Leviathan in Job

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Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
Has anyone discussed the possibility that the leviathan of Job and Psalms was actually a dragon of some sort? In other words, that this "mythical" creature did actually exist at one point in time?
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is no doubt in my mind that Leviathan was a physical, actual creature of some sort. Otherwise "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?" would be like asking whether you could clip Pegasus' wings. The answer to God would be "you can't either, since you didn't create such a thing."
 

Jo_Was

Puritan Board Freshman
There is no doubt in my mind that Leviathan was a physical, actual creature of some sort. Otherwise "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?" would be like asking whether you could clip Pegasus' wings. The answer to God would be "you can't either, since you didn't create such a thing."

Whether the conclusion is correct or not, I think this reasoning is not helpful in the context of the poetic discourse happening in Job. Or else, is "Can you loosen Orion’s belt?" or "Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?"
an affirmation of the other nations' gods' existence and the reality of these legends referring to Hades or levels of the underworld/Sheol? Or the "water jars of the heavens" to be poured out being reference to real jars? The entire passage is full of allusions to nature as well as mythos already existing around the ancient context of Job that the writer was aware of and able to draw on. Whether Leviathan is based upon real phenomena or not can't merely be drawn from the poetic monologue happening in this section of Job. I find this section of Job to be more similar to Psalm passages such as Psalm 115, Psalm 82, and especially Psalm 104 which position God as master and ruler over all of nature, rulers, and even other deities; while we know the animals/elements responding as they do in 104 are not actual things they are doing and the godly beings in 82 and the wooden idols in 115 are not "real" that does not remove the reality of God's mastery over them all. It's more humbling when considering not the object/subject of focuses in the monologue section of Job but rather the actions described because it's the active acts themselves that are so wholly unable to be grasped by a human like Job that overwhelms him and humbles him. It's not a conversation about whether Hades/Sheol exists but that Job can't even comprehend travelling to the depths of the sea so deep that he finds the edge of the living. It's not about whether Leviathan exists or not, but that to God (as in Psalm 104), God lets Leviathan play like a small woodland animal in the sea despite to humans these beings seeming so godlike themselves. It's not just that morning or dawn exists, but that humans couldn't even comprehend being so powerful they could order the sun/moon to rise and set with a word of power. The passage, holistically, has many similar turns of phrases and allusions to elements, culture, and nature and extreme acts unable to be performed by man.

In the greater context, God's monologue in Job is a powerful discourse. Leviathan is a known allusion in the ancient near east to chaos and chaos dieties; it is but one example in the pantheon of creatures used to anthropomorphize the natural elements. That's not to say that there was never a creature that people might have ascribed as a leviathan or to have founded or grown the mythos that grew around the entity, but there was mythos that did grow around the Leviathan as a creature of chaos in the sea. It's not a specifically targeted "species" however found around that time, but rather the collective image of the chaotic encounters of the sea (which could have encompassed some real-life wild encounters), but overall for many cultures around the Ancient Near East during that time, it was like a god or godlike creature, and didn't necessarily indicate a particular animal they thought of at the time as being "the" leviathan.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
It's a chaos monster. There is a difference between metaphor and symbol. Metaphors aren't real. Symbols are. They are focal points into reality. Compare the ancient epics about the God killing the chaos monster.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
This is from my notes on Ugaritic, which vocabulary is similar to the vocab in Job.

  • Yamm, the Sea
    • Son of El, enemy of Ba’al
    • Sometimes associated with Lotan (Heb. liwyatan) or Tunnan (tannin).
    • Bible mentions a cosmological battle with the Sea (Ps. 74:13. 89:9-10).
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
The animals described in Job appear to be those that are now more commonly identified as dinosaurs.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
The animals described in Job appear to be those that are now more commonly identified as dinosaurs.
The problem with this naturalistic interpretation (apart from completely neglecting the cultural and Biblical context) is that Job' issues do not stem from some sort of Jurassic Park experience but from spiritual assaults. Behemoth (which I take to be a plural of majesty - the Beast) is the beast from the land and Leviathan is the beast from the sea, which should immediately recall Revelation 13. The point is that these beastly representations of the forces of evil can easily be tamed and taken for "walkies" by God (41:5), which is exactly what the rest of the book has demonstrated.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If I tell my kids that God is bigger than the Boogeyman, I am not affirming the existence of the Boogeyman, only the strength of God.

Nevertheless I think God created real giant sea creatures in ancient times. Or maybe after the Fall this creature went feral. I don't know. But I like the idea of God killing sea monsters. He set up giants in the land he wanted conquered and so sprinkling a few monsters into the ocean is no big deal. But that does not include Nessie...he's a good guy.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem with this naturalistic interpretation (apart from completely neglecting the cultural and Biblical context) is that Job' issues do not stem from some sort of Jurassic Park experience but from spiritual assaults. Behemoth (which I take to be a plural of majesty - the Beast) is the beast from the land and Leviathan is the beast from the sea, which should immediately recall Revelation 13. The point is that these beastly representations of the forces of evil can easily be tamed and taken for "walkies" by God (41:5), which is exactly what the rest of the book has demonstrated.
Prof. Duguid, you raise an interesting point. Is it naturalistic to read these allusions as referring to real animals? If so, how?
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Whether the conclusion is correct or not, I think this reasoning is not helpful in the context of the poetic discourse happening in Job. Or else, is "Can you loosen Orion’s belt?" or "Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?"
an affirmation of the other nations' gods' existence and the reality of these legends referring to Hades or levels of the underworld/Sheol? Or the "water jars of the heavens" to be poured out being reference to real jars? The entire passage is full of allusions to nature as well as mythos already existing around the ancient context of Job that the writer was aware of and able to draw on. Whether Leviathan is based upon real phenomena or not can't merely be drawn from the poetic monologue happening in this section of Job. I find this section of Job to be more similar to Psalm passages such as Psalm 115, Psalm 82, and especially Psalm 104 which position God as master and ruler over all of nature, rulers, and even other deities; while we know the animals/elements responding as they do in 104 are not actual things they are doing and the godly beings in 82 and the wooden idols in 115 are not "real" that does not remove the reality of God's mastery over them all. It's more humbling when considering not the object/subject of focuses in the monologue section of Job but rather the actions described because it's the active acts themselves that are so wholly unable to be grasped by a human like Job that overwhelms him and humbles him. It's not a conversation about whether Hades/Sheol exists but that Job can't even comprehend travelling to the depths of the sea so deep that he finds the edge of the living. It's not about whether Leviathan exists or not, but that to God (as in Psalm 104), God lets Leviathan play like a small woodland animal in the sea despite to humans these beings seeming so godlike themselves. It's not just that morning or dawn exists, but that humans couldn't even comprehend being so powerful they could order the sun/moon to rise and set with a word of power. The passage, holistically, has many similar turns of phrases and allusions to elements, culture, and nature and extreme acts unable to be performed by man.

In the greater context, God's monologue in Job is a powerful discourse. Leviathan is a known allusion in the ancient near east to chaos and chaos dieties; it is but one example in the pantheon of creatures used to anthropomorphize the natural elements. That's not to say that there was never a creature that people might have ascribed as a leviathan or to have founded or grown the mythos that grew around the entity, but there was mythos that did grow around the Leviathan as a creature of chaos in the sea. It's not a specifically targeted "species" however found around that time, but rather the collective image of the chaotic encounters of the sea (which could have encompassed some real-life wild encounters), but overall for many cultures around the Ancient Near East during that time, it was like a god or godlike creature, and didn't necessarily indicate a particular animal they thought of at the time as being "the" leviathan.
Well, for what its worth, that particular verse about Orion you mention is science, not just poetry. I am pretty sure Setterfield is the scientist I read about who got saved reading that verse. It was a "the bible is actually true!" moment used to bring him into the kingdom. Not to deny your point that all kinds of things are symbols, I just found this verse to be amazing when I first read about it by Setterfield.


About the dinos....they have found nucleated red blood cell soft tissue in their bone marrow the past couple decades. They are not millions of years old, they walked the earth with men thousands of years ago.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Prof. Duguid, you raise an interesting point. Is it naturalistic to read these allusions as referring to real animals? If so, how?
I don't think it is necessarily naturalistic, but it sometimes seems driven by an attempt to locate dinosaurs in the Bible. There's a strand of Creation Science that tries too hard to turn the Bible into a scientific textbook, answering questions that no one was asking in its original context. I don't think that does the Bible or science any favors.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think it is necessarily naturalistic, but it sometimes seems driven by an attempt to locate dinosaurs in the Bible. There's a strand of Creation Science that tries too hard to turn the Bible into a scientific textbook, answering questions that no one was asking in its original context. I don't think that does the Bible or science any favors.
Indeed. That's not my angle, however. I simply wonder if dragons and unicorns did actually exist once and if Scripture might be referencing them.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I don't think it is necessarily naturalistic, but it sometimes seems driven by an attempt to locate dinosaurs in the Bible.
Scripture and science are easy to harmonize here. I'm not sure I see the benefit of ignoring the literal.
 

Jo_Was

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, for what its worth, that particular verse about Orion you mention is science, not just poetry. I am pretty sure Setterfield is the scientist I read about who got saved reading that verse. It was a "the bible is actually true!" moment used to bring him into the kingdom. Not to deny your point that all kinds of things are symbols, I just found this verse to be amazing when I first read about it by Setterfield.


About the dinos....they have found nucleated red blood cell soft tissue in their bone marrow the past couple decades. They are not millions of years old, they walked the earth with men thousands of years ago.

It would not have been referred to as Orion's belt at the time, but was by ancient Egyptian cosmology named after Sah, an ancient god, and not just named after, but actually believed to be the god. It wasn't just a naming convention that many ancient near eastern astronomers (OG astrologers) named celestial bodies after gods and goddesses; it had a far more integrative aspect to the belief in those deities as they were perceived in nature (such as the stars themselves being glimpses of the gods, alongside the sun, moon, etc). It is easy to say it is "just science" in our modern, materialistic world that views a greater divide between the natural and supernatural coexisting and doesn't have weight to the names many of our constellations are named. It's just not the view that the ancient pagans of the ANE had. Sah (or Orion's belt) or whichever god/goddess in the sky meant more than just a name for the constellation in their context.

I won't debate when dinosaurs did or did not exist because that argument doesn't even need to buttress support for what has been noted about Leviathan's purpose as a chaos deity if one simply reads the text in its genre and context. Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible; to import our modern lenses to it does a great disservice, but understanding the ancient context and literary and linguistic styling does a lot to help us get a better picture of what the author portrayed and the original audience understood. Leviathan is a known chaos deity in the mythos of the ancient near east.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Whether the conclusion is correct or not, I think this reasoning is not helpful in the context of the poetic discourse happening in Job. Or else, is "Can you loosen Orion’s belt?" or "Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?"
an affirmation of the other nations' gods' existence and the reality of these legends referring to Hades or levels of the underworld/Sheol? Or the "water jars of the heavens" to be poured out being reference to real jars? The entire passage is full of allusions to nature as well as mythos already existing around the ancient context of Job that the writer was aware of and able to draw on. Whether Leviathan is based upon real phenomena or not can't merely be drawn from the poetic monologue happening in this section of Job. I find this section of Job to be more similar to Psalm passages such as Psalm 115, Psalm 82, and especially Psalm 104 which position God as master and ruler over all of nature, rulers, and even other deities; while we know the animals/elements responding as they do in 104 are not actual things they are doing and the godly beings in 82 and the wooden idols in 115 are not "real" that does not remove the reality of God's mastery over them all. It's more humbling when considering not the object/subject of focuses in the monologue section of Job but rather the actions described because it's the active acts themselves that are so wholly unable to be grasped by a human like Job that overwhelms him and humbles him. It's not a conversation about whether Hades/Sheol exists but that Job can't even comprehend travelling to the depths of the sea so deep that he finds the edge of the living. It's not about whether Leviathan exists or not, but that to God (as in Psalm 104), God lets Leviathan play like a small woodland animal in the sea despite to humans these beings seeming so godlike themselves. It's not just that morning or dawn exists, but that humans couldn't even comprehend being so powerful they could order the sun/moon to rise and set with a word of power. The passage, holistically, has many similar turns of phrases and allusions to elements, culture, and nature and extreme acts unable to be performed by man.

In the greater context, God's monologue in Job is a powerful discourse. Leviathan is a known allusion in the ancient near east to chaos and chaos dieties; it is but one example in the pantheon of creatures used to anthropomorphize the natural elements. That's not to say that there was never a creature that people might have ascribed as a leviathan or to have founded or grown the mythos that grew around the entity, but there was mythos that did grow around the Leviathan as a creature of chaos in the sea. It's not a specifically targeted "species" however found around that time, but rather the collective image of the chaotic encounters of the sea (which could have encompassed some real-life wild encounters), but overall for many cultures around the Ancient Near East during that time, it was like a god or godlike creature, and didn't necessarily indicate a particular animal they thought of at the time as being "the" leviathan.
I disagree, I guess. I believe that here (and in Psalm 104), God is actually talking about His care and control of real animals.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I disagree, I guess. I believe that here (and in Psalm 104), God is actually talking about His care and control of real animals.

He certainly is and the text can't suggest otherwise. On the other hand, as Prof Duguid noted, the linguistic and cultural context points to primordial monsters (who reappear in Revelation). If we say the text is only about natural creatures, we miss the entire context.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
He certainly is and the text can't suggest otherwise. On the other hand, as Prof Duguid noted, the linguistic and cultural context points to primordial monsters (who reappear in Revelation). If we say the text is only about natural creatures, we miss the entire context.
So are we talking about unnatural creatures? Everything God created is natural. The Devil and his angels are part of Creation. Do you believe the creatures spoken of in Job will again be physical beasts during the events of Revelation? This is a new and interesting line of thought for me, who thus far have taken the beasts of the Apocalypse to be figurative, representing some other reality that is as yet unseen.
Do you have a resource where this idea is further fleshed (heh) out?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
So are we talking about unnatural creatures? Everything God created is natural. The Devil and his angels are part of Creation. Do you believe the creatures spoken of in Job will again be physical beasts during the events of Revelation? This is a new and interesting line of thought for me, who thus far have taken the beasts of the Apocalypse to be figurative, representing some other reality that is as yet unseen.
Do you have a resource where this idea is further fleshed (heh) out?

"Natural" is being used in more than one sense here. I don't think that the critters in Job were actually swimming in the seas (though I haven't ruled it out), although I think Jonah was swallowed by a chaos monster, but that's another story. Some stuff that has helped me:

Heiser notes some connections (starts on p.5 https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/NB-383-Transcript.pdf )


In the Apocalypse I think the "spirit" of the chaos monster fully possesses/infuses the man of sin, or something like that. I don't think it will actually be a dragon-like Leviathan.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Natural" is being used in more than one sense here. I don't think that the critters in Job were actually swimming in the seas (though I haven't ruled it out), although I think Jonah was swallowed by a chaos monster, but that's another story. Some stuff that has helped me:

Heiser notes some connections (starts on p.5 https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/NB-383-Transcript.pdf )


In the Apocalypse I think the "spirit" of the chaos monster fully possesses/infuses the man of sin, or something like that. I don't think it will actually be a dragon-like Leviathan.
Interesting. Thank you.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk

It's not as crazy as it sounds. We know it wasn't a whale. "Big Fish," while true, doesn't tell us anything and raises similar problems we get when we make it a regular creature. For a Jew reading this passage, seeing a turbulence within the sea and a great fish arising would mean primarily suggest one thing: a Leviathan creature.

There is a problem, though. The Hebrew is "dag," not "lwitan." That's why I am not dogmatic on it.

Liberal scholars knew all of this, but they just dismissed it as a fairy tale. I think the chaos monster is quite real.
 
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