Revelation of John 12


The woman clothed with the sun, and in travail, 1, 2.

The great red dragon waiting to devour the child as soon as

born, 3, 4.

The woman is delivered of a son, who is caught up unto God;

and she flees to the wilderness, 5, 6.

The war in heaven between Michael and the dragon, 7, 8.

The dragon and his angels are overcome and cast down to the

earth; whereupon the whole heavenly host give glory to God,


The dragon, full of wrath at his defeat, persecutes the woman,

12, 13.

She flees to the wilderness, whither he attempts to pursue her;

and he makes war with her seed, 14-17.


Before I introduce the comment mentioned at the close of the

preceding chapter, I think it necessary to state that the

phraseology of the whole chapter is peculiarly rabbinical, and

shall insert a few selections which may serve to illustrate some

of the principal figures.

In Sohar Exod., fol. 47, col. 187, we find a mystical

interpretation of Ex 21:22:

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit

depart-he shall be surely punished, as the woman's husband will

lay upon him. "If men strive, i.e. Michael and Samael, and hurt

a woman with child, i.e. the Israelitish Church, so that her fruit

depart, hoc fit in exilio, he shall surely be punished, i.e.,

Samael. As the woman's husband, that is, the holy and blessed



Verse 1. There appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed

with the sun] That the woman here represents the true Church of

Christ most commentators are agreed. In other parts of the

Apocalypse, the pure Church of Christ is evidently portrayed by a

woman. In Re 19:7, a great multitude are represented as saying,

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the

marriage of the Lamb is come, and his WIFE hath made herself

ready." In Re 21:9, an angel talks with St. John, saying, "Come

hither, I will show thee the BRIDE, the Lamb's wife." That the

Christian Church is meant will appear also from her being clothed

with the sun, a striking emblem of Jesus Christ, the Sun of

righteousness, the light and glory of the Church; for the

countenance of the Son of God is as the sun shineth in his

strength. The woman has:-

The moon under her feet.] Bishop Newton understands this of the

Jewish typical worship and indeed the Mosaic system of rites and

ceremonies could not have been better represented, for it was the

shadow of good things to come. The moon is the less light,

ruling over the night, and deriving all its illumination from the

sun; in like manner the Jewish dispensation was the bright

moonlight night of the world, and possessed a portion of the

glorious light of the Gospel. At the rising of the sun the night

is ended, and the lunar light no longer necessary, as the sun

which enlightens her shines full upon the earth; exactly in the

same way has the whole Jewish system of types and shadows has been

superseded by the birth, life, crucifixion, death, resurrection,

ascension, and intercession of Jesus Christ. Upon the head of the

woman is:-

A crown of twelve stars.] A very significant representation of

the twelve apostles, who were the first founders of the Christian

Church, and by whom the Gospel was preached in great part of the

Roman empire with astonishing success. "They that be wise shall

shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many

to righteousness, as the STARS for ever and ever." Da 12:3.


Verse 2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth,

&c.] This, when taken in connection with the following verses, is

a striking figure of the great persecution which the Church of

Christ should suffer under the heathen Roman emperors, but more

especially of that long and most dreadful one under Diocletian.

The woman is represented as BEING with child, to show that the

time would speedily arrive when God's patient forbearance with the

heathen would be terminated, and that a deliverer should arise in

the Christian world who would execute the Divine vengeance upon



Verse 3. There appeared another wonder-a great red dragon] The

dragon here is a symbol, not of the Roman empire in general, but

of the HEATHEN Roman empire. This great pagan power must have,

therefore, been thus represented from the religion which it

supported. But what is a dragon? An entirely fabulous beast of

antiquity, consequently, in this respect, a most proper emblem of

the heathen worship, which consisted in paying adoration to

numerous imaginary beings, termed gods, goddesses, &c. The very

foundation of the heathen religious system is mostly built upon

fable; and it is very difficult to trace many of their

superstitions to any authentic original; and even those which

appear to derive their origin from the sacred writings are so

disguised in fable as literally to bear no more resemblance to the

truth than the dragon of the ancients does to any animal with

which we are acquainted. But it may be asked why the Spirit of God

should represent the heathen Roman empire as a dragon, rather than

by anger other of the fabulous animals with which the mythology of

the ancient Romans abounded. The answer is as follows; In the

eighth chapter of the Prophet Daniel, God has represented the

kingdom of the Greeks by a he-goat, for no other apparent reason

than this, that it was the national military standard of the

Grecian monarchy; we may therefore expect that the pagan Roman

empire is called a DRAGON on a similar account. In confirmation of

this point it is very remarkable that the dragon was the principal

standard of the Romans next to the eagle, in the second, third,

fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian era. Of this we have

abundant evidence in the writings of both heathens and Christians.

Arrian is the earliest writer who has mentioned that dragons were

used as military standards among the Romans. See his Tactics, c.

51. Hence Schwebelius supposes that this standard was introduced

after Trajan's conquest of the Daci. See Vegetius de Re Militari a

Schwebelio, p. 191, Argentorati, 1806; and Graevii Thesaur.,

Antiq. Roman., tom. x., col. 1529. Vegetius, who flourished about

A.D. 386, says, lib. ii. c. 13: Primum signum totius legionis est

aquila, quam aquilifer portal. DRACONES etiam per singulas

cohortes a draconariis feruntur ad praelium. "The first standard

of the whole legion is the eagle, which the aquilifer carries.

DRAGONS are also borne to battle by the Draconarii." As a legion

consisted of ten cohorts, there were therefore ten draconarii to

one aquilifer; hence, from the great number of draconarii in an

army, the word signarii or signiferi, standard-bearers, came at

last to mean the carriers of the dragon standards only, the others

retaining the name of aquiliferi.-See Veget., lib. ii. c. 7, and

his commentators. The heathen Roman empire is called a RED dragon;

and accordingly we find from the testimony of ancient writers that

the dragon standards of the Romans were painted red. We read in

Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xvi., c. 12, of PURPUREUM signum

draconis, "the purple standard of the dragon." See also Claudianus

in Rufinum, lib. ii., l. 177, 178. Pitiscus, in his Lexicon Antiq.

Rom., and Ducange, in his Glossarium Mediae et Infimae

Latinitatis, sub voc. Draco, have considered this subject at great

length, especially the latter writer, who has made several

quotations from Claudianus, Sidonius, Prudentius, and others, in

which not only the standard, but also the image of the dragon

itself, is stated to be of a red or purple colour. Of what has

been said above respecting the dragon, this is then the sum: a

huge fabulous beast is shown to St. John, by which some GREAT

PAGAN power is symbolically represented; and the RED dragon is

selected from among the numerous imaginary animals which the

fancies of mankind have created to show that this great pagan

power is the heathen ROMAN empire.

Having seven heads] As the dragon is an emblem of the heathen

Roman power, its heads must denote heathen forms of

government.-See Clarke on Re 17:10, where the heads of the

beast are explained in a similar way. These were exactly seven,

and are enumerated by Tacitus (Annal., lib. i., in principio) in

words to the following effect: "The city of Rome was originally

governed by kings. L. Brutus instituted liberty and the consulate.

The dictatorship was only occasionally appointed; neither did the

decemviral power last above two years; and the consular power of

the military tribunes was not of long continuance. Neither had

Cinna nor Sylla a long domination: the power of Pompey and Crassus

was also soon absorbed in that of Caesar; and the arms of Lepidus

and Antony finally yielded to those of Augustus." From this

passage it is evident to every person well acquainted with the

Roman history, that the seven forms of government in the heathen

Roman world were, 1. The regal power; 2. The consulate; 3. The

dictatorship; 4. The decemvirate; 5. The consular power of the

military tribunes; 6. The triumvirate; and, 7. The imperial


It is singular that commentators in general, in their citation

of this passage, have taken no notice of the triumvirate, a form

of government evidently as distinct from any of the others as

kings are from consuls, or consuls from emperors. For the

triumvirate consisted in the division of the Roman republic into

three parts, each governed by an officer possessed with consular

authority in his own province; and all three united together in

the regulation of the whole Roman state. Consequently, it differed

entirely from the imperial power, which was the entire conversion

of the Roman state from a republic to a monarchy.

And ten horns] That these ten horns signify as many kingdoms is

evident from the seventh chapter of Daniel, where the angel,

speaking of the fourth beast, says, that "the ten horns out of

this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise;" and in this view of

the passage many commentators are agreed, who also admit that the

ten kingdoms are to be met with "amid the broken pieces of the

Roman empire." And it is evident that nothing less than the

dismemberment of the Roman empire, and its division into ten

independent kingdoms, can be intended by the angel's

interpretation just quoted. If, therefore, the ten horns of

Daniel's fourth beast point out as many kingdoms, for the very

same reason must the horns of the dragon have a similar meaning.

But the Roman empire was not divided into several independent

kingdoms till a considerable time after it became Christian. In

what sense then can it be said that the different kingdoms into

which the Roman empire was divided by the barbarous nations are

horns of the dragon? They were so because it was the Roman

monarchy, in its seventh DRACONIC form of government, which was

dismembered by the barbarians. For though the Roman empire was not

completely dismembered till the fifth century, it is well known

that the depression of the heathen idolatry, and the advancement

of Christianity to the throne, elected not the least change in the

form of government: the Romans continued still to be under

subjection to the imperial power; and, consequently, when the

heathen barbarous nations divided the Roman empire among

themselves, they might very properly be denominated horns of the

dragon, as it was by means of their incursions that the imperial

power, FOUNDED by the heathen Caesars, was abolished. Machiavel

and Bishop Lloyd enumerate the horns of the dragon thus: 1. The

kingdom of the Huns; 9. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths; 3 The

kingdom of the Visigoths; 4. The kingdom of the Franks; 5. The

kingdom of the Vandals; 6. The kingdom of the Sueves and Alans; 7.

The kingdom of the Burgundians; 8. The kingdom of the Heruli,

Rugii, Scyrri, and other tribes which composed the Italian kingdom

of Odoacer; 9. The kingdom of the Saxons; and 10. The kingdom of

the Lombards.

And seven crowns upon his head.] In the seven Roman forms of

government already enumerated, heathenism has been the crowning or

dominant religion.


Verse 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven]

It is not unusual in Scripture, as Dr. Mitchell observes, to call

the hindmost of an enemy the tail, as in Jos 10:19:

Ye shall cut off the hindmost of them, which is literally in

Hebrew, "Ye shall cut off their tail." See also

De 25:18. It is also observable that the word

ουρα, in this verse, has been used by the Greeks in the same

sense with the Hebrew word already referred to. Thus ουρα

στρατου, which we would translate the rear of an army, is

literally the tail of an army. See the Thesaurus of Stephens, in

loc. The tail of the dragon is therefore the heathen Roman power

in its seventh or last form of government, viz., the imperial

power; and is not, as Dr. Mitchell supposes, to be restricted to

the last heathen Roman emperors. The heathen imperial power is

said to draw the third part of the stars of heaven, by which has

generally been understood that the Roman empire subjected the

third part of the princes and potentates of the earth. But that

this is not a correct statement of the fact is evident from the

testimony of ancient history. The Roman empire was always

considered and called the empire of the world by ancient writers.

See Dionys. Halicar., Antiq. Rom. lib. i., prope principium;

Pitisci Lexicon Antiq. Roman., sub voc. imperium; Ovidii Fast.,

lib. ii. l. 683; Vegetius de Re Militari, lib. i. c. 1., &c., &c.

And it is even so named in Scripture, for St. Luke, in the second

chapter of his gospel, informs us that there went out a decree

from Caesar Augustus that THE WHOLE WORLD should be taxed, by

which is evidently meant the Roman empire. The whole mystery of

this passage consists in the misapprehension of its symbolical

language. In order therefore to understand it, the symbols here

used must be examined. By heaven is meant the most eminent or

ruling part of any nation. This is evident from the very nature

of the symbol, for "heaven is God's throne;" they therefore who

are advanced to the supreme authority in any state are very

properly said to be taken up into heaven, because they are raised

to this eminence by the favour of the Lord, and are ministers of

his to do his pleasure. And the calamity which fell upon

Nebuchadnezzar was to instruct him in this important truth, that

the heavens do rule; that is, that all monarchs possess their

kingdoms by Divine appointment, and that no man is raised to power

by what is usually termed the chances of war, but that "the Most

High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he

will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." The meaning of

heaven being thus ascertained, it cannot be difficult to

comprehend the meaning of earth, this being evidently its

opposite, that is, every thing in subjection to the heaven or

ruling part. Stars have already been shown to denote ministers

of religion; and this is more fully evident from Re 1:16 of this

book, where the seven stars which the Son of God holds in his

right hand are explained to signify the seven angels (or

messengers) of the seven Churches, by whom must be meant the seven

pastors or ministers of these Churches. The resemblance of

ministers to stars is very striking; for as the stars give light

upon the earth, so are ministers the lights of the cause they

advocate; and their position in heaven, the symbol of domination,

very fitly betokens the spiritual authority of priests or

ministers over their flocks. Hence, as the woman, or Christian

Church, has upon her head a crown of twelve stars, which signifies

that she is under the guidance of the twelve apostles, who are the

twelve principal lights of the Christian world, so has the dragon

also his stars or ministers. The stars therefore which the dragon

draws with his tail must represent the whole body of pagan

priests, who were the stars or lights of the heathen world. But in

what sense can it be said that the heathen Roman empire, which

ruled over the whole known world, only draws a third part of the

stars of heaven? The answer is: The religious world in the time of

St. John was divided into three grand branches, viz., the

Christian world, the Jewish world, and the heathen and pagan

world: consequently, as a dragon, a fabulous animal, is an emblem

of a civil power supporting a religion founded in fable; it

necessarily follows that the stars or ministers of the Jews and

Christians cannot be numbered among those which he draws with his

tail, as they were not the advocates of his idolatry, but were

ministers of a religion founded by the God of heaven, and

consequently formed no part of the pagan world, though they were

in subjection in secular matters to the pagan Roman empire. The

tail of the dragon therefore draweth after him the whole heathen


And did cast then to the earth] That is, reduced all the pagan

priests under the Roman yoke. The words of the prophecy are very

remarkable. It is said the tail of the dragon draweth, (for so

συρει should be translated,) but it is added, and HATH CAST then

upon the earth, to show that at the time the Apocalypse was

written the world was divided into the three grand religious

divisions already referred to; but that the tail of the dragon, or

the pagan Roman power under its last form of government, had

brought the whole heathen world (which was a third part of the

religious world in the apostolic age) into subjection previously

to the communication of the Revelation to St. John. It is the

dragon's tail that draws the third part of the stars of heaven,

therefore it was during the dominion of his last form of

government that Christianity was introduced into the world; for in

the time of the six preceding draconic forms of government, the

world was divided religiously into only two grand branches, Jews

and Gentiles. That the sense in which the third part is here taken

is the one intended in the prophecy is put beyond all controversy,

when it is considered that this very division is made in the first

and third verses, in which mention is made of the woman clothed

with the sun-the Christian Church, the moon under her feet, or

Jewish Church, and the dragon, or heathen power. Thus the heathen

IMPERIAL government is doubly represented, first, by one of the

seven draconic heads, to show that it was one of those seven

heathen forms of government which have been successively at the

head of the Roman state; and secondly, by the dragon's tail,

because it was the last of those seven. For a justification of

this method of interpretation, see on the angel's double

explanation of the heads of the beast, Re 17:9, 10, 16.

And the dragon stood before the woman, &c.] Constantius Chlorus,

the father of Constantine, abandoned the absurdities of paganism,

and treated the Christians with great respect. This alarmed the

pagan priests, whose interests were so closely connected with the

continuance of the ancient superstitions, and who apprehended that

to their great detriment the Christian religion would become daily

more universal and triumphant throughout the empire. Under these

anxious fears they moved Diocletian to persecute the Christians.

Hence began what is termed the tenth and last general persecution,

which was the most severe of all, and continued nearly ten years;

(see Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History of the Third Century;) and

as it was the Divine pleasure that, at this time, a great

deliverer should be raised up in behalf of his suffering people,

the woman, or Christian Church, is very appropriately represented

as overtaken with the pangs of labour, and ready to be delivered.

Before the death of Constantius, the heathen party, aware that

Constantine would follow the example of his father, who so much

favoured the Christians, beheld him with a watchful and malignant

eye. Many were the snares that, according to Eusebius, were laid

for him by Maximin and Galerius: he relates the frequent and

dangerous enterprises to which they urged him, with the design

that he might lose his life. When Galerius heard of the death of

Constantius, and that he had appointed Constantine his successor,

he was filled with the most ungovernable rage and indignation,

notwithstanding he did not dare to take any steps contrary to the

interest of Constantine. The dread of the armies of the west,

which were mostly composed of Christians, was a sufficient check

to all attempts of that kind. Thus the dragon, or heathen power,

stood before the woman, or Christian Church, to devour her son, or

deliverer, as soon as he was born. See Dr. Mitchell's Exposition

of the Revelation, in loc.

Verse 5. And her child was caught up unto God, and to his

throne.] In Yalcut Rubeni are these words: "Rachael, the niece of

Methusala, was pregnant, and ready to be delivered in Egypt. They

trod upon her, and the child came out of her bowels, and lay under

the bed; Michael descended, and took him up to the throne of

glory. On that same night the first born of Egypt were



Ver. 5. And she brought forth a man child] The Christian Church,

when her full time came, obtained a deliverer, who, in the course

of the Divine providence, was destined:-

To rule all nations] The heathen Roman empire,

With a rod of iron] A strong figure to denote the very great

restraint that should be put upon paganism, so that it should not

be able longer to persecute the Christian Church. The man child

mentioned in this verse is the dynasty of Christians emperors,

beginning with Constantine's public acknowledgment of his belief

in the divinity of the Christian religion, which happened in the

latter part of A.D. 312, after the defeat of the Emperor Maxentius.

And her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.] A

succession of Christian emperors was raised up to the Church; for

the Roman throne, as Bishop Newton observes, is here called the

throne of God, because there is no power but of God: the powers

that be are ordained of God.


Verse 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness] The account of

the woman's flying into the wilderness immediately follows that of

her child being caught up to the throne of God, to denote the

great and rapid increase of heresies in the Christian Church after

the time that Christianity was made the religion of the empire.

Where she hath a place prepared of God] See Clarke on Re 12:14.

Verse 7. There was war in heaven] In the same treatise, fol. 87,

2, on Ex 14:7,

Pharaoh took six hundred chariots, we have these words: "There

was war among those above and among those below,

vehammilchamah, hayethah chazakah

bashshamayim, and there was great war in heaven."

Of Michael the rabbins are full. See much in Schoettgen, and see

the note on Jude, Jude 1:9.

The dragon-and his angels] The same as Rab. Sam. ben David, in

Chasad Shimuel, calls Samael vechayilothaiv,

"Samael and his troops;" fol. 28, 2.


Ver. 7. And there was war in heaven] As heaven means here the

throne of the Roman empire, the war in heaven consequently

alludes to the breaking out of civil commotions among the

governors of this empire.

Michael and his angels fought against the dragon] Michael was

the man child which the woman brought forth, as is evident from

the context, and therefore signifies, as has been shown already,

the dynasty of Christian Roman emperors. This dynasty is

represented by Michael, because he is "the great prince which

standeth for the children of God's people." Da 12:1.

And the dragon fought and his angels] Or ministers.


Verse 8. And prevailed not] Against the cause of Christianity.

Neither was their place found any more in heaven.] The advocates

of the heathen idolatry were prevented from having any farther

share in the government of the empire. The wonderful success of

Constantine over all his enemies, and his final triumph over

Licinius, correspond exactly to the symbolical language in this


Verse 9. That old serpent] The rabbins speak much of this being,

sometimes under the notion of yetser hara, the evil

principle, and sometimes Samael.

He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out

with him.] This is very like a saying in the book Bahir, in Sohar

Gen., fol. 27, col. 107: "And God cast out Samael and his troops

from the place of their holiness."


Ver. 9. And the great dragon was cast out, &c.] By the terms

Devil and Satan mentioned in this verse, Pareus, Faber, and many

other commentators, understand literally the great spiritual enemy

of mankind. But this view of the passage cannot be correct, from

the circumstance that it is the dragon which is thus called. Now,

if by the dragon be meant the devil, then use are necessarily led

to this conclusion, that the great apostate spirit is a monster,

having seven heads and ten horns; and also that he has a tail,

with which he drags after him the third part of the stars of

heaven. The appellations, old serpent, devil, and Satan, must,

therefore, be understood figuratively. The heathen power is called

that old serpent which deceived the whole world, from its subtlety

against the Christians, and its causing the whole Roman world, as

far as it was in its power, to embrace the absurdities of

paganism. It is called the devil, from its continual false

accusations and slanders against the true worshippers of God, for

the devil is a liar from the beginning; and it is also called

Satan, , which is a Hebrew word signifying an adversary, from

its frequent persecutions of the Christian Church. The dragon and

his angels are said to be cast out, which is more than was said in

the preceding verse. There mention is made of his being found no

longer in heaven, or on the throne of the Roman empire, here he is

entirely cast out from all offices of trust in the empire; his

religion is first only tolerated, and then totally abolished, by

the imperial power. This great event was not the work of a reign;

it took up many years, for it had to contend with the deep-rooted

prejudices of the heathen, who to the very last endeavoured to

uphold their declining superstition. Paganism received several

mortal strokes in the time of Constantine and his sons Constans

and Constantius. It was farther reduced by the great zeal of

Jovian, Valentinian, and Valens; and was finally suppressed by the

edicts of Gratian, Theodosius I., and his successors. It was not

till A.D. 388 that Rome itself, the residence of the emperor, was

generally reformed from the absurdities of paganism; but the total

suppression of paganism soon followed the conversion of the

metropolitan city, and about A.D. 395 the dragon may be

considered, in an eminent sense, to have been cast into the earth,

that is, into a state of utter subjection to the ruling dynasty of

Christian emperors.

Verse 10. The accuser of our brethren] There is scarcely any

thing more common in the rabbinical writings than Satan as the

accuser of the Israelites. And the very same word κατηγορος,

accuser, or, as it is in the Codex Alexandrinus, κατηγωρ, is

used by them in Hebrew letters, katigor; e. gr., Pirkey

Eliezer, c. 46, speaking of the day of expiation; "And the holy

blessed God hears their testimony from their accuser,

min hakkatigor; and expiates the altar, the priests, and the

whole multitude, from the greatest to the least."

In Shemoth Rabba, sec. 31, fol. 129, 2, are these words; "If a

man observes the precepts, and is a son of the law, and lives a

holy life, then Satan stands and accuses him."

"Every day, except the day of expiation Satan is the accuser of

men."-Vayikra Rabba, sec. 21, fol. 164.

"The holy blessed God said to the seventy princes of the world,

Have ye seen him who always accuses my children?"-Yalcut Chadash,

fol. 101, 3.

"The devil stands always as an accuser before the King of

Israel."-Sohar Levit., fol. 43, col. 171. See much more in



Ver. 10. And I heard a loud voice, saying,-Now is come salvation,

&c.] This is a song of triumph of the Christian Church over the

heathen idolatry, and is very expressive of the great joy of the

Christians upon this most stupendous event. The loud voice of

triumph is said to be heard in heaven, to show that the Christian

religion was now exalted to the heaven or throne of the Roman.

empire. "It is very remarkable," as Bishop Newton observes, "that

Constantine himself, and the Christians of his time, describe his

conquests under the image of a dragon, as if they had understood

that this prophecy had received its accomplishment in him.

Constantine himself, in his epistle to Eusebius and other bishops

concerning the re-edifying and repairing of the churches, saith

that 'liberty being now restored, and that the dragon being

removed from the administration of public affairs, by the

providence of the great God and by my ministry, I esteem the great

power of God to have been made manifest to all.' Moreover, a

picture of Constantine was set up over the palace gate, with the

cross over his head, and under his feet the great enemy of

mankind, who persecuted the Church by means of impious tyrants, in

the form of a dragon, transfixed with a dart through the midst of

his body, and falling headlong into the depth of the sea." See

Eusebius de Vita Constantini, lib. ii. c. 46; and lib. iii. c.

3, and Socratis Hist. Eccles., lib. i. c. 9. Constantine added to

the other Roman ensigns the labarum, or standard of the cross, and

constituted it the principal standard of the Christian Roman

empire. To this labarum Prudentius refers, when speaking of the

Christian soldiers, in his first hymn περιστεφανων,

Caesaris vexilla linquunt, eligunt SIGNUM CRUCIS,

Proque ventosis Draconum, quae gerebant, palliis,

Proferunt INSIGNE LIGNUM, quod Draconem subdidit.

"They leave the ensigns of Caesar; they choose the standard of

the cross; and instead of the dragon flags which they carried,

moved about with the wind, they bring forward the illustrious wood

that subdued the dragon."

When the apostle saw the woman in heaven, well might he call it,

in the spirit of prophecy, a great wonder.


Verse 11. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb] Here is

given the reason why the followers of Christ prevailed at this

time against all their adversaries. It was because they fought

against the dragon in the armour of God. They overcame him by the

blood of the Lamb-by proclaiming salvation to sinners through

Christ crucified, and by their continual intercession at the

throne of grace for the conversion of the heathen world.

And by the word of their testimony] By constantly testifying

against the errors and follies of mankind.

And they loved not their lives unto the death.] They regarded

not their present temporal estate, but even gladly delivered up

their lives to the fury of their persecutors, and thus sealed the

truth of what they spake with their blood.


Verse 12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in

them.] Let the Christians, who are now partakers of the present

temporal prosperity, and advanced to places of trust in the

empire, praise and magnify the Lord who has thus so signally

interfered in their behalf. But it is added:-

Wo to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! for the devil

is come down unto you] By the inhabiters of the earth are meant

the people in subjection to the Roman empire; and by the sea,

those parts of the Roman dominions appear to be intended that were

reduced to a state of anarchy by the incursions of the barbarous

nations. It is not without precedent to liken great hosts of

nations combined together to the sea. See Eze 26:3. Here then is

a wo denounced against the whole Roman world which will be excited

by the devil, the father of lies, the heathen party being thus

denominated from the method they pursued in their endeavours to

destroy the religion of Jesus. See Clarke on Re 12:15.

Having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short

time.] The Christian religion, the pagan party see with great

regret, is rapidly gaining ground everywhere; and, if not timely

checked, must soon brave all opposition.


Verse 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the

earth] When the heathen party saw that they were no longer

supported by the civil power:-

He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.] The

heathens persecuted the Christian Church in the behalf of which

Divine Providence had raised up a dynasty of Christian Roman



Verse 14. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle]

τουαετουτουμεγαλου Of THE great eagle. The great eagle here

mentioned is an emblem of the Roman empire in general, and

therefore differs from the dragon, which is a symbol of the

HEATHEN ROMAN empire in particular. The Roman power is called an

eagle from its legionary standard, which was introduced among

the Romans in the second year of the consulate of C. Marius; for

before that time minotaurs, wolves, leopards, horses, boars, and

eagles were used indifferently, according to the humour of the

commander. The Roman eagles were figures in relievo of silver or

gold, borne on the tops of pikes, the wings being displayed, and

frequently a thunderbolt in their talons. Under the eagle, on the

pike, were piled bucklers, and sometimes crowns. The two wings of

the great eagle refer to the two grand independent divisions of

the Roman empire, which took place January 17, A.D. 395, and were

given to the woman, Christianity being the established religion of

both empires.

That she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, &c.] The

apparent repetition here of what is said in Re 12:6 has induced

Bishop Newton to consider the former passage as introduced by way

of prolepsis or anticipation; for, says he, the woman did not fly

into the wilderness till several years after the conversion of

Constantine. But that there is no such prolepsis as the bishop

imagines is evident from the ecclesiastical history of the fourth

century; for the woman, or true Church, began to flee into the

wilderness a considerable time before the division of the great

Roman empire into two independent monarchies. The word translated

fled is not to be taken in that peculiar sense as if the woman,

in the commencement of her flight, had been furnished with wings,

for the original word is εφυγεν. The meaning therefore of verses 6

and 14, Re 12:6, 14 when taken in connection with their

respective contexts, is, that the woman began to make rapid

strides towards the desert almost immediately after her elevation

to the heaven or throne of the Roman empire, and in the course of

her flight was furnished with the wings of the great eagle ινα

πετηται, that she might FLY, into that place prepared of God,

where she should be fed a thousand two hundred and threescore

days. It is said here that the period for which the woman should

be nourished in the wilderness would be a time, times, and a half;

consequently this period is the same with the twelve hundred and

sixty days of Re 12:6. But in no other sense can they be

considered the same than by understanding a time to signify a

year; times, two years; and half a time, half a year; i.e.,

three years and a half. And as each prophetic year contains

three hundred and sixty days, so three years and a half will

contain precisely twelve hundred and sixty days. The Apocalypse

being highly symbolical, it is reasonable to expect that its

periods of time will also be represented symbolically, that the

prophecy may be homogeneous in all its parts. The Holy Spirit,

when speaking of years symbolically, has invariably represented

them by days, commanding, e. gr., the Prophet Ezekiel to lie upon

his left side three hundred and ninety days, that it might be a

sign or symbol of the house of Israel bearing their iniquity as

many years; and forty days upon his right side, to represent to

the house of Judah in a symbolical manner, that they should bear

their iniquity forty years, The one thousand two hundred and

threescore days, therefore, that the woman is fed in the

wilderness, must be understood symbolically, and consequently

denote as many natural years. The wilderness into which the woman

flies is the Greek and Latin worlds, for she is conveyed into her

place by means of the two wings of the great eagle. We must not

understand the phrase flying into her place of her removing from

one part of the habitable world into another, but of her speedy

declension from a state of great prosperity to a forlorn and

desolate condition. The woman is nourished for one thousand two

hundred and threescore years from the face of the serpent, The

empires in the east and west were destined, in the course of the

Divine providence, to support the Christian religion, at least

nominally while the rest of the world should remain in pagan

idolatry or under the influence of this dragon, here called the

serpent, because he deceiveth the whole world. The words of the

prophecy are very remarkable, The Christian Church is said to be

supported by the eastern and western empires, two mighty

denominations; and at the same time situated in the wilderness,

strongly denoting that, though many professed Christianity, there

were but very few who "kept the commandments of God, and had the

testimony of Jesus Christ."


Verse 15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood]

The water here evidently means great multitudes of nations and

peoples; for in Re 17:15, the interpreting angel says,

The waters which thou sawest-are peoples, and multitudes, and

nations, and tongues. This water, then, which the dragon cast out

of his mouth, must be an inundation of heathen barbarous nations

upon the Roman empire; and the purpose which the dragon has in

view by this inundation is, that he might cause the woman, or

Christian Church:-

To be carried away of the flood.] Entirely swept away from the

face of the earth. Dr. Mosheim, in the commencement of his second

chapter upon the fifth century, observes "that the Goths, the

Heruli, the Franks, the Huns, and the Vandals, with other fierce

and warlike nations, for the most part strangers to Christianity,

had invaded the Roman empire, and rent it asunder in the most

deplorable manner. Amidst these calamities the Christians were

grievous, nay, we may venture to say the principal, sufferers. It

is true these savage nations were much more intent upon the

acquisition of wealth and dominion than upon the propagation or

support of the pagan superstitions, nor did their cruelty and

opposition to the Christians arise from any religious principle,

or from an enthusiastic desire to ruin the cause of Christianity;

it was merely by the INSTIGATION of the pagans who remained yet in

the empire, that they were excited to treat with such severity and

violence the followers of Christ." Thus the wo which was denounced,

Re 12:12, against

the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, came upon the whole

Roman world; for, in consequence of the excitement and malicious

misrepresentations of the pagans of the empire, "a transmigration

of a great swarm of nations" came upon the Romans, and ceased not

their ravages till they had desolated the eastern empire, even as

far as the gates of Byzantium, and finally possessed themselves of

the western empire. "If," says Dr. Robertson, in the introduction

to his History of Charles V., vol. i., pp. 11, 12, edit. Lond.

1809, "a man was called to fix upon the period in the history of

the world, during which the condition of the human race was most

calamitous and afflicted, he would, without hesitation, name that

which elapsed from the death of Theodosius the Great to the

establishment of the Lombards in Italy, a period of one hundred

and seventy-six years. The contemporary authors who beheld that

scene of desolation, labour and are at a loss for expressions to

describe the horror of it. The scourge of God, the destroyer of

nations, are the dreadful epithets by which they distinguish the

most noted of the barbarous leaders; and they compare the ruin

which they had brought on the world to the havoc occasioned by

earthquakes, conflagrations, or deluges, the most formidable and

fatal calamities which the imagination of man can conceive." But

the subtle design which the serpent or dragon had in view, when he

vomited out of his mouth a flood of waters, was most

providentially frustrated; for:-


Verse 16. The earth helped the woman] "Nothing, and indeed," as

Bishop Newton excellently observes, "was more likely to produce

the ruin and utter subversion of the Christian Church than the

irruptions of so many barbarous nations into the Roman empire. But

the event proved contrary to human appearance and expectation: the

earth swallowed up the flood; the barbarians were rather swallowed

up by the Romans, than the Romans by the barbarians; the heathen

conquerors, instead of imposing their own, submitted to the

religion of the conquered Christians; and they not only embraced

the religion, but affected even the laws, the manners, the

customs, the language, and the very name, of Romans, so that the

victors were in a manner absorbed and lost among the vanquished."

See his Dissertations on the Prophecies, in loc.


Verse 17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman] The heathen

party, foiled in their subtle attempt to destroy Christianity,

were greatly enraged, and endeavoured to excite the hatred of the

multitude against the religion of Jesus. "They alleged that before

the coming of Christ the world was blessed with peace and

prosperity; but that since the progress of their religion

everywhere, the gods, filled with indignation to see their worship

neglected and their altars abandoned, had visited the earth with

those plagues and desolations which increased every day." See

Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, cent. V., part 1, and other

works on this subject.

Went to make war with the remnant of her seed] The dragon

απηλθε, departed, i.e., into the wilderness, whither the woman

had fled; and in another form commenced a new species of

persecution, directed only against the remnant of her seed, who

keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus

Christ. See on verse 13 of the following chapter for an

illustration of this remarkable passage. "Re 13:13"

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