An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 3 June 2011; Revised 13 January 2016
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)
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 a great 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 (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.
John describes the next scene he witnessed as a "great" sign, which may suggest size, complexity or significance. 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 that speak for God or even as portents of events on earth (cf. Ps 19:1f; Jer 10:2). "Sign" also referred to a visible manifestation of Godís 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 shadowís advance on the palace steps (2Kgs 20:9). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaronís 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).
appeared in heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). See the note on 3:12. The divine signs John saw testify to these characteristics, but in contrast all are seen in heaven and all have a surreal aspect. In this case "heaven" could mean interstellar space. The special character of the surreal and the location of heaven implies that other visions in Revelation could be considered signs: the angel with the little book (10:1), the son of man and angel with sickles (14:14-17), the conquering Messiah and armies on white horses (19:11-14), and the angel with the key and great chain (20:1).
a woman: Grk. gunē may mean any adult female, but sometimes more specifically a married woman. clothed: Grk. periballō, to cover around, such as cover with an article of clothing. See 3:5 on "clothed." with the sun, and the moon under her feet: 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 Johnís location. John is not provided an explanation of the woman, but in Scripture both Israel and the Body of Messiah are viewed as a woman, a virginal bride (See 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17; cf. Isa 49:18; 61:10; 62:5; John 3:29; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27, 32). However, the metaphor of a bride has a very different purpose than the sign of the woman.
and on her head a crown of twelve stars: Victorinus interpreted the woman to be "the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles." Among modern commentators 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 (Stern). 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 Paulís use of Isaiahís 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). The woman obviously cannot be Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, the birth-narrative that follows notwithstanding, since the subject matter of the vision seems to belong in the latter days, and so the deduction is made that the woman must represent a corporate entity.
The identification of the woman as Israel is further strengthened in the minds of many by the similarity of the sign with Josephís 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 Josephís 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 Josephís situation the sun, moon and stars more likely referred to Egyptís 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 Josephís dream and Johnís sign may have some elements in common, that is where the similarity ends.
Johnson relates an interesting historical parallel between the Revelation to John and the activities of the emperor Domitian around the year 83. After the death of his ten-year-old son, Domitian proclaimed the boy a god and his mother, the mother of god. Coins were struck showing the mother Domitia as the mother of the gods (Cerea, Demeter, and Cybele) or enthroned on the divine throne or standing with the scepter and diadem of the queen of heaven with the inscription "Mother of the Divine Caesar." Another coin shows the mother with the child before her. In his left hand is the scepter of world dominions, and with his right hand he is blessing the world. Still another coin shows the dead child sitting on the globe of heaven, playing with seven stars, which represent the seven planets, symbolic of his heavenly authority over the earth. A recently discovered coin of the same period shows the head of Domitia, but instead of the child on the reverse side, it has the moon and the other six planets. Some commentators believe that the similarity of the imagery between Revelation and the actual events of the first century to be too great to be accidental. However, the historical event is only another evidence of Satanic perversion of the truth and John as a Jew faithful to the Torah and an apostle faithful to the Messiah would not borrow from an idolatrous practice to invent the vision he reports having actually seen in heaven.
The view of this writer, as succeeding verses further support, is that the sign of the woman refers to Eve, the mother of all the living. After all, the first use of the word "woman" in Scripture is in Genesis 2:22, which recounts the creation of woman from Adamís side. (It was Adam who named her "Eve.") Godís woman was there in the beginning when the Serpent came calling and seduced the woman whose only clothing was the sun (Gen 2:25). It was also the first woman who was promised a Seed, a Deliverer who would crush the Serpentís head and do justice for the woman who had been so cruelly deceived. Another possibility is that the woman in the heavenly sign represents Sarah who is also "our mother" (Gal 4:26). Out of all the families on the earth who came from Eve, 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 (see 12:5)
Commentators typically compare the womanís sunlight clothing with the description of God as covering Himself with "light as with a cloak" (Ps 104:2), but the sign is not depicting God nor comparing the woman to God. The mentions of the sun and moon may not be intended to convey any symbolic meaning. The sun and moon were given to mankind to regulate everyday life (Gen 1:16ff), but in Scripture also marked off significant events in the religious calendar of Israel. If symbolic meaning is intended then the appearance of the sun and moon would likely remind John of their function as witnesses of Godís 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).
The crown of twelve stars worn by the woman is a significant element in the sign. In order to understand their symbolic import we must consider the first usage of "stars" in Scripture:
"Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth;í and it was so.'" (Gen 1:14-18)
The Heb. word moĎadim, translated as "seasons" actually refers to sacred seasons or festivals, as the same word appears throughout Leviticus 23 (BDB 417). The four climatic seasons are actually determined by the sun, not the stars, but on the Hebrew calendar the constellations (groupings of stars) do coincide with the religious seasons, beginning with Passover occurring in Aries (Josephus, Ant. III, 10:5).
The heavenly lights were created primarily to function as signs. Certainly the planets, sun, moon and stars have always been signposts for man in the science of navigation, but the Hebrew word for sign, oth (sign, omen, pledge), in Genesis 1:14 implies messages from God. The belief in constellations having special religious significance is very old as alluded to in Job 9:9, "Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south?" (cf. Job 38:32; 2Kgs 23:5; Isa 13:10). Evangelical Christians have theorized that the constellations originally were a silent witness to the great plan of God, relating to both the first and second advents of the Messiah (Matt 2:2; 24:29; Luke 21:25f; 2Pet 1:19).
Godís story of the Virgin, the promised Seed, the substitutionary sacrifice, and the destruction of the Serpent are all displayed in the stars. Dr. Henry Morris has summarized the message of each constellation:
● Virgo, the Virgin: promised Seed of the woman
● Libra, the Balance: scales of divine justice
● Scorpio, the Scorpion: sting to be inflicted on the divine seed
● Sagittarius, the Archer: corruption of the human race
● Capricorn, the Goat-Fish: utter wickedness of mankind
● Aquarius, the Water Pourer: destruction of the primeval world by water
● Pisces, the Fishes: emergence Israel, the chosen people of God
● Aires, the Ram: sacrifice of an innocent substitute for sins
● Taurus, the Bull: resurrection of the slain Ram as the mighty Bull
● Gemini, the Twins: the dual nature of the reigning king
● Cancer, the Crab: ingathering of the redeemed from all ages
● Leo, the Lion: destruction of the serpent by the great King of the tribe of Judah.
[Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science, (Baker Book House, 1984), 182. Morris provides a more complete explanation of the Gospel in the Stars in his book Many Infallible Proofs (1974), Appendix B.]
Satan, of course, saw the potential of the divine witness displayed in the panoramic redemption story and obscured its importance by inspiring the astrology condemned in Scripture.
Jewish Sages recognized that the twelve constellations were created for the benefit of Zion, but for a different reason (Ber. 32b). The stars were to be a reminder that God had not forgotten His people Israel (Isa 49:14). As God spoke through Jeremiah:
"This is what ADONAI says, who gives the sun as light for the day, who ordained the laws for the moon and stars to provide light for the night, who stirs up the sea until its waves roar -- ADONAI-Tzva'ot is his name: 36 'If these laws leave my presence,' says ADONAI, 'then the offspring of Isra'el will stop being a nation in my presence forever.' 37 This is what ADONAI says: 'If the sky above can be measured and the foundations of the earth be fathomed, then I will reject all the offspring of Isra'el for all that they have done,' says ADONAI." (Jer 31:35-37 CJB)
Of special significance is that the stars represent 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.í And He said to him, ĎSo shall your descendants be'" (Gen 15:5; cf. Deut 1:10; 10:22; 1Chr 27:23; Neh 9:23; Heb 11:12). Of course, the fact that the crown consists of twelve stars no doubt points to Israel as the number twelve generally does in Revelation. The number twelve occurs 24 times in Revelation with fourteen direct references to members of Israel and the rest describe some aspect of the New Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel. However, the stars not only represent the children of Abraham through Isaac but also include the children of Abraham by faith (Rom 4:16), and, as Ladd suggests, means "all Israel," the commonwealth of Israel with grafted in Gentiles.
2― and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
and she was with child: The Greek phrase en gastri exousa, translated "she was with child," means "to have something in the stomach," i.e., to be pregnant (Rienecker). and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth: "pain" is Grk. basanizō, to torture or to torment. The word indicates severe distress of either mind or body. The woman John saw in the sign was nine months pregnant and ready to deliver her child, the Redeemer and Ruler of Godís Kingdom (verse 6). God promised Eve that her Seed would crush the Serpentís head, but He also promised Eve that He would greatly multiply her pain in childbirth.
Why? Surely God was talking about more than just the birth of Cain. It may be that Eve, as the whole creation, would groan under Godís curse of corruption as she waited for Godís promised deliverance (cf. Rom 8:22-23). Indeed, Eveís 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.
Barry Setterfield in his article The Christmas Star suggests that the vision of the woman provides information on the date of Yeshua's birth. According to the vision the birth is heralded by the constellation Virgo (the woman in the heavens). There are few occasions in ancient history near the time of the nativity in which Virgo appeared with the sun and the moon "under her feet." 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 (Click here for a list of astronomical events occurring from 7 BC to 1 BC, all heavenly witnesses to the coming of the Messiah).
Sign of the Dragon (12:3-4)
3― And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
And another sign appeared in heaven: The second sign now appears before John, whether the sky or interstellar space is not clear. a great 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 2:976). 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 Israelís 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 seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. In Jewish usage seven was used for a round number (e.g., Matt 12:45; Luke 11:26) (Mounce-Dict.). heads: pl. of Grk. kephalē, head as a term of anatomy and also fig. used of a position to which others are subordinate. and 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-Dict.).
As a representative of evil the dragon would not be in the heaven of Godís abode. The enemy of God and every believer is known by many names as indicated in verse 9, but in Revelation is principally seen as a dragon. 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.
Robertsonís 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 on his heads seven diadems: Grk. diadēma, "crown," occurs only three times in the apostolic writings - 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 dragonís 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 beastís 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 his tail swept away: Grk. surō, pres., to drag, pull, draw, drag away or to sweep. The verb includes the idea of using force. Marshall translates the verb as "draws." a third of the stars of heaven: John next witnesses the dragon using his tail to affect stars. 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. Satan is depicted as having total control over the rebel angels. 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). However, there is a difference of view in this verse from verse 9. Here the dragonís tail both "swept" and "threw" the "stars" and verse 9 says that God threw Satan and his angels down to earth, in both cases denoting physical force. It is inconceivable that both God and Satan would be physically "throwing" rebel angels at the same time or that Satan would succeed in gaining angelic followers by anything other than deception. In addition, verse 9 explicitly mentions angels whereas the text here has "stars" without any explanation that the "stars" symbolize the angels as in 1:20.
and threw: Grk. ballō, aor., a forceful action to throw, cast or hurl. them to the earth: Since "stars" primarily refer to heavenly bodies in Scripture and in Revelation (6:13; 8:8, 10, 12; 16:21), this verse may possibly describe a catastrophe unleashed by Satan on the earth and the reference to "stars" should be interpreted as meteorites or space debris. Johnsonís 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. 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 earthís 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 earthís "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 Satanís 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 the heavenly catastrophism mentioned here had no connection with Godís 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 Noahís day (BBMS 184). Unfortunately, the present tense of "swept" and the aorist tense of "threw" make it impossible to assign a date when this event may have occurred.
Not only did the dragon take his anger and hatred out on Godís creation, but from the moment God promised Eve 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 worldís 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). Satanís 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.
The Promised Seed (12:5-6)
5― And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
And she gave birth to a son: The labor and pain mentioned in verse 2 accomplishes its goal and "she gave birth," meaning that Eve 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. For example, Scripture says that Levi paid tithes when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek because Levi was in Abrahamís loins at the time (Heb 7:9-10). Paul also argues that even though Eve was deceived, women will be saved through the birth of her son Yeshua (1Tim 2:13-15). Paul is not saying, as translations imply, that a woman may be saved by having a baby. Rather, childbearing represents a believing womanís identification with Eve in expectation of the Savior.
who is to rule all the nations: The Seed of Eve, Miriamís son, will one day rule in the place of His rejection. 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 "rule all the nations" appears to be the opposite of the first century Jewish expectation that God would destroy the Gentile nations. On the surface the phrase sounds like a heartless despotic bondage of the Gentiles. The promise of Psalm 2:8-12 says:
"Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware. Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"
with a rod of iron: The original Hebrew phrase "break them with a rod" can also mean "rule with a scepter," but the apparent parallelism "shatter them like earthenware" supports the standard translation. (See 2:27 on "rule.") Jews had a reasonable expectation of justice in return for their sufferings. The promise is reiterated in Revelation in those portions dealing with Godís judgment on the kingdom of this world and the beastís reign (cf. 19:15). However, some first century Jews made the same mistake about Gentiles that Gentiles made about them and did not notice (or ignored) that 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, ruling with a rod is a very different thing than shattering with a rod. The rod stands for Godís enforcement standard of His justice and righteousness as spelled out in the Torah (Ps 23:4; 119:67, 71, 75; Prov 22:15; 13:24). The nations that oppose Godís reign are destroyed as the Torah requires, but salvation is offered to those who will repent and submit to the righteous requirements of Godís Torah. To rule with the rod of iron means the code of conduct is unbending and absolute. What sinners do not realize is that the greatest security, protection and blessing are found by living within the boundaries God has established.
and her child was caught up: Grk. harpazō, "caught up," is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to refer to the gathering of the saints, also known as the Rapture. Here the verb is passive, which means that Yeshua did not catch Himself up. to God and to His throne: He was caught up by the power of His Father. The womanís son is then described as being "caught up to God," no doubt an allusion to Yeshuaí 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 dragonís efforts to devour the promised Seed failed not only to keep the Savior in the ground, but on the earth. Yeshua came into Satanís 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 had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
And the woman fled into the wilderness: The phrase "fled into the wilderness" seems to be reminiscent of Deuteronomy 8:2ff (wanderings of Israel in the wilderness), 1 Kings 17:2f and 19:3f (Elijahís flight), 1 Maccabees 2:29 (flight of the Jews from Antiochus Epiphanes), Matthew 2:13 (flight of Joseph and Miriam to Egypt), and Mark 13:14 (the flight of Messianic Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem) (Robertson). In the vision the woman seeks sanctuary in the desert to escape the dragonís murderous aims. When Moses led Israel into the wilderness, God intended to use the experience to test her loyalty to Him.
"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands or not" (Deut 8:2).
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 faith, being utterly dependent on Godís 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 she had a place prepared by God: "prepared" is Grk. etoimazo, 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). In the face of the dragonís assault, God provides a refuge, a place prepared in advance.
so that there she might be nourished: The verb trephō means to feed, nourish, support, and provide with food. "Nourished" is actually third person plural (trephosin), so the phrase would be lit. translated "they would nourish her" (Marshall), which indicates that the woman receives help from others. While there is no plural antecedent for the verb, the third person plural is likely a Hebraism for the simple singular passive (Johnson). 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 ethnic Jews or Christians 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.
for one thousand two hundred and sixty days: 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 womanís 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 (12:7-10)
7― And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war,
And there was war in heaven: Grk. ouranos. See the note on 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 Barakís battle against Sisera. The past tense of the verb 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 Eve 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. That the war is waged in "heaven" does not mean that there was fighting going on around the throne of God, the third heaven. The location is not clarified, but it most likely is a reference to interstellar space, the second heaven.
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 Godís 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 Israelís guardian angel. Michael also has an intercessory role in Jude 1:9 where he contends with the devil over the body of Moses.
and his angels: 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 Michael and Gabriel are the only ones that gave their names. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology (Stern). Michael is included in a list of seven archangels, called the "angels of the presence" in 1 Enoch 9:1, which also include Uriíel, Rafaíel, Raguíel, Gavri'el, Sarakaíel, and Remiíel. 1 Enoch 20:1-7 assigns special functions to each angel and says that Michael presides over human virtue and commands the nations. In 1 Enoch 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. with the dragon: Johnson, quoting two linguistic experts, says that the infinitive construction tou polemesai, translated "waging war," is a pure Semitism (i.e. an Hebraic idiom) and the phrase should be translated as "Michael and his angels had to fight with the Dragon." Almost all translations fail to catch this nuance, so illuminating to the context. It is difficult to imagine a war in the paradise of heaven. Human wars have occurred as a result of selfish ambition and greed. The purpose of war is to disarm the enemy and to force him to submit to oneís will. So, as the woman enters the wilderness her angel is fighting for her in heaven. The fact that the angels are referred to as "his" means these angels are under Michaelís direct command and do not include all of Godís angels.
And the dragon and his angels waged war: 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 Eve. Previous to Satanís 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 they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.
and they were not strong enough: Grk. ischuō, aor., to have the capacity for accomplishing (Danker), and in this case combined with the negative adverb ouk, 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 is Godís equal or even superior and fails to comprehend that he is 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 the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them" (Ps 2:4).
there was no longer a place: Grk. topos may refer either to a spatial area in terms of location or a position of status and responsibility (Danker). With a touch of irony John offers a fitting epitaph for anyone who would dare attack God. Satanís "place" would have included honor for being a chief cherub, perhaps holding the supreme leadership position over all the angels. However, with this attack he and his cohorts lose their access and are designated as persona non grata. Their visas have been revoked. If they had quarters before, God has foreclosed 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 thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And the great dragon was thrown down: The archenemy of the saints is known by different descriptive titles, here given in Greek and Hebrew for the bilingual audience as in 9:11 where the name for the "king of the locusts" is similarly explained. the serpent: Grk. ophis is used in the LXX at Genesis 3 to translate the Heb. word nachash, the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Stern). Of relevance to Johnís explanation is that drakon is a loanword in rabbinic literature as a synonym for ophis. Being called the "serpent of old" means that this creature has existed since the beginning of creation (cf. Job 38:4-7; Ezek 28:13).
who is called 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 Satan: Grk. ho Satanas, lit. "the satan" (Marshall), transliterates the Heb. word satan ("sah-tahn"). The words "devil" and "satan" are not personal names, but are used in Scripture to describe the activity of a person, whether human or heavenly, 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 apostolic writings Satan is an opponent of Yeshua and the gospel (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). Yeshua summed up Satanís character and life goals, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). F.F. Bruce explains the nature of Satanís office,
"In the story of Job, for example, where Satan (better, Ďthe sataní) is said to have presented himself at a session of the heavenly court (Job 1:6), the expression means Ďthe adversaryí or, as we might say, Ďcounsel for the prosecution.í 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)
who deceives the whole world: 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). Satanís principal weapon is deception, which began when he enticed the woman in the Garden of Eden to break Godís commandment (Gen 3:1). Adam, as Paul points out (1Tim 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. 2Cor 4:3f; 1Jn 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, Godís 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 thrown down to the earth: 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 Satanís defeat and the violent physical nature of his ejection, since he would not likely go quietly. Not only was Satan routed at heavenís gate but thrown to the earth along with his rebel forces. 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 Satanís original fall and Godís 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 coveringÖ on the day that you were createdÖ. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. Ö 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 womanís offspring (verse 17 below; cf. 1Pet 5:8).
and his angels were thrown down with him: 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).
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 Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven: A jubilant voice of triumph makes the public announcement in heaven of Satanís defeat. Again the anticipated event is referred to as an accomplished fact. When Yeshua comes He brings all that God has to offer: salvation, power, the kingdom and authority of the Messiah. The angelic voices announce that the salvation, or deliverance, of God has come. (See 7:10 on "salvation.") 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.
for the accuser: Grk. katēgōr, "accuser," occurs only here in the apostolic writings. Katēgōr was a loanword to Mishnaic Heb. as qategor and in the Talmud it was used as a synonym of Satan (DNTT 1:83). For the second time the reader is reminded of Satanís expulsion from heaven. Satanís title of "accuser" refers to one who brings a legal charge against another (Rienecker). Even though Satan was fired from his job he continues to act as if he is still employed. 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). Satanís 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 Satanís case against the saints out of court, but throws him out as well.
War on Earth (12:11-17)
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 Satanís accusations. The Lambís 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 the saints 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 the saints 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 Johnís Gospel 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 Saviorís 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, saints and angels, can rejoice because they are beyond Satanís 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 Satanís 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 Godís permission, so he will make the most of the allotted time.
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 Ö 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 Eve who is being persecuted, but in the context of the end of the age the target of Satanís war is Israel, the promised nation from the child of promise, which was in Eve in the beginning. Just as persecuting believers was actually a maltreatment of Yeshua (Acts 9:5), so this attack against Godís people is the same as persecuting Eve. 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 Ö 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 Johnís vision may be Godís deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh Ė "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eaglesí 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 dragonís "short time" to act (verse 12 above), the length of the womanís 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 the saints 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 beastís 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 disciplesí 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 Pharaohís 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 the saints. 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 womanís rescue. God has often used the physical processes of the earth to assist His people in fighting adversaries. Israelís first experience came on the heels of their escape from Pharaoh in Egypt. God opened a highway through the Red Sea to enable Israelís escape and then after their safe passage collapsed the waters to destroy Pharaohís 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 Joshuaís army (Josh 10:13). There are also other examples in Scripture of God using the resources of the earth against Israelís 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 Satanís 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, Morrisí 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 hold to the testimony of Jesus.
the dragon Ö 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 dragonís war, as chronicled in verses 13-15 above and "the rest" may then be a parallel to Yeshuaí 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 Satanís 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 Godís 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 Godís 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 Godís commandments ended with the advent of the Messiah (Matt 5:17; Rom 3:31; Eph 2:20). Godís intention is that the standards of holiness and righteousness in the Torah will be fulfilled in the discipleís 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 Godís 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 Godís 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).
hold: Grk. echō means to "hold in the hands." 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 dragonís 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 Yeshuaí 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 Satanís attack means the gathering and resurrection of the saints 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.
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.
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositorís Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
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.
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, Godís 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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