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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 12

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 12

Revelation 12:2. κράζει. So A, Elz., Beng., Griesb., Tisch. א: καὶ κράζει [W. and H.]. The well-attested reading καὶ ἔκραζεν (C, 2, 3, al., Primas, Andr., Vulg., Syr., Matth.—but without καὶ,

Lach.) is apparently, like the ill-attested ἕκραζεν, a modification. Also in Revelation 12:4, Primas, Vulg., substitute the imperf. for σύρει.

Revelation 12:5. Instead of the most generally supported ἄρρενα ( א, Elz., Beng., Griesb., Matth., Tisch. 1854), Lach., whom Tisch. 1859 and IX. follows, has written, in accord with A, C, ἄρσεν. The incorrectness (De Wette) of this so strongly attested reading is not greater than, e.g., Revelation 11:4; besides, the preceding and succeeding τὸ τέκνον may, to an extent, explain the incorrect combination υἱὸν ἄρσεν, in which the one conception appears to be in a certain apposition with the other.

Revelation 12:6. The Hebraizing (cf. Revelation 3:8, Revelation 7:2) ἐκεῖ after ὅπου ἔχει (A, א, 2, 4, 6, al., Compl., Plant., Genev., Beng., Griesb., Matth., Tisch. [W. and H.]) is altogether absent in C (Elz., Lach.); but even if one wished to admit of no intentional avoidance of the Hebraism, the accidental omission alongside of ἐχει appears easy.

Revelation 12:7. τοῦ πολεμῆσαι μετὰ. So Beng. already, according to decided witnesses. The modification ἐπολέμησαν κατὰ (Elz.) has no critical authority whatever. In א the τοῦ is lacking, but only by an oversight. Indorsed by Tisch. IX.

Revelation 12:10. ἐβλήθη. So A, C, א, 2, 4, al., Beng., Matth., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. Incorrectly, Elz.: κατεβλ.

κατηγορῶν αὐτοὺς. A, 28, Erasm., 1, 2, 3, al., Beng., Lach. Tisch. The well-attested αὐτῶν (C, א, Elz., Griesb., Matth.) is suspicious because of its regularity; cf. Winer, p. 191.

Revelation 12:12. τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν. Unattested is the manifest gloss: τοῖς κατοικοῦσι τὴν γ. καὶ τὴν θαλ. (Elz.). But even the reading, indorsed by Beng., Griesb., Matth., Lach. (small ed.), Tisch., 1854, τῇ γῇ κ. τῇ θαλάσσῃ (B, 2, 4, 6, al., Vulg., Syr., Copt., Aeth., edd. Compl., Plant., Genev.) appears to be a modification (cf. Revelation 8:13), while the accus., proposed by A (especially τὴν ἀγάπην κ. τὴν θαλ.) and C, commends itself just by its difficulty, and has been received besides into the Elz. recension. Treg., Lach. (large ed.), and Tisch. 1859 and IX. [W. and H.], have the accus., which is by no means inexplicable (against De Wette). א interprets: εἰς τ. γ.

Revelation 12:17. The ἐπὶ before τῇ γυν. (A, א, Elz., Tisch.) is lacking in C (Lach.), and is at least suspicious.

Rev 12:18. ἐστάθη. See on Revelation 13:1.

The fulfilment of the mystery of God impending, Revelation 10:7, in the days of the seventh trumpet is celebrated by the inhabitants of the earth as having already occurred(3011) after the seventh angel, Revelation 11:15, has sounded his trumpet, but is not actually shown as yet to the seer; nevertheless, he has already (Revelation 11:19) beheld such signs as cause the expectation of that end. That this, together with his eternal glory and blessedness, cannot come without preceding divine judgments, is self-evident,(3012) and is indicated also at the close of Revelation 11:19, by threatening signs. Revelation 11:17 also refers to the infernal nature that is operative in human hatred to Christ and his believers, and with respect to which, no less than to human antichristianism, the Lord comes to judgment; but if that judgment for which the Lord comes is to be otherwise stated with correct fulness and proof, not only must the most profound satanic basis of all antichristianism incurring the judgment be first discovered, but also the most essential forms in which this enters the world from the ultimate foundation of satanic antichristianism must also be stated. The former occurs in ch. Revelation 12 : Satan, who had in vain persecuted Christ himself, turns with his antichristian fury against Christ’s believers.(3013)


Verse 1

Revelation 12:1 sq. σημεῖον. An appearance whereby something is described, and thus revealed to the seer, σημαίνεται.(3014) In the most general sense, any appearance beheld by John might be called a σημεῖον ( או̇ ת); but although such visions as Revelation 6:3 sqq., Revelation 8:7 to Revelation 9:21, are, therefore, in no way of an allegorical nature, because in themselves they describe things just as the prophet regards them as real (real shedding of blood, Revelation 6:3; real famine, Revelation 6:5 sqq.; real quaking of the earth, and falling of heavenly bodies, and other real plagues), the σημεῖον in this passage (cf. Revelation 12:3; Revelation 15:1) has in it something allegorical,—since the context in itself manifests this, and marks it by the particular expression σημεῖον,—inasmuch as, by the form of the woman that is beheld, it is not the person of an actual woman which is to be represented.

μέγα, “great,” i.e., of large appearance, and, accordingly, of important significance.(3015)

ὤφθη. Cf. Revelation 11:19.

ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ. Heaven is the locality where(3016) signs bringing a revelation manifest themselves to the seer.(3017) So, correctly, De Wette and Hengstenb., only that the former(3018) ascribes to John a repeated inconsistency in reference to the standpoint,—which is regarded as being, from Revelation 11:15, again in heaven, but afterwards (Revelation 11:18) is imperceptibly transferred to the earth,—while Hengstenb. repeats the error:(3019) “To be in the Spirit, and to be in heaven, is the same,” with which the explanation, “What the seer sees belongs not to sensuous, but supersensuous, spheres,” by no means properly harmonizes. The latter remark is allied to the false interpretation of the ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, attempted in a twofold way, according to which the ἐν τ. οὐρ. is understood with reference to the γυνή,(3020) or the δράκων, Revelation 12:3(3021)

γυνή

τεκεῖν. Whether and in what way the Church is to be understood by the woman, cannot be inferred until the close of the entire vision,(3022) since the particular points of the text condition the meaning of the whole. The emblematic description ( περιβεβλημένη

δώδεκα) represents the woman who is just about bearing, Revelation 12:2, in a heavenly brilliancy reminding us of the manifestation of Christ(3023) and of God.(3024)

περιβεβλη΄ένη τὸν ἥλιον. Clothed with the sun. The idea resembles that of Psalms 104:2,(3025) only that in this passage the description is more concrete, since it is not light in general, but the more definite and perceptible sun, the heavenly body radiating all light, that appears as the dress of the woman,—not “as breastplate, and, accordingly, as an integrant part of the clothing.”(3026) The περιβ. τ. ἥλιον allows a definite allegorical interpretation as little as the two other features of the description, καὶ σελήνη ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῆς and καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς στέφανας ἀστέρων δώδεκα, only that the definite number twelve of the stars is conditioned(3027) in a similar way by the number of the tribes of Israel;(3028) as in Revelation 1:16; Revelation 1:20, the number seven of stars by the number of particular churches. The reference to the twelve apostles(3029) is incorrect, because the woman appears at all events as mother of Christ, Revelation 12:5, and accordingly cannot admit of emblems whose meaning presupposes not only the birth, but also the entire life and work, of the church. For the same reason, the allegorical interpretations of the ἥλιος, as referring to Christ himself as “the sun of righteousness,”(3030) and the σελήνη as referring to “the teachers who borrow their light from Christ,”(3031) or to “the light of the law and prophets far inferior to the light of Christ,”(3032) are to be rejected. Hengstenb. regards the sun and moon as emblems of the uncreated and the created light, which has in itself as little foundation as it stands in harmony with the (correct) reference of the twelve stars to the tribes of Israel; this applies against Beng., who understands by the sun the Christian empire and government, and by the moon the Mohammedan power whose insignia is the crescent. The allegorical interpretation also of the moon, which is “under the feet of the woman,” attempted with various modification,(3033) show their arbitrariness already by the fact that, in one way or another, they disturb the symmetrical relation to the other features of the description, which, as a whole, has only the intention of displaying the holy and glorious nature of the woman from her heavenly form, whereby the individual features of the poetic description are as eminently beautiful as they are naturally striking. For the form of the woman itself appears clothed with the sun, and in the clearest radiancy; she stands also on a body of light, the moon; while a crown of stars—and that twelve—encircle her head also with a peculiar brilliancy.

The woman is with child ( ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα), and, besides, as the further description immediately afterwards says more explicitly, just about to be delivered (cf. Revelation 12:4 sq.): “She cried travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered” ( κράζει ὠδίνουσα, κ. τ. λ.).(3034) [See Note LXVIII., p. 357.]

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

LXVIII. (a.) Revelation 12:1 sq. γυνὴ περιβεβλημένη, κ. τ. λ.

See the full discussion by Düsterdieck at the close of the chapter, who restricts the γυνὴ to the O. T. Church. So Luthardt. Alford marks a transition to another view there stated: “The whole symbolism points to the Church, the bride of God; and of course, from the circumstances afterwards related, the O. T. Church, at least at the beginning of the vision.” Lange very tersely puts the argument for the O. and N. T. Church in undivided unity: “The fact that the woman cannot be referred to the New Testament Church alone, results clearly from Revelation 12:5 : the Christian Church did not bear Christ. Holding fast the identity of her in the heaven and her in the wilderness, neither can the woman be significant of the O. T. Church by itself, since the same woman lives on in the wilderness throughout the N. T. period of the cross. The unity of the O. and N. T. Church of God lay, doubtless, much nearer to the contemplation of John than to that of an exegesis whose view is, in many respects, too exclusively fixed upon externalities. Though it is impossible that John could have apprehended the woman as Mary herself, yet the fact was most closely present to his consciousness that this Mary, whose bodily offspring Christ was, was the final concentration of the O. T. theocracy.” Gebhardt: “The Church of God is represented by the figure of a woman in the O. T. (Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 66:8; Micah 5:1-3). The question now arises, whether we are here to understand the Church of the O. T. or of the N. T. From the first verse of the chapter to the last, the woman, without doubt, represents the same personality, and the seer cannot have understood, by the woman, the N. T. Church, in distinction from that of the O. T.: the general statements of Revelation 12:1-6 are against it, nor is this interpretation helped by limiting the meaning of the Jewish Christian Church. On the other hand, it is utterly impossible to understand by the woman, the O. T. Church in distinction from that of the New; for then not only Revelation 12:13-17, but even Revelation 12:6, would be without meaning. What, then, are we to understand by the woman? Simply, the Church of God which already existed in the prophetic fact of the old covenant, and which now exists in the time of its fulfilment in Christendom, and will exist in its eternal completion in the new heaven and the new earth.” Beck: “The woman clothed with the sun designates the heavenly kingdom of God, as it unites in itself as the true Church the O. and the N. T. Church of God as a divine Church-kingdom, in contrast with the adulterous church of the flesh. Already in the O. T. covenant of promise and its believers, this divine Church-kingdom had found its external type and external preparation; but in the N. T. spiritual institution, with its spiritual gifts and spiritual men, it had found its inner type and inner preparation: finally, in the future new Church of the new earth, it has both its external and inner completion.” On the particular features, Gerhard (L. T., xi. 34): “Clothed with the sun” = the righteousness assumed by faith, Malachi 4:2, and the heavenly glory in which it shall shine hereafter, Matthew 13:43. “The moon under her feet” = treading upon all the mutations of earth, and especially heresies which, like the moon, are ever changing. “Crown of twelve stars” = brilliancy of prophetic and apostolic doctrine. “Being in travail” = pains of spiritual birth (Galatians 4:19, etc.). Beck regards the sun, as signifying not only the benign influence of the Church in diffusing light and life, but also the glory of the new Jerusalem; while in treading upon the moon, which derives its light from the sun, and is the earthly measure of time and the variable light of the earthly night, he finds portrayed the superiority of the Church above all earthly times and changes, and its eternal lustre uninterrupted by night (Revelation 22:5; Isaiah 60:20). So Luthardt: “She triumphs over night, which for her has passed away.” On “in travail,” see Victorinus: “The ancient Church of the fathers and prophets and saints and apostles, which had the groans of its torments and longings, until it saw that Christ had taken flesh.” Luther, in 1535, expressed the conception of this passage as referring to the Church in its entire chronological compass, in his hymn, Sie ist mir lieb, der werthe Magd. The two last stanzas have been thus rendered by Massie:—

“She wears a crown of purest gold,

Twelve shining stars attend her;

Her raiment, glorious to behold,

Surpasses far in splendor

The sun at noon;

Upon the moon

She stands, the Bride

Of Him who died:

Sore travall is upon her;

She bringeth forth a noble Son,

Whom all the world doth honor;

She bows before His throne.

“Thereat the dragon raged, and stood

With open mouth before her;

But vain was his attempt, for God

His buckler broad threw o’er her.

Up to his throne

He caught his Son,

But left the foe

To rage below.

The mother, sore afflicted,

Alone into the desert fled;

There by her God protected,

By her true Father fed.”

[See also below, Note LXIX.]


Verse 3-4

Revelation 12:3-4. By another sign now becoming visible, the mortal enemy of the woman and her child, i.e., the devil, is described to the seer. The idea of the devil (cf. Revelation 12:9) as a δράκων(3035) is based upon Genesis 3,(3036) to which the connection of δράκων μέγας with ὅφις αρχ., Revelation 12:9, and the interchange of the expressions δράκων and ὄφις, Revelation 12:13; Revelation 12:15, clearly refers. The great size of the dragon may be inferred from his dreadful power;(3037) he appears to be fiery red, either “because fire(3038) is the symbol of destruction and corruption,”(3039) or “because he is the ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς,”(3040) and also “is intent upon the murder of the child of the woman, as well as the murder of all believers;”(3041) in favor of the last is especially the circumstance that the representation of the devil is given with concrete distinctness, viz., with respect to the Romish secular power which is drunken with the blood of the martyrs.(3042) The objection that πυῤῥος is not blood-red(3043) is not pertinent.(3044)

ἔχων κεφαλὰς

ἑπτὰ-G0- διαδή΄ατα-G0-. The two questions as to in what manner the ten horns on the seven diademed heads should be regarded as distributed, and what is the proper meaning and reference of these heads, horns, and diadems, inseparably cohere, but are not to be answered from the context of ch. 12 alone, but only from ch. 13 compared with ch. 17. Upon a mere conjecture depend the views of Vitr., that the middle head (i.e., Diocletian) bore all the ten horns (i.e., governed ten provinces); and of De Wette, that three heads had double horns. The opinion also of Bengel, received by Hengstenb., Ebrard, etc., that one of the heads, viz., the seventh, bore all ten horns, cannot be derived from Revelation 17:12.

With respect to the meaning of the heads, etc., only a few among the older allegorists have misjudged that since the seven heads, ten horns, and ten diadems are common to the dragon and the beast furnished with power from the same, ch. 13, the interpretation there given by John himself must regulate the explanation also of ch. 12 The devil manifestly appears as the proper author, working in the deepest foundation of every antichristian being, in such form as corresponds to the form of the beast, i.e., of the antichristian power actually entering this earthly world, and serving the dragon as an instrument. Without any support, therefore, are all such expositions as that of Tirinus, who understands the seven heads of the dragon as the seven deadly sins.(3045) But De Wette’s proposition also to explain the heads as an emblem of sagacity, and the horns of power, and the numbers seven and ten as the well-known mystical numbers without precise significance, in no way satisfies the analogy of ch. 13; the numbers also maintain their definite application in ch. 13. (and ch 11), and, therefore, cannot be taken in similar indefiniteness as that of the τὸ τρίτον τ. ἀστ. directly afterwards in Revelation 12:4. It is(3046) the antichristian secular power of the Roman Empire which is beheld in ch. 13 under the form of the seven-headed and ten-horned beast;(3047) and, besides, the precise number of heads, horns, and diadems was based upon the historical relations of that empire;(3048) according to this is to be understood the analogous and, as it were, archetypal appearance of the dragon working by means of that secular power.(3049) Erroneous, therefore, are all the explanations which, instead of the concrete reference to the Roman Empire, either introduce extraneous specialties,(3050) or keep to indefinite generality.(3051) The latter applies especially also against Hofm.,(3052) Hengstenb., and Ebrard, who by a false explanation of properly adduced passages, Revelation 17:9 and ch. 13, and by an incorrect comparison of the ten horns of the dragon with the ten (still future) kings, Revelation 17:12, understand the seven dragon-heads of the seven phases of the godless secular power; but the ten horns, which (improperly) are regarded as on the seven heads, of the tenfold division of that ultimate secular power. Among the older allegorists, Calov. has correctly received the reference as made to Rome, but perverted it by not explaining the seven crowned dragon-heads from the relations of the imperial succession,(3053) but by regarding them as designations of the seven forms of government received in the entire history of Rome.(3054) The corresponding original form of the dragon must also be understood according to the standard, derived from chs. 13 and 17, of the beast in the service of the dragon, through which the Roman secular government with its emperors is symbolized. The ten horns correspond to ten personal rulers, who as emperors stand within the horizon of the prophet as possessors of the Roman Empire: (1) Augustus, (2) Tiberius, (3) Caligula, (4) Claudius, (5) Nero, (6) Galba, (7) Otho, (8) Vitellius, (9) Vespasian, (10) Titus. Thus also in Revelation 13:1 the ten horns of the beast, each of which bears a diadem, are meant; but in other respects the same fundamental view in chs. 13 and 17 is not applied and carried out with entire uniformity. The idea that one of the seven heads is mortally wounded, but again healed, applies indeed to the beast of ch. 13, but not to the dragon; and both descriptions, chs. 12 and 13, are distinguished from the statement of ch. 17 especially by the fact that in the former a genuine emperor, the last possessor of the Roman Empire, and ten kings still to come, who are distinguished throughout from those indicated by the ten horns of chs. 12 and 13, come within the sphere of the prophecy; while, on the other hand, ch. 17 makes no further reference to that which is designated in ch. 13 by the mortal wound of the one head, than by the inequality, common to all three chapters, between the number ten of the horns and seven of the heads. The seven heads are expressly designated as seven kings, i.e., emperors; John also says that the sixth is present.(3055) This peculiar relation between the number “ten” of the emperors and “seven” of the emperors, can only have the meaning which is indicated in another way also by the healed mortal wound, viz., that only with seven wearers of the diadem is the actual and true possession of the government found,—according to which a horn is to be regarded as on each of the seven heads of the dragon (and of the beast, Revelation 13:1),(3056)—while three among the ten wearers of the diadem, viz., the three chiefs, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, by their rebellion possessed only an “uncertain and, as it were, unsettled imperial power.”(3057) The three horns, which recall these three usurpers, are on one of the seven heads neither in the dragon nor the beast. Where they are to be regarded, is not to be inferred in the same way from the idea of the forms of the dragon and the beast as the position of the seven (crowned, Revelation 13:1) horns on the seven (crowned, Revelation 12:3) heads; if John himself had had a precise view of the position of those three horns, he might have regarded them—corresponding to the historical condition—as between the fifth and the sixth crowned heads.

καὶ οὐρὰ, κ. τ. λ. By a highly dramatic stroke John portrays the track of the dragon, as by moving his dreadful tail hither and thither, he tore away a large (the third, Revelation 8:7 sq.) part of the stars of heaven, and cast them down to earth. An undoubted adumbration of this description is Daniel 8:10, where a horn that grew up to heaven cast down the stars. But in John the dragon appears ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, like the woman, Revelation 12:1; the more readily suggested, therefore, is the conception, that while in an eager rage he lashes about his tail, it casts down from heaven the stars which it strikes.(3058) An attempt at false allegorizing lies in this feature of the description, in the fact that the seven heads, etc., have certainly a precise figurative reference; but the circumstance already that the numerical statement τὸ τρίτον, Revelation 12:4, is to be taken only schematically, while the numbers Revelation 12:3 are to be taken with literal accuracy, gives the description another character. The allegorical explanations offered(3059) could be only arbitrary and fluctuating, because they depend entirely upon the error that they seek for a definitely ascribed prophetic thought, where the text gives only the expressive feature of a poetical description; a feature, however, which is important and characteristic in the entire presentation of the dragon, because thereby, in a way corresponding to the nature of dragons(3060) and the visionary locality ( ἐν τ. οὐρανῷ), the rage and eagerness of the devil appearing as a dragon are made visible.

The dragon has in view, above all things, the child who is about to be born of the woman; he puts himself(3061) before the travailing woman, in order that, when she have given birth, he may devour the child.


Verse 5-6

Revelation 12:5-6. The child is born, but rescued; the woman also flees.

υἱὸν ἄρσεν. The expression, without regard to its peculiar incorrectness,(3062) reminds us of the בֵּז זָכָר, Jeremiah 20:15,(3063) but is still more emphatic in the prominence given the male sex of the child, since the grammatical reason, rendering possible the harsh agreement of the masc. υἱόν and the neut. ἄρσεν, lies in the fact that the ἄρσεν appears as a sort of apposition: “a son, a male.” The intention of this emphasis, which De Wette improperly denies, is not that of designating the child as victor over the dragon,(3064) but(3065) points to what is added concerning the child immediately afterwards; ὃς ΄έλλει ποι΄., κ. τ. λ. These words taken from Psalms 2:9 (LXX.), which are referred also to Christ in Revelation 19:15, make it indubitable that the child born of the woman is the Messiah;(3066) but the designation of Christ by these words of the Messianic Psalm is in this passage(3067) the most appropriate and significant, since the fact is made prominent that this child just born is the one who with irresistible power will visit in judgment the antichristian heathen. By the words of the Psalm, John, therefore, designates the Lord as the ἐρχό΄ενον, who, as is especially kept in view by ch. 12, will also come with his iron rod upon the Gentile-Roman antichrist. As, therefore, John by the words of the Psalm designates the child in a way completely corresponding to the fundamental idea of the entire Apoc., and points to the ultimate end in the Messianic judgment, he at the same time discloses the reason why Satan lays snares chiefly for the child, and then also for the woman and believers; and why especially the Gentile-Roman empire—whose insignia the dragon wears, and which is the means of his wrath—persecutes believers in Christ in the manner depicted further in what follows.(3068) Thus the designation of the child shows the significance of the entire vision, ch. 12, in its relation to what follows. The result, however, is also that all the expositors who regard the child born of the woman as any thing else than the Messiah, and that, too, in his concrete personality, miss the surest standpoint for the exposition of the entire ch. 12, and with this the correct standpoint for the comprehension of ch. 13 sqq. This applies especially in opposition to all those who, however much they diverge in details, yet agree in the fundamental error that they regard the child as Christ, only in a certain metonymical sense, by understanding it properly, speaking of Christ living in believers, and thus of believers themselves. Thus Beda: “The Church is always, though the dragon opposes, bringing forth Christ.”—“The Church daily gives birth to a church, ruling in Christ the world.” Cf. C. a Lap., Aret., Calov., who gives the more specific definition: “The bearing of the woman” refers to the “profession of the Nicene faith, and the sons born to God by the Church in the midst of the persecutions of the Gentiles,” Beng., Stern., etc. Grot., also: “The dispersed from Judaea, among whom were Aquila and Apollos, instruments of the catholic Church, brought forth many of the Roman people unto Christ.” Eichh., Heinr., Herd., etc., who regard the child as a symbol of the Christian Church, proceeding from the Jewish, belong here.

καὶ ἡρπάσθη. The expression makes clear how, by a sudden withdrawal,(3069) the child is delivered from the immediately threatening danger.(3070)

πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ πρὸς τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ. It is made emphatic not only that the child is drawn up to God for preservation, but also that this is the surest, and at the same time most exalted, place of refuge. The allegorical interpretation of the second half of Revelation 12:5, by those who do not acknowledge in the child the Messiah himself, must have an entirely reverse result. N. de Lyra(3071) contents himself with the idea of the “deliverance of the Church;” even to him Beda’s interpretation(3072) may have been too perplexing. The rationalistic expositors also, who share with these churchly expositors the fundamental error concerning the τέκνον, uselessly amend one another.(3073) De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard, etc., have referred the ἡρπάσθη, κ. τ. λ., to the Lord’s ascension, and, according to this, understand by the persecution on the part of the dragon(3074) “all that was done on the part of the Jews against Christ until his death,”(3075) the entire state of humiliation, to which the state of exaltation even to God’s throne has succeeded.(3076) But the feeling concerning this, that this conception does not correspond with the character of the statement in the text, has asserted itself in Hengstenb. Before the καὶ ἡρπάσθη, he says, it is to be remembered that the dragon continues his persecution, as, according to the gospel history, it has occurred from the temptation until the death on the cross.(3077) “This addition is urged by Revelation 12:4 : for how was the one, who, already before the birth, stood before the woman, in order to devour her child as soon as it was born, not to incessantly continue his persecution? and it is required by the ‘and it was caught up.’ ” But neither this addition, nor the exposition based thereon, is allowable in accordance with the text; for the textual idea is that the child immediately after birth is caught up to God’s throne. This ideal representation is related to the actual history of Christ, just as the ideal allusion to the judgment impending upon Jerusalem, Revelation 11:1 sqq., to the actually future fact; the fact as such is as little prophesied there, as in this passage the proper history of Christ and its precise epochs are mentioned,(3078) but in both cases the historical reality serves only for the firm concrete basis of the idea, which is the main point of consideration. No historical fact corresponds to the prophetical-ideal representation of the dragon, which watches for the birth of the Messiah, in order to immediately devour the child; but the snares on the part of Herod, and the murder of the infants at Bethlehem, may have given an occasion for the conception of the view, whereby John figuratively represents the mortal enmity of Satan to the Messiah. No fact in the history of Christ corresponds to the ἡρπάσθη τὸ τέκνον, κ. τ. λ.; but the fact of the Lord’s ascension offers, as it were, the colors with which to paint the ideas as to how inexpressibly glorious is the preservation of the child from Satan, and how completely the latter, with his persecutions, is confounded. Both subjects under consideration here, Satan’s mortal hatred to the Lord (and, therefore to his saints, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 13:1 sqq.), and, in connection with this, Satan’s inability to touch the Lord (and, accordingly, the final judgment on every thing antichristian, and the glorification of believers), are here placed in view.

What, after the withdrawal of the child, is further attempted on the part of the dragon, or what now possibly occurs with it itself (cf. Revelation 12:7. sqq.), cannot be properly stated (Revelation 12:7 sqq.) without giving an account first of the fate of the woman. This occurs in Revelation 12:6, which briefly anticipates(3079) what is described more minutely in Revelation 12:14, and that too on the basis of Revelation 12:7 sqq.;(3080) for not until the dragon, with his wrath directed above all things against the child itself, is completely confounded, does he turn against the woman, Revelation 12:13 sqq., and when she flees, then against the rest of her seed, Revelation 12:17, in order to vent against them, as believers in Christ, that rage with which he could not reach the Lord himself and the woman. But what instruments the dragon employs, in order to attack believers with the hatred which is, in fact, directed against the Lord himself, is shown immediately afterwards in Revelation 13:1 sqq.

ὅπου

ἐκεῖ. Cf. Revelation 12:14; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 7:2.

ἡτοιμασμένον ἀπο τ. θ., “on the part of God,” divinely. Cf. Winer, p. 347 sqq.

ἵνα ἐκεῖ τρέφωσιν αὐτὴν, κ. τ. λ. The final clause depends upon the ἡτοιμ. ἀπὸ τ. θ.; the ἐκεῖ refers, therefore, to the place in the wilderness; cf. the parallel words, Revelation 12:14 ( εἰς τ. τόπον αὐτης, ὅπου τρέφεται ἐκεῖ, κ. τ. λ.), where also the personally fixed τρέφεται (sc. γυνή) explains the meaning of the τρέφωσιν αὐτὴν taken without a definite subject.(3081) See, in general, also in reference to the schematic determination of time, on Revelation 12:14.


Verses 7-12

Revelation 12:7-12. Not only is it in vain that the dragon lays snares for the child (Revelation 12:5), but he is now cast down to earth by Michael and his angels, who begin a battle with him and his angels,—a crisis which, in its salutary significance for believers, is celebrated by a loud voice in heaven giving praise, but which also, as the cry of woe indicates, makes the whole earth the scene for the rage of the dragon cast upon it.

καὶ ἐγένετο πόλεμος ἐν τ. οὐρ. The conception that the dragon pursued the child even to the throne of God (Revelation 12:5), and that this is the cause of the struggle which arose,(3082) not only has no foundation in the context, but is also inconsistent with what is said in Revelation 12:5, because the κ. ἡρπάσθη declares that the child, by its being caught up to God and God’s throne, is completely secured from any further pursuit on the part of the dragon. The idea, also, that the dragon also made only the attempt to seize the child from God’s own hand, is in itself not possible. But in the struggle which now arises, it is not Satan, but Michael, who appears as taking the offensive. After the dragon did what is described in Revelation 12:3-4,—and after the child was in complete security,—not only the dragon who had attempted the attack on the child, but also his angels, are driven out of heaven. The very circumstance that in Revelation 12:7 the discourse is not only concerning the dragon, but also concerning his adherents, points to the fact, that the bold undertaking of the dragon (Revelation 12:3 sq.), the most extreme to which his antichristian nature brings him, furnishes Michael and his army of angels the immediate occasion, on their part, for laying hold upon the dragon and all his angels, and casting them out of heaven.

ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ. For at this place the dragon is; cf. Revelation 12:3. Every allegorical interpretation(3083) brings with it a confusion of the context in details, and as a whole. Cf. also Revelation 12:8.

΄ιχαὴλ. The opinion of Vitringa, urgently advocated by Hengstenb., that Michael is not an angel (according to Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1, the guardian angel of the O. T. people of God, according to Jude 1:9 an archangel), but Christ himself, or, as Hengstenb. prefers to say, the Logos, miscarries—even apart from Jude 1:9, where the express designation, ἀρχάγγελος, according to Hengstenb., is as little a proof against the divinity of Michael, as the declaration of the Lord (John 14:28) testifies against the homoousia of the Son—by its being altogether impossible to regard Michael (Revelation 12:7) and the child (Revelation 12:5) as one and the same person. In this passage, also, Michael the archangel(3084) appears as the leader of the angelic army ( καὶ οἱ ἄγγ. αὐτου), with which he contends for the Messiah and his kingdom.

τοῦ πολεμῆσαι μετὰ τ. δράκ., κ. τ. λ. Just as undoubted as is this reading according to the MSS. at hand, is its obscurity in a grammatical respect; since the gen. infinitive τοῦ πολεμῆσαι, in connection with the words ΄ιχ. καὶ οἱ ἄγγ. αὐτου, is without all analogy in the Greek of the LXX. and the N. T. The seeming parallel, Acts 10:25, is distinguished from this passage by the very fact that there a proper grammatical reason is present,(3085) while in this passage the connection of the gen. infinitive τοῦ πολεμῆσαι with the subj. ΄ιχ., κ. τ. λ., admits of no grammatical explanation whatever; for neither the analogy of passages like Isaiah 44:14, Joshua 2:5, is applicable where the inf., introduced by לֶ, stands in definite dependence upon a preceding idea, and where the LXX. also place a finite tense,(3086) nor is the supplying of the words “had war,” upon which, then, the τοῦ πολεμ. is regarded as dependent,(3087) allowable. If it were possible from the ἐγένετο πόλεμος to supply an ἐγένοντο before ΄ιχ. καί οἱ ἀγγ. αὐτ.,(3088) or if the ἐγένετο dare be regarded as extending to ΄ιχ.,(3089) the τοῦ πολεμῆσαι would then be correctly added.(3090) But that twofold conception is so doubtful as to constrain us to the opinion that our text is defective or corrupt.(3091) As a sensible conjecture, the Elz. reading, ἐπολέμησαν, commends itself, since the τοῦ before the infin. may be repeated from the preceding αὐτοῦ, and the change of the πολεμῆσαι into the form of a finite tense is without difficulty; but if the τοῦ πολεμῆσαι of the MSS. be correct,—and its difficulty favors it,—a finite tense immediately before, upon which this τοῦ πολεμ. depends, may have fallen out, possibly ἀνέστησαν or ἦλθαν, or the like, since the essential meaning is manifestly that which the versions express.(3092) The conjecture is most probable, that the words πόλεμος ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ are nothing but a marginal note that has entered into the text, made in order to mark the noteworthy contents of the passage;(3093) if these words be regarded as absent, the connection of the τού πολ. with the καὶ ἐγένετο ΄ιχ. κ. οἱ ἄγγ. αὐτοῦ does not seem difficult, since the genitive of the telic infinitive(3094) correctly depends upon the idea of the movement lying in the ἐγενετο.(3095) This conjecture has in its favor, that the reception into the text of the doubtful words πόλε΄ος ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is incomparably more probable than the falling-out of a finite tense before τοὺ πολ.; it is also to be considered, that, as in what follows, the ἐπολέ΄ησε is formed only according to the chief subject δρ., the same phraseology is probable also in the first clause. Moreover, while it would have been difficult for John to have written ΄ιχ. καὶ οἱ ἄγγ. αὐτοῦ ἐπολέ΄ησε,—for the sing., after καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ had preceded, would have been unallowable in the style of the Apoc., and besides, in connection with the following, ἐπολέ΄ησε appears to be still more monotonous than the ἐπολέ΄ησαν even of the Rec.,—the ἐγένετο, on the other hand, in immediate connection with ΄ιχ. καὶ οἱ ἄγγ. meets all requirements, and commends itself especially by the fact that it gives the meaning that the attack proceeded from Michael and his angels.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

LXVIII. (b.) Revelation 12:7. πόλεμος ἐν οὐρανῷ

Philippi (Kirch. Glaubenslehre, III. 321 sq.): “In the N. T. there seem to be contradictory expressions. For while, according to Revelation 12:7 sqq., Satan still dwells in heaven, according to Luke 10:18 he has already fallen from heaven like lightning; and while, according to Ephesians 2:2, the power of the prince of darkness prevails in the air, according to 2 Peter 2:4 God has cast the fallen angels into the abyss, and delivered them unto chains of darkness as those who are to be kept for judgment, and in Jude, Revelation 12:6, they are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day. On the other hand, they pray (Luke 8:31; cf. Matthew 8:29; Matthew 8:31) not to be cast into the abyss before the time, as also, according to Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:10, only at the final judgment shall they be handed over to eternal fire with its pain. The seeming contradiction of these different forms of statement is explained only by the distinction between the literal and the figurative modes of expression. The dwelling in heaven as the superterrestrial region is a figure, partly of qualification for superterrestrial exercise of power, partly of participation in superterrestrial, blessed life. Since Satan employs the former, even until the day of judgment, he is still up to that time in heaven; but when Christ, as the stronger, came upon him, and despoiled him of his power (Matthew 12:29), he saw him, like lightning, fall from heaven.… As long as the kingdom of Satan continues among unbelievers on earth, and his power to tempt believers remains, so also does he still continue to be in heaven; and not until the parousia of the Lord shall he be cast out, and divested of his own power. But, on the other hand, in so far as Satan, with his angels, is excluded from the communion of the superterrestrial blessed life of God, is he from the very beginning at the moment of his fall, no longer in heaven, but in the abyss.”


Verse 8

Revelation 12:8. Properly, after the full contents of the subject δρ. καὶ οἱ ἄγγ. αὐτοῦ have preceded, the plur. form ἴσχυσαν(3096) is now introduced, although the sing. ἐπολέμησε (Revelation 12:7) stood in express relation only to the chief subject δράκων. The sense of the καὶ οὐκ ἔσχυσαν is like the Heb. phrase לא יָכֹל, Genesis 32:26; δύναται πρὸς αὐτόν.">(3097), Psalms 13:5;(3098), Genesis 30:8 :(3099) “They could not prevail.”

οὐδὲ τόπος εὑρέθη αὐτῶν ἕτι ὲν τῷ οὐρανῷ. The οὐδέ(3100) puts a second negative expression by the side of and opposite to the first, so that the meaning of the connection can be explained: Not only the dragon and his angels could not prevail, but he could no longer maintain his place in heaven: he is conquered in heaven and cast out of heaven. This idea Hengstenb. himself indicates in an entirely rationalistic way, by explaining, according to the accepted fundamental statement: “Every thing mighty is placed in heaven,”(3101) as follows: “That Satan could not maintain himself in heaven, simply means that his power is broken,—broken, according to Revelation 12:11, by the blood of Christ, whereby the forgiveness of sins is obtained, and thus his most dangerous weapon is wrested from Satan.” On the other hand, a preposterous dogmatizing on this verse appears in Hofm., Ebrard, and Auberlen, who here find the presupposition, that until then,(3102) Satan with his angels have actually had their place in heaven, make a comparison with the coming-forth of Satan in Job 1, as though it were an historical fact, and, at the same time, explain from Zechariah 3, that the business of Satan in heaven is that of accusing. But this idea, impossible in itself(3103) to considerate Christian feeling, is gathered from the text only by the ascription of objective reality to that which is indeed improperly regarded a pure fiction,(3104) yet to which only the reality of the vision belongs. The real truth on which the visionary contemplation of the discomfiture of the dragon, after the withdrawal of the Messianic child, depends, is—as may be explained from Revelation 12:10, but in no way from Revelation 12:11(3105)—the Christian fundamental doctrine of the conquest of Satan and his kingdom by Christ, the Redeemer and Lord of the kingdom of heaven; but the subject treated in this passage (as also in Revelation 12:3-6) is no doctrinal definition, but only the illustration, extending to the deepest foundation, of the rage of the arch-fiend against believers. Against them he turns (Revelation 12:17 sqq.), after he has pursued in vain the Lord himself (Revelation 12:4 sqq.) and the woman; the earth becomes the theatre of his wrath, after he has been cast thither from heaven, and that, too, as one vanquished, so that even believers can overcome the already overcome enemy, let him rage as he may. The description, Revelation 12:7-8 (and 9), portrays an actual, historical or superhistorical, fact, past or entirely future, which was revealed to John by his vision, no more than Revelation 12:3-6 describe actual facts as such; but also in this passage the form of the vision in the mind of the seer seems to be morally conditioned by his remembrance of the fact, firmly established in biblical revelation, of the overthrow of the fallen angels. In itself, and as such, this fact has nothing to do with the present connection; but in the mind of the seer, the particular conception which he here expresses clothes itself in the form of that fact.[See Note LXVIII. (b), p. 359.]

αὑτων.


Verse 9

Revelation 12:9. καὶ ἐβλήθη. After the circumstantial designation of the subject has been given, the verb is repeated, and then receives also the more accurate determination, ἐβλ. εἰς τὴν γῆν. The aggregation of designations describe the nature and activity of the enemy as completely as possible; which is appropriate for the reason that thereby it is, on the one hand, indicated what believers have to expect from this enemy now working against them on earth,(3106) and, on the other hand, it is said that this enemy, even though his hostile activity be so various, yet is already a thoroughly conquered adversary.(3107) First stands the designation δράκων ΄έγας, as that of the subject given by Revelation 12:3 sqq., with which the other designations are connected as appositives: ὄφις ἀρχαῖος, with an allusion to Genesis 3,(3108) whence also the rabbinical expressions חַנָחשׁ הַקַרִמֹונִי and חַנָחָשׁ הַראשֹׁוך(3109) are derived.

καλού΄ενος διάβολος, κ. τ. λ. The διάβολος stands here with the καλού΄ενος in a like manner as an appellative, just as in Revelation 20:3 with ὅς ἐστιν; while, on the other hand, the σατανᾶς, because of the art.,(3110) appears in both places as a proper noun, like διάβολος also in, e.g., Revelation 20:10. The definition added to σατ., viz., πλανῶν τ. οἰκ. ὅλ., which is not altogether intelligible from what is said in Revelation 12:1, but refers to the antichristic activity of Satan(3111) described in ch. 13, shows us on its part that the entire present account has its peculiar intention and meaning, not so much in itself, as rather in its connection with what follows.(3112)


Verses 10-12

Revelation 12:10-12. A loud voice in heaven(3113) celebrates the victory which has just occurred before the eye of the seer, over the adversary of Christ and his kingdom (Revelation 12:10-12 a), as one in which believers also are to participate, Revelation 12:10; but this voice proclaims, also, woe to the whole earth, because the dragon cast out upon it will make use of the short time given him for his wrath (Revelation 12:12 b).

ἄρτι, “now,” since the victory over the dragon, Revelation 12:8 sq., as also the conclusion from Revelation 12:10, ὅτι ἐβλ., κ. τ. λ., once again expressly emphasizes.

ἐγένετο σωτηρία, κ. τ. λ. Incorrectly, Hofm.: “God and his Anointed have established their salvation and their power.” Also De Wette, who properly refers to Revelation 11:15, is incorrect in his remark: There is with respect to the σωτηρία a sort of zeugma or mingling of thoughts; the sentence, “Salvation is God,” Revelation 7:10, Revelation 19:1, becomes in this connection: “Now it is shown that the salvation is God’s.” De Wette, as also those who have wished to change the meaning of σωτηρία, has correctly felt that it is just the idea of the σωτηρία whereby the mode of statement in this passage appears more difficult than in the entirely similar passage, Revelation 11:15. But precisely as the δὑνα΄ις and the βασιλεία, so also the σωτηρία, i.e., salvation in the specific Christian sense,—not “victory,”(3114) which σωτηρία does not mean,—is beheld with complete objectivity. The salvation, like the kingdom, the strength, and the power, has now become our God’s, since the dragon in heaven has been overcome; now his salvation, his power, his kingdom, are no longer attacked and injured by the violence of the dragon up to this time unbroken, and his power not yet overcome. This is the precise mode of the presentation, along with which the other view also co-exists, that it is essentially and alone God’s salvation, power, and kingdom which God seizes,(3115) or which becomes God’s. The individual ideas are very significant; σωτηρία is the salvation, not only inasmuch as saints are thereby delivered,(3116)—this reference is necessary, nevertheless is too narrow,—but(3117) the sum total of all righteousness, blessedness, and holiness, as they have been prepared for the creature by God through his Christ, the σωτήο, but have been prevented from reaching the same by the dragon, the antichrist. The δύνα΄ις, the power of God, has been manifested in his victory over the dragon;(3118) the βασιλεία, “where God’s majesty shows itself,”(3119) is the royal glory of God,(3120) which is peculiar to him as the possessor of unconditioned power, and which he displays especially in creation and the imparting of salvation.(3121) The ἐξουσία is ascribed to God’s Christ, because it is the definite, supreme power(3122) peculiar to God’s Christ as such.(3123) The reason for the ascription of praise, ἄρτι ἐγένετο, κ. τ. λ., lies in what is reported in Revelation 12:8-9; for the entire undertaking of the dragon(3124) was nothing else than the truly antichristian attempt to frustrate the σωτηρία, to bid defiance to the δύνα΄ις of God, to oppose his βασιλεία, and to bring to naught the ἐξουσία of Christ, ay, Christ himself. From a new side, not at all touched in Revelation 12:3 sqq., and also very remote from that presentation, is the overcome adversary designated by the appellation κατήγωρ τ. ἀδελφ. ἡ΄., κ. τ. λ. The form of the word is Hebraistic: קטיגור. Precisely analogous is the rabbinical designation of Michael as the סביגוד, the συνήγωρ, i.e., συνήγορος, advocate, of the godly.(3125) In the later Greek there is also the analogous form διάκων for διάκονος.(3126)

τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἡ΄ῶν. The brethren of those by whom, in a loud voice, the song of praise is raised, are undoubtedly believers in the earthly life, for only they could be exposed to the accusation on the part of Satan; but an inference as to the designation of the heavenly persons who speak of believing men as their brethren is not to be made: it can in no way be decided as to whether the adoring voice proceeds from the angels,(3127) or from the twenty-four elders,(3128) or perhaps from the already perfected saints,(3129)—who, however, would not be regarded as saints only of the O. T.(3130) The idea of a perpetual(3131) accusation of the godly on the part of Satan,(3132) which occurs neither in the N. nor the O. T. as an express doctrinal article, is derived and formulated by Jewish theology from Zechariah 3 and Job 1, 2.(3133) The N. T. contains an allusion to that conception only so far as the names ordinarily used in the N. T., διάβολος and ό σατανᾶς, also ἀντικείμενος, according to their original significance, point back to the same. In the latter circumstance, sufficient scriptural ground for receiving the accusing activity of Satan in dogmatical seriousness can be acknowledged only if the Scriptures were elsewhere to show expressly that they advocate such definite sense for that name already firmly fixed. But this occurs neither in Job 1, 2, nor in Zechariah 3; for the former mythically fashioned passage does not treat at all of a peculiar accusation, while, according to the nature of the subject, objective reality does not pertain to the vision of the prophet. Scripture, therefore, does not give us a doctrinal article, which would be just as incomprehensible to Christian thought, as the idea of an actual abode of the devil and his angels in heaven.(3134) But as there, so also here, every allegorizing interpretation of the text is to be rejected,(3135) and it is to be decided, according to the analogy of Scripture, that the idea of a perpetual accusation of believers by Satan, derived in its concrete formation from Jewish theology, makes no claim of objective truth, but is to be regarded as a point of the prophetic conception founded in the individuality of John.


Verse 11

Revelation 12:11. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐνίκησαν αὐτὸν. That the αὐτοι refers to τ. ἀδελφῶν ἡμ., and, therefore, those accused by the dragon ( κατηγ. αὐτούς, Revelation 12:10), but not the angel Michael (Revelation 12:7), are here represented as those who have conquered(3136) the dragon, results not only from the words in themselves, which do not allow an immediate reference of the αὐτοὶ to a subject in Revelation 12:7, but also from the manner of the conflict and the victory indicated, which does not at all agree with what is described in Revelation 12:7.(3137) From the identity of those accused in Revelation 12:10, and contending in Revelation 12:11, it does not follow, however, that the idea of ἐνίκησαν αὐτον is: “They have won the case against him,” as Beng.(3138) wishes; but the idea of the νικᾶν here is the same as everywhere in the Apoc., which regards every kind of temptation which Satan has prepared for believers as a mighty conflict,(3139) and therefore every confirmation of faith as a victory over the arch-enemy.(3140) On the fundamental conception, 1 John 2:13-14, is to be compared, although, as the form, so also the reference there is different. The perf. νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν describes the life of faith then existing in Christian young men, as having for its foundation the victory obtained over the wicked one by faith itself; the aor. ἐνίκησαν αὐτὸν, however, by placing the victory over Satan as a definite fact entirely in the past, is said by a prolepsis similar to that whereby, in Revelation 7:9 sqq., believers are beheld in a proleptical vision after the victory has been won.(3141) In fact, the ἐνίκησαν is applicable not until the conflict lasting unto death, requiring the surrender of life in fidelity to the cause,(3142) is actually fought through, and the garment washed in the blood of the Lamb(3143) has been kept pure in spite of all the temptations and persecutions on the part of Satan. But although the worshippers know that the conflict against the dragon still in reality impends over their brethren on earth,(3144) yet they can celebrate the victory of believers as one already gained, because the victory won over Satan in heaven(3145) has rendered him an overcome enemy also to believers on earth. Since thus the victory still in fact to be won by believers—to which properly all the consolatory language of the Apoc. refers—is celebrated by these heavenly voices as already obtained, the strongest encouragement is given believers. Hence Revelation 12:11 appears not as a “digression,”(3146) but is in every respect appropriate.

διὰ τὸ αί΄α τοῦ ἀρνίου, κ. τ. λ. On account of the διά with the accus., the blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony of believers appears not as the means ( διά with gen.), but as the reason or cause on account of which the victory is won. This form of the presentation is no less suitable than the former;(3147) but in the first member διὰ τὸ αἰ΄α τ. ἀρν., the latter corresponds much more accurately with the inner connection, sustained by Revelation 12:11, to what precedes. Entirely analogous is the relation in Revelation 3:21 between the νικῶν, κ. τ. λ., and the ὡς κἀγὼ ἐνίκησα, κ. τ. λ. The victory of believers on earth is based upon the victory won over Satan in heaven; the peculiar truth, however, in what is reported from Revelation 12:7 on, and in the closest connection with Revelation 12:5,—that, viz., which, beneath the shell of the occurrences beheld, must be properly understood as the actual cause of the victory for believers on earth,—is Christ’s victory over Satan. This victory the Lamb has won over the dragon by shedding his blood. The blood of the Lamb is therefore the cause of the victory of believers.(3148) In the same way the statement is added: καὶ δαὶ τὸν λόγον τῆς μαρτυρίας αὐτων. Here we would expect the gen., because the testimony given by believers presents itself most simply as the means whereby they conquer. De Wette is inclined to assume this mode of representation by “a sort of zeugma,” which he tries to maintain in the διά. But the διά with the accus. has its complete justification, because the word of the testimony of believers, like the blood of the Lamb, can appear as the objective ground of their victory, since it is the word of the testimony given by believers with all fidelity even unto death,(3149) yet, also, at the same time, the word of such testimony as believers have previously received, which they now have as the condition of their victory beyond and above themselves.(3150) Thus the word of testimony has also an objective side, according to which it appears, like the blood of the Lamb, as the ground, not as the means, of their victory; while, on the other hand, the blood of the Lamb can be considered the actual ground of the victory only when the subjective side, viz., the believing participation in this blood, or the being washed thereby,(3151) is kept in mind.

καὶ οὐκ ἠγάπησεν, κ. τ. λ. The not loving their souls, i.e., readiness to surrender life replacing ἄχρι θανάτου.(3152) As faithful witnesses, therefore, they suffered death, and just by this, like the Lord himself, won the victory.(3153)


Verse 12

Revelation 12:12. διὰ τοῦτο. We cannot regard the ground of joy for the heavens, and those dwelling therein ( οἱ ἐν αὐτοῖς ακηνοῦντες are only those whose actual place of abode is the heavens, and who there, as the expression σκηνοῦν indicates, have glorious rest disturbed by no woe or conflict,(3154) but not also believers on earth, as Hengstenb., by a false comparison with Philippians 3:20, Ephesians 2:6, explains), to be both the casting of the dragon out of heaven (Revelation 12:9), and the victory of believers (Revelation 12:11),(3155) but only the former;(3156) for although Revelation 12:11, in connection with Revelation 12:10, proleptically celebrates the victory of earthly believers over the dragon, based upon the heavenly victory over the same, the affair is displayed here as it is in reality; to the heavenly beings alone belongs the pure joy, while woe is proclaimed to the whole earth and all its inhabitants, even to believers on earth; for just these have now to struggle even unto blood with the enraged dragon.

οὐαὶ τὴν γῆν, κ. τ. λ. The accus., which in Greek(3157) as well as in Latin occurs regularly in exclamations, is unusual here only so far as it stands with οὐαί, which is otherwise usually combined with the dat.

τῆν γὴν καὶ τὴν θὰλ. In opposition to the heavenly world,(3158) the entirety of the earthly world is designated, in connection with which there is no reference to the relation of the two particular parts as such; much less is any allegorical interpretation admissible.(3159)

ὅτι κατέβη, κ. τ. λ. Reason for the cry of woe: the earth and sea are to be the theatre for the activity of the devil, now allotted to this sphere, who will give vent to his great wrath the more as he knows that he has only a brief time. Instead of the ἐβλήθη, a κατέβη naturally occurs here, because, as a dreadful activity of the enraged enemy is portrayed, it is more appropriate that it should not be expressly marked that the descent of the enemy is involuntary.

ἔχων θυμὸν μέγαν. The great wrath belonging to the dragon because of his antichristic nature, he has shown already (Revelation 12:4). By the overthrow described in Revelation 12:7 sqq., this wrath can only be inflamed anew. To this is added the fact, that the dragon knows that only a short time is allowed him. To identify this ὀλίγον καιρόν with the 3½ days mentioned in Revelation 17:11 “as the time of antichrist,”(3160) is as arbitrary as the reckoning of Bengel, who takes “the short time,” as somewhat longer than the 3½ times (Revelation 12:14), i.e., equal to four times, or four times 222 2/9 years, and regards the period from the year 947 to the year 1836. But in the meaning of the Apoc., the shortness of the time given Satan for his antichristian work on earth, depends simply upon the fact that “the time is at hand,” or that the Lord is soon coming to judge Satan together with his instruments.(3161)


Verses 13-17

Revelation 12:13-17. The dragon, cast down to the earth, pursues first the woman fleeing into the wilderness; but as she also, like the child (Revelation 12:5), is delivered from his snares, he turns to the conflict against the rest of her seed.

καὶ ὅτε εἰδεν. The dragon, finding himself cast upon the earth, must first perceive that thereby all his persecution of the child itself would become impossible; so he employs himself with pursuing ( ἐδίωξε, aor.) the woman, just because she was the mother of that man-child.(3162)

(3162) ἤτις. Cf. the accurate use of this relative also, Revelation 9:4, Revelation 3:2-4, Revelation 19:2, Revelation 20:4.


Verse 14

Revelation 12:14. Already in the ἐδίωξε τὴν γυν. (Revelation 12:13), lies the presupposition afforded by the preceding account (Revelation 12:6), concerning the flight of the woman; but now as the subject is properly concerning the fate of the woman, that which in Revelation 12:6 is touched upon only in the main point, and by anticipation, is expressly described. For Revelation 12:14 does not speak of something entirely different from Revelation 12:6,—as Ebrard thinks, who finds in Revelation 12:6 the flight of the woman to heaven, i.e., the emblem of the dispersion of Israel on earth, but in Revelation 12:14 the flight into the desert on earth, i.e., a miraculous deliverance of converted Israel on the actual earth; an interpretation which already fails, in that, in Revelation 12:6, it takes heaven together with the wilderness misplaced therein by Ebrard figuratively, but in Revelation 12:14, on the other hand, the earth (cf. Revelation 12:13), in the proper sense, while the wilderness found in the same must again be understood figuratively, although it is manifest that all these local designations must, at all events, be understood in the same way,—but that Revelation 12:14 gives the proper execution, and that, too, in the natural place of the connection, of that which was shortly before in Revelation 12:6 removed not without reason,(3163) results from a comparison of the two verses. Precisely the same is the goal of the flight; the τόπος αὑτῆς in the wilderness is the place prepared there for the woman on God’s part;(3164) the same in meaning are the schematic dates—for the determination of 3½ times, i.e., years (derived also, according to the expression,(3165) from the figurative passages, Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7), agrees with the 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6);(3166) the same, also, as to what is meant with the brief ἔφυγεν εἰς τ. ἔρ., κ. τ. λ., Revelation 12:6, is the detailed description, Revelation 12:14 : καὶ ἐδόθησαν

ἵνα πέτηται εἰς τ. ἔρ., κ. τ. λ. The certainty of the flight arranged by God depends upon the fact, that to the woman two wings of a great eagle are given, in order that—for such is the intention of God in his deliverance, by causing wings to be given the woman—she might fly to the place prepared for her on God’s part in the wilderness. The idea itself has grown by the plastic art of the writer of the Apoc. from the figure given in Exodus 19:4 :(3167) As God formerly bore his people, when they fled from the Egyptians, on eagles’ wings, so, for her sure escape, a pair of eagle’s wings is given the woman fleeing from the dragon. Yet it dare not be said that the art. τοῦ ., τοῦ ΄εγ., makes the eagle named here appear identical with that mentioned (Exodus 19:4),(3168) for in that figurative passage a particular eagle is not designated. Ewald’s former opinion, also, that the art. in the Hebrew way(3169) designates superlatively a very great eagle, is not admissible, because the analogy—even though it corresponded better than is actually the case—would give only a purely superlative idea.(3170) Ebrard has developed from his view, that the art. designates the very eagle mentioned already in Revelation 8:13, the thought that “the rescue of the woman would follow in the moment when the final extraordinary developments of the fifth and sixth trumpets are to begin;” or, as he also says, that the woman “shall be sustained by the strength of the eagle which is to bring judgment upon the godless world.” But even apart from the two interpretations, lying at the basis of the false presumption that the soaring of the woman away into the wilderness is, according to fact and time, to be entirely distinguished from the escape into the wilderness, neither the one nor the other interpretation is possible, because in this passage that eagle cannot be meant, which in Revelation 8:13 appears for a very special end, and one entirely foreign to what is stated in this passage. What is said can be concerning no particular eagle; the art. is intended generically,(3171) as Revelation 1:1.(3172) Two wings, like those of the great eagle, were given the woman, for rapid and sure escape. On this account, also, we are not to think of the eagle mentioned in Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 17:7, where, in a parable, the kings of Babylon and Egypt are represented as eagles; the thought accordingly developed by Auberlen(3173) from this passage, that the secular power itself—more specifically, “the two parts of the Roman Empire in the East and West, especially since Constantine”—must afford the woman, i.e., the Christian Church, a secure place by means of Roman civil and legal order, is consequently with as little foundation in the phraseology of the text, as the point of vision in general, which this form of exposition assumes, corresponds with the intention and contents of the entire ch. 12

ἵνα πέτηται εἰς τὴν ἔρημον, κ. τ. λ. As the nature of the escape, viz., by flying on eagle’s wings, so is also the place of refuge described according to the model of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt in the wilderness. To the privations incident to the abode in the wilderness, the ὅπου τρέφεται, κ. τ. λ., does not refer;(3174) the only point made, is that the place prepared by God in the wilderness, for the fleeing woman, is a sure place of refuge against the persecution of the dragon, and that—as God formerly nourished his people in the wilderness—the woman would be nourished in this place of refuge, during the time determined on the part of God.

ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ ὄφεως. This determination is not to be combined with the remote πέτηται,(3175) but with the immediately preceding ὅπου τρέφεται, κ. τ. λ.,(3176) and, therefore, to be explained like the Heb. מִםְּני, Judges 9:21 :(3177) “out of the sight of the serpent,” i.e., far and concealed from it. No addition is to be made, at least as Hengstenb. does: “at its flight or in its fear;” the concise mode of statement presupposes the flight as already accomplished, and states how the escaped woman now tarries in security.

καὶ ᾦκησεν ἐκεῖ ἀπὸ προσώπου ἀβ.


Verse 15-16

Revelation 12:15-16. The dragon cannot reach the woman flying on eagle’s wings; and, therefore, casts a stream of water out of his mouth after her, in order to destroy her. But also by this danger the woman remains unharmed, because the earth absorbs the stream.

ὡς ποταμόν. This description of the great amount of water cast forth by the serpent serves to explain and illustrate the purpose: ἵνα ταύτην ποταμοφόρητον ποιήσῃ, “to sink her carried away by the waters of the river,” as Vitr. appropriately explains the word,(3178) not occurring elsewhere in biblical Greek, but otherwise regularly formed. Hesych.(3179) explains the Homeric ἀπόερσεν(3180) by ποταμορφόρητον ἐποίησεν.

The help afforded the woman imperilled on the part of the earth is described in a way, Revelation 12:16, which is conformable with the nature of the danger, as well also with the nature of the earth; the earth opens its mouth, and drinks up the stream of water. The idea recalls not so much Genesis 4:11,(3181) as rather Numbers 16:30; Numbers 16:32,(3182) since it is thought the mighty flood of water vanishes suddenly and inefficaciously in the widely gaping earth.

The question concerning the genesis of this entire description, Revelation 12:15-16, is essentially a preliminary question, if it be as to whether a prophecy actually to be fulfilled be found here. The allegorists make the matter too easy by comparing the water cast forth from the mouth of the serpent directly with the many waters, Revelation 17:1, on which the great harlot sits, and which are there (Revelation 12:15) expressly explained as a figure of many nations, and who thus reach the opinion that in this passage also the stream of water signifies a stream of people which will roll against the Church, whether they be satisfied with this general sense,(3183) or more definite references be introduced.(3184)

By any allegorical interpretation whatever, we are of course prevented from making of the description in Revelation 12:15 sqq. a prophecy actually to be fulfilled, because of the similar descriptions which precede in Revelation 12:1-6, Revelation 12:7-12, Revelation 12:13-14, not allowing such interpretation. The stream of water from the mouth of the serpent designates as little something actually occurring in the present or in the future of John as the two wings of the eagle which, in Revelation 12:14, were given the woman; but, as there the escape of the woman is represented with a plastic art, which is developed from the allusion to the O. T. testimony concerning God’s preservation of his people, so John here describes the danger which Satan, in his rage, prepares for the woman still fleeing, in such a way as to form living images from the symbolical mode of speech of the O. T. Entirely remote is any allusion to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea;(3185) but in passages like Psalms 18:5-17; Psalms 32:6; Psalms 42:8; Psalms 124:4, where pressing dangers are illustrated under the figure of great floods of water, lies the origin of the peculiar conception of the Apoc. idea; even its concrete form has a certain analogy in Psalms 18:5, where what is said of “the cords of death” and “the floods of ungodliness” is in the same figurative sense as “the cords of hell,” and “the snares of death.” In such views we may recognize the foundation given the fantasy of the prophet, upon which his actual vision is ordinarily based.(3186)

ἡνοίχθη γῆ καὶ κατἑπιεν αὐτ.


Verse 17

Revelation 12:17. The dragon, inflamed only to greater rage ( καὶ ὠργίσθη τῇ γυναικὶ) against the fleeing woman (Revelation 12:16), because of the frustration of his last attack, applies himself to a conflict with “the rest of her seed which keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.”

For the correct explanation of the expression τ. λοιπῶν τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτης, κ. τ. λ.,—and also for the determination thence, according to the context, of the idea of the γυνή,—we must first of all maintain, against Ebrard, that the σπέρμα αὐτῆς is not a seed from which also the woman springs, but only the seed springing from the woman, i.e., born of her, can be designated; so that the λοιποὶ τοῦ σπερμ. αὐτης could in no way be those “who belong to the same seed with the woman.” In violation of the context, Auberlen(3187) further judges the λοιπ. τ. σπ. αὐτ. to be “the disciples of the Lord who have survived the earlier persecutions” (Revelation 12:13-16); for if the hostility described in Revelation 12:13-16 is directed against the woman herself, not her seed, that hostility remains entirely unsuccessful,(3188) so that the subject here cannot be “survivors” in general. This also against Hengstenb., who concedes two different references: “The rest are they who survive the hostile inundation in Revelation 12:15, or are not touched by it.”

A guide to the more specific determination of the λοιποὶ τ. σπέρμ. αὐτ. is contained in the words τῶν τηροῦντων

ἰησοῦ, if the sense be correctly stated by Ewald, whom Züll. follows: “Of those uniting with the more eager and wholesome study of Mosaic laws firm faith in Jesus the Messiah;” but the expression is entirely too general,(3189) than that thereby merely Jewish Christians be designated.

The relation, especially presented by the context, of the statement τ. λοιπῶν τοὐ σπέρ΄ατος αὐτ., viz., to the man-child which, according to Revelation 12:5, belongs to the seed of the woman as the firstborn, has been acknowledged with complete definiteness only by Zull.;(3190) yet while he has correctly explained only the form, but not, at the same time, the subject, he enables us to recognize the occasion because of which this most simple contrast of “the rest” of the seed of the woman, and that firstborn brother, the Messiah himself,(3191) has not been obvious to expositors, viz., the difficulty of correctly conceiving of the woman in the relation as well to the man-child (Revelation 12:5) as also to “the rest of her seed.” The γυνή herself, her υἱός, and the λοιποὶ τοῦ σπέρ΄ατος αὐτῆς, are three ideas so essentially connected that the misunderstanding of one necessarily hinders the correct explanation of the rest. In general, there is no doubt possible as to the fact that the son of the woman is the Messiah; but, nevertheless, that the Virgin Mary is not on this account to be understood by the woman,—even though the ideal contemplation of the writer of the Apoc. always gives the historical person of the Virgin a certain support,

Andr., in agreement with Methodius, has already noted. Any such reference to the person of Mary is rendered impossible, on the one hand, by the ideal description of the γυνή herself, and the events pertaining to her; on the other, by her relation to “the rest of her seed.” By the latter statement—as the λοιποὶ τ. σπ. αὐτ. is designated not only by the final clause of Revelation 12:17, but also by what succeeds in ch. 13, as, at all events, believers in Christ—the expositors are led with essential unanimity to recognition of the fact that the γυνή designates the “Church,” in analogy with the mode of contemplation, according to which, in the O. T., the congregation of God’s people appears as the wife of Jehovah, and in the Apoc. itself(3192) as the bride of the Lord. If now the question be as to the more specific comprehension of this, in general, obvious idea of the γυνή, as well according to the measure of significant features in the description of the γυνή herself,(3193) as also in relation to her man-child, and the rest of her seed; in the first place, all the expositors err who, in the γυνή, wish to recognize the Christian Church, whether they expressly distinguish it from the Jewish or O. T. Church,(3194) and limit the description to the antichristic period at the end of the world,(3195) or regard the N. T. Church in essential connection with that of the O. T., the latter not without its N. T. continuation, and both as one inseparable comprehensive Church.(3196) A characteristic sign that these two modifications of the exposition essentially cohere, lies in the fact that men like Vitringa and Auberlen share the error that the twelve stars (Revelation 12:1) refer to the twelve apostles.(3197) But the view that the woman is the N. T. Church, inevitably miscarries in Revelation 12:5; for it is impossible(3198) to refer the birth of the Messiah to Christ’s attaining life and form in believers.(3199) For this reason,(3200) the reference to the O. T. Church has been received; but, on the one hand, the difficulty concerning the original exposition arising from Revelation 12:5(3201) is not properly removed, and, on the other, a new difficulty is developed. For, if the γυνή be the O. and N. T. Church universal, who are then the λοιπ. τ. σπ. αὐτ., Revelation 12:17? The opinion of Bleek, De Wette, and Hengstenb., also of Klief.,—according to which an actual distinction could not be made between the woman and the rest of her seed, since the woman herself is nothing but the sum of her children, and by γυνή the whole, while by οἱ λοιπ. τ. σπ. αὐτ. the particular members of the whole, are designated,(3202)

Auberlen(3203) defends upon the ground that only in this way can it be explained why the dragon who was enraged with the woman turns against her seed. But the text does directly the opposite in offering a distinction between the woman and her seed. The woman (Revelation 12:16) is hidden from injury on the part of the dragon; just because he sees that he cannot reach the woman herself, he inflicts his wrath, which undoubtedly is directed against the woman, upon another subject still within reach, viz., the rest of the woman’s children. Is it not very readily to be understood, if the dragon wishes now to distress the mother by injuring her children?

The γυνὴ who bore the Messiah (Revelation 12:5), and has still other seed (Revelation 12:17), can be only the O. T. Church of God, the true Israel.(3204) John was taught already by the ancient prophetic representation, to ascribe seed to this Church, and to regard her as mother of her children, the believing and godly;(3205) the description, also, in Revelation 12:2; Revelation 12:5, has originated not without an allusion to Micah 5:1 sqq. But nevertheless, in the writer of the Apocalypse, the view, with all its analogy to the ancient prophetic types, appears peculiarly defined, viz., because he represents heathen Christians (the λοιπ. τ. σπ. αὐτ., Hofm., Ebrard), as belonging to the seed of the woman, and in so far the brethren of the Messiah.(3206) Here John would have a very suitable model in Micah 5:3, as the יֶחֶר אֶחָיך ἐπίλοιποι τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτων.">(3207) designates the growth of the Church from the heathen, who are added to the mother Church as though born of her seed. For the evangelical-prophetical fundamental view, cf. Isaiah 2:2 sqq.; Zechariah 8:20 sqq.; John 4:22, etc. Against this conception, it dare not be said, that nevertheless not only believers from the heathen are brethren of the Messiah, that consequently—beneath the acknowledgment of the reference of οἱ λοιποὶ τ. σπέρ΄. αὐτ., to the child of the woman mentioned in Revelation 12:5—the λοιποί are, in any case, to be regarded Jewish and heathen Christians; for the ordinary view, according to which all believers are brethren of the Lord, is not presented here as certainly as is the ideal person of the γυνή, the mother of the Messiah, the O. T. Church of God, in whose complete unity Jewish Christians are regarded as the genuine Israelites. [See Note LXIX., p. 359.]

Only now(3208) is the purpose of what is described in Revelation 12:1-17, with respect to what follows, to be clearly recognized. In Revelation 12:17 ( ἀπῆλθε, κ. τ. λ.), this distinctly comes to light. By the vision of ch. 12, Satan himself is designated as the proper exciter of the πόλε΄ος (Revelation 12:17) of the θλὶψις, which believers have yet to expect before the coming of their Lord. And, besides, a specific determination of the πόλε΄ος, whose description is here introduced, lies in the fact, that, on the one hand, Satan appears in the form which he had attained in the Roman Empire (Revelation 12:3), as, then, on the other hand, those Christians are designated as the goal of the dragon’s rage who came from the Gentiles to the sonship of Israel (Revelation 12:17), and are to be found within the bounds of that empire. But how Satan now excites war, and what instruments he puts in motion, is made manifest directly afterwards, viz., in ch. 13, which begins with the words that in the later editions form the close of ch. 12 (Rev 12:18).

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

LXIX. Revelation 12:17. μετὰ τῶν λοιπῶν

Alford: “Note, as important elements for the interpretation: 1. That the woman has seed besides the man-child who was caught up to God’s throne, those who are not only distinct from herself, but who do not accompany her in her flight into the wilderness. 2. That those persons are described as being they who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus. 3. That during the woman’s time of her being fed in the wilderness, the dragon is making war, not against her, but against this remnant of her seed. 4. That by the form of expression here,—these present participles, descriptive of habit, and occurring at the breaking-off of the vision, as regards the general description of the dragon’s agency,—it is almost necessarily implied that the woman, while hidden in the wilderness from the dragon’s wrath, goes on bringing forth sons and daughters thus described.” These facts he regards fatal to the view of the flight as the withdrawal of God’s true servants from open recognition. So Beck, who also finds its solution in the doctrine of the invisible Church, and refers to the parallel in Galatians 4:27. In fact, the entire passage (Galatians 4:22 sqq.) affords an answer to an objection which Düsterdieck derives from the οἱ λοιποὶ; for here, as there, the Church, as an institution regenerating and perpetuating through the word and sacraments a spiritual seed, is a mother; while the individuals belonging to the Church, as the congregation of believers, are the children. Our author ignores the well-known principle, Omne simile claudicat.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 12:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-12.html. 1832.

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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
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