Here is the beast with seven heads — two millennia before John wrote the book of Revelation!
Satan is the world's great counterfeiter and plagiarist! From ancient times, he has appropriated and perverted biblical doctrines, events and symbols and employed them for his own devious purposes. Read here a dramatic example uncovered by archaeology.
The seven-headed Beast
In chapter 13 of the book of Revelation, the apostle John records that he stood, in vision, by the shore of the sea. "And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads," says John (verse 1). Here, about A.D. 96, God showed John, in vision, the great world-ruling gentile kingdoms of history, represented as a seven-headed Beast rising from the sea. Another view of the Beast, at a late stage in history, is described in Revelation 17. (Read our free booklet Who Is The BEAST? for full details.) As regular readers of The Good News and The Plain Truth know, the prophetic end-time Beast — a powerful, Satan-inspired government — will be overthrown at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The government of God will then be restored to this earth, supplanting the governments of humans (Revelation 11:15). Seven centuries before John's time, the prophet Isaiah also used the imagery of the slaying of a creature from the sea to symbolically picture the triumph of God's Kingdom. Isaiah declared: "In that day [at the end time] the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea" (Isaiah 27:1). In Psalm 74:14, this "Leviathan" is described as being multi-headed. In Bible symbolism, Satan himself is pictured as a serpent and as a dragon with seven heads (Revelation 12:3, 9, 20:2). Reflecting this symbolism, Satan's systems of government are pictured in prophecy in similar terms. But unknown to many students of the Bible, the seven-headed beast was a well-known symbol some two millennia before the time of the apostle John — and centuries before the days of Moses! From the early ages, many of the details of God's plan for mankind — including elements of prophetic symbolism later to be written down in the books of Daniel and Revelation — were revealed to God's righteous servants (see Isaiah 46:10, Hebrews 11:13, II Peter 1:21, Jude 14-15). Not surprisingly, Satan early appropriated much of this symbolism and introduced it into pagan mythology and worship. Why? We shall see in a moment.
Lotan — the chaos monster
Among these appropriated symbols was that of a seven-headed beast. In ancient Canaanite mythology, the name of this multi-headed creature was Lotan or Lothan. The name Lotan is believed to be related to the Hebrew word leviathan (meaning "jointed monster" or "serpent"), and could possibly be a contracted form of the word. The formidable Lotan is described in the ancient accounts as "the tyrant with seven heads," "the primeval serpent," "the chaos monster," "the twisting serpent" and "the ancient dragon." The seven-headed Lotan appears prominently in the Ras Shamra religious texts. These are ancient tablets of poems and ritual rules, in cuneiform, excavated at the site of ancient Ugarit in northern Syria from 1929 to 1933. One of the greatest finds in Near Eastern archaeology, they tell us much about the Canaanite culture condemned so strongly by God in the Old Testament. Accounts of this monster have also been discovered at various sites eastward in Mesopotamia. It is a regular element in the mythology of the ancient Near East. Among some peoples, the seven-headed Lotan was even worshiped as a god, and sacrifices were offered to him. In West Semitic mythology, Lotan ruled the rivers and seas. In the Ras Shamra texts, Lotan was challenged to battle by the god Baal, who slew him with magic weapons after a furious battle. The victorious Baal then received the honor of supreme kingship. Pictured in a cylinder seal impression from Tell Asmar in Mesopotamia (see photo above) is the seven-headed dragon under attack. Four of its heads hang limp and defeated. The fifth faces impending death. (See Revelation 17:10 for an interesting parallel.)
Myth and legend?
So here we have an ancient account of a seven-headed dragon from the sea being slain in order to establish the rule of a god-king. The parallel with Bible prophecy is too clear to be missed. The triumph of the soon-coming Kingdom of God will be secured with the downfall of Satan and the final phase of his seven-headed kingdom. Anticipating the book of Revelation, Satan — the master plagiarist — anciently introduced a counterfeit of the same theme into mythology and pagan worship. His object? To prepare the ground for biblical criticism in modern times — to generate controversy and cast doubt on the book of Revelation! Just as some critics today dismiss the biblical account of the virgin birth of Jesus as a "throwback" to a more ancient mother-child motif as found in ancient Egypt (Isis and Horus) and Mesopotamia (Ishtar and Tammuz), modern critics view the beast symbolism of the book of Revelation as a mere carry-over of myth and legend from ancient Canaanite epics. But what John saw in vision was no mere mythology! The days are fast approaching when all will see with their own eyes the fulfillment of God's unerring revelation. There is a Beast — and his days are numbered! The good news is that just ahead lies the triumph of God's Kingdom over this world's system. This vision is certain and the interpretation sure (Daniel 2:44-45)!