Dragons in the Bible | Dragon Vibe
Dragons in the Bible

Bible, Multi-headed, Mythology -

Dragons in the Bible

What are the Dragons that the Bible speaks of? What do they symbolize? What interpretations can be made of them? Is there a warning hidden in the Bible about the excesses of the modern world?

  • First of all, we will discover the true origin of the word "dragon".
  • Then we will explore its meaning in the Bible, and the symbolism that accompanies it.
  • Is the dragon another name for the Devil? Or is it a symbol of civilization and progress?

Here is what the Bible has to say about dragons!

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1. The origin of the word "Dragon"

You only have to say certain words to see real universes open up. The word 'dragon' conjures up a world of castles and enchantments, trolls and deep forests, the world of Harry Potter rather than the world of the Bible, as it seems to be true that in Harry Potter there is everything but the Bible. The imagination of the Harry Potter novels refers indeed to a Middle Ages truncated by one of its essential components: religion.

The word 'dragon' is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, because it is also a word from the Bible, a Greek word that has come down to us after a little detour through the Latin "draco", an exact copy of the Greek drakôn. In Greek, drakôn, means first of all a snake, and in some cases, especially in the Bible, a dragon.

From a grammatical point of view, the Greek word drakôn is an aoristic participle of the verb derkomai, which means 'to see' and more precisely to look in a very particular way, with a very intense, even very disturbing gaze: the verb is used for eagles, the Gorgon, snakes and warriors in battle! This is the verb that Carmen's librettist would probably have used for the air of the Toreador: "a black eye is looking at you!"

In pursuit of the serpent... drakôn

In Greek literature, we first meet a desperate warrior, but not just any warrior: the greatest of warriors, Hector, hunted down by Achilles.

He was waiting for the prodigious Achilles who was approaching. Like a mountain serpent that near its hole waits for a man, full of dangerous poison and penetrated by terrible bile, and casts frightening glances, wrapped around its hole, so Hector, possessed by an insatiable ardour, did not back down.”

Iliad, book XXII, c. 93-95

Hector's dark, desperate gaze makes him a mythical creature, a warrior who is no longer a man, a snake that's already a drakôn, a dragon.

A little further up in the same book, the reader had come across this very particular look. It was already a snake, but a snake struggling with an eagle. The scene takes place at the moment when the best soldiers of Troy are about to attack the troubled Achaeans:

...Standing at the edge of the ditch, the boys... still hesitating. A bird had flown over them just as they were about to cross the ditch, a high-flying eagle, which overtook their troops on the left. It held in its talons a bloody snake, monstrous, still alive and throbbing, and which had not forgotten its offensive ardor. Indeed, he toppled backwards and pricked the bird holding it in his chest, near his neck. In pain, the bird let him go. The snake fell to the ground in the middle of the army, while the eagle with a cry flew away on the breath of the wind. The Trojans shuddered when they saw that glittering serpent lying in the middle of them, a harbinger of Zeus the Aegis-bearer...”

Iliad Book XII, c. 200-209

We shall see that this air combat calls for another equally epic one in the Bible. For the moment, we need only point out that the serpent in question is called a 'drakôn', or a snake with piercing eyes. Elsewhere in Greek literature, the word drakôn also refers to the live fish, a fish whose painful sting explains why it has been described to a water snake.

If you want to more on the topic, then check out our article about the Dragon in the Greek mythology.

In the Bible, the word drakôn appears first and foremost in the first Testament translated into Greek (the Septuagint) in the book of Exodus in chapter 7, verses 9 and 10. God said to Moses:

When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.”

As in The Iliad, this is a conflict, but of a special kind: 3000 years before Harry Potter, we are dealing with a duel of magicians. God turns Aaron's rod into a serpent/drakôn, to which each of the Egyptian magicians responds by turning his rod into a serpent. But Aaron's rod devours all the wands of the king's magicians!

Moïse changeant en serpent la verge d'Aaron

Moses Turning Aaron's Staff into a Serpent, Nicolas Poussin, 1647

In the Bible, the serpent/drakôn motif is always used to emphasize the power of God. For if the serpent/drakôn is powerful, it is nothing compared to the Lord YHWH, creator of heaven and earth. This is what Psalm 74:13 proclaims:

“Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.”

And again Psalm 104:25-28:

“So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.”

This is also what Job refers to in Job 7:12:

Am I the Sea, or the dragon, that you place a watch over me?

Everywhere, the Hebrew name "Leviathan" is translated by the Greek drakôn. In all of these texts, the ancient myth of creation as a struggle can be guessed as if it were a watermark. The old Canaanite myth of the battle of Haddu/Baal against Yamu, the sea, is transposed in the Bible as the victory of YHWH (the Lord), God of Israel, the savior of his people. At the origin of the worlds, YHWH strikes Yam (the sea) and later Moses repeats this gesture by striking the waters with his rod so that his free people may pass through.

Marduk overthrowing Tiamat

Marduk overthrowing Tiamat, Babylonian seal imprint

This is also illustrated by other texts from the book of Job, which aim to present the terrible serpent not as an adversary worthy of God, but as an animal defeated, hunted, and which we can think that one day, like all other beasts, it will be sinned and taken captive.

Still in the book of Job :

“He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.”

Job 26:12-13

And, in God's answer to Job:

“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?”

Job 41:1-2

It is in this context that we must read a story that appears only in the Greek version of the book of Daniel. Exceptionally, it is not the Septuagint's but that of Theodotion (Jewish reviser of the Septuagint):

“Now in that place there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered. The king said to Daniel, ‘You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.’ Daniel said, ‘I worship the Lord my God, for he is the living God. But give me permission, O king, and I will kill the dragon without sword or club.’ The king said, ‘I give you permission.’

Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. Then Daniel said, ‘See what you have been worshipping!’

The Virgin of the Apocalypse - Rubens

The Virgin of the Apocalypse - Rubens, ca 1623-1624

When the Babylonians heard about it, they were very indignant and conspired against the king, saying, ‘The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.’ Going to the king, they said, ‘Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.’ The king saw that they were pressing him hard, and under compulsion he handed Daniel over to them.
They threw Daniel into the lions’ den, and he was there for six days.”

Daniel 14:23-31

Other texts do not hesitate to give the fearsome serpent/drakôn, but finally defeated the name of a contemporary king. Thus in Jeremiah, chapter 51 in verse 34:

“King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me;
he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me like a monster;
he has filled his belly with my delicacies, he has spewed me out.”

For the believer, the God who conquered at the time of creation will also be victorious over all those who stand against Him or His people. This is the message of Isaiah 27:1 :

“In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

This verse links the noun drakôn at the end of the verse with the verb derkomai, in the form of the participle drakôn, to translate the idea of Leviathan, a character unknown to the Greek world. The Greek text, the "snake with a piercing gaze" is said to be "drakôn ofus".

The prophet Amos offers an interesting variation of this motif by suggesting that the dragon is not the adversary of God, but his servant :

“IAnd though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them.”

Amos 9:3

Finally, taking up the figure of Leviathan - serpent-dragon, Ezekiel uncovers the figure of the pride of the one who, because of his power, believes himself to be his own creator:

“Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.”

Ezekiel 29:3

There remain two verses from the book of Sirach which are binding only on their author:

“There is no head above the head of a serpent; and there is no wrath above the wrath of an enemy.
I had rather dwell with a lion and a dragon, than to keep house with a wicked woman.”

Sirach 25:15-16

We can willingly set the promise of the psalm against them:

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Psalm 91:13

It is thus with in mind all these texts of the first Testament which mention the fight and the victory against the serpent-drakôn that the Christian prophet John gives us, in chapter 12 of his apocalypse, the account of an aerial combat just as epic as that of the Iliad which we read above:

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
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.

Apocalypse Tapestry, Angers

Apocalypse Tapestry, Angers, France

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.
And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation of John 12:1-9 & 13-18

The explanation or even the simple commentary of this narrative, rich in symbols and adventures, goes far beyond the limits of this note. Let us simply point out that, as in Homer's text, there is the combat of a winged figure (Mikael and then the woman who is given eagle wings) and the serpent/drakôn. For the author, the decisive victory is already won in the sky from which the serpent is fallen. If the battle continues on earth (it is only the beginning ...), it is a rearguard battle, a battle lost in advance that the serpent here identified with the devil, Satan, another character from the Old Testament, leads.

It is on this victory (not yet completely definitive, see Revelation 20:1-3!) that we leave the serpent/drakôn of the Bible, a figure which never ceases to haunt the imagination of our contemporaries and which also comes to us ... from the Bible.


2. The symbolism of the dragon in the Bible

A) A representation of the Devil

In the Bible, Revelation 12, a great red dragon appears with seven heads and ten horns.

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

On the seven heads, there were seven crowns. The horns are a symbol of power and the crowns are a representation of authority. The seven heads and the ten horns represent a terrifying image of great power, authority, knowledge and strength. This great power is illustrated in verse 4 where the dragon is able to sweep away one-third of the stars in the sky and throw them to the earth.

“And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.”

Verse 9 makes it clear who the dragon represents. The dragon is that ancient serpent that is called the devil and Satan. He is the liar who deceives the whole world. Verse 4 reveals that Satan is waiting for the birth of Christ to destroy him.

“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.”

Archangel Michael fighting with dragon

Archangel Michael fighting with dragon

B) A symbol of civilization?

Science and progress

“Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”

Isaiah 14:29

The root of intellectuals is science, knowledge. Basilisk would be that which tests knowledge. And its fruit, modern society and progress, which plunder nature, burn like a dragon, and fly like birds or angels, allowing it to fly over obstacles.

The seduction of the earth

“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.”

Revelation 12:9

The seduction of the whole earth is technological progress, science and all that flows from it, huge cities with gigantic towers (Babel), machines that go faster and faster.

Exploitation of seduced nations

“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, 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.”

Isaiah 30:6

And this modern society is really not useful for living, it brings distress and anguish, it is a beast among others. Kings and queens (lion and lionesses) also get their wealth from the taxation of the people. Didn't God tell Samuel that Israel didn't need kings to live?

“Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.”

Jeremiah 51:34

Industry, commerce, like the kings of the great cities (Babylon) live by the exploitation of the nations (precious vessels), and once the vessel is empty, they throw it away, or drive it out.

The seven-headed dragon

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

Revelation 12:3

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”

Revelation 13:1

“So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”

Revelation 17:3

The dragon appearing in the book of Revelation has 7 heads, representing the 7 categories of men who are enemies of God's people:

  • the politicians
  • the religious
  • the rich
  • the traffickers
  • the conquerors
  • the military
  • the scientists

Indeed, ungodly priests and kings have always walked together, with the military, the traffickers, the scientists, the conquerors, the rich and all those who approve of them, big and small. They respond to the call of the devil and reign, believing they possess the Earth and its inhabitants. Being more cunning than foxes, they have fed on the flesh of men. The latter consent to it, subjugated by the fascination they exert on them.

By the way, don't miss our article about the multi-headed dragons!

The dragon's crowns

The ten diadems refer to the ten tribes of Israel who sold their brother Joseph into slavery. These crowns will be redeemed by the most humble tribe.


If you are passionate about mythology, don't hesitate to check out these incredible products, inspired by the ancient legends :

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