Can Christians Like Dragons?
Expanded and Updated Edition!
The Original: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Can Christians Like Dragons?”
Original’s Twin: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Is Liking Dragons unChristian?”
Update Installment 2: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Honor and Praise”
Update Installment 3: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Draconic Traits”
In other words, is it un-Christian to be a fan of massive, fire-breathing reptiles? The reason this question is being addressed is because many Christians have decided that dragons are satanic/demonic. They say that this is the only conclusion you can draw from what we know of dragons in The Holy Bible. But is this true or is there more than what meets the common eye in The Sacred Book? Let us explore The Bible, ancient legends, and modern science to see if there is anything that could be being missed.
***Note that this is much longer and more detailed than the original. If you want a shorter read, go to one of the links above, and you will get the basics. If, however, you are more curious and adventurous, like I am sure many dragon-lovers are, then read on! Fascinating facts await you below! Also, no need to read it all in one sitting. There is no shame in reading a section now and another later and so on. Please enjoy your time here, whatever you choose to do!
THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE
The place one must always begin with is The Sacred Scriptures. Nothing anyone else says matters even an inch if it does not line up with what God has revealed to us in His Pure Word.
Proverbs 30:5-6 KJV, “Every Word of God [Eloah] is pure [Heb. “purified”]: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
Note: brackets will be used to show the Hebrew names of God, the KJV Marginal Notes, and other minor things for clarity.
Before we can begin, though, it should be noted that if one is using a modern translation of The Holy Bible, then one will find following along in The Biblical Evidence difficult, as some have had with the original version of this article. Most translations have removed the word “dragon” from the entire Bible except for the 13 uses in the book of Revelation. This is probably why there is so much confusion as to what God really told us about these magnificent creatures He made.
Therefore, I recommend you look up all passages in the Authorized King James Version (KJV or AV; 1769), which is the base-translation of this treatise. However, nearly the same results can be found with other old translations, such as the Geneva Bible (GNV or GB; 1587), Bishops’ Bible (Bish; 1568), Douay-Rheims Bible (DV, DRA or DRB; 1899), and Young’s Literal Translation (YLT; 1863). These and other translations will be heavily consulted.
Recommended Website: www.BlueLetterBible.org/ Blue Letter Bible
Recommended FREE Program: www.E-Sword.net/ E-Sword, add all free downloadable content (DLC)
***TOP Recommendation: www.SwordSearcher.com/ SwordSearcher, buy latest edition
The Masoretic Hebrew word used for dragon(s) is “tanniyn” and shows up 29 times in The Old Testament. Although, the English word dragon is not always used, even in the KJV, so searching for that word will not find all the uses. These verses are divided up in this treatise into general uses of tanniyn, specifically named dragons, similar creatures to dragons, and other assorted references. This first part of the treatise will only cover dragons in general.
Part 1: Dragons in General
These are dragons who have no names and spoken of the same way we would mention animals someone finds in a Zoo. Just the species, its habitats, some behavioral traits, and a few physical characteristics.
Installment 1: Punishments and Curses
Unfortunately for dragons, they are often the subject of God’s punishments on nations. Let us look at the following verses.
Isaiah 13:19-22—And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ Excellency, shall be as when God [Elohim] overthrew [Heb. “as the overthrowing of God with”] Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert [Heb. “Ziim”] shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures [Heb. “Ochim”]; and owls [or, “ostriches”: Heb. “daughters of the owl”] shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands [Heb. “Iim”] shall cry in their desolate houses [or, “palaces”], and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.
If one uses the New International Version (NIV, 1973) they will find Isaiah 13:22 substitutes jackals for dragons, but the NIV also puts jackals in place of “doleful creatures” in v21 even though it is a different Hebrew word—“oach”, which means an animal which howls. Interestingly, Wycliffe’s Translation (first English translation ever; WYC, 1388) puts dragon in v21, but as already pointed out, it is not the word tanniyn so is unlikely to be the same creature. Unfortunately for Bible Studies, this word for “howling creature” is only used this once. The Pulpit Commentary (Pulpit, circa 1890) notes that Mr. Cheyne (Robert Murray M’Cheyne? 1813-1843) translates this as “hyena”, which hyenas are known to “howl” in their own way.
God is not clear what “tsiyiy”, or desert-dwelling animal, is being referred to in v21 but the Bishops’ Bible translates this as “fearefull wylde beastes [fearful wild beasts]”. According to Pulpit we have found lions, jackals, and porcupines in the ruins of Babylon in Iraq. This Hebrew word has a very limited usage in The Bible, with a total of six cases and none of them very clear on a specific creature. Albert Barnes’ Explanatory and Practical Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Barnes, 1832-1872) says the Latin Vulgate (circa 382 AD; Anno Domini, “in the year of our Lord”) could be translated “dragons”, which John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (Gill, 1690-1771) states “The Targum renders it by a word which signifies monstrous, astonishing creatures”, but as discussed above this is not tanniyn. Barnes further states that Bochart (Samuel Bochart? 1599-1667) suggests catamounts—or wild cats of any kind—are the intended meaning, to which Gill agrees by pointing out, “The Hebrew word does not much differ from the Arabic one used for “wild cats”.” This would add credibility to the lion which is known to, at least at one time, live in the ruins.
The full Hebrew meaning of “bath ya`anah” in v21 is “daughters of the owl”. It is unclear what this exactly means so it is easy to see why it was shortened by both the KJV and NIV to just owls. Barnes does note that the Septuagint (LXX, 285-247 BC; Before Christ) renders this as “Sirens”, but this is just due to the base meaning of ya`anah, which is “sound or clamor”. Pulpit quotes Sir A. Layard (Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1817-1894) that “A large grey owl is found in great numbers, frequently in flocks of nearly a hundred, in the low shrubs among the ruins of Babylon”. Pulpit also quotes a Mr. Rich (no info available), “In most of the cavities of the Babil Mound there are numbers of owls and bats.” Most commentators and several translations—including the KJV Marginal Notes—conclude this is the ostrich, and according to Barnes Bochart argues extensively to this cause.
Now we reach a very strange translation in the KJV: satyrs! Unfortunately for those mythology lovers out there, “sa`iyr” does not likely literally mean a satyr, and is only translated this way by the KJV twice out of 59 times. The most common translation is that of the NIV here: a goat or a kid, which is a young goat. If this translation were to be used, a kid would likely be the best fit, since very often this word is used with the phrase “of a goat”, such as a doe (she-goat) in Genesis 37:31 and a buck (male goat) in Daniel 8:21. But as Pulpit confirms, this word simply means “shaggy” or “hairy one” and notes that a Dr. Kay (no info available) “gives “baboons,” since the Moko—a kind of baboon—is known in Babylonia.” Apparently goats are not found in Babylonia, but this would go along with the rendering of the Bishops’ Bible: “Apes”.
The Hebrew word “iy”, which is translated as “the wild beasts of the islands” in the KJV, is translated “Wylde cattes [wild cats]” in the Bishops’ Bible, jackals in Darby’s Translation (DBY, 1859-1885), wolves in the American Standard Version (ASV, 1901), and hyenas in the NIV. Gill mentions that the Syriac version translates this as “sirens” and the Septuagint as “onocentaurs”, which are donkey-centaurs, but it is unlikely any supernatural or mythological beast is intended. Pulpit confirms that this word means literally something that wails or howls, which probably eliminates felines of any sort. The most likely meaning is a canine breed of some sort, such as the jackal which Pulpit acknowledges still lives in the area. Interestingly, this word is only used three times in The Bible, two of which in close proximity to dragons, and the third time in Jeremiah 50:39.
Jeremiah 51:36-38—Therefore thus saith The LORD [Yahweh]; “Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry. And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant. They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell [or, “shake themselves”] as lions’ whelps [cubs].”
And we get to the creature of interest—the dragon. Just out of plain peculiarity, it is interesting to be aware that Gill says the Vulgate (Biblia Sacra Vulgata) translates tanniyn as “sirens” in Isaiah 13:22. This is the third time in this passage that they were suggested, and by three different translations of the verses (the LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate). But the suggestion should be passed off as speculative since “daughters of the ostrich”, “wild beasts of the islands”, and “dragons” were all made to be these demonic singing seducers. All of the animals make sense as being natural creatures, nothing out of the ordinary needed.
From these two passages there are some interesting things one might be able to glean about dragons, the tanniyn of The Bible. Dragons are said to “cry” in Babylon’s pleasant palaces. This Hebrew word is “anah” and can be translated as it is or as shout and sing. DBY renders this as “shall cry to one another”, to which Barnes and the Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (JFB, 1871) agree by stating the Hebrew literally means “Shall answer, or respond to each other”. They use wolves as an example of this kind of animal behavior, so did dragons do this same type of thing? It appears so from Isaiah 13:22.
Next we see that Babylon will be a “hissing” which is the Hebrew word “shĕreqah” and means a sound of derision, and its root word “sharaq” means to shrill, whistle, or hiss. This word is used only seven times in The Bible, but just here with dragons, though it is used with its root word in Jeremiah 19:8. This might mean that dragons could make this kind of sound much like a snake can, which comes as no surprise considering the similarities in their forked tongues.
Lastly, the dragons are said to “roar together like lions” and “yell as lions’ cubs”. There is no confusion on that lions are the animal being compared to here, so we can accept this readily as is. The Hebrew word for roar is “sha`ag” and means a mighty rumble, moan, or roar. Yell is a bit trickier and even the KJV authors put an alternate translation for “na`ar” in the Marginal Notes: shake themselves. The definition given in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (base of Hebrew study; Strong’s, 1890) is the one favored by most today, which is a growl. Together is “yachad” and means unitedly. Therefore, dragons did a collective mighty sound of some sort, similar to lions. Again, this is no surprise, as legends abound with the roars of dragons.
Pulpit gives a quotation from Sir John Mandeville (1356-1357) for Isaiah 13:22,
“The lande of Baby-lone was fulle of dragons and grote serpents [The land of Babylon was full of dragons and thick serpents], and dyverse other veney-mouse ecstes alle abouten [and diverse other venomous unknown-creatures all about]”—Mandeville, quoted by Ker Porter, ‘Travels,’ vol. 2. p. 36.
The word “ecstes” is unclear to me and my internet searches could not find any info on what this means, any help would be appreciated.
Gill notes for Jeremiah 51:37,
“Dragons, as Aelianus [Claudius Aelianus, circa 175-235 AD] observes, love to live in desert places, and such now Babylon is; it lies in ruins; and even its palace is so full of scorpions and serpents, as Benjamin of Tudela [Rabbi Benjamin MiTudelo, 1159-1173] says it was in his time, that men durst not enter into it; see Jeremiah 50:39.”
Gill further notes for Isaiah 13:22,
“The word [tanniyn] is commonly used for “whales” [see Genesis 1:21], and sometimes for serpents, which seems to be the sense here; and to this agrees the account that R. Benjamin Tudelensis gives of Babylon, who, when he was there, about five or six hundred years ago [circa 1090-1271, based on Gill’s years of writing], saw the palace of Nebuchadnezzar in ruins, but men were afraid to enter into it, because of serpents and scorpions, which were within it. Rauwolff [Leonhart Rauwolff, 1535-1596], a German traveller, about the year 1574, reports of the tower of Babylon, that it was so ruinous, so low, and so full of venomous creatures, which lodge in holes made by them in the rubbish, that no one durst approach nearer to it than within half a league, excepting during two months in the winter, when these animals never stir out of their holes.”
Therefore, it is confirmed that dragons did live in the ruins of Babylon at one time, and possibly may still except now in hiding. We have many new advances in technology that could inspire fear into dragons because of their loudness and bad smell—such as airplanes and vehicles.
Isaiah 34:13-15—And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls [or, “ostriches”: Heb. “daughters of the owl”]. The wild beasts of the desert [Heb. “Ziim”] shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island [Heb. “Ijim”], and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl [or, “night monster”] also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.
Here we see the only other place the KJV uses the word satyr, which was discussed above. This is also the only other place where dragons and the wild beasts of the islands show up together, which was discussed above. The reason for discussing all of these different creatures is to show which animals were living with and around dragons according to God Himself. These are more accurate than any legend, if one can identify the creatures being spoken of. Some of these could be extinct by now, which could mean they will remain a mystery until we reach Heaven.
The KJV authors put an alternate translation in their Marginal Notes for the “screech owl”: night monster. Strong’s agrees: night spectre. This Hebrew word is used just once in all of The Bible and, curiously, is “liyliythor”—more commonly spelled Lilith. Allow me to quote from Pulpit:
“The word here used, Lilith, occurs only in this place. It may be doubted whether any bird, or other animal, is meant. Lilit was the name of a female demon, or wicked fairy, in whom the Assyrians believed—a being thought to vex and persecute her victims in their sleep. The word is probably a derivative from leilah, night, and designates “the spirit of the night”—a mischievous being, who took advantage of the darkness to play fantastic tricks. A Jewish legend made Lilith the first wife of Adam, and said that, having pronounced the Divine Name as a charm, she was changed into a devil. It was her special delight to murder young children (Buxtorf, ‘Lex. Rabbin.,’ ad roe. ). The prophets, when they employ poetic imagery, are not tied down to fact, but are free to use the beliefs of their contemporaries in order to heighten the force of their descriptions.”
C. S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is a famous example of a holder to this belief of Lilith being the mate of Adam in Genesis 1:27 before Eve was created in Genesis 2:21-25. Albeit, God never tries to give this impression anywhere in The Sacred Scriptures, so it can only be counted as false. It could simply be the ancient Jews altered an Assyrian belief for whatever purpose. It could be that there is a real demon out there named Lilith who haunts our children at night. Which if this is so, that dragons are co-habiting with her is disturbing in and of itself, and would not be a good sign.
However, it could also be that this is indeed a “night creature” (NIV) or, more specifically, a night-bird of some sort, contrary to Pulpit’s doubts. Such as the “nyctycorax” (scientific name) or “night raven” suggested by Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible (Clarke, 1826), more commonly known today as the black-crowned night-heron. Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible (Poole, 1685) says that Lilith will “find for herself a place of rest” at Edom and “shall rest there” “because there shall be no men left to disturb or affright them, Isaiah 17:2.”
Isaiah 17:2—The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
This makes more sense in my mind, seeing as everything else here are animals of one form or another.
Another singularly used Hebrew word is “qippowz”, translated here as “great owl” but could also mean an arrow-snake. Ultimately the meaning is uncertain, and this further indicates that dragons had some pretty rare-to-find friends. We do have details this time, though. This creature nestles—“qanan”—which could mean build a nest, but the root word “qen” could indicate just occupy a room, such as a chamber like a den or lair. It also lays (malat), hatches (baqa), and broods (dagar) over eggs. And it gathers (dagar) its young under its protective care (tsel). This is a good parent animal, therefore a bird of some sort would be a likely match. Young’s Literal Translation renders it “bittern”, which are in the heron family.
On the line of the arrow-snake, Pulpit gives it the name “serpens jaculus”, which Barnes elaborates on:
“Gesenius [Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, 1786-1842] supposes that this is the arrow-snake, so called from its darting or springing, in the manner of the rattle-snake – from an obsolete root to draw oneself together, to contract. Bochart (Hieroz. ii. 3. 11. 408-419) has examined the meaning of the word at length, and comes to the conclusion that it means the serpent which the Greeks called acontias, and the Latins, jaculus – the arrow-snake. The serpent is oviparous, and nourishes its young.”
Strong’s definition is in complete agreement with the above Hebrew word study from Gesenius’ Hebrew Chaldee (Aramaic, Syriac) Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures (Gesenius). Gill adds more detail by stating,
“Bochart thinks that one kind of serpent is here meant, so called from its leaping up, and which may be said to make nests, lay eggs and hatch them, as follows:
“and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow; lay its eggs, sit upon them, and hatch them; or “break” them, that is, the eggs, by sitting on them, when the young ones spring out of them; and then being hatched, and running about, gather them under their wing, especially when in any danger:” ”
The ASV, World English Bible (WEB, 2003; Public Domain), Jewish Publication Society Old Testament (JPS, 1917) and DBY, among others, favor the arrow-snake or dart-snake. This, therefore, would make for a maternal Winged Serpent, which fits a type of dragon in many legends. We shall return to these winged snakes later on in Part 2 of this treatise.
The bird translated “vulture” here is “dayah” in the Hebrew and only shows up twice in The Bible, the other place is Deuteronomy 14:13. It comes from the root word “da`ah” which means to dart or fly rapidly, indicating this might actually be a bird-of-prey, like the falcon or kite. Not much else can be gleaned from this word.
Jeremiah 9:10-11—For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations [or, “pastures”] of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up [or, “desolate”], so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and [Heb. “from the fowl of the heavens even to”] the beast are fled; they are gone. And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate [Heb. “a desolation”], without an inhabitant.
Here we have less specific animals mentioned and just the three main categories: “miqneh” which are any form of domesticated livestock, like cattle, “owph” which is any type of bird, and “bĕhemah” which means any type of wild animals, but this word is similar to one we will be looking at later on in Part 2.
Jeremiah 10:18-22—For thus saith The LORD [Yahweh], “Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so. Woe is Me for My hurt! My wound is grievous: but I said, “Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.” My tabernacle is spoiled, and all My cords are broken: My children are gone forth of Me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth My tent any more, and to set up My curtains. For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought The LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the North Country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.
Here we see the pain God goes through when people who should be following Him do not follow Him and neglect His items. But up till now we have seen a lot of the creatures with which dragons share their land. It should be studied exactly what these lands are described to be like. The following is based on all the previous passages and the one following below.
The lands are not inhabited (yashab) by people, which means—simply—to sit down on with intent to stay and dwell. The artificial basins (yam) are parched (charab) and the dug wells (maqowr) have failed (yabesh) because their builders did not prosper (sakal). The cities (iyr) are heaps (gal) of rolled over ruins (shammah) in the midst of a devastation (shĕmamah). Broken pots (ciyr) are everywhere, alongside prickly (qimmowsh) and thorny (chowach) plants, such as nettles, thistles, brambles, briers, and thorn-bushes. All the pastures (midbar) are burned with fire (yatsath).
Dragons have to be pretty tough and resourceful creatures to live in such desolate and inhospitable areas with little water and food, but being at least part reptilian they could easily have very slow metabolisms. Often dragons are said to sleep for long periods of time—decades or centuries even. This would seem to confirm those reports as truthful. Although, these dragons moved in after the cities were destroyed, unlike what many legends say about dragons destroying cities.
One must wonder if it is simply assumed that the dragon did the destruction, when in actuality it just made use of what had already happened. No doubt dragons had the capacity to do the destruction themselves without much effort and, therefore, very likely did sometimes do such actions, but no such tale is told within The Holy Bible. This would be evidence that dragons only encroached on our territory when God said it was okay, making them obedient servants of Adonai Yahweh Elohim. This is far from evil.
Kingdoms of Hazor
Jeremiah 49:33—And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation forever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.
The last verse on our list of punishments. There are only two Hebrew words used to describe how a dragon has made the lands it is seen in above. The first is “naveh” and is translated “habitation” in Isaiah 34:13 (KJV), and means literally a home. It has a variety of uses, though, depending on if used for people, sheep, God, or wild animals. In this case it is almost certainly the wild animal sense, so would be a den-type meaning. The root word “navah” means a place one can be at rest, which would be the definition of a home.
The second is “ma`own” and is translated “den”, “dwelling”, or “dwelling-place” in the KJV, and means literally an abode or place to retreat for refuge. This word has a variety of uses also depending on if used for people, God, or animals of any sort. In this case we can be sure the animal sense is meant, and therefore would be a lair-type structure. A very similar word—“ownah”—means a place one goes with your mate to have offspring, which would again be the definition of a home.
From all of the above, we can guess that dragons were extremely territorial and wild creatures, being that God placed them as curses to keep people away. This does not equate them to being evil, though. By that logic, one would need to conclude the other creatures above are also evil—such as the hyena, lion, ostrich, moko, jackal, night-raven, arrow-snake, and falcon. Admittedly, if Lilith is speaking of a demon, then that is bad, but the contextual words seem to indicate a demon is not being spoken of. Dragons are being grouped with common and rare animals of various species, and that would make the dragon yet another real animal and no more, though pretty high on the rarity scale.
Continue reading in Installment 2: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Honor and Praise”
See the Original: ambassadorherald.deviantart.co… “Is Liking Dragons unChristian?”