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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

Revelation 12

Verses 1-17

(Rev 12:1; Rev 12:2) In accord with the vision of the temple and the ark, Israel at once comes before us under the figure of a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars upon her head. This vision is symbolic, not of the nation of Israel in its failure, as seen in history, but Israel according to the purpose of God, as seen by heaven. Thus, the woman is spoken of as a great wonder in heaven. It is heaven's view of Israel. Being clothed with the sun would surely set forth the supremacy of Israel over the nations. The moon under her feet would imply that all other authority among the nations will be derived from, and subordinate to, Israel. The crown of twelve stars may speak of the administration of the twelve tribes.

(Vv. 3-5) There follows a view of Israel historically, as the nation from whom Christ came into the world, and the circumstances in which He came. The woman in travail with child would recall the sufferings the nation passed through before Christ was born. All had failed - people, priests, and kings - Israel had gone into captivity amid every circumstance of humiliation, suffering, and sorrow. A remnant had been restored, only to lapse into dead formality; and when at last the time had come for the birth of Christ there was only a sorrowing remnant, in the midst of a subject and downtrodden nation, who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Amidst all these humiliations the cry at last goes forth, "To us a child is born."Rev 13:1. The symbols thus present Satan as identified with the empire and seeking by means of its head to obtain universal power on earth. The seven heads suggest the idea of complete directing power, while the ten horns point to the instruments through which his power is exercised. The Roman Empire, we know, will be revived in a ten kingdom form (Rev 17:12). Here the crowns are on the heads; in Revelation 13 they are on the horns. If it is a question of the source of the royal authority of the empire, it is found in Satan; but, in the sight of men, the royal authority is seen in the ten kings; for this reason, it may be, the horns are crowned in Rev 13:1.

His tail that drew a third part of heaven, may be a symbolic allusion to the false prophet, or second beast of Revelation 13, even as the seven heads and ten horns point to the first beast. This we may gather from a striking passage in Isa 9:15, in which we read, "the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail." We may thus learn that the tail represents the deadly spiritual influence that follows from authority falling into the devil's power. If the influence of the first beast is to bring men into bondage to the tyranny of a devilish dictator, the influence of the second beast will end in separating men from all fear, or knowledge, of God.

The Man child is described as the One who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. None can question that this language could only apply to Christ. At once we hear of the opposition of the devil who is exposed as the one who through the ages, from the day he appeared as the serpent in the Garden of Eden until he appears as the Dragon in Revelation, is in deadly opposition to the claims of Christ. He would fain usurp the power that belongs to Christ, and which Christ is destined to wield as the ruler of all nations. Aspiring to this universal authority, he sought, at the birth of Christ, to devour the child. The great contest that has marked the ages, and that has been behind all the conflicts of men, is, Who is to have universal sway on the earth; Christ or the Devil? The answer is never in doubt for a moment, though it may often look as if the devil is triumphant.Hos 2:14 N. Tr.).

As in the day to come the blessing of the godly will be found outside of, and in separation from, the political and religious world, so in this day when all is heading up to apostasy and rebellion against God, the only true place of blessing for the believer is outside the camp gathered to Christ. This will indeed be a place of reproach, but will lead to rich spiritual blessing.Mat 24:16-21).

The form of Satan's persecution is symbolised by a flood of water from the mouth of the serpent, setting forth, probably, the nations in a fearful state of commotion seeking to sweep the Jews from the face of the earth, as it is said "that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood." "The earth helped the woman," may set forth that, in the providential ways of God, there will be some mitigation of this ruthless persecution by the more ordered and civilised parts of the world. As ever, what stirs up the opposition of Satan will be that the remnant obey God and have the testimony of Jesus.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/revelation-12.html. 1832.