The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 15
Genesis 7 & 8: The Cataclysmic Deluge Account – Post-Flood Evidence – Part 1
Did Dinosaurs survive the flood?
This is a highly contentious but important question to answer.
According to most Paleontologists, Dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago, and there was no global flood. On the other hand, this series of articles is making a case for the veracity of the Biblical account of a global catastrophic deluge circa 4,400 years ago.
In this scenario, it is entirely possible that Noah took one female and one male of each main kind of dinosaur and pterosaur, (not necessarily adults!). If that was the case then we would expect to find some traces of them in human history as opposed to just fossil history. We might also expect to find a trace record of some kind of them in the Bible. After all, its record covers the creation, and the years following Noah’s flood up until the first century AD.
Are Dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible?
Right at the outset, we should make the point that the word “Dinosaur” will not be found in the Bible. The English word “dinosaur” (modern Latin for Greek “deinos” meaning “terrible” and Greek “sauros” meaning “lizard”) was only proposed in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen, who was later responsible for the creation of the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London, UK. The Bible, both Hebrew, and Greek portions were written thousands of years before the word dinosaur was created.
There are many fossils termed dinosaurs which strictly speaking refers to fossil land reptiles. However, there are a number of other groups which people view as dinosaurs but which are technically, flying reptiles (e.g. Pteranodon) or aquatic reptiles (e.g. Ichthyosaurs). As a group, they could be termed “monsters” or “dragons”.
Now “dragons” is a term that many are familiar with. There are many legends from around the world of different types of dragons. There is the Chinese Dragon, Welsh Dragon, St George and the Dragon, and so forth. We will examine these shortly. But the only place in the Bible the author was aware of for many years was that of one or two mentions in the King James Version of the Bible.
However, perhaps unknown to many, the Bible does refer to some group of creatures a number of times that we do not know the modern equivalent to. In addition, the Hebrew words of which historically were also translated as “dragon(s)”. Let us examine them.
There are 3 words in particular,
- Tannin – dragon, serpent, sea monster
- Livyathan – serpent, sea monster, or dragon
- Behemoth – a unknown kind of animal!
The following scriptures all contain the following Hebrew word commonly translated as dragons, which is “tannin” and is usually translated as “serpent”, “dragon”, or “sea monster”. The word translated from “tannin” will be highlighted in bold in the following scriptures. Most modern translations have now translated this word variously as serpent, jackal, and sea monster, but this is just a guess on the part of the translators. Older English translations or literal translations still retain “dragon” or “dragons” in these scriptures.
- Genesis 1:21 “And God creates the great dragons, and every living creature that is creeping, which the waters have teemed with, after their kind, and every [Hebrew: “oph”= flying creature] bird with wing, after its kind, and God sees that [it is] good.” (Literal Standard Version, LSV)
Here we have confirmation, perhaps a surprise to many, that God created the great dragons. These creatures are described as great. They are also deliberately mentioned separately from creeping creatures (smaller creatures, such as mammals), from aquatic life, and from flying creatures. Pteranodons would be covered by flying creatures and Ichthyosaurs by “every living thing which the waters have teemed with”. It would therefore be logical to identify dragons as dinosaurs in this context.
- Exodus 7:9 “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, Give a wonder for yourselves; then you have said to Aaron, Take your rod and cast [it] before Pharaoh—it becomes a dragon.” (LSV)
The passage of Exodus 7:9-13 commonly has “tannin” translated as serpent or snake. However, some kind of dragon would certainly be more fearsome!
- Exodus 7:10 ”And Moses goes in—Aaron also—to Pharaoh, and they do so as YHWH has commanded; and Aaron casts his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it becomes a dragon.” (LSV)
- Exodus 7:11-13 “And Pharaoh also calls for wise men and for sorcerers; and the enchanters of Egypt, they also, with their [enchanting] flames, do so, 12 and they each cast down his rod, and they become dragons, and the rod of Aaron swallows their rods; 13 and the heart of Pharaoh is strong, and he has not listened to them, as YHWH has spoken.” (LSV)
- Deuteronomy 32:32-33 “For their vine [is] of the vine of Sodom, And of the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes [are] grapes of gall—They have bitter clusters; The poison of dragons [is] their wine And the fierce venom of cobras.”
Here we learn that at least some dragons have poison. This reminds us of the Komodo dragon (monitor lizard) that secretes toxic proteins, which do have anticoagulant properties and lowers blood pressure, causes muscle paralysis in prey that has been bitten. However, the fact that dragons are mentioned separately to cobras would indicate they were not some known type of snake.
- 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.” (KJV)
This passage appears to describe a well that presumably was frequently visited by dragons for water.
- Job 7:12 “Am I a sea [monster], or a dragon, That You set a watch over me?” (LSV).
Here Job asks his “three comforters” effectively whether he is something to be feared so that they would keep a lookout for him coming! Dragons were to be feared. Also comparing it to a sea monster would perhaps indicate most dragons were land monsters.
- Job 30:29 “I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls” (KJV).
Owls usually avoid human company and are mainly active at night. By association, it would implicate that dragons perhaps also avoid human company and are mainly active at night. Job in his terrible state of health preferred to be alone with such animals rather than with humans. It could also allude to some dragons being able to fly (like pterosaurs).
- Psalm 44:19 “But You have struck us in a place of dragons, And cover us over with death-shade.”(LSV,KJV)
From the context in this verse, the sons of Korah indicate they felt sought out (from remote places) and put in deep shadow. This adds weight to understanding that dragons lived in remote, difficult-to-access places.
- Psalm 74:13-14 “You have divided [the] sea by Your strength, You have shattered heads of dragons by the waters, You have broken the heads of leviathan, You make him food for the people of desert-dwellers.”(LSV)
This Psalm is about the strength and power of God. This would indicate that anyone who could shatter the heads of dragons would be powerful. A leviathan appears to be a particular type of dragon known to the Psalmist Asaph.
- Psalm 91:13 “You tread on lion and cobra, You trample young lion and dragon.” (LSV)
In context, this verse is a prophecy about Jesus the Messiah. It would indicate that powerful and dangerous creatures could not stand in his way. Hence a dragon is feared because it is a powerful and dangerous creature. It is no surprise then that Satan the Devil is referred to as “the great dragon … the original serpent” in Revelation 12:9.
- Psalm 148:7 “Praise YHWH from the earth, Dragons and all deeps.” (LSV)
This Psalm is all about people praising Jehovah, including the angels, the sun and moon and stars of light, the heavens of the heavens and the waters above the heavens, the elements (fire, hail, snow, thick smoke, tempestuous wind), mountains and hill, fruit trees and cedars, wild and domestic animals, creeping things (reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, etc), flying birds, people of all social statures, and then in verse 7, the seas and the dragons. The indication from this is that dragons were a separate group of animals, and were still well known enough to be mentioned as a separate group of animals.
- Isaiah 13:22 “ And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, The glory, the excellence of the Chaldeans, Has been as overthrown by God, With Sodom and with Gomorrah. 20 She does not sit forever, Nor continue to many generations, Nor does Arab pitch tent there, And shepherds do not lie down there. 21 And desert-dwellers have lain down there, And their houses have been full of howlers, And daughters of an ostrich have dwelt there, And goats skip there. 22 And howlers—he has responded in his forsaken habitations, And dragons in palaces of delight, And her time [is] near to come, And her days are not drawn out!” (LSV).
Here we find a prophecy about Babylon being destroyed, where all sorts of animals that dwell away from man take up residence in the ruins including dragons.
- Isaiah 27:1 “In that day YHWH lays a charge, With His sword—the sharp, and the great, and the strong, On leviathan—a fleeing serpent, And on leviathan—a crooked serpent, And He has slain the dragon that [is] in the sea.” (LSV)
Here the indication is that the leviathan is a particular type of serpent which God would destroy and at least one type of dragon lived in the sea.
- Isaiah 34:13 “And thorns have gone up her palaces, Nettle and bramble [are] in her fortresses, And it has been a habitation of dragons, A court for daughters of an ostrich.” (LSV)
This is a prophecy about Edom, similar to the prophecy about Babylon being destroyed. Again the thought is of emptiness and remoteness from humans making Edom suitable for being a habitation of dragons.
- Isaiah 35:7 “And the mirage has become a pond, And the thirsty land—fountains of waters, In the habitation of dragons, Its place of lying down, A court for reed and rush.” (LSV)
This was discussing the blind and the deaf and the lame being able to see, hear and walk again, and the deserts becoming places of vegetation and plenty of water and in that context, the dragons’ habitations would be no longer because it would be inhabitable again by humans.
- Isaiah 43:20 “The beast of the field honors Me, Dragons and daughters of an ostrich, For I have given waters in a wilderness, Floods in a desolate place, To give drink to My people—My chosen.” (LSV)
Here dragons appear to be used as a little and large contrast, baby ostriches being small and dragons being large! This would argue against dragons being jackals or serpents. They appear to be something much bigger.
- Isaiah 51:9 “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of YHWH, Awake, as [in] days of old, generations of the ages, Are You not it that is hewing down Rahab, Piercing a dragon?” (LSV)
The implication is that only God has the strength to pierce a dragon. That makes a dragon a somewhat larger, stronger, animal than an elephant for example. Elephants have been hunted by man for thousands of years.
- Jeremiah 9:11 “And I make Jerusalem become heaps, A habitation of dragons, And I make the cities of Judah a desolation, Without inhabitant.” (LSV)
This verse conveys a similar sentiment to that of Isaiah 13:22 and Isaiah 34:13, in that Jerusalem would be a choice habitation for dragons because of the lack of human habitation.
- Jeremiah 10:22 “A voice of a report, behold, it has come, Even a great shaking from the north country, To make the cities of Judah a desolation, A habitation of dragons.” (LSV)
As per Jeremiah 9:11.
- Jeremiah 14:6 “And wild donkeys have stood on high places, They have swallowed up wind like dragons, Their eyes have been consumed, for there is no herb.” (LSV)
This could be a description referring to sniffing the wind for the scent of food or prey.
- Jeremiah 49:33 “And Hazor has been for a habitation of dragons, A desolation for all time, No one dwells there, nor does a son of man sojourn in it!” (LSV)
Because of the desolation, Hazor would be the choice of dragons for a home.
- Jeremiah 51:34 “Devoured us, crushed us, has Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, He has set us [as] an empty vessel, He has swallowed us as a dragon, He has filled his belly with my delicacies, He has driven us away.” (LSV)
There are not many animals that can swallow a man but apparently, a dragon could. Hence the use of a dragon in describing Nebuchadnezzar swallowing the nation of Judah.
- Jeremiah 51:36-37 “Therefore, thus said YHWH: Behold, I am pleading your cause, And I have avenged your vengeance, And dried up her sea, and made her fountains dry. 37 And Babylon has been for heaps, A habitation of dragons, An astonishment, and a hissing, without inhabitant.”
As Isaiah 13:22.
- Ezekiel 29:3 “Speak, and you have said, Thus said Lord YHWH: Behold, I [am] against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt! The great dragon that is crouching in the midst of his floods, Who has said, My flood [is] my own, And I have made it [for] myself.”
This is one of the very few comparisons of individuals to the dragons in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). Only powerful kings are compared to dragons, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar as in Jeremiah 51:34.
- Ezekiel 32:2 “Son of man, lift up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and you have said to him: You have been like a young lion of nations, And you [are] as a dragon in the seas, And you come forth with your flowings, And trouble the waters with your feet, And you foul their flowings.” (LSV)
This is again the comparison of a fearsome king in this case to a sea dragon.
- Micah 1:8 “For this I lament and howl, I go spoiled and naked, I make a lamentation like dragons, And a mourning like daughters of an ostrich.” (LSV)
This perhaps indicates the dragons showed some specific behavior when a fellow dragon died or was killed. This would not be unprecedented. Elephants exhibit special behavior when a member of the herd dies. Furthermore, elephants are not the only ones to exhibit different behavior. Whales and dolphins, primates, giraffes, albatrosses, and mute swans amongst others are all documented to show behavior that can be described as a type of grief or mourning for the lost mate, offspring, or herd member.
Perhaps it may have surprised you that there are a total of 27 occurrences of dragons in the Hebrew scriptures!
Whether dragon as used in these scriptures refers to one animal or more, cannot be stated with certainty. What can definitely be obtained from these scriptures are the following characteristics:
- Dragons could show specific behaviour in reaction to the death of a fellow dragon.
- Dragons were big and powerful.
- Dragons avoided human contact.
- Some Dragons could be found in the sea.
- Some Dragons could be poisionous in some way.
- Some Dragons swallowed the air for scent or some other reason.
- The term dragon in the Bible is used for a large group of similar creatures, not easily identified today.
Leviathan was mentioned 3 times in association with dragons in the above verses (Psalm 74:13-14, Isaiah 27:1). It is mentioned another 3 times elsewhere. “Livyathan” is another Hebrew word translated as a serpent, sea monster, or dragon.
- Job 3:8 “Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.” (ESV)
The implication is that it was foolhardy to rouse up leviathan.
- Job 41:1- “Can you draw out Leviathanb with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?
2 Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?
3 Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words?
4 Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?
5 Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls?
6 Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?
8 Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again!
9 Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him.
10 No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me?
11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12 “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.
13 Who can strip off his outer garment? Who would come near him with a bridle?
14 Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth is terror.
15 His back is made of a rows of shields, shut up closely as with a seal.
16 One is so near to another that no air can come between them.
17 They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated.
18 His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
19 Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth.
20 Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
21 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.
22 In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him.
23 The folds of his flesh stick together, firmly cast on him and immovable.
24 His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone.
25 When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves.
26 Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
27 He counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood.
28 The arrow cannot make him flee; for him, sling stones are turned to stubble.
29 Clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the rattle of javelins.
30 His underparts are like sharp potsherds; he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire.
31 He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be white-haired.
33 On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.
34 He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”
- Psalm 104:26 “There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”
The description in Job 41 reminds one of the descriptions of dragons in so-call myths and legends but in part. It contains descriptions that remind one of some of the attributes of a type of dinosaur called an Ankylosaur, which was a heavily armored dinosaur with scale-like plates tightly fitting together. But, the descriptions in scripture do indicate it was able to swim in the sea as well, although whether it was a sea “monster” per se is unclear. It could also be some kind of (likely now) extinct crocodilian-type reptile. Kronosaurus or Sarcosuchus have been suggested. Regardless of exactly what it was, the point is that there are many fossil reptiles which when reconstructed have been found to have many similarities to the Bible’s description of Leviathan.
An Ankylosaurus head (cast of specimen AMNH 5214), on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. This is from a specimen collected in Custer County, Montana.
Or even a Glyptodon which was a giant armadillo-like creature with a thick bone-like shell as below.
However, if Livayathan was a sea monster, as perhaps indicated by Psalm 104:26 then perhaps it was a Mosasaur. Other suggestions have included Kronosaurus and Sarcosuchus. However, it is also highly possible Livaythan was none of these, but an undiscovered dinosaur or perhaps a dinosaur that we do not have enough of the skeleton and other parts such as skin to match positively to the description. It is clear though that the description could match some kind of dinosaur as we now have a wide range of fossil remains of dinosaurs many having at least some of those attributes described in the Biblical account.
And last, but not least “Behemoth”, only found in Job 40:15-24 “Now behold, behemoth, That I made with you: He eats grass as an ox. 16 Now behold, his power [is] in his loins, And his strength in the muscles of his belly. 17 He bends his tail as a cedar, The sinews of his thighs are wrapped together,
18 His bones [are] tubes of bronze, His bones [are] as a bar of iron.19 He [is] a beginning of the ways of God, His Maker [alone] brings His sword near; 20 For mountains bear food for him, And all the beasts of the field play there. 21 He lies down under shades, In a secret place of reed and marsh. 22 Shades cover him, [with] their shadow, Willows of the brook cover him. 23 Behold, a flood oppresses—he does not hurry, He is confident though Jordan Comes forth to his mouth. 24 Does [one] take him by his eyes? Does [one] pierce the nose with snares?” (LSV)
A possible identification can be suggested based on that description. The description seems to best fit the following type of dinosaur: A sauropod such as Apatosaurus.
Artists’ impression of Apatosaurus.
Apatosaurus is believed to have been a vegetation eater, its tail is believed to have helped it balance and was relatively straight behind it, the size of a cedar tree, and likewise only slightly flexible. Its thighs would have required strong muscles to hold up such a large body.
Does the Bible describe dinosaurs? The weight of evidence would indicate that it does and that dinosaurs did indeed survive the catastrophic deluge of Noah’s day.