“Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself”
~CS Lewis, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
Published this month, Andrew Naselli writes, “The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer,” tracing the theme of serpents and dragons from the Bible. It’s part of the “Short Studies in Biblical Theology” series by Crossway, which outlines a topic from the beginning of Scripture to the end, teaching both context and application.
I’ll say I was definitely intrigued by the subject of serpents and dragons, having enjoyed stories like Chronicles of Narnia, Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Lord of the Rings. As I read this, I was humbly surprised to find how prevalent the theme of serpents and dragons is throughout Scripture.
Dragon-slaying stories “resonate deeply with us because they echo the greatest story. And the greatest story is true.” They parallel the gospel in their three main characters: “the serpent (the villain, Satan), a damsel in distress (the people of God), and the serpent slayer (the protagonist and hero – Jesus). The serpent attempts to deceive and devour the woman but the serpent slayer crushes the serpent.”
We don’t have to go past the beginning chapters to discover the first serpent. In the garden of Eden, we read his introduction. We learn that that “the serpent has two major strategies: deceive and devour. When a serpent in Scripture attempts to deceive, it’s a snake. When a serpent attempts to devour, it’s a dragon. Snakes deceive; dragons devour. Snakes tempt and lie; dragons attack and murder. Snakes backstab; dragons assault.” We make no mistake in identifying that the serpent is Satan.
After the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve in the garden, sin is befallen mankind, the storyline of Scripture now plots the battle between serpent’s offspring and the woman’s offspring.
Continuing through the Word, we find the Leviathan in the book of Job, where we see God in control of all created things, sovereign over all things, no matter how great or mighty they seem. We read about the serpents in Egypt, as Moses and Aaron stand before Pharoah, again showing us that the snake of Aaron swallows up the other, demonstrating the strength and might of God. The bronze snake in the desert reminds us to beware of idolatry, that we persevere by remembering Him, and that Jesus will draw the curse away from those bitten and onto Himself.
The dragon in the Revelation 12 seeks to destroy God’s people. The woman symbolizing the people of God, and the 1,260 days as a period of intense suffering for God’s people, before He delivers them. This story reminds us that the dragon cannot destroy God’s people, and though His people must suffer, God promises deliverance.
References through God’s word remind us that, “Satan is the ultimate serpent, and he energizes other serpents to craftily deceive and devour people. The Bible depicts at least 6 categories of such serpents: 1) Egypt and its Pharoah, 2) wicked leaders in Canaan and Moab, 3) the king of Babylon, 4) King Herod, 5) Pharisees and Sadducees, and 6) other false teachers.”
In light of this reflection on serpents, he offers us practical application, answering the question, “How should a Christian live in light of that thrilling storyline?” He presents six ways:
1. Don’t imitate the poisonous serpent. We fall into sin by deceiving others, or by thinking we are better than God.
2. Beware of the serpent as the deceiving snake and the devouring dragon. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are admonished to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This ought to humble us and bring our watchfulness to the next level!
3. Fight the serpent. By taking up our spiritual armour, and being watchful. “You won’t properly fight the serpent if you are flirting with him. You won’t properly fight the serpent if you think he makes some compelling arguments about what is true and what is good.”
4. Exult in the Serpent-Slayer. We rejoice in the hero!
5. Enjoy good serpent slaying stories as echoes of the greatest story. Reading epic stories, helps remind us figuratively of the gospel.
6. Trust the Serpent-Slayer.
In the midst of our battle, against temptation and sin, we have the mighty hero on our side, who has already slain the dragon. Take courage as you step further toward trust, when circumstances around us seem to be against us. Find strength in his Word and what He has accomplished for us, and is accomplishing for us.
“Jesus is the ultimate serpent crusher, and he decisively crushed the dragon by being ‘crushed for our iniquities’ “
Which dragon story, in literature, do you enjoy most?
*Thank you to Crossway and Netgalley for the ARC of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review.