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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Leviathan

In a previous post, I mused about behemoth, a real, or perhaps imaginary, creature mentioned in the Book of Job.

I now turn to leviathan, which is mentioned in the next chapter of Job, also as part of God's response to Job, which, basically, is that God knows what He is doing, and Job doesn't.

Job 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan* with a fish hook,
or press down his tongue with a cord?
2 Can you put a rope into his nose,
or pierce his jaw through with a hook?
3 Will he make many petitions to you,
or will he speak soft words to you?
4 Will he make a covenant with you,
that you should take him for a servant forever?
5 Will you play with him as with a bird?
Or will you bind him for your girls?
6 Will traders barter for him?
Will they part him among the merchants?
7 Can you fill his skin with barbed irons,
or his head with fish spears?
8 Lay your hand on him.
Remember the battle, and do so no more.
9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain.
Won’t one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10 None is so fierce that he dare stir him up.
Who then is he who can stand before me?
11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
Everything under the heavens is mine.
12 “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
nor his mighty strength, nor his goodly frame.
13 Who can strip off his outer garment?
Who shall come within his jaws?
14 Who can open the doors of his face?
Around his teeth is terror.
15 Strong scales are his pride,
shut up together with a close seal.
16 One is so near to another,
that no air can come between them.
17 They are joined to one another.
They stick together, so that they can’t be pulled apart.
18 His sneezing flashes out light.
His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
19 Out of his mouth go burning torches.
Sparks of fire leap out.
20 Out of his nostrils a smoke goes,
as of a boiling pot over a fire of reeds.
21 His breath kindles coals.
A flame goes out of his mouth.
22 There is strength in his neck.
Terror dances before him.
23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together.
They are firm on him.
They can’t be moved.
24 His heart is as firm as a stone,
yes, firm as the lower millstone.
25 When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid.
They retreat before his thrashing.
26 If one attacks him with the sword, it can’t prevail;
nor the spear, the dart, nor the pointed shaft.
27 He counts iron as straw;
and brass as rotten wood.
28 The arrow can’t make him flee.
Sling stones are like chaff to him.
29 Clubs are counted as stubble.
He laughs at the rushing of the javelin.
30 His undersides are like sharp potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
31 He makes the deep to boil like a pot.
He makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 He makes a path shine after him.
One would think the deep had white hair.
33 On earth there is not his equal,
that is made without fear.
34 He sees everything that is high.
He is king over all the sons of pride.”

*41:1: Leviathan is a name for a crocodile or similar creature. (Quoted, including the note, from the World English Bible, which is public domain. All quotations from the Bible in this post use that version.)

Most Bible scholars suppose that leviathan means crocodile. But not all do:

Some think this to be a crocodile but from the description in Job 41:1-34 this is patently absurd. It appears to be a large fire breathing animal of some sort. Just as the bomardier beetle has an explosion producing mechanism, so the great sea dragon may have an explosive producing mechanism to enable it to be a real fire breathing dragon. - taken from the lexicon page on leviathan, from the Blueletter Bible. That same chapter also suggests that the creature may have been a plesiosaurus.

As far as I am aware, there is no credible evidence that dinosaurs and humans lived on earth at the same time. Nor is there evidence that fire-breathing dragons ever existed, either, however much we might wish that they had (or do). As in the previous post on behemoth, my guess is that at least some of the description given in Job is fanciful, like some of the beliefs about animals in medieval bestiaries. (We may have some equally ridiculous beliefs about some creatures now, but don't realize it.) The point of Job 41 is not to give an accurate zoological description, but to point out to Job, and early readers of the story, that God is in charge, even of remarkable creatures. My guess is that Job, and quite a few of his contemporaries, supposed that leviathan was as described, but had never seen such a creature.

Unlike behemoth, leviathan is mentioned more than once in the Bible.

There is a passing mention in Job 3:8.

Here's part of Psalm 74:12 Yet God is my King of old,
working salvation throughout the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your strength.
You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces.
You gave him as food to people and desert creatures.

Again, this seems to be poetic, not referring to actual events, but who knows?

There is another passing reference in Psalm 104:26, and there's also Isaiah 27:1 In that day, Yahweh with his hard and great and strong sword will punish leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and leviathan the twisted serpent; and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea. Again, this doesn't seem to be meant strictly literally. One reason I think so is because the same chapter also talks about Israel budding, blossoming, and producing fruit.

If there really were, or are, dragons, God made them, or allowed them to come into existence. That's really the point of Job 41, I believe.

Thanks for reading.




4 comments:

atlibertytosay said...

I believe you are correct … I think some descriptions are based on what words and what knowledge people had of events.

I do disagree that ALL dinosaurs were extinct, especially Plesiosaurs.

Also, we don't know if the Plesiosaur didn't have a venom/spit like the bombardier beetle ~ which just about every Google search result contains the words (o similar) defies explanation, evolution, scientific reason.

We commonly find creatures that were never discovered, including VERY large ocean creatures.

The Glow Angler, recently discovered at the bottom of the deepest trenches in the ocean has an EXTREMELY bright lantern ball on an antennae on its head.

I could only imagine how a biblical writer would describe this fish.

A giant with a star dangling from his head?

A fish given the power of light with a white hot fire between his eyes?

Also note that Jonah was apparently swallowed by "something" that was not common or undiscovered and must have been big and carried an air supply.

If such a fish exists (or existed) and such fanciful animals exist that defy even the best biologist's explanation ~ I'd suspect Leviathan or Behemoth could have easily existed (or potentially still do).

We also have no idea how old a dinosaur could reach. They may could live hundreds of years as a sea turtle does … mating may not have been an issue until they became extremely few and far between.

Also take note of John the Revelator ~ he clearly describes helicopters as giant locusts and the beasts he potentially saw are the emblems of the countries that exist today - ie the Lion head being Britain, the eagle head (wings?) being the USA.

I refuse to believe that "the myth" of dragons was conjured from thin air or creativity.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay.

We disagree on some points, I think.

I'm not aware of any credible evidence that dinosaurs were alive when humans appeared.

It's possible that the Plesiosaur had some sort of venom/spit mechanism, but again, I don't know of any evidence that they did. As to the mechanism of Bombardier beetles, the Wikipedia article on that insect indicates that the mechanism is reasonably well understood, and that it could have acquired this ability by natural selection.

We do occasionally find creatures that we didn't know about. Possibly Job and contemporaries had heard about some such creature or creatures.

Helicopters as giant locusts? The Lion as Britain, etc., Maybe, but I don't think those interpretations are even close to clear. Most likely, most of Revelation is not meant to be taken literally, but it does warn against adding to the book, and making claims like that may be doing so.

I don't know where the idea of dragons came from. Maybe there was a creature that did some of what we think they do. But the bestiaries, referred to in the original post, indicate that we have, at times, attributed various behaviors and characteristics to animals that these animals really don't have, and, possibly (Sasquatch, for example) made up animals that never did exist.

I know -- it is impossible to prove that Sasquatch, or dragons, never did exist. Most other negatives are equally impossible to prove.

As I see it, the main point of the passage in Job 40-41 is not what behemoth and leviathan were all about, but that God's power and authority is beyond human understanding, and we'd better be careful when we question it. Apparently that's the way Job took this discourse, too.

Thanks.

atlibertytosay said...

I was always told that the alligators (maybe crocodiles) were living dinosaurs and that great white sharks were largely unchanged.

Some DNA/blood cell evidence points to some dinosaurs being much younger than many scientists have thought possible.

Some creationists claim dinosaurs were wiped out with the flood ~ and of course that's purely speculative.

I believe the Torah talks extensively about dinosaurs and other beastly creatures.

It's my opinions of course about translations in Revelation, but I don't think they are a stretch and common interpretations amongst "End Times Scholars".

I always enjoy discussions with you Dr. LaBar … thank you for making us all think and helping us to meditate on God's word.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks.

Revelation tells us that there will be a judgement, related to Christ's return. Almost all of the rest is opinion, I guess.

I'm not familiar with the Torah, other than the Genesis-Deuteronomy.

Alligators and crocodiles are both reptiles, and dinosaurs are, too. But to say that they are living dinosaurs depends on one's definition of dinosaurs. They are large reptiles, for sure, and many of the dinosaurs were, too.

Thanks!