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The book of Isaiah 30:6 talks about fiery, flying serpents. Could this be confirmation for existence of dragons in the ancient world?

Isaiah 30:6

An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the adder and the flying fiery serpent

This is because the lion, the lioness and the adder are real animals so the flying fiery sepent also follows to be real at the time Isaiah wrote this scroll

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  • +1. Interesting passage. Wonder how it is supposed to work. Two species of animals are mentioned; Lion and Serpent. Lioness and Adder are examples from these two groups of animals. Oct 4, 2023 at 12:17
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    @Constantthin, a lot of things are mystical. We do not know if they exited in the world before the floods.
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 12:24
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    @Constantthin, the face of a dragon and that of a serpent have a lot on common. And I think this is what frightens people when they see one. A dragon is the only flying serpent that spits fire
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 12:25
  • It is interesting that you mentioned that dragons spit fire. The Cobra spits its venom into victims eyes, with a resulting burning sensation. Oct 4, 2023 at 13:23
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    @Constantthin, but the cobra does not fly so it's disqualified
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 15:19

2 Answers 2

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The operative word in Isa 30:6 is שָׂרָף (saraph) = serpent/snake which only occurs seven times in the OT as follows:

  • Numbers 21:6, 8 - snakes with a fiery bite because of the burning sensation imparted by the bite
  • Deut 8:15 - same snakes as above
  • Isa 6:2, 6 - a description of an order of angels in heaven
  • Isa 14:29 & 30:6 - a flying fiery snake. The "flying" description possibly refers to snakes that attack by jumping out of trees, or similar. Some snakes can jump a surprising distance and deliver a very fiery bite.

Thus, not one of these references refers to the entirely different (and mythical) creature called a "fire-breathing dragon". It is not mentioned in the Bible and only exists in mythology.

The creature mentioned in Isa 30:6 is just as real as the other animals listed, namely, lioness, lion, viper - all animals in the Negev desert at the time.

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    The best flying snake cannot do it for more than 100 metres. But this beast defined here is actually flying and it's fiery.
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 7:23
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    What about leviathan?
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 7:29
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    @DongLi - "dragon" in the NT is a different animal and a different language. If you wish to ask about leviathan and behemoth, ask a separate question.
    – Dottard
    Oct 4, 2023 at 8:25
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    "[Fire-breathing dragons] exist only in mythology" is an un-proveable and disputable hypothesis.
    – Conrado
    Oct 4, 2023 at 14:09
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    + 1 I agree Isaiah is thinking of physical animals. I would add to this good answer that while "seraph" (singular) refers only to earthly animals in the bible, "seraphim" refers to heavenly ones - and the two words are closely related even if translators spell them differently. The Jewish encyclopedia notes: "The theory seems possible, even probable, that the seraphim have their counterpart in the flying serpents of Isaiah." Oct 4, 2023 at 15:37
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Job 41:19-21 ESV

"Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. 20Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes, 21His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth".

These Job verses are describing "Leviathan" and your question is about "dragons" in Isaiah. If leviathan and dragon are synonyms for large "fiery" animals then before we dismiss dragons as "could not possibly be fire breathing", we can afford to think of similar animals. e.g. leviathan.

Today we have words like "Plesiosaur"; "Triceratops"; "Dilophosaurus" and "Brachiosaurus" to describe various animals. These names do not appear in the Bible so perhaps when looking at these animals people used a word which the KJB translates as "behemoth" or "leviathan" or "dragon".

KJB Job 40:15-17 "behemoth.. he moveth his tail like a cedar". Cedar are enormous trees which start wide and get narrower at the top, but elephants tails are short and are not tapered. [Brachiosaurus had a tail like a cedar tree].

But in NIV Study Bible footnote "behemoth" is "possibly a hippopotamus or elephant".

My point so far then is to see that the naming of large animals in the O.T. and understanding those names today, is open to all sorts of problems. e.g. Did Job have one name for an animal and Isaiah another name for the same animal?

But we can say that Job saw a fire breathing animal. "His breath sets coals ablaze". Job 41:21 ESV.

In his book "The Great Dinosaur mystery" Ken Ham puts forward many ideas on this subject, including on how animals might produce fire. He mentions a book in the British Museum called the "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles" which

"records encounters people had with dragons, and many of the descriptions fit well-known dinosaurs". [from Ken Ham].

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  • Dragons existed and Job describes them clearly. Question is how did humanity survive such lelthal beings which hunted them and night?
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 12:44
  • Dinosaurs do not spit fire
    – Dong Li
    Oct 4, 2023 at 12:47
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    @Dong Li For an example of fire spitting animal google "bombardier beetle". Nature is amazing!
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 4, 2023 at 13:16
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    Job also says that the Earth has foundations, footings and cornerstones, that clouds have garments, that snow and hail are stored in storehouses and that, while the ibis has wisdom, the ostrich does not. The book is a long poem... it's not a scientific journal. It is meant to evoke an emotional and spiritual response (at the very least, humility). It is clearly not meant to catalogue the natural world, and would fail miserably if that were actually its aim.
    – JDB
    Oct 4, 2023 at 17:39
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    @JDB I hear what you say. But there are forces which God uses to keep the Earth regular in times and seasons even if they are called "foundations". Googling "ibis", it appears they are much wiser over where they lay their eggs than the ostrich, as descrbed in Job 39:13-18. So behind the poetry are real things. And whereas the foundations cannot be seen the habits of large animals can be observed.
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 4, 2023 at 18:23

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