What Was Leviathan?
“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?”
The leviathan of Job 41 appears to be a ferocious creature. It cannot be caught with any sort of hook. It cannot be captured by harpoon, either through its jaw or its nose. The description given in Job 41 is that of an enormous sea monster with great strength, defensive armor, and able to breathe fire. This last attribute has led many to suggest that the creature is not real but only mythical. After all, the passage makes leviathan sound like a fire-breathing dragon, and there is no such thing, is there?
It is certainly very difficult to ascertain what leviathan could have been. However, a biblical presupposition will tell us that, whatever our confusion, the animal must have been real and must have possessed all the attributes ascribed to it. Several candidates have been suggested in the past. Perhaps, for example, it could have been some sort of plesiosaur. It is interesting that many versions of the Bible footnote the creature and suggest that it was a crocodile. However, the same versions tend to refer to behemoth as a hippopotamus, when it seems clear to me that behemoth was a sauropod.
One interesting, suggested candidate is a huge extinct creature called sarcosuchus. This animal looked a bit like, and could have been related to, modern crocodiles. However, it was 36 feet long, and its weight is estimated at 8 tons. It also had a large cavity inside its bulbous snout. Could this have been an organ to produce heat?
Sarcosuchus may or may not have been leviathan. But leviathan certainly existed, and its description in Job 41 is clear.
Prayer: We are constantly amazed, Lord, at the wonders of Your creation, just as was Job when confronted with Your might. Thank You for creating all things well. Amen.
Ref: Booker, P., A New Candidate for Leviathan, TJ 19(2) 2005.
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