Slaying the Dragon: Part 1, Satan and Sea Monsters

One of the reasons I decided to write Reviving Old Scratch was internalizing the point Greg Boyd makes in his book God at War.

Specifically, Greg argues that we don't appreciate what he calls "the warfare worldview" of the biblical drama.

At the heart of the warfare worldview is the observation that creation resists God's just and benevolent rule. This produces a "war" to establish God's kingdom on earth.

To be sure, we understand this war Christologically. The war we fight is the "war of the Lamb," the victory of love Jesus wins on the cross.

In the book of Revelation this victory is won by defeating "the Dragon," who is identified as Satan:
Revelation 12.7-9
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
As I describe in Reviving Old Scratch, in the New Testament Satan comes to stand for how the deep structural elements of the cosmos--"the principalities and powers"--resist and rebel against God's invasion to establish His Christ as "Lord of All." This power struggle between Christ and the Dragon is what we witness in Revelation 12:
Revelation 12.4-7
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter."... 

Then war broke out in heaven. 
In the Old Testament "dragons" aren't associated with Satan. In the Old Testament the cosmic foundations of creation are described as great sea monsters--dragons--rather than as the principalities and powers. Sea monsters in the Old Testament and the principalities and powers in the New Testament are related concepts, representing creation's deep, structural resistance to the reign of God. When Satan is described as "the Dragon" a bridge is built between God's battles with sea monsters in the Old Testament and God's battles with the Powers in the New.

You're probably familiar with one of these sea monsters. The great multi-headed sea dragon Leviathan is mentioned six times in the Old Testament (Job 3.8, 41.1; Ps. 74.14, 104.26; Is. 27.1).

Foreshadowing the events in Revelation 12, in the OT God is described as becoming a victorious, saving king by defeating the great dragon:
Psalm 74.12-14
But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.

It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.

It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
Psalm 74 depicts an event that happened in the past. So even more relevant to Revelation 12 is how Isaiah 27.1 gives a future-oriented, eschatological twist to the defeat of Leviathan:
In that day,

the Lord will punish with his sword—
his fierce, great and powerful sword—
Leviathan the gliding serpent,
Leviathan the coiling serpent;
he will slay the monster of the sea.
This event, God's defeat of Leviathan, is pictured above in Gustave Doré's famous engraving "The Destruction of Leviathan."

In the next post I want to write a little bit about a lesser known dragon in the Old Testament.

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