Revelation 12:15
And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
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(15) And the serpent . . .—Translate, And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might make her to be carried away by the river. The foe of the woman was described as a dragon for his cruelty and fierceness—as a serpent for his subtlety. The first attack on the woman is pictured as persecution by the dragon: from this she escapes by flight; but the subtlety of the enemy finds another device: the foe (now described as a serpent) pours forth water as a river to sweep away the woman. The emblem is nut uncommon in the Bible. Invasion is described as “an overflowing flood” (Jeremiah 46:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2; comp. Isaiah 8:7-8) The same emblem is used in Psalm 74:2-6 to describe the uprising of a people’s ill-will. The floods, the rivers, the waves of the sea, are employed to express popular movements. The woman that cannot be destroyed by positive persecution may be swept away by a hostile public opinion. It is not the rulers alone who stand up against the Lord and His Church: an infuriated populace may be stirred up against them. The temper of the mob occasioned as much suffering and as many deaths in early Christian days as did the political authorities. Ill-regulated popular impulses, leading to violence and unwise action, whether nominally for Christianity or against it, have done enough of the devil’s work in the world.

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 the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood - This is special and uncommon imagery, and it is not necessary to suppose that anything like this literally occurs in nature. Some serpents are indeed said to eject from their mouths poisonous bile when they are enraged, in order to annoy their pursuers; and some sea monsters, it is known, spout forth large quantities of water; but the representation here does not seem to be taken from either of those cases. It is the mere product of the imagination, but the sense is clear. The woman is represented as having wings, and as being able thus to escape from the serpent. But, as an expression of his wrath, and as if with the hope of destroying her in her flight by a deluge of water, he is represented as pouring a flood from his mouth, that he might, if possible, sweep her away. The figure here would well represent the continued malice of the papal body against the true church, in those dark ages when it was sunk in obscurity, and, as it were, driven out into the desert. That malice never slumbered, but was continually manifesting itself in some new form, as if it were the purpose of papal Rome to sweep it entirely away.

That he might cause her to be carried away of the flood - Might cause the church wholly to be destroyed. The truth taught is, that Satan leaves no effort untried to destroy the church.

15, 16. flood—Greek, "river" (compare Ex 2:3; Mt 2:20; and especially Ex 14:1-31). The flood, or river, is the stream of Germanic tribes which, pouring on Rome, threatened to destroy Christianity. But the earth helped the woman, by swallowing up the flood. The earth, as contradistinguished from water, is the world consolidated and civilized. The German masses were brought under the influence of Roman civilization and Christianity [Auberlen]. Perhaps it includes also, generally, the help given by earthly powers (those least likely, yet led by God's overruling providence to give help) to the Church against persecutions and also heresies, by which she has been at various times assailed. And the serpent; the devil, the old serpent, mentioned Revelation 12:9, being able no longer to execute his malice as a dragon, by the civil power of the heathen emperors, tearing Christians in pieces, but discerning the church secured by the special providence of God, went to work another way.

Cast out of his mouth water as a flood; corrupting the judgments of several persons, who, out of the abundance of error in their hearts, preached corrupt doctrine. Such were the followers of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Pelagius, &c. The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, Proverbs 18:4. The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things, Proverbs 15:28.

That he might cause her to be carried away of the flood; on purpose to ruin the church: and, indeed, such were the ill effects of these heresies, that he who is but meanly versed in the history of the fifth age, will see reason to adore the providence of God, that the Roman emperors, upon the sight of them, did not again turn pagans, and add their force to the malice of these pretended Christians against the sincerer part of the church. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood,.... Which cannot design any persecution before the fall of Paganism, either of the Jews, or of the Romans; nor indeed the Arian persecution, since the casting out of this flood is distinguished from the above persecution, and was after the church began to flee upon that persecution; though it is not unusual for wicked persecutors, and violent persecutions, to be expressed by waters, and they are called proud waters, Psalm 124:1; and these may be said to be cast out of the mouth of the serpent, the devil, who was a persecutor and a murderer from the beginning, and by whom all persecutors and persecutions are instigated, moved, and carried on; but rather, as the words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, Proverbs 18:4; and doctrines, good or bad, may be so called; that flood of errors and heresies, which were poured in between the times of Constantine and the rise of antichrist may be here intended; such as the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ; the Nestorian heresy, which divided his person; and the Eutychian heresy, which confounded the two natures in him; and the Macedonian heresy, which took away the deity of the Holy Ghost; and the Pelagian heresy, which destroyed the grace of God, and set up the power of man's free will: and this flood of errors and heresies may be truly said to be cast out of the serpent's mouth; since the old serpent, the devil, is the father of all lies, and errors: and the above heresies are the doctrines of devils, and damnable ones; and were designed by Satan to destroy the souls of men, and ruin the church: though since this flood followed upon the Arian persecution, and was after the church began to flee, being supported and secured by the two divisions of the empire, eastern and western, the wings of the Roman eagle, it seems best by this flood to understand the irruption of the barbarous nations, which quickly followed that division; the Goths, Huns, Vandals, Heruli, Alans, and Lombards, who were poured into the western empire, and overran, and at last destroyed it; so that this flood is contemporary with the first four trumpets; after which followed the swarms of locusts, the Saracens, which infested, teased, and tormented the "eastern" empire; and after them the Turks, the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates, were let loose, and like a mighty torrent overflowed, and utterly destroyed it; and all this was done at the instigation of Satan, he being filled with wrath, because the empire was become Christian, and his view was to destroy the church in it: for this flood was cast

after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood; along with the empire, and be no more; but his designs were frustrated, and he disappointed; so people, nations, and tongues, are compared to waters in Revelation 17:15; see Isaiah 8:7, which the Targum interprets of the armies of much people.

{20} And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

(20) That is, he inflamed the Romans and the nations that in persecuting the Jewish people with cruel arms, they might at the same time invade the Church of Christ, now departed from Jerusalem and out of Judea. For it is a normal thing in scripture, that the raging tumults of the nations should be compared to waters.

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 Psalm 18:5-17; Psalm 32:6; Psalm 42:8; Psalm 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 Psalm 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]

[3178] Cf. the analogous ἀνεμοφόρητος.

[3179] Ed. Alberti, i. 461.

[3180] Il., iv. 348.

[3181] Züll.

[3182] ἀνοίξασα ἡ γῆ τὸ στόμα αὐτῆς καταπίεται αὑτούς, κ.τ.λ.

ἡνοίχθη ἡ γῆ καὶ κατἑπιεν αὐτ.

[3183] Hengstenb., Ebrard. Cf. Beda: “The force of persecutions.” Andreas: ἀθέων ἀνδρῶν ἣ πονηρῶν δαιμονων ἣ ποικίλων πειρασμῶν πλῆθος [“the abundance of godless men, or wicked demons, or various trials”] coming out of the mouth of the serpent,” i.e., ἐκ προστάγματος αὐτου [“by its command”], as Vict. already indicates. C. a Lap.: “The army of Antichrist.” Stern: “The flood of godless nations and infernal spirits.”

[3184] Calov.: “The Arian heretics.” Vitr.: “The Saracens, who (Revelation 12:16) were defeated by Charles Martel.” Coccejus: “The armies of Maxentius and Licinius, which were defeated by Constantine the Great, and, indeed (Revelation 12:16 : ἡ γῆ), with the forces of the lands in which (Revelation 12:14) the Church had already found a refuge, viz., Gaul and Spain.” Bengel: “The Turks from the year 1058 on.” Wetst.: “The armies of Cestius and Vespasian.” Hammond: “Recent persecutions after the Neronian (Revelation 12:3) on the part of the Romans, who, however (Revelation 12:16), were withdrawn from the Christians by the Jewish war.” Ew. ii.: “The flight of the mother congregation from Jerusalem to Pella.” Cf. Euseb., H. E., iii. 5. In connection with this, Revelation 12:15 is referred to some great danger on the Jordan, possibly an attack by a faction of desperate Jews. Ew. interprets the delivering earth, but not more definitely. Auberlen: “The migration of nations, whose flood, however, is not destructive to the Church, because the earth, i.e., the cultured Roman world, received those wild Germanic masses within itself, subdued their hostility, mellowed them, and won them to Christianity.” But even granting that the allegorical mode of exposition is justified, and that in Revelation 12:15-16 definite events of secular history are foretold, is it possible that the writer of the Apoc. could have conceived of the thought that the masses of nations which Satan casts forth against the Church are “won to Christianity”? This glaring contradiction is not removed by the fact that Christianity is to come into consideration “chiefly, not on its heavenly, but on its earthly side, as a force of civilization” (Auberlen, p. 297). And with respect to actual history dare it be said that the Germanic nations were cast forth like a stream of water out of the jaws of Satan, and were swallowed up by the earth? Does it agree with this, that from this Satanic stream of water the German Reformation emerged? It is a supposition more worthy of being entertained, when Aub., p. 300, recurs to the Turks.

[3185] Against Ew., De Wette, etc.

[3186] Cf. Introduction, p. 47 sq.Revelation 12:15. Another mythological metaphor for persecution or persecutors, like “torrents of Belial” (Psalm 18:4). As the primaeval dragon was frequently a sea-monster, from Tiâmat onwards, his connexion with water (cf. on Revelation 8:10) was a natural development in ancient (cf. Pausan. ver 43 f.) and even Semitic (e.g., Psalm 74:4; Ezekiel 29, 32.) literature. The serpent in the river was, for Zoroastrians, a creation of the evil spirit (Vend. i. 3).15, 16. We have not means for interpreting this description in detail. All we can say certainly is, that it describes the providential foiling of Satanic attempts at the destruction of Israel. Perhaps the most plausible suggestion of a definite meaning of the “flood” [better translated river] is that the Christians of Jerusalem, in their flight to “the mountains” (St Matthew 24:16 &c.) of Pella, were delivered by a miracle or special providence from the dangers of the passage of Jordan: if they fled immediately before the siege was formed by Titus, this was just before the Passover, when the river was in flood (Joshua 3:15). But of such an event we have no historical notice: and it is likely that the Christians fled when they had first “seen Jerusalem compassed with armies” (St Luke 21:20), in the unsuccessful assault of Cestius Gallus, three years before the fall of the city.Verse 15. - And the serpent cast out of his month water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood; cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river... carried away by the river. A flood, in the Old Testament, has several significations. It frequently expresses overwhelming misfortune. Thus Psalm 69:15, "Let not the waterflood overflow me;" Psalm 90:5, "Thou carriest them away as with a flood" (cf. also Daniel 9:26; Daniel 11:22; Isaiah 59:19; Jeremiah 46:7; Amos 9:5, etc.). The flood is typical of every form of destruction with which the devil seeks to overwhelm the Church of God. At the period of the writing of the Apocalypse, it plainly symbolized the bitter persecutions to which Christians were subjected; but its meaning need not be limited to this one form of destruction. Thus all those writers are correct, so far as they go, who interpret the flood of the Mohammedan power, of heresy, of the Gothic invasion, etc. Cause her to be carried away of the flood (παύτην ποταμοφόρητον ποιήσῃ)

Lit., might make her one carried away by the stream: a river-born one. The word occurs only here in the New Testament.

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