What is the Leviathan?
The tale of Leviathan has been a source of curiosity among many Christians and non-believers alike since the inception of the creature was expressed in the pages of the Bible. Leviathan is known to be a fearsome primordial being that ruled over all other creatures of the sea. There are varying descriptions of the origins and intent of the creature in history – though most would agree that Leviathan is dangerous and capable of terrifying destruction.
The Leviathan is known to be an enormous sea monster that was one of Yahweh’s (the Christian god) original creations. There were several other creatures of equal power that were created, but the Leviathan was known to be the most dangerous of them all. There are many different theories as to what inspired the tales of the Leviathan, but most are centered around the demonstrating the almighty power of Yahweh.
It is also possible that Leviathan was adapted into Christian religion as a way of making it easier for people from other cultures to convert to Christianity. This is a popular theory because of ancient myths and legends from cultures that predate Christianity and tell of a mighty sea serpent that is overcome by a benevolent protective deity. This also causes some to wonder if the tale was inspired by a real creature that was interpreted differently in various religions and cultures.
Leviathan is Created
It is thought that Leviathan was created as one of the first creatures and was one of three primordial beings that could hold great power on the earth. Behemoth (a bull-like creature) was given dominance over the land. Ziz (a dragon-like creature) was given reign over the skies. Lastly, Leviathan was given rule over all the seas – though the Mediterranean was to be his home. The mighty Leviathan was thought to be the most powerful of these three creatures. This is possibly because of the dangers that are associated with the sea and possibly because the Leviathan was known to be destructive while Behemoth and Ziz were peaceful creatures.
In the beginning, there were supposedly two Leviathan’s – a male and a female. They were made to keep each other company in the seas. As time went on, however, it became clear that both creatures could not be allowed to survive. This was supposedly because the Leviathan would take over (and possibly devour) the world if they were able to create offspring. Alternative versions also say that it was only necessary to kill one of the Leviathan because it had been corrupted by an evil entity – causing it to lose its gentle nature and become a creature of great destructive power.
Yahweh Kills the Female Leviathan
To preserve the lives of his other creations, Yahweh descended to the earth to destroy the female Leviathan. There was a great struggle between Yahweh and the female Leviathan because of her great strength. However, because Yahweh was all powerful, he was eventually able to kill the female and save the rest of his creations from destruction. The male Leviathan is bitter because of the loss of his companion and awaits the end times when he will battle with Yahweh.
After killing the female Leviathan, Yahweh used the skin from her corpse to create a beautiful canopy. It is known that the Leviathan has one of the most beautiful skins of all Yahweh’s creatures, making this canopy especially exquisite. Under the canopy, a feast made of the flesh from the beast lays on a table. It is said that when the righteous are taken to Paradise in the rapture, they will sit down with Yahweh under this canopy and feast upon the flesh of both Leviathans and of Behemoth.
Yahweh also used the remaining skin of the Leviathan female and used it to make ‘Garments of Light’ for Adam and Eve. Although they had been disobeyed the will of Yahweh from eating the forbidden fruit, Yahweh helped to ensure their protection on earth by giving them these special clothes.
The Threat Posed by Leviathan
Many creation tales that reference the Leviathan say that Yahweh made the creature (along with Ziz and Behemoth) as a way of demonstrating his mighty power. By creating the most powerful creatures on land, in the seas, and in the skies, Yahweh showed his great power, which helped to humble the rest of his creations.
The Leviathan, however, posed a special sort of problem for many early peoples. It was the only one of the three creatures that was known to have a destructive nature and was largely regarded as an evil being. In addition to being extremely dangerous, the Leviathan was known to be impossible for man alone to defeat.
Legend tells us that the Leviathan was at least 300 miles in length. The exact size of the creature was unknown because the size of the Leviathan was too big to be comprehended by man. This mighty sea creature was known to have a hot temper that was feared by all and armored scales that made it impossible to kill the beast.
In fact, the scales of the Leviathan are said to be one of the most impressive qualities of the creature. Many creation myths claim that the Leviathan had a double layer of armored scales that protected its flesh. These scales were layered so closely together that not even air could get through! Though these details tell us that the beast was mighty, it does not give much insight into what type of animal the Leviathan might mimic. Many theorize that the beast is likely a large serpent or dragon. Others believe that the Leviathan could be a large whale.
Curiously, the Leviathan has more than just fearsome characteristics – it is also known for its strange beauty. The mighty sea beast is also known to have qualities that are fluorescent in nature. Its eyes are said to have a dim sort of light that is thought to intensify if the head of the Leviathan breaks the surface of the ocean. Its skin also has a beautiful glow – especially its flippers which are known to have what appear to be halos floating above them.
Perhaps most terrifying about the Leviathan is that this creature is not necessarily evil but does enjoy chaos – especially among Yahweh’s chosen creatures. The Leviathan was a creature that was terrifying to all because of its many abilities.
It was known that the Leviathan could breathe fire. When the head of the creature broke the surface of the waters, flames were said to shoot out from its mouth and nostrils. Flames also shot out from its eyes when above the surface. The monster’s heat abilities are not limited with this however. The Leviathan was known to be able to make the water around itself boil. This allowed it to kill its prey and generally terrorize humans.
Additionally, the beast was known to have extremely foul breath. Its odor was essentially poison – any person or creature that encountered the breath of the monster would die. There are passages in ancient texts that suggest the Leviathan would kill every living thing in Paradise if allowed in – just from the smell of its breath.
Possible Connections to Earlier Mythology
Although many Christian scholars would maintain that the tale of Leviathan is true and that it was original to their religion, there are several earlier stories from other cultures that make this questionable. Because of the overlap between the following tales, many have come to one of two conclusions.
The first conclusion is that Christians used the tale of sea serpents being overcome by an all-powerful deity to help people from other cultures have an easier time converting to Christianity. This is a likely conclusion because there are many similarities between the stories. Additionally, Christianity is known to have used this technique before to convert non-believers.
The second conclusion is that there was a sea creature that lived during the time of these ancient cultures that inspired these tales. While some theorize that the Leviathan was inspired by a creature that no longer exists on this earth, others believe that the monster may be an exaggeration of creatures that can be found in modern day.
Hadad (Baal) Versus Lotan
Hadad (also known as Baal) was a storm god that served as a protector to society similar to the way Zeus and Marduk were known to protect their people. Because the storm god was able to protect the people and the earth by sending them rains to grow their crops, he was associated with being a benevolent deity.
The serpent god, however, was seen in the opposite manner. A seven-headed dragon creature named Lotan was known to lurk in the depths of the ocean and was seen as a threat to creation. However, because Hadad is known to have great powers, he is able to defeat the mighty Lotan.
After he defeats his enemy, it is said that he used the body of the creature to create the world that the humans now live on. Similar themes can be found in other versions of the struggle against Leviathan in many cultures.
Marduk Versus Tiamat
The story of Tiamat’s fight with Marduk is an ancient story that was passed down from Babylonian mythology. The story tells of Tiamat – a powerful entity (one of the first created) who took her form as a fiery dragon monster. Alternate versions of the story claim that she was also the watery Chaos of the universe. Both versions have notable connections to the description of Leviathan.
Tiamat was known to sabotage the work of young gods who attempted make life. There were many attempts to create life that was separate from the gods, but Tiamat destroyed all these new worlds. Finally, Marduk (a young god) was able to defeat the evil Tiamat in a terrible battle. When the battle was finished, he used her corpse to create the heavens and the earth.
Zeus Versus Typhon
Greek mythology also makes mention of the all-powerful deity – Zeus – and his encounter with a terrible serpent beast named Typhon. In this version of the story, Typhon is created by Gaea (Mother Earth) when she unites with Tartarus (the Underworld) to create a monster that was fearsome enough to kill Zeus and take his place.
Typhon was a terrible serpent creature that was known to have incredible powers. The beast was known to have a terrible appearance that struck fear into the hearts of anyone (mortal or otherwise) who saw him. Like Leviathan, Typhon was said to be able to spit streams of fire from his mouth.
Typhon and Zeus struggle in a mighty battle, but the serpent beast is eventually overcome when Zeus throws a giant mountain on top of the beast, trapping him underneath the earth.
Thor Versus Jormungandr
In Norse mythology, Thor encounters a beast known as Jormungandr (also known as the Midgard Serpent) when he is challenged by Loki to three feats. In the second feat, Thor is challenged to lift a cat. Try as he might, he is unable to lift more than the paw of the cat and he becomes frustrated. His frustration is decreased when he realizes that the kitten is actually a serpent that was large enough to circle the entire world of Midgard (the middle world where humans live). This description is very similar to the description that was provided by Abraham Isaac Kook, leading some scholars to believe the Midgard Serpent could be another depiction of Leviathan.
Thor and Jormungandr meet again several times. The last of these times is said to be the end times, known as Ragnarök. During the battles of Ragnarök, Thor will finally be able to overcome the vile beast – though unlike other depictions of Leviathan versus a powerful deity, Thor is also killed in this battle.
The Leviathan in Different Religions
The Leviathan is portrayed in several religions and is known in all these religions for its mystery and intrigue. The mighty beast is typically only mentioned a few times in each text – likely so that the followers of these religions are able to understand its power but not confuse its might with that of Yahweh. Although the Leviathan is most commonly recognized as a Christian monster, it can also be referenced in Judaism and Satanism.
Leviathan in Christianity
In Christianity, the Leviathan is known to be a mighty beast that was created by Yahweh to show his great power over all living things. However, this was not always the case.
It appears that early Christianity may have referenced the Leviathan as an evil entity (almost equivalent to a god). This powerful entity could only be conquered by the mighty Yahweh. From this point, Leviathan eventually became a demon beast that could only be conquered by Yahweh. Finally, Leviathan is recognized as a ferocious beast. While this beast was terrifying, it was not as powerful as an entity or demon would be and was easily tamed and defeated by Yahweh.
It is partially because of the changes in the Leviathan narrative that many people believe Leviathan was adapted from other religions or cultural mythology. It is thought that Leviathan would have remained the same throughout Christian storytelling tradition if it was a legend that originated with their religion.
However, Leviathan has also adopted other meanings through the Christian religion. It is thought that the creature may also be one of the seven deadly sins. Those who follow this interpretation believe that Leviathan is the demon of envy. There are also those who go a step further and claim that Leviathan is an alternative image for Satan himself.
Leviathan in Judaism
Judaism offers even more insight into the Leviathan and where it originated. There are a few conflicting tales (which may be due to differences in translation) that speak on the Leviathan.
One of the first references to the Leviathan tells us that the creature is a female dragon who lives in the depths of the ocean (sometimes referred to as a watery abyss). This beast will be served up at the end of time and feasted on by the righteous.
Other versions of Leviathan claim that the beast is male. Like Christianity, this version tells us that there was once a male and female Leviathan, but the female was killed to prevent the two from creating offspring and devouring the earth. It is thought that the flesh of the female Leviathan was given in part to the Hebrews as food in the wilderness.
The Jewish texts also give us insight into the biology of the beast. Apparently, the creature eats one whale every day to sustain itself. In fact, the whale that swallowed Jonah narrowly escaped being swallowed by the Leviathan. The most interesting piece of information however, concerts the fears of the mighty beast. Though many texts claim that the Leviathan couldn’t be killed by anyone but Yahweh, Jewish texts tell us that the one fear of the mighty creature was the kilbit.
The kilbit was a type of worm which was able to kill large fish by clinging to their gills. This suggests that Leviathan was vulnerable to attacks – though undoubtedly if the beast were to be killed in this manner it would be by the will of Yahweh.
Lastly, a scholar by the name of Abraham Isaac Kook describes the Leviathan as a singular creature, “it’s tail placed in its mouth, twisting around and encompassing the world.” It is thought that this is a representation of the systems of the world. The circular nature of Leviathan indicates the balance that can be found in Yahweh’s creation.
Leviathan in the Satanic Bible
Leviathan is also mentioned in the Satanic Bible. In these texts, it suggests that Leviathan is associated with the water element (being the ruler of the seas) and western directions. The mighty beast is thought to be one of the 4 Crowned Princes of Hell as well – a powerful and respected position.
Interestingly enough, the Leviathan is also commonly associated with the Baphomet (a deity supposedly worshiped by the Knights Templar). It is shown in the Satanic Bible that each of the points on the Sigil of Baphomet was a representation of Leviathan.
The Hell Mouth
Over time, Leviathan eventually became associated with the creature known as ‘The Hell Mouth.’ It is thought that the Hell Mouth was the mouth of the fearsome beast that was supposed to rise up during the end of times. It is thought that the damned and the non-believers will disappear into the Hell Mouth during the final judgement.
Those who believe Leviathan is associated with this creature claim that after the damned have disappeared into its mouth, Yahweh will descend upon the earth to have a final battle with the Leviathan. After this battle, its flesh will be served to the righteous.
Origin of the Myth
There are many explanations for the myth of Leviathan. The creature is known by many names in many cultures and has inspired much fear because of its great power.
Adaptation from Other Cultures
It’s no secret that Christianity had a habit of adapting myths from other cultures into their religion. It is thought that this was done to make the process of converting to Christianity easier for non-believers. There are many myths that reflect the same theme and formatting that can be found in other cultures. One such myth originates with the Babylonians – who are known to have worshiped pagan gods that were not accepted by Christians.
Another possibility for the similarities between myths is that the creature that inspired the myths was faced by all cultures and religions, leading to similar mythology. Some scholars suggest that the creation of Leviathan was simply an exaggeration of the crocodile. While this does have some credit in scholarly circles because of the nature of the crocodile (its armored skin made it difficult to kill) it is unlikely that this was the true inspiration. This is because while difficult to overcome, a crocodile was not impossible for ancient man to kill. In fact, many records show that crocodiles were hunted by groups of men who would force the mouth of the beast open to deliver a fatal blow. The mighty Leviathan could never be conquered by man, making the crocodile an unlikely candidate.
Another Sea Beast
Other scholars suggest that the Leviathan could have been inspired by another type of sea beast that remains undiscovered by modern man. This theory is popular among many scholars and theorists (especially those interested in pseudoscience and cryptids). Those who support this line of thought are quick to point to the many tales of the beast in ancient cultures. They also look to the legend of the Kraken – who, like Leviathan, seems to undefeatable and leave few witnesses behind.