Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Leviathan

Leviathan

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Leviathan'
Start a new discussion about 'Leviathan'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Leviathan is a sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

 referred to in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

. In Demonology
Demonology
Demonology is the systematic study of demons or beliefs about demons. It is the branch of theology relating to superhuman beings who are not gods. It deals both with benevolent beings that have no circle of worshippers or so limited a circle as to be below the rank of gods, and with malevolent...

, Leviathan is one of the seven princes
Seven princes of Hell
The seven princes of Hell are, in Christian demonology tradition, the seven highest demons in Hell.The seven demon princes can be seen as Hell's equivalent to the Seven Archangels of Heaven.Often, each demon prince corresponds to one of the seven deadly sins...

 of Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 and its gatekeeper (see Hellmouth
Hellmouth
Hellmouth is the entrance to Hell envisaged as the gaping mouth of a huge monster, an image which first appears in Anglo-Saxon art, and then spread all over Europe, remaining very common in depictions of the Last Judgment and Harrowing of Hell until the end of the Middle Ages, and still sometimes...

). The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

 or creature. In literature (e.g., Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

's Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

) it refers to great whale
Whale
Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

s, and in Modern Hebrew, it means simply "whale." It is described extensively in Job 41.

Hebrew Bible


The Leviathan is mentioned six times in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, with being dedicated to describing him in detail:
1 Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?
2 Can you put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?
3 Will he keep begging you for mercy? Will he speak to you with gentle words?
4 Will he make an agreement with you for you to take him as your slave for life?
5 Can you make a pet of him like a bird or put him on a leash for your girls?
6 Will traders barter for him? Will they divide him up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill his hide with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?
8 If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering.
10 No-one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
12 I will not fail to speak of his limbs, his strength and his graceful form.
13 Who can strip off his outer coat? Who would approach him with a bridle
Bridle
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit....

?
14 Who dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth?
15 His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.
18 His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds.
21 His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth.
22 Strength resides in his neck; dismay goes before him.
23 The folds of his flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable.
24 His chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone.
25 When he rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before his thrashing.
26 The sword that reaches him has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron he treats like straw and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make him flee, slingstones are like chaff to him.
29 A club seems to him but a piece of straw, he laughs at the rattling of the lance.
30 His undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing-sledge.
31 He makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair.
33 Nothing on earth is his equal— a creature without fear.
34 He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud.


In Psalm 74 Yahweh is said to "break the heads of Leviathan in pieces" before giving his flesh to the people of the wilderness; in Psalm 104 Yahweh is praised for having made all things, including Leviathan; and in he is called the "wriggling serpent" who will be killed at the end of time.

Ancient Middle Eastern origins


Sea serpents feature prominently in the mythology of the Ancient Near East
Religions of the Ancient Near East
The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some early examples of primitive monolatry , Ashurism and Monism...

, attested as early as the 3rd millennium BCE in Sumerian
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 iconography depicting the myth of the god Ninurta
Ninurta
Ninurta in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology was the god of Lagash, identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identical...

 overcoming the seven-headed serpent
Seven-headed serpent
The Seven-headed Serpent in Sumerian mythology was one of the Heroes slain by Ninurta, patron god of Lagash, in ancient Iraq. Its body was hung on the "shining cross-beam" of Ninurta's chariot .-External links:* The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature...

. Examples of the storm god vs. sea serpent trope in the Ancient Near East can be seen with Baʿal
Baʿal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

 vs. Yam
Yam (god)
Yam, from the Canaanite word Yam, meaning "Sea", also written "Yaw", is one name of the Ugaritic god of Rivers and Sea. Also titled Judge Nahar , he is also one of the 'ilhm or sons of El, the name given to the Levantine pantheon...

 (Canaanite
Canaanite religion
Canaanite religion is the name for the group of Ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era....

), Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 vs. Tiamat
Tiamat
In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû to produce younger gods. It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is 'creatrix', through a "Sacred marriage" between salt and fresh water,...

 (Babylonian), and Atum
Atum
Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, is an important deity in Egyptian mythology.- Name :Atum's name is thought to be derived from the word 'tem' which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the 'complete one' and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to...

 vs. Nehebkau
Nehebkau
In Egyptian mythology, Nehebkau was originally the explanation of the cause of binding of Ka and Ba after death. Thus his name, which means brings together Ka...

 (Egyptian
Egyptian mythology
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with a multitude of deities who were believed to be present in, and in control of, the forces and elements of nature...

) among others, with attestations as early as the 2nd millennium as seen on Syrian seals.

In the Ugaritic
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

 texts Lotan
Lotan
Lotan or Lawtan is the seven-headed sea serpent or dragon of Ugaritic myths. He is either a pet of the god Yamm or an aspect of Yamm himself; the cosmic ocean of myth is often known as a great stream. In the Hebrew analogue Lotan is who was also known as Yam the Leviathan. He represents the mass...

, or possibly another of Yam's helpers, is given the epithets "wriggling serpent" and "mighty one with the seven heads." Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

 27:1 uses the first of these phrases to describe Leviathan (although in this case the name "Leviathan" apparently refers to an unnamed historical/political enemy of Israel rather than the original serpent-monster). In Psalm 104, Leviathan is not described as harmful in any way, but simply as a creature of the ocean, part of God's creation. It is possible that the authors of the Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

 41:2-26, on the other hand, based the Leviathan on descriptions of Egyptian animal mythology where the crocodile is the enemy of the sun-god and a crocodile monster to be feared. This is in contrast to typical descriptions of the sea monster trope in terms of mythological combat.

In later Jewish literature


Later Jewish sources describe Leviathan as a dragon who lives over the Sources of the Deep and who, along with the male land-monster Behemoth
Behemoth
Behemoth is a mythological beast mentioned in the Book of Job, 40:15-24. Metaphorically, the name has come to be used for any extremely large or powerful entity.-Plural as singular:...

, will be served up to the righteous at the end of time. When the Jewish midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 (explanations of the bible) were being composed, it was held that God originally produced a male and a female leviathan, but lest in multiplying the species should destroy the world, he slew the female, reserving her flesh for the banquet that will be given to the righteous on the advent of the Messiah
Jewish Messiah
Messiah, ; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to describe priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25...

 (B. B. 74b). Rashi's
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 commentary on Genesis 1:21 repeats the tradition: "God created the great sea monsters - taninim. According to legend this refers to the Leviathan and its mate. God created a male and female Leviathan, then killed the female and salted it for the righteous, for if the Leviathans were to procreate the world could not stand before them." In the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 Baba Bathra 74b it is told that the Leviathan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in [the] Time to Come, and its skin used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place. The festival of Sukkot
Sukkot
Sukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...

 (Festival of Booths) therefore concludes with a prayer recited upon leaving the sukkah (booth): "May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan. Next year in Jerusalem."
The enormous size of the Leviathan is described by R. Johanan, from whom proceeded nearly all the aggadot concerning this monster: "Once we went in a ship and saw a fish which put his head out of the water. He had horns upon which was written: 'I am one of the meanest creatures that inhabit the sea. I am three hundred miles in length, and enter this day into the jaws of the Leviathan'" (B. B. l.c.). When the Leviathan is hungry, reports R. Dimi in the name of R. Johanan, he sends forth from his mouth a heat so great as to make all the waters of the deep boil, and if he would put his head into paradise no living creature could endure the odor of him (ib.). His abode is the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

; and the waters of the Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 fall into his mouth (Bek. 55b; B. B. l.c.). In a legend recorded in the Midrash called Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer it is stated that the fish which swallowed Jonah
Jonah
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation...

 narrowly avoided being eaten by the Leviathan, which eats one whale each day.

The body of the Leviathan, especially his eyes, possesses great illuminating power. This was the opinion of R. Eliezer, who, in the course of a voyage in company with R. Joshua, explained to the latter, when frightened by the sudden appearance of a brilliant light, that it probably proceeded from the eyes of the Leviathan. He referred his companion to the words of Job xli. 18: "By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning" (B. B. l.c.). However, in spite of his supernatural strength, the leviathan is afraid of a small worm called "kilbit", which clings to the gill
Gill
A gill is a respiratory organ found in many aquatic organisms that extracts dissolved oxygen from water, afterward excreting carbon dioxide. The gills of some species such as hermit crabs have adapted to allow respiration on land provided they are kept moist...

s of large fish and kills them (Shab. 77b).

In the eleventh century piyyut
Piyyut
A piyyut or piyut is a Jewish liturgical poem, usually designated to be sung, chanted, or recited during religious services. Piyyutim have been written since Temple times...

 (religious poem), Akdamut
Akdamut
Akdamut, or Akdamus or Akdamut Milin, or Akdomus Milin , is a prominent Aramaic liturgical poem recited annually on the Jewish holiday of Shavuos by Ashkenazi Jews...

, recited on Shavuot
Shavuot
The festival of is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan ....

(Pentecost), it is envisioned that, ultimately, God will slaughter the Leviathan, which is described as having "mighty fins" (and, therefore, a kosher fish, not an inedible snake or crocodile), and it will be served as a sumptuous banquet for all the righteous in Heaven.

Christianity


The Leviathan of the Middle Ages was used as an image of Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, endangering both God's creatures—by attempting to eat them—and God's creation—by threatening it with upheaval in the waters of Chaos. St. Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 described Leviathan as the demon of envy
Envy
Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

, first in punishing the corresponding sinners. Leviathan became associated with, and may originally have referred to, the visual motif of the Hellmouth
Hellmouth
Hellmouth is the entrance to Hell envisaged as the gaping mouth of a huge monster, an image which first appears in Anglo-Saxon art, and then spread all over Europe, remaining very common in depictions of the Last Judgment and Harrowing of Hell until the end of the Middle Ages, and still sometimes...

, a monstrous animal into whose mouth the damned disappear at the Last Judgement, found in Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, beginning with the Migration period style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose...

 from about 800, and later all over Europe.

The Young Earth Creationist opinion is that Leviathan and Behemoth
Behemoth
Behemoth is a mythological beast mentioned in the Book of Job, 40:15-24. Metaphorically, the name has come to be used for any extremely large or powerful entity.-Plural as singular:...

 are names given to dinosaurs.

Leviathan in Satanism


In Satanism
Satanism
Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration of Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and...

, according to the author of The Satanic Bible
The Satanic Bible
The Satanic Bible is a collection of essays, observations, and rituals published by Anton LaVey in 1969. It contains the core principles of LaVeyan Satanism, and is considered the foundation of its philosophy and dogma. It has been described as the most important document to influence contemporary...

, Anton Szandor LaVey, Leviathan represents the element of Water
Water (classical element)
Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing...

 and the direction of West. The element of Water in Satanism is associated with life and creation, and may be represented by a Chalice during ritual. In The Satanic Bible
The Satanic Bible
The Satanic Bible is a collection of essays, observations, and rituals published by Anton LaVey in 1969. It contains the core principles of LaVeyan Satanism, and is considered the foundation of its philosophy and dogma. It has been described as the most important document to influence contemporary...

, Leviathan is listed as one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell. This association was inspired by the demonic hierarchy from The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. The Church of Satan
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

 uses the Hebrew letters at each of the points of the Sigil of Baphomet
Sigil of Baphomet
The Sigil of Baphomet is the official insignium of the Church of Satan. It is also a symbol that is used by several other organizations, usually those associated with Satanism and the Left-Hand Path....

 to represent Leviathan. Starting from the lowest point of the pentagram, and reading counter-clockwise, the word reads "לִוְיָתָן". Translated, this is (LVIThN) Leviathan.

See also


  • Adamastor
    Adamastor
    Adamastor is a Greek-type mythological character famed by the Portuguese poet Luís de Camões in his epic poem Os Lusíadas , as a symbol of the forces of nature Portuguese navigators had to overcome during their discoveries...

  • Aspidochelone
    Aspidochelone
    According to the tradition of the Physiologus and medieval bestiaries, the aspidochelone is a fabled sea creature, variously described as a large whale or sea turtle, that is as large as an island. The name aspidochelone appears to be a compound word combining Greek aspis , and chelone, the turtle...

  • Bakunawa
    Bakunawa
    The Bakunawa, also spelled Bakonawa, Baconaua, or Bakonaua, is a dragon in Philippine mythology that is often represented as a gigantic sea serpent...

  • Behemoth
    Behemoth
    Behemoth is a mythological beast mentioned in the Book of Job, 40:15-24. Metaphorically, the name has come to be used for any extremely large or powerful entity.-Plural as singular:...

  • Book of Job in Byzantine illuminated manuscripts
    Book of Job in Byzantine illuminated manuscripts
    There are fourteen known Byzantine manuscripts of the Book of Job dating from the 9th to 14th centuries- as well as a post-byzantine codex illuminated with cycle of miniatures...

  • Christian demons in popular culture
    Christian demons in popular culture
    The demons of the Christian tradition have appeared many times in popular culture.- Adramelech :*In the video game Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Adrammelech is a dragon-like Lucavi with a goatlike appearance...

  • Ethereal creature
  • Jörmungandr
    Jörmungandr
    In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr , mostly known as Jormungand, orJörmungand , or Midgard Serpent , or World Serpent, is a sea serpent, and the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and the god Loki...

  • Kraken
    Kraken
    Kraken are legendary sea monsters of giant proportions said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway and Iceland.In modern German, Krake means octopus but can also refer to the legendary Kraken...

  • Lilith
    Lilith
    Lilith is a character in Jewish mythology, found earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be related to a class of female demons Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts. However, Lowell K. Handy notes, "Very little information has been found relating to the Akkadian and Babylonian view...

  • Lotan
    Lotan
    Lotan or Lawtan is the seven-headed sea serpent or dragon of Ugaritic myths. He is either a pet of the god Yamm or an aspect of Yamm himself; the cosmic ocean of myth is often known as a great stream. In the Hebrew analogue Lotan is who was also known as Yam the Leviathan. He represents the mass...

  • Rahab (demon)
  • Sesha
  • Tannin (demon)
    Tannin (demon)
    In Jewish folklore Tannin is the name of an aquatic demon. Sometimes he is compared with Rahab, another sea monster who is especially associated with the Red Sea. Some scholars associated Tannin with Tiamat, as it happened with Rahab...

  • Tarasque
    Tarasque
    The Tarasque is a fearsome legendary dragon from Provence, in southern France, tamed in a story about Saint Martha. On 25 November 2005 the UNESCO included the Tarasque on the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity....

  • Tiamat
    Tiamat
    In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû to produce younger gods. It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is 'creatrix', through a "Sacred marriage" between salt and fresh water,...

  • Ziz
    Ziz
    The Ziz is a giant griffin-like bird in Jewish mythology, said to be large enough to be able to block out the sun with its wingspan. It is considered a giant animal/monster corresponding to archetypal creatures. Rabbis have said that the Ziz is comparable to the Persian Simurgh...



External links