The crocodile is mentioned several times in the Bible, often portrayed as a dangerous beast of the waters. But beyond its literal meaning, the crocodile holds symbolic significance as well. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the biblical symbolism of the crocodile.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the crocodile was seen as an animal sacred to Sobek, the crocodile-headed Egyptian god. The ancient Israelites would have been familiar with this association. But in the Bible, the crocodile takes on a different symbolic meaning.
Broadly speaking, the crocodile represents the forces of chaos, evil, and spiritual deception. More specifically, here are some of the symbolic meanings of the crocodile in the Bible:
- The crocodile represents the primordial chaos defeated by God at creation
- It symbolizes the spiritual deception of false gods like the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek
- The Bible uses the crocodile to picture the supernatural power of evil
- It depicts the destructive ferocity of Israel’s enemies
- The crocodile’s stealth and sudden attacks portray the danger of spiritual deception
- But God has power over the chaotically evil forces symbolized by the crocodile
The rest of this post will unpack each of these symbolic meanings in turn. We’ll survey every mention of the crocodile in Scripture and analyze the rich biblical imagery associated with it. By the end, you’ll understand the multifaceted symbolism of the crocodile in the Bible.
The Crocodile as Primordial Chaos
The first key symbolic meaning of the crocodile is that of the primordial chaos that existed before God’s creation. Genesis 1:1-2 describes the chaos before creation:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. (NKJV)
This “darkness on the face of the deep” refers to the chaotic state of the universe before God spoke light and order into being. The language echoes ancient Near Eastern myths of sea monsters representing the chaotic primeval waters before creation.
In this context, the crocodile symbolized the primordial forces of chaos that God had to subdue to form the ordered cosmos. We see this in God’s rhetorical challenge to Job:
Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, Or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, Or pierce his jaw with a hook? (Job 41:1-2 NKJV)
Here “Leviathan” refers to the crocodile (as we’ll discuss more below). God is telling Job that He alone has the power to control Leviathan, the symbol of chaos, and create order from the chaos.
So the crocodile represents the wild forces of chaos that existed before God’s creative acts – a chaos that God alone can master and command into an ordered creation.
The Crocodile as Spiritual Deception
Beyond symbolizing primordial chaos, the crocodile also represents spiritual deception – false gods and ideologies that deceive God’s people. A key example is in Ezekiel 29, where God speaks judgment against Pharaoh and Egypt:
Speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, ‘My River is my own; I have made it for myself.’ But I will put hooks in your jaws, And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers. (Ezekiel 29:3-4 NKJV)
Here, Pharaoh is depicted as a “great monster” – the term used is tannin, which refers to a crocodile or sea serpent. By comparing Pharaoh to a crocodile, the Bible paints Egypt and its false gods as chaos monsters that deceive God’s people away from the truth.
This passage also alludes to the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. As the god associated with the Nile, Sobek was seen as ensuring the fertility of Egypt. So the crocodile symbolized Egypt’s ideology of false gods and self-sufficiency apart from the true God.
In another prophetic warning, Ezekiel likens Pharaoh to “a great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers” (Ezekiel 29:3 NKJV). This dragon is none other than the crocodile, representing Egypt’s deceptive pagan ideologies.
So the crocodile embodies the spiritual deception that comes from trusting in false gods and beliefs rather than the one true God. Just as Sobek was a fabricated deception, the crocodile symbolizes misleading belief systems that lead people astray.
The Crocodile as an Image of Evil
In several passages, the Bible uses the crocodile as a vivid depiction of evil and its diabolical power.
For example, in Isaiah 27, God pronounces judgment on Leviathan, described as a “fleeing serpent” and a “twisted serpent” (Isaiah 27:1 NKJV). Again, Leviathan here refers to the crocodile. The passage emphasizes the reptile’s coiling and twisting as a metaphor for evil.
We see the crocodile’s representation of evil especially in the imprecatory psalms crying out for God’s judgment:
Break the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And give him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalm 74:14 NKJV)
You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalm 104:26 NKJV)
These graphic images depict the crocodile as embodying supernatural evil that the people of God cry out for Him to destroy.
So the symbolic crocodile serves as a vivid and frightening personification of evil’s dark spiritual power – a destructive force only God can ultimately crush and demolish.
The Crocodile as a Destructive Enemy
In other passages, the Bible uses crocodile imagery to portray God’s enemies who seek to destroy His people.
Psalm 58 depicts cruel rulers as predators waiting to snap their jaws:
Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! (Psalm 58:6 NKJV)
The “young lions” are the crocodile’s mighty jaws, ready to devour the vulnerable. This symbolizes how abusive rulers savagely attack the weak who look to God for justice.
Ezekiel 29 continues to portray Pharaoh as a crocodile wreaking havoc on the Nile’s fish – representing how Egypt had brought destruction on its neighbors:
‘Thus says the Lord God: “I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your rivers, you who say, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.’ I will put hooks in your jaws, and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales; I will draw you up from your streams, with all the fish of your streams that stick to your scales. (Ezekiel 29:3–4 ESV)
The crocodile here vividly depicts Egypt’s rapacious destructive power against other nations in the region.
So in various contexts, the crocodile serves as a powerful image of enemies bent on violently destroying God’s people and the innocent.
The Crocodile’s Stealth Portraying Danger
In other passages, the sinister stealth of the crocodile symbolizes the danger of spiritual deception and attack.
In Job 41, God describes Leviathan lying concealed despite his enormous size:
Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your maidens? (Job 41:1-5 ESV)
The huge crocodile pictured here hiding stealthily underwater symbolizes the hidden spiritual dangers that secretly surround us. Just as the crocodile is far more powerful and vicious than it appears lurking beneath the water, our adversary the devil prowls around secretly, “looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
In Psalm 91, the “snare of the fowler” and “deadly pestilence” (Psalm 91:3 ESV) portray these unseen spiritual dangers, ready to suddenly strike like a hiding crocodile ambushing its prey. But God promises to deliver and protect us from these hidden deadly traps.
So the crocodile’s ability to lie perfectly camouflaged before suddenly attacking represents the unseen hazards and deception facing believers from the forces of evil. This reminds us of our need for watchfulness against the secret dangers all around us.
God’s Power Over the Crocodile Chaos
Amid all these dangerous implications of the crocodile symbol, a vital theme emerges: God’s supreme power to rule over the chaos and evil pictured by the crocodile.
The most detailed description of the crocodile comes in Job 41, where God challenges Job to show his ability to tame the beast. The passage emphasizes that only its Creator can control Leviathan.
Job 41 remains a vivid reminder that God reigns supreme over all the chaotic forces – both primordial and evil – depicted by the biblical crocodile imagery. It points to Christ’s ultimate subduing of evil on the cross. As one commentary puts it:
Of the Son it was said, “You rule the swelling sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:9) … For Christ has subjected the force and power of the evil one and conquered him through the cross, disarming the rulers and authorities and making a public spectacle of them as he triumphed over them in Christ (Col. 2:15). (Evans 2000, 103)
So the crocodile symbol ultimately points to God’s sovereignty over all evil, foreshadowing Christ’s decisive victory on the cross.
To summarize, the crocodile in the Bible functions as a richly symbolic image:
- It represents the primordial forces of chaos God defeated at creation.
- It embodies the spiritual deception of false gods like the Egyptian Sobek.
- The Bible uses the crocodile to vividly portray the supernatural power of evil.
- It depicts the ruthlessness of Israel’s enemies bent on destruction.
- The crocodile’s stealthiness represents the danger of unseen spiritual traps.
- But above all, God wields absolute power over the chaos and evil pictured by the crocodile.
So whether vaunting Egypt’s false gods or representing supernatural evil itself, the crocodile serves as a dramatic symbol of the chaotic forces of deception and destruction. Yet the Bible consistently affirms God’s sovereignty to rule over the chaos, promising the ultimate victory of Christ.
Next time you encounter a crocodile in Scripture, look deeper into its rich symbolic significance. Let the image remind you of God’s supremacy over every power that opposes Him and His people. And be encouraged by the assurance that the forces of chaos have met their match in the One who calmly commands the crocodile’s jaws: “Be still!” (Psalm 46:10)