The flight of eagles, soaring effortlessly at a great height, is the first of four great wonders that are listed in Proverbs 30:18--19. Two wings of a great eagle are given to the woman, who represents the church, in the prophecy of Revelation 12:14. They enable her to flee to the wilderness, and escape the persecuting dragon. This escape to the wilderness alludes to the exodus of the people of Israel from their cruel bondage in Egypt, where they were slaves of Pharaoh. Their experience was a type or figure of the deliverance of the people of God in the age of the church, from the influence of sin, and "the corruption that is in the world." Paul tells us that "all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." [1 Corinthians 10:11]
The apostle Peter said,
2 Peter 1:3-4
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The story of the exodus is where we find the first mention of symbolic eagle's wings. God said of them, "I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself."
And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
This was a proposal made by God to Israel, and the people accepted it.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
God then gave them the 10 commandments, and became their God. In Ezekiel 16, this is depicted as a marriage relationship.
Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
The people of Israel were "the apple of his eye." And they were carried, as if by an eagle, "bearing her young on her wings."
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
In Isaiah, wings of eagles are promised to those that serve God.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 17, the king of Babylon was identified as a great eagle.
Ezekiel 17:2-5, & 11-13
Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:
He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants.
He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;
And hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:
That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.
The second great eagle in this prophecy was Pharaoh of Egypt.
Daniel described the kingdom of Babylon as having eagle's wings. Babylon was the first of the four beasts in his vision in Daniel chapter 7.
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
Perhaps the reason the kingdom of Babylon was described as having eagle's wings in this vision was the divine revelation that was given to the king Nebuchadnezzar, as described in Daniel 2. This chapter describes the dream of the king, who saw a great image, that was struck on the feet, by a stone cut without hands, and which grew to a mountain, and filled the entire earth. The dream was interpreted by Daniel. It is a unique chapter in the Bible, as it records a revelation from God given to a powerful Gentile king.
The gift of God's revelation given to Nebuchadnezzar is represented by the eagle's wings, in the vision of the four beasts. But the wings were plucked off, Daniel says, as after Nebuchadnezzar died, his successor forgot those lessons taught by God. Daniel said to Belshazzar:
O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:
And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.
But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:
And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.
And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
Cyrus the Persian replaced Belshazzar as ruler over the kingdom of Babylon.
In the vision of the four beasts, the third beast had four wings of a fowl, which are obviously meant to depict an inferior sort of wing. The Hellenistic kingdoms were characterized by pagan superstition. The worship of the Greek gods, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hestia, and a host of others, and the pagan philosophy that went along with those beliefs, was depicted by wings of a fowl, as being a much inferior condition, compared to the understanding given to king Nebuchadnezzar. Such inferior "wings" represent false prophets and false teachings.
Antiochus IV, one of the Seleucid kings, was depicted as the horn of a goat that grew up to heaven, and threw stars and the host of heaven to the earth, in the prophecy of Daniel 8. Antiochus was responsible for the corruption of the cosmology of the OT. His policies introduced changes that identified the earth's crust with the rigid heaven or "firmament."
The church in the New Testament had the gift of prophecy, and so, it too is described as having eagle's wings.
And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
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.
The eagle represented God at the exodus, and the wings of eagles that are given to the woman, I suggest, are symbolic of prophecy. The inferior wings of a fowl are symbolic of false prophecy and superstition, such as was prevalent in the hellenistic era.
Jesus warned many times against false prophets, and in his Olivet discourse he referred to an "abomination of desolation," which alludes to the prophecy of Daniel 9:27, which speaks of a "wing of abominations" in the holy temple, which the NT shows was symbolic of the church. Could the "wing of abominations" refer to flawed interpretations of prophecy that have become prevalent in the church?
Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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