Background for the Beast of the Sea – Revelation 13:1-2

At the end of Revelation 12, the dragon stands at the shore of the sea and summons two beasts, one from the sea and another rising out of the earth (13:11-18). These beasts make war against God’s people and demand worship from the entire world.

Beast from Sea Bamberg Apocalypse

Although the sea is sometimes interpreted as “disturbed and stormy social and political” of the first century, but since much of Revelation 13 is satanic parody, summoning the beast out of the sea may be a parody of creation. Satan is mimicking God standing at the chaotic sea creating the order of the earth (Gen 1:2). Vern Poythress, for example, suggests the sea in Revelation 13:1 evokes the chaotic pre-creation world before God imposes order on the days of creation. The coming time of tribulation will be a return to the “formless and void” (tohu-wa-bohu) before God’s creative actions in Genesis 1.

Greg Beale suggests Revelation 13 is in part based on Job 40-41. In those chapters there are two beasts who opposed God, the Behemoth on the land and Leviathan from the sea (Revelation, 682). “On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear. He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride” (Job 41:33-34). Perhaps this is more clear in the Septuagint, “And the netherworld of the deep is like a prisoner (δὲ τάρταρον (tartarus) τῆς ἀβύσσου, “bottomless pit” or Abyss in Revelation). He regards the deep as a walk. There is not anything upon the earth like it, being made to be mocked by my angels. It sees everything that is high, and it itself is king of all that is in the waters” (Job 41:23–25 LES2).

In the Old Testament sea monsters like Leviathan and Rahab refered to foreign powers who oppressed Israel, especially Egypt Ps 74:14; 87:4; Isa 30:7; Ezek 29:3; 32:2-3; Jer 51:3 refering to Babylon). Revelation 13 draws on this common Old Testament imagery since the beast from the sea is an enemy of God and an persecutor of his people.

Psalm 74:14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.

Psalm 87:4 “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me— Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush— and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”

Isaiah 30:7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.

Ezekiel 29:3 Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile is mine; I made it for myself.”

Ezekiel 32:2-3 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him: “‘You are like a lion among the nations; you are like a monster in the seas thrashing about in your streams, churning the water with your feet and muddying the streams. 3 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘With a great throng of people I will cast my net over you, and they will haul you up in my net.

In the Pseudepigrapha, Leviathan and Behemoth were a single primordial beast separated by God at the time of creation.

1 Enoch 60:7-10 On that day, two monsters will be parted—one monster, a female named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; 8 and (the other), a male called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert whose name is Dundayin, east of the garden of Eden, wherein the elect and the righteous ones dwell, wherein my grandfather was taken, the seventh from Adam, the first man whom the Lord of the Spirits created. 9 Then I asked the second angel in order that he may show me (how) strong these monsters are, how they were separated on this day and were cast, the one into the abysses of the ocean, and the other into the dry desert. 10 And he said to me, “You, son of man, according (to the degree) to which it will be permitted, you will know the hidden things.”

4 Ezra 6:47-52 “On the fifth day you commanded the seventh part, where the water had been gathered together, to bring forth living creatures, birds, and fishes; and so it was done. 48 The dumb and lifeless water produced living creatures, as it was commanded, that thereafter the nations might declare thy wondrous works. 49 “Then you kept in existence two living creatures; the name of one you called Behemoth and the name of the other Leviathan. 50* And you separated one from the other, for the seventh part where the water had been gathered together could not hold them both. 51 And you gave Behemoth one of the parts which had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; 52 but to Leviathan you have the seventh part, the watery part; and you have kept them to be eaten by whom you wish, and when you wish.

In the Psalms of Solomon 2:28-32 Pompey speaks with the “arrogance of the dragon” who is judged by God with a dishonorable death.

Psalms of Solomon 2:28-32 And do not delay, God, to repay them upon their heads, 29 to speak the arrogance of the dragon (δράκων) in dishonor.” 30 And I did not delay until God showed to me his insolence, a man pierced on the mountains of Egypt, being scorned more than the smallest upon the earth and the sea, 31 his body being carried over the waves in great insolence; and there was no one to bury it 32 because he rejected him in dishonor.”

But the most oblivious background for this first beast from the sea is the fourth beast in Daniel 7. Beale, for example, calls Revelation 13:1-2 a “creative reworking of Dan. 7:1-7 (683). Revelation 13 describes the first beast as having ten horns (Dan 7:7) and seven heads and was like a leopard; bear and lion, Daniel’s first three beasts in reverse order. In Daniel, “the arrogant little horn” comes from this fourth beast.

In the context of Daniel, the immediate reference is to Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his arrogant persecution of Judea which led to the Maccabean Revolt. Revelation is written about 250 years after Antiochus, suggested John is re-interpreting the fourth beast of Daniel 7 as the current arrogant empire, Rome. If this is the case, then the wounded horn may refer to an emperor, just as the little horn referred to Antiochus.

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