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What was the leviathan the Bible talks about?

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In several places, the Bible mentions a large sea-creature called the leviathan. The word "leviathan" comes from the Hebrew word meaning "twisted, coiled" and the creature's name tells us something about its appearance. Other descriptions of the leviathan in the Bible fill out the picture. This creature was large, very strong, and it was a predator or "monster" which people actively tried to avoid. The leviathan was a creature that only God could tame.

God used the leviathan to illuminate His own power and wisdom to Job. He called the leviathan "a creature without fear" because nothing on earth was its equal, and no man or beast could subdue or overpower leviathan (Job 41:33). It was untamable, and terrifying (v. 25), and no weapon could pierce its mighty scales (Job 41:13, 15–17, 26, 28–29). It could break iron in pieces as easily as breaking straw (v. 27) and death awaits anyone who approaches its mouth (v. 18–21). Despite the leviathan's great strength, God is greater: He rhetorically pointed out to Job that He could "play with [leviathan] as a bird" and "put him on a leash for your girls" (Job 41:5). The leviathan, as mighty as it was, would "make many pleas" to God, and speak to him softly, asking God to make a covenant with him and take him on as a servant (Job 41:1–5). This illustration was meant to show Job that God was far more powerful than the most powerful creature in Job's experience.

If Job had not been aware of this creature, God's illustration would have made little sense, but Job clearly understood (Job 42:2–6). Some have postulated that leviathan was a crocodile, a whale or shark, or some similar creature that we see today. However, its name, the biblical descriptions, and the logic of God's argument to Job, suggests instead a giant sea-serpent of some kind, possibly a creature that terrorized the ancient world and is now extinct.

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