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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. לוְיָתָן, usually derived from לַוְיָה, a wreath, with adject. ending ןָ but perhaps compounded of לַוי, wreathed, and תִּן, a sea-monster; occurs Job 3:8; Job 41, I [Hebrew xl, 25], Psalms 74:14; Psalms 104:26; Isaiah 27:1; Sept. δράκων, but τὸμέγα κῆτος in Job 3:8; Vulg. Leviathan, but draco in Psa.; Auth. Vers. "Leviathan," but "their mourning" in Job 3:8) probably has different significations, e.g.:

(1.) A serpent, especially a large one (Job 3:8), hence as the symbol of the hostile kingdom of Babylon (Isaiah 27:1).

(2.) Specially, the crocodile (Job 41:1).

(3.) A sea-monster (Psalms 104:26); tropically, for a cruel enemy (Psalms 74:14; compare Isaiah 51:9; Ezekiel 29:3).

This Heb. word, which denotes any twisted animal, is especially applicable to every great tenant of the waters, such as the great marine serpents and crocodiles, and, it may be added, the colossal serpents and great monitors of the desert. (See BEHEMOTH); (See DRAGON).

In general it points to the crocodile, and Job 41 is unequivocally descriptive of that saurian. But in Isaiah and the Psalms foreign kings are evidently apostrophized under the name of Leviathan, though other texts more naturally apply to the whale, notwithstanding the objections that have been made to that interpretation of the term. "It is quite an error to assert, as Dr. Harris (Dict. Nat. Hist. Bib.), Mason Good (Book of Job translated), Michaelis (Supp. 1297), and Rosenmü ller (quoting Michaelis in not. ad Bsochart Wie roz. 3:738) have done, that the whale is not found in the Mediterranean. The Orca gladiator (Gray) the grampus mentioned by Lee the Physalus antiquorumn (Gray), or the Rorqual de la Mediterranee (Cuvier), are not uncommon in the Mediterranean (Fischer, Synops. Mamm. p. 525, and Lacepede, H. N. des Cetac. p. 115), and in ancient times the species may have been more numerous." (See WHALE).

The word crocodile does not occur in the Auth.Vers., although its Greek form κροκόδειλος ' is found in the Sept. (Leviticus 11:29, where for the "tortoise, צָב, it has κροκόδειλος χερσαῖος, Vulg. crocodilus); but there is no specific word in the Hebrew of which it is the acknowledged representative." Bochart (3:769, edit. Rosenmü ller) says that the Talmudists use the word livyathâ n to denote the crocodile; this, however, is denied by Lewysohn (Zool. des Talm. p. 155, 355), who says that in the Talmud it always denotes a wchale, and never a crocodile. For the Talmudical fables about the leviathan, see Lewysohn (Zool. des Talm.), in passages referred to above, and Buxtorf, Lexicon Chald. Talm. s.v. לויתן (Smith). Some of these seem to be alluded to in 2 Esdras 6:49; 2 Esdras 6:52. The Egyptians called it tsmok (see Biunsen's AEgyptens Stellung, 1:581), the Arabs name it tamse (compare χάμψη, Herod. 2:69); but Strabo says that the Egyptian crocodile was knolwn by the name stuchus, σοῦχος , probably referring to the sacred species). It is not only denoted by the leviathan of Job 41:1, but probably also by the tannin of Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2 (compare Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9); and perhaps by the reedbeast ( חִיִּת קָנֶה "spearmen") of Psalms 68:30. Others confound the leviathan with the orca of Pliny (9:5), i.e. probably the Physter macrocephalus of Linn. (see Th. Hase, De Leviacthan Jobi, Brem. 1723); Schultens understands the fabulous dragons (Comment. in Job. p. 1174 sq.; compare Oedmann, Satnmml. 3:1. sq.); not to dwell upon the supposed identification with fossil species of lizards (Koch, in Lidde's Zeitschrift verygleich Erdk. Magdleb. 1844). In the detailed description of Job (ch. 41), probably; the Egyptian crocodile is depicted in all its magnitude, ferocity, and indolence, such as it was in early days, when as yet unconscious of the power of man, and only individually tamed for the purposes of an imposture, which had sufficient authority to intimidate the public and protect the species, under the sanctified pretext that it was a type of pure water, and an emblem of the importance of irrigation; though the people in general seem ever to have been disposed to consider it a personification of the destructive principle. At a later period the Egyptians, probably of such places as Tentyris, where crocodiles were not held in veneration, not only hunted and slew them, but it appears from a statue that a sort of Bestiarii could tame them sufficiently to perform certain exhibitions mounted on their backs. The intense musky odor of its flesh must have rendered the crocodile at all times very unpalatable food, but breast-armor was made of the horny and ridged parts of its back. Viewed as the crocodile of the Thebaid, it is not clear that the leviathan symbolized the Pharaoh, or was a type of Egypt, any more than of several Roman colonies (even where it was not indigenous, as at Nismcs, in Gaul, on the ancient coins of which the figure of one chained occurs), and of cities in Phoenicia, Egypt, and other parts of the coast of Africa. During the Roman sway in Egypt, crocodiles had not disappeared in the Lower Nile, for Seneca and others allude to a great battle fought by them and a school of dolphins in the Heracleotic branch of the Delta. During the decline of the state even the hippopotamus reappeared about Pelusium, and was shot at in the 17th century (Radzivil). In the time of the Crusades crocodiles were found in the Crocodilon river of early writers, and in the Crocodilorum lacus, still called Moiat el-Temsah, which appear to be the Kerseos river and marsh, three miles south of Casarea, though the nature of the locality is most appropri ta at Nahr-el Arsuf or el-Haddar" (For a full account of the treatment of the crocodile and its worship in Egypt, see Wilkinson's Anc. Agypt. 1:243 sq.). (See RAHAB).

Most of the popular accounts of the crocodile have been taken from the American alligator, a smaller animal, but very similar in its habits to the true crocodile. See generally Herod. 2:68 sq.; Diod. Sic. 1:35, A Elian, Hist. Anim. 5:23; 17; 1:6; 2, Ammianus Marcell. 22:15; Hasselquist, Trav. p. 344 sq., Pococke, East, 1:301 sq.; Oken, Naturgeschichte, I, 2:329 sq.; Cuvier, Anim. Kingd. 2:21; Thom, in the Halle Encyklop. 21:456 sq.; Bochart, Hieroz. 3:737 sq., Oedmann, 3:1 sq.; 6:53 sq.; Annales du Museum d'histoire nattu. vol. 9, 10; Minutoli, Trav. p. 246 Rosenmü ller, Altertshum, sk. IV, 2:244 sq. Denon, Trav. p. 291; Norden, Reise, p. 302. (See CROCODILE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Leviathan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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