The Apple Of God's Eye

February 22, 2011

Biblical Leviathan: More Than A Legend?

Dragons! You’ve got to be kidding! No one believes in Dragons, so how can we have a serious discussion about them?

Yet in connection with the marvels of the created world, mention is made in the Bible of a terrifying sea creature called “leviathan.”

The precise identification of this huge animal is shrouded in a few verses: Job 3:8, 41:1-34, Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:24-26 and Isaiah 27:1.

It obviously was some sort of majestic and awe inspiring aquatic creature. The margin notes in some Bible versions (ASV, RSV) speculate that the creature was a whale, though this description does not appear to even closely match what the Bible describes.

Other scholars identify this animal as a huge crocodile, but these are found mainly in inland waters and would therefore not be described as great beasts of the sea (Psalm 104:25–26). Nor are crocodiles so terrifying that no one dares tackle them—as they are regularly trapped and killed by native tribes.

A third presuppositions is that Leviathan may have been some variety of ancient dinosaur – now extinct (see Duane Gish, Dinosaurs – Those Terrible Lizards, San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1977, pp. 30, 51-54). But this, of course, is also nonsense, as dinosaurs became extinct long before the creation of man.

Then there are expositors inclined to identify leviathan as a  “mythological” entity, or as poetic imagery

“All five occurrences are in poetic passages and belong to ‘dead mythology,’ i.e., old mythological concepts are employed without suggestion that they are still believed” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, page 912).

However, the description in this section of scripture (as we shall see shortly) treats  leviathan as a real sea “monster,” with which the ancients were quite familiar.

There are other verses which reference Leviathan without naming it. He is described as a creature of immense strength. In the Hebrew text, he has ‘terrifying’ teeth and scales like rows of shields, closely fastened together and hard as stone. He is a resident of the sea, knowing no fear and apparently immune to all man’s weapons. Here is a breakdown:

  1. You can’t catch him with a fish hook or tie him up.
  2. He will not beg you for mercy.
  3. He will never serve you or do as you command.
  4. You can’t put him on a leash.
  5. You can never make a meal out of him.
  6. You can’t stick a harpoon into him.
  7. If you tangle with him once and live through it you will never go near him again.
  8. Even the sight of him is enough to make you try to hide.
  9. He is so terrible that no one would dare attract his attention.
  10. He is extremely powerful, and well proportioned.
  11. You can’t skin him.
  12. You can’t open or close his mouth, even the sight of his teeth will put terror into you.
  13. He has scales that are beautiful and fitted so close together that air can’t get between them, much less anything else. You can’t separate his scales by any means.
  14. When he opens his mouth fire comes out.
  15. Smoke pours out of the nostrils of his nose like steam rising out of a boiling pot.
  16. His breath alone is so hot that it will start fires and flames shoot out of it’s mouth.
  17. His neck is very strong and nothing is painful or hard for him.
  18. His flesh, or muscles, are so firm that they are hard to the touch and you can’t push even a dent in them.
  19. His heart is as hard as a lower mill stone that makes flour.
  20. The very sight of him strikes fear into the hearts of the most mighty and brave men. They call on God to help them because they believe that they will be killed.
  21. He can’t be harmed (cut) by swords, spears (light for throwing), arrows, or lances (a heavy spear for thrusting, not throwing).
  22. Hitting him with iron or brass is like hitting him with grass or rotten wood.
  23. His bottom side is rough and sharp like broken pottery.
  24. He stirs up the sea to make it look like its boiling.
  25. As he travels through the sea he leaves a churned up trail in the water that makes it look like frost.
  26. There is absolutely nothing on this earth like him. He is absolutely fearless since nothing on the earth can harm him.

List Source: Here

So what is being described here is a creature that breathes out fire. A creature that is indestructible from everything and everyone except God and causes terror in the hearts and minds of men.

Leviathan was known to the ancients

Job – A creature that was alive and known to Job (see Job 3:8, 41:1-34) and who is believed to have lived around the time of Abraham (born around 2166 BC). We know that Job knew this creature from the way that God started the description of Leviathan. We can see in the first couple of verses an assumption of Job knowing the creature by the hearing it’s name. Only with God, it’s not an assumption, it is knowledge.

Asaph – Asaph wrote Psalm 74 which speaks of the heads of leviathan in verse 14. This confirms the two heads of leviathan. Asaph lived in the time of David and Solomon. This puts the time of writing between 1040 – 940 BC.

Unknown biblical author – Psalm 104, written by an unknown writer, in verses 25 – 26, shows leviathan to be a sea creature.

Isaiah – Isaiah knew of leviathan and referred to him in Isaiah 27:1 where reference is made to God punishing leviathan by killing him. And when will this happen? Verse 26:21 and 27:1 says it will happen on the day when the Lord comes out to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. That Day of the Lord is yet in the future. That means that Leviathan is alive and well today.

Isaiah also identifies him in Isaiah 27:1 as a “piercing serpent”, a “crooked serpent” and a “dragon”.

Leviathan subject to death

“Scripture says that Leviathan is in the sea, and the Lord made him to play in it. This is written in the context of the natural course of events on the planet, which all continue to this present day. Psalm 104 speaks of the boundary God has made for the sea, the springs He causes to flow in the valleys, the rain He brings upon the hills, the grass and vegetation He causes to grow, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted, the sun and moon that He has set in order, the day and the night, the feeding of the lions, the labor of man, etc. (verses 10-24). It is all noted as the manifold work of God (verse 24), and part of this work is Leviathan that He has made to play in the sea.

Psalm 104 further reveals that Leviathan is like the other creatures God has made. It is not exempt from the cycle of death and new life (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). Immediately after speaking of Leviathan, it says,

“These all wait for you, that you may give them their food in due season. What you give them they gather in; you open your hand, they are filled with good. You hide your face, they are troubled; you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. You send forth your spirit, they are created (Psalm 104:27-30).

These all wait for you” includes Leviathan. God feeds Leviathan, takes away his breath, and creates new ones (verse 29-30, “they are created”). So we see Leviathan is in the same lot as the other creatures on this planet. He is under the curse (Romans 8:20-22) and dies, but yet lives on.”

Source: Here

Lotan — the chaos monster

In ancient Canaanite mythology, the name of a multiheaded 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 is the seven-headed dragon under attack. Four of its heads hang limp and defeated. The fifth faces impending death.

Source: The Good News, 1984


There is much disinformation on the internet about this subject. Rather than rely on God’s word, man focuses on his own interpretations and loses all sense of why this creature is even mentioned. The main lesson is that since man cannot dominate this creature – issued from the Maker’s hand – puny humanity is not in a position to judge God’s activity relative to the inhabitants of the earth.

It is an awe inspiring contrast that should leave us humbled at the very thought. Critical, sarcastic and atheistic people love to spit out venomous debates ridiculing what they read in the Bible. But this is merely thinking with limited, finite minds focused on the physical sphere and dominated by the five senses. In other words, they cannot deeply grasp or believe the word of God, without being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Confusion about God and His inspired word reigns in this world, but if you believe, then take it literally and you will grow in wisdom.

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