Revelation 12:13
And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
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(13) And when the dragon . . .—The wrath of the defeated dragon is manifested in persecution of the woman. The present verse explains the reason of the flight into the wilderness mentioned in Revelation 12:6.

Revelation 12:13-17. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth: &c. — When the dragon was thus deposed from the imperial throne, and cast unto the earth, (Revelation 12:13,) he still continued to persecute the church with equal malice, though not with equal power. He made several attempts to restore the pagan idolatry in the reign of Constantine, and afterward in the reign of Julian; he traduced and abused the Christian religion by such writers as Hierocles, Libanius, and others of the same stamp and character; he rent and troubled the church with heresies and schisms; he stirred up the favourers of the Arians to persecute and destroy the orthodox Christians. But the church was still under the protection of the empire, (Revelation 12:14,) and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle — As God said to the children of Israel, (Exodus 19:4,) Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, &c.; so the church was supported and carried, as it were, on eagles’ wings: but the similitude is the more proper in this case, an eagle being the Roman ensign, and the two wings alluding probably to the division that was then made of the eastern and the western empire. In this manner was the church protected, and these wings were given, that she might flee into the wilderness, into a place of retirement and security, from the face of the serpent — Not that she fled into the wilderness at that time, but several years afterward; and there she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time — That is, three prophetic years and a half, which is the same period with the twelve hundred and sixty days, or years, before mentioned. So long the church is to remain in a desolate and afflicted state, during the reign of antichrist; as Elijah, while idolatry and famine prevailed in Israel, was secretly fed and nourished three years and six months in the wilderness. But before the woman fled into the wilderness, the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood, (Revelation 12:15,) with intent to wash her away. Waters, in the style of the Apocalypse, (Revelation 17:16,) signify peoples and nations; so that here was a great inundation of various nations excited by the dragon, or the friends and patrons of the old idolatry, to oppress and overwhelm the Christian religion. Such appeared plainly to have been the design of the dragon, when Stilicho, prime minister of the Emperor Honorius, invited the barbarous heathen nations, the Goths, Alans, Sueves, and Vandals, to invade the Roman empire, hoping by their means to raise his son Eucherius to the throne, who from a boy was an enemy to the Christians, and threatened to signalize the beginning of his reign with the restoration of the pagan, and abolition of the Christian religion. Nothing indeed was more likely to produce the ruin and utter subversion of the Christian Church, than the irruptions of so many barbarous heathen nations into the Roman empire. But the event proved contrary to human appearance and expectation: the earth swallowed up the flood, Revelation 12:16 — The barbarians were rather swallowed up by the Romans, than the Romans by the barbarians; the heathen conquerors, instead of imposing their own, submitted to the religion of the conquered Christians; and they not only embraced the religion, but affected even the laws, the manners, the customs, the language, and the very name of Romans. This course not succeeding according to probable expectation, the dragon did not therefore desist from his purpose, (Revelation 12:17,) but only took another method of persecuting the true sons of the church, as we shall see in the next chapter. It is said that he went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who kept the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus — Which implies that at this time there was only a remnant; that corruptions were greatly increased, and the faithful were diminished from among the children of men. 12:12-17 The church and all her friends might well be called to praise God for deliverance from pagan persecution, though other troubles awaited her. The wilderness is a desolate place, and full of serpents and scorpions, uncomfortable and destitute of provisions; yet a place of safety, as well as where one might be alone. But being thus retired could not protect the woman. The flood of water is explained by many to mean the invasions of barbarians, by which the western empire was overwhelmed; for the heathen encouraged their attacks, in the hope of destroying Christianity. But ungodly men, for their worldly interests, protected the church amidst these tumults, and the overthrow of the empire did not help the cause of idolatry. Or, this may be meant of a flood of error, by which the church of God was in danger of being overwhelmed and carried away. The devil, defeated in his designs upon the church, turns his rage against persons and places. Being faithful to God and Christ, in doctrine, worship, and practice, exposes to the rage of Satan; and will do so till the last enemy shall be destroyed.And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth - That is, when Satan saw that he was doomed to discomfiture and overthrow, as if he had been cast out of heaven; when he saw that his efforts must be confined to the earth, and that only for a limited time, he "persecuted the woman," and was more violently enraged against the church on earth.

He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child - See the notes on Revelation 12:5. The child is represented as safe; that is, the ultimate progress and extension of the church was certain. But Satan was permitted still to wage a warfare against the church - represented here by his wrath against the woman, and by her being constrained to flee into the wilderness. It is unnecessary to say that, after the pagan persecutions ceased, and Christianity was firmly established in the empire; after Satan saw that all hope of destroying the church in that manner was at an end, his enmity was vented in another form - in the rise of the papacy, and in the persecutions under that an opposition to spiritual religion no less determined and deadly than what had been waged by paganism.

13. Resuming from Re 12:6 the thread of the discourse, which had been interrupted by the episode, Re 12:7-12 (giving in the invisible world the ground of the corresponding conflict between light and darkness in the visible world), this verse accounts for her flight into the wilderness (Re 12:6). And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth; when the devil saw that he could not uphold his kingdom by paganism, nor further execute his malice by pagan emperors, but was wholly routed and overcome, as to that power.

He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child; to let us know that he retained his malice, though he had lost his former power, he goes on in pursuing the church of God to its ruin, only doth it in another form; heretofore in the form of a pagan, now under the pretence of a Christian; by heretics, the spawn of Arius and Photinus, (who were before this time), and by Pelagius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, who all were between the years 400 and 500, and by antichrist, the beast we shall read of, Revelation 13:1, with seven heads and ten horns. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth,.... When the devil perceived he had not the power in the Roman empire he formerly had; and that his influence was only over the common and meaner sort of people, or over the earthly part of the church, and the barbarous nations in the world:

he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child: he was enraged at the church, and pursued her with great wrath, who had brought forth a Christian emperor, by whom the kingdom of Christ was encouraged and supported in the empire; and because he could not come at this child to destroy it, that being caught up to God and to his throne, he attacks the woman, the church, in a new way, by stirring up earthly minded professors of Christianity, the Arians, against her, and by bringing in an inundation of the barbarous nations into the empire, now become Christian; for this persecution cannot be understood of the persecution raised by the Jews, under the instigation of Satan, against the Christian church, quickly after the ascension of Christ to heaven, for then the dragon had his place and power in the Roman empire, whereas this persecution was not till after the downfall of Paganism in it; and for the same reason it cannot design the persecution against the Christians begun by Nero, and carried on under succeeding emperors, which were the ten days of tribulation under the Smyrnaean church state, and were now over; these were the pains and birth throes of the woman, the church, antecedent to, and which brought on, the birth of the man child; and the persons that endured them were those that overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and their death, which were all previous to these times: nor does it respect so much the persecution under Julian, which was carried on not by open force and violence, but by subtlety; be abstained from corporeal punishments and shedding of blood, observing that these methods in former times had given the Christians an opportunity of showing their faith, patience: and fortitude, which had been the means of increasing their number; wherefore he betook himself to more private and artful methods, as to content himself with taking away the revenues of the ministers of the word, not suffering any Christians to be in military employments, denying their children the use of schools, encouraging the Jews, their sworn enemies, and tolerating all sorts of heresies among themselves, that so they might destroy one another; to which may be added, that his reign was but one year and seven or eight months, and therefore can scarcely be thought to be pointed at here; but inasmuch as the Arian persecution was the first after the fall of Paganism, and the principal one before the rise of antichrist, this may most reasonably be concluded to be meant here; and this began even in Constantine's time, for by means of an Arian presbyter that belonged to his sister Constantia, he was prevailed upon, towards the close of his days, to believe that Arius was not the man he was said to be, and that he had had hard measure; insomuch that he was recalled, and received into communion, and Athanasius was driven from his church, and banished to Triers in France: and the historian says (w), that Constantine exercised "vim persecutionis", the force of persecution, or a violent one; bishops were exiled, the clergy were severely handled, and laymen taken notice of, who separated themselves from the communion of the Arians. Under Constantius, his son, the persecution raged much, Athanasius being gone from Alexandria, and one Gregory put in his room; and the people being uneasy at it, some were banished, others cast into prison, and others had their goods confiscated; women were dragged by the hair of their heads to the tribunals, and used very ignominiously; three thousand soldiers entered a church on an Easter day, and killed many women and children; virgins were stripped naked, and the bodies of those who died of their wounds were denied a burial, and cast to the dogs; and the persecution did not stop here, but went through Egypt, where the bishops, some of them, were beaten with rods, others were laid in bonds, and others were banished: in Egypt and Lybia ninety bishops were forced away, sixteen were banished, whose churches were delivered to the Arians. Lucius of Adrianople was bound in chains, cast into prison, and there perished; Paul of Constantinople was first expelled, after that murdered, and Macedonius, an Arian, put in his room; and such who refused to commune with him suffered stripes, bonds, imprisonment, and other tortures, of which they died, and others were banished, where they perished; women that refused had their breasts cut off, or burnt, either with red hot irons, or with eggs roasted at the fire to a very great heat (x); with other instances too many to recite. Under Valens the emperor things were still worse, who became an Arian at the persuasion of his wife, and was baptized by Eudoxius, the Arian bishop of Constantinople, who, at his baptism, obliged him to swear that he would defend Arianism, and persecute those of a contrary opinion; and accordingly he moved an irreconcilable war against them; at one time he expelled Melesius from Antioch, Eusebius from Samosata, Pelagius from Laodicea, and Barsis from Edessa; and all the rest that would not communicate with Euzoius, an Arian, he punished, either with pecuniary fines or with stripes; and he is said to drown many in the river Orontes. This persecution went through the churches of Thrace, Dacia, and Pannonia; but what is most shocking of all is, that some chosen ecclesiastical men, to the number of four score and one, were sent to him from Constantinople to Nicomedia, with a supplication to redress some injuries and grievances; at which he being angry, ordered Modestus, the governor, to take them and put them to death; but the governor fearing to do it openly, lest there should be an insurrections, ordered a ship to be got ready, pretending to carry them into exile, but directed the mariners to go in a fisher's boat behind, and set fire to the ship, which they accordingly did when at sea, where all the above worthy men perished at once (y). It would be endless to rehearse all the instances of cruelty under this persecution; it need only be observed, that this was at the instigation of the devil, as all persecution is; and that Satan herein acted like himself, as the great dragon, as he was when Rome Pagan was in power: these were Christian emperors in name, but they exercised all the cruelties of the Heathen ones, if they did not exceed them; and a greater regard was shown to Paganism than to the orthodox religion. Valens tolerated all religions but that, especially Heathenism; all his reign the fire burned upon the altars, images were honoured with libations and sacrifices, the public festivals of the Heathens were kept, and the rites of Bacchus were performed in the streets (z); and this persecution was followed by the inundation of the barbarous nations, of which hereafter.

(w) Sulpitii Sever. Hist. Sacr. l. 2.((x) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 4. c. 3. p. 50, 56. (y) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 4. c. 3. p. 73, 74. (z) Ib. p. 73. & c. 7. p. 304.

And when {17} the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

(17) The third part: a history of the woman delivered, consisting of two parts, the present battle of Satan against the Christian Church of the Jewish nation, in Re 12:13-16: and the battle intended against the Church of the Gentiles, which is called holy by reason of the gospel of Christ in Re 12:17.

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.The Deliverance of the Woman, Revelation 12:13-1713. he persecuted the woman] The reference is probably in the first instance to the Roman persecution of the Jews, in and after the wars of Titus and Hadrian: both the bitterness with which those wars were conducted (Josephus probably exaggerates the clemency of Titus), and the savage fanaticism which provoked it, were the Dragon’s work. So also were the mediæval persecutions of the Jews by Christians: and so is the social or intellectual intolerance which is by no means extinct yet, and which is actually often bitterest against a Christian Jew who does not forget his nationality.Revelation 12:13. Καὶ ὅτε κ.τ.λ., and when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth) Arnolf, a monk of Ratisbonne, says Ussher, who makes himself an eye-witness of the matter, affirms that a portentous dragon was seen in the air about these times (de S. Emmerammo, l. 2, t. 2, ant. lect. H. Canisii, pp. 98, 99). “Having been placed in Pannonia some years before, on a certain day from the third hour to the sixth, I saw the devil, or a dragon, suspended in the air. But his magnitude was incredible, his length so great, that he seemed to be extended, as it were, through the space of a mile.” Admonitius, who converses with him in this dialogue, asks of Arnolf: Did you at all remember at that time any of these things, which the blessed John writes in his Apocalypse respecting the dragon and the beast? He replies: Truly these things came into my memory, but the recollection of what is written in the same Apocalypse especially harassed me, in which is contained: Woe to you, because the dragon is come to you with great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.—[Ussher[129]] de success. Eccles. Christian, f. 46, 47. The same, s. 36, from Glaber Rodulph, relates that such a portent was seen in Gaul, about A. 1000 or afterwards. And Arnolf flourished about A. 1040. Wherefore the visions related by Rodulph and Arnolf were between the beginnings of the short time and of the 3½ times, and then the dragon was certainly already cast to the earth, persecuting the woman: but I am not credulous enough to assent to the statement, that this enemy was then actually seen in Gaul and in Pannonia. Yet I thought that this account ought to be mentioned, because a man of great weight, James Ussher, both related it, and plainly enough assented to it. Let those who find more testimonies of such phenomena, produce them: let those who are strong in spiritual judgment, weigh them.

[129] Ussher’s collected works, vol. ii., p. 101.Verse 13. - And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. (For an explanation of the characters here alluded to, see on the previous verses.) The devil, defeated in his attempts against God in heaven, and foiled in his attack upon the man child - Christ Jesus (see ver. 5), now directs his efforts against the woman - the Church. The interpretation must not be confined to one peculiar form of evil which assails the Church, but must include all - the bodily persecutions with which those to whom St. John wrote were afflicted, the heresies which arose in the Church, the lukewarnmess of her members (Revelation 3:16), and all others.
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