The term used by the KJV to translate two closely related Hebrew words (tannim and tannin). At times the terms appear to be interchangeable. Context indicates that the first term refers to a mammal inhabiting the desert (Isaiah 13:22;
Lamentations 4:3). Most modern speech translations equate the animal with the jackal, though perhaps the wolf (REB) is intended. The second term has four possible uses: (1) “great sea monster” (KJV, “great whales”) in the sense of a large sea creature (Genesis 1:21;
Psalms 148:7), possibly a whale; this sense of tannin as created being may serve as a correction of sense 4; (2) a snake (Exodus 7:9-10,Exodus 7:12;
Psalms 91:13); (3) a crocodile (Jeremiah 51:34;
Ezekiel 32:3); here the beast is used as a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon or the Egyptian Pharaoh; (4) a mythological sea monster symbolic of the forces of chaos and evil in opposition to God's creative and redemptive work (Psalms 74:12-14;
Isaiah 51:9-10). Leviathan and Rehab are used as parallel terms.
In the New Testament Revelation develops sense 4, describing the dragon as a great, red monster with seven heads and ten horns. This dragon is clearly identified with Satan (the Devil) and is termed the deceiver and the accuser of the saints. As in the Old Testament texts, the dragon is put under guard (Revelation 20:1-3; see (Job 7:12) and later released for final destruction (Revelation 20:7-10; see
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'DRAGON'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".