THE EARTHLY INHERITANCE SERIES of BIBLE SUBJECTS
Various Bible study guides in subjects pertaining to
New Earth prophecy, as taught by Paul Phelps.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD,
they shall inherit the earth. Psalm 37:9
THE DRAGON AND THE PHOENIX IN THE BIBLE
Bible quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version
except for my own translations or as otherwise indicated.
The Bible speaks about the legendary dragon and phoenix
and this study guide reveals the reality and the symbolism.
A Bible study project by Paul Phelps.
After several years of study this writing was completed in 2000.
Many nations have legends of dragons and phoenix birds. The legends also
include portrayals of their appearance even though dragons and phoenix birds
can no more be seen. In legends these two animals are viewed as companions,
signifying balanced harmony of male–female and even–odd qualities in nature.
The Bible refers to dragons and phoenix birds but most Bible versions do not
properly translate the words. Thus far Bible scholars are not persuaded these
animals ever lived. The feeling is understandable, but we think that everything
written in Scripture was real at an earlier time even if no longer present with us.
Dragons and phoenix birds are symbolic and prophetic. This will be explained
and we provide literal translations of Bible texts where necessary.
According to legends, dragons and phoenix birds have flight ability, but the
dragon’s flight ability is not explained. European legendary art shows dragons
with wings, but Asian dragons are not winged. Asian art shows clouds and stars
when dragons fly in the sky but this offers no explanation of how they could fly.
Dragon flight is a mystery, for dragons were massive animals of enormous size.
Psalm 104 has an eternal prophetic view of earth, and dragons will live again.
One of the Hebrew names for a dragon is Leviathan.
Psalm 104:24-26, O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom
you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable
are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
God boasts of his success in creating the dragon in the Creation Days of old.
The amazing things we read confirm many legends, such as the impossibility of
catching Leviathan by usual fishing methods. This is described in Job 41:1-2,
Can you draw out Leviathan with a fish-hook,
or press down its tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in its nose, or pierce its jaw with a hook?
God created dragons so wonderfully that they are invulnerable to any attack
by conventional weapons, and are invincible in combat. Job 41:7-10,
Can you fill its skin with harpoons, or its head with fishing spears?
Lay hands on it; think of the battle; you will not do it again!
Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed;
were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it?
No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up ...
Dragons are evidently uncontrollable and of fierce nature; Job 41:3-6,13.
Dragons are strong and handsome (v 12), “I will not keep silence concerning
its limbs, or its mighty strength, or its splendid frame.” Some say Leviathan is a
crocodile because it has a crocodile’s face (v 14), “Who can open the doors of
his face? There is terror all around its teeth.” But legends say that dragons also
had elongated jaws and terrible teeth. The Bible says Leviathan is a sea animal
(Ps. 104:26) but crocodiles do not dwell in the sea. Evidently Leviathan was an
astonishing animal, more fantastic than crocodiles or any animals now on earth.
Leviathan can only be explained as the dragon of ancient legends.
Legends portray dragons as snake-like in their body appearance. The neck
of a dragon evidently sways back-and-forth like a snake, so that victims seem to
dance before his eyes; Job 41:22,
In its neck abides strength, and terror dances before it.
A dragon’s undersides are like heavy armour (v 30), “Its underparts are like
sharp potsherds; it spreads itself like a threshing sledge on the mire.” The skin
of a dragon is hard (v 23), “The folds of its flesh cling together; it is firmly cast
and immovable.” A dragon’s body has rows of scales attached to the skin. The
Hebrew Text says that dragon scales are the size of arm-shields; they are totally
impenetrable and sealed airtight (vv 15-17),
Its back is made of shields in rows, shut up closely as with a seal.
One is so near to another that no air can come between them. They are
joined one to another, they clasp each other and cannot be separated.
A dragon’s body is made of very tough materials, heavy and hard enough to
endure any attack by weapons. Even the inner flesh is hard. Job 41:24-29,
Its heart is as hard as stone, as hard as the lower millstone.
When it raises itself up the gods are afraid; at the crashing
they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches it,
it does not avail, nor does the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
It counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make it flee; sling-stones, for it, are turned to chaff.
Clubs are counted as chaff; it laughs at the rattle of javelins.
The skin of dragons was like an airtight armour suit. No animals now on earth
fit that description. Dragons would need the sort of body that Job 41 describes
to have done the things said about them in ancient legends.
But how did dragons fly? God said that Leviathan sees everything that is lofty
(Job 41:34). That might mean that dragons could fly beyond earth—into space,
but that requires them to have some kind of radiant energy for flight, something
beyond our present knowledge. Legends say that dragons can breathe fire and
smoke and shine light rays and death rays from their eyes. Dragons must have
a silica-based chemistry to sustain high temperatures, shine laser beams, shine
radiant energy and have a flight capability different from all other animals.
Its sneezings flash forth light, and its eyes are like the eyelids of the
dawn. From its mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap out.
Out of its nostrils comes smoke, as from a boiling pot
and burning rushes. Its breath kindles coals,
and a flame comes out of its mouth.
God is the one speaking. He is telling Job about his achievements from the
olden days of creation. This compels us to believe that Leviathan was real, and
that this fanciful description is true. But Job evidently found it hard to accept, in
the same way that many today find it hard to accept. Job 42:2,
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job certainly never saw a dragon, like all of us. But God revealed to Job that
dragons are an original creation even though he may have thought dragons are
a myth. That could true of people today as well. Job even admitted that it was
beyond his understanding; Job 42:3,
... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
The Bible’s description of Leviathan compares to some science fiction videos
of creatures from space, or of monsters that rise from the sea to terrorise earth.
The Bible says that dragons have no fear of anything; Job 41:33-34,
On earth it has no equal, a creature without fear.
It surveys everything that is lofty; it is king over all that are proud.
The dragon therefore symbolises the supreme power and authority on earth.
The Hebrew word TANNÌN also means dragon. We will look at a few texts in
Exodus that relate to Moses’ life. Moses lived forty years in the land of Midian,
a sheep herder living with Arabs. God spoke to him from a burning bush, and
told him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. But Egypt was strong then and had a
strong king. Moses doubted if he could persuade Pharaoh to let the people go.
Then Moses answered, “But suppose they do not believe me
or listen to me, but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’”
The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.”
And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw the staff
on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it.
In Exodus 4:3, the word is NÀKHASH (snake or serpent). But in the presence
of Pharaoh the word is TANNÌN (dragon). Exodus 7:8-10,
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you,
‘Perform a wonder,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff
and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a dragon.’”
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the LORD had
commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh
and his officials, and it became a dragon.
(Heb. TANNÌN, dragon) (translation mine)
The miraculous staff sign is a supernatural miracle. It is the sign of God’s
power and authority and it cannot be interpreted as an illusion or natural event.
There is confusion because two different words are used to describe this event.
So far as possible Bible translators try to avoid contradictions in translation; but
the fact is that two different Hebrew words are used in describing this miracle.
(The purpose of using the two words will be explained.)
Snakes and dragons are not thought to be the same, but the Bible treats them
as one animal by two different names. The answer is in the Garden of Eden
from the days of long ago. Genesis 3:1,
Now the serpent was more crafty than any
other wild animal that the LORD God had made.
(Heb. NÀKHASH, serpent)
But notice what is said: Rev. 12:9, and 20:2,
... the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan ...
(Gr. DRAKÓN, dragon; Gr. ÓPHIS, serpent)
The answer is in this text because two words are identifying the same animal.
Serpents and dragons are the same animal from the ancient days of Eden.
The LORD God said to the serpent (NÀKHASH), “Because you have
done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild
creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat...”
The serpents of this world are not original creations of God but the result of a
degrading curse (Gen. 3:14). The original ancient serpent was amazing to see,
the most exalted of all animals. In Rev. 20:2, God called this animal the dragon.
The dragon legends are from the beginning of history, the Garden of Eden.
Serpents alive now are under a curse (Gen. 3:14), signifying degradation and
inferiority. The miracle sign given to Moses was meant to display his authority.
Therefore his shepherd-staff should not transform into any serpent of this world
for that would signify a curse on Moses and degradation and inferiority for what
Pharaoh’s authority was challenged in the confrontation of Moses and Aaron.
Their rods must be seen to have more power than Pharaoh’s rods because rods
show power and authority. A king’s sceptre shows authority (Esther 4:11; 5:2).
A policeman’s rod shows power. The rods of Moses and Aaron were used as a
way to display the supreme power and authority of God. The transformation of
Aaron’s rod into a living animal was a supernatural miracle, a creation of God.
All creations of God are perfect; hence Moses’ serpent was a perfect creature,
a serpent as first created without flaw, inferiority or curse (Gen. 1:31; Deut. 32:4).
“This God—his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
The ‘miracle sign serpent’ that was created would have been like the original
serpent that God made in Eden, which is also the dragon. Therefore the word
TANNÌN was used in Ex. 7:8-10 instead of NÀKHASH. Now we know why Moses
fled from the serpent (in Exodus 4:3). Moses had forty years’ experience in the
desert tending sheep, and surely would not flee from a serpent. But Moses had
never seen a dragon! That is why Moses fled from the serpent, it was a dragon!
Revelation 12:9; 20:2 says Satan, the Devil, is the dragon, the ancient serpent.
But this is not natural. Serpents are of earth but Satan is a spirit out of heaven.
Satan was an angel that became God’s enemy and the start of sin and rebellion;
(Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18). He had an appointment from God to govern Earth
and was in Eden from the beginning (Ezekiel 28:13-15). He was created perfect
but did not remain perfect; he used his position to stage rebellion against God.
Satan’s first rebellious act was the entrapment of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-5)
but he needed a body in which to exhibit himself visibly. He chose a dragon for
earthly manifestation because it stunningly exhibited him as the supreme power
and authority of earth. Satan is the reason that dragons are symbols of evil. The
dragon legends originate from the Garden of Eden.
Satan’s power is stronger in the last days when he openly fights against God.
Satan terrorises earth as a fiery red dragon and is worshipped (Rev. 12:3; 13:4).
He and his angels terrorise earth for the short time allowed him (Rev. 12:12-17).
Revelation Twelve prophesies the end time, when the present world era ends
and a new world era begins. Satan is in retreat from a lost war in heaven and is
coming to earth as a great fiery red dragon with seven heads. Rev. 12:3,
Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon,
with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
Satan has access to heaven (Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2), accusing holy people in front of
God’s throne (Zech. 3:1-2; Rev. 12:10). But the war in heaven puts an end to it.
v 7... And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against
the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were
defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called
the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world —he was
thrown down to the earth; and his angels were thrown down with him.
v 10, Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, ‘Now have come the
salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been
thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Dragons sometimes have more than one head; Psalm 74:14,
You crushed the heads of Leviathan; ...
(Leviathan is singular but heads is plural)
God intends to kill the dragon at his return; he could have killed him in Eden
(Gen. 3:9-19) but that was not a right time. His Kingdom return is the right time
to capture Satan and crush his heads (Gen. 3:15). Satan’s capture is a big event
for it signals the end of his evil reign. Jesus will then be King of the whole earth
(Isaiah 51:9; Zechariah 14:9). It will be a time of rejoicing for all people!
Isaiah foresees the last-day judgment of nations and the fight with Leviathan.
Isaiah 26:20-21; 27:1,
Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while
until the wrath is past. For the LORD comes out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth
will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no longer cover its slain.
27:1 On that day the LORD with his cruel and great and strong sword will
punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent,
and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.
(serpent, Heb. NÀKHASH; dragon, Heb. TANNÌN)
Satan, the Devil, will at last be cast into prison as a spirit (Rev. 20:1-3) under
sentence of high treason. But before then, his return as the ancient red dragon
brings terror and chaos to earth. The end of this age is a time of tribulation for
God’s people still inside the antichrist empire (Dan. 7:19-27; Rev. 6:9-11; 13:7).
Satan hates God’s people (Rev. 12:17). But in these last days God is saving his
earthly elect, his Kingdom seed, and they will survive (Isaiah 26:20; Daniel 12:1;
Zech. 8:6-8; Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:20; Rev. 12:13-16).
Moses’ confrontation against Pharaoh signifies Christ’s victory against Satan.
Egypt typifies the present evil world. Pharaoh typifies Satan, this world’s ruler
(Eze. 29:3; Luke 4:5-7). When God’s power was manifested Egypt’s sorcerers
tried duplicating the miracle, but God’s dragon ate their dead synthetic dragons
(TANNINÌM, dragons; Exodus 7:11-12). It is a reminder to Satan that God alone
is able to create a real living dragon because God alone has the power of life.
In Isaiah 30:7, Rahab is Egypt, typifying this world. Isaiah 51:9-11 foresees a
final combat against Satan, in which God kills Rahab and the dragon (TANNÌN).
(This text is further explained in other writings.)
God made dragons to swim the seas (Psalm 104:26) and his plan will not be
undone by Satan. All of creation will be restored including dragons.
For waters shall burst forth in the desert, and streams in the dry plain.
And wherever was parched will become a pool, and arid zones
will become springs of water; in the meadow lands where
dragons recline shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
(Heb. TANNÌM, dragons) (translation mine)
Isaiah 35 is prophetic of the New Earth during Christ’s reign, when earth will
be restored like Eden (Acts 3:19-21). Serpents will exist but will be harmless:
“They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Is. 11:8-9). Nothing in
the New Earth will be evil, not insects, serpents—or dragons; (nothing in nature
was evil at the start). Satan will have no place in the new world.
Dragons are from the Fifth Day, “So God created the great sea monsters...”
(Genesis 1:21, Heb. TANNINÌM, dragons). All of God’s creation is good, and for
praise—including dragons; “Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters
(Heb. TANNINÌM, dragons) and all deeps” (Psalm 148:7).
In Bible texts the Hebrew word TANNÌN refers to a serpent or reptile but it is
not any animal known today. In ancient Hebrew tradition TANNÌN is a dragon.
Some texts speak of the LEVIATHÀN, which was always regarded as a dragon.
(This name means twisted or coiled, like a snake.) Dragons were made to swim
and play in the seas (Job 41:31-32; Psa. 104:26). Dragons are grouped together
with sea serpents (Psa. 74:13-14).
This is a reminder that many of earth’s original animals are no longer living.
Legends and traditions are easily disregarded or forgotten, but the Bible is not
human tradition. Our minds must be open to believe God’s word even if some
ideas are fantastic. It was hard for Job to believe in dragons but God said they
are real. Dragons were on earth only for a brief time but we believe they were
in Eden at the start and will be with us again in the New Earth.
Legends also speak of the phoenix—a bird of beauty from the first paradise.
The phoenix legend commemorates a bird that was raised to new life out of the
ashes of fire. Some think it is only a myth, but the phoenix bird is mentioned in
the Book of Job. The Hebrew word KHOL has two meanings. Many translations
say sand but it can also be translated phoenix bird. In this corrected translation
it is indicating resurrection hope. Job 29:18,
Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest,
and I shall multiply my days like the phoenix.’
Job is recalling the fire phoenix legend, wherein the phoenix bird dies in fire
and rises to new life from the ashes of death. Job is comparing himself to a bird
that dies in the nest—only to rise again at a future time just like the phoenix bird.
The phoenix is therefore a symbol of future resurrection to new life.
We know anything that advances God’s purpose is possible. God can create
life when he chooses—green herb, animal, human, or spirit. Any new-life from
non-life is a divine act of creation, whether a first-creation or a later re-creation
(resurrection). The phoenix bird can be explained as God’s prophetic symbol
of future resurrection. From the beginning God has done miracles in all ages,
more than was ever written in the Bible or in any other book.
As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.
He does great things and unsearchable,
marvellous things without number.
But there are also many other things that Jesus did;
if every one of them were written down, I suppose that
the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
The phoenix was one of God’s creations from the beginning. Animals do not
have resurrection power in themselves but they can be resurrected from death
if God chooses—just like humans. God has chosen to resurrect a phoenix bird
to serve as a resurrection hope and inspiration for all of humanity everywhere.
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