Revelation 12:16
And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
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(16) And the earth . . .—Translate, And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and drank up the river, &c. This is generally understood of some earthly power which is raised up to protect the Church against persecution. Just as Persia was raised up to aid Israel after they had been swept away by the flood of Babylonish conquest, so does help come to the persecuted Church through the cultured Roman world, or through some other worldly power, “barbarian and godless in its beginning, but destined in due time to embrace, in name at least, the faith once abhorred, and to introduce that new order of things which should make a nominal Christianity the religion of states and nations, and secure it for ever against the risk of a repetition of bygone persecutions” (Dr. Vaughan). The passage seems to want a wider interpretation. By the flood or river we understand all great popular movements against Christianity: the earth swallows up these; they diffuse themselves for a time, but mother earth absorbs them all, for the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, and no movement hostile to truth can permanently succeed: the eternal laws of truth and right are ultimately found stronger than all the half truths, whole falsehoods, and selfishness which give force to such movements. In a mysterious way, every devil-born flood of opinion, or violence, or sentiment, will sink beneath the surface; they rise like a river, they are tasted, and then rejected. The laws of the earth are against their permanent success. The finest epic of the world might have for its motto: “The earth helped the woman.” Creation is ultimately a witness for righteousness and truth. It is not one nation, one age, which is represented here; it is an eternal law.

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 earth helped the woman - The earth seemed to sympathize with the woman in her persecutions, and to interpose to save her. The meaning is, that a state of things would exist in regard to the church thus driven into obscurity, which would be well represented by what is here said to occur. It was cut off from human aid. It was still in danger; still persecuted. In this state it was nourished from some unseen source. It was enabled to avoid the direct attacks of the enemy, and when he attacked it in a new form, a new mode of intervention in its behalf was granted, as if the earth should open and swallow up a flood of water. We are not, therefore, to look for any literal fulfillment of this, as if the earth interposed in some marvelous way to aid the church. The sense is, that, in that state of obscurity and solitude, the divine interposition was manifested, in an unexpected manner, as if, when an impetuous stream was rolling along that threatened to sweep everything away, a chasm should suddenly open in the earth and absorb it. During the dark ages many such interventions occurred, saving the church from utter destruction. Overflowing waters are often in the Scriptures an emblem of mighty enemies. Psalm 124:2-5, "if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: then the proud waters had gone over our soul." Psalm 18:16, "he sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." Jeremiah 47:2, "behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land," etc. Compare Jeremiah 46:7-8, and notes on Isaiah 8:7-8.

And the earth opened her mouth - A chasm was made sufficient to absorb the waters. That is, John saw that the church was safe from this attack, and that, in order to preserve it, there was an interposition as marked and wonderful as if the earth should suddenly open and swallow up a mighty flood.

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 earth helped the woman: there are divers notions here of the earth; to me theirs seemeth most probable, who understand by the earth the Goths and Vandals, &c., who, Anno 410, invaded the Roman empire, and gave it continual trouble, till they had put an end to the western empire, Anno 480. By whose continual contests with the subjects of the Roman empire, the church enjoyed some quiet in the exercises of religion; and though all this while they were troubled by the broods of Arians, Pelagians, Nestorians, and Eutychians, yet they could do them no great hurt; and the church had a liberty to condemn them by the second and third general councils; in which, it is probable, there were many too that deserved no better name than the earth.

And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth; but yet they served, in a great measure, to swallow up that flood of heresies which the devil threw out of his mouth by these heretics.

And the earth helped the woman,.... By opening itself, and taking in what the serpent cast out, so that it could not reach the woman, and annoy her, as follows:

and the earth opened her mouth; as it did when it swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 16:30; to which history this may have some respect:

and swallowed up the flood which the dragon east out of his mouth; if the flood refers to the Arian persecution, then the earth helping the woman, the church, and swallowing up this flood, may respect the Goths, who broke into the Roman provinces, under their king, Athanaricus, and fell upon the Arians, with great rage and cruelty, and infested the Roman provinces, which were nearer; they seized upon Thrace, which was the occasion of tranquillity to the orthodox; for Valens being moved by these things, desisted from persecuting them, and, leaving Antioch, he went to Constantinople to form measures for the carrying on of the war against the Goths (a); and thus the earth helped the woman. But if, by the flood, the errors and heresies of those times are meant, then the councils may be intended by the earth; which, though they consisted of men that were earthly, and greatly apostatized in other things, yet opposed, refuted, and condemned these heresies and errors, and so were the means of preserving the church from them, as some think; though others are of opinion that the barbarous nations are in this also designed, who embracing Arianism, and the corrupt religion, where they came, by which they were, in, some measure, mollified and reconciled to the Christians, did not seek to root them out, and destroy them, as Satan hoped they would; but since they themselves, with the Mahometans, are meant by the flood, the earth must be interpreted of the corrupt and antichristian church, the idolaters which sustained the force of this inundation, and for some time repelled it, and so secured the true church; and when the western empire was overrun by it, as by the Goths, &c. idolaters, earthly minded men, and carnal professors, were the sufferers, and bore the shock of it; and when the eastern empire was overrun by the Saracens, the tormenting locusts, the green things, grass and trees, were not hurt by them; none of the sealed ones, only those who were not sealed, Revelation 9:4; and the Turkish inundation was a scourge upon the antichristian party: so that it was the earth, or earthly part of professors, the idolaters, that bore the fury and force of this flood, and broke it off from the church. And so sometimes wicked men are helpful to the saints, as the Philistines were serviceable to David, to screen him from the fury of Saul; and Lysias, the chief captain, and Felix and Festus, Roman governors, were instruments of preserving the Apostle Paul from falling into the hands of the Jews, his enemies; and the Christians that were scattered by the persecution at Jerusalem found refuge and safety among the Gentiles.

(a) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 4. c. 3. p. 80.

{21} And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

(21) That is, there was offered in their place other Jews, to the Romans and nations raging against that people: and it came to pass by this that the Church of God was saved entirely from that violence, that most raging flood of persecution which the dragon vomited out being completely exhausted in the destroying of those other Jews.

Revelation 12:16. The dragon is unexpectedly baffled by the earth, as the woman’s ally, which swallows the persecutors like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16:30-32). This enigmatic detail has not yet been paralleled from Jewish or early Christian literature, for Protev. Jacobi, 22 (cited by Selwyn, 7–9) is even more remote than 4 Esd. 13:44. Probably it was retained from the astrological setting of the original myth: Cetos, the aquatic dragon of the southern heavens, which astrologically is a watery region, casts forth the river of Êridanos, which is swallowed up in the zodiac as it flows down the heavens into the underworld.

Verse 16. - And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth; swallowed up the river (Revised Version). "The earth" frequently, but not invariably, in the Revelation signifies "the wicked." It is doubtful, therefore, how far the figure here employed should be pressed. What is certain is that the writer intends to express the idea that the Church is preserved in a wonderful and even miraculous way from the efforts of the devil. Further than this we cannot proceed safely. Possibly we may see in the passage an allusion to the world embracing Christianity, by which the instrument of Satan's ill will became a defence to the Church; though an earlier period and earlier deliverances seem more likely to be intended (such as the conversion of St. Paul); for after endeavouring to destroy the woman at one stroke, the dragon proceeds to war with her seed. The words recall another incident in the history of the Israelitish flight from Egypt and sojourn in the wilderness, viz. that of the destruction of Korah and his company; though, of course, the nature of the incidents is not the same in both cases. Revelation 12:16
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