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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 12

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

A great sign (σημειον μεγα). The first of the visions to be so described (Revelation 13:3; Revelation 15:1), and it is introduced by ωφθη as in Revelation 11:19; Revelation 12:3, not by μετα ταυτο or by ειδον or by ειδον κα ιδου as heretofore. This "sign" is really a τερας (wonder), as it is so by association in Matthew 24:24; John 4:48; Acts 2:22; Acts 5:12. The element of wonder is not in the word σημειον as in τερας, but often in the thing itself as in Luke 21:11; John 9:16; Revelation 13:13; Revelation 15:1; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:20.

A woman (γυνη). Nominative case in apposition with σημειον. "The first 'sign in heaven' is a Woman--the earliest appearance of a female figure in the Apocalyptic vision" (Swete).

Arrayed with the sun (περιβεβλημενη τον ηλιον). Perfect passive participle of περιβαλλω, with the accusative retained as so often (9 times) in the Apocalypse. Both Charles and Moffatt see mythological ideas and sources behind the bold imagery here that leave us all at sea. Swete understands the Woman to be "the church of the Old Testament" as "the Mother of whom Christ came after the flesh. But here, as everywhere in the Book, no sharp dividing line is drawn between the Church of the Old Testament and the Christian Society." Certainly she is not the Virgin Mary, as verse Revelation 12:17 makes clear. Beckwith takes her to be "the heavenly representative of the people of God, the ideal Zion, which, so far as it is embodied in concrete realities, is represented alike by the people of the Old and the New Covenants." John may have in mind Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31) as well as Micah 4:10; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7 without a definite picture of Mary. The metaphor of childbirth is common enough (John 16:21; Galatians 4:19). The figure is a bold one with the moon "under her feet" (υποκατω των ποδων αυτης) and "a crown of twelve stars" (στεφανος αστερων δωδεκα), a possible allusion to the twelve tribes (James 1:1; Revelation 21:12) or to the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14).

Verse 2

And she was with child (κα εν γαστρ εχουσα). Perhaps εστιν to be supplied or the participle used as a finite verb as in Revelation 10:2. This is the technical idiom for pregnancy as in Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:23, etc.

Travailing in birth (ωδινουσα). Present active participle of ωδινω, old verb (from ωδιν birth-pangs 1 Thessalonians 5:3), in N.T. only here and Galatians 4:27.

And in pain (κα βασανιζομενη). "And tormented" (present passive participle of βασανιζω, for which see already Revelation 9:5; Revelation 11:10), only here in N.T. in sense of childbirth.

To be delivered (τεκειν). Second aorist active infinitive of τικτω, to give birth, epexegetical use. Also in verse Revelation 12:4.

Verse 3

Another sign (αλλο σημειον). "A second tableau following close upon the first and inseparable from it" (Swete).

And behold (κα ιδου). As often (Revelation 4:1; Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:5; Revelation 6:8, etc.).

A great red dragon (δρακων μεγας πυρρος). Homer uses this old word (probably from δερκομα, to see clearly) for a great monster with three heads coiled like a serpent that ate poisonous herbs. The word occurs also in Hesiod, Pindar, Eschylus. The Babylonians feared a seven-headed hydra and Typhon was the Egyptian dragon who persecuted Osiris. One wonders if these and the Chinese dragons are not race memories of conflicts with the diplodocus and like monsters before their disappearance. Charles notes in the O.T. this monster as the chief enemy of God under such title as Rahab (Isaiah 51:9; Job 26:12), Behemoth (Job 40:15-24), Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1), the Serpent (Amos 9:2). In Psalms 74:13 we read of "the heads of the dragons." On πυρρος (red) see Revelation 6:4. Here (Revelation 12:9) and in Revelation 20:2 the great dragon is identified with Satan. See Revelation 12:7 for many of the items here, like the ten horns (Daniel 7:7) and hurling the stars (Daniel 8:10). The word occurs in the Apocalypse alone in the N.T.

Seven diadems (επτα διαδηματα). Old word from διαδεω (to bind around), the blue band marked with white with which Persian kings used to bind on the tiara, so a royal crown in contrast with στεφανος (chaplet or wreath like the Latin corona as in Revelation 2:10), in N.T. only here, Revelation 13:1; Revelation 19:12. If Christ as Conqueror has "many diadems," it is not strange that Satan should wear seven (ten in Revelation 13:1).

Verse 4

His tail (η ουρα αυτου). See Revelation 9:10; Revelation 9:19.

Draweth (συρε). Present active indicative of συρω, old verb, to drag, here alone in the Apocalypse, but see John 21:8.

The third part of the stars (το τριτον των αστερων). Like a great comet is this monster. See Daniel 8:10. Perhaps only the third is meant to soften the picture as in Revelation 8:7.

Did cast them (εβαλεν αυτους). Second aorist active indicative. Charles takes this to refer to a war in heaven between the good angels and Satan, with the fall of some angels (Jude 1:6). But John may have in mind the martyrs before Christ (Hebrews 11:32) and after Christ's ascension (Matthew 23:35).

Stood (εστηκεν). Imperfect active of a late verb, στηκω, from the perfect εστηκα of ιστημ, graphic picture of the dragon's challenge of the woman who is about to give birth.

When she was delivered (οταν τεκη). Indefinite temporal clause with οταν and the second aorist active subjunctive of τικτω, "whenever she gives birth."

That he might devour (ινα καταφαγη). Purpose clause with ινα and the second aorist active subjunctive of κατεσθιω, to eat up (down). Cf. Jeremiah 28:34. This is what Pharaoh did to Israel (Exodus 1:15-22; Psalms 85:13; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3). Precisely so the devil tried to destroy the child Jesus on his birth.

Verse 5

She was delivered of a son (ετεκεν υιον). Literally, "she bore a son" (second aorist active indicative of τικτω).

A man child (αρσεν). So A C with the neuter τεκνον or παιδιον in mind, as often in O.T. (ετεκεν αρσεν, Exodus 1:16; Exodus 2:2; Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 12:7; Isaiah 66:7; Jeremiah 20:15, etc.), but P and some cursives read αρσενα (masculine accusative), as in verse Revelation 12:13 (τον αρσενα), while Aleph Q have αρρενα. The word is old (either αρσην or αρρην), as in Matthew 19:4, only in this chapter in the Apocalypse. It is really redundant after υιον (son), as in Tob. 6:12 (Aleph).

Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron (ος μελλε ποιμαινειν παντα τα εθνη εν ραβδω σιδηρα). See Revelation 2:27 for these words (from Psalms 2:9) applied there to victorious Christians also, and in Revelation 19:15 to the triumphant Christian. His rule will go beyond the Jews (Matthew 2:6). There is here, of course, direct reference to the birth of Jesus from Mary, who thus represented in her person this "ideal woman" (God's people).

Was caught unto God (ηρπασθη). First aorist passive indicative of αρπαζω, old verb for seizing or snatching away, as in John 10:12, here alone in the Apocalypse. Reference to the ascension of Christ, with omission of the ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ because he is here simply showing that "the Dragon's vigilance was futile" (Swete). "The Messiah, so far from being destroyed, is caught up to a share in God's throne" (Beckwith).

Verse 6

Fled into the wilderness (εφυγεν εις την ερημον). Second aorist active indicative of φευγω. Here, of course, not Mary, but "the ideal woman" (God's people) of the preceding verses, who fled under persecution of the dragon. God's people do not at once share the rapture of Christ, but the dragon is unable to destroy them completely. The phrases used here seem to be reminiscent of Deuteronomy 8:2 (wanderings of Israel in the wilderness), 1 Kings 17:2 and Revelation 19:3 (Elijah's flight), I Macc. 2:29 (flight of the Jews from Antiochus Epiphanes), Matthew 2:13 (flight of Joseph and Mary to Egypt), Mark 13:14 (the flight of Christians at the destruction of Jerusalem).

Where (οπου--εκε). Hebrew redundancy (where--there) as in Revelation 3:8; Revelation 8:9; Revelation 8:9; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:12; Revelation 17:9; Revelation 20:8.

Prepared (ητοιμασμενον). Perfect passive predicate participle of ετοιμαζω, for which verb see Matthew 20:23; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 9:15; Revelation 16:12; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2, and for its use with τοπος John 14:2 and for the kind of fellowship meant by it (Psalms 31:21; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 3:3; 1 John 1:3).

Of God (απο του θεου). "From (by) God," marking the source as God (Revelation 9:18; James 1:13). This anticipatory symbolism is repeated in Revelation 12:13.

That there they may nourish her (ινα εκε τρεφωσιν αυτην). Purpose clause with ινα and the present for continued action: active subjunctive according to A P though C reads τρεφουσιν, present active indicative, as is possible also in Revelation 13:17 and certainly so in 1 John 5:20 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 984), a solecism in late vernacular Greek. The plural is indefinite "they" as in Revelation 10:11; Revelation 11:9. One MSS. has τρεφετα (is nourished). The stereotyped phrase occurs here, as in Revelation 11:2, for the length of the dragon's power, repeated in Revelation 12:14 in more general terms and again in Revelation 13:5.

Verse 7

There was war in heaven (εγενετο πολεμος εν τω ουρανω). "There came to be war in heaven" (εγενετο, not ην). "Another ταβλεαυ, not a σημειον (vv. Revelation 12:1; Revelation 12:3), but consequent upon the two σημεια which precede it. The birth and rapture of the Woman's Son issue in a war which invades the επουρανια" (Swete). The reference is not to the original rebellion of Satan, as Andreas held. As the coming of Christ brought on fresh manifestations of diabolic power (Mark 1:13; Luke 22:3; Luke 22:31; John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11), just so Christ's return to heaven is pictured as being the occasion of renewed attacks there. We are not to visualize it too literally, but certainly modern airplanes help us to grasp the notion of battles in the sky even more than the phalanxes of storm-clouds (Swete). John even describes this last conflict as in heaven itself. Cf. Luke 10:18; 1 Kings 22:1; 1 Kings 22:1; 1 Kings 22:2; Zechariah 3:1.

Michael and his angels (ο Μιχαηλ κα ο αγγελο αυτου). The nominative here may be in apposition with πολεμος, but it is an abnormal construction with no verb, though εγενετο (arose) can be understood as repeated. Michael is the champion of the Jewish people (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1) and is called the archangel in Jude 1:9.

Going forth to war (του πολεμησα). This genitive articular infinitive is another grammatical problem in this sentence. If εγενετο (arose) is repeated as above, then we have the infinitive for purpose, a common enough idiom. Otherwise it is anomalous, not even like Acts 10:25.

With the dragon (μετα του δρακοντος). On the use of μετα with πολεμεω see Revelation 2:16; Revelation 13:4; Revelation 17:14 (nowhere else in N.T.). The devil has angels under his command (Matthew 25:41) and preachers also (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Warred (επολεμησεν). Constative aorist active indicative of πολεμεω, picturing the whole battle in one glimpse.

Verse 8

And they prevailed not (κα ουκ ισχυσαν). Here κα equals "and yet" or "but." A few MSS. read the singular ισχυσεν like επολεμησεν, but wrongly so.

Neither was their place found any more (ουδε τοπος ευρεθη αυτων ετ). First aorist passive indicative of ευρισκω, to find. Probably αυτων is the objective genitive (place for them), just as in Revelation 20:11 αυτοις (dative, for them) is used with τοπος ουχ ευρεθη. The phrase occurs in Daniel 2:35 Theod. and Zechariah 10:10. The dragon is finally expelled from heaven (cf. Job 1:6), though to us it seems a difficult conception to think of Satan having had access to heaven.

Verse 9

Was cast down (εβληθη). Effective first aorist passive indicative of βαλλω, cast down for good and all, a glorious consummation. This vision of final victory over Satan is given by Jesus in Luke 10:18; John 12:31. It has not come yet, but it is coming, and the hope of it should be a spur to missionary activity and zeal. The word megas (great) occurs here with δρακων as in Revelation 12:3, and the whole picture is repeated in Revelation 20:2. The dragon in both places is identified with the old serpent (Genesis 3:1) and called αρχαιος (from αρχη, beginning), as Jesus said that the devil was a murderer "from the beginning" (John 8:44). Both διαβολος (slanderer) and Satan (Σατανας) are common in N.T. for this great dragon and old serpent, the chief enemy of mankind. See on Matthew 4:1; Revelation 2:10 for διαβολος and Luke 10:18 for Σατανας.

The deceiver of the whole world (ο πλανων την οικουμενην ολην). This is his aim and his occupation, pictured here by the nominative articular present active participle of πλαναω, to lead astray. For "the inhabited world" see Luke 2:1; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 16:14. Satan can almost "lead astray" the very elect of God (Matthew 24:24), so artful is he in his beguilings as he teaches us how to deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8).

He was cast down to the earth (εβληθη εις την γην). Effective aorist repeated from the beginning of the verse. "The earth was no new sphere of Satan's working" (Swete).

Were cast down (εβληθησαν). Triple use of the same verb applied to Satan's minions. The expulsion is complete.

Verse 10

A great voice saying (φωνην μεγαλην λεγουσαν). Accusative after ηκουσα in this phrase as in Revelation 5:11; Revelation 10:4; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 18:4, but the genitive φωνης λεγουσης in Revelation 11:12; Revelation 14:13. We are not told whence this voice or song comes, possibly from one of the twenty-four elders (Swete) or some other heavenly beings (Revelation 11:15) who can sympathize with human beings (Revelation 19:10), the martyrs in heaven (Charles).

Now is come (αρτ εγενετο). Αρτ (John 13:33) shows how recent the downfall of Satan here proleptically pictured as behind us in time (aorist tense εγενετο).

The salvation (η σωτηρια). Here "the victory" as in Revelation 7:10; Revelation 19:1.

The power (η δυναμις). Gods power over the dragon (cf. Revelation 7:12; Revelation 11:17; Revelation 19:1).

The kingdom (η βασιλεια). "The empire of God" as in Revelation 11:15.

The authority of his Christ (η εξουσια του Χριστου αυτου). Which Christ received from the Father (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2). See Revelation 11:15 (Psalms 2:2) for "his Anointed."

The accuser (ο κατηγωρ). The regular form, κατηγορος, occurs in John 8:10; Acts 23:30; Acts 23:35; Acts 25:16; Acts 25:18 and in many MSS. here in Revelation 12:10, but A reads κατηγωρ, which Westcott and Hort accept. It was once considered a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word, but Deissmann (Light, etc., p. 93f.) quotes it from a vernacular magical papyrus of the fourth century A.D. with no sign of Jewish or Christian influence, just as διακων appears as a vernacular form of διακονος. Only here is the word applied to Satan in the N.T. In late Judaism Satan is the accuser, and Michael the defender, of the faithful.

Of our brethren (των αδελφων ημων). The saints still on earth battling with Satan and his devices.

Which accuseth them (ο κατηγορων αυτους). Articular present active participle of κατηγορεω, old verb, to accuse, usually with the genitive of the person (John 5:45), but here with the accusative. This is the devil's constant occupation (Job 1:6).

Day and night (ημερας κα νυκτος). Genitive of time. "By day and by night."

Verse 11

They overcame him (αυτο ενικησαν). First aorist active indicative of νικαω, the verb used by Jesus of his own victory (John 16:33) and about him (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:5). "The victory of the martyrs marks the failure of Satan's endeavours" (Swete).

Because of the blood of the Lamb (δια το αιμα του αρνιου). As in Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:14. The blood of Christ is here presented by δια as the ground for the victory and not the means, as by εν in Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9. Both ideas are true, but δια with the accusative gives only the reason. The blood of Christ does cleanse us from sin (John 1:29; 1 John 1:7). Christ conquered Satan, and so makes our victory possible (Luke 11:21; Hebrews 2:18). "Thus the Lamb is the true συνηγορος (like Michael) of the New Israel, its παρακλητος προς τον πατερα (1 John 2:1)" (Swete).

Because of the Word of their testimony (δια τον λογον της μαρτυριας αυτων). The same use of δια, "because of their testimony to Jesus" as in John's own case in Revelation 1:9. These martyrs have been true to their part.

They loved not their life even unto death (ουκ ηγαπησαν τεν ψυχην αυτων αχρ θανατου). First aorist active indicative of αγαπαω. They did resist "unto blood" (μεχρις αιματος Hebrews 12:4) and did not put their own lives before loyalty to Christ. There is a direct reference to the words of Jesus in John 12:25 as illustrated also in Mark 8:35; Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. Paul's own example is pertinent (Acts 21:13; Philippians 1:20). Jesus himself had been "obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:8). These martyrs seem to be still alive on earth, but their heroism is proleptically pictured.

Verse 12

Therefore (δια τουτο). "For this reason" as in Revelation 7:15; Revelation 18:8 (15 times in John's Gospel, Charles notes). It points back to verse Revelation 12:10.

Rejoice (ευφραινεσθε). Present middle imperative of ευφραινω as in Revelation 11:10; Revelation 18:20.

O heavens (ο ουρανο). Plural here alone in the Apocalypse, though common elsewhere in the N.T. Satan is no longer in the heavens.

They that dwell therein (ο εν αυτοις σκηνουντες). Present active articular participle of σκηνοω (see Revelation 7:15; Revelation 13:6) to dwell (tabernacle) as of Christ in John 1:14 and of God in Revelation 21:3. The inhabitants of heaven (angels and saints) have cause to rejoice, and earth reason to mourn.

Woe for the earth and for the sea (ουα την γην κα την θαλασσαν). The accusative after ουα as in Revelation 8:13, but nominative in Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:16; Revelation 18:19 in place of the usual dative (Matthew 11:21; Matthew 18:7, etc.).

Is gone down (κατεβη). Second aorist (effective) active indicative of καταβαινω, "did go down."

But a short time (ολιγον καιρον). Accusative of extent of time, "a little time." The devil's departure from his warfare in the heavens reveals (ειδως, knowing, perfect active participle) to him that his time for doing harm to men is limited, and hence his great wrath (θυμον, boiling rage).

Verse 13

He persecuted (εδιωξεν). First aorist active participle of διωκω, to pursue, to chase, hostile pursuit here as in Matthew 5:10; Matthew 10:23, etc. John now, after the "voice" in Revelation 12:10-13, returns to the narrative in verse Revelation 12:9. The child was caught away in verse Revelation 12:5, and now the woman (the true Israel on earth) is given deadly persecution. Perhaps events since A.D. 64 (burning of Rome by Nero) amply illustrated this vision, and they still do so.

Which (ητις). "Which very one."

Verse 14

There were given (εδοθησαν). As in Revelation 8:2; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:3.

The two wings of the great eagle (α δυο πτερυγες του αετου του μεγαλου). Not the eagle of Revelation 8:13, but the generic use of the article. Every eagle had two wings. Probably here, as in Matthew 24:28, the griffon or vulture rather than the true eagle is pictured. For the eagle in the O.T. see Exodus 19:4; Isaiah 40:31; Job 9:26; Proverbs 24:54.

That she might fly (ινα πετητα). Purpose clause with ινα and present middle subjunctive of πετομα, old verb, to fly, in N.T. only in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:7; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 14:6; Revelation 19:17). Resumption of the details in verse Revelation 12:6 (which see) about the "wilderness," her "place," the redundant εκε with οπου, the "time and times, and half a time" (καιρον κα καιρους κα ημισυ), 1260 days, but with τρεφετα (present passive indicative) instead of τρεφωσιν (general plural of the present active subjunctive), and with the addition of "from the face of the serpent" (απο προσωπου του οφεως), because the serpent rules the earth for that period. "To the end of the present order the Church dwells in the wilderness" (Swete), and yet we must carry on for Christ.

Verse 15

Water as a flood (υδωρ ως ποταμον). "Water as a river," accusative case after εβαλεν (cast). The serpent could not follow the woman or stop her flight and so sought to drown her.

That he might cause her to be carried away by the stream (ινα αυτην ποταμοφορητον ποιηση). Purpose clause with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of ποιεω. For this use of ποιεω see Revelation 17:16. This compound verbal ποταμοφορητον in the predicate accusative (ποταμος, river, φορητον from φορεω, to bear) was not coined by John, but occurs in a papyrus of B.C. 110 and in several others after N.T. times. It means simply "carried away by the river."

Verse 16

Helped the woman (εβοηθησεν τη γυναικ). First aorist active indicative of βοηθεω, old verb with the dative as in Hebrews 2:18, which see. Herodotus tells of the Lycus disappearing underground near Colossae. But this vivid symbol is not dependent on historical examples.

Swallowed up (κατεπιεν). Second aorist active indicative of καταπινω, literally "drank down."

Verse 17

Waxed wroth (ωργισθη). First aorist (ingressive) passive indicative of οργιζομα, "became angry."

With the woman (επ τη γυναικ). "At the woman," "because of the woman."

Went away (απηλθεν). "Went off" in his rage to make war with the scattered followers of the Lamb not in the wilderness, perhaps an allusion to Genesis 3:15. The devil carries on relentless war with all those "which keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus" (των τηρουντων τας εντολας του θεου κα εχοντων την μαρτυριαν Ιησου). These two marks excite the wrath of the devil then and always. Cf. Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 14:12; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 20:4.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/revelation-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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