Friday, January 12, 2024

The Dragon (12.13–18)


And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he chased the woman who gave birth to the male. And two wings of a large eagle were given to the woman so she could fly into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, away from the snake’s presence. And the snake spit water like a river from his mouth after the woman, so he might make her swept up by a flood. And the earth helped the woman. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had spit from his mouth.

And he was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her children, those who keep God’s commands and hold the witness of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.


The woman represented Israel, and her son rescued from all harm by being hidden in heaven represented the Anointed One. The woman’s other children, ‘who keep God’s commands’, are Torah-observant Israelites. The author interprets the suffering of the Israelite people as satanic in origin. As will become evident in chapter 13, this mythologization of Israel and the satan—as a pregnant woman and as a dragon—does not remove the events portrayed from history. The author appears to have an event or events from Israel’s past in mind, compressed into a densely-packed set of symbols. Whether this ‘war’ corresponds to a specific event (such as the Maccabean Revolt) or to a general sense of Israel being oppressed by gentile powers is not clear.

The particular cluster of symbols lifted from the Hebrew Bible are combined in such a way that suggests the author was basing his mythological narrative on the Greek story of the god Apollo. The son of Zeus was born to the goddess Leto, whom Zeus hid away in a secret place during her pregnancy when she was chased by the dragon Python.



40.31 but those who wait for Yhwh shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.


32.11–12 He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions


19.4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’


16.32 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, along with their households

1 Enoch

56.8 In those days, Sheol will open its mouth, and they will sink into it. And their destruction will be at an end; Sheol will devour the sinners from the presence of the chosen.

Joseph & Asenath

12.9 For behold, the wild old lion persecutes me, because he is the father of the gods of the Egyptians, and his children are the gods of the idol maniacs.

Lives of the Prophets

12.13 And by means of them the Lord will be recognized at the end, for they will illuminate those who are being pursued by the serpent in darkness as from the beginning.

Testament of Abraham

10.9 And immediately the earth split in to and swallowed them up.

2 Baruch

6.9 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.


10.18 He said to them, ‘I watched the satan fall like a flash of lightning from heaven.’

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