Dragons are mentioned, directly by name, thirty-five times in the King James Bible translation. Twenty-two of these matches are in the Old Testament, of which seventeen are derived from the Hebrew word tanniyn (Strong's Concordance #H8577). The remaining thirteen mentions of this seeming mythical animal we label as dragons are in the book of Revelation and are derived from the Greek word drakon (Strong's Concordance #G1404). Some of the more interesting Biblical references include the following.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD . . . Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9, KJV unless stated)
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls (Job 30:29)
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9)
Other than the Bible verses mentioned above, dragons can be found in Deuteronomy 32:33, Nehemiah 2:13, Psalm 44:19, 74:13, 91:13, 148:7, Isaiah 13:22, 27:1, 34:13, 35:7, 43:20, Jeremiah 9:11, 10:22, 14:6, 49:33, 51:34, 37, Ezekiel 29:3, Malachi 1:3, Micah 1:8, Revelation 12:3 - 4, 7, 13, 16 - 17, 13:2, 4, 11, 16:13 and 20:2.
The Bible lists several characteristics of dragons. This beast can be poisonous (Deuteronomy 32:33) and is quite powerful (Isaiah 27:1, 51:9). It has solitary habits (Job 30:29) and can make a wailing-like sound (Micah 1:8). They apparently can live in the wilderness (Isaiah 43:20, Malachi 3:1), or deserted cities (Jeremiah 9:11) or even in water (Psalm 74:13, Isaiah 27:1). Although usually large, they can sometimes be small (Exodus 7:8 - 10). In the New Testament, these great beasts were a symbol of evil and rebellion against God (Revelation 12:3 - 4, 7, 13, 16 - 17, etc.).
A fountain in Japan
What could it be?
Biblical commentaries offer a wide variety of ideas regarding the KJV references to dragons. While some merely consign such references to mythical (imaginary) beasts, many others state they refer to jackals, hyenas, sea monsters, great fishes, whales, crocodiles or serpents (depending on the context). The problem is how could such a single Hebrew word like tanniyn refer to such a diverse set of beasts?
Henry Morris, in his book The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, offers an intriguing solution.
"As a matter of fact, if one will simply translate tannim (tanniyn) by "dinosaurs," every one of the more than 25 uses of the word becomes perfectly clear and appropriate. The fossil record reveals both terrestrial and marine dinosaurs, small and large dinosaurs, dinosaurs of many different characters living in different environments with one or another of them fitting well into each context . . . " (The Biblical Basis for Modern Science: The Revised and Updated Classic, Chapter 12).
Could dinosaurs have existed at the same time as humans?
"However, the evolutionary chronology is inconsistent with the Bible, as we have seen, so there is no adequate reason to question the contemporaneity of men and dinosaurs in the early ages of human history. The dragons of the Bible could well be the dinosaurs of paleontology. It is significant that not only in the Bible but also in the ancient records and traditions of most of the nations of the world, tales of dragons abound. Such a universal phenomenon must have a universal explanation, and the best explanation is that all the ancient nations actually had had experiences with dinosaurs.
"A detailed study of the different dragon "traditions" has pointed out that there were evidently many different kinds of dragons and that these more or less corresponded to the different known kinds of dinosaurs" (ibid.)
Incredibly, the first use of the Hebrew word tanniyn is in the book of Genesis, where God re-creates (see our article "How old is the earth" for more information) the heavens and the earth. Before the Eternal created both land-based animals and man on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26 - 27) he made on the fifth day animals that lived in water or which could fly. Some of those created were massive in size like mythical dragons.
And God created GREAT WHALES, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind . . . (Genesis 1:21).
The word translated as "whales" in the above verse is tanniyn. A better and more correct translation of Genesis 1:21 might be "And God created GREAT DRAGONS (dinosaurs) . . ."
Battle of Biblical proportions
Most people are familiar with the story of the Exodus. God commands Moses and Aaron to confront Egypt's Pharaoh and demand that the children of Israel be set free. During their first meeting, in order to show the Eternal's power to Pharaoh, the Bible says Aaron threw down his walking stick (rod) and it became a "serpent" (see Exodus 7:8 - 10). The Egyptian sorcerers then cast down their rods and they too became "serpents" (verses 11 - 12), which were quickly eaten by Aaron's serpent. The Hebrew word translated as "serpent" in these verses is tanniyn, which is translated in the majority of cases in the KJV bible as "dragons!"
What we may have in this confrontation is a battle of dragons (small dinosaurs), where the little one God miraculously created DESTROYED several other little ones created by the demonic powers of Pharaoh's wise men!