And there appeared another wonder in heaven
Or "sign"; which represents the woman, or the church's adversary, Satan; not that he was in heaven, in the third heaven, the place of glory and happiness, for out of that he had been cast long ago; but in his great power and authority here on, earth, particularly in the Roman empire, where the church was labouring to bring forth her man child:
and behold a great red dragon;
the devil, as it is explained in ( Revelation 12:9 ) ; though not he in person, but the Heathen Roman empire, or the Heathen Roman emperors, acted, influenced, directed, and presided over by him; so Pharaoh king of Egypt, and other cruel and persecuting monarchs and states, are called dragons in Scripture, ( Isaiah 27:1 ) ( 51:9 ) ( Ezekiel 29:3 ) ; all which places the Targum interprets of (aklm) , "a king", and particularly of Pharaoh king of Egypt; who is like to a great and mighty dragon: and the Roman Pagan empire, as under the influence of Satan, the god of this world, is fitly compared to a "dragon", for its policy and cunning in circumventing and ensnaring the professors of Christianity; and for its cruelty and inhumanity in persecuting of them; and for its poison of idolatry, will worship, and superstition: and it may be called a "great" one, for its strength and power, which lay in its immense treasure and riches, in numbers of men, in powerful armies, in strong cities, castles and for its large extent and jurisdiction; and a "red" one, because of the blood of the saints shed in it, by which it became of this colour; suitable to the character and bloody practices of the old serpent the devil, by whom it was influenced, who was a murderer from the beginning; and agreeably to one of the names by which the Jews F24 frequently call the Roman empire Edom, the name Esau had from the red pottage he sold his birthright for, and who himself was born red, ( Genesis 25:29 Genesis 25:30 ) ; it seems there were red dragons; Homer F25 says of the dragon, that it is red upon its back:
having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads;
the "seven heads" of the Roman empire either design the seven mountains, or hills, on which Rome, the metropolis of the empire, was built, as the seven heads of the beast on which the woman drunk with the blood of the saints sat, are explained in ( Revelation 17:9 ) ; or rather the seven forms of government which successively should obtain in the empire, as kings, consuls, decemvirs, dictators, tribunes, emperors, and popes; hence these heads are said to have "seven crowns" upon them, as expressive of the imperial power and dignity which were in them, and exercised by them: Mr. Daubuz thinks seven capital cities in the Roman empire are meant, as Rome, Carthage, Aege, Antiochia, Augustodunum, Alexandria, and Constantinople; and nothing is more common than to call chief cities the heads of the countries they belong unto, as Damascus the head of Syria, and Samaria the head of Ephraim, ( Isaiah 7:8 Isaiah 7:9 ) . Pliny F26 calls Babylon the head of Chaldea; and Cornelius Nepos says F1 of Thebes, that it was the head of all Greece; and Syracuse is by Florus F2 called the head of Sicily, as Rome is in Livy F3, and other writers, the head of the world: and by the "ten horns" are meant either the ten kingdoms which should hereafter arise out of the Roman empire, and whose kings should give their kingdoms to the beast; or the ten Roman emperors, the persecutors of the Christians; or rather the ten provinces, or jurisdictions, which the empire was divided into while Pagan: Brightman out of Strabo has shown, that in the times of Augustus Caesar the Roman empire was distributed into two parts, the one was more immediately under the care of the emperor, and the other was governed by deputies; and each were divided into ten provinces; that which the emperor held consisted of Africa, France, Britain, Germany, Dacia with Mysia and Thracia, Cappadocia, Armenia, Syria, Palestine with Judea and Egypt, in all ten; and that part which was governed by deputies were the outermost Spain, and the isles by it, the innermost Spain Sardinia with Corsica, Sicily, Illyricum with Epirus, Macedonia, Achaia, Crete with Cyreniaca, Cyprus, Bithynia with Propontis; so that the Roman Pagan empire, as under the dominion of Satan, is manifestly designed by the dragon thus described. The Jews F4 speak of ten horns which the Israelites had, which when they sinned were taken from them, as it is written, ( Lamentations 2:3 ) , and were given to the nations of the world, according to ( Daniel 7:20 ) ; "and of the ten horns that were in his head", &c.
F24 Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Rab. in voce (Mda) .
F25 Iliad. 2. l. 308.
F26 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 26.
F1 In Vita Epaminond. l. 15. c. 10.
F2 Hist. Roman. l. 2. c. 6.
F3 Hist. l. 21. c. 30.
F4 Echa Rabbati, fol. 53. 2, 3.