Psalm 104:24-34 CEB
24 Lord, you have done so many things!
You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,
with its countless creatures--
living things both small and large.
26 There go the ships on it,
and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!
27 All your creations wait for you
to give them their food on time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to dust.
30 When you let loose your breath, they are created,
and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.
31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
32 He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
34 Let my praise be pleasing to him;
I’m rejoicing in the Lord!
Perhaps you thought I would be talking about Pentecost today. I know, I'm kinda surprised myself. I will post some great Pentecost blogs/meditations/articles throughout the week. For some reason, I'm really called to talk today about Leviathan.
I think the call happened last week. Someone suggested when Leviathan was mentioned in Job 3 and 41, it was Job and God talking about dinosaurs. When I read it, I knew exactly where he was coming from. He is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). Leviathan and Behemoth, in YEC, are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs, in YEC, are really dragons. If you want to go down that rabbit hole, there is a great blog with great links here.
My theology is not young Earth based. I am also not an old Earth creationist, but I tend to believe Old Earth Creationists more than Young Earth Creationists. I don't want to debate creation. More than that, you don't want me to debate creation. Anyway, Bill Nye and Ken Ham already had that argument, so we can move on for now.
What I want to do is quickly explain the history of Leviathan. It comes up in lectionary this week, so I have a weak excuse to do it.
In mythology, the Canaanites believed Baal (Yes, the same Baal with Elijah, the mountain, the water and fire and what not.) fought Leviathan, and Baal won.
Also called Lotan, this twisting serpent had to be defeated in order to hold stability over creation.
In Christian text, outside of the bible, it is the Arch-Angel Michael who eventually slays Leviathan. There are multiple stained glass windows, icons, and other works of art depicting the death.
The picture chosen for this piece is constellation of Draco. (Only related in both Leviathan and Draco being dragons.)
There are a few places Leviathan show up in scripture, and how we should feel about the character is different depending on the scripture we choose to read.
3:8= Job, in his utter anguish, seeks Leviathan to just completely destroy creation. (Don't take it too seriously. Many of us say things we don't mean when we are dealing with loss.)
26:12-13= Job tells his friends about God piercing the fleeing serpent. This is reference to Leviathan, made in Isaiah.
41:1-34= I personally love God's speech to Job at the end of the book. There are some beautiful moments of imagery. When God speaks of the Leviathan, the speech speaks of Leviathan's terror, and God's control. I have always translated the speech to be God explaining the world, even the scary world, is loved by God.
In two Psalms:
Psalm 74:13-14= God's power destroyed Leviathan. A task humans are not able to do on our own.
Psalm 104:26= This is just a moment were we can see a monster/dragon playing. Because this is the lectionary text, let me expand just a little. Leviathan is a monster born of chaos. Chaos existed at the beginning of creation, in the water. (If you read Genesis1:1-2, a literal representation shows water existed before creation. Therefore, as God ordered the chaos, the chaos still existed in water.) Leviathan is a creature of pre-order, or of chaos. By the way, I am not a literalist.
27:1= Here, Leviathan is seen as a twisting serpent, and dragon. God kills Leviathan with a strong sword. It is symbolic of the wicked being destroyed, so Israel can be redeemed.
Very loosely in Revelation: (Rev 12:3, 9; 13:1; 17:3) In Canaanite mythology Leviathan was described as a seven-headed sea serpent. Revelation describes Christ battling a seven-headed dragon. This dragon is really Satan, the accuser.
William Kethe, who wrote an interpretation of Psalm 104, called the Leviathan a whale. This is also what Henry Vaughan did in his version.
Some believe Leviathan and Behemoth were real. Much like there are those who believe Sea Cows were mistaken as mermaids, there are some who believe Behemoth is actually a hippo, and Leviathan a crocodile.
Resources for future reference:
Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Job
Harper Collin's Bible Dictionary
Interpretation (A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching): Job
The Psalms in English