Revelation describes a heavenly battle in which “the great dragon was cast out, that ancient serpent, called the devil and Satan” (12:9). Satan being called a “serpent” (ophis; ὄφις) might remind us of the creature who deceives Adam and Eve (see Gen 3:1-6, 13). However, while the Greek Septuagint also calls the serpent of the Garden an ophis (Gen 3:1 LXX), the writer of Revelation is not referring to the snake we meet in Genesis.

We know that Revelation is not recalling the snake in Eden because the source of John’s language isn’t Genesis, it’s Isaiah. Along with calling the devil a “serpent” (ophis; ὄφις), Revelation first describes Satan as a “dragon” (drakon; δράκων). The only other verse in Scripture that we see a creature who is called both a “dragon” and a “serpent” is in Isaiah’s description of the primordial sea-monster, Leviathan. According to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the prophet states, “In that day God shall bring a holy and great and strong sword against the dragon (drakon; δράκων), the serpent (ophis; ὄφις) that flees, upon the dragon (drakon; δράκων), the twisting serpent (ophis; ὄφις): [God] shall destroy the dragon (drakon; δράκων)” (Isa 27:1 LXX). Since Isaiah repeats the words “dragon” and “serpent” several times in this verse, we can be confident that this is the very verse to which John refers in Revelation.

According to the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 27:1, the dragon that God will destroy at the end of days is called “Leviathan”: “In that day the Lord, with his heavy and great and strong sword, will punish Leviathan (livyatan; לויתן) the fleeing serpent (nachash; נחשׁ), Leviathan the twisting serpent (livyatan nachash ‘aqalaton; לויתן נחשׁ עקלתון), and he will slay the dragon (tannin; תנין) that is in the sea.” Elsewhere, the Bible refers to Leviathan as a great chaos monster of the sea that God defeats at the creation of the world (e.g., Ps 74:12-14). It is this ancient chaos creature that John calls “the devil and Satan” in Rev 12:9, rather than the snake in the Garden of Eden. The dragon of Revelation is a primal monster that represents the forces of chaos and disorder. Thankfully, in the end, God’s peace will prevail; Paul declares that “the God of peace (eirene; εἰρήνη) will soon crush Satan underneath your feet” (Rom 16:20). While Satan hopes that chaos will shatter, God works to achieve shalom.

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69 COMMENTS

  1. Good day.I would like to get some clarification on your premise. The serpent in Genesis and the one referred to in Revelation are different entities, or are they both symbolic descriptions of Satan by different writers?

    • Hi Shirlan. Thanks for your question. So the two serpents in Genesis and Revelation are definitely different entities, but the question as to whether both of them represent or embody Satan is an important one. I will write a future post on the identity of the serpent in the Garden, but for now, I’ll just say that I don’t see any actual biblical evidence (in either the OT or NT) that would associate the Garden snake with Satan (I’ll explain in a future post).

      • Satan the father outside of “the sea” is the serpent in the garden. Satan the son, beginning with Cain is inside “the sea” until the end. “We are the sea” The many waters has been made muddy by the Levitatian within us. Satan is in the air and within us.

      • Thank you Dr Schaser for the article, really interesting. I read somewhere that according to what I understood, the fall of man in the garden was a pure psychological problem. Is it true? The temptation came from the desires and passions of man itself. How come, there’s no spritual issues?

  2. Dr Nicholas, thank you for you item but I do find it confusing and needing clarification. Are you saying that it wasn’t Satan who in the serpent tempted Eve in Eden ? Of course our great God is greater than all and all including Satan must bow to His will. Leviathan is also mentioned in Job 3v8: 41v1

    • Thanks for your note, Colin. In this post, I actively chose not to make any comment on the identity of the snake in Genesis 3. However, I will be happy to write another post in which I discuss the serpent in Eden (it’s too complex to discuss in full here). Thank you for reading and for your contribution to the discussion.

  3. Thank you for your offer. I am excited to have the opportunity to delve further into the Word of God, praying that this might create a closer relationship with my Creator and Savior.

  4. I’m a new subscriber to the newsletter and have been reading and learning a lot from these. I am confused however about the “Garden” serpent and the “Leviathan”.

    How exactly does the “Garden” serpent differ from the “Leviathan”? Aren’t they both satan? Is the difference just merely the descriptive role of what it represents?

    Also, God destroyed the dragon since the creation of the world? Is that in reference to Genesis 3:15? Sorry for so many questions. I’d be happy to read links to other articles you may have that clarify these topics.

    • Great questions, Keyo. From my perspective, I think we should be cautious about associating the Garden snake too closely with “Satan.” I realize that the Eden serpent = Satan is popular in Christian thought, but I think we would do well to reassess what the Bible actually says in this regard, and I don’t see much textual evidence to support the popular understanding. Don’t worry … I will write a future post soon about the snake in Genesis 3. Thanks again for your contribution to the discussion.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  5. es interesante, debo reconocer q no había prestado atención a lo breve exposición q ud ofrece y agradezco por ello, en cualquier momento haré un análisis con la ayuda de vuestro comentario.sholom

  6. Seeing as Revelation was written as to hide various description/stories of Roman deeds, to avoid persecution, how can we place the Serpent into context to the time?

    • Good point, Floris. Revelation is certainly written as a symbolic polemic against Rome in many ways. Since Satan is an entity that predates Rome, the dragon just represents Satan (a force of chaos and evil), rather than any particular Roman figure or concept. However, the writer of Revelation probably would have associated the oppression of the Roman Empire with the work of Satan, on some level.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  7. If the dragon or serpent is satan, is that dragon is the same to the dragon that the Chinese are giving importance/worshipped/asked with luck? Usually, the Chinese have printed/graven images of the dragon and/or also patronize the dragon with feast/dragon dance especially during Chinese new year.

    • The dragons of the Bible and of Chinese tradition aren’t the same dragons (since the Hebrew dragon is associated with chaos and the Chinese dragon is not, to my knowledge), but you do well to note that dragons occupy a place in many religious traditions.

  8. Great teaching! Thank you very much!

    However, in light of the religious context of Genesis, shouldn’t the serpent of genesis be considered also a symbol of chaos? In the egyptian religion, the god Apep or Apophis, the god of chaos was represented in the shape of a serpent. Woud it be appropriate to consider this option or not?

    • Hi Renato, yes absolutely. The serpent of Genesis is, like Leviathan, certainly a chaos creature. Thank you for noting that similarity. Along with what you’ve rightly noted about Egyptian religion (in the which snakes are also construed as “chaos creatures”), the Babylonians goddess, Tiamat, was also a salt-water, serpentine deity that represented primordial chaos. This is common trope in Ancient Near Eastern religions. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion!

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  9. Sir, thank you very much for your article. It is really good. Apart from this I have one regarding these snakes . When moses was sent to Paroh, both Moses & Aron used their stick which were transformed into snakes and secondly when their people started dying because of the snakes’ bite that time God told to Moses to lift up a snake modal So that people would live . Like snake are used in few areas in the bible . Now my question is in the beginning Satan used one snake to cheat our Eve and in many verses is it showed as an enemy of Christ .why did God select only snake to save the people ?

    Sorry for my bug question .

    • Thanks for your question, Sundara. In Numbers 21, Moses uses a bronze snake in order to save the people because it mirrors the snakes that are biting the people. Basically, the point is that in order for the people to be saved from the snakes, they must look to *another* snake (i.e., God’s snake) in order to be saved — it is a way for the people to submit to God in a time of trouble (but I grant you that it’s odd that God chooses a snake for salvation). Another thing to note is that, in the ancient world, snakes were thought to have healing properties.

  10. Shalom. Thank you for this lesson. I will be looking forward to your lesson on the identity of the Snake in the Garden of Eden. I have always been taught that it was Satan but I am open to new translations and interpretations.

  11. I am very grateful to be part of this informative and educative discussion. I have learnt a lot and I’m waiting for the next post about the idenity of the snake in eden.

  12. It is interesting that Job’s response to chaos and disorder (Leviathan) is “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be restrained.” Job 42:2
    This sounds very similar to Paul’s silence/instruction(?) in suffering found in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” What a difference language makes.

  13. the nachash is also the shiny one and that goes together with the dragon from Isaiah, a dragon spit fire. So maybe it is Isaiah explaining Genesis. The other issue is that a word does not always carry the same meaning. The nachash that saves the people of Israel in Numbers 21, maybe a play of words rather than an explanation of salvation. The people of Israel were not saved in the spiritual sense of the word only healed from the snake bites.
    That leads me to the following interpretation. The snake (nachash-shiny one) in Revelation can be very well the same as the one in Genesis. The pinicple being that everything that started in Genesis is closing in Revelation. And yes other civilisations also used the idea of a snake with wings (Egypt) or dragon in the middle east and the far east (India and China).

    • “Lilith” is a figure from Jewish traditional texts (developed most fully in the Talmud [c. 600 CE/AD] and later texts), but she does not appear in the Bible itself. According to tradition, Lilith is Adam’s first wife who turns out to be a demonic force. But, again, none of this is found in Genesis — it is a much later story.

    • Thanks, Paul. The serpent in Ecclesiastes 10 isn’t any one particular serpent. The writer is presenting a hypothetical situation in which one could get bitten by any serpent.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  14. Re: Romans 16:20 It is Interesting that Genesis 3:15 says that the Seed will bruise (crush under his heel?) the serpent’s head. Seems like a serpent/ Satan connection to me.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ed. Yes, at first glance, it does seem like Rom 16:20 is an allusion to Gen 3:15. However, the Greek terms used in each of these verses are different. The Septuagint doesn’t say that Eve’s offspring will “bruise” the snake, it says “guard.” More, Paul’s language in Rom 16:20 echoes the description of God “crushing” the heads of Leviathan in Psalm 74. Thus, the reference in Romans is to Satan as Leviathan, rather than the snake in the Garden of Eden. See https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/snake-garden-serpent-satan/

  15. If I am correct it seems that your focus is the precise meaning of the literary text in your posts. In reading several of your posts and the comment threads it doesn’t seem like all the commenters get that. A couple of questions: How do you see the serpent guarding the heel of the seed of the woman and the seed guarding the head of the serpent? Are there any following fulfillment’s of this declaration of God? Also is there any way to know if the Greek in the Septuagint captures the nuances of the Hebrew in this text?

    • Thanks for your great question, Ed. When the Septuagint uses the verb “guard” instead of “bruise,” my first inclination is to assume that the Greek translator misread (or misunderstood the valence of) the Hebrew for “to bruise.” The Greek text definitely does not capture the actual definition of the Hebrew in this case. The “fulfillment” of the animosity between the seed and the snake is fulfilled in the many references to the contentious relationship that humans have with snakes throughout Scripture.

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  16. Um…actually, Isaiah is directly referencing the Genesis account, even though he calls the serpent a “dragon.” You yourself referenced the key that links the two — Isaiah refers to this serpent as a “tannin.” Genesis 1-3 is written in a complex chiastic structure, with the central point of emphasis being dwelling with God on the Sabbath day (Gen. 2:1-3). Darkness at the beginning is paralleled by exile at the end. The creation of man in Gen. 1:26 is paralleled by the creation of man in Gen. 2:7, etc. …

    • Thanks for your comments, Damon. I’m happy to draw connections between Isaiah’s reference to the dragon and the Tiamat-tannin references in Genesis 1 — I think that’s a very good point. I’m less convinced by the chiastic relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3. The snake of Genesis 3 is not the same creature as the sea monsters in Genesis 1 — in order for one thing to “parallel” another, we must have contextual, thematic, and/or linguistic similarity, and I don’t see any of these similarities between the creatures in Genesis 1 and 3.

  17. You can Google “two creation stories aishdas” for a reference.

    Now, interestingly enough, the mention of the serpent in Gen. 3:1 is paralleled by the mention of the “great sea creatures” or “TANNIN” in Gen. 1:21!!

    The Genesis account is patterned after ancient Sumerian/Babylonian cosmology, but Genesis turns that symbolism on its head. In Babylonian cosmology, the watery dragon Tiamat (Hebrew Tehom, the “deep” of Gen. 1:2) was slain and her body used to form the heavens and the earth. But this was also an astrological reference to Draco, the “crooked, twisting dragon” in the cosmic ocean.

  18. This astrological reference is made explicit in Rev. 12:1-5, where the constellations of Virgo and Draco are both referenced. The symbolism has multiple meanings, and doesn’t JUST refer to one thing — e.g. Sumer in Genesis, or Satan the Devil in Rev. 12:9.

  19. in my fellowship of truth: satan is the highest angel created in the image and likeness, of the almigthy, image- (who was bestowed the power and knowledge of the spiritual kingdom(genesis-i) and likeness-(who is given the power of the everlasting as ruler and king of the kingdom of spirits)

  20. Totally confused now. I learned (Gabriel,Micheal,lucifer)3 main angels(like generalls). Are this levithian a demon then? And the snake of Eden also demon then, because, I was taught that it was satan in form of snake? And need explaining of “gaurd” in Gen3:15, was taught from our translation it is crushed?

    • Hi, Pepler. Thanks for your questions. Nothing in the Bible says that Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer were the 3 main angels, or that “Lucifer” is an angel at all. The name comes from the Latin translation of Isaiah 14:12, so it’s not even a word that’s original to the Hebrew or Greek texts. On your other questions, you may find this article helpful: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/snake-garden-serpent-satan/

  21. This is ridiculous!!
    The Leviathan that Elohim will destroy in the end, where is it today?

    How sad that we treat all scripture like biology!! Symbolism is the link.
    There’s only one Serpent: Satan, in Eden, causing chaos today, destroyed in the end!

  22. Satan in general lost his true name but is known by adjectives. Originally he was a Cherub together with Michael and Gabriel and like Jesus took three of His disciples with Him on the mount of transfiguration so we had in heaven the three angels who functions together

  23. Your interpretation is interesting but lacking. Rev 12 speaks of the Dragon as the Devil, Satan, the Serpent of old. if not the serpent of Genesis it breaks the continuity of the last vision of Revelation being a compliment of Genesis as seed form.

  24. Thank you for an excellent article, I as an atheist have had this argument about the serpent, Satan and the devil with Christians many times. As far as I can tell the serpent is not Satan of the OT & is not the same entity as that of the NT

  25. After Satan’s great full with millions of angelic host who followed him, he was thrown out of heaven, because God wanted man to commune with. Who else but Satan wanted to destroy man in the garden of Eden. And still does!!!

  26. Since sin IS our sickness, would not it be possible that we are to look/observe/calculate/or acknowledge our sin before we can be rid of it? Thinking of the bronze serpent. Messiah became sin that we might have life. we acknowledge our failings as sin. accept Yeshua’s sacrifice and are healed.

    • Yes, the acknowledgment or realization of one’s sin is the first step in the atonement/forgiveness process (see Lev 4:13-31).

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  27. Great post. Thanks for the insights. I would agree that Revelation 12 has in mind the Leviathan of Isaiah (and concordantly, the Tiamat of Babylonian myth & Yam of Canaanite myth, et el) along with the Leto-Apollo-Python myth of the Greeks. However, I do wonder what you make of

  28. what you make of the epithet “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9), usually seen to be the anchor for hearing the allusion to Genesis 3.
    Thanks!

    • Thanks for your question, David. The word for “deceiver” in Rev 12:9 (πλανῶν; planon) comes from the Greek verb πλανάω (planáo) — perhaps better translated “to lead astray.” However, this is not the word for the snake who “deceives” (ἀπατάω; apatao) in Eden (Gen 3:13 LXX). Since Revelation doesn’t make a linguistic connection between the serpent in 12:9 and the snake in the garden, the original Greek reader/listener wouldn’t have seen or heard any direct allusion to Genesis 3.

  29. Hillels 2nd: Gezerah shawah: Analogous argument. Passages containing synonyms/homonyms are subject, however much they differ in other respects, to identical definitions and applications. Since Isaiah was careful to include the term נָחָשׁ, I would submit he was leading the reader back to Gen 3; therefore so is the writer Revelation.

  30. Actually yes, they ARE the same creature. There was an ancient creation motif of the water-dragon Tiamat who was slain, and her body used to form the heavens and the earth. The Hebrew “tehom” (the “deep”) in Gen. 1:2, is the same word in Hebrew.

    How could that also be the serpent? Because the “serpent” of Gen. 3 represented an actual nation in existence at that time — Sumer, the forerunner of Babylon the Great. Sumerians would have seen themselves as the bringers of order out of chaos, but the bible was actually giving them the role of a destroying serpent.

  31. Because the bible often has multiple levels of symbolism, Sumer, the “destroying serpent” ALSO represents Satan the devil. Compare the “prince of Tyre” and the “king of Tyre” from Ezekiel 28.

  32. Dr.Nicholas,

    You might want to re search scripture to substantiate that the Dragon from Revelation would in today’s day be the nation “China” which is being currently exposed and systematically being trampled by God’s own elect President Donald Trump. … Shalom!

  33. Thank you for this analysis. As thought-provoking as your correlation of the Revelation and Isaiah (LXX) texts, I can’t but feel that you hang far too much weight on so frail a peg. It is a non-sequitur to conclude John couldn’t have also the Genesis text in mind.

    • It is also a curious form of logic to notice the same Greek wording in Genesis and Revelation (ophis), yet disregard the connection, yet apply the same logic to establish a connection with the Isaiah text, apparently because more words match?

    • Thank you for reading. It’s certainly possible that the writer of Revelation has the Genesis snake in mind, but it’s also impossible to know for sure (since “ophis” also appears in several LXX contexts that do not refer to the Genesis snake). The likelihood of Isa 27:1 LXX, on the other hand, is far more secure — not only because “more words match,” but because Isa 27:1 LXX is the only verse in the entire Septuagint to use both of the operative words that we find in Rev 12:9, and it does so with repetition.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  34. Hello! In Genesis, we see that everything that God created was good. However, the cunning serpent mentioned in Gen. 3 tempted Adam and Eve and basically called God a liar; but God created that serpent also, right? If it was not somehow under Satan’s influence, then what can we conclude?

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