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Holman Bible Dictionary

Leviathan

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(lih vi' uh thuhn) name of an ancient sea creature subdued by God meaning “coiled one.” Leviathan appears in biblical and extra-biblical literature. A serpentine form is indicated in Isaiah 27:1 (“leviathan the piercing [KJV] serpent”).

The sea creature is used interchangably with other mysterious creations of the divine. Again, Isaiah 27:1 refers to leviathan as “the dragon that is in the sea.” The psalmist in Psalm 74:14 presents leviathan among the supernatural enemies of God dwelling in the sea with many heads. Job 3:8 ; Job 41:1-9 present the sea creature as too formidable a foe for a person to consider arousing. Yet, leviathan was created by God and subject to Him ( Psalm 104:24-30 ).

Apocalyptic literature depicts leviathan as throwing off his fetters at the end of the present age, only to be defeated in a final conflict with the divine. See Apocalyptic . Ugaritic literature of Ras Shamra during the 1300s B.C. depicts the mythical Baal defeating the sea creature called Lotan (another linguistic form for Leviathan). The Hittites wrote of a struggle between the dragon Illuyankas and the mortal Hupasiyos . A cylinder seal found at Tel Asmar dated about 2350 B.C. shows two men fighting a seven-headed serpent.

Leviathan was seen in ancient legend as a sea monster engaged in primordial warfare with the gods. This creature represented chaos in a personified manner which any creator deity had to overcome in order to create. Leviathan was also seen as a threat to the orderliness of the universe and ultimately to be subdued at the end of time.

The ancient pagan myths concerning Leviathan were familiar to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. To what degree these myths of Leviathan influenced the Hebrews, if any, may never be known. Scripture used the name known to so many people and removed fear connected with it, showing God easily controlled Leviathan, who thus offered no threat to God's people. See Rahab ; Creation .

Steve Wyrick


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Leviathan'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/l/leviathan.html. 1991.

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