Table of Contents

Notes on Revelation


Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn? Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears? Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more. Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me? Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine. I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion. Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle? Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about. His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him. The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves. The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear. Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.--Job 41:1-34

Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.--Psalm 74:13,14

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.--Psalm 104:24-26

In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.--Isaiah 27:1

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:

3882 livyathan; from 3867; a wreathed animal, i.e. a serpent (especially the crocodile or some other large sea-monster); figuratively the constellation of the dragon; also as a symbol of Babylon:--leviathan, mourning.

3867 lavah; a primary root; properly to twine, i.e. (by implication) to unite, to remain; also to borrow (as a form of obligation) or (causatively) to lend:--abide with, borrow (-er), cleave, join (self), lend (-er).


Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

leviathan 1a often cap: a sea monster represented as an adversary defeated by Yahweh in various scriptural accounts; b1: a large sea animal, b2: a large oceangoing ship; 2 cap: the political state; esp: a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy; 3: something large or formidable.

The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Job 41:

Ver. 1. Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? &c.] That is, draw it out of the sea or river as anglers draw out smaller fishes with a line or hook? the question suggests it cannot be done; whether by the "leviathan" is meant the whale, which was the most generally received notion; or the crocodile, as Bochart, who has been followed by many; or the "orca", a large fish of the whale kind with many teeth, as Hasaeus, it is not easy to say "Leviathan" is a compound word of than the first syllable of "thanni", rendered either a whale, or a dragon, or a serpent, and of "levi", which signifies conjunction, from the close joining of its scales, (Job 41:15-17); the patriarch Levi had his name from the same word; see (Ge 29:34); and the name bids fairest for the crocodile, and which is called "thannin", (Eze 29:3,4 32:2). Could the crocodile be established as the "leviathan", and the behemoth as the river horse, the transition from the one to the other would appear very easy; since, as Pliny says, there is a sort of a kindred between them, being of the same river, the river Nile, and so may be thought to be better known to Job than the whale; though it is not to be concealed what Pliny says, that whales have been seen in the Arabian seas; he speaks of one that came into the river of Arabia, six hundred feet long, and three hundred and sixty broad. There are some things in the description of this creature that seem to agree best with the crocodile, and others that suit better with the whale, and some with neither;

or his tongue with a cord [which] thou lettest down? into the river or sea, as anglers do, with lead to it to make it sink below the surface of the water, and a quill or cork that it may not sink too deep; but this creature is not to be taken in this manner; and which may be objected to the crocodile being meant, since that has no tongue, or at least so small that it is not seen, and cleaves close to its lower jaw, which never moves; and is taken with hooks and cords, as Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Leo Africanus, testify; but not so the whale.

Ver. 2. Canst thou put an hook into his nose? &c.] Or a rush, that is, a rope made of rushes; for of such ropes were made, as Pliny affirms;

or bore his jaw through with a thorn? as men do herrings, or such like small fish, for the convenience of carrying them, or hanging them up to dry; the whale is not to be used in such a manner: but the Tentyritae, a people in Egypt, great enemies to crocodiles, had methods of taking thorn in nets, and of binding and bridling them, and carrying them as they pleased.

Ver. 3. Will he make many supplications unto thee? &c.] To cease pursuing him, or to let him go when taken, or to use him well and not take away his life; no, he is too spirited and stouthearted to ask any favour, it is below him;

will he speak soft [words] unto thee? smooth and flattering ones, for the above purposes? he will not: this is a figurative way of speaking.

Ver. 4. Will he make a covenant with thee? &c.] To live in friendship or servitude, as follows;

wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? oblige him to serve thee for life, or reduce him to perpetual bondage; signifying, that he is not to be tamed or brought into subjection; which is true of the whale, but not of the crocodile; for several authors speak of them as making a sort of a truce with the priests of Egypt for a certain time, and of their being tamed so as to be handled, and fed, and brought up in the house.

Ver. 5. Wilt thou play with him as [with] a bird? &c.] In the hand or cage: leviathan plays in the sea, but there is no playing with him by land, (Ps 104:26);

or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? or young girls, as Mr. Broughton renders it; tie him in a string, as birds are for children to play with? Now, though crocodiles are very pernicious to children, and often make a prey of them when they approach too near the banks of the Nile, or whenever they have an opportunity of seizing them; yet there is an instance of the child of an Egyptian woman that was brought up with one, and used to play with it, though, when grown up, was killed by it; but no such instance can be given of the whale of any sort.

Ver. 6. Shall thy companions make a banquet of him? &c.] The fishermen that join together in catching fish, shall they make a feast for joy at taking the leviathan? which suggests that he is not to be taken by them, and so they have no opportunity or occasion for a feast: or will they feed on him? the flesh of crocodiles is by some eaten, and said to be very savoury, but not the flesh of the whale;

shall they part him among the merchants? this seems to favour the crocodile, which is no part of merchandise, and to be against the whale, which, at least in our age, occasions a considerable trade for the sake of the bone and oil: but perhaps, in those times and countries in which Job lived, the use of them might not be known.

Ver. 7. Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?] This seems not so well to agree with the whale; whose skin, and the several parts of his body, are to be pierced with harpoons and lances, such as fishermen use in taking whales; and their flesh to be cut in pieces with their knives: but better with the crocodile, whose skin is so hard, and so closely set with scales, that it is impenetrable. Or if the words are rendered, as by some, "wilt thou fill ships with his skin? and the fishermen's boat with his head" ? it makes also against the whale; for this is done continually, ships of different nations are loaded every year with its skin, flesh, and the bones of its head.

Ver. 8. Lay thine hand upon him, &c.] If thou canst or darest. It is dangerous so to do, either to the whale or crocodile;

remember the battle; or "look for war", as Mr. Broughton renders it; expect a fight will ensue, in which thou wilt have no share with this creature:

do no more; if thou canst by any means escape, take care never to do the like again; or thou wilt never do so any more, thou wilt certainly die for it.

Ver. 9. Behold, the hope of him is in vain, &c.] Of getting the mastery over him, or of taking him; and yet both crocodiles and whales have been taken; nor is the taking of them to be despaired of; but it seems the "orca", or the whale with many teeth, has never been taken and killed;

shall not [one] be cast down even at the sight of him? the sight of a whale is terrible to mariners, lest their ships should be overturned by it; and some have been so frightened at the sight of a crocodile as to lose their senses: and we read of one that was greatly terrified at seeing the shadow of one; and the creature before mentioned is supposed to be much more terrible.

Ver. 10. None [is so] fierce that dare stir him up, &c.] This seems best to agree with the crocodile, who frequently lies down and sleeps on the ground, and in the water by night; see Eze 29:3; when it is very dangerous to arouse him; and few, if any so daring, have courage enough to do it: though whales have been seen lying near shore asleep, and looked like rocks, even forty of them together;

who then is able to stand before me? This is the inference the Lord draws from hence, or the use he makes of it; that if this creature is so formidable and terrible, that it is dangerous to arouse and provoke him, and there is no standing before him or against him; then how should anyone be able to stand before the Lord, who made this creature, whenever he is angry? see Ps 76:7.

Ver. 11. Who hath prevented me, that one should repay [him]? &c.] First given me something that was not my own, and so laid me under an obligation to him to make a return. The apostle seems to have respect to this passage, (Ro 11:35);

[whatsoever is] under the whole heaven is mine; the fowls of the air, the cattle on a thousand hills, the fulness of the earth; gold, silver: precious stones, &c. All things are made by him, are his property and at his dispose; and therefore no man on earth can give him what he has not a prior right unto; see Ps 24:1 50:10-12.

Ver. 12. I will not conceal his parts, &c.] The parts of the leviathan; or "his bars", the members of his body, which are like bars of iron:

nor his power; which is very great, whether of the crocodile or the whale:

nor his comely proportion; the symmetry of his body, and the members of it; which, though large, every part is in just proportion to each other.

Ver. 13. Who can discover the face of his garment? &c.] Or rather uncover it? Not the sea, which Mr. Broughton represents as the garment of the whale; who can strip him of it, or take him out of that, and bring him to land? which, though not impossible, is difficult: but either the garment of his face, the large bulk or prominence that hangs over his eyes; or rather his skin. Who dare venture to take off his skin, or flay him alive? or take off the scaly coat of the crocodile, which is like a coat of mail to him, and which he never of himself casts off, as serpents do?

[or] who can come [to him] with his double bridle? either go within his jaws, which, when opened, are like a double bridle; or go near and open his jaws, and put a curb bridle into them, and lead, direct, and rule him at pleasure. This is not to be done either to the whale or crocodile; yet the Tentyritae had a way of getting upon the back of the crocodile; and by putting a stick across its mouth, as it opened it to bite them, and so holding both the ends of it with the right and left hands, as with a bridle, brought them to land, as Pliny relates; and so the Nereides are represented as sitting on the backs of whales by Theocritus.

Ver. 14. Who can open the doors of his face? &c.] Of his mouth, the jaws thereof, which are like a pair of folding doors: the jaws of a crocodile have a prodigious opening. Peter Martyr speaks of one, whose jaws opened seven feet broad; and Leo Africanus affirms he saw some, whose jaws, when opened, would hold a whole cow. To the wideness of the jaws of this creature Martial alludes; and that the doors or jaws of the mouth of the whale are of a vast extent will be easily believed by those who suppose that was the fish which swallowed Jonah;

his teeth are terrible round about; this may seem to make against the whale, the common whale having none; though the "ceti dentati" are a sort of whales that have many teeth in the lower jaw, white, large, solid, and terrible. Olaus Magnus speaks of some that have jaws twelve or fourteen feet long; and teeth of six, eight, and twelve feet; and there is a sort called "trumpo", having teeth resembling those of a mill. In the spermaceti whale are rows of fine ivory teeth in each jaw, about five or six inches long. But of the crocodile there is no doubt; which has two rows of teeth, very sharp and terrible, and to the number of sixty.

Ver. 15. [His] scales [are his] pride, shut up together [as with] a close seal.] This is notoriously true of the crocodile, whose back and tail are covered with scales, which are in a measure impenetrable and invincible: which all writers concerning it, and travellers that have seen it, agree in; but the skin of the whale is smooth; the outward skin is thin, like parchment, and is easily pulled off with the hand; and its under skin, though an inch thick, is never stiff nor tough, but soft: though, if Nearchus is to be credited, he reports, that one was seen fifty cubits long, with a scaly skin all over it a cubit thick; and such, it is said, were by a storm brought into our river Trent some years ago, and cast ashore, which had scales upon their backs very hard, as large and thick as one of our shillings. But Aben Ezra interprets this of the teeth of the leviathan, and in which he is followed by Hasaeus; which are strong like a shield, as the words used signify; so Mr. Broughton, "the strong shields have pride": but then this is as applicable, or more so, to the scales of the crocodile; which are so close as if they were sealed together, and are like a shield, its defence, and in which it prides itself.

Ver. 16. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.] This shows that it cannot be understood of the skin of the whale, and the hardness and strength of that, which is alike and of a piece; whereas those scales, or be they what they may, though closely joined, yet are distinct: those who interpret this of whales that have teeth, and these of the teeth, observe, that as they have teeth to the number of forty or fifty in the lower jaw, in the upper one fire holes or sockets into which they go; and they are so very close that no wind or air can come between them.

Ver. 17. They are joined one to another, &c.] One scale to another, or "a man in his brother": which may seem to favour the notion of the whale's teeth in the sockets, which exactly answer to one another; but the next clause will by no means agree with them;

they stick together, that they cannot be sundered: whereas they easily be, at least by the creature itself; but the scales of a crocodile are so closely joined and sealed together, that there is no parting them.

Ver. 18. By his neesings a light doth shine, &c.] The philosopher observes, that those who look to the sun are more apt to sneeze: and it is taken notice of by various writers, that the crocodile delights to be sunning itself, and lying yawning in the sun and looking at it, as quoted by Bochart; and so frequently sneeze: which sneezings, through the rays of the sun, may seem to shine and give light. Though as, in sneezing, water is thrown out through the nostrils, it may be observed of the whale, that it has mouths or holes in its front, through which, as through pipes, it throws out showers and floods of water, as Pliny {relates; which, by means of the rays of the sun, as in a rainbow, appear bright and glittering;

and his eyes [are] like the eyelids of the morning: the break and dawn of day; a very beautiful expression, the same we call "peep of day": Pindar has "the eye of the evening"; break of day, as Ben Gersom says, is about an hour and the fifth part of an hour before the sunrising. The eyes of the crocodile were, with the Egyptians, an hieroglyphic of the morning: wherefore this seems better to agree with the crocodile than the whale, whose eyes are not much bigger than those of a bullock; and has eyelids and hair like men's eyes; the crystal of the eye is not much bigger than a pea; its eyes are placed very low, almost at the end of the upper lip, and when without its guide, dashes itself against rocks and shoals. Though that sort of whales called "orcae" are said to have eyes a foot long, and of a red rosy colour, such as the morning is described by; and a northern writer tells us that some whales have eyes, whose circumference will admit fifteen or twenty men to sit therein; and in others it exceeds eight or ten cubits; and that the pupil is a cubit, and of a red and flaming colour; which, at a distance, in dark seasons, among the waves, appears to fishermen as fire kindled. And Thevenot says of crocodiles, that their eyes are indifferently big, and very darkish.

Ver. 19. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, [and] sparks of fire leap out.] Which, though hyperbolical expressions, have some foundation for them in the latter; in the vast quantities of water thrown out by the whale, through its mouth or hole in its frontispiece, which in the sun may look like lamps and sparks of fire, as before observed; and especially in the "orcae", or whales with teeth, which eject in the same way an oily mucus, or the fat liquor of the brain, commonly called spermaceti, which may appear more bright and glittering. Ovid says much the same of the boar as is here said of the leviathan.

Ver. 20. Out of his nostrils goeth forth smoke, as [out] of a seething pot or caldron.] In which flesh or anything else is boiling. It is observed that there is a likeness between the crocodile and the river horse, and particularly in their breathing: and of the former it is remarked, that its nostrils are very large and open, and that they breathe out a fiery smoke, as out of a furnace.

Ver. 21. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.] Hyperbolical expressions, which the above observations may seem to justify.

Ver. 22. In his neck remaineth strength, &c.] This is thought to be an argument against the whale, which is said to have no neck: but whatever joins the head and body may be called the neck, though ever so small; and the shorter the neck is, the stronger it is. It is also said by some, that the crocodile has no neck also; but the philosopher is express for it, that it has one and moves it: and Pliny speaks of it as turning its head upwards, which it could not do without a neck;

and sorrow is turned into joy before him; or leaps and dances before him; it departs from him: he is not afraid of anything, though ever so threatening. Or sorrow and distress at the sight of him, in men and fishes, make them leap, and hasten to get out of the way of him and escape him.

Ver. 23. The flakes of his flesh are joined together, &c.] The muscles of his hefty are not flaccid and flabby, but solid and firmly compacted;

they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved; that is, not very easily, not without a large sharp cutting knife, and that used with much strength.

Ver. 24. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether [millstone].] Which must be understood not of the substance but of the qualities of it, being bold, courageous, undaunted, and unmerciful; which is true both of the whale and crocodile, and particularly of the crocodile: Aelianus relates of one sort of them that they are unmerciful, though elsewhere, he represents them as fearful.

Ver. 25. When he raiseth up himself, &c.] Not out of the waters, but above the surface of them, so as that his large bulk, his terrible jaws and teeth, are seem;

the mighty are afraid; not only fishes and other animals, but men, and these the most stouthearted and courageous, as mariners and masters of vessels;

by reason of breakings they purify themselves: either because of the breaches of the sea made through the lifting up of this creature, threatening the overturning of vessels; or of the breaches of men's hearts through fear, they are thrown into a vomiting, and purging both by stool and urine, which are often the effects of fear, so Ben Gersom; or they acknowledge themselves sinners, or expiate themselves, endeavouring to do it by making confession of sin, declaring repentance for it, praying for forgiveness of it, and promising amendment; which is frequently the case of seafaring men in distress; see Jon 1:4-17.

Ver. 26. The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold, &c.] It is either broken by striking at him, or however cannot pierce him and stick in him; but since a sword is not used in fishery, rather the harpagon or harpoon may be meant, which cannot enter into the crocodile, being so fenced with scales; but the whale being struck with it, it enters deep into his flesh, and is wounded by it; wherefore this and what follows in the next verses seems best to agree with the crocodile, or some other fish;

the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon; that is, neither of these can fasten upon him or enter into him: and yet it is certain that the whale, after he has been struck and wounded by the harping-iron, men approach nearer to him and thrust a long steeled lance or spear under his gills into his breast, and through the intestines, which dispatches him: darts are not made use of in the whale fishery; and as for crocodiles, as Peter Martyr says, they are not to be pierced with darts: the habergeon, or coat of mail, being a defensive piece of armour, seems not to be designed, as being never used in taking such creatures; rather therefore a javelin or hand dart may be intended; since, as Bochart observes, in the Arabic language such an one is expressed by this word.

Ver. 27. He esteemeth iron as straw, &c.] You may as well cast a straw at him as a bar of iron; it will make no impression on his steeled back, which is as a coat of mail to him; so Eustathius affirms that the sharpest iron is rebounded and blunted by him;

[and] brass as rotten wood; or steel, any instrument made of it, though ever so strong or piercing.

Ver. 28. The arrow cannot make him flee, &c.] The skin of the crocodile is so hard, as Peter Martyr says, that it cannot be pierced with arrows, as before observed; therefore it is not afraid of them, nor will flee from them;

slingstones are turned with him into stubble; are no more regarded by him than if stubble was cast at him; not only stones out of a sling, but out of an engine; and such is the hardness of the skin of the crocodile, that, as Isidore says, the strokes of the strongest stones are rebounded by it, yea, even it is said to withstand against musket shot.

Ver. 29. Darts are counted as stubble, &c.] Darts being mentioned before, perhaps something else is meant here, and, according to Ben Gersom, the word signifies an engine out of which stones are cast to batter down walls; but these are of no avail against the leviathan;

he laugheth at the shaking of a spear; at him, knowing it cannot hurt him; the crocodile, as Thevenot says, is proof against the halberd. The Septuagint version is, "the shaking of the pyrophorus", or torch bearer; one that carried a torch before the army, who, when shook, it was a token to begin the battle; which the leviathan being fearless of laughs at it.

Ver. 30. Sharp stones [are] under him, &c.] And yet give him no pain nor uneasiness;

he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire; and makes his bed of them and lies upon them; as sharp stones, as before, shells of fishes, broken pieces of darts, arrows, and javelins thrown at him, which fall around him: this does not so well agree with the crocodile, the skin of whose belly is soft and thin; wherefore dolphins plunge under it and cut it with a thorn, as Pliny relates, or with spiny fins; but with the whale, which lies among hard rocks and sharp stones, and large cutting pieces of ice, as in the northern seas.

Ver. 31. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot, &c.] Which is all in a from through the violent agitation and motion of the waves, caused by its tossing and tumbling about; which better suits with the whale than the crocodile, whose motion in the water is not so vehement;

he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment; this also seems to make against the crocodile, which is a river fish, and is chiefly in the Nile. Lakes indeed are sometimes called seas, in which crocodiles are found; yea, they are also said to be in the seas, (Eze 32:2); and Pliny speaks of them as common to the land, river, and sea; and the Nile is in the Alcoran called the sea, and its ancient name was "Oceames" with the Egyptians, that is, in Greek, "ocean", as Diodorus Siculus affirms; and so it is thought to be the Egyptian sea in Isa 11:15. It is observed that they leave a sweet scent behind them; thus Peter Martyr, in his account of the voyages of Columbus in the West Indies, says, they sometimes met with crocodiles, which, when they fled or took water, they left a very sweet savour behind them, sweeter than musk or castoreum. But this does not come up to the expression here of making the sea like a pot of ointment; but the sperm of the whale comes much nearer to it, which is of a fat oily nature, and like ointment, and which the whale sometimes throws out in great abundance, so that the sea is covered with it; whole pails full may be taken out of the water; it swims upon the sea like fat; abundance of it is seen in calm weather, so that it makes the sea all foul and slimy: and there are a sort of birds called "mallemuck", which fly in great numbers and feed upon it. I cannot but remark what the bishop of Bergen observes of the sea serpent, that its excrements float on the water in summertime like fat slime.

Ver. 32. He maketh a path to shine after him, &c.] Upon the sea, by raising a white from upon it, through its vehement motion as it passes along, or by the spermaceti it casts out and leaves behind it. It is said that whales will cut and plough the sea in such a manner, as to leave a shining glittering path behind them, the length of a German mile, which is three of ours;

[one] would think the deep [to be] hoary; to be old and grey headed, or white like the hair of the head of an old man, a figure often used of the sea by poets; and hence "Nereus", which is the sea, is said to be an old man, because the froth in the waves of it looks like white hair.

Ver. 33. Upon the earth there is not his like, &c.] As to form and figure; in most creatures there is some likeness between those in the sea and on the land, as sea horses, calves, &c. but there is no likeness between a whale and any creature on earth; there is between the crocodile and the lizard; nor is any like the whale for the largeness of its bulk; the Targum is, "his dominion is not on the earth,'' but on the sea, as Aben Ezra notes; but rather the sense is, there is no power on earth that he obeys and submits to, as the Tigurine version; though the meaning seems to be, that there is none like him, for what follows:

who is made without fear; yet this agrees not neither with the crocodile, which Aelianus says is fearful; nor with the whale, which will make off and depart at the shoutings of men, blowing of trumpets, and making use of any tinkling instruments, at which it is frightened, as Strabo, Philostratus, and Olaus Magnus, relate. It is observed; of their valour, that if they see a man or a long boat, they go under water and run away; and are never known to endeavour to hurt any man, but when in danger; though a voyager of our own says, "we saw whales in Whale-sound, and lying aloft on the water, not fearing our ships, or aught else.'' The Targum is, "he is made that he might not be broken"; or bruised, as Bochart; as reptiles usually may, among whom the crocodile may be reckoned, because of its short legs; and yet is made with such a hard scaly skin, that it cannot be crushed, bruised, and broken. Aben Ezra observes that some say, the word "hu", that is, "he", is wanting, and should be supplied, "he", that is, "[God], made him without fear"; or that he might not be bruised; wherefore Cocceius interprets the following words entirely of God.

Ver. 34. He beholdeth all high [things], &c.] Or "who beholdeth all high [things]"; even he that made leviathan, that is, God, as the above interpreter: he does that which Job was bid to do, and could not; beholds everyone that is proud, and abases him, (Job 40:11,12); and therefore he ought to acknowledge his sovereignty and superiority over him, and submit to him;

he [is] a king over all the children of pride: the proud angels that fell, and all the proud sons of men; proud monarchs and potentates of the earth, such as Nebuchadnezzar and others, (Da 4:31-33). But interpreters generally understand all this either of the crocodile, or of a fish of the whale kind. Bochart observes, that the crocodile, though it has short legs, will behold, and meet unterrified, beasts abundantly taller than itself, and with one stroke of its tail break their legs and bring them low; and will destroy not only men, but all sorts of beasts, as elephants, camels, horses, oxen, boars, and every animal whatsoever. But others apply this to the whale, which beholds the tossing waves of the sea, which mount up to heaven; the clouds of heaven on high over it; the lofty cliffs or shores, and ships of the greatest bulk and height; and which, when it lifts up itself above the water, equals the high masts of ships, and is abundantly superior to all the tribes of watery animals, or the beasts of the sea. But this seems not wholly to come up to the expressions here used. Upon the whole, as there are some things that agree with the crocodile, and not the whale; and others that agree with the whale, of one sort or another, and not with the crocodile; it is uncertain which is meant, and it seems as if neither of them were intended: and to me very probable is the opinion of Johannes Camerensis, and to which the learned Schultens most inclines, that the leviathan is the dragon of the land sort, called leviathan, the piercing serpent, as distinct from the dragon in the sea, (Isa 27:1); which agrees with the description of the leviathan in the whole: as its prodigious size; its terrible countenance; its wide jaws; its three forked tongue; its three rows of sharp teeth; its being covered all over, back and belly, with thick scales, not to be penetrated by arrows and darts; its flaming eyes, its fiery breath, and being most terrible to all, and fearless of every creature; it will engage with any, and conquer and kill an elephant; hence in Ethiopia dragons have no other names than elephant killers: and so it may be said to be king over all the children of pride; of all which proof may be given from various writers, as Pliny, Aelianus, Philostratus, and others; and particularly the dragon Attilius Regulus, the Roman general, killed near Bagrade in Africa, is a proof itself of almost all the above articles, as Osorius has described it; nor is it any objection that the leviathan is represented as being in the sea, since the dragon, even the land dragon, will plunge into rivers, and is often found in lakes called seas, and in maritime places, and will go into the sea itself, as Pliny and Philostratus relate. To which may be added, that this creature was found among the Troglodytes who lived near the Red sea, and not far from Arabia, where Job dwelt, and so might be well known by him: and besides, of all creatures, it is the most lively emblem of the devil, which all the ancient Christian writers make leviathan to be; and Satan is expressly called the dragon in Re 12:3,9. So Suidas says, the devil is called a dragon in Job. But be the leviathan what it may, it certainly is an illustrious instance of the power of God in making it; and therefore Job and every other man ought to submit to him that made it, in all things, and be humble under his mighty hand; owning freely, that it is his right hand, and his only, and not man's, that can save, either in a temporal or spiritual sense; for which end this and the behemoth are instanced in.

Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Volume 1

But at the time of the winter solstice, in the month of Tebet [Dec/Jan], the sea grows restless, for then leviathan spouts up water, and the big fish become uneasy. They restrain their appetite, and the little ones escape their rapacity.



On the fifth day of creation God took fire and water, and out of these two elements He made the fishes of the sea. The animals in the water are much more numerous than those on land. For every species on land, excepting only the weasel, there is a corresponding species in the water, and, besides, there are many found only in the water.

The ruler over the sea-animals is leviathan. With all the other fishes he was made on the fifth day. Originally he was created male and female like all the other animals.[1] But when it appeared that a pair of these monsters might annihilate the whole earth with their united strength, God killed the female. So enormous is leviathan that to quench his thirst he needs all the water that flows from the Jordan into the sea. His food consists of the fish which go between his jaws of their own accord. When he is hungry, a hot breath blows from his nostrils, and it makes the waters of the great sea seething hot. Formidable though behemot, the other monster, is, he feels insecure until he is certain that leviathan has satisfied his thirst. The only thing that can keep him in check is the stickleback, a little fish which was created for the purpose, and of which he stands in great awe. But leviathan is more than merely large and strong; he is wonderfully made besides. His fins radiate brilliant light, the very sun is obscured by it,[2] and also his eyes shed such splendor that frequently the sea is illuminated suddenly by it. No wonder that this marvellous beast is the plaything of God, in whom He takes His pastime.[3]

1. The Leviathan "pair" may be compared with the Babylonian myth concerning Tiamat and her only mate Kingu, according to which the latter is vanquished by Marduk and made harmless, while the former is slain.

2. [See below] with regard to the illuminating canopy over the heads of the pious made of the hide of Leviathan. The clothes of the first "human couple" which were "garments of light," were made of the hide of the female Leviathan...In the Babylonian myths of creation the heavens are formed of the upper parts of the body of Tiamat.

3. ...God sports with Leviathan. In 'Abodah Zarah, the following account is given of God's occupation during the twelve hours of the day. He studies the Torah during the first three hours; He judges the world for three hours; during the next three hours He provides for the needs of all living creatures; the last three hours He spends sporting with Leviathan. This Haggadah is allegorically explained...where Leviathan is taken symbolically to represent the power of the heathen. It is accordingly stated that nothing pleases God so much as the failure of the designs of the heathen against Him.

There is but one thing that makes leviathan repulsive, his foul smell: which is so strong that if it penetrated thither, it would render Paradise itself an impossible abode.[4]

4. Baba Batra 75a, which literally reads: If Leviathan were not to put his head into paradise and become perfumed by its fragrance, no creature could exist on account of the awful odor he emits. This statement has nothing to do with the medieval legend concerning the offensive odor of the devil, but it is related to the ancient identification of Leviathan with the sea. The latter has an offensive odor. Compare volume III, p. 25 (end of paragraph).

Volume III, p. 25
The Passage Through the Red Sea
The first upon whom judgment was executed was the Angel of Egypt--Uzza was thrown into the sea. A similar fate overtook Rahab, the Angel of the Sea, with his hosts. Rahab had made intercession before God in behalf of the Egyptians. He had said: "Why shouldst Thou drown the Egyptians? Let it suffice the Israelites that Thou hast saved them out of the hand of their masters." At that God dealt Rahab and his army a blow, under which they staggered and fell dead, and then He cast their corpses in the sea, whence its unpleasant odor.

The real purpose of leviathan is to be served up as a dainty to the pious in the world to come. The female was put into brine as soon as she was killed, to be preserved against the time when her flesh will be needed. The male is destined to offer a delectable sight to all beholders before he is consumed. When his last hour arrives, God will summon the angels to enter into combat with the monster. But no sooner will leviathan cast his glance at them than they will flee in fear and dismay from the field of battle. They will return to the charge with swords, but in vain, for his scales can turn back steel like straw. They will be equally unsuccessful when they attempt to kill him by throwing darts and slinging stones; such missiles will rebound without leaving the least impression on his body. Disheartened, the angels will give up the combat, and God will command leviathan and behemot to enter into a duel with each other. The issue will be that both will drop dead, behemot slaughtered by a blow of leviathan's fins, and leviathan killed by a lash of behemot's tail. From the skin of leviathan God will construct tents to shelter companies of the pious while they enjoy the dishes made of his flesh. The amount assigned to each of the pious will be in proportion to his deserts, and none will envy or begrudge the other his better share. What is left of leviathan's skin will be stretched out over Jerusalem as a canopy, and the light streaming from it will illumine the whole world, and what is left of his flesh after the pious have appeased their appetite, will be distributed among the rest of men, to carry on traffic therewith.[5]

5. Gabriel receives the order from God to drag out Leviathan from the Great Sea (=Ocean, or the Mediterranean Sea; see note 73), for which purpose the angel provides himself with the necessary implements.

73. ...(Leviathan, Rahab, and the angel of death are considered identical)...A legend which is also composed of various elements is the one...where the ocean and the "sea of death" are considered identical (a Babylonian view), and at the same time it is said that it will be "cured" in the time to come. The last statement is found in the old sources in connection with the Sea of Sodom, which was known to Pausanias and the Church Fathers as the "Dead Sea." This name is unknown in Jewish sources; hence the...Midrash confused the "Dead Sea" of his source--of Christian origin?--with the "Sea of Death" of Babylonian mythology, that is the ocean. In 'Erubin 22b it is supposed that the ocean surrounds the earth (so also Herodotus II, 21 and 23), whereas according to [another source], the earth extends over the waters of the abyss as a ship in the midst of the Sea. 'Aseret ha-Dibrot 63 speaks of the "Great Sea that encompasses the earth." This corresponds to 'Erubin, since the designation of "Great Sea" for the ocean is known in rabbinic literature...the Bible speaks of "seas," because the sea differs in its peculiarities in different places...

He succeeds in hooking Leviathan, but is swallowed up in his attempt to drag him out on dry land. Whereupon God Himself is obliged to seize Leviathan, and He slays him in the presence of the pious. Then Michael and Gabriel are sent against the male and female Behemoth, but being unable to carry out god's command (this is the way the fragmentary text is to be emended), He Himself is then obliged to accomplish it...It is noteworthy that the tannaitic literature does not contain anything concerning Leviathan and Behemoth (the remark in Sifra 11.10 that Leviathan is a clean fish has hardly anything to do with the view that it will be eaten at the Messianic banquet), nor concerning the Messianic banquet...Only in post-tannaitic literature, especially in later Midrashim, does the Messianic banquet play a great part...Luzzatto, in his notes on the Roman Mahzor II, 212b, correctly remarked that the legend about the Messianic banquet wants to convey the view that this will be the last feast, after which the pure spiritual life will begin, when there will be no bodily needs or pleasures. Those who interpret the Leviathan-Behemoth legends allegorically conceive the Messianic banquet in a spiritual sense...The pseudoepigraphic literature already knows the essential elements of the highly developed Leviathan-Behemoth legends found in the later Midrashim. In Enoch 60.7-10 it is asserted...that Leviathan and Behemoth were created on the fifth day, and of these two the former was the female and the latter the male. But they were separated, the male monster, Behemoth, received the desert Dudain for his abode (undoubtedly identical with the desert Dudel, Enoch 10.4; that the latter is situated in the proximity of Jerusalem, the former east of paradise, cannot be urged as an objection to this identification, as the holy city is east of paradise), whereas the female Leviathan lives in the depth of the sea. Both, however, will serve as food (for the pious; but the text is not very clear here). In 4 Ezra 6.49-52, Enoch is made use of, but at the same time an attempt is made to explain how it happens that the male monster Behemoth lives on the dry land, while his mate, Leviathan, is in the water. The mates of Leviathan and Behemoth are spoken of in rabbinic sources. Nowhere, however, is the idea expressed that both monsters are "a mated pair." The Apocalypse of Baruch 29.4 knows of the legend that both monsters are destined to be the food of the pious in the time to come, but does not offer any additional information on the subject. The Apocalypse of Abraham 10 speak of Leviathans (i.e. the male and female monsters), which the archangel Jaoel holds in check; in another passage (21; the text is not quite clear) Leviathan and his possession are spoken of, where, perhaps, the Leviathan and his mate should be read. In case this apocalyptic work was originally composed in Hebrew, the present text can easily be explained as being due to the translator's confusion of "his mate" with "his possession"...In the last passage of the Apocalypse referred to above the remark is made that the world rests upon Leviathan. This shows the high antiquity of the similar statement found in rabbinic sources...(the whole world, as well as the "Great Sea" which compasses it, rests on four pillars, and these pillars rest on one of the fins of Leviathan)...Rather obscure is the statement of Jerome on Isa 27.1 that, according to Judaica Fabula, the monster spoken of by the prophet lives under the ground and in the air, whereas the monsters mentioned in Gen 1.21 have their habitation in the sea. As an explanation of these obscure words of Jerome, attention should be called to the fact that next to the view mentioned above which sees in Leviathan a monster which encircles the whole earth, there is also another which identifies him with the vault of heaven to which the signs of the Zodiac are affixed...[one quotation states] it has 365 eyes=days of the year...All these legends concerning Leviathan and Behemoth point to the fact, which has already been observed by several authors, that a good deal of old mythological material has been preserved in them. Nevertheless one must not look exclusively for Babylonian myths, and one is not warranted to identify, on the basis of Enoch, Behemoth and Leviathan with Tiamat and Kingu, respectively, of the Babylonian mythology, since not only the rabbinic sources but also Job 40 clearly describes Behemoth as a land monster. It may therefore be said that Behemoth belongs to quite another cycle of myths, but owing to learned combinations, the pseudepigraphic authors made it the consort of Leviathan, whereas the rabbinic sources retain the original conception of it as a land monster. The allegorical interpretation of the Leviathan-Behemoth legends originated at a very early date, and is found not only among the Gnostics, but also in rabbinic sources...particularly in kabbalistic literature...Leviathan is identified with "Evil" which will disappear in Messianic times, when the righteous as purely spiritual beings like the angels, will enjoy life in paradise...


After Adam had committed the sin of disobedience, God delivered the whole of the animal world into the power of the Angel of Death, and He ordered him to cast one pair of each kind into the water. He and leviathan together thus have dominion over all that has life.


Each day of creation brought forth three things: the first, heaven, earth, and light; the second, the firmament, Gehenna, and the angels; the third, trees, herbs, and Paradise; the fourth, sun, moon, and stars; and the fifth, fishes, birds, and leviathan.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 4:

Leviathan. The name of a mythological sea serpent or dragon, personifying the chaos waters, mentioned in the Ugaritic texts, in the OR, and in later Jewish literature...In the Ugaritic texts the name appears as ltn, which has traditionally been vocalized as Lotan, but it has been persuasively argued by J. A. Emerton (182) that the correct rendering should be Litan. In this Ugaritic passage (lines 1-4) Mot alludes to Baal's defeat of Litan as follows, "Because you smote Litan the twisting serpent, (and) made an end of the crooked serpent, the tyrant with seven heads, the skies will become hot (and) will shine." In the Baal epic we also find the goddess Anat (Baal's consort) claiming to have defeated Litan (though he is not mentioned by name), amongst other mythological creatures: "Surely I lifted up the dragon, I...[and] smote the crooked serpent, the tyrant with the seven heads"...It is interesting that Psalm 74:14 refers to the shattering by God of Leviathan's "heads" (pl.)--this is now illuminated by the Ugaritic texts, which reveal that he had seven of them.

Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition:

LEVIATHAN...a cylinder seal from Tell Asmar* of the 24th century B.C.E... pictures two men fighting a seven-headed serpent.

* Asmar, Tell. A site located on the plain of the lower basin of the Diyala, a river that descends from the Zagros mountains and joins the Tigris at the point where Baghdad is situated. Its ancient name, Eshnunna, is the Sumerian form of the Semitic name Ishnou by which it was known in the 3d millennium.--Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 1

[The] struggle between these animals [behemoth and Leviathan], after which the Almighty will prepare from them a feast for the righteous is picturesquely depicted in the Akdamut, the Aramaic piyyut [Hebrew liturgical poetry] which is said on Pentecost and which describes the great reward in store for the righteous.


DEEP, THE. The ancient Hebrews believed that the earth lay across an all-encompassing ocean, which they called tehom. The term is used in the Bible either for the primordial waters in toto (Gen. 1:2) or for the upper or lower portion alone (cf. Ps. 42:8). Most frequently it denotes the latter, and it is then conventionally rendered "the deep." The Canaanite myths from Ras Shamra (Ugarit) speak similarly of "the two oceans" (thmtm), i.e., the supernal and the infernal, the dwelling of the supreme god El being located at their confluence, i.e., on the horizon. In the Babylonian Epic of Creation the primordial ocean is personified as the monstrous Tiamat, who launches battle against the supreme god Anu, but is eventually subdued by Marduk and slit lengthwise "like an oyster," the two parts of her body forming, respectively, the vault of heaven and the bedrock of the earth...In the wake of Isaiah 27:1, post-biblical legend asserts that at the end of the world this monster will again break loose, and again be defeated, a notion which recurs in Iranian lore (Yashts 19:3844; Bundahi2n 29:9), and which also leaves traces both in the New Testament (Rev. 20:13) and in the Talmud (BB 75a). The personification of the primordial ocean as a monster is further echoed in Genesis 49:25, where Tehom is described as "crouching below," like a beast... in ancient Mesopotamian folklore the seven sages (apkallK) who introduced civilization, emerge from the deep (Gaster, 324, no. 31).


ICONOGRAPHY...A favorite motif of the German Jewish communities was the three apocalyptic beasts--Leviathan, Behemoth or shor ha-bar, and the mythical bird Ziz in Bar-Yokhani, symbolic of the delicacies which would delight the palates of the righteous at the messianic banquet.

The abode of leviathan seems to be in the sea. Is this why there is no sea in the new earth--because there is no need for the beast to have a hiding place? "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Rev 21:1)

See also Dinosaur
See also Dragon
See also Seven Heads


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