Are dragons alive today? We know that komodo dragons, bearded dragons, and Chinese water dragons exist today, but these don’t have wings or breathe fire! Beginning our thinking with the Bible, we find the word “dragon” or “dragons” occurs 35 times in Scripture! In Nehemiah 2:13, as the prophet mapped out a plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he went out by night and was near a “dragon well.” Is it possible that in Bible times there was a well of water outside of a city to attract dangerous animals, keeping them out of the city?
Another reference to “dragon” is in Jeremiah 51:34.
"Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me… he hath swallowed me up like a dragon…."
In this passage, “dragon” appears twice: v. 34 & 37. In my Bible, “dragons” (v. 37) has a reference to a definition in the column: “or jackals.” QUESTION: Is a jackal remotely like the reptilian dragon? No. In short, we must not rely solely on notes in our Bibles.
One may wonder, “Isn’t a fire-breathing dragon the stuff of fairy tales?” First, we must avoid misconceptions based upon pre-conceived notions (such as a dragon with wings), and we must always begin our thinking with the Bible. In Job 41, the last subject in His creation that God used to change men’s false views is the fearsome “leviathan”:
"Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? -- Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? -- Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more. Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me? ~~ Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about. ~~ His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal…."
While we do not know specifically what this creature was (or is), we know some things about it from Scripture.
1. It lives in the water (v. 1).
2. It is un-tameable (v. 5).
3. It is fearsome (vs. 8-10, 25).
“When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid…” (v. 25)
4. It has many fearsome teeth (v. 14).
5. It has scales (possibly reptilian or fish scales, vs. 15-17).
While these descriptions are intriguing, the most interesting characteristic is in verses 18-21:
"By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth." (Job 41:18-21)
These verses leave us extremely curious as to the identity of “leviathan”! However, a cursory reading of this passage indicates that this animal breathed fire. “Isn’t this a myth?” one may ask. This response is typical. However, would not Creator God be able to do anything? Sometimes though, men cannot accept God as He is, and they apparently feel that they need to read into the Bible something that is not there. In a book on Job entitled, Be Patient, Warren Wiersbe wrote:
"In verses 12-24, God gave a poetical description of this great creature's mighty limbs, fierce teeth, and strong jaws, and impregnable covering (vv. 12-17). When the crocodile churns up the river and blows out water, the sun reflects the vapor; and it looks like fire and smoke from a dragon's mouth."
QUESTION: does a crocodile breathe fire? No. Warren Wiersbe apparently could not envision a fire-breathing creature at the time of Job, so he re-interpreted Scripture (“looks like”) to mean something not intended by either the writer or by God Himself! It is such re-interpretation that leaves people confused about the Bible and in doubt concerning God as Creator.
Even though we don’t see leviathan or fire-breathing creatures alive today, we can piece together some interesting facts:
1. Fossilized skulls of the dinosaur, parasauralophus, show head crests that are hollow. The hollow passageways are connected to the “breathing area” of the skull.
2. The bombardier beetle makes chemicals that it uses to produce a 212 blast as its defense against predators.
With these facts in mind, along with an understanding that fire-producing chemicals do not fossilize and that soft tissues rarely fossilize, we have a distinct possibility that crested creatures such as parasauralophus may have produced chemical-based fire and smoke, such as the bombardier beetle can do today.
The most important thing about leviathan is that God, as with all of His creatures, has a special purpose for him!
"He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride." (Job 41: 34)
That purpose is to humble us by showing that we are not in charge! The message of God’s creation is to show man his rightful place as created and not creator.
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" (Psa 8:3 ,4)
(Next… Dealing With the Dragon)