Revelation 12:1
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:
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(1) And there appeared . . .—Better, And a great sign was seen in the heaven. The word sign is preferable to “wonder,” both in this verse and in Revelation 12:3. It is the same word which is rendered sign in Revelation 15:1. It is a sign which is seen: not a mere wonder, but something which has a meaning; it is not “a surprise ending with itself,” but a signal to arrest attention, and possessing significance; there is “an idea concealed behind it.” (Comp. Note on John 2:11.)

A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.—All the lights of heaven are brought together here for a description which cannot fail to remind us of the picture of the Shulamite in the Canticles (Song of Solomon 6:10): “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners (or, the heavenly host)?” It is the picture of the bride, the Church. The beams of the divine glory clothe her; she has caught—like Moses—the radiance of her Lord, whose countenance was as the sun (Revelation 1:16); the moon is beneath her feet; she rises superior to all change, and lays all lesser lights of knowledge under tribute; she is crowned with a crown of twelve stars: the illustrious members of the Church (twelve being the representative number in Old Testament as well as New Testament times) form her crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ.

Revelation 12:1-5. And there appeared a woman clothed with the sun — “It was a well-known custom,” says Lowman, “at the time of this prophecy, to represent the several virtues, and public societies, by the figure of a woman in some peculiar dress, many of which are to be seen in the Roman coins; in particular, Salus, the emblem of security and protection, is represented as a woman standing upon a globe, to represent the safety and security of the world under the emperor’s care. The consecration of the Roman emperors is expressed in their coins by a moon and stars, as in two of Faustina, to express a degree of glory superior to any on earth. Never was any image more expressive of honour and dignity than this in the vision: to stand in the midst of a glory made by the beams of the sun; and upon the moon, as above the low condition of this sublunary world; to wear a crown set with the stars of heaven, as jewels, is something more sublime than any thing whereby antiquity has represented their societies, their virtues, or their deities.” Bishop Newton explains this, and the five following verses, as follows: “St. John resumes his subject from the beginning, and represents the church (Revelation 12:1-2) as a woman, and a mother bearing children unto Christ. She is clothed with the sun, invested with the rays of Jesus Christ, the Sun of righteousness; having the moon — The Jewish new moons and festivals, as well as all sublunary things; under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars — An emblem of her being under the light and guidance of the twelve apostles. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered — St. Paul hath made use of the same metaphor, and applied it to his preaching and propagating of the gospel, in the midst of tribulation and persecution, Galatians 4:19. But the words of St. John are much stronger, and more emphatically express the pangs and struggles which the church endured from the first publication of the gospel to the time of Constantine the Great, when she was in some measure eased of her pains, and brought forth a deliverer. At the same time, there appeared a great red dragon — Which is the well-known sign or symbol of the devil and Satan, and of his agents and instruments. We find the kings and people of Egypt, who were the great persecutors of the primitive church of Israel, distinguished by this title in Psalm 74:13; Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3; and with as much reason and propriety may the people and emperors of Rome, who were the great persecutors of the primitive church of Christ, be called by the same name, as they were actuated by the same principle. For that the Roman empire was here figured, the characters and attributes of the dragon plainly evince. He is a great red dragon; and purple or scarlet was the distinguishing colour of the Roman emperors, consuls, and generals; as it hath been since of the popes and cardinals. His seven heads, as the angel afterward (Revelation 17:9-10) explains the vision, allude to the seven mountains upon which Rome was built, and to the seven forms of government which successively prevailed there. His ten horns typify the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided; and the seven crowns upon his heads denote, that at this time the imperial power was in Rome, the ‘high city, seated on seven hills, which presides over the whole world,’ as Propertius describes it, book 3. His tail also (Revelation 12:4) drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth — That is, he subjected the third part of the princes and potentates of the earth; and the Roman empire, as we have seen before, is represented as the third part of the world. He stood before the woman, which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born — And the Roman emperors and magistrates kept a jealous, watchful eye, over the Christians from the beginning. As Pharaoh laid snares for the male children of the Hebrews, and Herod for the infant Christ, the son of Mary; so did the Roman dragon for the mystic Christ, the son of the church, that he might destroy him even in his infancy. But notwithstanding the jealousy of the Romans, the gospel was widely diffused and propagated, and the church brought many children unto Christ; and, in time, such as were promoted to the empire. She brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, Revelation 12:5 — It was predicted that Christ should rule over the nations, Psalm 2:9; but Christ, who is himself invisible in the heavens, ruleth visibly in Christian magistrates, princes, and emperors. It was therefore promised before, to Christians in general, (Revelation 2:26-27,) He that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, &c. But it should seem that Constantine was here particularly intended, for whose life the dragon Galerius laid many snares, but he providentially escaped them all; and notwithstanding all opposition, was caught up unto the throne of God — Was not only secured by the divine protection, but was advanced to the imperial throne, called the throne of God; for, (Romans 13:1,) there is no power but of God, &c. He too ruled all nations with a rod of iron; for he had not only the Romans, who before had persecuted the church, under his dominion, but also subdued the Scythians, Sarmatians, and other barbarous nations, who had never before been subject to the Roman empire; and, as Spanheim informs us, there are still extant medals and coins of his with these inscriptions: The subduer of the barbarous nations; the conqueror of all nations; everywhere a conqueror; and the like. What is added, Revelation 12:6, of the woman’s fleeing into the wilderness for a thousand two hundred and threescore days, is said by way of prolepsis or anticipation. For the war in heaven between Michael and the dragon, and other subsequent events, were prior, in order of time, to the flight of the woman into the wilderness; but before the prophet passes on to a new subject, he gives a general account of what happened to the woman afterward, and enters more into the particulars in their proper place.12:1-6 The church, under the emblem of a woman, the mother of believers, was seen by the apostle in vision, in heaven. She was clothed with the sun, justified, sanctified, and shining by union with Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. The moon was under her feet; she was superior to the reflected and feebler light of the revelation made by Moses. Having on her head a crown of twelve stars; the doctrine of the gospel, preached by the twelve apostles, is a crown of glory to all true believers. As in pain to bring forth a holy family; desirous that the conviction of sinners might end in their conversion. A dragon is a known emblem of Satan, and his chief agents, or those who govern for him on earth, at that time the pagan empire of Rome, the city built upon seven hills. As having ten horns, divided into ten kingdoms. Having seven crowns, representing seven forms of government. As drawing with his tail a third part of the stars in heaven, and casting them down to the earth; persecuting and seducing the ministers and teachers. As watchful to crush the Christian religion; but in spite of the opposition of enemies, the church brought forth a manly issue of true and faithful professors, in whom Christ was truly formed anew; even the mystery of Christ, that Son of God who should rule the nations, and in whose right his members partake the same glory. This blessed offspring was protected of God.And there appeared a great wonder in heaven - In that heavenly world thus disclosed, in the very presence of God, he saw the impressive and remarkable symbol which he proceeds to describe. The word "wonder" - σημεῖον sēmeion - properly means something extraordinary, or miraculous, and is commonly rendered "sign." See Matthew 12:38-39; Matthew 16:1, Matthew 16:3-4; Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:48; Mark 8:11-12; Mark 13:4, Mark 13:22; Mark 16:17, Mark 16:20; in all which, and in numerous other places in the New Testament, it is rendered "sign," and mostly in the sense of "miracle." When used in the sense of a miracle, it refers to the fact that the miracle is a sign or token by which the divine power or purpose is made known. Sometimes the word is used to denote "a sign of future things" - a portent or presage of coming events; that is, some remarkable appearances which foreshadow the future. Thus in Matthew 16:3; "signs of the times"; that is, the miraculous events which foreshadow the coming of the Messiah in his kingdom. So also in Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7, Luke 21:11. This seems to be the meaning here, that the woman who appeared in this remarkable manner was a portent or token of what was to occur.

A woman clothed with the sun - Bright, splendid, glorious, as if the sunbeams were her raiment. Compare Revelation 1:16; Revelation 10:1; see also Sol 6:10 - a passage which, very possibly, was in the mind of the writer when he penned this description: "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?"

And the moon under her feet - The moon seemed to be under her feet. She seemed as if she stood on the moon, its pale light contrasted with the burning splendor of the sun, heightening the beauty of the whole picture. The woman, beyond all question, represents the church. See the notes on Revelation 12:2. Is the splendor of the sunlight designed to denote the brightness of the gospel? Is the moon designed to represent the comparatively feeble light of the Jewish dispensation? Is the fact that she stood upon the moon, or that it was under her feet, designed to denote the superiority of the gospel to the Jewish dispensation? Such a supposition gives much beauty to the symbol, and is not foreign to the nature of symbolic language.

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars - A diadem in which there were placed twelve stars. That is, there were twelve sparkling gems in the crown which she wore. This would, of course, greatly increase the beauty of the vision; and there can be no doubt that the number twelve here is significant. If the woman here is designed to symbolize the church, then the number twelve has, in all probability, some allusion either to the twelve tribes of Israel as being a number which one who was born and educated as a Jew would be likely to use (compare James 1:1), or to the twelve apostles - an allusion which, it may be supposed, an apostle would be more likely to make. Compare Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:14.


Re 12:1-17. Vision of the Woman, Her Child, and the Persecuting Dragon.

1. This episode (Re 12:1-15:8) describes in detail the persecution of Israel and the elect Church by the beast, which had been summarily noticed, Re 11:7-10, and the triumph of the faithful, and torment of the unfaithful. So also the sixteenth through twentieth chapters are the description in detail of the judgment on the beast, &c., summarily noticed in Re 11:13, 18. The beast in Re 12:3, &c., is shown not to be alone, but to be the instrument in the hand of a greater power of darkness, Satan. That this is so, appears from the time of the eleventh chapter being the period also in which the events of the twelfth and thirteenth chapters take place, namely, 1260 days (Re 12:6, 14; Re 13:5; compare Re 11:2, 3).

great—in size and significance.

wonder—Greek, "sign": significant of momentous truths.

in heaven—not merely the sky, but the heaven beyond just mentioned, Re 11:19; compare Re 12:7-9.

woman clothed with the sun … moon under her feet—the Church, Israel first, and then the Gentile Church; clothed with Christ, "the Sun of righteousness." "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun." Clothed with the Sun, the Church is the bearer of divine supernatural light in the world. So the seven churches (that is, the Church universal, the woman) are represented as light-bearing candlesticks (Re 1:12, 20). On the other hand, the moon, though standing above the sea and earth, is altogether connected with them and is an earthly light: sea, earth, and moon represent the worldly element, in opposition to the kingdom of God—heaven, the sun. The moon cannot disperse the darkness and change it into-day: thus she represents the world religion (heathenism) in relation to the supernatural world. The Church has the moon, therefore, under her feet; but the stars, as heavenly lights, on her head. The devil directs his efforts against the stars, the angels of the churches, about hereafter to shine for ever. The twelve stars, the crown around her head, are the twelve tribes of Israel [Auberlen]. The allusions to Israel before accord with this: compare Re 11:19, "the temple of God"; "the ark of His testament." The ark lost at the Babylonian captivity, and never since found, is seen in the "temple of God opened in heaven," signifying that God now enters again into covenant with His ancient people. The woman cannot mean, literally, the virgin mother of Jesus, for she did not flee into the wilderness and stay there for 1260 days, while the dragon persecuted the remnant of her seed (Re 12:13-17) [De Burgh]. The sun, moon, and twelve stars, are emblematical of Jacob, Leah, or else Rachel, and the twelve patriarchs, that is, the Jewish Church: secondarily, the Church universal, having under her feet, in due subordination, the ever changing moon, which shines with a borrowed light, emblem of the Jewish dispensation, which is now in a position of inferiority, though supporting the woman, and also of the changeful things of this world, and having on her head the crown of twelve stars, the twelve apostles, who, however, are related closely to Israel's twelve tribes. The Church, in passing over into the Gentile world, is (1) persecuted; (2) then seduced, as heathenism begins to react on her. This is the key to the meaning of the symbolic woman, beast, harlot, and false prophet. Woman and beast form the same contrast as the Son of man and the beasts in Daniel. As the Son of man comes from heaven, so the woman is seen in heaven (Re 12:1). The two beasts arise respectively out of the sea (compare Da 7:3) and the earth (Re 13:1, 11): their origin is not of heaven, but of earth earthy. Daniel beholds the heavenly Bridegroom coming visibly to reign. John sees the woman, the Bride, whose calling is heavenly, in the world, before the Lord's coming again. The characteristic of woman, in contradistinction to man, is her being subject, the surrendering of herself, her being receptive. This similarly is man's relation to God, to be subject to, and receive from, God. All autonomy of the human spirit reverses man's relation to God. Woman-like receptivity towards God constitutes faith. By it the individual becomes a child of God; the children collectively are viewed as "the woman." Humanity, in so far as it belongs to God, is the woman. Christ, the Son of the woman, is in Re 12:5 emphatically called "the MAN-child" (Greek, "huios arrheen," "male-child"). Though born of a woman, and under the law for man's sake, He is also the Son of God, and so the HUSBAND of the Church. As Son of the woman, He is "'Son of man"; as male-child, He is Son of God, and Husband of the Church. All who imagine to have life in themselves are severed from Him, the Source of life, and, standing in their own strength, sink to the level of senseless beasts. Thus, the woman designates universally the kingdom of God; the beast, the kingdom of the world. The woman of whom Jesus was born represents the Old Testament congregation of God. The woman's travail-pains (Re 12:2) represent the Old Testament believers' ardent longings for the promised Redeemer. Compare the joy at His birth (Isa 9:6). As new Jerusalem (called also "the woman," or "wife," Re 21:2, 9-12), with its twelve gates, is the exalted and transfigured Church, so the woman with the twelve stars is the Church militant.Revelation 12:1,2 A woman clothed with the sun travaileth,

Revelation 12:3,4 A great red dragon standeth ready to devottr her child,

Revelation 12:5,6 She is delivered, and fleeth into the wilderness,

Revelation 12:7-9 Michael and his angels fight with the dragon, who is

cast out of heaven with his angels.

Revelation 12:10-12 The victory proclaimed in heaven.

Revelation 12:13-17 The dragon, cast down to the earth, persecuteth the woman.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven: I see no reason to doubt, but that John was all this while in heaven, whither he was taken up, Revelation 4:2, where he saw in a vision a great wonder, or a most remarkable thing.

A woman clothed with the sun; I find all valuable interpreters agreeing, that this woman represented the church, well enough compared to a woman;

1. As she is the spouse of Christ (though here expressed as his mother).

2. As the woman is the weaker sex, and the church hath always been the weakest part of the world.

(I look upon the interpretation of it by popish authors, with reference to the virgin Mary, as very idle; for when did she flee into the wilderness? When was she with child, and pained to be delivered?) Interpreters also are as well agreed, that by the sun, with which she is said to be clothed, is meant Christ, called the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2, and he who giveth light, Ephesians 5:14; and believers (of whom the church consists) are said to have put on Christ, Romans 13:14 Galatians 3:27.

And the moon under her feet: by the moon, most understand the world, by reason of its mutability and uncertainty, which the church of Christ despiseth, and hath under her feet, minding heaven and heavenly things. But Mr. Mede rather understands it of the Jewish worship, which, as to its times, was much directed by the moon; which hand-writing which was against us (the apostle tells us, Colossians 2:14) Christ took away, nailing it to his cross; so as the gospel church hath it under her feet. The apostle calls them carnal ordinances, Hebrews 9:10, and the rudiments of the world, Colossians 2:20, yea, beggarly elements, Galatians 4:9.

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars; the ministry of the gospel, preaching and building upon the true foundation, the doctrine of the prophets, and twelve apostles, which is the honour of any church.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven,.... This vision begins a new account of things, and represents the church in the apostles' times, and purer ages of Christianity, and under the Heathen and Arian persecutions; after which an account is given of the beast, mentioned in Revelation 11:7, of his rise, power, and reign, and then of the victories of the saints over him and of the vials of God's wrath upon him, and of his utter ruin and destruction; when comes on the marriage of the Lamb, and after that the first resurrection, and the thousand years' reign; and the whole is closed with a most beautiful description of the new Jerusalem state, which is the grand point and utmost period this prophetic book leads unto. This vision was seen "in heavens", whither John was called up to, Revelation 4:1; and where the various scenes, in a visionary way, were acted, both before, and after this; and which was an emblem of the state of the church on earth: what was seen is called "a wonder" or "sign", it being very amazing to behold, and very significative of persons and things; and a "great" one, because it respects great affairs, and wonderful events relating to the state of the church in future times, as well as present: and the first thing seen and observed was

a woman: by whom is meant, not the virgin Mary, as highly favoured of God, and big with her firstborn son Jesus; though there may be an allusion to her, and in some things there is a likeness, as is by some observed; as Mary brought forth Christ corporeally, and God in the fulness of time sent forth his Son, made of a woman, so this woman brings forth Christ spiritually, or the manly birth of his kingdom in the world, or one that should be the instrument of enlarging his kingdom; and as Herod sought to destroy Christ in his infancy, and as soon as born, so the dragon here stands watching to destroy the manly birth as soon as brought forth; and as Joseph, with Mary, and her son, by a divine direction, fled into Egypt, where they continued during the reign of Herod, so to this woman are given two wings of an eagle, to flee into the wilderness, where she abides, and is nourished, during the reign of antichrist; and as Herod, after the flight of Mary, killed all the infants of Bethlehem, of two years of age, and under, that he might destroy her son, so the dragon casts out a flood of water after the woman, to carry her away, and makes war with the remnant of her seed; and as the son of Mary, after he had done his work, was taken up to heaven, and made Lord and Christ, so the man child, this woman brings forth, is caught up to God, and his throne, to rule all nations with a rod of iron. But Mary, and the birth of Christ, can never be intended in this vision, that affair being past and over, and would never be represented to John in this manner, who was well acquainted with it: nor is the church of God, among the Jews of the former dispensation, designed; who were highly honoured of God, on whom he shone forth at the giving of the law to them; who had his word and ordinances, to be a light unto them, and had the priests and prophets of the Lord among them; and whose crown and glory it was to descend from the twelve patriarchs; and who were in great expectation of, and most earnestly desired, and longed for, and were, as it were, in pain for the coming of the Messiah; but to what purpose could such a representation of them be made to John now? much less is the church of the Jews, or the Jewish synagogue, as it was at the coming and birth of here designed, which was an evil, wicked, and adulterous generation, and so bad as not to be declared by the tongue and pen of man, and therefore far from answering the description here; but the pure apostolic church is meant, or the church of Christ, as it was in the times of the apostles, and the first ages of Christianity: the description answers to the first of the seven churches, the church at Ephesus, and to the opening of the first seal; and the church apostolical is here called "a woman", because the church was not now in its infancy, in nonage, as under the former dispensation, but grown up, mature, and at full age; and because espoused and married to Christ her husband, to whom she now brought forth many children, in a spiritual sense, as she hereafter will bring forth many more; and, because of her beauty in the eyes of her Lord and husband, which is greatly desired, and highly commended by him; as also because of her weakness in herself her ministers and members, not being able to do anything without her husband, Christ, through whom she can do all things. And who is further described by her habit and attire,

clothed with the sun; which does not point at her future state in glory; see Matthew 13:47; but to her then present state on earth; and is expressive of that clear light of Gospel doctrine, which shone out upon her, like the sun in its meridian glory, and of the heat of love to God, Christ, and his people, and zeal for his truths, ordinances, worship, and discipline, which appeared in her; and of that inward holiness of heart which made her all glorious within; and of the outward purity of life and conversation, which greatly adorned her; but, above all, of the righteousness of Christ, who is the sun of righteousness, and the Lord her righteousness; which righteousness, as it was doctrinally held forth by her in the clearest manner, was also as a garment on her, to cover, preserve, and beautify her; and is comparable to the sun for its glory and excellency, outshining that of angels and men; and for its spotless purity, being without any blemish or deficiency; and for its perpetuity, being an everlasting one, and even exceeding the sun in duration.

And the moon under her feet; the church is sometimes compared to the moon herself, because, as the moon receives its light from the sun, so she receives her light from Christ; and as the moon often changes, and has its various "phases" and appearances, so the church sometimes is in the exercise of grace, and sometimes not; sometimes under trials and persecutions, and at other times in rest and peace; one while retaining the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel in their power and purity, and anon almost overrun with errors and superstition; but this cannot be the sense here. The common interpretation is, that it signifies the church's contempt of, and trampling upon all worldly things, which are changeable, perishing, and passing away; and which very well suits with the primitive saints, who did set their affections on things in earth, but on things in heaven, who sold their worldly possessions, and laid them at the apostles' feet. Brightman thinks, that, as the moon is a luminary, it may denote the light derived from the word of God, which was a lamp to her feet, and a lantern to her paths, by which her discipline and public worship were directed, and all the private actions of life were squared; which is no contemptible sense of the words: but I rather think the ceremonial law is intended, which is very fitly represented by the moon; it consisted much in the observation of new moons, and its solemn festivals were governed and regulated by them; see 2 Chronicles 8:12. There was some light in it, and it gave light to the saints in the night of Jewish darkness; it pointed out Christ to them, and was their schoolmaster to teach and lead them to him; yet, like the moon, it was the lesser light, the light it gave was interior to that which the Gospel now gives; and as the moon has its shots had that its imperfections; had it been faultless, there had been no need of another, and a new dispensation, but that could make nothing perfect; and, as the moon, it was variable and changeable; it was but for a time, and is now done away; it is not only waxen old like the moon in the wane, but is entirely vanished away: and yet, though it was abolished by the death of Christ, it was kept up and maintained by many of the Jews, even of them that, believed: persons are naturally fond of ceremonies; and many had rather part with a doctrine of the Gospel than with an old custom, or an useless ceremony; and this was, in a great measure, the case of the Jews; see Acts 21:20; so that it was one of the greatest difficulties the Christian church had to grapple with, to get the ceremonial law under foot; for though it was under the feet of Christ, it was a long time ere it was under the feet of the church; and a wonder it was when it was accomplished. Mr. Daubuz has given a new interpretation of this clause; and by "the moon" he understands the Holy Ghost, the Governor of the church, next to Christ, his successor and Vicar, and the minister of him, the sun of righteousness; who is said to be "under the feet" of the church, to assist her in her labour, and in the bringing forth of her man child; and to support and sustain her followers and members; and to be a luminary to them, to guide them in their ways.

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars; by "stars" are meant the ministers of the Gospel, which Christ holds in his right hand, and the church here bears on her head, Revelation 1:20. And these "twelve" have respect to the twelve apostles of Christ; and the "crown", which was composed of these stars, designs the doctrine which they preached; and this being on her "head", shows that it was in the beginning of this church state that the pure apostolic doctrine was embraced, professed, and held forth; for in the latter part of it there was a great decline, and falling off from it; in the times of the Apostle Paul, the mystery of iniquity began to work; and in John's time many antichrists were come into the world: and also this signifies, that the church openly owned the doctrine of the apostles, and was not ashamed of it before men, and publicly preached, and held it forth in her ministers, to all the world; and that this was her crown and glory, so long as she held it in its power, purity, and was both what she gloried in, and was a glory, an ornament to her: and this was also an emblem of her victory over her enemies, and of her future happiness, and pointed at the means of both; that it was by a faithful and steadfast adherence to the doctrine of the apostles that she overcame Satan, and all her spiritual enemies, and came to the possession of the crown of life and glory.

And {1} there appeared a great wonder in heaven; {2} a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

(1) Until now it has been the general prophecy, comprehended in two parts, as I showed in Re 11:1-19. Now will be declared the first part of this prophecy, in this and the next chapter and the latter part in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters. To the first part, which is about the conflicting or militant Church belong two things. The beginning and the progress of the same in conflicts and Christian combats. Of which two the beginning of the Church is described in this chapter, and the progress of it in the chapter following. The beginning of the Christian Church we define as the first moment of the conception of Christ, until the time in which this church was weaned and taken away from the breast or milk of her mother: which is the time when the Church of the Jews with their city and temple was overthrown by the judgment of God. So we have in this chapter the story of 69 years and upwards. There are three parts to this chapter. The first, is the history of the conception and pregnancy in Re 12:1-4. The second, a history of the birth from Re 12:5-12. The third is about the woman who gave birth, to the end of the chapter. These several parts each have their conflicts. Therefore in the first part are two verses: and another of the lying in wait of the dragon against the child about to be born, in the next two verses. In the first point are these things, the description of the mother Re 12:1 and the pains of childbirth in Re 12:2 all shown to John from heaven.

(2) A type of the true holy Church which was at that time in the Jewish nation. This Church (as is the state of the Catholic church) did in itself shine with glory given by God, immutable and unchangeable, and possessed the kingdom of heaven as the heir of it.

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 (או̇ת); 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]


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]

ΠΕΡΙΒΕΒΛΗΜΈΝΗ ΤῸΝ ἭΛΙΟΝ. Clothed with the sun. The idea resembles that of Psalm 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 ἡ 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.]

[3014] Cf. Revelation 1:1.

[3015] Cf. Revelation 15:1; Revelation 15:3; Matthew 24:24; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:13; John 1:51; John 5:20; John 14:12.

[3016] Cf. Revelation 4:1.

[3017] Cf. Revelation 5:1 sqq., Revelation 6:1 sqq., Revelation 8:1 sqq., Revelation 9:1 sqq., Revelation 10:1, Revelation 11:15 sqq.

[3018] Cf. Revelation 10:1.

[3019] Cf. Revelation 4:1 sqq.

[3020] Calov.: “What is signified by the things which John saw in heavenly majesty is fulfilled in the ecclesiastical heaven.” Cf. Vitr., Beng., Auberlen, p. 282.

[3021] Eichh.: “In the air, or, as commonly said, the extreme region of the air; for that same place is to be assigned by the poet to the woman, as was believed to be that of the demons, good and bad, whom he wanted to produce upon the scene.” Cf. Grot.: “In the centre, between heaven and earth. In the matter signified, this means that heavenly and earthly causes mutually concur.”

[3022] See on Revelation 12:17.

[3023] Revelation 1:13-16Revelation 12:1-2. ἐν τ. οὐ. almost = “in the sky” (cf. Revelation 12:4.). A Greek touch: cf. Hom. Iliad, ii. 308, ἔνθʼ ἐφάνη μέγα σῆμα· δράκων ἐπὶ νῶτα δαφοινός (i.e. fiery-red). Here as elsewhere mythological traits of the original source are left as impressive and decorative details. The nearest analogy is the Babylonian Damkina, mother of the young god Marduk and “queen of the heavenly tiara” (i.e., the stars, cf. Schrader, pp. 360, 361). For Hebrew applications of the symbolism cf. Genesis 37:9-10 and Test. Naph. v. (καὶ Ἰούδας ἦν λαμπρὸς ὡς ἡσελήνη καὶ ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ἦσαν ιβʹ ἀκτῖνες). The Egyptian Osiris was also wrapt in a flame-coloured robe—the sun being the “body” of deity (Plut. de Iside. 51). The original figure was that of Israel personified as a pregnant goddess-mother, but it probably represented to the prophet the true Israel or Zion of God (Wernle, 276–288) in which his Christ had been born (cf. John 16:21, with John 14:30, also En. xc. 37). The idealisation was favoured by the current conceptions of Zion as pre-existent in heaven (cf. Revelation 19:8, Revelation 21:8, and Apoc. Bar. iv. = widow) and as a mother (4 Esd. 9:38–10:59). The prophet views the national history of Israel as a long preparation for the anguish and woe out of which the messiah was to come. “Tantae molis erat Christianam condere gentem” (Grotius). The idea is echoed in Ep. Lugd., where the church is “the virgin mother”. The virgin-birth falls into the background here as in the Fourth Gospel, though for different reasons. The messiah of Revelation 12 is not the son of Mary but simply born in the messianic community, and the description is no more than a transcendental version of what Paul notes in Romans 9:4-5. The editor’s interest lies not in the birth of messiah so much as in the consequences of it in heaven and earth. At the same time the analogies discovered between Cerinthus and this passage (by Völter and others) are wholly imaginary (Kohlhofer, 53 f.).The Woman with the Man-Child. Chap. 12 Revelation 12:1-61. a great wonder] Should be sign, as in the margin, both here and in Revelation 12:3.

a woman] Who is this? The two answers most commonly given are (1) the Virgin Mary, (2) the Church. Neither seems quite satisfactory. There can indeed be little doubt that the Son born of this woman is the Son of Mary: nor ought theological or ecclesiastical considerations to exclude the view that Mary is herself intended by the mother; the glory ascribed to her is no greater than that of a glorified saint (Daniel 12:3; St Matthew 13:43), and St John was not bound to suppress a truth for fear of the false inference Pius V. or Pius IX. might seek to draw from it. But it is not in harmony with the usage of this book for a human being, even a glorified saint, to be introduced in his personal character: if St John saw (see on Revelation 4:4, Revelation 5:5) himself, who was not yet glorified, sitting among the elders, it is plain that it is typical, not personal, glory or blessedness that this description indicates.

Who then, or what, is the typical or mystical Mother of Christ? Not the Christian Church, which in this book as elsewhere is represented as His wife: but the Jewish Church, the ideal Israel, “the daughter of Zion.” See especially Micah 4:10; Micah 5:3 : where it is her travail from which He is to be born Who is born in Bethlehem. This accounts for the only features that support the other view, the appearance in her glory of the Sun, Moon, and stars of Song of Solomon 6:10, and the mention of “the remnant of her seed” in Revelation 12:17.

It may, however, perhaps be true that the ideal mother of the Lord is half identified in St John’s mind, and intended to be so in his reader’s, with His human mother: she embodies the ideal conception, just as the ideal of the false enemy of goodness in Psalms 109 received embodiment in Judas, or as the king of Israel who was to come is called “David,” by Hosea and Ezekiel.

clothed with the sun &c.] There may be a reference to Song of Solomon 6:10, where however there is no mention of the stars. More certain is the reference, or at least similarity of imagery, to Genesis 37:9, where “the eleven stars,” i.e. signs of the zodiac, represent Jacob’s eleven sons, bowing down to Joseph, the twelfth. Here, the ideal Israel appears in the glory of all the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, are hers, and of the Twelve Tribes none is wanting. The whole description, in fact, is interpreted in Romans 9:5.Verse 1. - And there appeared a great wonder; and a great sign was seen (Revised Version). This sign consists of the whole of the appearances, the account of which is contained in this verse and the following one. The vision is thus plainly declared to be figurative (cf. the use of the corresponding verb in Revelation 1:1). In heaven. Though the scene of the vision opens in heaven, it is immediately afterwards transferred to the earth. It is doubtful whether any particular signification is to be attached to the expression, though Wordsworth notes concerning the Church, "For her origin is from above; hers is the kingdom of heaven." And Bengel, "The woman, the Church, though on earth, is nevertheless, by virtue of her union with Christ, in heaven." A woman. The woman is undoubtedly the Church of God; not necessarily limited to the Christian Church, but the whole company of all who acknowledge God, including the heavenly beings in existence before the creation, as well as creation itself. The figure is found both in the Old Testament and in the New. Thus Isaiah 54:5, 6, "For thy Maker is thine Husband .... For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved" (cf. also John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32). Clothed with the sun. The whole description is intended to portray the glory and beauty of the Church. Most of the ancient commentators give particular interpretations of the symbols employed. Thus the sun is believed to represent Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. Primasius quotes Galatians 3:27, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." And the moon under her feet. This is interpreted as showing the permanent nature of the Church; she treads underfoot the moon, the symbol of changing times and seasons. It is thought that a reference is thus intended to the futility of the endeavours made to subvert the Church (cf. Song of Solomon 6:10). Others variously interpret the moon of

(1) the Mosaic Law;

(2) the irreligion of the world;

(3) the Mohammedan power.

But the figure is probably intended simply to enhance the beauty of the vision, and to portray the exceeding glory of the Church. We may also imagine the symbol to denote stability of existence in the midst of change of outward appearance, as the moon is ever existent and ever reappearing, though obscured for a time. And upon her head a crown of twelve stars. This image immediately suggests a reference to the twelve apostles of the Christian Church, and the twelve tribes of the Jewish Church. Wordsworth observes, "Twelve is the apostolic number, and stars are emblems of Christian teachers." In like manner the Jews were accustomed to speak of the minor prophets as "the twelve." The crown is στέφανος ( the crown of victory - the idea of which is prominent throughout the vision. Wonder (σημεῖον)

Better, as Rev., sign. See on Matthew 24:24.

Clothed (περιβεβλημένη)

Rev., better, arrayed. See on Revelation 3:5.

The moon under her feet

See Sol 6:10. The symbol is usually taken to represent the Church.

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