballō, aor. pass. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 4 above. Probably with great delight John records that Satan and his angels were thrown down to the earth. The repetition of "thrown down" emphasizes the certainty of Satan's defeat and the violent physical nature of his ejection, since he would not likely go quietly. Not only was Satan routed at heaven's gate but thrown to the earth along with his rebel forces.
"The LORD said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' Then Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.'" (Job 1:7)
A comparison may be made with Luke 10:18 where Yeshua says, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning," which commentators generally treat as a metaphor of the victory the disciples experienced over demonic forces. However, Yeshua was more likely musing over Satan's original fall and God's judgment, which made the success of the disciples possible. The event is recorded in Ezekiel,
"You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering… on the day that you were created…. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. … and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you." (Ezek 28:13, 15-17)
Unfortunately for man, Satan has never been one to waste time with self-pity, and continues to roam the earth looking for other prey, principally the rest of the woman's offspring (verse 17 below; cf. 1 Pet 5:8).
and: Grk. kai. his: Grk. autos. angels: pl. of Grk. angelos. See verse 7 above. were cast out: : Grk. ballō, aor. pass. with: Grk. meta, prep. him: Grk. autos. Since Satan has been roaming the earth as a spiritual predator since the beginning, then the time of this action would coincide with his own downfall. As a result Satan has a large organization to do his bidding on earth (cf. Eph 6:12). The rebellion resulted in Satan and his followers being ejected from heaven and thrown down to the earth (verse 9 below; cf. Isa 14:12-15; Ezek 28:11-17; Luke 10:18).
Victory Hymn (12:10-12)
10― And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have come, because the accuser of our brothers has been cast out, the one accusing them before our God day and night.
And: Grk. kai, conj. I heard: Grk. akouō, aor., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The second meaning dominates here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173).
a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The second meaning applies here. The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113).
in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 1 above. A jubilant voice of triumph makes the public announcement in heaven of Satan's defeat. Again the anticipated event is referred to as an accomplished fact. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part, to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, say, speak, tell, told. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
Now: Grk. arti, adv. expressing concurrence of event with time viewed as present, (just) now. the salvation: Grk. sōtēria means rescue, deliverance or salvation from physical harm, but often from God's wrath (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5). In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206). In the religious sense sōtēria is deliverance from both the curse and consequences of sin. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Salvation is sometimes spoken of as a present experience (1Cor 1:18; Eph 2:5; Titus 3:5), but it is also a future expectation to be fulfilled by the Second Coming of Yeshua (Rom 5:10; 10:9; 13:11; 1Cor 3:15; 1Th 2:16; 5:9; 1Tim 4:16; Heb 1:14; 9:28).
and: Grk. kai. the power: Grk. dunamis (from dunamai, be capable for doing or achieving), having ability to perform something. Dunamis may be used to mean (1) the ability to function effectively and rendered "power" or "might;" (2) an exhibition of singular capability; powerful, wondrous deed, or miracle; or (3) a personification of a powerful entity or structure, "power" (BAG). In the LXX dunamis is used primarily to translate Heb. tsaba, army, host, war, warfare (Gen 21:22), and chayil, strength, efficiency, wealth, army (Deut 8:13), both generally used to mean military forces (DNTT 2:602). Dunamis also stands for some other Hebrew words that mean strength of will (Deut 6:4), the power of a ruler (Jdg 5:31), and the strength of God that accomplishes great deeds on behalf of His people (Deut 3:24; Ps 68:28).
and: Grk. kai. the kingdom: Grk. basileia may mean (1) as abstract 'act of ruling' and thus 'kingship, royal power, royal rule, or kingdom; (2) a territory ruled over by a king; kingdom; or (3) the royal reign of God or kingdom of God as a chiefly eschatological concept (BAG). The third meaning applies here. In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign) (DNTT 2:373). It's important to note that the Hebrew words are used for both the reign of earthly rulers and of the God of Israel ruling as King.
The hope that God would establish his reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93-99; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 34:23; 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; and Zech 14:9). Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the phrase that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily" It was even laid down by the Sages that no blessing would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Berachot 12a). In the covenant with Israel God expressed His will for a kingdom, "you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6).
Yochanan the Immerser prepared the way for the Kingdom of God (cf. Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16). The Kingdom of God in the present age is the reign of God in human hearts (Luke 17:21). Yet, Yeshua also spoke of the kingdom to come in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:14; 25:1; Luke 21:31) and during the last supper (Mark 14:25). Stern says, "The concept of the Kingdom of God …refers neither to a place or time, but to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God’s promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be fulfilled" (16).
of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai. the authority: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction. BAG, Mounce and Thayer identify a second meaning as ability to do something, capability, might, power, which proceeds from having authority. In the LXX exousia renders Heb. mimshal (SH-4474), dominion, ruler (2Kgs 20:13; 2Chr 8:6), and Heb. memshalah (SH-4475), rule, dominion, realm (Ps 114:2; 136:8, 9; Dan 11:5). Exousia is found more commonly in books of the Apocrypha and used in reference to the law with the meaning of permission to do something (Tobit 2:13) (DNTT 2:607).
of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), anointed, Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
have come: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 7 above. The verb might also be translated as "have taken place" or "have come to be." When Yeshua comes He brings all that God has to offer: salvation, power, the kingdom and authority of the Messiah. As in 7:10 the angelic voices announce that the salvation, or deliverance, of God has come. This will be especially meaningful to those who serve as slave labor for the beast. Further, God has all the power He needs to accomplish deliverance. And, once deliverance is accomplished and the beast is defeated, God will establish the kingdom ruled over by His Son.
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as, since. The fourth usage applies here. the accuser: Grk. katēgōr, accuser, occurs only here in the Besekh. The term refers to one who brings a legal charge against another (Rienecker). Katēgōr was a loanword to Mishnaic Heb. as qategor and in the Talmud it was used as a synonym of Satan (DNTT 1:83).
of our: Grk. hēmeis. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. In the LXX adelphos is used for the Heb. ach, meaning (1) brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); also half-siblings (Gen 20:5). has been cast out: Grk. ballō, aor. pass. See verse 4 above. For the second time the reader is reminded of Satan's expulsion from heaven.
the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. accusing: Grk. katēgoreō, pres. part., to charge with an offense, accuse. them: pl. of Grk. autos. Even though Satan was fired from his job he continues to act as if he is still employed. before: Grk. enōpion. See verse 4 above. our: Grk. hēmeis. God: Grk. theos. The phrase "before our God" does not necessarily mean that he has to be physically in heaven to do it, since there is nowhere in the universe where one can be out of sight or hearing of God (cf. Ps 139:7-8). day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 6 above. Here the term refers to the daylight hours. and: Grk. kai. night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise.
Satan's defamation of Job (Job 1:9-11; 2:4f), Joshua the High Priest (Zech 3:1) and Moses (Jude 1:8f) illustrates what Satan does to every believer. Just imagine him standing before God with a list of believers vilifying and slandering each one. No wonder gossip is in the list of sins that characterize depravity (Rom 1:28-29). The judge of the heavenly court gavels His answer. God not only throws Satan's case against Yeshua's followers out of court, but throws him out as well.
11― "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
And they overcame him: The good news here is that Satan can be overcome, but Satan cannot be defeated by worldly means (2Cor 10:3-5). because of the blood of the Lamb: The sinless Lamb of God had already overcome Satan (John 16:33) and His shed blood provides the first means of overcoming and stands between God and Satan’s accusations. The Lamb’s blood provided release from the sins of the past (1:5) and the privilege of reigning with Him (5:9) (Mounce). the word of their testimony: The second way Yeshua's followers overcome is by the word of their testimony, not shrinking back but forthrightly giving the reason for the hope within (1Pet 3:15). Personal testimony is also inspired by the filling of the Holy Spirit in the hour of need (Matt 10:19-20; Acts 4:8-12; 13:9ff).
they did not love their life: Grk. psuchē, or "soul." The third way Yeshua's followers overcome is by forsaking the love of self, a most unpopular concept. Yeshua had told His disciples, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal" (John 12:25; cf. Matt 19:39; 16:25). The word "love" in both Revelation and John’s book refers to a sacrificial devotion. Before his murder in 1956 at the hands of Auca Indians, the missionary Jim Elliot wrote in his diary, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." (Cowles 98).
Yeshua warned His disciples that the enemy would not stop with His death (John 15:20), so the true disciple, considering the Savior’s death and atonement to be of greater value than mere temporal life, maintains loyalty to the Savior in the face of trials. Ignatius facing martyrdom in the early second century encouraged Polycarp, "Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer" (The Epistle to Polycarp 3). This is how the early disciples left their mark on history as thousands were burned, crucified, thrown to wild beasts or endured other atrocities only limited by the cruel imaginations of their persecutors, but remained firm in their faith in and allegiance to Yeshua. So it will be until Yeshua comes.
12― "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."
For this reason, rejoice: The inhabitants of heaven have cause to rejoice, and the earth dwellers have reason to mourn (Robertson). Those in heaven, humans and angels, can rejoice because they are beyond Satan’s power to harm. Moreover, the kingdom will soon be consummated and the Messiah will rule. With the reference to the "sea" the word "earth" could be translated "land" and the phrase would carry the same intent as the first sentence. In other words, the focus is really on the people, and those who are on the earth are not as fortunate as those already in heaven.
having great wrath: Grk. thumos, a passionate state of mind, the precise quality determined by the context. Here the usage refers to anger or wrath. There are two words for anger in the Greek language, thumos and orgē. Thumos was described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw. It quickly blazes up and just as quickly dies down. Orgē is long-lived anger, an anger that has been nursed, an anger of brooding over an offense and not allowed to die. In the LXX there is virtually no distinction between thumos and orgē. Both terms are used synonymously and appear for the same numerous Hebrew equivalents.
There is no immunity from Satan’s attacks in this present age. The devil is continuously patrolling the earth "seeking someone to devour" (1Pet 5:8). Having a short time does not mean that Satan accepts defeat. Rather, Satan understands that he can only work by God’s permission, so he will make the most of the allotted time.
War Against the Woman, 12:13-17
13― And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
the dragon … persecuted: Grk. diōkō, aor., means to hunt or to pursue (Rienecker) and is often translated as "persecute" in the apostolic writings (e.g., Matt 5:10). As the heavenly story resumes, the dragon, fueled by fury after being defeated in heaven, persecutes the woman. In the cosmic story it is Chavah who is being persecuted, but in the context of the end of the age the target of Satan’s war is Israel, the promised nation from the child of promise, which was in Chavah in the beginning. Just as persecuting believers was actually a maltreatment of Yeshua (Acts 9:5), so this attack against God’s people is the same as persecuting Chavah. Down through history Satan has done everything possible to destroy Israel, even with the help of many Gentile Christians. In this final drama, Satan seeks to complete his diabolical plan to wipe out once and for all the seed of the woman.
14― And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
two wings … were given: John sees the woman transformed with the addition of wings, which were like the wings of an eagle, so she could fly out of danger. A parallel to John’s vision may be God’s deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh – "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself" (Ex 19:4). Morris suggests that the mention of an eagle actually represents an angel. However, the woman is not being borne by an eagle or an angel, but is simply being given the power to flee from her persecutor. A seemingly pointless fact of "two wings" is mentioned. After all, in using the metaphor of an eagle (or any bird), no one would say "one" wing. However, it takes both wings for the great birds to soar on the lofty heights. The main point is that God will not only provide a way of escape, but also will give full and complete resources for the need. God does not do His great work by halves.
that she might fly into the wilderness: The woman has a place already set aside by the Lord in the wilderness as a refuge. During this period the woman is cared for and nourished. Perhaps in explanation of the dragon’s "short time" to act (verse 12 above), the length of the woman’s sojourn is given as "a time and times and half a time." The expression also occurs in Daniel 7:25 where it refers to the time when God's people will be given into the hand of the beast, and in Daniel 12:7 where it refers to the time given to finish shattering the power of the holy people. The assurance of the woman being nourished (verse 6 above) is repeated and probably refers to Israel being protected during the beast’s reign. Just as Israel was fed manna in the wilderness after their deliverance from Egypt, so again God will feed His people while they are in the wilderness, and perhaps train them to receive His reign (cf. Hos 2:14-23).
The vision may well represent a fulfillment of the instruction Yeshua gave in His Olivet Discourse that when the abomination of desolation occurs His people are to flee to the mountains (Matt 24:16-20). While the Olivet warning was appropriate to the context of the first century destruction and desolation of Jerusalem by the Romans, Yeshua intended this admonition as part of His answer to the disciples’ question about the end of the age and His Second Coming. Yeshua warned His disciples of the reality of persecution, but He never insisted that His people wait around to be annihilated (cf. Matt 10:23). Yeshua Himself escaped from the clutches of His enemies on more than one occasion, as did the apostles (Matt 12:14f; Luke 4:28ff; 13:31f; John 8:59; 10:31, 39; Acts 9:23-25; 12:6-11; 26:17). If escape is possible, then it should be exercised.
15― And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.
Seeing the woman flee the dragon tries to use a flood to destroy her. In the Tanakh flood is a common metaphor used for various misfortunes or terrors, sometimes intense opposition from enemies or the fear of death (Job 27:20; Ps 18:4; 32:6; 69:1-4, 15; 90:5; 124:2-5; Isa 43:2; Jer 51:42; Nah 1:8; cf. Matt 7:25), but of relevance to this verse is the comparison in Jeremiah 46:8-9 of Egyptian armies to the flooding Nile. Satan first tried to destroy Israel with the "flood" of Pharaoh’s army as chronicled in Exodus 14. Similarly, Morris interprets the vision as the beast sending out a great army against Israel in the wilderness. The main point seems to be that Satan will attempt to use overwhelming force to get rid of Israel. However, in the chronology of this vision the Satanic "flood" takes place before the dragon calls the beast from the abyss to make war on God's people. The allusion to Egypt, though, would be apt for the invasion of Israel depicted in Ezekiel 38−39. Referring to the alliance of forces from Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer and Beth-Togarmah, Ezekiel says,
"After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you." (Ezek 38:8-9)
In ancient Bible times the peoples of Gomer, Meshech, Tubal and Beth-Togarmah lived in Asia Minor, now called Turkey. Put was located in North Africa in an area now within the borders of Libya. Biblical Ethiopia occupied a large area of the southern Nile divided now between southern Egypt and Sudan. Persia corresponds to present-day Iran. (See Oxford Bible Atlas, 67-75.) These lands are now controlled by Islamic regimes. Noticeably absent from this unusual list are Assyria (Syria) and Babylon (Iraq). Ever since Muhammad first founded Islam in the 7th century, Muslims have waged war against both Christians and Jews and is not the peaceful religion many Americans believe it to be. In one respect this invasion by Islamic countries and their defeat must take place before the Antichrist can come to power.
Textual Note: Scholars are divided over whether Heb. Rosh ("chief, head") in Ezekiel 38:2, 3; 39:1 is an adjective (its customary meaning in the Tanakh) modifying "prince," or a place-name. The Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (1846), citing Byzantine writers of the Medieval period and other scholars of the 19th century, definitely identifies Rosh in Ezekiel as the Russians, a people living north of Taurus. Many modern writers on prophecy have likewise interpreted Rosh as Russia. Earle, on the other hand, maintains that the association of "Rosh" with "Russia," and "Meshech" with "Moscow" has no etymological foundation and amounts to fanciful exegesis.
16― And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
the earth helped the woman: In the cosmic vision the earth is personified and comes to the woman’s rescue. God has often used the physical processes of the earth to assist His people in fighting adversaries. Israel’s first experience came on the heels of their escape from Pharaoh in Egypt. God opened a highway through the Red Sea to enable Israel’s escape and then after their safe passage collapsed the waters to destroy Pharaoh’s army (Ex 14:26-31). God also used the earth to stop a rebellion against Moses (Num 16:32f) and caused the sun to stand still to aid Joshua’s army (Josh 10:13). There are also other examples in Scripture of God using the resources of the earth against Israel’s enemies (Josh 10:11; 1Sam 5:11f; 7:10; 14:14f). Following the imagery of the flood Israel will be helped by forces that are not under Satan’s control. Faithful Jews may take comfort from Psalm 32:6-7,
"Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance."
Morris, identifying the "flood" as an army from the beast, suggests that the means of destruction is a sudden great fissure opening up in the earth, perhaps in the Great Rift Valley, and swallowing the troops, the artillery, and planes (DSB). However, Morris’ interpretation does not fit the chronology of the events in this chapter. If the "flood" refers to the invasion of Israel from Islamic countries, then the deliverance provided by the earth may be fulfilled by a "great earthquake" and a rain of "hailstones, fire and brimstone" from volcanic eruptions, which destroy much of the invading army as described in Ezekiel 38:19, 22.
17― And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and holding to the testimony of Yeshua.
the dragon … went off to make war: Even though the dragon failed in his attack against the woman he redirects his attack against her children. The phrase "rest of her children" implies there is a first group of offspring who was the object of the dragon’s war, as chronicled in verses 13-15 above and "the rest" may then be a parallel to Yeshua’ mention of "other sheep" (John 10:16), i.e. Gentile believers. This phrase is proof that the woman in this cosmic story is not Israel, even though the reality on earth of this final war and end time events will probably be experienced by Israel. Gentile believers are children of Abraham who have been granted citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel in order to become equal partakers of the blessings of the covenant, but inclusion in the "olive tree" (Rom 11) makes Gentile believers the target of Satan’s anger as Jews have been since the Exodus from Egypt.
who keep the commandments of God: Grk. entolē means an order or command. In the apostolic writings entolē occurs 68 times, concentrated chiefly in the writings of John, and most often refers to Torah commandments. In the LXX entolē is used to render the Heb. mitsvah and is concentrated in the Pentateuch (DNTT 1:331). In non-religious settings mitsvah was the terms of a contract for purchase of property (Jer 32:11) and the instruction of a teacher (Prov 2:1; 3:1). In the context of the covenant relationship between YHVH and Israel, mitsvah refers to the commandments God gave to Moses for Israel to obey as conditions and instruction for their relationship and a successful life (Deut 8:1; 30:8, 15f; 32:46f) (TWOT 2:757).
All the children of the woman are identified by two attributes. First, they "keep the commandments of God." The reference "of God" indicates commandments given or authorized by God and recorded in Scripture. The disadvantage of the English word "commandment" is that for many people it connotes an order imposed by a stern and punishing God, while the original Hebrew word "mitzvah" implies an honor and privilege given to Israel, a responsibility that the people of God undertook as part of the covenant they made with God. Devout Jews typically view God’s mitzvot as good deeds to be performed with eagerness. From the beginning of time God has given commandments in order to teach people how to live and experience life as its best. The reader may well ask, "What commandments do these children of God keep?" The simple answer as the Israelites at Sinai affirmed is "all the words which the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex 24:3).
God began giving commandments from the very beginning. The biblical record of the antediluvian and patriarchal ages indicates that such heinous crimes as murder, violence, adultery, fornication and idolatry were clearly known to be wrong long before Moses was born (e.g., Gen 2:17; 4:11f; 6:5ff; 18:20; 20:3; 26:10). God gave specific directives to Adam related to the avoidance of evil, the institution, propagation and protection of marriage and the family, and stewardship of the earth and its resources (Gen 1:27; 2:18, 22ff). God gave commandments to Noah for the sustenance of mankind, the institution of government, the administration of justice and respect for life (Gen 9:1-7). God gave instructions to Abraham for creating a covenant people, claiming the land of Canaan for his posterity and living a blameless life (Gen 12:1; 13:14-17; 17:1). The records of God’s expressed will were faithfully handed down from father to son in the Messianic line until they came into the care of Moses who compiled and edited the Genesis records. Then, God gave him an extensive body of commandments, ordinances and statutes (Exodus through Deuteronomy) designed to guide His people in covenant living (Deut 4:13).
According to Maimonides, a famous 12th century Jewish scholar, Moses received 613 Commandments. All of the commandments were given with the expectation of obedience. Yeshua and the apostles refuted the notion that the authority of God’s commandments ended with the advent of the Messiah (Matt 5:17; Rom 3:31; Eph 2:20). God’s intention is that the standards of holiness and righteousness in the Torah will be fulfilled in the disciple’s life (Matt 7:12; Rom 8:4; cf. Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:27). The disciple who loves God with all his heart will endeavor to comply (John 14:15-23; 15:10; 1Cor 7:19; 1Jn 2:3ff; 3:22; 2Jn 1:6).
There is a common misunderstanding that since believers are not "under law," then being under grace must not involve obeying commandments, at least the commandments in the Tanakh. (See my article Under the Law.) However, Yeshua specifically emphasized the two great commandments of the Torah to love God and neighbor (Matt 22:36-40), as well as the Ten Commandments (Matt 19:17-19). Yeshua also upheld the commandments given to Adam (Matt 19:1-9) and Abraham (Matt 5:48; Mark 16:15), and the apostles with the authorization of Yeshua insisted on compliance with the commandments given to Noah (Acts 15:20; Rom 13:1-4). Both Yeshua and the apostles affirmed the continuing relevance and authority of the commandments given to Moses (Cf. Matt 5:1-48; 15:3; 19:1-9, 17ff; 22:36, 38, 40; John 14:15, 21; 15:10ff; Rom 3:19f; 7:7-13; 13:1-4), and even relied on these commandments to support edicts for congregational governance (Cf. Matt 18:15-19; 21:42; 22:49; 23:23; Rom 4:3; 11:2; 12:19; 15:4).
Certainly, there were necessary changes resulting in a New Torah, but even with modifications God’s fundamental standards for holy and righteous living have not changed. There is no authority granted in Scripture to individuals or ecclesiastical bodies of later generations to overturn God's laws. While many modern Christians seek to live "on the edge" without divine boundaries or to look for loopholes to minimize obedience, the apostles and first century disciples were zealous to live by Torah commandments (Acts 21:20, 24; Rom 8:4), and like David found delight and joy in keeping God’s statutes and ordinances (Ps 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174; cf. John 8:47; 15:10; Acts 10:14; 21:20; 22:12; 24:14). No wonder John could say, "His commandments are not burdensome" (1Jn 5:3).
holding: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. to the testimony of Yeshua: Ladd suggests that the Grk. phrase tēn marturian Iēsou should be taken either as a subjective genitive, meaning the testimony that Yeshua bore or an objective genitive, meaning the testimony that disciples bear about Yeshua. Mounce favors the former and Stern favors the latter. See 14:12 on the significance of the subjective genitive in the phrase "faith in Yeshua." The reference to the disciples' testimony in verse 11 has influenced interpretation of this verse.
The second attribute of the children of the woman is that, like Messianic Jews, they "hold to the testimony of Yeshua" in the face of the dragon’s wrath. While the "testimony" could refer to both belief in Yeshua as Son of God, Savior and Lord (1Jn 4:15) and public identification with Him (Rom 10:10), the phrase more likely means that the faithful disciples proclaim the Word of God first delivered by Yeshua when He walked the earth, as well as Yeshua’ testimony contained in this book (1:2, 9; 19:10; 20:4). Yeshua gave a faithful testimony about Himself, His relationship to the Father, His Messianic mission on earth and His plan to establish the Kingdom now and in the future. Yeshua wanted His disciples to ensure that His words were transmitted intact to succeeding generations (22:10, 18f). The verb "hold to" refers to keeping a grip or maintaining loyalty to the divine commission in the face of temptation, threats or torment. As the gospel song says about the three friends of Daniel, "they would not bend, they would not bow, they would not burn." The fact that Gentile believers are the object of Satan’s attack means the gathering and resurrection of Yeshua's followers have not happened yet.
18― And he stood on the sand of the sea.
And he stood: Grk. histēmi, aor. pass., be in an upright position, to stand, used of bodily posture. The verb is 3p-sing., but the TR, reflected in the KJV, has the verb as 1p-sing., i.e. John. In context the subject of the verb is the dragon who calls forth the beast described in chapter 13. on the sand: Grk. ammos refers to the sand of a beach (Rienecker). of the sea: Grk. thalassa (corresponding to Heb. yam) used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, i.e., lake. The English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule.
Thalassa (as its Hebrew counterpart) simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. The seas (Heb. yammim) were formed on the third day of creation (Gen 1:10), but the present configuration of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers came about in the aftermath of the Noahic deluge (cf. Job 12:14-15; 14:11-12; 22:15-16; 26:10; 38:8-11; Ps 29:3-10; 65:5-9).
The TR has this verse as the opening clause of 13:1. However, as Ladd notes, the MS evidence is strong that the sentence belongs as the last verse of chapter 12.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Revelation of John. 2 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1976.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
Cowles: C.S. Cowles, "At Any Cost," Adult Bible Fellowship Leader (WordAction Publishing Company), Vol. 25, No. 1, 98.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
Gregg: Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.
HELPS: The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. eds. Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
Metzger-TNT: Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Miller: Stephen R. Miller, Daniel. The New American Commentary, Vol. 18. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record. Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Sevener: Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wilson: Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.
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