Thursday, March 31, 2016

Yamm (Sea) strikes again!

The prophet Daniel had a disturbing vision in which he saw four great beasts come up out of the sea. Each was composed of the parts of various animals blended in unnatural combinations, and each represented a human political kingdom that was more animalistic than human. The beastly kingdoms stand in contrast to “one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13), a human figure who represents “the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7:18, i.e., Israel). His rule was truly human. We do not need to understand the details of the vision. We simply need to observe the understandable symbolic origin of the beasts—the sea. As such, they are forces of chaos and opponents for the divine warrior.

In Revelation this image of Daniel’s is picked up and reapplied to a new situation. In chapter 13 John has a vision of a blasphemous beast with seven horns and ten heads that rises out of the sea. As with Daniel’s beasts, this ugly brute was composite, like a leopard with bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth. This sea monster was a symbol for Rome and its emperor, a great political power, granted temporary authority by the dragon (Satan), and in opposition to the church and God. As in Daniel’s vision, this was not a literal monster, but the imagery used by both Daniel and Revelation draws on the longstanding tradition of God’s battle with chaos monsters from the sea.

Perhaps now we can understand a peculiar comment near the end of the book of Revelation to the effect that in the new creation there will be no more sea. We might think of that as a disappointing idea—no more beach holidays, scuba diving, or wind surfing. That is not the point. This is not about water as such. This is about the ever-present danger of chaos and its eventual permanent removal.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 45

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