Dragons (as referred to in the Bible) are generally thought of as evil creatures, creatures of corruption and judgment, a cursed species set loose upon a cursed race. And that’s perfectly true. Mostly. The dragon is certainly to be considered the archetype of the enemy. In fact the Enemy is a dragon, his children at odds with Jehovah and His children. God has cursed the dragon and all his seed and the Messiah has defeated him, crushing his head (Gen. 3:14-15), and the heads of all his children who defy the Lord God (I Sm. 17, Is. 27:1, Ez. 29:2-5, Ez. 32:2-4).
The dragon and his companions are often symbols of cursing and desolation. They inhabit the wilderness and the abandoned cities of peoples from whom Yahweh has removed himself (Is. 34:13-15, Jer. 9:9-11). Jehovah sends dragons and serpents (and their children among the nations) as a scourge upon His disobedient people (Dt. 32:24, Jer. 51:33-37). One of the most famous stories of the dragon used as a scourge is in the book of Numbers. When the people of Israel mutter against Jehovah and Moses, Jehovah sends “fiery serpents” upon them. This curse for disobedience is nothing new or surprising, though the salvation Jehovah gives is very strange indeed, and it is the crux (pun intended) of my think. However, suspense is good for audience retention, so we’ll get back to that.
Though dragons are often both literally and typologically evil, things are not quite so simple as all that. They are creations of Jehovah and, though terrible, some also delight in Him, and He cares for them (Is. 43:18-21). Several species of dragons and monsters are in fact Yahweh’s servants. These are not just low minions, but rather stand before the very face of Jehovah in His throne room crying “Holy! Holy! Holy!” The Cherubim (not really dragons as such, but monsters none-the-less) guarded the Garden of Eden, protecting the Garden when Man abdicated that responsibility. This is pictured powerfully in the decorations of the temple. The garden imagery (wood, carved trees and flowers) is overlaid with images of cherubim, adorning the veil and standing guard in the Most Holy Place (II Chron. 3).
Perhaps the most interesting service of a dragon is the salvation of Jehovah’s people. In Numbers, as mentioned with significance above, we are given an account of Jehovah sending “fiery serpents” upon His faithless people. When they repent and cry to Jehovah and Moses to save them, God commands Moses to raise up a “fiery serpent” of brass on a pole, and the people were to look to it (literally) for their salvation (Nm. 21:5-9). This was of course a typological event as well.
In Isaiah, Jehovah sends a dragon (according to the KJV, a “cockatrice”) and his seed (“a fiery flying serpent”) as a punishment against the enemies of Jah, and because this dragon devours the enemies of Jehovah, “the first-born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety” (Is. 14:29-30), which sounds suspiciously like the descriptions of the Day of The Lord, of the coming of salvation.
Jehovah sends a dragon in judgment on the nations who oppress His people. Cyrus, a gentile king used of Jehovah to bring His people out of Babylonian captivity is, interestingly enough, referred to in Isaiah 44 as a “messiah”, the same word used for the Son of Man. Further, this passage in Isaiah should bring to mind Moses and Aaron’s interaction with Pharaoh. The serpent of Jehovah (Aaron’s rod) devoured the dragons of the Egyptians, just as the “fiery flying serpent” in Isaiah 14 devours (typologically) the “root” and “remnant” of the enemy of Jehovah.
And speaking of typology, we should look once more at Numbers 21, by way of John 3. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus, the Messiah, draws the typological connection explicitly for us between himself and the brass dragon which Moses made and “lifted up” for the salvation of Israel. So also was Christ lifted up on a tree like the dragon in the wilderness, for the salvation of the world.
Yahweh loves irony. Dragons and monsters are always terrible, even those which are righteous. But, then again, Jehovah Himself, the Holy One, is terrible, such that none can look on Him and live. The dragon is not just a symbol of evil and corruption and judgment, but also a symbol of power and glory and salvation. Yahweh delights in these sorts of paradoxes.
As Jehovah brings salvation through a Dragon, over the dragon, He redeems dragons, reversing the curse (Gen. 3:14-15, Is. 65:25). The serpent is defeated, and a dragon is our salvation, so that “they will not wound or kill in all my Holy Mountain, says the Lord.” What are the implications here about the nature of salvation?