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PostSubject: Leviathan   Fri Sep 14, 2007 12:24 pm

Leviathan was a Biblical sea monster referred to in the Old Testament (Psalm 74:13-14; Job 41; Isaiah 27:1). The word leviathan has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. In the novel Moby-Dick it refers to great whales, and in Modern Hebrew, it means simply "whale".

The word "Leviathan" appears six times in the Bible:

Isaiah 27:1: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea."
Psalms 74:14: "Thou didst crush the heads of the Leviathan, thou didst give him for food to the creatures of the desert." NIV
Psalms 104:25,26: "O Lord, how manifold thy works, in wisdom you have created them all. So is this great and wide sea... there go the ships and the Leviathan which you have created to play therein" (AV);
Book of Job 3:8 "May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan ";NIV
Book of Job 40: 24-32, 41:1-24: "Can you draw out a Leviathan with a hook or press down its tongue with a cord? Canst thou put a hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a bridle ring? Will he make many supplications to thee? Will he speak soft words to thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? To take him for thy servant forever? Will thou play with him as with a bird? Or wilt thou bind him for thy girls? Will the tradesmen heap up payment for him?... Lay thy hand upon him, thou will no more think of fighting. Behold the hope of him is in vain, shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?...Who can open the doors of his face? His teeth are terrible round about. His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is near to the another, that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered. By his [sneezing] a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth....His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone....He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble....He maketh the deep to boil like a pot....he is a king over all the children of pride."

Leviathan in rabbinic literature

Creation of Leviathan

According to a midrash, the leviathan was created on the fifth day (Yalkut, Gen. 12). Originally God 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 (B. B. 74a).

Size

The enormous size of the leviathan is thus illustrated by R. Johanan, from whom proceeded nearly all the haggadot 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; and the waters of the Jordan fall into his mouth (Bek. 55b; B. B. l.c.).

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 gills of large fishes and kills them (Shab. 77b).

Christianity

The Christian interpretation of Leviathan is often considered to be a demon or natural monster associated with Satan or the Devil, and held by some to be the same monster as Rahab (Isaiah 51:9).

Some biblical scholars considered Leviathan to represent the pre-existent forces of chaos. In Psalm 74:13-14 it says "it was You who drove back the sea with Your might, who smashed the heads of the monsters in the waters; it was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan, who left him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. (JPS edition)" God drove back the waters of the Earth (Genesis 1:2 "And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." ([NAS])


Picture of Leviathan often found in grimoires, by an unknown artist.Some interpreters suggest that Leviathan is a symbol of mankind in opposition to God, claiming that it and beasts mentioned in the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted as metaphors. The usage of Leviathan in the Old Testament books (Isaiah 27:1) would seem to be a reference to a Semitic mythological beast mentioned in literature of Ugarit, a city-state in North Syria. According to Canaanite myth, the Leviathan was an enemy of order in Creation and was slain by the Canaanite god Baal. The word Leviathan to the ancient Jews became synonymous with that which warred against God's kingdom. This especially included nations warring against Israel such as Assyria and Egypt. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament,1985, SP Publications Inc.)

Leviathan also appears in the Apocryphal Book of Enoch, giving the following description of this monster's origins there mentioned as being female, as opposed to the male Behemoth:

And that day will two monsters be parted, one monster, a female named Leviathan in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; and (the other), a male called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert whose name is Dundayin, east of the garden of Eden. - 1 Enoch 60:7-8

Leviathan is also sometimes said to have been of the order of Seraphim. According to the writings of Father Sebastien Michaelis, Balberith, a demon who allegedly possessed Sister Madeleine at Aix-en-Provence, obligingly told the priest not only the other devils possessing the nun, but added the special saints whose function was to oppose them. Leviathan was one devil that was named and was said to tempt men into committing sacrilege. Its adversary was said to be St. Peter.

Leviathan as an animal

In the book of Job, both Behemoth and Leviathan are listed alongside a number of other animals that are clearly mundane, such as goats, eagles, and hawks, leading many Christian scholars to surmise that Behemoth and Leviathan may also be mundane creatures. The animal most often proposed for Leviathan is the Nile crocodile.

Like the Leviathan, the Nile crocodile is aquatic, scaly, and possesses fierce teeth. Job 41:18 states that Leviathan's eyes "are like the eyelids of the morning". Some have compared this verse to a crocodile's eyes, which rise out of the water before the rest of its head, invoking the image of the sun rising over the horizon. Major difficulties of this view are that in Job chapter 41 Leviathan is described as breathing fire like a dragon, and that the crocodile does not seem to fit the descriptions of Leviathan given in other Bible passages, e.g. it does not have multiple heads.

Others suggest that the Leviathan is an exaggerated account of a whale. This view faces some difficulty, however, as early Jewish people in the Near East would not have likely encountered whales in such a warm region.

During sea-faring's Golden Age, European sailors saw Leviathan as a gigantic whale-like sea monster, usually a sea serpent, that devoured whole ships by swimming around the vessels so quickly as to create a whirlpool.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan

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