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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 12

Section 10

The Red Fiery Dragon



A dragon is a kind of beast, and therefore partakes in the characteristics of beasts. These in prophetic writing are the well-known symbols of destroying monarchies or powers; and, where the people of the Deity are found sojourning under their authority, the persecutors of the saints. But, though the dragon is a beast, he is apocalyptically distingished from the beast of the earth, and the beast of the se; nevertheless, possesses certain characteristics in common with then both: for are all found upon the same arena, though not contemporary in all they history.

The four beasts in Dan. 7:3, the winged lion, the bear, the winged leopard, and the anonymous fourth beast, are explained in verse 17, as representative of four kings or powers, styled kingdoms in verse 23. The less fourth beast, that is not named by Daniel, is styled by John diversely a dragon and a beast, according to the subject he maybe treating of.

The Hebrew tannin, and the Greek drakon, rendered in our English version dragon, it is evident from Ezek. 29:3, signifies a crocodile; the great scaly serpent-fish of the Nile, the symbol of the Egyptian power styled "Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers."

The dragon, then, whose force is in his tail, symbolized the power of the old Egyptian Polity. This, in the days of Moses, was the great enemy of Israel after both flesh and spirit. It embodied in its institutions all the filthiness, and superstition, and tyranny of human nature; and stood before the world as the great SIN-POWER of antiquity - "the Old Serpent, the Devil and the Satan."

But the empire of the Dragonic-Sin-power was westward. It did not remain enthroned in Egypt. Yahweh's servant Nebuchadnezzar transferred it to Babylon; whence in due time it migrated, and was at length found in the city of the Seven Hills. The power there, in the epoch of the sip, was the old Egyptian Dragon incorporate in the Graeco-Latin polIty, which possessed Egypt, Syria, 'and the East. Hence, the territory of the Dragonic fourth beast of Daniel is apocalyptically and "spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified" (Ch. 11:8); "the great city Babylon."

"The Dragon," says Daubuz, "is a crocodile, a creature which is ranked among the serpents by Horus Apollo; and is called by the Arabians Pharaoh, and which was held by the Egyptians as the symbol of all mischief. And therefore Typho being, in their belief, the author of all evil, was supposed to have transformed himself into a crocodile, or dragon. So that the principle of all evil, or Typho, was in the symbolical character represented by a crocodile or dragon; and under this symbol was the said principle worshipped. Agreeably whereunto it the Chaldean theology the principle of evil was called Arimanius; that is, the crafty serpent, from 'aruwm, crafty, and nachash, serpent. "

Amongst profane writers may be mentioned Horace, who compares the Roman people, not only to a beast because of its ferocity, but to a many-headed beast - lib. 1 Ep. 1 ver. 76. The apocalypse denominates that Egypto-Roman monster a great seven-headed dragon.

The dragon was one of the military ensigns of imperial Rome. Ammianus Marcellinus, as quoted by Elliott, thus describes it: "The dragon was covered with purple cloth, and fastened to the end of a pike gilt and adorned with precious stones: its wide throat being opened, so that the wind blew through it; and it hissed, as if in a rage, with its tail floating in various folds to the breeze." He elsewhere often gives it the epithet of purpureus, purple-red; "purpureum signum draconis." In another note Mr. Elliott remarks that "in Trajan's time the dragon was a Dacian ensign, not a Roman; as appears from the bas-reliefs on Trajan's arch. A century afterwards it was, as a Roman ensign, sculptured on Severus' arch of triumph. Later in the third century it had become almost as notorious among Roman ensigns as the Eagle itself: and is in the fourth century noted by several authors. Among these John, surnamed Chrysostom, who flourished then, says that "the emperors wore among other things to distinguish them, silken robes embroidered with gold, in which Dragons were represented." Speaking of the procession of Constantine from Milan to Rome, Gibbon says, "he was encompassed by the glittering arms of the numerous squadrons of his guards and cuirassiers. Their streaming banners of silk, embroidered with gold, and shaped in the form of Dragons, waved round the person of the emperor".

Daniel's nameless "dreadful and terrible" fourth beast is a contraction, or condensation, - of John's great fiery-red dragon, ten-homed beast of the sea, two-homed beast of the earth, image of the beast, and scarlet beast and drunken woman. These apocalyptic symbols are illustrative amplifications of the head, ten horns, eleventh horn, and eyes and mouth, of Daniel's "dreadful and terrible" beast, in its relations with the saints in all the 1260 years of their subjection, or down-treading by the Gentiles . In Daniel's description of it no mention is made of more heads than one. "The ten horns that were on his head." This is all recorded of its head. Daniel says nothing about "seven heads" on any beast shown to him. He only saw one; but behind this one were concealed seven others, of which we should have no more knowledge than he, had not the Apocalypse brought them into view. In this, the seven heads are brought out conspicuously. They are seen upon the Dragon, the Beast of the Sea, and the Scarlet-coloured Beast of the Wilderness. Tbough seen on different symbolic beasts, they are not different sets of seven; that is, one set of seven heads for the Dragon; and a set of different seven heads for the Marine Beast; and yet a different seven from either, for the Scarlet Beast of the Wilderness. They are one and the same seven heads upon all three beasts; so that the signification of them in connexion with the scarlet beast, is their signification as the heads of the Dragon and the Beast of the Sea.





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