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Early Hebrews Believed in Leviathan

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When I was a boy, I heard my father give the Society's hour talk on the book of Job about 10 times. The talk spent a good portion of the time showing that Behemoth was a hippopotamus, and Leviathan was a crocodile.

Of course, very little time was spent on the fact that the book of Job also says the following about the Behemoth, which is not at all true of a hippo:

(Job 40:15-20) 15 Here, now, is Be·heʹmoth, which I made as I made you. . . . 17It stiffens [or, sways] its tail like a cedar; The sinews of its thighs are woven together. 18 Its bones are tubes of copper; Its limbs are like wrought-iron rods. 19It ranks first [or, "it is the beginning" -- NWT footnote] among the works of God; Only its Maker can approach it with his sword. 20For the mountains produce food for it, Where all the wild animals play.

The little tail of the hippopotamus does not move or sway like a cedar. It was hardly the beginning of God's creative works. The mountains do not produce food for it. Creatures much more terrifying than hippos have been caught and hunted by man for centuries. When we know what Behemoth is we can then understand why it is tied to the creation of man (cf. "which I made as I made you"), and why it is said to be "first" among God's creative works. Another curious thing about "Behemoth" is that it is a plural word. If it is a type of "plural of majesty" (as in Elohim, or "God of Gods"), then it could mean something like, "Beast of Beasts."

The Leviathan is even less like a crocodile than Behemoth is like a hippo. Note:

(Job 41:1-34) . . .“Can you catch Le·viʹa·than with a fishhook Or hold down its tongue with a rope?  . . . 7 Will you fill its hide with harpoons Or its head with fishing spears?  8 Lay your hand on it; You will remember the battle and never do it again!  9 Any hope of subduing it is futile. The mere sight of it would overwhelm you. 10 No one dares to stir it up. . . . 12 I will not be silent about its limbs, About its mightiness and its well-formed body. 13 Who has removed its outer covering? Who will enter its open jaws? 14 Who can pry open the doors of its mouth? Its teeth all around are fearsome. 15 Its back has rows of scales Tightly sealed together. 16 Each one fits so closely to the other That no air can come between them. 17 They are stuck to one another; They cling together and cannot be separated. 18 Its snorting flashes out light, And its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flashes of lightning go out of its mouth; Fiery sparks escape. 20 Smoke pours out of its nostrils, Like a furnace fueled with rushes. 21 Its breath sets coals ablaze, And a flame shoots from its mouth. 22 There is great strength in its neck, And dismay runs before it. 23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined together; They are firm, as though cast upon it and immovable. 24 Its heart is hard as stone, Yes, hard as a lower millstone. 25 When it rises up, even the mighty are frightened; Its thrashing causes bewilderment. 26 No sword that reaches it will prevail; Nor will spear, dart, or arrowhead. 27 It regards iron as straw, Copper as rotten wood. 28 An arrow does not make it flee; Slingstones turn into stubble against it. 29 It regards a club as stubble, And it laughs at the rattling of a javelin. 30 Underneath, it is like sharp fragments of pottery; It spreads itself in the mud like a threshing sledge. 31It makes the deep boil just like a pot; It stirs up the sea like an ointment pot. 32 It leaves a glistening wake in its path. One would think that the deep had white hair. 33 There is nothing like it on the earth, A creature made to have no fear. 34 It glares at everything that is haughty. It is king over all the majestic wild beasts.

Do crocodiles snort out fire and sparks from their nostrils? Do their eyes shine brightly? Does lightning go out of its mouth? is it like a furnace inside, so that its very breath sends a flame that can set coals ablaze? Does it really stir up the deep seas like a cauldron? Looking again at the New World Translation it's hard for me to believe, now, that I ever thought this was a crocodile.

Of course, part of the problem is that Witnesses, like many fundamentalist religions, too, do not want to see "fabulous" creatures in the Bible. It opens up the Bible to ridicule if it refers to "real" dragons and unicorns and beasts that seem never to have existed. Yet the idea appears even more "fabulous" if we read from some other translations, or more especially, the "Septuagint" LXX era translations, which would have been based on Hebrew manuscripts from as early as 400 BCE, rather than the NWT which is based on Hebrew manuscripts from as late as 1100 CE.

Here are some of the quotes from Job in the LXX: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/28-iob-nets.pdf

Job 40:15-23 But look now you are familiar with "monsters" [Behemoth]; they eat grass like cows. Look now its strength is in its loins, and its power in its belly's navel. It stood up its tail like a cypress, and its sinews have been interwoven. Its flanks are flanks of copper, and its spine is cast iron. . . . This is the chief of what the Lord created, made to be mocked at by his angels. But when it went up on a steep mountain, it brought its gladness to the quadrupeds in Tartarus. . . . If there is a flood, it will never take notice. {*It trusts that the Jordan will tumble into its mouth.}

Job 40:25-41:26 [Masoretic 41:1-34] And will you catch a dragon [Leviathan] with a fish hook? . . . And do nations feed on it, and do the Phoenician races divvy it up? And a whole fleet, gathered, cannot carry the mere skin of its tail. {and its head in fisherman's boats}. But you will lay a hand on it, though you remember the battle that is waging in its body, and let it happen no more! . . . Who will uncover the front of what it is wearing? And who could enter the plate of its cuirass? Who will open the gates of its face? Fear is all around its teeth. Its inwards are bronze shields. . . . Light shines forth at its sneezing and its eyes have the look of the morning star. From its mouth proceed flaming torches, and fiery braziers are being cast forth. From its nostrils smoke of a furnace burning with the fire of coals. Its soul is coals, and a flame proceeds from its mouth. . . . Its heart is solid like stone, and it stands like an unyielding anvil. . . . It makes the deep boil like a caldron and regards the sea as a pot of ointment and Tartarus of the deep as a captive. . . . There is nothing else on earth like it, made to be mocked at by my angels. Everything high it sees, and it is king over all that are in the waters.

The basic idea remains in modern translations, but there is some evidence that the Masoretic text (which the NWT is based upon) has often cleaned up what was thought to be embarrassing to medieval rabbis in the intervening centuries. The references to "Tartarus" [see Greek mythology] are curious, especially due to 2 Peter 2:4. But the additional references to Leviathan in the Hebrew Scriptures are just as striking.

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When I was a boy, I heard my father give the Society's hour talk on the book of Job about 10 times. The talk spent a good portion of the time showing that Behemoth was a hippopotamus, and Leviathan wa

The NWT Glossary says the following about Leviathan: *** nwtstg Leviathan *** An animal usually associated with water, apparently some form of aquatic creature. At Job 3:8 and 41:1, it seems to

Sure sounds like Dragons to me.... (?)

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26 minutes ago, James Thomas Rook Jr. said:

Sure sounds like Dragons to me.... (?)

Me, too. We all know that the Bible refers to "beasts" and "dragons" in the apocalyptic books such as Daniel and Revelation, but I guess we just didn't want them mentioned as if they were "real" in the book of Job.

The Librarian pointed out that someone had asked me a question about Enoch (non-canonical apocalyptic book), where Leviathan and Behemoth are mentioned together in a very curious way. To answer that question, I thought it was a good idea to set up the background comparing what we have believed about Behemoth and Leviathan compared to what some of the Bible-believers in Bible times believed about them.


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1 hour ago, JW Insider said:

Do crocodiles snort out fire and sparks from their nostrils? Do their eyes shine brightly? Does lightning go out of its mouth? is it like a furnace inside, so that it's very breath sends a flame that can set coals ablaze?

They do and it does if one's about to clamp its mouth around your torso.

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Here's the curious way that 1 Enoch 40:7-9 refers to both of them:

7. And on that day were two monsters parted, a female monster named Leviathan, to dwell in the abysses of the ocean over the fountains of the waters. 8. But the male is named Behemoth, who occupied with his breast a waste wilderness named †Dûidâin†, on the east of the garden where the elect and righteous dwell, where my grandfather was taken up, the seventh from Adam, the first man whom the Lord of Spirits created. 9. And I besought the other angel that he should show me the might of those monsters, how they were parted on one day and cast, the one into the abysses of the sea, and the other unto the dry land of the wilderness.

One question that came up was why Behemoth is male and Leviathan is female. Why would such a detail be important?

Enoch doesn't say much about them, but does mention Tartarus and Chaos, which might become important to the overall discussion. When Enoch mentions the 7 archangels in chapter 20, he mentions that

CHAPTER XX. 1. And these are the names of the holy angels who watch. 2. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus. 3. Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men. 4. Raguel, one of the holy angels who †takes vengeance on† the world of the luminaries. 5. Michael, one of the holy angels, to wit, he that is set over the best part of mankind ⌈⌈and⌉⌉ over chaos. 6. Saraqâêl, one of the holy angels, who is set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit. 7. Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim. 8. Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.

This is mentioned because if either Leviathan the Dragon, or Behemoth the Beast is tied to Chaos, we might expect Michael to be the archangel to fight him. If Tartarus it might be the archangel of Light [Uriel/Oriel=God is Light]. Recall that the Septuagint included the idea that these were created to be "mocked" by the angels. I believe that Bible verses create a link between the ideas of the words "mocked" and "taunted." Jewish ideas gave the killing of Leviathan first to Gabriel, however, the archangel over the serpents.

Just to start the response to the reason they are given different genders here, I can quote some of the other extra-Biblical works and traditions carried in Jewish literature. Here is a summary from the Jewish Encyclopedia:


Names of gigantic beasts or monsters described in Job xl. The former is from a root denoting "coil," "twist"; the latter is the plural form of "behemah"="beast."

Ever since Bochart ("Hierozoicon," iii. 705), "behemoth" has been taken to denote the hippopotamus; and Jablonski, to make it correspond exactly with that animal, compared an Egyptian form, "p-ehe-mu" (= "water-ox"), which, however, does not exist. The Biblical description contains mythical elements, and the conclusion is justified that these monsters were not real, though the hippopotamus may have furnished in the main the data for the description. Only of a unique being, and not of a common hippopotamus, could the words of Job xl. 19 have been used: "He is the first [A. V. "chief"] of the ways of God [comp. Prov. viii. 22]; he that made him maketh sport with him" (as the Septuagint reads, πεποιημένον ἐγκαταπαιζέσΘαι; A. V. "He that made him can make his sword to approach unto him"; comp. Ps. civ. 26); or "The mountains bring him forth food; where all the beasts of the field do play" (Job xl. 20). Obviously behemoth is represented as the primeval beast, the king of all the animals of the dry land, while leviathan is the king of all those of the water, both alike unconquerable by man (ib. xl. 14, xli. 17-26). Gunkel ("Schöpfung und Chaos," p. 62) suggests that behemoth and leviathan were the two primeval monsters corresponding to Tiamat (= "the abyss"; comp. Hebr. "tehom") and Kingu (= Aramaic "'akna" = serpent") of Babylonian mythology. . . .

—In Rabbinical Literature:

According to a midrash, the leviathan was created on the fifth day (Yalḳ., 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). 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.). . . .

In the Messianic Times.

The leviathan is prominent in the haggadic literature in connection with the advent of the Messiah. Referring to Job xl. 30 (Hebr.), "and the pious ones [V08p038002.jpg] shall make a banquet of it," R. Johanan says that at the time of the resurrection a banquet will be given by God to the righteous, at which the flesh of the leviathan will be served (B. B. l.c.). . . .  Gabriel will be charged with the killing of the monster; but he will not be able to accomplish his task without the help of God, who will divide the monster with His sword. . . .  Not only will the flesh of the leviathan furnish food for the table of the righteous, but there will be a great supply of it in the markets of Jerusalem (B. B. l.c.). From the hide of the leviathan God will make tents for the pious of the first rank, girdles for those of the second, chains for those of the third, and necklaces for those of the fourth. The remainder of the hide will be spread on the walls of Jerusalem; and the whole world will be illuminated by its brightness (ib.).

Symbolical Interpretation.

These haggadot concerning the leviathan are interpreted as allegories by all the commentators with the exception of some ultraconservatives like Baḥya ben Asher ("Shulḥan Arba'," ch. iv., p. 9, col. 3). According to Maimonides, the banquet is an allusion to the spiritual enjoyment of the intellect (commentary on Sanh. i.). The name, he says, is derived from V08p038003.jpg (" to join," "to unite"), and designates an imaginary monster in which are combined the most various animals ("Moreh," iii., ch. xxiii.). In the cabalistic literature the "piercing leviathan" and the "crooked leviathan" (Isa. xxvii. 1), upon which the haggadah concerning the hunting of the animal is based, are interpreted as referring to Satan-Samael and his spouse Lilith ("'Emeḳ ha-Melek," p. 130a), while Ḳimḥi, Abravanel, and others consider the expressions to be allusions to the destruction of the powers which are hostile to the Jews (comp. Manasseh ben Israel, "Nishmat Ḥayyim," p. 48; see also Kohut, "Aruch Completum," s. v. "Leviathan," for other references, and his essay in "Z. D. M. G." vol. xxi., p. 590, for the parallels in Persian literature). The haggadic sayings obtained a hold on the imagination of the poets, who introduced allusions to the banquet of the leviathan into the liturgy.

—In Apocryphal Literature:

Both leviathan and behemoth are prominent in Jewish eschatology. In the Book of Enoch (lx. 7-9), Enoch says:

. . . [already quoted above]

According to II Esdras vi. 49-53, God created on the fifth day the two great monsters, leviathan and behemoth, and He separated them because the seventh part of the world which was assigned to the water could not hold them together, and He gave to the behemoth that part which was dried up on the third day and had the thousand mountains which, according to Ps. i. 10, as understood by the haggadists ("the behemoth [A. V. "cattle"] upon a thousand hills"; comp. Lev. R. xxii.; Num. R. xxi.; and Job xl. 20), furnish behemoth with the necessary food. To the leviathan God gave the seventh part of the earth filled with water; and He reserved it for the future to reveal by whom and at what time the leviathan and the behemoth should be eaten.

In the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, xxix. 4, also, the time is predicted when the behemoth will come forth from his seclusion on land and the leviathan out of the sea, and the two gigantic monsters, created on the fifth day, will serve as food for the elect who will survive in the days of the Messiah.

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The NWT Glossary says the following about Leviathan:

*** nwtstg Leviathan ***
An animal usually associated with water, apparently some form of aquatic creature. At Job 3:8 and 41:1, it seems to refer to the crocodile or some other aquatic creature of great proportions and strength. At Psalm 104:26, it may be some type of whale. Elsewhere it is used figuratively and is not identifiable with any one animal.—Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1.

So with words like "apparently" and "seems to refer" the Watchtower publications no longer tie the word to a specific real creature, although the crocodile (or perhaps a type of whale) is still preferred in the sense that it is the only real animal we know of that comes anywhere close to the description.

The Glossary also shows that two important uses (Psalms and Isaiah) are symbolic anyway.

(Psalm 104:25, 26) 25 There is the sea, so great and wide, Teeming with countless living things, both small and great. 26 There the ships travel, And Le·viʹa·than, which you formed to play in it.

This is the reference that the Glossary considers be a whale, since it is far out to sea -- not a place where crocodiles go. A careful reading of Job 41, however, also indicated the depths of the sea in the description of Job's Leviathan.

Psalm 74:14 is quoted here with more context, so that the symbolism is clearer. The symbolism would remind the Jewish readers (and psalm-singers) about Pharoah in Egypt and Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, because both were major "taunters." In context, the main theme seems to be that the Temple had just been burned, and Jehovah seems to have abandoned them, yet they knew Jehovah's power, the same power that could kill a Leviathan. As the book of Job had said, Jehovah had made it and only its Maker could kill it.

(Psalm 74:1-23) 74 Why, O God, have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger burn against the flock of your pasture?  . . . Remember Mount Zion, where you have resided.  3 Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins. The enemy has devastated everything in the holy place.  4 Your foes roared inside your meeting place. They have set up their own banners as signs there.  5 They were like men wielding axes against a thick forest.  6 They broke up all its engravings with axes and iron bars.  7 They set your sanctuary on fire. They profaned the tabernacle bearing your name, casting it to the ground.  8 They and their offspring have said in their hearts: “All the meeting places of God in the land must be burned.”  9 There are no signs for us to see; There is no longer any prophet, And no one among us knows how long this will last. 10 How long, O God, will the adversary keep taunting? Will the enemy treat your name with disrespect forever? 11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Draw it out of your bosom and put an end to them. 12 But God is my King from long ago, The one performing acts of salvation on the earth. 13 You stirred up the sea with your strength; You smashed the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. 14 You crushed the heads of Le·viʹa·than; You gave it as food to the people, to those inhabiting the deserts. . . .18 Remember the enemy’s taunts, O Jehovah, How a foolish people treats your name with disrespect. 19 Do not surrender the life of your turtledove to the wild beasts. Do not forget the life of your afflicted people forever. 20 Remember the covenant, For the dark places of the earth have become full of the haunts of violence. . . . Remember how the foolish taunt you all day long. 23 Do not forget what your foes are saying. The uproar of those who defy you is ascending constantly.

Several things I thought were notable here, not the least of which is the fact that Leviathan has multiple heads in verse 14. Leviathan therefore represents "the taunting adversary." The "wild beasts" in verse 19 wish to swallow up the afflicted people, but the prayer is that Jehovah remember his covenant, and take note that the "taunting" is against his name.

A quick aside: The taunt-song motif, by the way, is known in ancient psalms and poetry. Isaiah 14 is a good example. The idea was also used in one of our old Kingdom Songs. Note the song titled: "The Taunt-Song Against Satan" as Song 75 in the linked songbook that we used from 1950 to 1966. It's a song we rarely sang. The year before I got baptized we got a new songbook, so I barely remember it.

In Isaiah we have a similar reminder that Jehovah could strike the heads of Leviathan (without mentioning Leviathan) so that the Assyrians would have to let the Israelites go back home, just as Jehovah had struck at them when Pharoah trapped them at the Red Sea.

(Isaiah 11:15, 16) 15 And Jehovah will certainly cut off the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and wave his hand at the River [Euphrates, NWT fn]  in the glow of his spirit. And he must strike it in [its] seven torrents, and he will actually cause people to walk in [their] sandals. 16 And there must come to be a highway out of As·syrʹi·a for the remnant of his people who will remain over, just as there came to be [one] for Israel in the day of his coming up out of the land of Egypt.

Note how this same idea is carried forward in Isaiah chapter 27 to a time of full restitution:

(Isaiah 27:1-8) 27 In that day Jehovah, with his harsh and great and strong sword, Will turn his attention to Le·viʹa·than, the gliding serpent, To Le·viʹa·than, the twisting serpent, And he will kill the monster that is in the sea.  . . .  4 There is no wrath in me. Who will confront me with thornbushes and weeds in the battle? I will trample them and set them on fire all together.  . . .  8 With a startling cry you will contend with her when sending her away. He will expel her with his fierce blast in the day of the east wind.

I'm guessing that there might even be a connection between these multiple "heads of Leviathan" and the idea that the dragon and beast of Revelation has 7 heads.

(Revelation 12:3, 4) 3 Another sign was seen in heaven. Look! A great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and on its heads seven diadems;

(Revelation 13:1, 2) . . .And I saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns ten diadems, but on its heads blasphemous names. 2 Now the wild beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like those of a bear, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave to the beast its power and its throne and great authority.

The tie-in to a taunting Adversary is the same as in Psalms and the similar idea in Isaiah. Traditionally, even the old pre-Biblical fables about a "Leviathan" also showed a beast with 7 heads. The similarly described Greek "Hydra" was often shown with 7 heads. This made it a useful symbol of the power of the beastly world powers (who get their power from Satan the Adversary) and which could only be broken at a time when Jehovah sees fit for these powers to be broken.

Note: http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/docman/rendsburg/56-ut-68-and-the-tell-asmar-seal/file

The picture is of the god "Baal" killing the 7 headed "Leviathan" or its near equivalent, dated to older than 2200 BCE. (4,200 years old!)




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In 1948 the Biblical Archaeologist journal had an article that ran about 20 years after the discovery of some related Canaanite Ugaritic texts, that purportedly shed some light on the background of the Leviathan:

Howard Wallace wrote the article in The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Sep., 1948), pp. 61-68. I found the following on page 62 and 63:

Be that as it may, there is no question but that the most famous monster of western civilization is the Biblical Leviathan, whose immediate background is to be sought, not in Babylonian, but in Canaanite mythology. The Ras Shamra texts, found in Syria at the ancient site of Ugarit nearly twenty years ago, record Canaanite myths of the period from 1700 to 1400 B.C. A section of one text tells of the fight of Anath and the dragon. At one point Anath shouts:

  • "I have destroyed the Sea-Dragon, beloved of El,

  • I have slain River of El, the Chief;

  • I muzzled Tannin, I muzzled him (?).

  • I have destroyed the winding serpent,

  • Shalyat of the seven heads

  • I have destroyed the underworld dragon, beloved of El."

In another of the texts ("Baal and the Waters"), we learn of the seven-headed Lotan, the very name from which the word "Leviathan" in the Old Testament is derived. A comparison of the vocabulary of Isaiah 27:1 and three lines from the Ugaritic epic, "The Death of Baal," shows the direct borrowing of the Hebrew from the Canaanite. Two words which describe Lotan and Leviathan are identical in the two languages. They are brh, usually translated "swift" or "gliding," and 'qltn, usually translated "crooked" or "tortuous." [twisted]

I also found these points interesting from page 65:

It must be noted that several Old Testament words are basically related to Leviathan. One is tehom, a word designating primeval chaos. While it is not personified, it is mentioned in Job 41:31,32 as being the dwelling place of Leviathan. (See also Job 28:14; Pro. 3:20; 8:24; Psa. 42:7; 71:20.) Yam, "sea," is more than a mere body of water in many passages; it is an active force, probably reflecting the old myth of the struggle between order and chaos. One of the most interesting of these passages is Job 7:12: "Am I a sea, or a sea-monster, That thou settest a watch over me?" In Ugaritic epics, Baal fights against Zebul-Yam, Prince Sea. The waters or sea rebel against the ruling power in Canaanite mythology, and therefore must be watched by the main god. Leviathan dwells in the sea. Rahab, a sea monster, can be equated with Leviathan in several O. T. passages (Job 9:13; 26:12; Isa. 51:9; Psa. 89:10). Tannin can mean a similar sea monster (as in Psa. 74:13), though having other translations.

Before getting to the next section of the article, I'll quote and highlight some relevant portions of Rev 12 & 13 from the NWT:

(Revelation 12:3-13:4) 3 Another sign was seen in heaven. Look! A great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and on its heads seven diadems; . . . 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, . . . 7 And war broke out in heaven: Miʹcha·el and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them any longer in heaven. 9 So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, . . . “Now . . .  the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God! . . . 12 On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, . . . 14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is to be fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent spewed out water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river. 16 But the earth came to the woman’s help, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon spewed out from its mouth. . . . 13 And it stood still on the sand of the sea. And I saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns ten diadems, but on its heads blasphemous names. . . . 3 I saw that one of its heads seemed to have been fatally wounded, but its mortal wound had been healed, and all the earth followed the wild beast with admiration. 4 And they worshipped the dragon because it gave the authority to the wild beast, and they worshipped the wild beast with the words: “Who is like the wild beast, [Michael="who is like El?"] and who can do battle with it?”

Not sure if any of these other points from the article are very useful, but they might be interesting so I'll include them anyway from page 67-68, with some portions highlighted.

In Rev. 12:3, the "great red dragon, with seven heads, and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his head" is mentioned. Drakon, "dragon," is the usual Septuagint rendering of Leviathan. Only once is Leviathan translated ketos, "sea-monster" (Job 3:8). From Rev. 13:1 on, the beast and the dragon are used interchangeably, as are Leviathan and Rahab and Tannin in the O.T. It may also be noted that abyssos is the Septuagint rendering of tehom, the watery deep. However, by New Testament times, it had become a bottomless pit full of fire and smoke.

In the description of the war in heaven between the dragon and Michael and his angels (Rev. 12:7-12), verse 9 is especially interesting. . . . The war in heaven is an echo of the war in which Tiamat and her hordes were defeated by Marduk and the gods in the Babylonian Creation Story, and in which Baal of Canaanite lore fought against the rebellious waters. Yahweh destroyed Leviathan in the dim past. . . . The primeval struggle between Yahweh and the powers of chaos is transformed in the Christian context into a struggle between God and Satan. Though the heathen powers, and Rome especially, rage as they will, God will triumph over them in the end.

In Chapter 13, two beasts appear. "And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns, . . . Both descriptions seem to be based on Dan. 7:2 ff., and upon the idea that Leviathan has seven heads. Verse 11 reads: "Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth;. . . "

The beast from the earth and the beast from the sea appear very much like Behemoth and Leviathan in Job, chs. 40, 41. II Esdras 6:49-53 indicates that Behemoth and Leviathan will both occupy portions of the world until Judgment Day. Leviathan, as has been stated, was specifically assigned the watery portions, and Behemoth the dry portions. Since both of these beasts play such an important part in Jewish Apocalyptic writings, the author of the Book of Revelation would turn to them in attempting to paint the vivid picture of the coming of the last days.

The last part of chapter 19 and the first part of chapter 20 picture the over-throw of the beast and his armies. "The dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan" in Rev. 20:2 is bound and thrown into the [abyss] bottomless pit. The abyssos and its relation to tehom is again indicative of the whole Leviathan strain, in which Leviathan is the representation of the restless forces of chaos, later to become the representation of evil. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more (Rev. 21:1)." The turbulent waters, the sea, which had been in rebellion against the gods in Babylonian mythology, against Baal in Canaanite literature, and against Yahweh in the O. T., the sea was gone! This is a graphic symbol of the complete abolition of evil in the world.

The article doesn't mention it, but it was interesting that the early rabbinical sayings spoke of the taunting message written on Leviathan's horns. I don't think it's useful to draw more parallels between the ancient symbols used by Canaanites and Babylonias, but more could be drawn from literary evidence. There is another point, not made in this article, but I'm sure some commentators have made it, which draws parallels between Paul's words about the parousia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11, and the actions of the beastly powers mentioned in Revelation.

The more interesting parallels are between the book of Enoch and Revelation. Commentators argue over the idea that Enoch gets quoted verbatim in the book of Jude. But there are at least a dozen more times that ideas found directly in Enoch (and not found directly in the Hebrew Scriptures) are alluded to in the book of Revelation.

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It STILL sounds like Dragons, to me!

...by the way .... you know, of course, that the books of the Bible were compiled by CATHOLICS, primarily Esubius of Cesarea, and others ....

...perhaps they "forgot" to include the book of Enoch, (?) because they had no idea how to explain it to the unwashed masses.

...perhaps that's why we don't consider it part of the Bible, today. (?)

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On 5/12/2017 at 3:18 AM, JW Insider said:

Of course, part of the problem is that Witnesses, like many fundamentalist religions, too, do not want to see "fabulous" creatures in the Bible.

On 5/12/2017 at 6:21 AM, JW Insider said:

So with words like "apparently" and "seems to refer" the Watchtower publications no longer tie the word to a specific real creature,

Interesting back ground research here, particularly as it raises the fascinating question as to why the symbolic references to Satan and to political entities are couched in language that, regardless of intended symbolism, nevertheless appears to reflect commonly held mythical images. The curious use of the word "Tartarus" and the rich man and Lazarus parable being other prime examples of this (to me).

Unfortunately, one can only surmise on the connections, however fascinating the dredging up of detail, which is why the "language of inference", as exemplified in the words of the latter quote above, is the best that can be employed.

There is one thing plainly emphasised to me by this information.

Regardless of the speculative origins of the Leviathan or Behemoth as literal animals,  the"composite" beastial imagery in reference to political powers, even the association of a "dragon" with the real ruler of this world, the reality of what these symbolic references relate to, namely Satan's domination of mankind by means of political entities through history, is far more terrifying and dangerous to any who wish to serve Jehovah than any literal beast, imagined or otherwise.

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4 hours ago, Gone Fishing said:

The curious use of the word "Tartarus" and the rich man and Lazarus parable being other prime examples of this (to me).

I think at least a part of the explanation is that many literal readers of the Bible are unable to grasp the "poetry" and symbolism of the Bible. Poetry (often through lyrics) once captured the imagination of many readers and hearers of the Bible and almost every other story and history that was handed down from generation to generation. Poetry puts the mind of the hearer in a state that was ready to immediately see meaning in ideas that were not necessarily true in a literal way.

Jesus (and James) more often taught with the symbolism of rural life. (i.e., sheep, goats, farms, fields, grain, harvest, weeds, trees, fruit, rain, sun, rocks.) Paul more often used the symbols of urban, city life, and rarely used the pastoral symbols Jesus used. These symbols seem so natural to their methods of teaching.

There was also the ability to use symbols from Jewish (or even Greek/Roman) literature and folklore that was not necessarily true in a total literal sense but which added depth and meaning to the Christian teachings. Satan as a dragon was one of these. Ideas about the Greek Tartarus, and perhaps even the Greek Hades, on occasion, could make a point through analogy. Reference to books like Enoch, The Assumption of Moses, "Jannes and Jambres," etc.,  would more easily adapt to the poetic mind than the literalist, fundamentalist mind. Perhaps this applies:

  • (1 Corinthians 2:14-16) 14 But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. 15 However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. 16 For “who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, so that he may instruct him?” But we do have the mind of Christ.
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