Slaying the Dragon: Part 2, The Other Sea Monster

Again, most Bible readers have come across the great sea monster Leviathan in the pages of Scripture, perhaps noticing this dragon because there are many cultural references to Leviathan outside of the Bible. But there's a second, lesser known sea monster in the Bible as well.

Beyond Leviathan, the other sea dragon in the Bible is Rahab:
Job 26.10-12
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
for a boundary between light and darkness.

The pillars of the heavens quake,
aghast at his rebuke.

By his power he churned up the sea;
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.

Psalm 89.8-11
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.

You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
Many commentators have contrasted the non-violence of the Jewish creation story in Genesis 1 with the violence of the Babylonian creation myths. For example, in the Enuma Elish Marduk kills the dragoness Tiamat, the primordial goddess of chaos who ruled the oceans. After slaying Tiamat, Marduk uses the parts of her body to create the world.

In the Babylonian myth, creation happens through killing and violence. This violence is missing in Genesis.

And yet, some see hints of the Enuma Elish in the biblical references to Leviathan and Rahab. Creation doesn't happen through violence in the Old Testament. But the chaotic elements of the world, represented in the great sea dragons Leviathan and Rahab, are tamed and subdued. When the Spirit of God moves over the chaotic deep and begins to speak a creative, ordering Word, this is imagined as a victory over the chaos and the deep, the taming and victory over of both Leviathan and Rahab.

I'll have more to say about Rahab in the next post, but just a final observation about slaying dragons and the warfare worldview of the Bible. Again, in the New Testament the Great Dragon becomes associated with Satan. And in calling Satan the Great Dragon the New Testament authors evoke the great dragons of the Old Testament, Leviathan and Rahab, and God's victory over them in rightly ordering the world.

The kingdom of God, creation and new creation, involves a victory over the dragon.

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