Revelation 12:14 - Clarke's commentary and critical notes on the Bible

Bible Comments

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle - Του αετου του μεγαλου· Of The great eagle. The great eagle here mentioned is an emblem of the Roman empire in general, and therefore differs from the dragon, which is a symbol of the Heathen Roman empire in particular. The Roman power is called an eagle from its legionary standard, which was introduced among the Romans in the second year of the consulate of C. Marius; for before that time minotaurs, wolves, leopards, horses, boars, and eagles were used indifferently, according to the humor of the commander. The Roman eagles were figures in relievo of silver or gold, borne on the tops of pikes, the wings being displayed, and frequently a thunderbolt in their talons. Under the eagle, on the pike, were piled bucklers, and sometimes crowns. The two wings of the great eagle refer to the two grand independent divisions of the Roman empire, which took place January 17, a.d. 395, and were given to the woman, Christianity being the established religion of both empires.

That she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, etc. - The apparent repetition here of what is said in Revelation 12:6 has induced Bishop Newton to consider the former passage as introduced by way of prolepsis or anticipation; for, says he, the woman did not fly into the wilderness till several years after the conversion of Constantine. But that there is no such prolepsis as the bishop imagines is evident from the ecclesiastical history of the fourth century; for the woman, or true Church, began to flee into the wilderness a considerable time before the division of the great Roman empire into two independent monarchies. The word translated fled is not to be taken in that peculiar sense as if the woman, in the commencement of her flight, had been furnished with wings, for the original word is εφυγεν. The meaning therefore of Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14, when taken in connection with their respective contexts, is, that the woman began to make rapid strides towards the desert almost immediately after her elevation to the heaven or throne of the Roman empire, and in the course of her flight was furnished with the wings of the great eagle ἱνα πετηται, that she might Fly, into that place prepared of God, where she should be fed a thousand two hundred and threescore days. It is said here that the period for which the woman should be nourished in the wilderness would be a time, times, and a half; consequently this period is the same with the twelve hundred and sixty days of Revelation 12:6. But in no other sense can they be considered the same than by understanding a time to signify a year; times, two years; and half a time, half a year; i.e., three years and a half. And as each prophetic year contains three hundred and sixty days, so three years and a half will contain precisely twelve hundred and sixty days. The Apocalypse being highly symbolical, it is reasonable to expect that its periods of time will also be represented symbolically, that the prophecy may be homogeneous in all its parts. The Holy Spirit, when speaking of years symbolically, has invariably represented them by days, commanding, e. gr., the Prophet Ezekiel to lie upon his left side three hundred and ninety days, that it might be a sign or symbol of the house of Israel bearing their iniquity as many years; and forty days upon his right side, to represent to the house of Judah in a symbolical manner, that they should bear their iniquity forty years, The one thousand two hundred and threescore days, therefore, that the woman is fed in the wilderness, must be understood symbolically, and consequently denote as many natural years. The wilderness into which the woman flies is the Greek and Latin worlds, for she is conveyed into her place by means of the two wings of the great eagle. We must not understand the phrase flying into her place of her removing from one part of the habitable world into another, but of her speedy declension from a state of great prosperity to a forlorn and desolate condition. The woman is nourished for one thousand two hundred and threescore years from the face of the serpent, The empires in the east and west were destined, in the course of the Divine providence, to support the Christian religion, at least nominally while the rest of the world should remain in pagan idolatry or under the influence of this dragon, here called the serpent, because he deceiveth the whole world. The words of the prophecy are very remarkable, The Christian Church is said to be supported by the eastern and western empires, two mighty denominations; and at the same time situated in the wilderness, strongly denoting that, though many professed Christianity, there were but very few who "kept the commandments of God, and had the testimony of Jesus Christ."

Revelation 12:14

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.