Leviathan: A Sea Creature or Satan?
by
Daniel J. Dyke

A minority interpretation to which I adhere is that Leviathan in Job 41 is a theriomorphic description of Satan.

1)    Why would someone hold to this view?
2)    Why would anyone care if someone does?
WHAT IS A THERIOMORPHIC DESCRIPTION?
It a common practice in the ancient world to compare a spiritual power or being to an animal in physical appearance or temperament.  For example the goddess Sekhmet in Egyptian theology is the one who protects Amun-Ra and as such, she appears as a lioness or as a polymorphic figure combining a lioness with a human woman.  The book of Revelation in the New Testament portrays Satan as a dragon.
Comments:

There are two interpretations of this passage:

  • Leviathan is a demonic power and is thus fittingly portrayed as a vicious beast.
  • If leviathan is not Satan then what is this text speaking of?  Is he a great sea creature that is vicious.  If this is true then the author is wishing that you compare him to Behemoth in the preceding passage.  Behemoth is a large, gentle land creature and Leviathan is a large vicious sea creature.  The point would be that God created both and is master of both.  This would then illustrate the paradox: God is good but he allows evil to exist.
  • What reasons can be offered to show Leviathan is Satan in Job?
  • In literature of the period (including the Bible) chaos/evil is portrayed as either the sea or a great sea monster. (Cf. Psalm 46:3; The Baal Epic)
  • In Job 3 Leviathan is a spiritual power roused by a person whose profession it was to rouse such beings for malevolent purposes.
  • Some of the descriptions of Leviathan in Job 41 seem to step away from the literal to the hyperbolic and some seem to even go beyond this.
  • Topics discussed in the beginning of the book are returned to at the end. This would then be the author's way of returning to the topic of Satan.
  • Introducing Leviathan is the climax of God's argument.  The climactic verse of the climactic speech is that Leviathan is the "king of the proud."
  • The problem before the student is to discover why someone would object to this interpretation.  The word "why" does not mean, "I don't like this interpretation."  "Why" means to give reasons for and against the various interpretations of a text, comparing the reasons and facts presented, and then deciding if one is the best/better interpretation or not.

    Note the following are invalid for acts of reasoning/argumentation to this professor:

    1.    To appeal to another or greater authority.  It matters little if Gleason Archer disagrees with me.  What matters is if Gleason Archer has better arguments.
    2.    To count the number of authorities for and against a position (I have already done this and told you this is a minority position).  If this is so then you should be a Roman Catholic because there are more Roman Catholics than protestants.
    3.    To appeal to personal revelation.  Eliphaz did this and was rebuked by God.
    4.    To say, "I like this one better!"  Joseph Kickasola once said, "I don't like my theology, but I believe it true and so that is what I teach."