Jump to: Smith'sATSISBEEaston'sWebster'sConcordanceThesaurusGreekHebrewLibrarySubtopicsTerms
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

bel, bal, drag'-un (Greek words: drakon, "dragon," "serpent"; ektos, "except"; horasis "vision," "prophecy"; ophis, "serpent"; sphragisamenos, "having sealed"; choris, "except," Hebrew or Aramaic words: chatham, "to seal"; zepha', "pitch"; za`apha', "storm," "wind"; nachash, "snake"; tannin, "serpent," "sea monster"):




1. The Bel Story: the God of Bel

2. The Dragon Story; Meaning of "Dragon"; Serpent-Worship in Babylon


1. Manuscripts

(1) Greek

(2) Syriac

2. Recensions or Versions

(1) Greek

(2) Syriac

(3) Latin

(4) Aramaic


VI. TEACHING Little in this work that is distinctly Jewish. God is great, absolute and ever-living; angels intervene for special ends; the absurdity of idol-worship


Probably not in Babylon; perhaps the Hebrew text originated in Palestine about 146 B.C. or later. The Septuagint version produced in Egypt about 100 B.C., which may be the date and language of the Book. Theta (Theodotion's version) was produced probably at Ephesus about 180 A.D.


Accepted as canonical by the Jews of Egypt but rejected by the Jews of Palestine Accepted as part of the Bible by Greek and Latin church Fathers, by the Council of Trent and therefore by the Roman church; denied by Protestants to be canonical


I. Introductory.

Bel and the Dragon is the third of the three Apocryphal additions to Daniel, The SONG OF THE THREE CHILDREN and SUSANNA (which see) being the other two. In the Greek and Latin versions (see below, "IV. Textual Authorities") these "additions" form an integral part of the canonical Book of Daniel, and they are recognized as such and therefore as themselves canonical by the Council of Trent. But the So of the Three Children is the only piece having a necessary connection with the Hebrew canonical Book of Daniel; in the Greek and Latin texts it follows Daniel 3:24. The other two are appended and appear to have an origin independent of the book to which they are appended and also of each other, though in all three as also in the Hebrew Book of Daniel the name and fame of Daniel stand out prominently.

II. Name of Bel and the Dragon.

Since in the Greek and Latin recensions or versions Bel and the Dragon forms a portion of the Book of Daniel it does not bear a special name. But in the only two known manuscripts of the Septuagint in Syro-Hexaplar (see below, "IV. Textual Authorities") these words stand at the head of the "addition" now under consideration: "From (or "a part of") the prophecy of Habakkuk son of Joshua of the tribe of Levi." That the Biblical writing prophet of that name is meant is beyond question. In Theta (Theodotian) this fact is distinctly stated (see Bel and the Dragon verse 33); and it is equally beyond question that these tales could never have come from the prophet so called (see below "VIII. Canonicity and Authenticity").

In codices Alexandrinus and Vaticanus of Theodotian (Theta) the title is: Horasis 12, i.e. Daniel 12, canonical Daniel being comprised in 11 chapters. In the Vulgate, Bel and the Dragon forms chapter 14, but, as in the case of the earlier chapters, it has no heading.

In the Syriac Peshitta (W) the story of Bel and the Dragon is preceded by "Bel the idol," and that of the Dragon by "Then follows the Dragon." Bel and the Dragon is the title in all Protestant versions of the Apocrypha, which rigidly keep the latter separate from the books of the Hebrew canon.

III. Contents.

The stories of Bel and of the Dragon have a separate origin and existed apart: they are brought together because they both agree in holding up idolatry to ridicule and in encouraging Jewish believers to be true to their religion. The glorification of Daniel is also another point in which both agree, though while the Daniel of the Bel and the Dragon story appears as a shrewd Judge corresponding to the etymology of that name, he of the Dragon story is but a fearless puritan who will die rather than be faithless to his religion.

It is evident, however that the editor of the "additions" has fused both stories into one, making the Dragon story depend on that which precedes (See Bel and of the Dragon verses 23). It seems very likely that, in a Nestorian list mentioned by Churton (Uncanonical and Apocryphal Scriptures, 391), Bel and the Dragon is comprised under the title, The Little Daniel.

The two stories as told in common by Septuagint and Theodotion may be thus summarized:

1. The Story of Bel: the God of Bel:

There is in Babylon an image of Bel which Daniel refuses to worship, though no form of worship is mentioned except that of supplying the god with food. The king (Cyrus according to Theodotion) remonstrates with the delinquent Hebrew, pointing Out to him the immense amount of food consumed daily by Bel, who thus proves himself to be a living god. Daniel, doubting the king's statement as to the food, asks to be allowed to test the alleged fact. His request being granted, he is shown by expressed desire the lectisternia, the sacred tables being covered by food which the god is to consume during the night. The doors are all sealed by arrangement, and after the priests have departed Daniel has the temple floor strewn with light ashes. When the morning breaks it is found that the doors are still sealed, but the food has disappeared. Upon examination the tracks of bare feet are found on the ash-strewn floor, showing that the priests have entered the temple by a secret way and removed the food. Angered by the trick played on him the king has the priests put to death and the image destroyed.

The word Bel, a short form of Baal, occurs in the Old Testament in Isaiah 46:1 Jeremiah 50:2; Jeremiah 51:44, where it stands for Merodach or Marduk, chief of the Babylonian deities. Originally however it denotes any one of the Babylonian local deities, and especially the principal deity worshipped at Nippur (for similar use of the Hebrew "Baal" see the article on this word). In Theodotion Cyrus appears as an abettor of Bel-worship, which is quite in accordance with the practice of the early Persian kings to show favor to the worship of the countries they conquered. See Century Bible, "Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther," 40.

2. The Dragon Story; Meaning of "Dragon"; Serpent-Worship in Babylon:

There is in Babylon a great live dragon worshipped by a large number of the inhabitants, who lavishly feed it. In the present case the god is or is represented by a living creature which can be fed, and, indeed, needs feeding. Daniel refuses to bow down before the dragon and makes an offer to the king to kill it. Believing the god well able to care for himself, the king accepts Daniel's challenge. Daniel makes a mixture of which pitch forms the principal ingredient and thrusts it down the dragon's throat, so that "it bursts asunder and dies." The people are infuriated at the death of their god and demand that the king shall have the god-murderer put to death, a demand to which the royal master yields by having Daniel cast into a den of lions, as was done to other culprits found guilty of capital charges. But though the prophet remained in the company of 7 lions for 6 days he suffered no injury. On the last day when Daniel, without food, was naturally hungry, a miracle was performed by way of supplying him with food. Habakkuk (see above, "II. Name"), when cooking food for his reapers, heard an angel's voice commanding him to carry the food he had prepared to Daniel in the lions' den in Babylon. Upon his replying that he did not know where the den, or even Babylon, was, the angel laid hold of his hair and by it carried the prophet to the very part of the den where Daniel was. Having handed the latter the meal intended for the reapers, he was safely brought back by the angel to his own home. It would seem that Habakkuk was protected from the lions as well as Daniel. See ing all this the king worshipped God, set Daniel free, and in his stead east his accusers into the lions' den, where they were instantly devoured,

Zockler in his commentary (p. 215) speaks of the "fluidity" of the Dragon myth, and he has been followed by Marshall and Daubney. But what in reality does the Greek word drakon, rendered "dragon," mean? In the Septuagint the word is used generally (15 times) to translate the Hebrew tannin which denotes a serpent or sea monster. It is this word (tannin) which in the Aramaic version of the Dragon story translates the Greek drakon. Now in Exodus 4:3 and Exodus 7:9 the Hebrew tannin and nachash ("serpent") seem identified as are the Greek drakon and ophis in Revelation 12:9. We may therefore take drakon in the present story to stand for a serpent. We know that in Babylon the god Nina was worshipped in the form of a serpent (see Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, 281), and it is more probable that it is the worship of this god or of some other serpent deity that is here meant, than that there is any allusion to the Babylonian story according to which Marduk the supreme deity of Babylon engaged in a conflict with Tiamat the monster-foe to light and order.

(1) The dragon of the present story is a god and not as Tiamat, a kind of devil, and a male, not a female.

(2) The dragon in the present story is a serpent, which is not true of Tiamat.

(3) Apsu (male) and Tiamat (female) are Babylonian deities who give birth to the gods of heaven; these gods subsequently led by their mother Tiamat engaged in a fierce contest with Marduk.

Since Gunkel published his book, Schopfung und Chaos (1895), it has been the fashion to see reflections of the Marduk-Tiamat conflict throughout the Old Testament. But recent investigations tend to show that Babylonian mythology has not dominated Hebrew thought to the extent that was formerly thought, and with this statement Gunkel himself now agrees, as the last edition of his commentary on Genesis proves.

IV. Textual Authorities.

1. Manuscripts:

(1) Greek.

There exist in Greek two forms of the text (see below).

(a) The Septuagint text has been preserved in but one original MS, the codex Christianus (from the Chigi family who owned it, published in Rome in 1772). This belongs to about the 9th century. This text has been printed also in Cozza's Sacrorum Bibliorum vestustissima fragmenta Graeca et Latina, part iii, Romae, 1877, and in Swete's edition of the Septuagint side by side with Theodotion. In Tischendorf's Septuagint it occurs at the close of the ordinary text of the Septuagint.

(b) Of Theta (the text of Theodotion) we have the following important manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, Q (codex Marchalianus), Gamma (verses 1, 2-4 only) and Delta (from verse 21 to verse 41).

(2) Syriac.

There exists in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, a manuscript of the 8th century of the Syro-Hexaplar version made by Paul of Tella in 617 A.D. at Alexandria from col vi (Septuagint) of Origen's Hexapla. This most valuable manuscript has been edited and published by Ceriani.

2. Recensions or Versions:

(1) Greek.

(a) The Septuagint:

Of this we have but one manuscript (see above under "Manuscripts") and until its publication at Rome in 1772 what is now known as Theta was believed to be the real Septuagint version, notwithstanding hints to the contrary by early Christian writers.

(b) Theta, or the Version of Theodotion:

This version appears to be a revision of the Septuagint, with the help, perhaps, as in the case of the canonical Daniel, of a Hebrew (or Aramaic) original, now lost. It is much less pedantic than Aquila's Greek translation which preceded it, and its Greek is better. It is also a better translation than the Septuagint; yet it has many transliterations of Hebrew words instead of translations. This version of Daniel displaced that of the Septuagint at a very early time, for though Origen gave place to the Septuagint in his Hexapla, in his writings he almost always cites from Theta. In his preface to Daniel Jerome points to the fact that in his own time the church had rejected the Septuagint in favor of Theodotion, mentioning the defectiveness of the former as the ground. Even Irenaeus (died 202) and Porphyry (died 305) preferred Theodotion to the Septuagint. Field was the first to point out that it is the work of Theodotion (not the Septuagint) that we have in 1 Esdras, etc.

(2) Syriac.

In addition to the Syro-Hexaplar version (see above, under "Manuscript") the Peshitta version must be noted. It follows Theodotion closely, and is printed in Walton's Polyglot (in one recension only of Bel and the Dragon) and in a revised text edited by Lagarde in 1861; not as R. H. Charles (Enc Brit, VII, 807) erroneously says in The Book of Tobit by Neubauer.

(3) Latin.

(a) The old Latin version, which rests on Theodotion, fragments of which occur in Sabatier's work, Bibliorum sacrorum Latinae versiones antiquae (1743, etc., II).

(b) The Vulgate, which follows Jerome's translation, is also based on Theodotion, and follows it closely.

(4) Aramaic.

For the Aramaic version published by M. Caster and claimed to be the text of the book as first written, see below, "V. Original Language." V. The Original Language: Principal Opinions.

It has been until recent years most generally maintained that Bel and the Dragon was composed and first edited in the Greek language. So Eichhorn, de Wette, Schrader, Fritzsche, Schurer and Konig. In favor of this the following reasons have been given:

(1) No Semitic original with reasonable claims has been discovered. Origen, Eusebius and Jerome distinctly say that no Hebrew (or Aramaic) form of this tract existed or was known in their time.

(2) The Hebraisms with which this work undoubtedly abounds are no more numerous or more crucial than can be found in works by Jewish authors which are known to have been composed in the Greek language, such as the continual recurrence of kai (= "and"), kai eipe ("and he said"), etc.

On the other hand, the opinion has been growing among recent scholars that this work was written first of all either in Hebrew or Aramaic Some of the grounds are the following:

(1) It is known that Theodotion in making his translation of other parts of the Old Testament (Daniel) endeavored to correct the Septuagint with the aid of the Massoretic Text. A comparison of the Septuagint and of Theodotion of Bel and the Dragon reveal differences of a similar character. How can we account for them unless we assume that Theodotion had before him a Semitic original? A very weak argument, however, for the translator might have corrected on a priori principles, using his own Judgment; or there might well have been in his time different recensions of the Septuagint. Westcott (DB, I, 397a; 2nd edition, 714a) holds that some of Theodotion's changes are due to a desire to give consistency to the facts.

(2) Much has been made of the Semiticisms in the work, and it must be admitted that they are numerous and striking. But are these Hebraisms or Aramaisms? The commonest and most undoubted Semiticism is the repeated use of kai and kai egeneto with the force of the waw-consecutive and only to be explained and understood in the light of that construction. But the waw-consecutive exists only in classical Hebrew; Aramaic and post-Biblical. Hebrew, including late parts of the Old Testament (parts of Ecclesiastes, etc.), know nothing of it. It must be assumed then that if the Semiticisms of this work imply a Semitic original, that original was Hebrew, not Aramaic

The following Hebraisms found in the Septuagint and in Theodotion may briefly be noted:

(1) The use of the Greek kai with all the varied meanings of the waw-consecutive. (see below, under "VI. Teaching"). The beginning of a sentence with kai en ("and there was") Bel and the Dragon (verses 1, 3 in the Septuagint; 2, etc., in Theodotion) agrees with the Hebrew waw-consecutive construction, but makes poor Greek. In verse 15 kai egeneto can be understood only in the light of the Hebrew for which it stands.

(2) The syntactical feature called parataxy (coordination) presents itself throughout the Greek of this piece, and it has been reproduced in the English translations (the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American)) as any English reader can see. In the classical languages it is hypotaxy that prevails. If, as seems likely, those responsible for Septuagint and Theodotion followed a Hebrew original, they failed to make sufficient allowance for the peculiar force of the waw-consecutive idiom, for this does not involve hypotaxy to an y considerable extent.

(3) The constant occurrence of Kurios ("Lord") without the article implies the Hebrew Yahweh; and the phrase the "Lord God" is also Hebrew.

(4) There are difficulties and differences best explained by assuming a Hebrew origin. The Greek word sphragisamenos has no sense in verse 14 (Septuagint) for, retaining it, we should read of a sealing of the temple (of Bel) and also of a sealing with signet rings of the doors. The Hebrew word "shut" (catham) is written much like that for "seal" (chatham), and was probably, as Marshal suggests, mistaken for the latter. The temple was "shut" and the doors "sealed." In verse 10 the Septuagint (choris) and Theodotion (ektos) have 2 words of similar sense, which are best explained as independent renderings of one Hebrew word.

Marshall, identifying this dragon story with the Babylonian creation-myth of Marduk and Tiamat, thinks that instead of "pitch" used in making the obolus with which Daniel destroyed the dragon, the original Aramaic document has "storm wind," the two words being in Aramaic written much alike (za`apha' = "storm wind," and zepha' = pitch). But the fact is quite overlooked that the obolus contained not only pitch, but also "fat" and "hair" (see Bel and the Dragon, verse 27). Besides, in the Aramaic version, published by Gaster, to which Marshall attaches great importance as at least a real source, we have four ingredients, namely, pitch (zepetha'), fat, flax (kittan) and hair. Dr. Marshall's suggestion involves therefore not only the confusion of two words spelled differently in Aramaic, but the substitution of 3 or 4 terms for one in the original draft. Moreover, in Bel and the Dragon the several ingredients are made up into a cake with which the dragon was gorged. Dr. Marshall's view assumes also an Aramaic original which is a gainst the evidence. But the suggestion would not have been made but for a desire to assimilate the dragon story to the Babylonian creation-myth, though in motive and details both differ so essentially.

In favor of a Semitic original many writers have cited the fact that forms of the story have been found in Hebrew and Aramaic in the 13th century. Raymund Martini in his Pugio Fidei (written against the Jews) quotes Bel and the Dragon from a Hebrew Midrash on Genesis which Neubauer discovered and which is almost verbatim identical with the unique manuscript containing Midrash Rabba de Rabba (see Neubauer, Tobit, viii, and Franz Delitzsch, de Habacuci, 82). Still other Hebrew forms of these stories have been found. All the "additions" to Daniel "occur in Hebrew in the remains of Yosippon," the "Hebrew Josephus," as he has been called. He wrote in the 10th century.

But most important of all is the discovery by Dr. M. Gaster of the dragon story in Aramaic, imbedded in the Chronicles of Yerahmeel, a work of the 10th century. Dr. Gaster maintains that in this Aramaic fragment we have a portion of the original Bel and the Dragon (see PSBA, 1894, 280 (Introduction), 312 (Text) and 1895 (for notes and translation)). The present writer does not think Dr. Gaster has made out his case.

(1) If such an Aramaic original did really exist at any time we should have learned something definite about it from early writers, Jewish and Christian.

(2) Dr. Gaster has discovered an Aramaic form of only two of the three "additions," those of the So of the Three Children and of the dragon story. What of the rest of the Aramaic document?

(3) It has already been pointed out that the waw-consecutive constructions implied in the Greek texts go back to a Hebrew, not an Aramaic original.

(4) The Aramaic text of the Dragon story not seldom differs both from the Septuagint and Theodotion as in the following and many other cases: The two Greek versions have in Bel and the Dragon, verse 24 "The king (said)," which the Aramaic omits: in verse 35 the Aramaic after "And Habakkuk said" adds "to the angel," which the Septuagint and Theodotion are without.

(5) The compiler of the Yerahmeel Chronicle says distinctly that he had taken the So of the Three Children and the dragon story from the writings of Theodotion (see PSBA, 1895, 283), he having, it is quite evident, himself put them into Aramaic. Dr. Gaster lays stress on the words of the compiler, that what he gives in Aramaic is that which "Theodotion found" (loc. cit.). But the reference can be only to the Septuagint which this translator made the basis of his own version; it is far too much to assume that the Chronicler means an Aramaic form of the stories.

VI. Teaching.

The two stories teach the doctrine of the oneness and absoluteness of Yahwe, called throughout Kurios ("Lord"), a literal rendering of the Hebrew word 'adhonai ("Lord") which the Jews substituted for Yahwe in reading the Hebrew as do now-a-day Jews. In the Greek and Latin versions it is the word read (the Qere perpetuum, not that written Kethibh), which is translated. It would have been more consonant with universal practice if the proper name Yahweh had been transliterated as proper names usually are.

But very little is said of the character of Yahweh. He is great and the only (true) God in Bel and the Dragon (verse 41), the living God in contrast with Bel (verse 57). Of the nature of His demands on His worshippers, ritualistic and ethical, nothing is said. There is no reference to any distinctly Jewish beliefs or practices; nothing about the torah or about any Divine revelation to men, about sacrifice or the temple or even a priesthood, except that in the Septuagint (not in Theodotion) Daniel the prophet is spoken of as a priest-strong evidence of the low place assigned by the writer to the external side of the religion he professed. We do however find mention of an angel, a sort of deus ex machina in the Dragon story (verses 34); compare Daniel 6:22.

The incident of the transportation of Habakkuk to Babylon shows that the writer had strong faith in supernatural intervention on behalf of the pious. Apart from this incident the two stories steer fairly clear of anything that is supernatural. But Bel and the Dragon verses 33-39 are a late interpolation.

VII. Author, Place and Date of Composition.

Nothing whatever is known of the author of the book and nothing definite or certain of the place or date of composition. It has been commonly felt, as by Bissell, etc., that it reflects a Babylonian origin. Clay (see Bel and the Dragon, verse 7) abounded in Babylon (but surely not only in Babylon); bronze (Bel and the Dragon, verse 7) was often used in that country for the manufacturing of images, and the lion, it is known, was native to the country (but that was the case also in Palestine in Biblical, and even post-Biblical times). None of the arguments for a Babylonian origin have much weight, and there are contrary arguments of considerable force.

The anachronisms and inconsistencies are more easily explained on the assumption of a non-Babylonian origin. Besides, the Judaism of Babylon was of a very strict and regulation kind, great attention being given to the law and to matters of ritual. There is nothing in Bel and the Dragon regarding these points (see above under "Teaching").

If we assume a Hebrew original, as there are good grounds for doing, it is quite possible that these legends were written in Palestine at a time when the Jewish religion was severely persecuted: perhaps when Antiochus VII (Sidetes, 139-128 B.C.) reconquered Judah for Syria and sorely oppressed the subject people. Yet nothing very dogmatic can be said as to this. We cannot infer much from the style of the Hebrew (or Aramaic?), since no Semitic original has come down to us. It is quite clear that these "additions" imply the existence of the canonical Book of Daniel and belong to a subsequent date, for they contain later developments of traditions respecting Daniel. The canonical Book of Daniel is dated by modern scholars about 160 B.C., so that a date about 136 B.C. (see above) could not be far amiss.

If, on the other hand, we take for granted that the Septuagint is the original text of the book, the date of that recension is the date of the work itself. It seems probable that this recension of Daniel was made in Egypt about 150 B.C. (see 1 Maccabees 1:54; 2:59), and we have evidence that up to that date the "three additions" formed no part of the book, though they exist in all Greek and Syriac manuscripts of Daniel, which have come down to us. Probably the "additions" existed as separate compositions for some time before they were joined to Daniel proper, but it is hardly too much to assume that they were united no later than 100 B.C. Yet the data for reaching a conclusion are very slight. It may be added that the Greek of the Septuagint is distinctly Alexandrian in its character, as Westcott, Bissell and others have pointed out. Theodotion's version is supposed to have been made at Ephesus toward the end of the 2nd century A.D.

VIII. Canonicity and Authenticity.

The Alexandrian Jews, recognizing the Septuagint as their Bible, accepted the whole of the Apocrypha as canonical. The Palestine Jews, on the other hand, limited their canonical Scriptures to the Hebrew Old Testament. There is, of course, some uncertainty (largely no doubt because it was originally a translation from the Hebrew) as to whether the Septuagint at the first included the Apocrypha in its whole extent or not, but all the evidence points to the fact that it did, though individual books like Daniel existed apart before they formed a portion of the Greek or Egyptian canon.

In the early Christian church all the three "additions" are quoted as integral parts of Daniel by Greek and by Latin Fathers, as e.g. by Irenaeus (IV, 5, 2); Tertullian (De idololatria c.18); Cyprian (Ad fortunatum, c.11).

By a decree of the Council of Trent these "additions" were for the Roman church made as much a part of the Bible canon as the Hebrew Book of Daniel. Protestant churches have as a rule excluded the whole of the Apocrypha from their Bibles, regarding its books as either "Deutero-canonical" or "non-canonical." In consequence of this attitude among Protestants the Apocrypha has until lately been greatly neglected by Protestant writers. But a great change is setting in, and some of the best commentaries by Protestant scholars produced in recent years deal with the Apocrypha and its teaching.

Julius Africanus (flourished about first half of 3rd century A.D.) was the first to impugn the truth of the stories embodied in the "additions" to Daniel. This he did in a letter to Origen to which the recipient vigorously replied.

The improbabilities and contradictions of these three pieces have often been pointed out from the time of Julius Africanus down to the present day. The following points may be set down as specimens:

(1) Daniel is called a priest in the Septuagint (Bel and the Dragon, verse 1), and yet he is identified with the prophet of that name.

(2) Habakkuk the prophet (he is so called in Theodotion (see Bel and the Dragon, verse 33), and no other can be intended) is made to be a contemporary of Daniel and also of the Persian king Cyrus (see Bel and the Dragon, verses 1 and 33 in the English Bible). Now Cyrus conquered Babylon in 538 B.C., the principal Jews in Babylon returning to Palestine the following year. The events narrated in Bel and the Dragon could not have occurred during the time Cyrus was king of Babylon, but the Septuagint speaks of "the king" without naming him.

(3) It was not Cyrus but Xerxes who destroyed the image of Bel, this being in 475 B.C. (see Herodotus i0.183; Strabo xvi0.1; Arrian, Exped. Alex., vii.1).

(4) It is further objected that dragon-worship in Babylon, such as is implied in the dragon story, is contrary to fact. Star-worship, it has been said, did exist, but not animal-worship. So Eichhorn and Fritzsche. But there is every reason for believing that the worship of living animals as representing deity, and especially of the living serpent, existed in Babylon as among other nations of antiquity, including the Greeks and Romans (see Herzog, 1st edition, article "Drache zu Babylon," by J. G. Muller). It has already been pointed out (see list of meanings) that the word "dragon" denotes a serpent.


Eichhorn, Einleitung in die apoc. Schriften des Alten Testaments (1795), 431 (remarkable for its time: compares the Septuagint and Theodotion); W. H. Daubney, The Three Additions to Daniel (Cambridge, 1906; contains much matter though rather uncritically treated); the commentaries of Fritzsche (Vol I: still very rich in material; it forms part of the Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch); Bissell (in Lange's series, but not a translation); Ball Speaker's Commentary (this is the best English commentary on the Apocrypha). See also Schurer, Geschichte3, III, 333, and his article in RE3, I, 639; and the articles by Kamphausen in EB, I, 1014; Toy, in Jewish Encyclopedia, II, 650; R. H. Charles, Encyclopedia Brittanica, VII, 807, and especially that by J. Turner Marshall in HDB, I, 267. Fritzsche Libri Veteris Testamenti Graece (1871), and Swete, The Old Testament in Greek, III, 1894, and later editions, give the Septuagint and Theodotion on parallel pages. In the edition of the Septuagint edited by Tischendorf, the Septuagint is given in the text and Theodotion in an appendix.

T. Witton Davies


drag'-un (tannin, plural tannim, tannoth; drakon):

Tannin and the plural tanninim occur 14 times, and in English Versions of the Bible are variously rendered "dragon," "whale," "serpent" or "sea-monster"; but Lamentations 4:3, the King James Version "sea-monster," the King James Version margin"sea calves," the Revised Version (British and American) "jackals." Tannim occurs 12 times, and is rendered "dragons," the Revised Version (British and American) "jackals," except in Ezekiel 29:3, where the King James Version has "dragon" (the American Standard Revised Version "monster"), and in Ezekiel 32:2, where the King James Version has "whale" and the English Revised Version and the King James Version margin"dragon" (the American Standard Revised Version "monster"). Tannoth occurs once, in Malachi 1:3, where it is rendered "dragons," the Revised Version (British and American) "jackals." Drakon occurs 12 times in Revelation 12; Revelation 13; Revelation 13 16; and 20, where it is uniformly rendered "dragon." (Compare Arabic tinnin, the constellation, Draco.) Tannoth (Septuagint domata, "dwellings") is a feminine plural form as if from tannah, but it suits the context to give it the same meaning as tannim.

In Exodus 7:9, 10, 12, tannin is used of the serpents which were produced from Aaron's rod and the rods of the Egyptian magicians, whereas in Exodus 4:3 and 7:15, for the serpent produced from Aaron's rod, we find nachash, the ordinary word for serpent. In two passages we find "whale," the Revised Version (British and American) "sea-monster"; Genesis 1:21: "And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that moveth"; Job 7:12: "Am I a sea, or a sea-monster, that thou settest a watch over me?" Other passages (the English Revised Version and the King James Version) are Deuteronomy 32:33: "Their wine is the poison of dragons (the American Standard Revised Version "serpents"), and the cruel venom of asps"; Nehemiah 2:13: "And I went out by night by the valley gate, even toward the dragon's (the American Standard Revised Version "jackal's") well" (the King James Version "dragon well"); Psalm 91:13: "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the serpent (the King James Version "dragon") shalt thou trample under foot "; Psalm 148:7: "Praise Yahweh from the earth, ye sea-monsters (the King James Version "dragons"), and all deeps"; Jeremiah 51:34: "Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me,. like a monster" (the King James Version "dragon"). Here also two tannim passages; Ezekiel 29:3: "Thus saith the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster (the King James Version "dragon") that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself"; and Ezekiel 32:2: "Son of man, take up a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou wast likened unto a young lion of the nations: yet art thou as a monster (the English Revised Version "dragon," the King James Version "whale") in the seas; and thou didst break forth with thy rivers and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers." The foregoing passages offer no especial difficulties in the interpretation of the word tannin. All may fairly be understood to refer to a serpent or sea-monster or some imaginary creature, without invoking any ancient myths for their elucidation. The same may be said of the passages in Revelation. A dragon is taken as the personification of Satan, as of Pharaoh in the passages in Ezekiel. It is of course true that ancient myths may more or less distantly underlie some of these dragon and serpent references, and such myths may be demonstrated to throw additional light in certain cases, but at least the passages in question are intelligible without recourse to the myths. This however is not equally true of all the tannin passages. In Psalm 74:12 we read: "Yet God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the sea-monsters (the King James Version "dragons") in the waters." Compare Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9.

The three passages just cited seem to denote each some particular act, and are referred by Canon Cheyne (Encyclopedia Biblica, under the word "Dragon") to the old Babylonian myth of the conflict of Marduk and Tiamat in the Assyrian creation-legend (thus Gunkel, etc.). Indeed he refers to that myth not only these passages, but also Jeremiah 5:24 Ezekiel 29:3-6; Ezekiel 32:2-8 and Job 7:12, which have been cited above. In translating the last two passages, Canon Cheyne uses the definite article, "the dragon," instead of "a" as in the Revised Version (British and American), which makes a great difference in the meaning. In Psalm 87:4, it is clear that Rahab is a country, i.e. Egypt. Isaiah 30:7 is to the same point. In Isaiah 51:9, 10, "that didst cut Rahab in pieces" and "that didst pierce the monster" (the King James Version "dragon"), are two coordinate expressions of one idea, which is apparently the defeat of the Egyptians, as appears in the reference to the passage of the Red Sea. In Isaiah 27:1, "leviathan the swift serpent" and "leviathan the crooked serpent" and "the monster (the King James Version and the English Revised Version "dragon") that is in the sea" have been identified with Babylon, Persia and Egypt (Encyclopedia Biblica, under the word "Dragon," 4). It is more probable that the first two expressions are coordinate, and amount to "leviathan the swift and crooked serpent," and that the verse may therefore refer to Babylonia and Egypt. Psalm 74:12-15 is more in line with the idea of the article in EB, but it is nevertheless susceptible of an explanation similar to that of the other two passages.

Tannim, "dragons" (the Revised Version (British and American) "jackals") occurs in Job 30:29 Psalm 44:19 Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 43:20 Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 14:6; Jeremiah 49:33; Jeremiah 51:37; tannoth, "dragons" (the Revised Version (British and American) "jackals") is found in Malachi 1:3. In all these passages, "jackal" suits the context better than "dragon," "sea-monster" or "serpent." An exception to the rendering of "dragon" or "serpent" or "sea-monster" for tannin is found in Lamentations 4:3: "Even the jackals draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones." the King James Version has "seamonster," the King James Version margin"sea calves." A mammal is indicated, and the Revised Version (British and American) apparently assumes that tannin is an error for tannim. Two other exceptions are in Ezekiel 29:3 and Ezekiel 32:2, where English Versions of the Bible renders tannim by "dragon," since in these two passages "jackal" obviously will not suit. SeeJACKAL.

On the constellational dragons or snakes, see ASTRONOMY, sec. II, 1-5.

Alfred Ely Day


(Nehemiah 2:13 the King James Version). See JACKAL'S WELL.


See DANIEL, BOOK OF, sec. X.







1404. drakon -- a dragon (a mythical monster)
... a dragon (a mythical monster). Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration:
drakon Phonetic Spelling: (drak'-own) Short Definition: a dragon or huge serpent ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/1404.htm - 7k
Strong's Hebrew
8577. tannin -- serpent, dragon, sea monster
... serpent, dragon, sea monster. Transliteration: tannin Phonetic Spelling: (tan-neen')
Short Definition: monster. ... dragon, sea-monster, serpent, whale. ...
/hebrew/8577.htm - 6k

8568. tannah -- dragon
... 8567, 8568. tannah. 8569 . dragon. Transliteration: tannah Phonetic Spelling:
(tan-naw') Short Definition: dragon. Word Origin fem. of tan, qv. dragon ...
/hebrew/8568.htm - 5k

3882. Livyathan -- "serpent," a sea monster or dragon
... 3881, 3882. Livyathan. 3883 . "serpent," a sea monster or dragon. Transliteration:
Livyathan Phonetic Spelling: (liv-yaw-thawn') Short Definition: Leviathan ...
/hebrew/3882.htm - 6k

5886. En Tannim -- "spring of dragons," a place near Jer.
... NASB Word Usage Dragon's Well (1). dragon well. From ayin and the plural of tan;
fountain of jackals; En-Tannim, a pool near Jerusalem -- dragon well. ...
/hebrew/5886.htm - 6k

8565. tan -- a jackal
... Word Origin from an unused word Definition a jackal NASB Word Usage jackals
(14). dragon, whale. From an unused root probably meaning ...
/hebrew/8565.htm - 6k


The Woman and Dragon.
... The Woman and Dragon. ... And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red
dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. ...
/.../bliss/a brief commentary on the apocalypse/the woman and dragon.htm

The Dragon, the Devil; the Stars Struck from Heaven by the Tail of ...
... Chapter X."The Dragon, the Devil; The Stars Struck from Heaven by the Tail of the
Dragon, Heretics; The Numbers of the Trinity, that Is, the Persons Numbered ...
/.../chapter x the dragon the devil.htm

The River of Egypt and Its Dragon, Contrasted with the Jordan.
... Sixth Book. 29. The River of Egypt and Its Dragon, Contrasted with the
Jordan. But that the Spirit in the inspired Scriptures is ...
/.../origen/origens commentary on the gospel of john/29 the river of egypt.htm

About the Dragon and the Young Man.
... Acts of the Holy Apostle Thomas, When He Came into India, and Built the
Palace in the Heavens. About the Dragon and the Young Man. ...
/.../unknown/acts of the holy apostle thomas/about the dragon and the.htm

Of the Measure of the Interior Court by the Reed of God, with the ...
... Of the Measure of the Interior Court by the Reed of God, with the Snares of the
Seven-headed Dragon, and his Battle with Michael concerning the Birth of the ...
/.../mede/a key to the apocalypse/synchronism vi of the measure.htm

Of the Thousand Years in which the Dragon or Satan is bound, with ...
... SYNCHRONISM IV. Of the Thousand Years in which the Dragon or Satan is bound, with
the Seventh Trumpet, or the Interval from the Destruction of the Beast. ...
/.../mede/a key to the apocalypse/synchronism iv of the thousand.htm

Of his Picture Surmounted by a Cross and Having Beneath it a ...
... Book III. Chapter III."Of his Picture surmounted by a Cross and having
beneath it a Dragon. And besides this, he caused to be ...
/.../pamphilius/the life of constantine/chapter iii of his picture surmounted.htm

The Seven Crowns of the Beast to be Taken Away by victorious ...
... Chapter XIII."The Seven Crowns of the Beast to Be Taken Away by Victorious Chastity;
The Ten Crowns of the Dragon, the Vices Opposed to the Decalogue; The ...
/.../chapter xiii the seven crowns of.htm

Of the contemporary term of the Interior Court, and the Battle ...
... Of the contemporary term of the Interior Court, and the Battle between the Dragon
and Michael concerning the Man Child, with the first Six Seals. ...
/.../mede/a key to the apocalypse/synchronism ii of the contemporary.htm

The Devil Vanquished; Or, Michael's War with the Dragon. Rev. 12 ...
... HYMN 58 The devil vanquished; or, Michael's war with the dragon. Rev. 12:7. LM The
devil vanquished; or, Michael's war with the dragon. Rev.12:7. ...
/.../watts/the psalms and hymns of isaac watts/hymn 58 the devil vanquished.htm

Easton's Bible Dictionary

(1.) Hebrews tannim, plural of tan. The name of some unknown creature inhabiting desert places and ruins (Job 30:29; Psalm 44:19; Isaiah 13:22; 34:13; 43:20; Jeremiah 10:22; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3); probably, as translated in the Revised Version, the jackal (q.v.).

(2.) Hebrews tannin. Some great sea monster (Jeremiah 51:34). In Isaiah 51:9 it may denote the crocodile. In Genesis 1:21 (Hebrews plural tanninim) the Authorized Version renders "whales," and the Revised Version "sea monsters." It is rendered "serpent" in Exodus 7:9. It is used figuratively in Psalm 74:13; Ezek. 29:3.

In the New Testament the word "dragon" is found only in Revelation 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 16, 17, etc., and is there used metaphorically of "Satan." (see WHALE.)

Dragon well

(Nehemiah 2:13), supposed by some to be identical with the Pool of Gihon.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (n.) A fabulous animal, generally represented as a monstrous winged serpent or lizard, with a crested head and enormous claws, and regarded as very powerful and ferocious.

2. (n.) A fierce, violent person, esp. a woman.

3. (n.) A constellation of the northern hemisphere figured as a dragon; Draco.

4. (n.) A luminous exhalation from marshy grounds, seeming to move through the air as a winged serpent.

5. (n.) A short musket hooked to a swivel attached to a soldier's belt; -- so called from a representation of a dragon's head at the muzzle.

6. (n.) A small arboreal lizard of the genus Draco, of several species, found in the East Indies and Southern Asia. Five or six of the hind ribs, on each side, are prolonged and covered with weblike skin, forming a sort of wing. These prolongations aid them in making long leaps from tree to tree. Called also flying lizard.

7. (n.) A variety of carrier pigeon.

8. (n.) A fabulous winged creature, sometimes borne as a charge in a coat of arms.

Dragon (20 Occurrences)
... 29:3. In the New Testament the word "dragon" is found only in Revelation 12:3, 4,
7, 9, 16, 17, etc., and is there used metaphorically of "Satan." (see WHALE.). ...
/d/dragon.htm - 56k

Dragon's (1 Occurrence)
... Multi-Version Concordance Dragon's (1 Occurrence). Nehemiah 2:13 And I
went out by night, through the doorway of the valley, and ...
/d/dragon's.htm - 6k

Dragon-well (1 Occurrence)
Dragon-well. Dragon's, Dragon-well. Drags . Multi-Version
Concordance Dragon-well (1 Occurrence). Nehemiah 2:13 And ...
/d/dragon-well.htm - 6k

Whale (2 Occurrences)
... Genesis 1:21 Job 7:12), "sea-monster," the King James Version "whale." (3) tannim
(Ezekiel 32:2), "monster," the English Revised Version "dragon" the King ...
/w/whale.htm - 13k

Three (5005 Occurrences)
... Contents 4. Author and Date 5. Original Language 6. Text and Versions LITERATURE
For general remarks concerning the Additions to Daniel see BEL AND THE DRAGON. ...
/t/three.htm - 18k

Jackal (3 Occurrences)
... James Version "dragons"; compare Arabic tinan, "wolf"; and compare tannin, Arab
tinnin, "sea monster" or "monster" the English Revised Version "dragon" (Job 7 ...
/j/jackal.htm - 15k

Fought (109 Occurrences)
... Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against
the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, (KJV DBY WBS RSV NIV). ...
/f/fought.htm - 38k

Dragons (17 Occurrences)

/d/dragons.htm - 11k

Bel (3 Occurrences)
/b/bel.htm - 39k

Fight (265 Occurrences)
... Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going out to
the fight with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels made war, (BBE RSV). ...
/f/fight.htm - 38k

Bible Concordance
Dragon (20 Occurrences)

Revelation 12:3 Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns.

Revelation 12:4 His tail drew one third of the stars of the sky, and threw them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

Revelation 12:7 There was war in the sky. Michael and his angels made war on the dragon. The dragon and his angels made war.

Revelation 12:8 The Dragon fought and so did his angels; but they were defeated, and there was no longer any room found for them in Heaven.

Revelation 12:9 The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he 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.

Revelation 12:13 When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.

Revelation 12:16 The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon spewed out of his mouth.

Revelation 12:17 The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep God's commandments and hold Jesus' testimony.

Revelation 13:2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.

Revelation 13:4 They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

Revelation 13:11 I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon.

Revelation 16:13 I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, something like frogs;

Revelation 20:2 He seized the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole inhabited earth, and bound him for a thousand years,

Nehemiah 2:13 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.

Job 7:12 A sea-'monster' am I, or a dragon, That thou settest over me a guard?

Psalms 91:13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Isaiah 27:1 In that day, Yahweh with his hard and great and strong sword will punish leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and leviathan the twisted serpent; and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.

Jeremiah 51:34 Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.

Ezekiel 29:3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.

Ezekiel 32:2 Son of man, take up a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou wast likened unto a young lion of the nations: yet art thou as a monster in the seas; and thou didst break forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.



Dragon of the Sea

Dragon Well

Dragon: A Poisonous Serpent

Dragon: A Serpent or the Desert

Dragon: A Term Applied: To Pharaoh

Dragon: A Term Applied: To Satan

Dragon: A Wolf

Dragon: Interpreted As Whale, In

Dragon: Serpent

Dragon: Symbolical

The Dragon of Cruel and Persecuting Kings

The Dragon of Enemies of the Church

The Dragon of Solitary Habits

The Dragon of the Devil

The Dragon of Wicked Men

The Dragon: (Poison of) Wine

The Dragon: A Species of, in Rivers

The Dragon: Found in Deserted Cities

The Dragon: Found in Dry Places

The Dragon: Found in The Wilderness

The Dragon: Its Mournful Voice Alluded To

The Dragon: Its Snuffing up the Air Alluded To

The Dragon: Its Swallowing of Its Prey Alluded To

The Dragon: Its Wailing Alluded To

The Dragon: Often of a Red Colour

The Dragon: Poisonous

The Dragon: Powerful

Related Terms

Dragon's (1 Occurrence)

Dragon-well (1 Occurrence)

Whale (2 Occurrences)

Three (5005 Occurrences)

Jackal (3 Occurrences)

Fought (109 Occurrences)

Dragons (17 Occurrences)

Bel (3 Occurrences)

Fight (265 Occurrences)

Susanna (1 Occurrence)

Owed (10 Occurrences)

Jackal's (1 Occurrence)

Leviathan (5 Occurrences)

Warred (13 Occurrences)

Waged (6 Occurrences)

Waging (6 Occurrences)

Forced (84 Occurrences)

Tail (16 Occurrences)

Deceives (14 Occurrences)


Snake (43 Occurrences)

Beast (243 Occurrences)

Michael (16 Occurrences)

Horns (104 Occurrences)

Habakkuk (3 Occurrences)

Dominion (72 Occurrences)

Fighting (201 Occurrences)

Wild (147 Occurrences)

Angels (99 Occurrences)

Messengers (182 Occurrences)

Lion (92 Occurrences)

Sky (278 Occurrences)

Antichrist (4 Occurrences)

Serpent (40 Occurrences)


Sea-monster (1 Occurrence)

Adversary (100 Occurrences)

Well (2882 Occurrences)

Thrown (126 Occurrences)

Song (207 Occurrences)

War (529 Occurrences)

Hurled (33 Occurrences)

Devil (58 Occurrences)

Flood (70 Occurrences)

Crown (94 Occurrences)


Satan (50 Occurrences)

Battle (282 Occurrences)

Viewing (6 Occurrences)

Lion's (14 Occurrences)

Leopardess (1 Occurrence)

Leopard (6 Occurrences)

Gliding (4 Occurrences)

Worshipping (49 Occurrences)

Water-spring (16 Occurrences)

Wage (39 Occurrences)

Whelp (4 Occurrences)

Woman's (20 Occurrences)

Wroth (65 Occurrences)

Waxed (57 Occurrences)

Inhabited (64 Occurrences)

Issuing (5 Occurrences)

Frogs (14 Occurrences)

Furiously (9 Occurrences)

Frog (2 Occurrences)

Flung (11 Occurrences)

Fly (33 Occurrences)

Flowings (9 Occurrences)

Fox (2 Occurrences)

Trampest (1 Occurrence)

Treadest (2 Occurrences)

Remnant (157 Occurrences)

Resembled (18 Occurrences)

Resembling (19 Occurrences)

Religion (23 Occurrences)

Elsewhere (14 Occurrences)

Enraged (23 Occurrences)

Engage (20 Occurrences)

Bible ConcordanceBible DictionaryBible EncyclopediaTopical BibleBible Thesuarus
Top of Page
Top of Page