Study Guide

Paradise Lost Book 12

By John Milton

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Book 12

  • Michael halts his narration to give Adam a breather.
  • He resumes, saying that after the Flood there will be peace for a while, but eventually a guy named Nimrod will get bored and build an empire.
  • He will hunt "With war and hostile snare such as refuse/ Subjection to his empire tyrannous." Then, he and his followers will build a huge tower to rival Heaven.
  • God will observe this and get mad; as punishment, he makes everybody associated with the tower speak different languages so they can no longer understand each other.
  • Adam sees all this and is displeased; he says this Nimrod guy is nuts. God did not give man power over other men.
  • Michael approves of Adam's disapproval and tells him that this is yet another result of the Fall. Man's sins ensure that he will occasionally be subjected to tyrants.
  • Michael continues, saying that eventually God will get so sick of the way people are (corrupt, tyrannous, etc.) that he will select one group of people to be his.
  • This new nation will spring from a man that God named Abraham (not named for a while yet); God will call him and promise him the land of Canaan.
  • Abraham will leave everything he knows and trust in God, who eventually leads him to the Promised Land. He will have many descendants.
  • Eventually, his descendants will make their way to Egypt; in a later generation, the pharaoh will get worried about their growing numbers and enslave them.
  • Eventually, two brothers – Moses and Aaron – will lead them out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land.
  • The pharaoh and his people will suffer immensely as a result; God will send ten plagues in order to make him release His people (the plagues include frogs, lice, darkness, the death of livestock, rivers turning to blood, and the death of very first-born child in Egypt).
  • The pharaoh will pursue his former slaves. While the freed slaves are permitted to cross the Red Sea (Moses' staff has the power to part the sea), the pharaoh will try to cross and drown.
  • Moses will act as a mediator between God and the people since God is too powerful for human apprehension.
  • God will give them a bunch of laws (including the Ten Commandments, which are carried around in a little shrine), government, etc.
  • Eventually, they will enter the Promised Land, but not for a while.
  • Adam interrupts at this point, and tells Michael that now he truly sees; but, he asks Michael, why are there so many laws? Is there really that much sin in the world?
  • After being settled in the Promised Land (Canaan) for some time, there will be wars; God will protect them through judges and then through kings (both of which are books of the Bible).
  • The second king – a guy named David – is in the line of descent that stretches from Abraham (the founder of God's race), and ends with Jesus.
  • Jesus will be the last king ever, for "of his reign shall be no end."
  • But that comes later; in the meantime, David's second son – Solomon – will build a massive temple to house the Ark (a wooden thing that contains the Ten Commandments).
  • Eventually Solomon's followers will screw it up and the Israelites (that's what God's race is called in the Bible) will be captured and imprisoned by the Babylonians for 70 years!
  • After the Babylonian Captivity, things will be OK for a while, but eventually the Israelites will fight amongst themselves and permit a stranger (a Roman) to take over their kingdom.
  • Adam is so happy he's crying; he tells Michael that he now understands. He asks when the big battle between Satan and Jesus will take place.
  • Michael tells him it's not going to be a traditional battle.
  • He tells Adam that the Son will become a man – called Jesus – and will suffer a cruel death for man's sins. He will rise from the dead after three days.
  • It is "this act" which "shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength."
  • Jesus will hang out for a while with his disciples, and then go back to Heaven. He'll come back at some later time in the future and judge the living and the dead.
  • Adam rejoices again, happy that so much good will eventually come from his mistakes. He asks Michael what will happen to the disciples.
  • Michael says they will be persecuted, but that Jesus will give them courage in the form of the "Spirit" of God, which will comfort them.
  • Michael continues, saying the future history of God's people will be complicated; bad people will pretend to be good people, and there will be more persecutions, until Jesus returns.
  • Adam says he now understands everything. "Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best," he says.
  • Michael makes a few more remarks and then tells Adam that it's time to descend from the mountain. Adam must leave the garden soon.
  • He tells him to go wake Eve; he (Michael) has given her pleasant dreams.
  • Adam finds Eve already awake; she says she knows some good will come from their mistakes…eventually.
  • She says to Adam, in one of the most touching moments of the poem: "thou to me/ Art all things under Heav'n" (12.617-618).
  • The angels lead Adam and Eve out of the garden and down into the plain below.
  • They look back at Paradise, "so late their happy seat," and see a flaming sword covering the eastern side.
  • They shed some tears, but wipe them. They take each other's hands, and make their way through Eden (the region that contains the garden).

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