Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern

chapter 12
1. Now a great sign was seen in heaven — a woman clothed with the sun, under her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
The woman is not Miryam, Yeshua's mother, but Israel, in its normal sense, the Jewish people, because the imagery is from Isaiah 66:7-10 (compare also Isaiah 26:17, Micah 4:10). Because of v. 17 this cannot be the "extended Israel" concept which includes Gentile Christians (see 7:4N on "from every tribe of the sons of Israel").

Although Israel is on earth, Yochanan sees her in heaven, symbolizing the fact that God protects and preserves the Jews; this is made more explicit at vv. 6, 13-16. Moreover, Mikha'el is Israel's angelic protector (v. 7&N). There is an obvious resemblance between the woman and "heavenly Jerusalem" (Ga 4:26, MJ 12:22-24).

Twelve stars. Some think this means the twelve signs of the zodiac. While writers draw on materials from their own culture, and Judaism became embroiled with astrology well before Yochanan lived, it is clear that his purposes have nothing to do with astrology. At 21:12-14 the number twelve refers to the tribes of Israel and the emissaries of Yeshua, and this understanding is adequate to the context here too.
She screamed in the agony of labor. See Mt 24:8N on the "birth pains" of the Messiah. 

2. She was pregnant and about to give birth, and she screamed in the agony of labor.
3. Another sign was seen in heaven there was a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven royal crowns.
4. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them down to the earth. It stood in front of the woman about to give birth, so that it might devour the child the moment it was born.
The dragon is Satan, the Adversary (see v. 9N); its seven heads and ten horns also equate it with the "fourth beast" of Daniel 7:7, 24 (see 13: IN). It stood in front of the woman, opposing Yeshua, ready to devour the child the moment it was born.

Stars. Possibly natural stars (6:13, 8:12; Mt 24:29), but more likely "his angels" (v. 7; compare 1:20,9:1), who rebelled with Satan against God (see 2 Ke 2:4N). 

5. She gave birth to a son, a male child, the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron (Psalm 2:9). But her child was snatched up to God and his throne;
A male child. Compare Isaiah 66:7; see v. 17&N. Who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron. This phrase from Psalm 2, in its entirety about the Messiah, is also quoted at 2:26-27&N and 19:15; see also 11:18&N.

Whether favoring literal or figurative interpretation of the book of Revelation, nearly all commentators agree that these verses depict the birth of Yeshua the Messiah and his ascension to heaven after being resurrected. This means that Revelation is not simply a presentation of future events in chronological order, since this passage flashes back to past history. 

6. and she fled into the desert, where she has a place prepared by God so that she can be taken care of for 1,260 days.
See vv. 14-17&N. 

7. Next there was a battle in heaven — Mikha’el and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Mikha'el, one of the ruling angels (see 1 Th 4.16N, Yd 9&N). In Jewish popular thought, angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism. Actually, angels are frequently mentioned in the Tanakh, although Mikha'el (Michael) and Gavri 'el (Gabriel; see Lk 1:19N) are the only ones it identifies by name. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology.

At Daniel 10:13, after Daniel had fasted three weeks, Gavri'el explains his delay in coming: "The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days, until Mikha'el, one of the first-ranked angels, came to my aid, and 1 was no longer needed there with the kings of Persia." At Daniel 10:21, Gavri'el tells Daniel about "Mikha'el, your prince"; and "your" is plural — Mikha'el is the Jewish people's prince or guardian angel, who fights alongside Gavri'el against the angels of Persia and Greece. Daniel 12:1, speaking of the End of Days, adds, "At that time Mikha'el, the great prince who stands [guard] for the children of your people, will arise; and there will be a period of trouble greater than any which has been from the time nations began until then; but at that time your people — that is, everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered." (This verse is alluded to at 20:15, Mt 24:21.) Here Mikha'el is seen with his heavenly armies, defeating the dragon.

The aggadah names many other angels, for example, Rafa'el and ' Aza'zel, referred to in the quotation from 1 Enoch in 2 Ke 2:4N. (See also 1:4N on "the sevenfold Spirit" and 8:2N.) Moreover, the tradition expands the roles of Mikha'el and Gavri'el. According to Pesikta Rabbati 46:3, they are two of the four angels surrounding God's throne; but the Talmud states that Mikha'el is greater than Gavri'el (B'rakhot 4b). Mikha'el was the angel who called on Avraham not to sacrifice Yitzchak (Midrash Va-Yosha in A. Jellinek, Beit-HaMidrash 1:38, referring to Genesis 22:11). According to Exodus Rabbah 18:5, it was Mikha'el who smote Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35); the passage adds that
"Mikha'el and Samma'el [identified with Satan; see Yd 9N] both stand before the Sh'khinah; Satan accuses, while Mikha'el points out Israel's virtues, and when Satan wishes to speak again, Mikha'el silences him."

Esther Rabbah 7:12 says it was Mikha'el who defended the Jews against each of Hainan's accusations. When the Messiah comes, Mikha'el and Gavri'el will accompany him and will fight the wicked (Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva).

One of the most moving passages in the Midrash Rabbah occurs at its close. When the time came for Moses to die, Samma'el, the angel of death, came to take his soul. But Moses objected, reciting a long list of his accomplishments to prove that he need not surrender his soul to Samma'el. Finally it was God himself who
"came down from the highest heavens to take away the soul of Moses; and with him were three ministering angels, Mikha'el, Gavri'el and Zagzag'el. Mikha'el prepared his bier, Gavri'el spread out a fine linen cloth by the pillow under his head, and Zagzag'el put one at his feet. Then Mikha'el stood at one side and Gavri'el at the other. The Holy One, blessed be he, summoned Moses' soul; but it replied, 'Master of the Universe, I beg you, let me stay in Moses' body.' Whereupon God kissed Moses, taking his soul away with a kiss of his mouth; and God, if one may say so, wept. And the Ruach HaKodesh said, 'Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses' (Deuteronomy 34:10). Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen and Amen." (Condensed from Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:10)

Though compiled in the fourth century C.E., the writers of the Midrash Rabbah did not recognize that Yeshua was the "prophet like Moses" and had already "arisen in Israel"; see Ac 3:22-23N. Y'hudah 9 alludes to this tradition concerning Mikha'el's role in Moses' death; see notes there and at 11:3-6 above. In the kabbalistic (Jewish occult) literature the status of Mikha'el is further exalted. He is associated or even identified with the angel Metatron. himself sometimes equated with the Messiah. Mikha'el is given a role in redemption and becomes a personification of grace. He is sometimes portrayed as bringing before God the souls of the righteous (see 6:9&N). 

8. But it was not strong enough to win, so that there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9. The great dragon was thrown out, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and Satan [the Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.
10. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,
“Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship,
and the authority of his Messiah;
because the Accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them day and night before God,
has been thrown out!
Is the New Testament merely warmed-over Greek mythology? If not, why does it have a chapter about a great dragon? Yochanan answers here and at 20:2 by identifying the dragon (Greek drako) in Jewish terminology as:

(1) That ancient serpent. Greek aphis, used in the Septuagint at Genesis 3 to translate Hebrew nachash. the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
(2) The Devil, Greek diaboios, "slanderer, accuser," the Septuagint's word for "Satan"; this is precisely his role at Job 1-2.
(3) Satan (the Adversary). I render Greek Satanas twice, first by a transliteration, then by a translation; see Mt 4:1N.
(4) The deceiver of the whole world. Compare 20:2-3 below.
(5) The accuser of our brothers. Satan's accusing God's people is familiar in non-Messianic Judaism; one may say that antisemitism is one of its manifestations.

Moreover, the Tanakh uses "monster language" of its own when speaking of Satan:
(1) Rahav ("Rahab" — no connection with the woman who sheltered the spies in Jericho), meaning Egypt, but with Satan's power lurking beneath (Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 39:10, Job 26:13).
(2) Livyatan ("Leviathan, sea monster"; Isaiah 27:1; Psalms 74:14, 104:26; Jobi 40:25-41:26(41:1-34)); the description in the last passage makes it clear that Leviathan is no natural sea monster.
(3) Behemot ("Behemoth, hippopotamus"; but in Job 40:15-24 a supernatural being).
(4) Tanin ("dragon, crocodile"; Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 74:13, Job 7:12).
(5) Nachash ("serpent"; Genesis 3:1-19, Isaiah 27:1, Amos 9:3. Job 26:13).

In the Septuagint "drakon" (which underlies the English word "dragon") is used frequently to translate "tanin," "nachash" and "livyatan"; the KJV Old Testament uses "dragon" twenty times.

In v. 3 above this dragon is also identified with the "fourth beast" of Daniel 7:7,24.
The great dragon was thrown out. Compare Lk 10:18, where Yeshua says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
He was hurled down to earth. What does he do here? Answer: "Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Ke 5:8). This is confirmed in vv. 12-17, 13:7. What should we do about it? "Stand against him..."(l Ke 5:9-10, Ya4:7; compare Ep 6:10-17. also 13:10 and 14:12 below).

The coming of God's victory (or "salvation"; see 7:10N) is the subject of the next six chapters; the cry is repeated at 19:1. 

11. “They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood
and because of the message of their witness.
Even when facing death
they did not cling to life.
Our brothers defeated Satan, the Accuser, because of God's gracious act on behalf of mankind, the shedding of the Lamb's blood (see Ro 3:25bN), and also because of... their fearlessly doing their part, giving witness to this act of God and his son Yeshua, even when facing death. See Ac 7:59-60N on being martyred 'al kiddush HaShem. 

12. “Therefore, rejoice, heaven and you who live there!
But woe to you, land and sea,
for the Adversary has come down to you,
and he is very angry, because he knows that his time is short!”
His time is short. After unknown ages in heaven (Isaiah 14:11-15), the Adversary spends a relatively short interlude on earth before being banished to "the lake of fire and sulfur" (20:10), "the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels" (Mt 25:41). During this time he is very angry — see 1 Ke 5:8 and vv. 9-10N above. 

13. When the dragon saw that he had been hurled down to the earth, he went in pursuit of the woman who had given birth to the male child.
14. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where she is taken care of for a season and two seasons and half a season (Daniel 7:25; 12:7), away from the serpent’s presence.
15. The serpent spewed water like a river out of its mouth after the woman, in order to sweep her away in the flood;
16. but the land came to her rescue — it opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon had spewed out of its mouth.
He went in pursuit of the woman, that is, went to persecute the Jewish people (v. IN), and perhaps the Messianic Jews in particular. The precise meaning of the details is not clear; the general sense is that God foils Satan's most demonic attempts to destroy Israel. 

17. The dragon was infuriated over the woman and went off to fight the rest of her children, those who obey God’s commands and bear witness to Yeshua.
The rest of her children are Gentile Christians. They obey God's commands, not the 613 mitzvot but the Torah with the necessary changes (MJ 7:11, 8:6; Ac 15:22-23; Yn 13:34; Ro 13:8-10) that give us "the Torah's true meaning, which the Messiah upholds" (Ga 6:2). See notes to these passages. And, like Messianic Jews, they bear witness to Yeshua (see v. UN). R. H. Charles uses convoluted reasoning to equate the woman with the Church and "the rest of her seed" with all believers; nevertheless, even he says that the phrase "originally" meant "Gentile Christians." Revelation, Volume 1, p. 315. See also Isaiah 66:8. 

18. Then the dragon stood on the seashore;
The dragon stood on the seashore to call forth the two beasts of 13:1, 11, his instruments for persecuting both Israel and Gentile believers. 

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