Revelation 12:4

4 And his tail swept away a 1third of the stars of heaven and 2threw them to the earth. And the 3dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth 4he might devour her child.

Revelation 12:4 Meaning and Commentary

Revelation 12:4

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and
did cast them to the earth
So Solinus F5 speaks of dragons that have power not only in their teeth, but in their tails, and do more hurt by striking than by biting; and the great serpent, which Attilius Regulus and his army fought with, not only destroyed many of his soldiers with its vast mouth, but dashed many to pieces with its tail F6; which serpent, Pliny F7 says, was a hundred and twenty foot long: this is said in allusion to Antiochus Epiphanes, in ( Daniel 8:10 ) ; and designs either the subduing of the third part of the principalities, states, and kingdoms of the known world, to the Roman empire, through its great power and strength; which lay in its tail, in its train of armies which attended it, whereby such a number of nations were drawn into subjection to it, insomuch that the empire was called all the world, ( Luke 2:1 ) ; or else the influence the dragon should have upon the ministers of the word, who are compared to stars, ( Revelation 1:20 ) ; by causing them to relinquish their ministry, and drop their heavenly employment, and fall from that high and honourable state in which they were, into a carnal, earthly, and worldly religion; and that either through policy, cunning, and flattery, or through sorcery, magic art, lying oracles, and prophecy; see ( Isaiah 9:15 ) ; or through the violence of persecution they had not power to withstand; of which falling stars there are many instances, as the ecclesiastical histories of those times show:

and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be
delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born;
just as the dragon Pharaoh lay in the midst of his rivers, in the river Nile, ( Ezekiel 29:3 ) ; to slay the male children of Israel as soon as born; and as the dragon Herod sought to take away the life of Jesus quickly after his birth; and as Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, so the Pagan empire, or the Pagan emperors, took every opportunity to stifle the kingdom of Christ in embryo, and to prevent the bringing forth of any illustrious person; and sought to destroy him as soon as he appeared, who might be thought, or suspected to be an instrument of encouraging and establishing the kingdom of Christ in the empire: the instances Brightman produces are appropriate, and to the purpose; as of Maximinus destroying Alexander the son of Mammea, who he saw was inclined to the Christians; and of Decius taking off the two Philips, father and son, who were favourable to their cause; but especially the watchfulness of the dragon to destroy the man child was very manifest in the Roman emperors towards Constantine; Dioclesian and Galerius, observing his virtuous disposition in his youth, left nothing unattempted to cut him off privately; he was sent against the Sarmatians, a cruel and savage people, in hopes he would have been destroyed by them; and was set to fight with a lion in the theatre, under a pretence of exercising and showing his valour; and many other methods were used to take away his life, but none succeeded.


F5 Polyhist. c. 43.
F6 Valer. Maxim. l. 1. c. 8.
F7 Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 14.

Revelation 12:4 In-Context

2 and she was with child ; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.
4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Cross References 4

  • 1. Revelation 8:7, 12
  • 2. Daniel 8:10
  • 3. Isaiah 27:1; Revelation 12:3, 7, 9, 13, 16; Revelation 13:2, 4, 11; Revelation 16:13; Revelation 20:2
  • 4. Matthew 2:16
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