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DRAGON (δράκων):

The usual translation of the Septuagint for , dangerous monster whose bite is poisonous ("dragons' poison") (Deut. xxxii. 33; Ps. xci. 13). Nowhere distinctly described, they must be imagined as of composite form, resembling, according to some passages, the snake. Thus in Ex. vii. 9 (Hebr.) the staff of Moses is turned into a "dragon"; according to Ex. iv. 3 (Hebr.), into a "snake." Their home is in the water; they are mentioned together with the waves of the sea (Ps. cxlviii. 7), and were created by God with the fishes (Gen. i. 21). Originally they are mythological personifications of the floods (). In the vicinity of Jerusalem a "dragon's spring" was located, in which, according to ancient belief, a dragon lived as the spirit of the well (Neh. ii. 13). Especially interesting are the passages that speak of a single dragon: the "dragon that is in the sea" (Isa. xxvii. 1); "the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers" (Ezek. xxix. 3); or simply "dragon" (Job vii. 12 [Hebr.]; Jer. li. 34; Ps. xliv. 19, read ). Such a dragon is also referred to as "Rahab" (Isa. li. 9 et seq.). Leviathan () probably also means a dragon of this kind (compare Isa. xxvii. 1).

Sometimes considerable information is given ofthese monsters. "In the beginning of things Yhwh overpowered them in creating the world." It is clear that this story, which is found only in fragments in the O. T., was originally a myth, representing God's victory over the seas (; Isa. li. 9 et seq.), or the hemming in of the Nile (Ezek. xxix. 3). The Babylonian story of Marduk's victory over the dragon of the sea, Tiamat, is analogous; but other traditions, especially those of Egypt, may also have influenced the story. The Hebrew poets and Prophets were fond of using this old myth to symbolize the destruction of Israel's enemies.

In post-canonical times also similar traditions are often referred to. Psalms of Solomon (ii.) describe, under the image of a dragon, Pompey's greatness and fall; Apocr. Esther (i. 4 et seq.) describes the conflict between Haman and Mordecai as a battle between two dragons; the legend of Bel and the Dragon, a reproduction of the old Marduk monster, in the Septuagint version of Daniel, narrates how the prophet made cakes of pitch and put them in the dragon's mouth, with the result that the "dragon burst in sunder." Especially important is the mystical story of the persecution of the divine child and its heavenly mother by the great red dragon (Test. Job xii.). In its present form the story is explained as referring to the attacks of the devil on the Messiah, but it is based on an old Oriental myth of the enmity of the dragon for the child of the sun.

Bibliography:
  • Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos.
E. G. H. H. Gun.
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