Serpents and Dragons
Remy Wilkins recently proposed a thesis about serpents and dragons in the Bible. Is there a difference? Are the words interchangeable? And even if they aren’t, how are these animals–and the spiritual truths they were created to represent–related?
My thesis is that the two words which my online sources transliterates as nachash (serpent) and tanniyn (dragon) are not interchangeable, but that it shows a progression.
Serpents are little dragons over which man receives dominion early on, but dragons, giant serpents, man must wait before dominion can be achieved.
In the creation account God creates seven categories of creatures, the teemers (fish), the birds, dragons (tanniyn), cattle, creepies, beasts, and man. There’s some deep waters here, the teemers (sherets) and creepies (remes) seem to be interchangeable, perhaps because some sea creatures creep (shrimp and crabs), but I haven’t done the legwork to see if there’s something more going on. I know Mike is already diving in on the seven pattern, but while he’s doing that I want to look at the dominion mandate.
In Gen 1.26 says: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Remy notes that both the Dragons and the Beasts of the earth are missing from the list here, and in Genesis 1:28, the Beasts of the earth are not mentioned explicitly and the Dragons are omitted once again.
I think beasts are not explicitly mentioned because to tame a lion is much more difficult than to tame a cow. Dominion is always a work in progress, but some things come farther down the line than others. Both the beasts and particularly the dragons are at a different level of difficulty. You’ll notice that both Dragons and Beasts are centered:
Teemers > Fowl > Dragons < Seacreepers < Fowl
Cattle > Creepies > Beasts: Beasts < Cattle < Creepie
Remy then notes that in Genesis 9:2, concerning Noah, the cattle are left off the list presumably because they were by now domesticated. Unlike Genesis 1:28, here the beasts of the earth are now under Covenant, but the Dragons are still out of reach.
He then moves from Genesis to Exodus, where things get really interesting:
A curious event happens in Exodus that needs to be considered. In Ex.4 God tells Moses to cast his rod down and it becomes a serpent (nachash). In Ex.7 in the showdown with Pharaoh and his magicmen Moses tells Aaron to throw down his rod and it becomes a dragon (tanniyn), though your Bible may translate it serpent.
Pharaoh’s men cast their rods down and they too become tanniyn, but we know they are smaller because Aaron’s rod swallows them. I like to think they were baby crocs and Aaron’s is a big croc. In verse 15 God tells Moses to take his rod, which turned into a serpent (nachash) and to smite the river. So Moses’ rod turns into a serpent, but Aaron’s turns into a dragon. I’m not sure why. But it does fit the pattern of serpents first, then dragons.
Another side-serpent story is the Saraph Serpents in the wilderness. Saraph, typically translated fiery, is the word translated in Is.6 as Seraphim. It is interesting that God tells Moses to make a Saraph and he makes a Saraph Nachash. That was the correct thing to do obviously, but God never said Nachash.
Back to the main thread, dragons seem to be beyond man’s ability to deal with. God asks Job (ch.41) if he can handle the Leviathan, the great sea-beast and the answer is pretty clearly no. But in Psalm 74 we learn that Yahweh breaks the dragons and feeds us Leviathan meat. Plus there are hints that things will change. Ps.91 says: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” While this primarily refers to Christ, we no doubt partake of this in him.
Remy then notes that Psalm 8 also appears to speak of a time when dragons would be under the foot of Man. But what is the relationship between serpents and dragons?
The verse that connects serpent to dragon is Is. 27.1 where the Leviathan is described as a serpent:
“In that day Yahweh will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, with his fierce and great and mighty sword, even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and he will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.”
We learn from the Greek testament that Satan is the serpent of old and the dragon of later. In the Hebrew testament, even though serpents are afflictions, they are under man’s feet, but man doesn’t mess with dragons until Jesus comes.
The change from serpent to dragon also means a change in tactics. The serpent seeks to win through deceit, but the dragon through violence.
The serpent lies then tries to devour, it’s a perversion of the Word then Food pattern. He lies then tries to devour us, whereas Jesus speaks the truth and feeds us. 
The process of maturity in the saints is replicated, or perverted, in the maturity of sin. Both holiness and sin grow and bear fruit. So the move from serpent to dragon is the maturation of the demonic. All sin begins with a lie. Ideas have consequences. Ideas take on a body. False ideas, if heeded, eventually cause carnage.
The dragon is a corporate serpent, a body gathered by his lie, a false Church-State — the full grown version of the Edenic sin. The serpent deceives the Woman and attempts to devour her children as a dragon. The dragon is the serpent multiplied into an army.
The serpent seems to link Garden to Land, offering a shortcut to dominion through a “vertical” sin–an Adamic sin against the Father. The dragon would then entice the now corrupted Land rulers (fratricide) to seize dominion of the World through violence (genocide)–”horizontal” sins. Perhaps we see this in Adam to Cain, then Lamech to the warriors of Genesis 6.
This is of course rectified in the New Testament. If a dragon is a corporate serpent (totus Diabolus), only a “corporate Adam,” totus Christus, has a footprint big enough to subdue it.  Jesus crushed the serpent in the Garden — but as a dragon he was defeated in the Land by the Firstfruits church — a corporate foot (Romans 16:20). The movement from deception to violence (which we see in our culture today) is executed by God as an “eye for eye” judgment upon the evil one by God. He deceived Satan, then sent a strong delusion to those who rejected the Pentecostal Spirit. Finally, He gathered the Roman armies, and the dragon ate the false bride. The pattern in Genesis is repeated in Christ/Satan to Peter/Herod, then Paul/Herod+Rome to the Jewish war.
But that’s only Garden and Land. There is also the movement from Garden to Land to Sea — the progressive dominion of the foot of Adam, the last stage of which requires walking on water.  At a greater level, we have the enlargement of Jesus’ dominion from Garden (30), to Israel (70), to all the Japhethite nations (a future consummation).
As a result of the faithfulness of the Firstfruits Church, we have Satan unable to deceive the nations–the “Sea”– as a serpent.  The Church walks upon the waters of the nations and takes dominion. When the deceiver is finally released, he builds another dragon (a body of nations) but is crushed underfoot by the fiery pillar from heaven, a leg of burning bronze. The final foot is perhaps that of the Bride, who, in response to her Joshua’s invitation, approaches to take dominion over the defeated kings in the cave. The saints will judge angels.
 Remy Wilkins, edited comments from the Biblical Horizons forum. Reproduced with permission. That last observation is brilliant. Now that he’s pointed it out, we see the same thing in a more familiar Bible symbol, the true and false shepherds.
 See Totus Diabolus and Under Your Feet.
 See Walking on Water.
 See Three Strikes.