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Reason and Revelation Volume 39 #6

Behemoth and Leviathan: Figurative or Literal? (Part 2)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the May issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]

Leviathan's Anatomy

God next directs Job’s attention to the apex of the animal kingdom. Concerning the fifth day of Creation, Moses informs us:

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures [ha-ta-ni-neem hahg-doh-leem] and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23).

Several translations render the boldfaced words “great sea-monsters,”1 while the Young’s Literal Translation has “great monsters,” the English Standard Version has “great sea creatures,”2 and the New International Version has “great creatures of the sea.” So we should not be surprised when we come to the ancient book of Job and read of an incredible sea creature—Leviathan (liv-yah-thahn)—that truly merits the labels “great” and “monster.”3

Examine the following outline that clarifies the structure of the chapter:

  • Vss. 1-10a—Leviathan’s invincibility
  • Vss. 10b-11—God’s preeminence
  • Vss. 12-24—Leviathan’s anatomy
  • Vss. 25-32—Leviathan’s impact
  • Vss. 33-34—Leviathan’s standing

God devotes a lengthy section (34 verses in English) to this animal. In rapid fire succession, He first pummels Job with 14 rhetorical questions.4 The answer to each question is a resounding “No!” The questions spotlight the undeniable fact that Leviathan is so formidable and ferocious that humans have no hope of subduing him: “Indeed, any hope of overcoming him is false; Shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him?” (vs. 9). Consequently, the conclusion to be drawn is “Who then is able to stand against Me? Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine” (vs. 11). To suggest that Leviathan is an imaginary creature, or merely a crocodile, is to completely undermine and undercut God’s argumentation.

Following the 14 questions, God proceeds to describe Leviathan’s anatomy. His outer coat, consisting of rows of scales so tight that no air can come between them, is impenetrable. His teeth are “terrible” (NKJV), “fearsome” (NIV), and “around them is terror” (NASB/RSV). While many animals have large, sharp teeth, Leviathan’s teeth surpass them all.

Four verses are then devoted to Leviathan’s ability to produce fire from his mouth and nostrils (vss. 18-21). Note the bolded words:

His sneezings (“snorting”—NIV) flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.

Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out.

Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.

His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth.

It is self-evident that “light,” “burning lights,” “sparks of fire,” “smoke,” “coals,” and “flame” are literal, while “morning,” “boiling pot,” and “burning rushes” are figurative and, accordingly, flagged by “like” and “as.” Similarly, “sneezings,” “eyes,” “mouth,” “nostrils,” and “breath” are unquestionably literal features of Leviathan’s anatomy. Yet, commentators go through convoluted contortions in order to dismiss out of hand their obvious literal import. For example, in his Commentary on Job, Homer Hailey offers this explanation:

Much of the crocodile’s time was spent on the river bank basking in the sun, when he sneezed or yawned the spray flashed as light. His eyes being like the “eyelids of the morning” may be a figure that suggests the Egyptians’ use of the crocodile’s eyes and eyelids as heralds of the dawn because of their redness as they protruded above the water, the rest of the body being submerged beneath the surface…. No doubt these impressions were drawn from the light reflected in the small bubbles from his mouth, which were viewed by the poet as “burning torches” and “sparks of fire.”5

So God sought to dazzle Job with Leviathan’s ability to blow bubbles? The fact is that many aquatic creatures spew bubbles—which is hardly impressive or a characteristic to be extolled—even as many amphibious animals release their breath with force when resurfacing. In the seemingly frantic effort to dismiss the clear import of language—apparently due to preconceived ideas or a desire to adopt intellectual sophistication—commentators dismiss the obvious and fail to reckon with the contextual flow of the section. Job would hardly have been impressed with the majesty of God and his own inadequacy due to a creature’s ability to blow bubbles or exhale air violently.

But is there precedence in nature for the production of light and chemicals in animals? Bioluminescence, fluorescence, phosphorescence, triboluminescence, and chemiluminescence entail the production and emission of light via chemical reactions by a living organism. This prolific phenomenon occurs all over the world—especially in the ocean which constitutes more than 99% of the living space on the planet. Marine biologist and bioluminescence specialist Edith Widder says: “Some 80 to 90 percent of undersea creatures make light—and we know very little about how or why.”6 If a deep sea copepod can drop depth charges that produce time-released flashes, if a Platytroctidae (tubeshoulder fish) can eject bioluminescent cells when threatened, if an electric eel can produce 500 volts of static electricity that can kill a grown human being, and if a bombardier beetle can fire a chemical “bomb” that explodes from its body at 212°F, why would it be difficult to believe that Leviathan could breathe smoke and fire?7

The upper millstone poised on the firmly
fixed lower millstone

Leviathan’s heart (“chest”—NIV) is described as being as hard as rock and a “lower millstone.” In antiquity, the “upper” millstone was situated on top of the lower millstone and attached to a log that extended outward. The “lower” millstone was the bottom one that was firmly fixed to the floor. An ox (or other animal, or even a man—Judges 16:21) was then tied to the log and made to walk in a circle around the lower millstone as the upper stone would grind the grain (cf. Deuteronomy 25:4). Delitzsch noted that “the nether millstone, which…has to bear the weight and friction of the upper, must be particularly hard.”8 Such a comparison indicates that, again, this creature’s body was thick and impermeable. This feature is further underscored by the listing of manmade weapons that have no effect on Leviathan: sword, spear, dart, javelin, iron, bronze, arrow, and sling stones (vss. 26-29). Question: Would these weapons harm or cause a crocodile to flee in fear? Yes, they would—but not Leviathan. He “laughs” at them.

A salt water crocodile’s underbelly

What’s more, Leviathan’s “undersides are like sharp potsherds; He spreads pointed marks in the mire” (vs. 30)—“leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge” (NIV). Potsherds are broken pieces of pottery found in archaeological excavations. Hence, the Complete Jewish Bible translates, “His belly is as sharp as fragments of pottery, so he moves across the mud like a threshing-sledge,” and the Orthodox Jewish Bible has, “Sharp shards are his under parts.” The underside of Leviathan was jagged and spiked. The underside of a crocodile is smooth. Further, the turbulent commotion that this creature causes stands out from all other sea life, even making it appear as if the ocean is churning like a boiling cauldron (vs. 31).

Lest we fail to see the forest for the trees, look at God’s own conclusion that follows from the description of the anatomical and behavioral features and capabilities of Leviathan: “On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear. He beholds every high thing; He is king over all the children of pride” (vss. 33-34). Every one of these declarations concerning Leviathan’s preeminent standing affirms his superiority over all other creatures: absolutely fearless, looks down on all other creatures, and excels all other animals in those features that make them proud. Such appellations do not fit the crocodile. Commenting on the phrase “sorrow dances before him” (vs. 22), Delitzsch noted: “This creature spreads before it a despondency (despair) which produces terror, and deprives of strength.”9

Other Occurrences of Leviathan

This incredible creature is mentioned in other Bible passages that further reinforce these observations. In fact, the word occurs six times in the Old Testament—twice in Job (3:8; 41:1), twice in the Psalms (74:14; 104:26), and twice in Isaiah 27:1. Do these verses treat Leviathan as a literal, historical creature that lived on the planet? Yes, they do.

Job 3:8

The other occurrence of the term in Job is where Job bemoans his painful condition by cursing the day he was born—wishing it had never appeared on the calendar. He states: “May those curse it who curse the day, those who are ready to arouse Leviathan.” Job was referring to those fellows who claim to be able to place curses on certain days and practice the magical arts to cause Leviathan to come forth from the sea. Are such fellows real? Of course, charlatans and tricksters have existed throughout history. Balaam was one such person mentioned in the Bible. The King of Moab sent a divination fee to him with the request that he curse the Israelites (Numbers 22:6-7). Job was simply saying, “Those people who claim to have the magical powers to curse people and times, let them curse the day I was born.” Of course, as is the case throughout Job’s soliloquy, he admits that the words he uttered out of his misery were rash (6:3), despairing (6:14,26), impatient (21:4) and without understanding (42:3), and that his complaint had been a rebellion against his tormented condition (23:2). So he exaggerated out of intense suffering and made rash and wild statements that he later insisted should not be held against him. But notice that whether Job believed anyone could actually curse a day or rouse a sea creature does not alter the authenticity and historicity of Leviathan. Similarly, someone in our day may claim to perform incantations that would cause it to rain. He would be a fake, but rain is real. Likewise, the magicians/cursers of Job’s day were fakes—but Leviathan was real.

Psalm 74:14

The psalmist referred to Leviathan two times. In the first allusion, he addresses God: “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.” The psalmist speaks as if both the “sea serpents” and “Leviathan” are historically real.10 Are the “sea” and “waters” literal? Are the “people inhabiting the wilderness” real? Indeed, in this same context in which the psalmist extols God’s might and right to destroy His enemies (vs. 11), he notes that God causes streams to open up and rivers to dry up (vs. 15), and He controls day and night, summer and winter (vss. 16-17)—even as He is the only One Who can turn Leviathan into food for people. Contextually, all of these phenomena are literal features of the created order. So is Leviathan.

But what about the reference to “heads”? Isn’t that proof that we are not speaking of a literal animal, but some seven-headed, mythological monster? Hebrew scholars note that since the Hebrew term has no plural form, it can be used in a collective sense, i.e., to refer to all Leviathans.11 Hence, “heads” is an allusion to each Leviathan’s head or the heads of all Leviathans.12

Psalm 104:26

The psalmist again refers to Leviathan in another context that is clearly a literal setting:

O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions—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. 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 (vss. 24-29, emp. added).

Observe that Psalm 104 is reminiscent of the same argumentation format that God employs in Job 38-41. He begins with the inanimate realm (vss. 1-9), with its direct impact on animals and man (vss. 10-23), building to the existence of Leviathan in the sea (vss. 24-26). The other creatures mentioned in the same context are obviously literal: donkeys (vs. 11), birds (vs. 12), cattle (vs. 14), birds/stork (vs. 17), goats/rock badgers (vs. 18), and lions (vs. 21). The “earth,” “sea,” “ships,” “food,” “breath,” and “dust” are also all literal. To what do the terms “these” and “them” refer in verse 27? Who waits for God to give them their food? It is clearly the “innumerable teeming things” that fill the ocean—including Leviathan “which you have made to play there.” God did not create a fictitious, imaginary creature. He created a real sea creature that inhabited the ocean along with all the other occupants of the sea, and in His arrangement and orchestration of the created order, God provides them all with their necessary sustenance.

Isaiah 27:1

The final two allusions to Leviathan are found in the same verse: “In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent;13 and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.” Whereas the NKJVand NASBhas “fleeing” and “twisted” to describe the movements of Leviathan, the ASVhas “swift” and “crooked,” the NIVhas “gliding” and “coiling,” and the ESVhas “fleeing” and “twisting.” Again, these are references to a literal creature, characterized by its snakelike motions, that is so formidable that it is the Lord Who is in a position to kill it.14 Isaiah even identifies Leviathan as “the reptile that is in the sea.” The Hebrew word translated “reptile” is tan-neen—the same one used in Genesis 1:21 to identify the great sea creatures that God created on day five of Creation week.15 These, too, were real animals.

Sea Serpents

Beyond the occurrence of the term “leviathan,” the Old Testament also uses two additional, closely interrelated terms to refer to oceanic creatures: tan-neem and tan-neen. The first term generally is translated as “dragon” in the KJV. Newer translations typically use “jackal,” except in Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2, where the creature’s habitat is obviously aquatic, so “monster” generally is employed.16 The second term is treated more loosely in the KJV, and variously translated as “whales” (Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12), “serpent,” archaic for “snake” (Exodus 7:9,10), “dragon” (Jeremiah 51:34), and “sea monsters” (Lamentations 4:3). Whereas the term “leviathan” undoubtedly refers to a particular animal species, these two terms (tan-neem and tan-neen) are generic and nonspecific like dahg (“fish”) and nah-ghahsh (“snake”). Interestingly, the prophet Amos uses this latter term perhaps to refer to Leviathan:

Though they dig into Sheol, from there my hand shall take them;

Though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down;

And though they hide themselves on top of Carmel, from there I will search and take them;

Though they hide from My sight at the bottom of the sea, from there I will command the serpent (nah-ghahsh—snake), and it shall bite them;

Though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword, and it shall slay them.

I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good (Amos 9:2-4).

The point of this passage is that no matter what efforts are expended by man to evade God’s righteous judgments, the disobedient will not escape, but will be punished during life on Earth. Like Jonah, who sought to flee from God by traveling in the opposite direction from Nineveh, neither Jonah nor the disobedient could escape God’s pursuit. Hence, in Amos, if the disobedient were to escape to Sheol, God would still overtake them. If they were to climb to heaven, He would bring them down. If they were to ascend Mt. Carmel and hide themselves, He would still take them into custody. If they could descend to the bottom of the ocean, God would send in His place “the serpent” which would bite them. And even if they were to be captured by enemies, they would still be unable to escape His wrath.

Observe that the locations identified by parallelism are literal: Sheol, heaven, Carmel, sea, and the enemies’ country/captivity. Notice also that the threatened punishments identified by parallelism are likewise literal: “take them” (twice), “bring them down,” “bite them,” and “slay them.” While the text does not specify the means by which God would “take,” “bring down,” or “slay them,” it does more specifically indicate the punishment for those who would flee to beneath the sea: they would be attacked and bitten by a sea creature.

Granted, Amos is speaking somewhat hyperbolically in that humans cannot dig down to Sheol, or climb to heaven, or descend to the bottom of the ocean (at that time)—although they could ascend Mt. Carmel and travel to an enemies’ country. But the fact that humans could not descend to the bottom of the ocean does not change the fact that if they could have done so in their attempt to elude God, there they would have encountered a literal serpent. The serpent is literally “there” (vs. 3) in the sea—just as the sea is literal. If the disobedient could flee there, God would have this sea creature bite them. C.F. Keil, 19th century German Lutheran Old Testament commentator, phrased it well:

[E]ven the deep sea-bottom will not shelter from the vengeance of God. God commands the serpent, or summons the serpent to bite him. Nachash, here the water-serpent, called elsewhere livyathan or tannin (Isa. xxvii. 1), a sea-monster, which was popularly supposed to be extremely dangerous, but which cannot be more exactly defined.17

Deane agreed: “Serpent (nachash, elsewhere called leviathan and tannin, Isa. xxvii. 1), some kind of sea-monster supposed to be venomous.”18

Job’s remarks, then, are all the more intriguing when, in his reply to Eliphaz, he momentarily addresses himself to God: “Am I a sea, or a sea serpent (tan-neen), that You set a guard over me?” (Job 7:12). Observe that Job’s words are calculated to show the absurdity of overpowering him via tremendous suffering—as if he was to be compared to the magnitude of the sea itself or the overwhelming power possessed specifically by the sea serpent. Considering other sea creatures, for example, fish, shrimp, dolphins, sharks, and even whales, indicates that the “sea serpent” stands out from all other species of the sea. This creature can even be named alongside the sea itself in referring to uncontrollable power. The NASB renders Job’s question: “Am I the sea, or the sea monster, that You set a guard over me?” The NRSV has: “Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me?” The NIV words it: “Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that you put me under guard?” Job is clearly referring to a sea creature that far surpasses its fellow oceanic occupants in ferocity and formidability.

Another relevant occurrence of tan-neen is seen in Jeremiah’s prophetic utterances in which he compares the king of Babylon to this sea creature: “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me up like a monster (tan-neen); he has filled his stomach with my delicacies, he has spit me out” (51:34). The NIV renders the phrase even more graphically: “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us, he has thrown us into confusion, he has made us an empty jar. Like a serpent (tan-neen) he has swallowed us and filled his stomach with our delicacies, and then has spewed us out” (51:34). Whatever creature is being envisioned, it is particularly known for its ability to swallow its prey.

Still another interesting occurrence of one of the terms is found in Ezekiel where God instructs the prophet to rebuke Pharaoh, making appropriate comparisons:

Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster (tan-neem) who lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said, “My River is my own; I have made it for myself.” But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. I will leave you in the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers; you shall fall on the open field; you shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the heavens (29:3-5).

Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: “You are like a young lion among the nations, and you are like a monster (tan-neem) in the seas, bursting forth in your rivers, troubling the waters with your feet, and fouling their rivers.” Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will therefore spread My net over you with a company of many people, and they will draw you up in My net. Then I will leave you on the land; I will cast you out on the open fields, and cause to settle on you all the birds of the heavens. And with you I will fill the beasts of the whole earth. I will lay your flesh on the mountains, and fill the valleys with your carcass”(32:2-5).

In both instances in Ezekiel, this monster is obviously aquatic and, again, reputed for its power and superior influence over its environment. Of course, the precise identity of this creature cannot be ascertained, nor whether it is to be equated with Leviathan. In any case, a sea creature was well known to the ancient world and worthy of being styled a “monster,” indeed, a “great monster.” What creature known to man today could possibly deserve such descriptive labels? “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created…. Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths” (Psalm 148:5,7).

Conclusion

God dazzled Job with real world wonders from the inanimate realm, followed by equally wondrous real world features of His animal creation, bringing His speech to a spectacular finale by climaxing with two creatures whose literal size, power, and ferocity cinched the point: God’s ways are far above man’s and no one has the right—let alone vantage point of knowledge, power, or wisdom—to question God’s superintendence of the Universe. Behemoth and Leviathan are no more imaginary, “poetic hyperbole,” or “mythopoeic” than is God.19 Behemoth and Leviathan were real, historical, living creatures.

Endnotes

1 ASV, NAB, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NEB.

2 Also the CJB and OJB.

3 Cf. “sea monster” in L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner, M.E.J. Richardson, & J.J. Stamm (1994–2000), The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, electronic ed.), p. 524, and “very large aquatic creature” in William Gesenius (1847), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint), p. 433.

4 (1) Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook? (2) Can you snare his tongue with a line which you lower? (3) Can you put a reed through his nose? (4) Can you pierce his jaw with a hook? (5) Will he make many supplications to you? (6) Will he speak softly to you? (7) Will he make a covenant with you? (8) Will you take him as a servant forever? (9) Will you play with him as with a bird? (10) Or will you leash him for your maidens? (11) Will your companions make a banquet of him? (12) Will they apportion him among the merchants? (13) Can you fill his skin with harpoons? (14) Can you fill his head with fishing spears?

5 Homer Hailey (1994), Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee: A Commentary on Job (Davenport, IA: Religious Supply), p. 360, emp. added. Albert Barnes suggests that upon sneezing, “fire seems to flash from the eye” (1852), Notes, Critical, Illustrative, and Practical, on the Book of Job (New York: George Leavitt), 2:289. Once the literal, straightforward terminology of Scripture is dismissed, one must offer explanations peppered with “seems like,” “appears like,” “probably the meaning is,” “likely,” and “the description is of course to be regarded as figurative.”

6 See Edith Widder (2010), “Glowing Life in an Underwater World,” TED Talks, April, http://www.ted.com/talks/edith_widder_glowing_life_in_an_underwater_world. See also Ferris Jabr (2010), “Gleaning the Gleam: A Deep-Sea Webcam Sheds Light on Bioluminescent Ocean Life,” Scientific American, August 5, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/edith-widder-bioluminescence/.

7 Paleontologists have discovered that some dinosaurs had large nasal passages at the top of their heads, stimulating several theories to explain their purpose, one of which is a mixing chamber for the emission of chemicals. But “the function of these crests is not widely agreed upon”—Kevin Padian and John Ostrom (2018), “Dinosaur: Classification,” Encyclopædia Britannica, August 9, https://www.britannica.com/animal/dinosaur/Classification.

8 F. Delitzsch (1976 reprint), Job (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 2:375, emp. added.

9 Ibid. The NIV has “dismay goes before it,” the ESV has “terror dances before him,” the NASB has “dismay leaps before him,” and the New Century Version has “People are afraid and run away.”

10 The word “serpents” in this verse [tan-neen] is the same word used in Genesis 1:21 to refer to the occupants of the ocean that God created on the 5th day of Creation. These were literal sea creatures.

11 Joseph Alexander (1873), The Psalms Translated and Explained (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975 reprint), p. 316; Moses Stuart (1823), A Hebrew Grammar (Andover: Codman Press), p. 326; Heinrich Ewald (1879), Syntax of the Hebrew Language of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark), p. 226; S. Lee (1827), A Grammar of the Hebrew Language (London: James Duncan), p. 315; Bruce Waltke and M. O’Connor (1990), An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns), p. 122; Gesenius (1847), p. 105; William Gesenius (1898), Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch (Oxford: Clarendon Press), pp. 416-418; Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles Briggs (1906), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004 reprint), p. 97; Benjamin Davidson (1848), The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970 reprint), p. 68.

12 Another syntactical option is that “heads” is an instance of the Hebrew pluralis intensivus (plural of intensity, also called plural of eminence or excellence or majesty) in which the plural expresses an intensification of the idea of the singular. In this instance, the plural “heads” is equivalent to “The Great Head.” See A.B. Davidson (1894), Hebrew Syntax (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark), p. 18; also Aaron Ember (1905), “The Pluralis Intensivus in Hebrew,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 21[4]:203, July. The plural “heads” is used in the previous sentence in conjunction with the plural term “serpents.” Using the plural “heads” to refer to a single Leviathan emphasizes the formidable, threatening, intimidating nature of the lone head of Leviathan—similar to how even common snakes (like the Cobra) have heads that surpass their slithering bodies in the way they create concern in the person who encounters it. Not only is the head more imposing than the body, it is the location from whence the snake inflicts its deadly wounds.

13 The term “serpent” (nah-ghahsh) is the normal Hebrew word for “snake.” However, since Leviathan was a snake-like sea creature, the term could naturally be used to describe its slithering, oscillating motions. See Job 26:13, Isaiah 51:9, and Amos 9:3.

14 Cf. Isaiah 51:9-10—“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent? Are You not the One who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a road for the redeemed to cross over?”

15 Hebrew lexicographer William Gesenius defined the term tan-neen in this verse as “a sea monster, a vast fish”—(1847), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint), p. 869. Cf. Job 7:12.

16 Alfred Day (1939), “Dragon,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint), 2:873. Noting the textual variant, Gesenius defines tan-neem as “a great serpent, a sea monster”—p. 869, italics in orig.

17 C.F. Keil (1977 reprint), The Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 10:325, italics in orig.

18 W.J. Deane (1950), Amos in The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 14:176, italics and emp. in orig.

19 See also Eric Lyons (2001), “Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy,” Reason and Revelation, 21:1-7, January.




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