Friday, January 19, 2024

Defeat of the Wild Animals (19.17–21)


And I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice, saying to all the birds flying in mid-heaven, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, so you can eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of chiliarchs, and the flesh of the strong, and the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, and the flesh of all, both freemen and slaves and small and great.’

And I saw the wild animal and the earth’s kings and their armies, gathered to make war with the one sitting on the horse and with his army. And the wild animal was caught, and with it the false prophet who made the signs in front of it by which he deceived the ones who received the wild animal’s mark and the ones who worshiped its image. And the two were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. And the rest were killed by the sword going from the mouth of the one sitting on the horse.

And all the birds were filled from their flesh.


During the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE, the prophet Ezekiel predicted, with a sort of proto-apocalyptic anticipation, that when the Judeans would finally return to their homeland, that the Israelites would be threatened one last time. When the next king in the Davidic dynasty rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, an army from a distant land would attack, but God himself would intervene, destroying the army with heavenly fire and sending scavenger birds to devour their remains. The author takes up this unfulfilled prophecy and splits it in half, situating some of it in chapter 19 and some later in chapter 20. When the messianic war erupts on the earth, God will assist in destroying his enemies by sending the scavenger birds. The author combines this with his reimagining of the visions from Daniel. In that book, God killed the fourth monster and destroyed its body in a river of fire, then rewarded ‘one like a son of man’ with an eternal kingdom. The vision symbolized the complete dissolution of the Greek hegemony, which would be succeeded by a restored, everlasting Israelite monarchy. In this book, the monster still represents a gentile empire, but now also signifies the arch-evil ruler of that empire, Nero Redux. The wild animal is thrown into the lake of fire still alive, showing that the author not only expects the Roman Empire to fall to the Anointed One, but that Nero would personally suffer eternally.



34.5–7 When my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens, lo, it will descend upon Edom, upon the people I have doomed to judgment. Yhwh has a sword; it is sated with blood, it is gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Yhwh has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their soil made rich with fat.


7.33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away.

34.20 Their corpses shall become food for the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth.


28.26 Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.


39.17–20 As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord Yhwh: Speak to the birds of every kind and to all the wild animals: Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. You shall eat fat until you are filled, and drink blood until you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with warriors and all kinds of soldiers, says the Lord Yhwh.

Testament of Levi

3.3 In the second are the armies arrayed for the day of judgment to work vengeance on the spirits of error and of Beliar.

Testament of Dan

5.6, 10 For I read in the Book of Enoch the Righteous that your prince is Satan and that all of the spirits of sexual promiscuity and of arrogance devote attention to the sons of Levi […] He [the Lord] will make war against Beliar; he will grant the vengeance of victory as our goal.

Dead Sea Scrolls

1QM 18 In the seventh lot when the great hand of God is raised in an everlasting blow against Belial and all the hosts of his kingdom, and when Assyria is pursued amidst the shouts of angels and the clamor of the holy ones, the sons of Japheth shall fall to rise no more. The Kittim shall be crushed without remnant, and no man shall be saved from among them.

Sibylline Oracles

2.196–205 And then a great river of blazing fire will flow from heaven, and will consume every place, land and great ocean and gleaming sea, lakes and rivers, springs and implacable Hades and the heavenly vault. […] All the souls of men will gnash their teeth, burning in a river, and brimstone and a rush of fire in a fiery plain, and ashes will cover all.


7.10, 11–12 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. […] And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

Ascension of Isaiah

4.14 and will drag Beliar, and his armies also, into Ge-Hinnom.

Revelation of Zephaniah

6.1–2 Again I turned back and walked, and I saw a great sea. But I thought it was a seat of water. I discovered that it was entirely a sea of flame like a slime which casts forth much flame and whose waves burn sulfur and bitumen.

4 Ezra

6.49–52 ‘Then you kept in existence two living creatures; one you called Behemoth and the name of the other was Leviathan. And you separated one from the other, for the seventh part where the water had been gathered together could not hold them both. And you gave Behemoth one of the parts that had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; but to Leviathan you gave the seventh part, the watery part; and you have kept them to be eaten by whom you wish, and when you wish.’

2 Baruch

29.3–4 And it will happen that when all that which should come to pass in these parts has been accomplished, the Anointed One will begin to be revealed. And Behemoth will reveal itself from its place, and Leviathan will come from the sea, the two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation and which I have kept until that time. And they will be nourishment for all who are left.

40.1 ‘The last ruler who is left alive at that time will be bound, whereas the entire host will be destroyed.’

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