Frustrated in his attempt to devour the woman's child (v. 5), the dragon pursues the woman herself. This explains her flight to the desert described in verse 6. Like Israel in ancient times (Ex 19:4), the woman is carried by the two wings of a great eagle to her place of protection for a time, times and half a time (compare Dan 7:25; 12:7). Hers is the promise of Isaiah, that "those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Is 40:31).
The dragon in his pursuit of the woman abruptly becomes the serpent (vv. 14-15), recalling once more his identity as "the ancient serpent" (v. 9) and the curse on the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15). The "enmity" between serpent and woman now becomes open conflict. In an extraordinary scene the earth, regarded from earliest times as a woman, often as Mother Earth, comes to the rescue of one who is herself both woman and mother. The earth is personified over against the dragon, or serpent. He spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent (v. 15), but the earth in turn helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth (v. 16). The dragon, who had tried to devour or "eat up" the woman's child (Greek katesthio, v. 4), meets his equal here in a creature of God swallowing or "drinking up"(Greek katapino) his deadly stream of water. Yet the woman's real protector is God, who had prepared the desert as her place of refuge on earth (vv. 6, 14). The earth is simply the instrument by which God keeps the woman safe.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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