Verse 15. "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood" - The water here evidently means great multitudes of nations and peoples; for in chap. xvii. 15, the interpreting angel says, The waters which thou sawest-are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. This water, then, which the dragon cast out of his mouth, must be an inundation of heathen barbarous nations upon the Roman empire; and the purpose which the dragon has in view by this inundation is, that he might cause the woman, or Christian Church:-
To be carried away of the flood.] Entirely swept away from the face of the earth. Dr. Mosheim, in the commencement of his second chapter upon the fifth century, observes "that the Goths, the Heruli, the Franks, the Huns, and the Vandals, with other fierce and warlike nations, for the most part strangers to Christianity, had invaded the Roman empire, and rent it asunder in the most deplorable manner. Amidst these calamities the Christians were grievous, nay, we may venture to say the principal, sufferers. It is true these savage nations were much more intent upon the acquisition of wealth and dominion than upon the propagation or support of the pagan superstitions, nor did their cruelty and opposition to the Christians arise from any religious principle, or from an enthusiastic desire to ruin the cause of Christianity; it was merely by the INSTIGATION of the pagans who remained yet in the empire, that they were excited to treat with such severity and violence the followers of Christ." Thus the wo which was denounced, ver. 12, against the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, came upon the whole Roman world; for, in consequence of the excitement and malicious misrepresentations of the pagans of the empire, "a transmigration of a great swarm of nations" came upon the Romans, and ceased not their ravages till they had desolated the eastern empire, even as far as the gates of Byzantium, and finally possessed themselves of the western empire. "If," says Dr. Robertson, in the introduction to his History of Charles V., vol. i., pp. 11, 12, edit. Lond.
1809, "a man was called to fix upon the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most calamitous and afflicted, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Theodosius the Great to the establishment of the Lombards in Italy, a period of one hundred and seventy-six years. The contemporary authors who beheld that scene of desolation, labour and are at a loss for expressions to describe the horror of it. The scourge of God, the destroyer of nations, are the dreadful epithets by which they distinguish the most noted of the barbarous leaders; and they compare the ruin which they had brought on the world to the havoc occasioned by earthquakes, conflagrations, or deluges, the most formidable and fatal calamities which the imagination of man can conceive." But the subtle design which the serpent or dragon had in view, when he vomited out of his mouth a flood of waters, was most providentially frustrated; for:-
Verse 16. "The earth helped the woman" - "Nothing, and indeed," as Bishop Newton excellently observes, "was more likely to produce the ruin and utter subversion of the Christian Church than the irruptions of so many barbarous nations into the Roman empire. But the event proved contrary to human appearance and expectation: the earth swallowed up the flood; the barbarians were rather swallowed up by the Romans, than the Romans by the barbarians; the heathen conquerors, instead of imposing their own, submitted to the religion of the conquered Christians; and they not only embraced the religion, but affected even the laws, the manners, the customs, the language, and the very name, of Romans, so that the victors were in a manner absorbed and lost among the vanquished." See his Dissertations on the Prophecies, in loc.
Verse 17. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman" - The heathen party, foiled in their subtle attempt to destroy Christianity, were greatly enraged, and endeavoured to excite the hatred of the multitude against the religion of Jesus. "They alleged that before the coming of Christ the world was blessed with peace and prosperity; but that since the progress of their religion everywhere, the gods, filled with indignation to see their worship neglected and their altars abandoned, had visited the earth with those plagues and desolations which increased every day." See Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, cent. V., part 1, and other works on this subject.
"Went to make war with the remnant of her seed" - The dragon aphlqe, departed, i.e., into the wilderness, whither the woman had fled; and in another form commenced a new species of persecution, directed only against the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. See on verse 13 of the following chapter for an illustration of this remarkable passage.