Yahweh the Dragon: Exploring a Neglected Biblical Metaphor for the Divine Warrior and the Translation of ’Ap
Talbot School of Theology
In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh is often depicted as a divine warrior, executing vengeance against his enemies. Some of these texts employ the image of Yahweh as a dragon-like creature who pours forth smoke from his nostrils and fire from his mouth. This article surveys the background of this metaphor by describing deities and monsters that breathe fire in the literature of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, as well as the dragon-like Leviathan in Job (41.10-13 [Eng. 18-21]). Against this background, the article examines the two texts that most clearly exhibit the metaphor (2 Sam 22.9 // Ps 18.9 [Eng. 8]; Isa 30.27-33) and considers its implications for the translation of ’ap in these and other passages (Isa 42.25; Deut 32.22; Num 11.1). Although the LXX and modern translations uniformly render ’ap as “anger” in most of these passages, this article argues that it is more consonant with the dragon metaphor to translate the term as “nose” or “nostrils” (i.e., “the burning of his nostrils”).
The Bible Translator
DOI of Published Version
Trimm, Charlie, "Yahweh the Dragon: Exploring a Neglected Biblical Metaphor for the Divine Warrior and the Translation of ’Ap" (2014). Faculty Articles & Research. 338.