There may be some worship of mermaids and mermen by the Assyrians and Philistines (Israel’s enemies), but there is no direct reference to any mermaids in the Bible.
Mermaids and mermen are popular mythical characters in TV shows and storybooks. With an upper body of a human and lower body of a fish, merfolk feature in myths and folklore that have been around for centuries. But are mermaids mentioned in the Bible?
Let’s take a closer look at the history of mermaids and see what the Bible has to say about merpeople.
Over centuries, various tales of mermaids have been passed down through the generations across the world in Africa, Europe and Asia. In many of these ancient stories, mermaids are depicted as sinister, deceptive and foreboding. In some they are seen as merciful and kind.
The origin of mermaids and mermen in the West is rooted in Greek mythology with Sirens. These half-bird, half-human creatures morphed into half-fish, half-human creatures during medieval times. They were said to lure men to their death with the sweetness of their songs and sensual dancing.
One African superstition blames mermaids for deaths around water. In Asian folklore, a mermaid is a romantic creature who falls in love with a man after trying to spoil his plans to build a bridge. In the Caribbean, a mermaid is a symbol of wealth and beauty. Some Korean tales depict mermaids as goddesses of the sea who control the weather.
Outside of folklore, there is no evidence to support the existence of merpeople. Historical accounts of sightings have encouraged and inspired the tales of merfolk but are most likely mistaken sightings of manatees or other sea mammals. According to modern day scientists at NOS (National Ocean Service) “no evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.”
Real or imagined, man’s fascination with a creature half-human and half-fish has featured in art and literature for hundreds of years. Hans Christian Anderson cemented mermaid tales in modern literature with The Little Mermaid in 1837.
A similar situation is at play with vampires.
Mentions of Mermaids in the Bible
The Bible is filled with accounts of various animals and creatures from a donkey who talked (Numbers 22: 21-39) to great beasts in the sea like the multi-headed Leviathan (Psalm 74:14). Mermaids, however, are not mentioned explicitly in the Bible.
Armed with an understanding of God’s Word, we can make reasonable assumptions about mermaids. Let’s take a closer look.
Mermaids in the Bible Creation Story?
In the very beginning the record of Creation states that God created humans and animals (Gen 1-3). From this we know that every living thing was created by God as part of His design for His world.
Genesis 1:20 ESV And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
John 1:3 ESV All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
On the fifth day of creation, God created the living creatures that swarm in the waters. The Bible is not specific about what those living creatures looked like (that would be quite a catalog!) but we know that the waters certainly do swarm with all sorts of fish, mammals, and amphibians.
In the Bible, there is no direct mention of half-human, half-animals. This doesn’t necessarily rule them out, but it’s unlikely they exist, and there’s definitely no direct evidence in the scriptures that they do. We also know that God is the creator and every living thing exists by His design.
Was the Philistine God Dagon a Mermaid?
The closest the Bible comes to mentioning a mermaid is in 1 Samuel in reference to Dagon. This pagan god was worshiped across Mesopotamia by the Assyrians and the Philistines – enemies of Israel.
Many believe this “god” was half fish as “dag” is the Hebrew word for “fish” which suggests a merman-like appearance. Some believe this is an incorrect interpretation as Dagon is likely a reference to grain.
This mythological god would have been imagined and not based on anything factual. In Mesopotamia, Dagon was known as the father of Baal and believed to be the god of fertility and agricultural prosperity.
These descriptions make Dagon’s humiliation before The LORD significant and somewhat amusing as God displays his power over and intolerance of idol worship in the following passage.
1 Samuel 5:1-12 ESV: “After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, carried it into the temple of Dagon, and set it beside his statue. When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on his face before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and returned him to his place.
But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on his face before the ark of the LORD, with his head and his hands broken off and lying on the threshold. Only the torso remained. That is why, to this day, the priests of Dagon and all who enter the temple of Dagon in Ashdod do not step on the threshold. Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity, ravaging them and afflicting them with tumors. And when the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not stay here with us, because His hand is heavy upon us and upon our god Dagon.”
So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” “It must be moved to Gath,” they replied. So they carried away the ark of the God of Israel. But after they had moved the ark to Gath, the LORD’s hand was also against that city, throwing it into great confusion and afflicting the men of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. So they sent the ark of God to Ekron, but as it arrived, the Ekronites cried out, “They have brought us the ark of the God of Israel in order to kill us and our people!”
Then the Ekronites assembled all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel. It must return to its place, so that it will not kill us and our people!” For a deadly confusion had pervaded the city; the hand of God was heavy upon it. Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.”
Are Mermaids in the Bible?
The pagan god Dagon is the nearest mention of a mermaid in the bible as this false Mesopotamian god is often depicted as having a half-fish body.
The idea of mermaids has been around the world for centuries in myths and folklore and will no doubt continue to fascinate people for many years to come. But mermaids are not mentioned in the Bible and scientists have confirmed that there is no physical evidence to support their existence.