What Are Behemoth And Leviathan, And What Do They Have To Do With The Justice Of God?

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It is written:

Job 40:15; 41:1-Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you; He eats grass like an ox…Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, Or snare his tongue with a line which you lower?

One of the great questions which has intrigued me through the years has been the identity of these two creatures: behemoth and leviathan. They are introduced by God in His second speech to Job. In God’s first speech, He had defended His goodness before Job, who had accused Him of being a vicious deity who delighted in evil. Now, in His second speech, God is responding to Job’s claims of injustice with God.

And He does it by introducing two creatures, behemoth and leviathan.

What are these creatures?

Let’s study.

The most commonly accepted theory about these creatures is that behemoth is a hippopotamus, and leviathan is a crocodile. However, there are several problems with these identifications.

First, how does God establish His justice by saying, “Look at the hippopotamus that I have made?”

What would be the point?

Second, the hippopotamus hardly fits the fearsome description provided by God in Job 40.

Third, whatever the identification of behemoth and leviathan, there needs to be some profound meaning to cause Job to begin worshipping God in repentance for what these creatures and their interaction with God insinuates. In other words, something about these creatures causes Job to repent and begin worshipping the Lord. If these were just two other animals, then that would not produce such a change in Job; for God had already introduced other animals, and this did not cause Job to repent.

Another theory is that these creatures are symbols for Job himself. Some have suggested that God is telling Job to go out start a new family to replace the one that he had lost. He should be strong and manly and carry out the initial Great Commission (I.e., be fruitful and multiply). Forget about your dead children, this theory says: go out and have some more!

Yeah, I’m not too fond of that theory.

As one author points out:

“Unfortunately, this interpretation of yhwh’s second speech cannot explain why Job reacts so differently in comparison with the first, because Job claims a deeper knowledge of God on the basis of the second divine speech (42: 5), not any new insight into himself. Balentine writes that ‘Job’s new vision is informed by a new understanding of what it means to be fully and dangerously human’, but this is contradicted by the wording of 42: 5.80 There is something Job sees about yhwh on the basis of what yhwh has said about Leviathan. He does not claim new insight into humanity’s original creation mandate (or claim that he has been reminded of what he forgot), but claims to understand something new about God beyond what was said in the first speech. This interpretation also cannot explain why God would reprimand Job for discrediting his justice (40: 8) when, according to the above argument, God was unjust and Job was right to criticize. There are other difficulties with reading Behemoth and Leviathan as a cipher for Job. For example, the point to the mixed questions and imperatives in 40: 9–14 and 41: 1–11 is that Job cannot hope to subdue human wickedness or Leviathan; this makes the comparison between Leviathan’s unapproachable fierceness and Job’s supposed creational mandate to subdue creation strained. Furthermore, it is surely cruel to say to someone who has suffered in unimaginable ways, who has lost everything and stands at death’s door, that he should be fierce and strong and contend for justice. How would this spark awestruck worship on Job’s part? The cruelty of saying something like this to Job is sharpened when we remember that Job was already highly sensitive to the demands of justice and right behaviour in all his relationships (ch. 31). Job seems already to have been doing everything he could as God’s representative on earth. Can God say nothing more than that Job should do even more? It is also cruel to tell someone who has had to bury his children that (like Behemoth) he can have more. Doing so also completely sidesteps the issue of whether it was just to allow the death of Job’s children when they had not sinned in such a way as to deserve it. It will also be argued below that Job withdraws all his former protests against God’s supposed injustice in 42: 6, which does not sit well with the putative implication that Job should continue to protest against (even divine) injustice.” (Eric Ortlund, Piercing Leviathan: God’s Defeat of Evil in the Book of Job (New Studies in Biblical Theology 56), 129-130 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

So, what are behemoth and leviathan?

I believe that they are dinosaurs, and that these dinosaurs stand as a figure of speech for Satan and all of the wicked spirits that cause chaos and suffering in the world of man.

Let’s begin with the first premise that I suggested, that behemoth and leviathan are some kind of dinosaur like creatures.

“In addition to the fact that the Bible clearly states that God made everything in six days (Genesis 1; Exodus 20: 11), which by implication proves that dinosaurs once cohabited the Earth with man, God also described two creatures in the book of Job that sound very similar to dinosaurs or dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles. These creatures are known as behemoth and leviathan. Some deny the similarities between these animals and dinosaurs, suggesting that “attempts to link dinosaurs to ‘behemoth’ and ‘leviathan’ of Job do not stand up” (Clayton, 1996), while others doubt their actual existence altogether, believing them to be mythological creatures rather than literal animals. However, when a person unshackles himself from the chains of evolutionary thought (i.e., considering the possibility that dinosaurs and humans did live together at one time in the past and were not separated in time by 60 + million years), behemoth (of Job 40) and leviathan (of Job 41) are revealed neither as mythological nor modern-day, but extinct creatures that sound exactly like dinosaurs or (since the term “dinosaur” refers specifically to land-living reptiles) dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles.” (Eric Lyons, Kyle Butt, The Dinosaur Delusion, 1261-1266 (Kindle Edition); Montgomery, AL; Apologetics Press, Inc.)

Some claim that these creatures are just mythological fairy tales. Yet that doesn’t make sense. How would God proposing a mythological creature help Job to understand more of God’s justice in the world?

Furthermore, the Lord specifically says that He had made behemoth along with Job (and humanity). Clearly, behemoth and leviathan are not fairy tales! Indeed, their connection with dinosaur like creatures from their description is easy to make.

What about the connection of these creatures with Satan and demonic forces?

Remember that throughout Scripture, God compares different types of animals with spiritual beings. Let’s notice a few examples.

Isaiah 13:20-22-It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. 21  But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there. 22  The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”

Isaiah the Prophet is here describing the downfall of the nation of Babylon. Look at how verses 21 and 22 are rendered in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament):

Isaiah 13:20-22 (Brenton)-It shall never be inhabited, neither shall any enter into it for many generations: neither shall the Arabians pass through it; nor shall shepherds at all rest in it. 21  But wild beasts shall rest there; and the houses shall be filled with howling; and monsters (ostriches) shall rest there, and devils (wild goats) shall dance there, 22  and satyrs (hyenas) shall dwell there; and hedgehogs (jackals) shall make their nests in their houses. It will come soon, and will not tarry.

Do you see how the translators of the Greek Old Testament show some kind of connection between these animals and demonic creatures?

Later, the Apostle John quotes this passage in Revelation. Notice how he renders it:

Revelation 18:2-And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

We see another example later in Isaiah:

Isaiah 34:14-The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, And the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; Also the night creature shall rest there, And find for herself a place of rest.

Look at how this is rendered in the Greek Old Testament:

Isaiah 34:14 (Brenton)-And devils shall meet with satyrs, and they shall cry one to the other: there shall satyrs rest, having found for themselves a place of rest.

It isn’t that the Israelites thought these animals were actually demons. They didn’t look at an owl and proclaim, “Oh, that’s a demon!” They remembered that everything God made in the animal kingdom was good initially (Genesis 1:31). But they were able to see similarities between traits of certain animals and connection with demons.

Heiser well points out:

“2. “Howling Creature” ( ʾiyyîm ); “Wild Beasts” ( ṣiyyîm ); “Lilith” ( lı̂lı̂t ) The terminology of this section will no doubt be unfamiliar and strange. 72 But to a culture that held the desert wilderness to be a place of frightful beings associated with the underworld, “the desert [was] populated by phantom-like creatures.” 73 Frey-Anthes summarizes the association of wild, deserted places with perceived dark powers: 74 The concept of a subdivided world which is present in the Old Testament texts leads to the idea of animals and not clearly definable creatures, who are the inhabitants of a counterworld to human civilisation. Included among the eerie and dangerous animals who haunt deserted places.… The following are mostly called “desert-demons”: Those who live in the ruins … As the name of the [ ṣiyyîm ] explains where they dwell (“those who belong to the dry landscape/desert dwellers”), the expression [ ʾiyyîm ] has rather got an onomatopoeic nature, it defines a howling creature (“howler”).… The pair [ ʾiyyîm ] and [ ṣiyyîm ] belongs to the description of a destroyed city in Isa 13:21f.; Isa 34:14 and Jer 50:39.… The texts, however, speak of ghosts living at the periphery but they avoid a clear identification, which would be needed for an incantation, to identify the evil forces it wants to drive away. The creatures are described ambiguously in order to underline the vagueness of the peripheral counterworld. 75 Two of the passages noted above deserve some attention. In Isaiah 13:21–22, a description of the impending devastation of Babylon, the terms ṣiyyîm and ʾiyyîm occur in tandem with the śĕʿı̂rı̂m (Isa 13:21) associated with illegitimate sacrifices in Leviticus 17:7 (cf. Deut 32:12). The same grouping is present in Isaiah 34:14, a passage that adds lı̂lı̂t to the assemblage—the Hebrew spelling of the well-known Mesopotamian demon-goddess Lilith: 76 The “wind-demoness” Lilith, who can already be found in the Sumerian Epos “Gilgames, Enkidu and the Underworld” does not seem to have had any special importance outside Mesopotamia. Interpretations of supposed findings from Ugarit and Phoenicia are very uncertain. It is astonishing, however, that, according to Isa 34:14, Lilith belongs to the inhabitants of the counter world together with owls and other birds of prey, ostrich, jackals, snakes, desert dwellers, howlers and he-goats. The description of the ruins of Edom in Isa 34:11–15 is a subtly composed literary text with close connections to Isa 13:21f. and Jer 50:39, which are similar descriptions of the deserted Babylon. Isa 34:11–15 intensifies the descriptions of Isa 13:21f. and Jer 50:39 by listing the inhabitants of the periphery in a detailed way and by introducing Lilith. 77 As Janowski notes, these terms could very naturally speak of “zoologically definable animals, i.e. nocturnal consumers of carrion, who appear in pairs or in packs,” but “their association with theriomorphic demons … and the demon Lilith, is intended to place the aspect of the counterhuman world in the foreground.” 78”. (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 629-662 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, Wa; Lexham Press)

Ortlund provides a great deal of evidence which shows us that the Canaanites associated their gods with various animals. Indeed, their ancient texts specifically mention leviathan!

Then there is this fact to consider: the Bible refers to leviathan as a symbol for Satan.

Isaiah 27:1-In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.

Just before this, we are told about a day of resurrection and of judgment (Isaiah 26:19-20). In other words, the Second Coming of Christ!

So, how does the identification of behemoth and leviathan with Satan and other spiritual hosts of wickedness help us to learn about God’s goodness and justice?

Just this: God promises to one day defeat these forces that humanity cannot destroy.

Job 40:19-He is the first of the ways of God; Only He who made him can bring near His sword.

Ortlund reminds us that the language of God in Job is reminiscent of Old Testament passages where God is going to war!

“The central point in the first part of God’s second speech is that the references to his arm, voice and radiant majesty are an Old Testament way of describing his preparation for battle (vv. 9–10) against his enemies (vv. 11–13). The same combination of theophanic glory with God’s thunderous voice and upraised arm, all for the purpose of defeating those who resist his rule, is found repeatedly in the Psalms: in Psalm 18: 12–13, it is from the brightness before yhwh that coals of fire come as he thunders in the heavens against David’s enemies; in Psalm 89: 11–16, the upraised arm that scatters God’s enemies is hymned by the people walking about in the light of his presence; in Psalm 93, God is clothed with majesty, reigning high above the storming waters; in Psalm 96, splendour and majesty are before him (v. 6) as he comes to judge the earth (v. 13; this is the same ‘glory and splendour’ [hôd wehādār] in Job 40: 10b). Isaiah 30: 30 is also relevant as it describes God’s making the splendour (hôd, ‘glory’, as in Job 40: 10) of his voice to be heard and the descent of his arm to be seen as he defeats Assyria and saves Judah. Divine theophanic warfare in the Old Testament is a major way God beats back the powers of darkness and executes his blessed rule on the earth, and it is just this theme being activated in this passage. It can be easy for modern readers, unfamiliar with this idea, to revert to abstractions in explaining yhwh’s radiant theophany from the storm in these texts and assume it is only a poetic way of emphasizing divine power. While God’s power is on display in these passages, we must not miss how the theophanic display of his arm and voice shows not just divine power in a general sense but his action both to save those who trust him and to judge those who rebel. This is true in Job 40: 9–14 as well, for the reason why God is adorned with splendour and majesty, raises his arm and thunders with his voice (vv. 9–10) is to humble and judge the wicked (vv. 11–13). 14 This is the salvation God’s right arm wins (v. 14; cf. Job 26: 2; Isa. 51: 9–11). In other words, verses 9–14 show Job how God executes justice in the earth (40: 8)–the very thing Job complained that God fails to do (10: 3; 21: 7). Nor is this judgment restricted to the here and now, for it ends with these wicked being ‘hidden’ in the ‘dust’ (v. 13). 15 The ‘grave’ connotations of dust in the book of Job were already argued for in relation to its use in 19: 25, and I think they should be understood here as well. The verb ‘to hide’ can also evoke death and the underworld (in 3: 16, Job expresses his wish that he were stillborn in Sheol as being ‘hidden’ there). This means that when God describes his judgment of the wicked as ‘hiding them in the dust’, it means that his judgment of the wicked is not partial in the ways that frustrated the Preacher (Eccl. 8: 11–14). It is rather a judgment of death–as total and final as could be imagined. What complaint about a supposed lack of concern for justice can be brought against a God who acts in this way?” (Eric Ortlund, Piercing Leviathan: God’s Defeat of Evil in the Book of Job (New Studies in Biblical Theology 56), 107-108 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, IL; InterVarsity Press)

God is one day going to engage and completely defeat Satan.

Like Job, I find that a reason to worship God in joy and hope for what He will accomplish.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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