Friday, July 8, 2011

Revelation 12:13-17, War on Earth (The Study of the Apocalypse)

     13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown to the earth1 , he pursued2 the woman3 who gave birth to the male child.4 14 And two wings of the great eagle5 were given to the woman, so that she may fly into the wilderness, to her place, where she is taken care of6 there for an appointed time and appointed times and one half of an appointed time7 from the face of the snake. 15 And the snake threw8 water like a river from his mouth9 after the woman, so that he may make her to be swept away by the river.10 16 And the earth11 helped the woman and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon threw from his mouth. 17 And the dragon was angry at the woman, and departed to make war with her remaining offspring12, the ones who are keeping13 the commandments of God and are holding to14 the testimony of Jesus.15

1 Osborne*** (Pgs. 481-482) points out that this passage “hints” that the dragon’s fall may have been instantaneous due to the fact that “he saw (realized) that he was thrown to the earth”. His defeat was so swift, he had to “come to himself” in order to understand what had just happened. This probably added to his anger.

2 ἐδίωξεν (pursued) 

or “persecuted”. The Greek word can mean both.

     An army would often pursue a defeated foe, seeking to slay the enemy.

3 γυναῖκα (woman, wife)

     This woman depicts the “wife” of God, from whom comes a son. In Hosea God helps us to understand His relationship with Israel using the metaphor of Hosea’s unfaithful wife. Despite rejection from His beloved, He still pursues her.

     The dragon seeks to slay the son, for He knows him to be the Messiah, the chosen one, the Holy One of God.

4 The picture here parallels Israel’s exodus from Egypt where the chariots of Pharaoh (Rahab the dragon in Isaiah 51:9-10) pursue the children of Israel into the wilderness. Osborne*** (Pg. 482).

     Sometimes Israel is referred to as God’s son.

5 τοῦ ἀετοῦ τοῦ μεγάλου (of the great eagle)

Osborne*** (Pg. 482) and Beale* (Pg. 669) see the great eagle as allusions to the OT where eagles are sent as “divine deliverers”. Mounce** (Pg. 245) says this symbolizes divine deliverance and enablement.

     The mercy seat of the ark had two angels with wings outstretched toward each other. There are references to wings in the Psalms which offer the shadow of protection. Jesus paused before entering Jerusalem, lamenting of how long He had desired to take them under His wing, but they would not come.

The passage echos Exodus 19:4, but the closest parallel is Isaiah 40:31. 

Exodus 19:4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I 
carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. NIV

Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD 
          will renew their strength.
     They will soar on wings like eagles; 
          they will run and not grow weary, 
          they will walk and not be faint. NIV

6 τρέφεται (she is taken care of)

Greek: “she is feed”. The force of the verb carries a continual action. The idea here is for the woman to be taken care of by food and protection. If spiritual nourishment is implied, then God would supply spiritual help in the believers time of persecution.

     Jesus was ministered by angels in the wilderness.

7 an appointed time and appointed times and one half of an appointed time”

This refers to the 1260 days in verse 6 and, according to Osborne*** (Pgs. 482-483), is a direct allusion to Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 where the saints are oppressed. Here though, the opposite occurs.

     This may give weight to the idea the saints in view here refers to Israel.

8 ἔβαλεν (throw or cast out)

     This word implies an intensity of force, of doing away with something distasteful. In this case the dragon spews forth a flood to destroy his enemy.

9 στόματος (mouth)

     This word seems to derive from a word meaning sword. That is consistent with the thought of Satan’s tongue as a sword of lies, the opposite of word of God described as the sword of truth.

10 Osborne*** thinks that this is a flood of lies and deceit. (Pg. 483). Mounce** says it is an OT metaphor for overwhelming evil. (Pg. 246).

     The fact that this flood comes from the mouth of the dragon gives credence to this being a flood of lies and deceit, for he is the father of lies and the great deceiver. The imagery of a flood conveys the scope and magnitude of this foul river.

11 It is interesting that it is the earth that helps the woman. The earth is God’s creation. In the beginning, it was good. This reminds us the it is people’s sin that resulted in the fall. Here, we see a part of God’s creation rescuing God’s faithful. On the other hand, Mounce** states that it is unlikely that “nature is on God’s side in a moral struggle between right and wrong”. (Pg. 246).

Beale* points to two OT events. 1. Egypt is swallowed up in the Red Sea in Exodus 15:12. 2. The families of Karah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up when they rose up against Moses and his leadership. (Pg. 675).

     In both cases mentioned, God uses the earth to provide protection and judgment.

12 τοῦ σπέρματος (offspring) 

Greek: “seed”. This is an allusion to Genesis 3:15 where σπέρμα is also 
used there in the LXX.

Γένεσις 3·15 καὶ ἔχθραν θήσω ἀνὰ μέσον σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῆς γυναικὸς καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς· αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν, καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν.

3:15 And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring (seed) and between her offspring (seed). He will keep watch against your head, and you will keep watch against his heel. (As a side note, exegesis needs to be done just on this verse in the LXX as it is different from the Hebrew text.)

     Christ is commonly interpreted as the woman’s offspring. By extension, the church (ekklesia) can be in view as it represents the body of Christ. This resonates with the dragon pursuing the remaining offspring which hold to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

13 τῶν τηρούντων (who are keeping) 

The participle carries a continual aspect. In other words, in spite of what 
is happening to them, they continually keep the commandments of God.

14 ἐχόντων (are holding to)

As with the above note, this participle carries the same continual aspect. In other words, they keep on witnessing regardless to what happens to them.

15 There is much debate over the war with the offspring and who it is that the dragon is making war with. Osborne*** (Pgs. 484-485) offers the different views in which I will list the major ones here: 1. The woman is Israel as a whole and the offspring is a believing remnant, 2. the woman is believing Israel and the remnant is the offspring (one would have to believe that there is a rapture before the final days for this to make sense), 3. the contrast is between the male seed, Christ and the church (Mounce** (Pg. 247), 4. the woman is the “idea church” from a heavenly perspective and the offspring is the earthly church. Beale* (676). This seems fitting as the woman is seen in “heaven” in 12:1-2. Osborne*** concludes that the woman is “mother Zion” who bears her children in Isaiah 66:7-8 and the offspring are both the church/believers throughout the church age as well as the church/believers in the last days.

NT = New Testament 
OT = Old Testament 
ESV = English Standard Version 
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version 
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A 
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV) 
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)
The Greek

Ἀποκάλυψις 12·13 Καὶ ὅτε εἶδεν ὁ δράκων ὅτι ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν γῆν, ἐδίωξεν τὴν γυναῖκα ἥτις ἔτεκεν τὸν ἄρσενα. 14 καὶ ἐδόθησαν τῇ γυναικὶ αἱ δύο πτέρυγες τοῦ ἀετοῦ τοῦ μεγάλου, ἵνα πέτηται εἰς τὴν ἔρημον εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς, ὅπου τρέφεται ἐκεῖ καιρὸν καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἥμισυ καιροῦ ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ ὄφεως. 15 καὶ ἔβαλεν ὁ ὄφις ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ὀπίσω τῆς γυναικὸς ὕδωρ ὡς ποταμόν, ἵνα αὐτὴν ποταμοφόρητον ποιήσῃ. 16 καὶ ἐβοήθησεν ἡ γῆ τῇ γυναικὶ καὶ ἤνοιξεν ἡ γῆ τὸ στόμα αὐτῆς καὶ κατέπιεν τὸν ποταμὸν ὃν ἔβαλεν ὁ δράκων ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ. 17 καὶ ὠργίσθη ὁ δράκων ἐπὶ τῇ γυναικὶ καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ποιῆσαι πόλεμον μετὰ τῶν λοιπῶν τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς τῶν τηρούντων τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐχόντων τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ.

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