Dragons in the Bible
No, I am not repeating the old dogma of the church, which bases upon the Relevation of John, presenting dragons as the representation of evil - which they are not. My considerations about dragons in the bible are a bit more unusual and far away from the beaten tracks. You can also find the thoughts, deliberations and consequences of this textual in my PDF (not in the book, yet) and they set out from a different point than the christian one. I am not the first to bethink this. Actually Andreas Gößling´s book "Drachenwelten - Geister der Schöpfung und Zerstörung" drew my attention to the biblical dragons. If I would be rooted in the dogmas of the church, these thoughts would be heretical.
The best known parts of the bible, where dragons play an important role, are quite open. One part of the old testament, the book of Hiob, describes the female Leviathan, one of the two biblical dragons sent to earth to chastice mankind according to the book of Henoch, in a very vivid language and very impressing. Behemoth is the male dragon, described as some kind of mixed being, while Leviathan clearly is up to the picture of a dragon. Insofar this part of the books I find highly interesting as a dragon is described as a relentless and scary being. In chapter 41 it is written:
1. Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
2. Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
3. Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
7. Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
8. Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
9. Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10. None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
11. Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12. I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
13. Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?
14. Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
15. His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
16. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
17. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
18. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
19. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
20. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
21. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
22. In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.
23. The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.
24. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone .
25. When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
26. The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.
27. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
28. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.
29. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.
30. Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.
31. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.
32. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.
33. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
Beside these two more well-known dragons you can find some more unexpected dragons in some parts where one would at least expect it. I am starting at the very beginning of the Old Testament. You can read in Genesis 1,2: "2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." - In the english translation this sentence sounds rather inconspicuous. But when you take a closer look at the hebraic bible, some certain and striking things will catch your eye. The Hebraic word for "depth" is tehom. This "depth" appears one more time in the Book of Jesaiah, chapter 51, verse 9: "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? 10. Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" - Again you encounter tehom as a term for the floods or the "ancient depth". In other parts of the Book of Hjob (7, 12 and 26, 12) again the sea is denoted as threatening and another name is introduced: Rahab, a name of Leviathan, the female Dragon of the "ancient depth".
The word for "ancient depth" and "ancient floods" has from an etymological point of view the same root like Tiamat, the old babylonic and ancient dragon who is also female. The writings of Enuma Elish tell that Tiamat was killed and dismembered by her grandchild Marduk in a very deceitful way. The world, as it is known to us, was formed by Marduk out of the pieces of Tiamat. This makes one wonder about the features and the nature of JHWH in the Old Testament. The questions become more obvious when one looks at the reason of the grat deluge. The sons of God (=Angels) sinned by having sex with human women and taught them forbidden knowledge. These "Sons of God" are equalled to "breed of Satan" oder dragons over and over again. If these guys who did it wrong were dragons — well, what kind of being was their father?
The New Testament has a very interesting part which seems to be pretty inconspicuous at the first view. You can find it in the Relevation of John. I examined the greek original at this part very closely. Be invited to read this part. I will subsequently point out the particularities. You can read in the Relevation of John 12, 7: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8. And prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven. 9. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" — which leads to the unexpected question: how for heaven´s sake a dragon comes into heaven in the first place? To be thrown out of heaven, you have to be in heaven first.
In Psalm 104, 24 - 27 you can read: "O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein." (Note: In the King James version, the dragon is named - in the german version not). Leviathan playing in the sea? Nice image.
Moses had a lot to do with snakes. JHWH took the dragon of the paradise its legs away - and the snake turns to a staff in Moses´ hands, who leads his people to the promised land: Exodus 4, 1 - 5. Only in the second book of the kings the snake - cult comes to an end. Moses´ distinctive mark was his snake staff, which could assume the shape of a snake. Which contradicts blatantly the part of the bible, where the snake in the garden of eden tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. God also sent snakes as a punishment, but their deadly bites were healed with a snake out of metal crafted by Moses (Numeri 21, 4 - 9). In the Gospel of John Jesus refers to this part: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (Joh. 3,14). Despite all efforts to condemn the snake and the dragon as evil and breed of the devil, you can find many traces of an old culture, which seemed to have a very dragon-based religion and metaphorical language, in the bible.
There are some inaccuracies in the translations of the bible, especially regarding some parts which should be translated very correctly. As you all surely know, dragons do spit fire. Even JHWH does this in psalm 11: "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup." - Spitfire as a punishment from god looks pretty obvious. Jesaia says in 14, 29: "Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent' root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." So the LORD has a winged dragon as fellow soldier.
But now about the seraphim and the angels. As you can read in Jesaia 30, 6 about Egypt: "The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent (=seraph), they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them." - Well, Jesaia did not exactly love this land very much, but anyway: in 14, 29 the Hebraic word for dragon is scharap (spoken seraph), and that caught my attention much. So I made some efforts in comparing parts of the Hebraic bible with the translations. Some parts talk about snakes and vipers, others about seraphim as angels, according to which is fitting better. Jesaia gives some precious informations about how the seraphs look like: (Jes. 6, 2-6) "Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7. And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." - The pearl that the asian dragons play with is often pictured as a fiery one. So the bible actually describes it in this part.
To spice it up, let me show you some parts of the Book of Henoch. Here the seraphim are called by their lesser known name Chalkidri, and you can read in chapter 15: "1 Then sang the creatures called the Phoenixes and the Chalkidri. On this account every bird claps his wings, rejoicing at the giver of light, and they sang a song at the command of the Lord.", and in chapter 12: "1. And I looked and saw other flying creatures, their names Phoenixes and Chlakadri wonderful and strange in appearance, with the feet and tails of lions, and the heads of crocodiles; their appearance was of a purple colour, like the rainbow; their size nine hundred measures. 2. Their wings were like those of angels, each with twelve, and they attend the chariot of the sun, and go with him, bringing heat and dew as they are ordered by God." - This description bears a strong resemblence to the asian dragons.
What you do with these informations, if you are a convinced christian or jew, I will leave up to you. If it does not fit into your worldsight, that the god of the bible shows some more dragon-like features, when you take a closer look, you do not have to believe it. But it gives a very interesting point of view at the iconographics in churches and the dogma regarding dragons. Let the informations stand as they are. Dragons play a very important and prominent role in the bible. Actually one should put parts of the Enuma Elish, where Marduk kills Tiamat and creates the world out of her corpse, before Genesis' first words ...