Dragons in Paradise
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. *
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon....And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and satan, which deceiveth the whole world….And they worshipped the dragon. (Revelation 12:3, 9; 13:4)
The almost worshipful fascination of dinosaurs in this generation is nothing new, though its extent is growing explosively. One wonders how many leading modern evolutionists were drawn into evolutionism through their childhood study of dinosaurs. The late Stephen Jay Gould, for example, testified that he got his start that way.
What’s going on here? Is this just another fad, or is it in some way an important sign of the times? Actually, all the nations of antiquity seem to have had a similar obsession with dinosaur-like animals they called “dragons.” The biblical writers, inspired by God, also wrote about dragons. The first reference to created animals, in Genesis 1:21, says that “God created great whales,” but the Hebrew word for “whales” (tanniynim) is translated “dragons” in over 20 other passages. Note especially Isaiah 27:1: “In that day the LORD…shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
This type of sea dragon was called a “leviathan” (see also Psalm 74:14; 104:26). It was described by God Himself in Job 41:1-34 as a fearsome, fire-breathing (v. 21) monster whose scaly hide (vv. 15-17) could not be pierced with sword or spear (vv. 7, 26-29). God also described a huge land dragon called a “behemoth” (Job 40:15-24) that “moveth his tail like a cedar” and is “the chief of the ways of God,” impossible to capture (vv. 17, 19, 24). Various other dragons are depicted as dwelling in different types of habitats and as being of various sizes (e.g., Isaiah 34:13; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3). In some of these cases, modern translations have rendered tanniyn as “jackal,” but the Hebrew word means “dragon” or “monster,” not jackal.
Dragons were even described in reputable zoological treatises published during the Middle Ages. Even though dragons sometimes were said to have supernatural abilities, all these ancient nations regarded them as real animals, frequently encountered by humans.
The article on dragons in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1949 edition) noted also that dinosaurs were “astonishingly dragonlike,” even though its author assumed that those ancients who believed in dragons did so “without the slightest knowledge” of dinosaurs. All dinosaurs are assumed by evolutionary geologists to have been extinct since the end of the Mesozoic Era, about 65 million years ago, whereas the first dinosaur fossils were not discovered until early in the 19th century.
In any case, dinosaurs—like dragons—are said to have existed at one time in great numbers and varieties all over the world. Great dinosaur-bone beds have been found on every continent, as far north as Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean and as far south as Antarctica, about 400 miles from the South Pole.
Many geologists have concluded that the age of the dinosaurs did come to a sudden end as the result of a global catastrophe of some kind, although there is much disagreement as to what type of catastrophe this may have been. A great flood, accompanied by tremendous volcanic eruptions, with the implied resulting worldwide climatic change from subtropical to the present latitudinal variations, could well account for the vast dinosaur graveyards and trackways all over the world.
The Bible, of course, describes just such a flood that occurred several thousand years ago. There are now thousands of scientists who have become creationists and are convinced that the biblical Flood provides a much better explanation than the geological-age system for the phenomena of earth history, including the dinosaurs and their extinction.
Most creationists believe that dinosaurs have coexisted with man from the beginning, only becoming extinct in the Middle Ages. That being so, one must envision a pre-Flood world with vast herds of dinosaurs occupying many areas in every region. The antediluvian population would certainly be familiar with their existence.
There were, therefore, many reminders to antediluvian people everywhere on the earth of “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9). These beasts should have reminded pre-Flood men and women of the serpent whom their first ancestors had encountered in the Garden of Eden, bringing sin and death into God’s perfect world.
Even after the Flood, dinosaurs could still be seen occasionally, though not in the great herds common in former times. At the climax of the Satan-caused sufferings of the prophet Job, for example, God told him to observe two of these great animals, the land-dwelling behemoth and the ocean-dwelling leviathan, and to realize that—even though no man alone could ever vanquish such awesome reptiles—God was well able to defeat them, for it was He who had made them. Just so, God had also created the fallen angel, Satan, who had taken over the body of the serpent back in Paradise, and God could vanquish him, as well.
That old Dragon had invaded Paradise, and God had cast him out into the earth, where he continues to this day leading men and women to rebel against God and His Word. It is he “which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9) with the monstrous lie that there never was a Creator whom men should worship. He wants to reign himself and to persuade the world to worship him instead of its real Maker and Sustainer.
And amazingly enough, the time is coming soon when the ungodly world will do just that! In the Bible’s great prophecy concerning the humanistic dictator who will reign over the whole world for a brief time at the end of the age, a man appropriately called the Beast, who will not “regard any god,” but will only “honour the god of forces” (Daniel 11:37-38), we read that “all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast” (Revelation 13:3-4).
But God is still in control. Although the behemoth was the strongest of all created land animals, “he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him” (Job 40:19). And though the leviathan “is a king over all the children of pride,” yet God says that not even leviathan can “stand before me” (Job 41:34, 10). God one day “shall punish leviathan…and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1). Finally “the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire…and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” along with all the rebellious angels and all the rebellious men and women whose names are not “written in the book of life” (Revelation 20:10, 15).
There will be no more dragons in Paradise in that day. For “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
Adapted from Dr. Morris’ article “Dragons in Paradise” in the July 1993 edition of Acts & Facts.
* Dr. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris, H. 2011. Dragons in Paradise. Acts & Facts. 40 (3): 10-11.