I don’t always read The Bible, but when I do, I read The Book of Job. At least, that’s what I did yesterday. I wrote a whole blog post about it.
As is the case whenever I open that book, I found something unexpected:
A Loch Ness monster. Or was it a dragon?
What I found is called a Leviathan and it’s referenced in three of the books of The Bible.
The first reference is at JOB 3:8 :
May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan
It sounds scary. It reminds me of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, in which he said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
The frightening creature is fleshed out with a much better description beginning at JOB 41:1 :
Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.
I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.
It appears again in PSALM 74:14 :
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.
In this passage, it sounds like Leviathan is a multi-headed creature.
The next reference to Leviathan is in PSALM 104:26 :
There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
Definitely a water creature, but we already knew that from the description in Job.
The last reference to Leviathan comes, in the book of ISAIAH (27:1):
In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.
The way God’s sword is talked about in this passage reminds me of the great and powerful Trump describing his great and powerful wall or the great and powerful military. More importantly, this passage likens the Leviathan to a snake. Consistent with the other passages, it gives his habitat as the sea. Except for the gliding part – that makes it sound as if it can fly.
One of the greatest mysteries of The Bible is that there is no talk about the dinosaurs that roamed our earth millions of years ago. Could the Leviathan be evidence that water-dwelling dinosaurs actually inhabited the earth at the same time as humans?
Fellow blogger and author, Jennifer Mugrage wrote a great post called, Dinosaurs in History on her blog, Out of Babel where she investigates this and other questions about dinosaurs and dragons in art and history. It is a great read and worth checking out.
What does my New Student Bible from Zonderman Publishing have to say about it? This is a direct quote from said Bible (referring to Job 41):
The levaithan has some features of a crocodile and some of a dragon. In other places, the Bible refers to the leviahtan as either a whale-like creature or a serpent or monster of the sea. God used the leviathan as a sumbol of somehting powerful and uncontrollable. Job got the message: if you can’t take on one of God’s creatures, don’t attempt to take on God.
So like all things biblical, the question is: Should I take this literally or not?
If I don’t take it literally, then there is no problem – the Leviathan is just a literary tool to show how mighty God is because he can step on Leviathan heads all day long without getting tired.
If I do take it literally, I have to figure out the question of this post, What the Hell is a Leviathan?
Let’s dismiss the nonsense proposed by some that we’re dealing with a crocodile here. Before his untimely death, Steve Irwin could wrestle crocs all day long. Hardly a creature so terrifying that only God could dispense with it. Plus I have never heard of a fire-breathing, serpent-like crocodile, multi-headed, flying crocodile.
Dinosaur? Maybe. If we were talking about a land-dwelling dinosaur, I would say no way. There would be a ton more evidence if it dwelled on land amongst humans. It seems more plausible that a sea-dwelling dinosaur would escape the posthumous detection of its bones. Still, I think this is unlikely.
Dragon? I think you’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones. Even though the descriptions of the creature in The Bible most aptly match a dragon, I’m going to need to see a dragon skeleton somewhere, anywhere, on earth before I believe this one.
What I really believe is that the Leviathan is a made up creature; a fairy tale, like most things in The Bible. One reason I think the Leviathan is made up is because of the long description in Job. The long description is for the benefit of the reader, not Job, who seems to already know what a Leviathan is. If the people at the time knew what a Leviathan was, then why bother with such a detailed description?
Many “real” animals are mentioned in The Bible, but are the descriptions of them ever so long as the one in Job? Not that I know of, but there are so many animal references I would have to scour the text much more thoroughly to say for sure. If anyone knows of a really long description of a taxonomically identified animal in The Bible, I would love to read it.
I’ve had my nose in this Bible for three days, and it’s been a slice. I’ve probably learned more than I ever did at Sunday school. Now that I have read Job, I can add fire breathing dragon to the list of unsolved mysteries like the Ark of the Covenant, talking snakes, and selective resurrections.
Oooh, Selective Resurrections… That would make a good band name.