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Seraphim: Dragons in Heaven

Saraph: (from Strong's Concordance, #08314)

AV (how it's translated in the King James Version and how many times): fiery serpent 3, fiery 2, seraphim 2

1) serpent, fiery serpent; 1a) poisonous serpent (fiery from burning effect of poison)

2)seraph, seraphim: majestic beings with 6 wings, human hands or voices in attendance upon God

Dragons in Heaven?

If this is a seraph, it's a fallen one!

Zmei Gorinich dragon painting

Boy, was I surprised when I finally decided to look up those heavenly beings from Isaiah 6:2-6.

They're snakes!

In fact, they're serpents with wings and feet. I'm pretty sure that qualifies them as dragons!

I am aware that the immediate reaction of most conservative Christians will be to take offense, assume I'm attacking the Bible, or write off this page as nonsense and me as a kook.

Stop for a moment, though, and look at the definition in the text box above from the respected Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. You'll find all Hebrew lexicons give a similar definition because Isaiah 6 is not the only place that the word "seraphim" is used.

It's just translated as snake all the other places.

The Scholarship Behind This Translation

I had always wondered about these strange creatures. Isaiah 6 says they have six wings. They fly with two, they cover their feet with two, and they cover their faces with two.

When Isaiah saw them, they were shouting, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." They were shouting this to one another.

I've heard it said that this is all they do (shout this 24/7), but that's not true. When Isaiah was stricken with conviction from being in the presence of the Lord, it was one of the Seraphim who touched his lips and said, "Lo, this has touched your lips. Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is atoned for."

A Helpful Reader Expounds on Seraphim

I think this qualifies as at least a small defense of modern translators. This comment by a reader on Seraphim is useful.

I appreciate your interest in Seraphim. I too have been studying this recently to discover if there are links to Gen. 3. So far they are only "inferences" that Satan may have been a Seraphim, who appeared as a serpent. Nothing concrete.

On Isaiah though, I think one of the reasons translators have "hidden" the definition as 'serpent' for "Seraphim" is because there is a variant issue. Jewish and Christan translators alike struggle with knowing for certain if the 'serpent' root is accurate or the root for 'fiery' is accurate. Rather than box us into a moot theological point—they may have chosen to simply leave it up to those who really want to dig to discover.

But to your point, it would be nice to have a note that says, "root uncertain—could be translated fiery or serpent—either way heavenly beings that surround the throne of God in worship and service," or something to that effect. :-)



Email used with permission.

I would add that it would not only be nice to have such a note; it would be honest. Not having it is dishonest.

I finally decided to look these beings up. Here's the simple facts …

  • The Hebrew word saraph is used 7 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Num. 21:6,8; Deut. 8:15; Is. 14:29; 30:6; and here twice)
  • Every time—except in Isaiah 6—it is translated "fiery serpent" or something very close to that.
  • In Isaiah 6, it is simply left untranslated. Seraphim is just the plural of seraph or saraph.
  • The first three times it's used, the seraphim are poisonous snakes that God used to punish the Israelites.
  • The last two times it's used in Isaiah—14:29 and 30:6—those "fiery serpents" are said to fly, too!

Dragons in Heaven!

Now I have no way of knowing what you think about dragons in heaven, but to me, that's one of the most interesting things I've ever discovered.

Tell me you don't like dragons! Apart from a Christian context, everyone loves dragons!

But why not in a Christian context?

Do dragons have anything at all to do with Christian theology? Why can't we have dragons in heaven? Why should they be offensive to us?

They shouldn't.

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Us?

You might be interested in Honest Bible Translation, my rant about the dishonesty of Bible translators withholding information from us.

Note on Copyright

This article has been reprinted a number of places on the internet. All but one or two give me credit for the reprint, though none have actually asked for permission.

I wrote "Seraphim: Dragons in Heaven" for my Christian History for Everyman web site. All other occurrences of this page on the internet are copies. I don't really object to the copies, and almost all of them give me credit. I once got a request for permission to print this page for a Sunday school class, which I granted.

Where to Go from Here