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Leviathan Is A Dragon
Myths indeed abound (Psalm 58:3), but Leviathan is no myth. He is one of the great sea creatures God created (Genesis 1:21) that is massive, breathes fire and smoke (Job 41), and lives in the sea (Isaiah 27:1). Just because you haven't seen one, doesn't mean he does not exist. God does not lie, and He declares Leviathan's existence.
I. His Existence
The term "Leviathan" is not a translation, but rather a transliteration of the Hebrew word, לִוְיָתָן (livyâthân). לִוְיָתָן (livyâthân) is only found in Job 3:8, 41:1; Psalm 74:14; 104:26; and Isaiah 27:1. It is translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) as δρακων (drakôn) "dragon" in every instance with one exception, Job 3:8, where it is translated κητος (kêtos) "whale" or "monster" (found also in Jonah 2:1 and in Matthew 12:40, NKJV "great fish," NAS "sea monster").
Leviathan is one of the creatures God created on the fifth day of creation. Genesis 1:21 records this using the same Hebrew plural term תַּנִּינִם (tanniynim) for "sea creatures" (NKJV; "sea monsters" NAS) as is used in Isaiah 27:1 in the singular, תַּנִּין (tanniyn). There it describes Leviathan as a "reptile" (NKJV) or "dragon" (KJV, NAS).
Some argue that Leviathan is a mythical creature, "merely poetic imagery."
All five occurrences (Job 3:8; 41:1; Pss. 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1) 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, copyright 1976, p. 912)
This is contrary to the Biblical text. For example, Job knows of this creature (Job 3:8), and God uses this creature Job knows about to rebuke him and to illustrate to Job His awesome power.
In His rebuke, the Lord speaks of things in His creation and He does not diverge off this discourse of reality, but continues in it to illustrate to Job that he is no match for what God has created, let alone, for God Himself (Job 38-41).
God begins by asking Job where he was when He created the world (Job 38:4-7). He asks Job who set the limits for the sea (Job 38:8-11), and if he has ever commanded the morning to dawn (Job 38:12). He points to the ocean depths and asks Job if he has been to the springs that are there, or walked about in the depths of the sea (Job 38:16). He speaks of the gates of death (Job 38:17), the breadth of the earth (Job 38:18), light and darkness (Job 38:19-20), snow and hail (Job 38:22-23), the east wind (Job 38:24), water, the thunderbolt, rain, dew, ice and frost (Job 38:25-30, 34-35), and the constellations (Job 38:31-33). He asks Job who gives wisdom to the mind (Job 38:36), and who feeds the animals (Job 38:39-41). He points out that Job does not even know when wild animals give birth (Job 39:1-4), and He asks him about the wild donkey (Job 39:5-8). In His humiliation of Job, He reminds him that he can't even use a wild ox to serve him (Job 39:9-12). He continues and speaks to Job of the ostrich (Job 39:13-18), the horse (Job 39:19-25), the hawk, and the eagle (Job 39:26-30), and even of man (Job 40:11-13), stating,
Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:12-14)
Then finally, as a kind of grand finale, the Lord describes two massive creatures He has made. The first is behemoth (בְהֵמוֹת [vehêmot]), an animal with a tail the size of a cedar. Behemoth is so massive a raging river is like nothing to it, even though it flows right into its mouth. And the animal is so huge and strong, God says He is the only one who could bring a sword against it (Job 40:15-24).
The second is Leviathan, which is such a giant awesome frightful creature the Lord says,
Shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me? (Job 41:9-10)
Those who claim Leviathan is a mythical nonexistent creature make God's point to Job meaningless. But in truth, it is not meaningless. It is very substantive, and Job gets the point (Job 42:1-6).
Leviathan is a certain kind of sea creature that still exists on the planet. He is not a single creature, but a certain kind, that still roams the sea. We know these things for several reasons:
1. Sometime in the past, God killed one and gave him as food for people to eat (Psalm 74:14), yet the creature still exists (Isaiah 27:1), even after one was killed. Therefore, there was not only one.
2. Even though it appears he is capable of coming upon land (Job 41:30), the Lord explicitly states that He made Leviathan for the express purpose of playing in the sea, and far from telling us Leviathan is not still in the sea, Psalm 104 indicates he's still having a good time there.
This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great. There the ships sail about; there is that Leviathan which You have made to play there. (Psalm 104:25-26)
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.
3. Isaiah's prophecy of the future confirms the continued existence of Leviathan, because it foretells the slaying of Leviathan by the Lord; and it again affirms that he presently "is in the sea."
In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)
This prophecy is made in the context of the yet future coming judgment of God. The verse just prior says,
For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isaiah 26:21)
Also in this context, "in that day" (Isaiah 27:2-6), is the yet future blessing upon Israel in which it says,
Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6)
Clearly, none of this has been fulfilled and so it is yet future. This lets us know Leviathan is still in the sea.
II. His Size
Leviathan is so massive that "sorrow dances before him" (Job 41:22). When strong men encounter one, they become so fearful the men are beside themselves with terror (Job 41:25). Leviathan is so massive he leaves a large shining wake behind him as he moves through the sea (Job 41:32), and his eyes are so large God likens them to the breaking of day (Job 41:18).
Leviathan is a very large serpent. In God's rebuke towards Job, the Lord quite sarcastically speaks of Leviathan with these words:
Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak softly to you? Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him as a servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you leash him for your maidens? Will your companions make a banquet of him? Will they apportion him among the merchants? (Job 41:1-6)
These are all rhetorical questions. In other words, you can't draw out Leviathan with a hook. He will not speak softly to you. And you will not make a banquet of him. In other words, he is not a fish that can be caught! Large whales can be caught, but not this puppy. He's beyond harpooning. As the Lord says,
Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears?
In other words, no! If someone were to attempt to do so, the Lord sarcastically says,
Lay your hand on him; remember the battle - Never do it again! Indeed, any hope of overcoming him is false. (Job 41:7-9)
III. His Strength
Part of Leviathan's fierceness, along with his size, is his immense strength. Besides having more than one head (Psalm 74:14), God says he has "mighty power" and "terrible teeth" (Job 41:12, 14), and "strength dwells in his neck" (Job 41:22). He has a "heart as hard as stone" (Job 41:24), and his outer covering literally has "shields."
Even though the KJV, NKJV, and NAS translate Job 41:15 as "scales" in reference to Leviathan's exterior, it is not the Hebrew word for scales, קַשְׂקֶשׂת (qasqeset, e.g. Leviticus 11:9), that is used in Job 41:15 (NIV "shields;" NKJV footnotes, "Lit. shields"). It is the Hebrew word מָגִנִּים (mâginniym) which is the word for "shields" as used in 2 Chronicles 9:16 and 26:14 for shields of war. Shields is a very accurate word, because no sword, spear, dart, or javelin can penetrate Leviathan's protective covering, as it is written,
Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail; nor does spear, dart, or javelin. (Job 41:26)
This explains why his skin cannot be filled with harpoons nor his head with fishing spears (Job 41:7). Leviathan's outer covering is extremely strong, so strong that his "scales" (if you will) "cannot be parted" (Job 41:17). They are so tightly sealed together that "no air can come between them" (Job 41:16). God clearly has clothed this guy with some serious armor, with impenetrable shields.
Along with this strong armor, is strength that is almost incomprehensible. For Leviathan, iron is like straw, and bronze is as rotten wood (Job 41:27). That describes amazing strength. If iron is as straw to him, and bronze is as rotten wood, then he could bend iron as if it was a piece of straw, in other words, with little effort; and he could break or crush bronze as if it was a piece of rotten wood.
Also part of Leviathan's arsenal is his belly.
His undersides are like sharp potsherds; he spreads pointed marks in the mire. (Job 41:30)
From the statement about the "pointed marks" it is evident they are facing outward away from his body. Thus, anything coming in contact with that stomach is going to get cut up and possibly even shredded.
IV. His Fire
Some foolishly claim Leviathan is a crocodile (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, p. 912), but the crocodile is nowhere near what is described in Job 41; and it does not breathe fire. Leviathan is clearly called a serpent (Hebrew, nâchâsh) in Isaiah 27:1, a fleeing, twisted serpent, but he is no ordinary serpent. This one literally breathes fire.
His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth. (Job 41:21)
The dragon is no mythical creature. There may be mythical dragons, and myths surrounding dragons, but this dragon is no myth. Dragon is a term that well describes Leviathan. He is a massive fire breathing terrifying serpent that not only breathes fire, but smoke as well, as it is written,
Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. (Job 41:20)
This characteristic of fire within Leviathan is so prevalent that when he sneezes, light flashes forth (Job 41:18), and,
Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. (Job 41:19)
He even makes the water around him boil as he abides in the sea (Job 41:31). Fire is very much a part of Leviathan's make up. He is clearly a dragon. It is no wonder different cultures have different myths about dragons. The existence of the dragon is no myth. The Bible calls him Leviathan.
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