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.
"And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze." - 1 Samuel 17:1-58
There are giants all over the Bible, the most famous of which is Goliath, who fell to David. The Amorites, a race of giants, are mentioned more than 80 times, including this tasty quote from Amos 2:9–10:
"Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite."
Biblical scholars estimate the height of these monsters at anywhere from six to 30 feet. If the Amorites were really as tall as cedars, it's possible they stood 50 to 100 feet tall. Another example of giants in the bible, from Deuteronomy 2:10–11:
"The Emim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were also regarded as giants [Hebrew rephaim], like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim"
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.
"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.
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.