Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
III. God in Majesty and Judgment (4:1-16:21) pp. 218-602.
B. Great Conflict between God and the Forces of Evil (12:1-16:21) pp. 451-602
- “Conflict between the Dragon and God as Well as His People (12:1-13:18)” pp. 454-522.
Osborne notes that the passage of the woman and the dragon, found in Revelation 12:1-6 has numerous parallels in world mythology. This is not unheard of or unexpected, as many of the biblical passages which parallel myths are speaking of the same issues in terms which would be familiar to readers. “One could say that the NT ‘demythologizes’ Greco-Roman myth by historicizing it” (Osborne 2002, 454). God’s truth is spoken in a narrative style which is familiar to the reader.
In Revelation 12:1-2, Osborne observes that while the woman is “a great sign” the dragon who assails her oggspring is simply “another sign” (Osborne 2002, 455). He suggests that the dragon is not referred to as “great” because of having no divine good (Osborne 2002, 456). The majesty of the woman seems to be a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 37, where his parents and brothers bow down to him. The woman, then, would represent the whole people of God. Osborne traces biblical references to the sun, moon, and stars, as well as groups of twelve and its multiples, which may be of significance. The woman is pregnant, which immediately suggests her as the mother of the Messiah (Osborne 2002, 457). though the double significance of her identity may prove difficult to interpret in practice. Again, as she cries out in birth pains, the reader may see the travial of the Church and of martyrs (Osborne 2002, 458).
Revelation 12:3-4 show us the large dragon, a symbol used throughout antiquity to indicate demonic or destructive powers (Osborne 2002, 458). Osborne surveys many references to serpents and dragons in antiquity. The seven heads and ten horns of the dragon may be an indication of the monster’s claim to sovereign rule over the earth (Osborne 2002, 460). With his tail, the dragon sweeps away a third of the stars, an action which some have taken as an astral act of destruction and others have taken figuratively, as referring to the faithful. Osborne suggests that since the Bible doesn’t refer to people as stars, the reference may be to the conflict in which Satan and a third of the angels fell (Osborne 2002, 461). The child about to be born is sought after by the devouring dragon, an event Osborne takes as a retelling of Christ’s birth and the attempts to kill him. However, the child is caught up by God as a sign of salvation (Osborne 2002, 462). This child, in verses 5-6, is protected because he will rule over his people with an iron rod. The dragon then turns his attention to attacking the mother, who flees into the desert. Various attempts have been made to allegorize the action here, but they have not been very consistent (Osborne 2002, 463). Regardless, the woman, whom Osborne takes here to be the Church, flees to a place sovereignly prepared by God. This is apparently a place where God’s people can find care even in times of conflict and persecution, not a place of eternal peace and safety (Osborne 2002, 464).