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Leviathan

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"Destruction of Leviathan". 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré.

Leviathan (Hebrew: לויתן, Livyāthān) is an animal that is described by God in the book of Job (book) as a terrifying fire-breathing sea monster. The creature is described as a strong beast with a tough outer "armor". He cannot be pulled out with a fishhook and no one dares to fight him. It is also said to have breathed fire and snorted out smoke! (Job 41 ) Some believe that Leviathan is a reference to an extinct animal that was alive and known to those that lived during the days of the Old Testament. Some that hold to this view suggest it was a plesiosaur, such as the Kronosaurus,[1] others have proposes it was the giant armored crocodile Sarcosuchus.[2]

Contents

Biblical References

"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook? Or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose? Or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Or will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him for a servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird? Or will you bind him for your maidens? Will the traders bargain over him? Will they divide him among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons, Or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle; you will not do it again! Behold, your expectation is false; Will you be laid low even at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him; Who then is he that can stand before Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, Or his mighty strength, or his orderly frame. Who can strip off his outer armor? Who can come within his double mail? Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth there is terror. His strong scales are his pride, Shut up as with a tight seal. One is so near to another, That no air can come between them. They are joined one to another; They clasp each other and cannot be separated. His sneezes flash forth light, And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning torches; Sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth, As from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, And a flame goes forth from his mouth. In his neck lodges strength, And dismay leaps before him. The folds of his flesh are joined together, Firm on him and immovable. His heart is as hard as a stone; Even as hard as a lower millstone. When he raises himself up, the mighty fear; Because of the crashing they are bewildered. The sword that reaches him cannot avail; Nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin. He regards iron as straw, Bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; Slingstones are turned into stubble for him. Clubs are regarded as stubble; He laughs at the rattling of the javelin. His underparts are like sharp potsherds; He spreads out like a threshing sledge on the mire. He makes the depths boil like a pot; He makes the sea like a jar of ointment. Behind him he makes a wake to shine; One would think the deep to be gray-haired. Nothing on earth is like him, One made without fear. He looks on everything that is high; He is king over all the sons of pride." - Job 41:1-34
"It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert." - Psalms 74:13-14
"There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there." - Psalms 104:25-26
"In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea." - Isaiah 27:1

Physical characteristics

Here is a recap of the physical characteristics of the Leviathan that were listed in Job 41, Psalm 104:25,26, and Isaiah 27:1.

  • This creature was massively strong. He had a firm, solid body that could not be moved (Job 41:12,22-24)
  • The Leviathan was mostly a sea creature, but did spend some time on land; he was known as "the monster of the sea" (Job 41: 31-32, Isaiah 27:1, Psalm 104:25-26)
  • He couldn't be subdued and taken captive or sold in the market place (Job 41:3-6,9)
  • No one wanted to fight him and if someone dared to once, they would never do it again. There was no one fierce enough to conquer him (Job 41:8-10)
  • He had a huge mouth that was lined with many teeth (Job 41:14)
  • Sparks and fire flew from his mouth and smoke poured from his nostrils, meaning, the Leviathan could most likely breathe fire (Job 41:18-21)
  • He has a tight, impenetrable coat. He was protected by the "rows of shields" on his back (Job 41:13, 15-17)
  • Fishhooks, ropes, harpoons, swords, javelins, clubs, and arrows meant nothing to him. He laughed at those who approached him with these weapons because they didn't harm him. These were weak to him (Job 41:1-2, 7, 26-29)

Leviathan Suspects

There are several different beliefs on what the Leviathan was. Different people groups hold to it that it was a mythical creature used as an example, and others hold to it that the Leviathan was a literal animal. Theories range from the simpler ideas such as the Tyrannosaurus rex and crocodile to extinct marine giants like the Kronosaurus and Sarcosuchus. Here are the different descriptions of the Leviathan candidates.

SuperCroc

The recently discovered species Sarcosuchus imperator has led many creationists to hold it as most likely candidate for the Leviathan. Creation Ministries International among other groups hold to this view.[3] This large marine reptile that was dubbed "SuperCroc" was first discovered in 1966 and its fossilized remains were found in the Tenere Desert of Niger in North Africa in 2000.[4] About 50 percent of its skeleton was found in the 2000 trip to Niger.[5] The Sarcosuchus was a massive animal that measured forty feet and weighed up to ten tons. His jaw alone measured up to six feet long and housed over one hundred, huge teeth. The SuperCroc's name comes from its great size, because it was twice as long as the longest recorded crocodile and ten times as heavy![5]

[4] In National Geographic News October 2001 the discovery of a "SuperCroc" fossil found in Sahara was reported.[6] Along with the almost complete skull, vertebrae, and limbs that were found, foot-long scrutes (bony shielding plates) were found as well. This suggests that the Sarcoschus was covered with these plate and they helped to protect him.[7] Interestingly, the SuperCroc skull found in the Niger that was found had a bulbous structure at the end of his snout. This could have been used for a strong sense of smell or for mating calls. Another possibility is that perhaps this open cavity was used for breathing fire. In general, the physical descriptions of the Sarcosuchus are very similar to that of Job 41 in the Bible. It must have been one of the greatest animals on the earth and feared by many, and therefore considered by many as the most likely candidate to be the Leviathan.[4]

Kronosaurus

A fifty foot long Kronosaurus reconstructed by Alfred Romer.
The Kronosaurus is an extinct sea giant that had a short neck and huge body. This marine animal was a member of the group Plesiosauria and a part of the family Dolichorhynchopidae.[8]

The first remains of the animal were discovered in the 1920s and have been found in Australia and South America. Its body measured between thirty and fifty feet long and weighed between eight and ten tons.[9] Its diet consisted of fish, turtles, and other large marine animals.[8] There have been fossilized turtles and pleiosaurs (long necked reptiles) found in the fossilized Kronosaurus.[9] The Kronosaurus had the ferocious bite needed to be the Leviathan, but he lacked certain other features. It had no "armor like scales" to protect itself from arrows, swords, and javelins. Also, its four flippers were better suited for swimming in the sea, but the Leviathan spent time both on land and in water.[8] Lastly, there is lack of evidence that the Kronosaurus could have breathed fire or snorted smoke.

Crocodile

The Nile Crocodile; very large and feared by many.

One belief held by some is that the Leviathan was a crocodile. Many Bibles have a footnote noting that the Leviathan could have possibly been a crocodile or alligator. This belief is mostly held by Old Earth Creationists that believe humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time. To them, the crocodile is the best plausible choice. There are many similarities between the two animals. Like the Leviathan, the crocodile has tough scales and is feared by man. It also has ferocious teeth and can't be drawn up with a fish hook.[10] There are a few problems with this hypothesis though. The Leviathan spent its time in the sea, but most crocodiles live in rivers and lakes. There is a crocodile, Crocodylus porosus of Australia that does spend time in the sea, but this is unlike the majority. Another problem with the crocodile is although it does have tough scales they can be penetrated. It is a strong animal, but it is not indestructible. In the Bible it is described as terrifying to all, but a warrior at that time could easily defeat it.[4] The last main problem is that the modern crocodile does not breathe fire! The Leviathan specifically breathed fire and snorted smoke, but the crocodile does neither of these.[10]

Tyrannosaurus rex

A reconstructed skeleton of the T. rex.

The Tyrannosaurus rex was once proposed as a candidate for the Leviathan because of its great size and teeth. This extinct dinosaur grew to a height between 15 and 20 feet and had a four foot long jaw. The T. rex was a ferocious carnivore that would have been feared by man and hard to fight. However, there are a few problems with the T. rex proposed as the Leviathan.[11] First of all, the T. rex was obviously a land animal. Job 40:31 states that the Leviathan, "Stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment". Along with Psalm 104:25-26 the Leviathan is a confirmed sea creature.[4] The Leviathan also had armored like skin, but there is no evidence that the T. rex had these "strong scales". Finally, the Leviathan breathed fire, but the Tyrannosaurus rex did not. It was a mighty dinosaur, but it wasn't impossible to capture or kill the Tyrannosaurus rex. Because of these main contradictions between Job 41 and this animal's descriptions the T. rex is considered an outdated theory.

Parasaurolophus head crest.

Hadrosaur

Many Hadrosaurs, such as Parasaurolophus, had a large head crest that connected to the nasal passages and respiratory system; the function of which has been the source of much speculation. In Dinosaurs by Design Duane Gish suggested that the head crest could have housed chemical glands that allowed it to throw a combustible mixture at enemies, which would spontaneously ignite when mixed with oxygen in the air (similar to the modern-day bombardier beetle).[12]

However, the Hadrosaur possesses several features inconsistent with the description of leviathan in the book of Job making it an unlikely candidate for the creature described therein. Leviathan was definitively an aquatic creature, while Hadrosaurs are now generally accepted to be a land animal.[3] They also did not possess the terrifying teeth and impenetrable scaly armor with which the creature is Job is described to have been equipped.

Mythological viewpoint

Some scholars believe that the Leviathan was simply a reference to a mythological monster. The Leviathan was not only mentioned in the Bible, but also in other pagan myths and literature. In Ugaritic passages the Leviathan is described as a dragon with seven heads. Psalms 74:14 states, "It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan" (NIV). The author uses the word "heads" (plural), rather than the singular word "head". These two similarities of different passages suggest that the Leviathan was a known mythological creature of that time period.[13]

Some hold to the belief that there is no creature in our present time that represents the Leviathan. They do not take the passages that describe the Leviathan literally, but rather believe the massive and terrifying Leviathan was merely used as an example. One theory held by some is that God showed Job a picture of an extinct animal. This is a plausible idea for those that believe the dinosaurs were long gone and extinct before man was ever created. They believe that God used this extinct dinosaur to display his power and creativity. Another theory is that the Leviathan is an angelical creature created by God. Some believe that this creature never lived on earth or dwelled with man, but rather, was created by God and used as an example of his strength when revealed to Job.[14]

References

  1. Ham, K., The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved! Master Books, Green Forest, AR, pp. 43–47, 1998.
  2. Wieland, C., Dragons of the Deep, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, p44-45, 2005.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Was Leviathan a Parasaurolophus? by Andrew Lamb. Creation Ministries International.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 A new candidate for Leviathan? by Peter Booker. Journal of Creation. 19(2) 2005. 14-16.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fact Sheet by Project Exploration.
  6. "SuperCroc" Fossil Found in Sahara National Geographic News, October 25, 2001.
  7. "SuperCroc" Fossil Found in Sahara National Geographic News. October 25, 2001
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Kronosaurus Dinosaur Corporation.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wieland, C., p.14
  10. 10.0 10.1 Dinosaurs and the Bible by Clarifying Christianity
  11. Tyrannosaurus Rex © 1996-2008. National Geographic Society.
  12. Gish, Duane T., Dinosaurs by Design. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1992. p82.
  13. Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy by Lyons, Eric. Apologetics Press :: Reason & Revelation. January 2001 - 21[1]:1-7
  14. Creation Science and Biblical Interpretation Job 40-41: Dinosaurs in the Bible? by Neyman, Greg. Answers in Creation.

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