Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dragon Tales, part 1

“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.” Job 40:15
“Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:” Psalm 148:7

“Dinosaur”: in the Bible?
From Barney to Jurassic Park, the subject of dinosaurs is an extremely intriguing and important one, demanding much Scriptural and scientific scrutiny. It’s interesting for all ages, particularly children, and an extremely useful subject in pointing people to the Creator and to His Word, the Bible. The word “dinosaur” comes from two Greek words, deinos (which means “extremely dangerous”) and saura (which means “lizard). It was first coined in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen.

Did these “extremely dangerous” creatures live “millions of years” before man, or were they created only thousands of years ago on Day 6 of Creation Week? Were they all massive, or were some of them quite small? Have they always lived with man and could be alive today? While some correctly allege that the Bible does not mention “dinosaurs,” we must remember two things: 1.) when the word was coined (1841), and 2.) the year given the King James’ version of the Bible (1611). This is why the Bible does not contain the word “dinosaur” – we wouldn’t have the word for another 230 years! Even though the word itself is not in the Bible, there are creatures such as the “dragon,” “behemoth,” or “serpent” that correspond with what we know today about the fearsome animals called “dinosaurs”!

God’s Great Creation Message
The book of Job is an intriguing account that delves into both spiritual and physical realms unlike any other book of the Bible! In it, we catch a glimpse of the spiritual realm as Satan came before God to accuse Job. Through long dialogue, we also see conflict in the earthly realm between well-intentioned, but wrong, men. Toward the end of the account, we read the greatest Creation Message of all time, given by God Himself! When He came onto the scene (Job 38), He used a whirlwind (tornado)! No doubt this method had everyone’s attention as He began a long series of questions:

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. (Job 38:2-4)

In short, God corrected men’s wrong views with the right view of Himself as Creator! In the account of Job, chapters 38 through 41 contain a great amount of information about many aspects of God’s creation as He revealed Himself using the sky, sea, earth, weather, light, and animals. It is interesting to note that throughout this message God never explained to Job why he suffered. Rather, He simply revealed Who He IS by using His creation! As we face challenges or difficulties in life today, we need not know why. Rather, we simply need to know WHO!

As we approach chapters 40 and 41, God points to two intriguing animals, “behemoth” and “leviathan”:

Job 40:15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
Job 41:1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?
or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

As we examine these creatures, we see that God spent more time on them than anything else in this message! Since these are at the “close” of His message, we wonder if God wished to save the “best for last” or if He used them as an “invitation time”! Note the phrase “which I made with thee” in Job 40:15. This verse not only makes it clear that Job could see (“behold”) this creature, but it also reveals that God wanted Job – and us – to know that He made this animal at the same time as man.

Behold Now Behemoth
The word “behemoth” simply means “large animal.” While many commentators surmise that it refers either to an elephant or hippo, we must look at all of the descriptions to see if they match:
1. Behemoth ate grass like an ox (v. 15).
2. “His strength is in his loins…his force is in the navel of his belly” (large, strong stomach) (v. 16).
3. He moved his tail “like a cedar” (v. 17).
4. The “sinews of his stones are wrapped together” (v. 17).
5. He had bones like “strong pieces of brass” and “bars of iron” (v. 18).
6. He is the “chief of the ways of God” (v. 19).
7. He likes shade (v. 20-21).
8. He drinks water and is extremely large (v. 23).

While an elephant or hippo certainly fits some of these descriptions, not ALL of them match. Perhaps the most “tell-tail” characteristic that separates “behemoth” from either hippo or elephant is this one: “He moveth his tail like a cedar…” (Job 40:17).
The tail of an elephant or hippo does NOT look like – or move like – a cedar tree! However, the massive sauropods such as brachiosaurus or diplodocus DID have HUGE tails which certainly fit this description! From this one characteristic of “behemoth,” it is clear that God was NOT describing an elephant or a hippo. Rather, “behemoth” best fits some type of sauropod dinosaur.

Dragons Alive?!
Are dragons alive today? Before we discuss this topic, we may wish to avoid a preconceived notion of a huge reptile that breathes fire and has wings. We know that komodo dragons, bearded dragons, and Chinese water dragons exist today, but they don’t have wings or breathe fire! Can Scripture help us with this subject? Most certainly!
(To Be Continued, Part 2)

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