If you don't spend much time perusing the New & Old Testaments, you might be shocked by the number of biblical monsters haunting those double-columned pages. Regardless of whether monsters found in the Bible ever actually existed, they offer a compelling insight into the fears and superstitions of those who lived in biblical times. What's more, many of these Bible monsters are impacting nightmares and entertainment 20 centuries later. For example, it's likely HP Lovecraft was inspired by the biblical Leviathan in his weird fiction, and millions of people cheer weekly for Daenerys Targaryen's dragons in Game of Thrones (to make no mention of blackened death metal favorites Behemoth).
Mythical creatures in the Bible are often hybrids of other creatures or real animals. Taken all together, the monsters form something of a literary version of the monster warehouse in Cabin in the Woods. It's possible the Bible contains the scariest monster stories of all time.
"Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth... They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone... In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces." - Revelation 9:3-10
The 10 plagues detailed in the Bible include five months of torment caused by pit locusts, which destroyed all edible plants in sight, and were equipped with a scorpion-like stinger. One of the things that makes the locust plague truly scary is the possibility of it happening in the 21st century. You're unlikely to run into a vampire or Leviathan, but enough locusts to cover 270,000 square miles descended on Russia in 2016.
"In that day the Lord 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." - Isaiah 27:1
The Leviathan was a fierce, serpentine sea monster with multiple heads that ran amok in the Old Testament; a sea monster mentioned in Revelations may be a permutation of it. The monster's defeat at the hands of God preceded creation, making it a beast of chaos.
The creature is a prime early example of sea creatures that became increasingly prevalent as mankind took to the high seas, sailing to far away destinations. Centuries later, Sir Humphrey Gilbert would detail seeing a creature in the sea that resembled a lion.
Daniel's Four Beasts
"And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.'" - Daniel 7:1-28
In the Book of Daniel, the titular prophet has a vision of four beasts, which represent four empires. The creatures all emerge from the sea, terrifying and destructive; yet, like the empires of the world, despite their power and violence, they pass from the Earth, and only the kingdom of heaven endures.
The first beast is described as being a lion-eagle hybrid. The next looks like a bear, and was created to "devour much flesh." The third of Daniel's beasts is a leopard-like creature with four wings and four heads. Finally, the fourth beast is the destroyer of the entire world in Daniel's vision. This fearsome creature has 10 horns and teeth made of iron.
The First Beast
" And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." - Revelation 13:1-2
The Book of Revelation details two awesome monsters, which arrived one after the other. The first, known as The First Beast, is an imposing figure, as would be any creature with seven heads, 10 horns, and more than a half-dozen blasphemous names.
The heads of The First Beast each represent a king (which king is unclear; perhaps Roman emperor? You can read all about this here). The First Beast is also characterized as a king, though was cast into perdition before it had a chance to rule. Some Christian denominations believe the First Beast is the antichrist.