The word may leap out at first and strike one as odd in today’s world. Dragons. Dragons all over the place in the bible, from Their wine is the poison of dragons in Deuteronomy 32:33, to And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well in The Book of Nehemiah 2:3. I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls says The Book of Job 30:29, and in Psalms 44:19 we find Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces it says in Isaiah 13:22, and I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons in The Book of Jeremiah 9:11. Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers it tells us in Ezekiel 29:3, and in Micah 1:8 we find I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls. In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 1:3, we find And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
But the mention of dragons is not limited to the Old Testament. In The Revelation of Saint John the Devine we find many instances of the word, though it seems that this type of dragon is of a much different character than in the older books. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, it says in verse 12:3, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
Are these dinosaurs being referred to, or dangerous creatures such as the Komodo Dragon, which is indigenous to Indonesia? Is it a catch-all term that actually refers to a variety of different beasts – like large lizards on land, and leviathan or deadly sea creatures of the waters? Some even argue that these land dragons are jackals, or a type of deadly dog that hunts in packs.
It can probably best be argued that the dragons we find in the Old Testament were actually several creatures, and that the translation of the original Hebrew didn’t to the concept as much justice as it could have. Snakes, lizards, crocodiles, all of which can grow enormous in size, and be fast and deadly enough, would fit the profile of these episodes in the scripture. After all, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that serpents and other reptiles were mythologized to breath fire and have wings, and come to be the “dragon” we first think of today.
As for the dragons of Revelation, however, these seem to be clearly a case of metaphor, representing Satan.