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Bible Dictionaries
Leviathan

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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LEVIATHAN. In four of the five passages where this word appears, the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] have dragon , and their belief that a creature of serpentine form was meant is coo-firmed by the derivation of Heb. lavâh , which signifies ‘to twist or wind.’ The leviathan of Job 41:1-34 is the crocodile, with added traits drawn from the ancient Creation myths. On the assumption that Psalms 74:2-17 refers to the Exodus, we should again find the crocodile in Psalms 74:14 . But it is at least equally probable that the allusion is to the creation of the world ( Psalms 74:16-17 ), and to the mythological sea-monsters then vanquished. Leviathan here has several heads; the great serpent of Babylonian tradition had seven. Isaiah 27:1 distinguishes between two leviathans, the flying serpent, and the crooked or coiled serpent symbols of two heathen kingdoms. The identification of the kingdoms depends on the date of the prophecy: Assyria and Babylon, Persia and Greece, Syria and Parthia, are rival suggestions. The species of sea-monster pointed to in Psalms 104:26 is left indefinite. The leviathan (RV [Note: Revised Version.]; AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘their mourning’) aroused by magicians ( Job 3:8 ) is most likely a denizen of the abyss which threatens the world with destruction. Many, however, take him to be the mythical sky-dragon which was supposed to cause eclipses. It will be noted that there is a close connexion between leviathan and the watery world. Robertson Smith held that it is a personification of the water-spout ( RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 , p. 176). The Apocalyptic and Rabbinical writers gave full scope to their fancy in dealing with this theme. Leviathan and Behemoth were created on the fifth day, and the depths of the sea were assigned to the former as his abode; during the last quarter of each day God plays with him (as the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and some recent expositors interpret Psalms 104:26 ); the Jordan empties itself into his mouth; his flesh will be for food to the godly in the days of the Messiah; part of his skin will be made into a tent for them, whilst the rest is spread on the walls of Jerusalem, and its brightness is visible to the ends of the earth (En 60.7ff., 2Es 6:40 , Apoc. [Note: Apocalypse, Apocalyptic.] Bar 29:4; Aboda zara , 3 b; Baba bathra , 74 b; Targ. on Numbers 11:26 f.). Cf. art. Behemoth.

J. Taylor.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Leviathan'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​l/leviathan.html. 1909.
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