Saturday, February 25

Misconceptions about Genesis

A misconception can be defined as "an erroneous conception; mistaken notion" or "a false or mistaken view, opinion, or attitude."[1-2] The Bible has had a major influence on Western society. It has influenced art and music, film and television, books and magazines, college courses, among a plethora of other things. As a result of this diffusion, while not contrived, the influence of the Biblical text has led to the formation of various misconceptions about what the text actually says. For example, a more common misconception is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. According to the New Testament, however, no such claim is presented. In truth, Mary Magdalene is presented as a follower of Jesus Christ, who, aside from her presence at His resurrection appearances, is mentioned only as one of the women "who had been healed of evil spirits and sickness: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her)" (Luke 8:2). Another misconception relating to Mary is that her last name was actually Magdalene. Actually, Mary Magdalene (Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή) which has been taken by many to refer to Magdala, the town believed to have been located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias). When it comes to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we may also expect to find various misconceptions arise, and indeed, many have arisen.

To note, the title itself, Genesis, comes from Latin Vulgate (a 4th century translation of the Bible), which was itself borrowed from (or transliterated) the Greek γένεσις, meaning "origin." In the Hebrew, it is called Bereʾšyt (בְּרֵאשִׁית), after the words "In the beginning." Of interest, Cain named the first city in our history after his son, Enoch, which essentially also means "origin," though not specifically. In this article, we will attempt to address specific misconceptions concerning the book of Genesis. Note that in addressing some aspects of a misconception, some interpretation may be involved, with the reader may disagree with. Regardless, there are various misconceptions which many scholars, historians and laymen can agree upon, and we will attempt to note when there is open debate about a particular misconception. These misconceptions follow in no particular order, not of import nor of Biblical appearance.

Misconception 1: The garden of Eden was located in the Middle East, between where the Tigris and Euphrates are located today. While this is not out of the realm of probability, there is a low chance. The text of Genesis actually mentions four rivers, and only two of them were the Tigris (or Hiddekel) and Euphrates. Genesis 2:8, 10-11, 13-14 says, "Now the LORD God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good fro food.... A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold... The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of the Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." People have struggled down the ages to identify where the Edenic garden was located, even the theologian John Calvin. Calvin observed that the description given in Genesis is mutually exclusive with the current location of the Tigris and Euphrates.

The modern Tigris and Euphrates rivers were most likely named after their antediluvian counterparts, as were other features of the post-flood world. When Noah and his family exited the ark, they likely retained the names of different landmarks in their world, and with that world gone, they used names which would have been familiar to them. The global flood would have destroyed the face of the earth. "If most of the sedimentary strata over the earth's surface (many thousands of feet thick in places) is the result of the global catastrophe as creationists believe, then we would have no idea where the Garden of Eden was originally located - the earth's surface totally changed as a result of the Flood. Not only this, but underneath the region where the present Tigris and Euphrates River are located there exists thousands of feet of sedimentary strata - a significant number of which is fossiliferous. Such fossil-bearing strata had to be laid down at the time of the Flood."[3] The location of the garden of Eden will continue to be debated by scholars and laymen alike, but the misconception is often perpetuated that the Edenic paradise was located precisely where the modern Tigris and Euphrates. If we take the context of the entire book of Genesis, however, the global flood does not appear to allow for this possibility. 

Misconception 2: The fruit eaten by Adam and Eve was an apple. Perhaps the most common misconception concerning the Genesis account; this misconception came about for various reasons. The text of Genesis itself does not state at any point exactly what kind of fruit Adam and Eve actually ate. What we are told is that they ate of the fruit of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil." Granted, the fruit could have been an apple. Some suggest that it was a fig, based on the fact that Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). We may wonder, however - if the tree was a fig tree, why was it not identified as such, when figs are actually mentioned? The apple, which has become a kind of symbol for the fall of man, is not mentioned in the account of the fall. Greek and Celtic mythology both included an apple, which belonged to a love goddess and symbolized desire. To note, the legend of Heracles (Hercules) includes (as one of his twelve labors) a trek to the Garden of Hesperides. In the legend, Heracles is sent by Hera to retrieve golden apples - which are guarded by the Hesperides Drakon, a hundred-headed dragon. With this background, we may acknowledge two things: 1) the Greek legend may have been based on the historical account of Adam and Eve (although some will suggest otherwise) and 2) the account includes both a kind of serpent, and special fruit. The inclusion of apples in the Greek garden may have contributed to the misconception that Adam and Eve ate an apple. Also, in Norse mythology, apples are considered a divine fruit, and source of immortality.

Also, "When Aquila of Pontus translated the Song of Solomon from Hebrew to Greek in the second century A.D., he rendered 'I raised thee up under the apple tree; there my mother brought me forth' as 'I raised thee up under the apple tree; there wast thou corrupted' - evidently taking the verse to refer to the forbidden tree. St. Jerome, translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin [in the 4th century AD], followed suit, and the idea has persisted ever since."[4] Another possible reason that this misconception has persisted may be due to the usage of the word "apple" in Middle English (11th-15th centuries AD), which was used to refer to all fruits and nuts (aside from berries). Popular tradition has held that the fruit was an apple.[5] Renaissance art (14th-17th centuries) also adapted parts of Greek mythology into Biblical paintings, including the garden of Eden. As Greek legend held that the Garden of Hesperides contained golden apples, this was carried over into the Edenic paintings. Yet another point to consider is that the laryngeal prominence, which is the lump on the human neck found to be more prominent in males - commonly referred to as the male's "Adam's apple." Although tradition has identified the fruit in Eden as the apple, the Biblical text itself does not.

Misconception 3: The book of Genesis identifies the serpent in Eden as Satan. The biblical text itself only notes the serpent as "more crafty than all the wild animals" (Genesis 3:1). Where, then, does this misconception arise from? Before exploring where the identification comes from, understand that the claim is not being that the serpent was not Satan, simply that Genesis does not identify him as Satan. While Satan influences the serpent in Eden as recorded in Genesis (the first book in Scripture), Satan is not identified as the serpent until Revelation (the last book in Scripture). Whether Satan simply influenced the serpent, disguised himself as a serpent or actually possessed the serpent is beyond the range of this article. Conclusively, Revelation 12:9 says, "The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray," and Revelation 20:2 says, "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years" (emphasis mine). The entomology of Satan's name was briefly mentioned by Justin Martyr (and early church father and apologist) about AD 156.

Justin noted, "Or he meant the devil by the lion roaring against Him: whom Moses calls the serpent, but in Job and Zechariah he is called the devil, and by Jesus is addressed as Satan, showing that a compounded name was acquired for him by the deeds which he performed. For 'Sata' in the Jewish and Syrian tongue means apostate; and 'Nas' is the word from which he is called by interpretation the serpent, i.e., according to the interpretation of the Hebrew term, from both of which there arises the single word Satanas."[6] Therefore, while Genesis itself does not identify the serpent as Satan, elsewhere in Scripture, he is indeed identified as Satan, "that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan" (Revelation 20:2).

Misconception 4: God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. Often, well-meaning Christians, when describing intimacy with our Creator, will refer to God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. However, as with the other misconceptions, Genesis does not actually state that God walked with Adam and Eve during the cool of the day. In all likelihood, this misconception is derived from Genesis 3:8, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden." This scene was post-fall, i.e., after the fall of man. In other words, God is not described as having walked with Adam and Eve in the pre-fall world, and in this reference, when Adam and Eve heard God, they hide from Him. Surely, Adam and Eve shared an intimacy with God known to few human beings, and may have indeed walked with God pre-fall, but Genesis does not mention such an occurrence. The first reference to someone who "walked with God" was Enoch, the seventh from Adam. Genesis 5:22-24 says, "After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (cf. Hebrews 11:5). While Enoch essentially "walked with God," it was in the sense of following God faithfully in a spiritual sense.

Misconception 5: Childbirth/sex began after the fall of man (and/or) pain existed before the fall, according to Genesis 3:16. This particular misconception generally arises from a cursory reading of Genesis 3:16, "I will make your pains in childbearing very severe, with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and you will strike his heel." Another translation reads, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." The misconception is then twofold: Eve would have borne children in pain before the fall, and there was no sex before the fall. As a result of socio-historical influences, many have been led to believe that sex in and of itself is inherently bad. However, that is an unbiblical teaching. Sex itself was created by God before the fall. In fact, the misconception here arises because of the belief that God mentions conception, and therefore, woman could bear children only after sin entered into creation. When it comes to the increase in sorrow and conception, Bodie Hodge noted:

"Consider that Eve not only went through the pain of child bearing during delivery, but she also had to endure the loss of Abel, her own son, slain by his own brother. Consider also Mary, who saw her son Jesus die on the Cross... it would be rare, if not impossible, to find a mother who has not seen her children suffer in some manner, from starvation to sickness, cuts, scrapes, and so on... in a pre-Fall world with no death or its associated aspect of suffering (Romans 5:12)... pain would have been non-existent. So an increase (where death and suffering entered the creation) wouldn't necessarily mean that this pain previously existed, but its mere entrance into the world made for an increase. From nothing to something is obviously an increase. With regard to physical pain, as in childbearing, a similar reading can be applied. Increased pain doesn't necessarily mean pain before. Consider what physical pain is. With your hand, you can touch a surface that is warm and you can detect the warm surface. There is no pain involved, merely sensation. However, if the surface temperature increases, at some point the sensation turns to pain. In the same way, if I were to put my hand between two objects that merely rested against my hand, then I would have sensation. But if the objects began to 'sandwich' my hand and continued to squeeze together, there would become a point where it is no longer mere sensation but pain. Increased physical pain doesn't mean there was pain before, but merely sensations that were useful. So pain wasn't a part of the original creation, but sensation - the sense of touch - was."[7]

Indeed, there are various reasons for the entrance of pain at the fall. An increase in the intensity of sensation, potential design changes (such as pelvis bones for childbearing), and the change from a perfect state to an imperfect state all contribute to this. But what of the misconception that there was no sex until after the Fall? In actually, after creating Eve, God commands Adam and Eve to "Be fruitful and increase in number [or multiply]" (Genesis 1:28). In other words, the first command to mankind was, "thou shalt have sex." This command was given prior to fall the before, indeed, God did not declare His creation "very good" (Genesis 1:31) until after giving Adam and Eve this command. Sex itself was created in God's perfect creation, between Adam and Eve, between "man... [and] his wife, and they [in marriage] will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Conclusively, the "pain" issue is simply a matter of an increase in the intensity of sensation, and the "sex" issue was not a post-fall "curse," but indeed, an ante-fall (pre-fall) commandment given by God.

Misconception 6: Cain murdered Abel with a rock or club. While in all likelihood the weapon of choice which Cain utilized to murder his brother could have been a rock or a club, the text itself does not actually say how Cain killed Abel. The text of Genesis 4:8 says, "Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let's go out to the field.' And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." To note, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac and the Masoretic Text do not have the phrase, "Let's go out to the field." Does the Bible, when speaking of Abel, describe exactly how he was murdered? 1st John 3:12 says, "Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous," Matthew 23:35 refers to the "blood of the righteous Abel," Hebrews 12:24 mentions "to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel," and Hebrews 11:4 says, "By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead." It seems as if we do not have a Biblical reference concerning how Abel was murdered.

Where does the "misconception" arise that Cain murdered Abel with a stone/rock? One of the texts that likely gave rise to this belief is found in the pseudipigraphal work, the book of Jubilees (c.160-150 BC). The relevant text conveys, "At the close of this jubilee Cain was killed after him in the same year; because his house fell on him and he died in the middle of his house, and he was killed by its stones. With a stone he had killed Abel, and by a stone he was killed in righteous judgment" (Jubilees 4:31). The pseudipigraphal works, 1st Enoch 22:7 and The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs 12:7, make reference to the murder of Abel, but not the means by which he was killed. Flavius Josephus (1st century Jewish historian), along with early Jewish traditions, also make reference to Cain and Abel. It seems as if the book of Jubilees, at least in part, contributed to the belief that Abel was murdered by a stone. Biblically, we may be able to examine a few considerations. After the fall, God "made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Genesis 3:20), implying the slaying of an animal. We see this in Genesis 4:4, "But Abel also brought an offering - fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering." Abel probably used a sacrificial knife (perhaps made of stone), and as Cain had seen his brother use it in action, could have used it, in turn, to murder Abel. Ultimately, we do not know how Abel was killed, as the text of Genesis does not say. Indeed, it could have been a stone or a club, but the text itself does not explicitly tell us.

Misconception 7: The animals on the ark were only two by two. There is a children's sing along that mentions the animals on the ark as "two by two." Popular media in general has also often portrayed the animals in this way. Those who read Genesis for the first time may read into the text the various misconceptions they have heard (including those aforementioned, more often than not), and thus, when they come across a reference to animals entering by sevens, an alleged contradiction presents itself. This is a case where a simply misconception lends itself to belief in a biblical contradiction. But no such contradiction exists. Genesis 7:2-3 records, "Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair [two] of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth." However, Genesis 7:8-9 says that pairs of every kind of animal, male and female, entered the ark. Is this indeed a contradiction? In verses 8 and 9, Moses indicates how many kinds - not species - entered the ark. As they entered the ark, they went in as male and female, simply the orderly manner in which they entered the ark.

Concerning verses 2 and 3, clean animals entered the ark in groups of sevens (7 males and 7 females), and unclean animals entered in pairs (one male and one female). Jewish dietary law has more clean than unclean animals, hence, more animals entered the ark by sevens. Again, there is no contradiction, but a mere misconception toward the number of animals. There were seven pairs of clean animals, and one pair of unclean animals - and both entered the ark in an orderly fashion, as male and female.

Misconception 8: Humans can only live to be 120 years old. This misconception comes from a cursory reading of Genesis 6:3, which says, "Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are corrupt; their days will be a hundred and twenty years." Is God conveying that man can live to be only 120? If that is the case, how do we explain the fact that Noah's grandson (post-flood) lived to be 403 (Genesis 6:13), or Shelah (403), Eber (430), Peleg (209), Reu (207), Serug (200), Abraham (175), and Job (140+ years, probably about 200)? Upon closer examination, God is not stating that man will live to be one hundred and twenty years old. Evidently, between the time which God declared this statement and the time of the global flood, 120 years passed. Whether Noah had 120 years to build the Ark is another consideration, as God commanded his sons and daughter-in-laws on the ark with him (Genesis 6:18), implying that his sons were old enough to have married. But his first son was not born until twenty years after God gave the statement, and hence, Noah likely had less than 100 years to build the ark. Regardless, God's decree of 120 years was the limit of years left for mankind to repent. According to 2nd Peter 2:5, during the time which he was building the ark, Noah preached to others, yet none but his family appears to have listened.

Misconception 9: Nimrod built the Tower of Babel. While it is quite possible that Nimrod led the people to build the Tower of Babel, the text of Genesis does not actually state that Nimrod built Babel. This misconception is based, in part, on an interpretation of Genesis 10:10, which describes the cities of Nimrod, "The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar [Babylonia]." As the Bible attributes the formation of Babylon to Nimrod, and Genesis 11:2 mentions the Tower of Babel (and its city) as being built in Shinar (Babylonia), and the location is later named "Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world" (Genesis 11:9), with the notion that Babel is Babylon, it is indeed highly likely that Nimrod built the Tower of Babel (along with others, of course). Again, while this concept can be derived from Scriptural clues, Genesis does not state that Nimrod was involved in the development of the tower Babel and its city. Aside from Genesis 10, where does the concept that Nimrod built Babel come from?

Nimrod has traditionally been considered the leader of those who built the Tower even from Classical times. Flavius Josephus (1st century historian) said, "Now it was Nimrod who exited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, - a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God as if it was through his means they were happy, but ti believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness" (Antiquities This idea is also taught in the Talmud (Chullin 89a, Pesahim 94b, Erubin 53a, Avodah Zarah 53b) and in later midrash (a form of Biblical exegesis), including the Genesis Rabba. Ephrem the Syrian (c.AD 306-373), a Christian theologian, held the view that Nimrod actually opposed those who built the Tower of Babel. The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (possibly 8th century AD) also mentions a Jewish tradition that Nimrod fled Shinar, refusing to take part in the building of the Tower. Although early Jewish traditions appear to teach that Nimrod was the builder of the tower of Babel (and he likely was), there is no consensus, and the Biblical text does not state that Nimrod actually built the Tower (and/or) the city.

Babel may have been a Ziggurat much like this (Hardnfast)
Misconception 10: God destroyed the Tower of Babel and the Tower was built out of fear that God would send another flood. The last popular notion which we will explore again concerns the Tower of Babel. What does the Bible tell us about the Tower of Babel? "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, 'Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.' But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that they were building. The LORD said, 'If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand each other.' So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:1-9).

There are other references and allusion to Babel throughout Scripture, but this is the account of the dispersion at Babel. At no point does it state that the people sought to build the tower to escape a coming flood, nor does it state that God destroyed the tower. It simply states that the people wanted to make a name for themselves and defy God's direct command to "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). Where do we get the idea that God destroyed the tower or that the tower was built to escape a coming flood? According to Genesis 10:32, "the nations spread out after the flood," not before (referring to the dispersion). Note also that nowhere in the text does it state that they did not finish the tower - another popular misconception about Babel, although it is possible. The tradition that God destroyed the Tower is not found in the Bible, but it is mentioned in Jubilees 10:26, "The Lord sent a mighty wind against the tower and it fell to the earth," as well as by Cornelius Alexander (1st century BC, fragment 10), Abydenus the Greek historian (c.200 BC, fragments 5-6), the Sibylline oracles (c.2nd century BC-5th century AD, 3.117-129), and a midrash mentions that the top of the tower had been burnt, the middle eroded over time, and the bottom was swallowed. Finally, in the History of the Prophets and Kings written by the Muslim historian Muhammad ibn Jarrir al-Tabari (AD 838-923), Nimrod builds the Tower in Babil, but Allah destroys it.

Josephus also mentions the destruction of the tower (Antiquities, and it from Josephus where the flood issue is mentioned, "[Nimrod] also gradually changed the government into tyranny - seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!" (Antiquities, emphasis mine). Jewish rabbinic literature also appears to allude to this idea. Although these traditions are found in different cultures, written in different legendary accounts, God's Word does not mention the destruction of Babel, nor does it mention the intent to build the tower as an attempt to escape a possible future flood (also demonstrating a lack of faith in God, as He had promised not to send a global flood again, see Genesis 9:11-16).

There are many others to explore, but it is not the intent to explore the entirety of these misconceptions or possible misconceptions. For example, debate continues over whether or not the serpent originally had legs - one may note that Genesis 3 does not actually state that the serpent had legs, simply that he would crawl on his belly. There are favorable arguments for each view, and through the ages, church fathers, theologians and laymen have been divided on the issue. For example, Henry Morris believed that the serpent did have legs, John Calvin did not. Matthew Henry believed that the serpent did have legs, and perhaps feet and wings, and Martin Luther as well as Flavius Josephus (1st century historian) believed that the serpent did have legs. It is also interesting to note that Genesis never calls the serpent a "snake," but a "serpent." Among this and others, as well as throughout the many books of the Bible, misconceptions have, can, and will continue to arise. Misconceptions are good to face, though, even when we do not necessarily wish to accept the truth or the possibility that our view was actually a misconception, as it would allow for a clearer understanding of the Biblical text instead of what popular tradition teaches. For this among other reasons, it is important to actually read what God's Word says, and attempt to filter out our misconceptions about it in the process.

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at or, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to our conviction that this conclusion was arrived at based on what His Word tells us, and through a Biblical worldview, and hope that if you have not already, will come to faith in Jesus. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

[1] "misconception." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Feb. 2012.
[2] "misconception." Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 23 Feb. 2012.
[3] Ham, Ken. The New Answers Book 3. 3rd ed. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2010. 15. Print.
[4]  Carol Alway, et al. Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. 4th ed. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader's Digest Association, 1978. 330. Print.
[5] Macrone, Michael; Tom Lulevitch. Brush up your Bible!. Random House Value, 1998. Print.
[6] Justin Martyr. Dialogue of Justin philosopher and Martyr with Trypho, a Jew, chapter 103. 
[7] Hodge, Bodie. The Fall of Satan: Rebels in the Garden. 1st ed. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2011. 120-121. Print.

Wednesday, February 22

Lions in Scripture

Lions: the Bible is replete with copious references to them. Lions are used often as a type of symbolism or imagery portraying an aspect of God's character or in prophecies concerning the Messiah. They also are not simply figuratively represented, but also appear in various accounts found in the Bible, such as the infamous account of Daniel and the lion's den as well as the attack of the lion on Samson, one of the Judges. On the evolutionary tree, lions came about through the same kind of animal group which tigers, cats, jaguar, leopards, and others developed from. Some male lions exceed 550 lbs in terms of weight, the second largest cat after the tiger.[1] The lion is classified as a threatened species, and can live around ten to fourteen years in the wild.

Lions were bred by Assyrian kings, and, according to tradition, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was with tame lions in India by wealthy landlords.[2] They were used in later Roman times by Roman emperors to participate in gladiator arenas. Pompey, Julius Caesar and others are known to have executed mass amounts of lions at various times.[3] Of Biblical interest, certain names include the "lion." Othniel's (the first of the judges) name can mean "lion of God" or "God is might." Ariel, both the symbolic name for Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1-2, 7) and a man sent by Ezra (Ezra 8:16) also means "lion of God." Othni, one of the temple porters (temple gate keeper or musician), means "lion of Jehovah" (1st Chronicles 26:7). Arioch, a king of Ellasar (Genesis 14:1, 9) and Arioch, captain of King Nebuchadnezzar's guard (Daniel 2:14-15, 24-25), means "lion-like" or "venerable." Other examples are Ara (1st Chronicles 7:38), meaning "a lion" or "congregation," Arieh (2nd Kings 15:25) meaning "the lion," Laish (Joshua 11:5; Isaiah 10:30; 1st Samuel 25:44) also means "a lion," and Nergal (2nd Kings 17:30), one of the Assyrian and Babylonian gods - the god of war and hunting - meaning, "the great dog; that is, lion." The tribe of Judah was also symbolized by a lion (Genesis 49:9).

A male Asiatic lion (credit: Gangasudhan)
Perhaps one of the more infamous Biblical accounts of lions is the account of Daniel and the lion's den. Written by the prophet Daniel c.537 BC, Daniel 6 records said account. Darius had appointed 120 satraps (ساتراپ - a Persian governor of a province) to rule the kingdom, with three administrators appointed over them. One of these three was Daniel. In antiquity, Daniel was renown for his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3), evidenced also in an early form of the scientific method utilized by Daniel to test his hypothesis concerning food and drink (Daniel 1:8-16). It seems that Darius had planned to appoint Daniel over all of the kingdom (6:3), which certainly did not please the administrators and the satraps. They attempted to find something to charge Daniel with, but could find nothing against him. A classic example of a hunger for power, the satraps and administrators went to Darius and persuaded him to issue an edict (a decree) and enforce the decree "that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days [except the king], shall be thrown in the lions' den... in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed" (6:7-8). Daniel, however, upon learning of the decree, persisted in his daily prayers. Thrice each day, Daniel "went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem" (6:10).

When the administrators and satraps found Daniel praying and kneeling, they went to Darius and spoke with him, deceptively inquiring about the veracity of his decree concerning prayer and its effects. The king agrees that he did, and the men reveal that Daniel had broken this command. "When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him" (6:14). It was, however, under Persian law, an unchangeable situation. The order was given, and Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. Some critics have challenged the notion that the "law of the Medes and Persians" could not be changed (cf. Esther 1:19, 8:8). However, Diodorus Siculus (17:30) reported that Darius III (336-330 BC) had an innocent men executed because he could not change what was decreed under royal authority. In the Biblical text, Darius (a different figure, possibly a governor of Babylon or Cyrus himself) could not sleep that evening, and would not eat or be entertained. At dawn, Darius went to the lions' den to determine the fate of his servant, Daniel, calling out to Daniel in anguish. "Then Daniel spoke with the king: 'May the king live forever. My God has sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths. They also haven't hurt me, for I was found innocent before Him. Also, I have not committed a crime against you my king'" (6:22).

As a result, Daniel is brought up out of the lions' den, uninjured. "The king then gave the command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. They had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones" (6:24). The decree of Darius is one which we ought to adhere to, "For he is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end" (6:26). Daniel (Hebrew: דָּנִיּאֵל - Daniyyel) had faith in God, such faith that God "shut the mouths of lions" (Hebrews 11:33). Another instance of an encounter with lions in Scripture is that of a young King David. Displaying incredible faith, while conversing with King Saul about going up against the giant Goliath, David replied, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine" (1st Samuel 17:34-37).

It is noteworthy that "The lion of Palestine was properly of the Asiatic variety, distinguished from the African variety, which is larger. Yet it not only attacked flocks in the presence of the shepherd, but also laid waste towns and villages (2 Kings 17:25-26) and devoured men (1 Kings 13:24-25). Shepherds sometimes, single-handed, encountered lions and slew them (1 Sam. 17:34-35; Amos 3:12).... The strength (Judg. 14:18), courage (2 Sam. 17:10), and ferocity (Gen. 49:9) of the lion were proverbial. Although not now found in Palestine, they must have been in ancient times very numerous there. They had their lairs in the forests (Jer. 5:6; 12:8; Amos 3:4), in the caves of the mountains (Song of Songs 4:8; Nah. 2:12), and in the canebrakes on the banks of the Jordan (Jer. 49:19; 50:44; Zech. 11:3)."[4] Evidently, there are also different words used in the Hebrew Bible to describe a lion. "1. Gor (i.e., a “suckling”), the lion's whelp (Gen. 49:9; Jer. 51:38, etc.). 2. Kephir (i.e., “shaggy”), the young lion (Judg. 14:5; Job 4:10; Ps. 91:13; 104:21), a term which is also used figuratively of cruel enemies (Ps. 34:10; 35:17; 58:6; Jer. 2:15). 3. 'Ari (i.e., the “puller” in pieces), denoting the lion in general, without reference to age or sex (Num. 23:24; 2 Sam. 17:10, etc.). 4. Shahal (the “roarer”), the mature lion (Job 4:10; Ps. 91:13; Prov. 26:13; Hos. 5:14). 5. Laish, so called from its strength and bravery (Job 4:11; Prov. 30:30; Isa. 30:6). The capital of northern Dan received its name from this word. 6. Labi, from a root meaning “to roar,” a grown lion or lioness (Gen. 49:9; Num. 23:24; 24:9; Ezek. 19:2; Nah. 2:11)."[5]

Another curious textual appearance of the lion is found in 1st Kings 13, probably written around 550 BC by Jeremiah. It details the account of a man of God who "came from Judah to Bethel" (13:1). After conducting certain business with the king, the man of God proceeded to return, but took a different way than the way which he had originally come. An old prophet living in Bethel heard what had occurred, and had his sons saddle a donkey for him. Upon finding the man, the old prophet lied to the man of God, telling him that "'An angel said to me by the word of the LORD: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and water.'' (But he was lying to him.)" (13:18). As a result, the man followed the old prophet to his abode. The word of the LORD came to the old prophet, who relayed the message to the man of God concerning disobeying God's direct command not to eat bread or drink water or return the way he had come (13:17, 20-22). After the man of God had finished eating, his donkey was saddled, and "As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it. Some people who passed by saw the body lying there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived" (13:24-25). When the old prophet heard of this, his sons saddled his donkey for him, and "Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey" (13:28) so the prophet had the man of God's body buried and laid in his own tomb.

Harkening back to King David, even prior to David and the incident with the man of God, we have an earlier account - involving Samson the judge. Samson, a Danite, was renowned for his incredible strength and myriad of feats. Once, "Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD [God the Spirit] came on him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done... Some time later, when he went back to the marry [a young Philistine woman], he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass" (Judges 14:5-6, 8-9). At the wedding feast, Samson gave his audience a riddle. After some persuasion, he explains the riddle to his wife, who "in turn explained the riddle to her people" (14:17). The riddle concerned the honey and the lion, and the guests gave the answer to the riddle, which seemingly did not make Samson very pleased (14:19-20).

Some have noted the similarities between this instance in the life of Samson and a particular feat accomplished by the Greek hero, Heracles (better known in his Roman form as Hercules). Hercules was the offspring of the god Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene, and foster son of Amphitryon, the Theban general. In Greek myth, Hera, the goddess wife (and sister) of Zeus, grew jealous of the sexual escapades of Zeus. Although he and Hera were essentially husband and wife, Zeus had a lust for women - typically whatever woman he saw, he had a child with in one form or another, sometimes disguising himself as someone (or something) else. As a result of this growing jealousy, culminating in a sense with driving Hercules mad, so that he killed his wife and children, Hera proceeded to send Hercules on a series of twelve labors (interestingly, one bears resemblance to the Garden of Eden, and may be part of the reason - aside from the Vulgate - why the misconception that the fruit in Eden was an apple may have arisen from). Not all writers have the same order of the twelve labors, but Apollodorus (2.5.1-2.5.12), a Greek scholar and grammarian, gives the first labor as the killing of the Nemean lion.

Tribe of Judah emblem (Public domain)
The Nemean lion (Λέων της Νεμέας - Léōn tēs Neméas) was a monster in Greek myth that resided in Nemea, which is today part of the prefecture of Korinthia (or Corinthia). In the myth, mortals could not would the beast, as its golden fur was immune to their attacks. According to Apollodorus (Library 2.5.1), the Nemean lion was the offspring of Typhon (who is the "father of monsters" in Greek myths, such as the Hydra and Cerberus), but according to Hesiod, a Greek oral prophet, the lion was considered the offspring of Orthrus (Theogony 327). It has been posited (especially in apologetics) that Hercules/Heracles is based off of the historical figure seen in the biblical book of Judges - Samson, son of Manoah. One of Hercules' labors was to defeat a lion, and Samson also defeated a lion with his strength. However, lions are not common in Greece. The inhuman strength of Heracles is also reflected in the historical Samson. Hercules may have been a legend based off of Samson (a legend is generally a story rooted in some sort of historical basis). Either way, the account of Samson is a very fascinating one. Yet another reference to lions is found in the infamous passages about the lion in the future kingdom of God.

Isaiah 11:6-7 states that "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox." The other relevant passage often cited is Isaiah 65:25, "'The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,' says the LORD." These passages seem to be, taken in context as well as with other supporting scriptural references, referring to a kind of Edenic paradise where creatures such as lions, well known as carnivores, revert back to the Edenic (pre-Fall) nature of eating plants (cf. Genesis 1:29-30). Many biblical scholars believe that this is intended to occur during the future kingdom of God (Zechariah 14; Revelation 20, etc.). Lastly, the well-known use of the title of Jesus, the "Lion of Judah." As mentioned earlier in the article, when Jacob was blessing his son, Judah, he referred to him as a "young lion" (Genesis 49:9; Gur Aryeh גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה), where the Lion later comes to represent Christ.

In John's letter from Patmos (written c.AD 95), we read, "Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe o Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals" (Revelation 5:5). In the fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, written by author and apologist C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), a lion named Aslan (the King of Beasts and son of the Emperor Over the Sea) represents Jesus Christ as he would be in a fantasy world. Various traits of Jesus can clearly be seen in Aslan throughout the series. The name itself, Aslan, is the Turkish word for "lion." Therefore, while this is certainly not an exhaustive investigation or in-depth examination of the use of lions in the proverbial and historical sense in Scripture, a general overview (as intended) allows for further research on the part of the reader, if wished. It is fascinating to see the way in which God's Word portrays different people, places and things through the use of symbolism in imagery, particularly when it comes to lions in Scripture.

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at or, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to research which was based on what His Word tells us, through a Biblical worldview. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

[1] Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
[2] Smith, Vincent Arthur. The Early History of India. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924. 97. Print.
[3] Wiedemann, Thomas. Emperors and Gladiators. Routledge, 1995. 60. Print.
[4] "Lions." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 10 Feb 2012.
[5] Ibid.

Thursday, February 9

The Leviathan

The Leviathan: real creature or mythical invention? Alligator, crocodile, or perhaps - as YEC's claim - a dinosaur? What was the Leviathan? On several occasions in the Hebrew Bible, a creature given the name Leviathan appears. In ancient Middle Eastern mythologies, however, a similar creature appears. This has led to the claim that the biblical Leviathan is based off of the Canaanite myth concerning a similar creature, a Babylonian myth, an Egyptian myth, or others. But is this truly the case? If the Leviathan was an actual creature, what was it? Could it really breath fire, as the text of the book of Job seems to imply? If so, what implications does this view entail? The Leviathan is often used by critics to contend that the Hebrew Bible was based off of earlier mythologies. It it our contention, however, that the reality is converse: the mythologies were based off of reality, but became a distorted version of that reality, whereas the biblical text accurately preserves such accounts. The Leviathan is one of the most fascinating creatures mentioned in the Bible, and evidently the topic is a valid one (Photo credit: Gustave Dore, 1885, "Destruction of the Leviathan" public domain usage; from ДиБгд, public domain usage).

Chronologically, the first mention of the Leviathan is found in the book of Job. Job was likely written by Mfoses during his time in Midian in-between his escape from Egypt and before his return to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (c.1485-1445 BC). While bemoaning his current state, Job makes a passing reference to the create, "May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan" (Job 3:8). A fuller (and the most detailed) description of the Leviathan is found toward the end of the book in Job 41, in which God is speaking to Job. The Leviathan is again mentioned in Psalm 74 (a maskil of Asaph, who lived during the reign of King David, which lasted from c.1010-970 BC) and in Psalm 104 (probably a Psalm of King David) and lastly in Isaiah 27, written around 730-700 BC. Some have likened the Leviathan unto Rahab, a figurative name in the Hebrew Bible used of Egypt and the sea. Of particular interest is Psalm 89:10, which says, "You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies" (cf. Isaiah 27).

It is relevant to the topic to display some of the aforementioned passages (the lengthy description found in Job 41 will be examined later in the article), and the other relevant passages are as follows:
  • "You divided the sea with Your strength; You smashed the heads of the sea monsters in the waters; You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You fed him to the creatures of the desert" (Psalm 74:13-14; HSCB).
  • "Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small. There the ships move about, and Leviathan, which you formed to play there" (Psalm 104:26).
  • "On that day the LORD with His harsh, great, and strong sword, will bring judgment on Leviathan, the fleeing serpent - Leviathan, the twisting serpent. He will slay the monster that is in the sea" (Isaiah 27:1).
From Gustave Dore (1865)
Thus far, we are able to establish: 1) the Leviathan is a "sea monster," or a "monster that is in the sea," it is also a "fleeing serpent," or "twisting serpent," and where "the ships move about" the Leviathan was found, which was "formed to play there." In other words, the above three texts (as well as the Job 3:8 text) appears to be describing some kind of sea serpent, from the surface. The more detailed description in Job 41 will further elucidate the identity of the creature, or at least give us clues to its nature and identity. However, before the description is explored, it is important to address common concerns or objections toward the Bible's inclusion of the Leviathan. For example, the Isaiah 27 text appears to be indicating that God will fight with the Leviathan "on that day," which was a general formula used to refer to end times events. One common objection involves the notion that the Hebrew Bible borrowed (or copied) the concept of a god and serpent fighting at the end of the world, or a god and serpent fighting in general.

In Greek mythology, the Olympian god Apollo (the son of Zeus and Leto) - the god of the sun and light as well as truth and prophecy, music and poetry, and other functions - slew the earth-dragon (or serpent), Python. There are various versions and interpretations of this, such as an older myth which includes two dragon (the female of which is called Delphyne), and in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (composed c.522 BC), some sections mention Apollo fighting a female dragon, the deadly Drakaina.[1-2] In later Norse mythology, the thunder god, Thor, is depicted is fighting the Jörmungandr at the end of time (better known as the Jormungand or the Midgard Serpent). According to the Prose Edda (written around AD 1220), the ruler of Asgard, Odin, took the three children of Loki, and tossed one of them (the Midgard Serpent) into the ocean that surrounds Midgard (an old Germanic name for our world).[3] This serpent continued to grow, and eventually was able to surround the earth and grasp its own tail. In the mythology, when the serpent lets go, the world is supposed to end. Thor encounters this Serpent on more than one occasion, but at Ragnarök (a series of events akin to the end times), the Serpent will come out of the ocean, and is said to poison the sky.[4] After a vicious fight with the creature, Thor will finally kill Jörmungandr and walk nine paces forward before falling - Thor will have been poisoned by the serpent's venom.[5]

Another example of a god and a serpent caught in battle is found in Vedic religion. There is a serpent (or dragon) called the Vritra which represented drought and was an enemy of Indra. Indra (or Sakra), in this mythology, is the king of the gods (or Devas) and Lord of Heaven. The Vritra is an Asura, which is a group of power hungry deities, generally thought to be sinful and materialistic in nature. In the Vedas (Hindu scriptures), Vritra was also known as the Ahi. In the mythology, the Vritra appears as a dragon/serpent who blocks the course of mighty rivers, and as a result, is eventually slain by Indra. Yet another example is found in the battle between Marduk and Tiamat. Marduk was the sun god of Babylon, and Tiamat was a chaos monster and goddess of the ocean. Some sources identify her as a serpent or dragon.[6]

Some have noted that the "Leviathan" appears in texts from Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit; in Canaanite mythology). In the texts, the pagan god Baal fights - and wins the fight - against a sea monster, Lotan, and Yam (a sea god). Baal wins the fight with weapons which he had pronounced an incantation over.[7] Others have entertained a history and background in mythological concepts of a solar and lunar eclipse caused by a great dragon. In central India, for example, there is a myth about a great dragon that swallowed the sun. In the event that the dragon tries to swallow the sun, "a goat was beheaded in sacrifice to Kali, the Black Goddess, the cause and controller of earthquakes, storms, and other evil things, and the archenemy of demons. Prayers were offered to her that she might frighten away the Dragon."[8] The Bible may use the language of Canaanite myths (Baal vs Lotan and Yam) in a way to affirm the rule of our Creator, but that does not indicate that the Bible is borrowing or copying from pagan mythologies. Similarity does not prove that something was copied. A common analogy in this case has been paintings: simply because two paintings look similar does not prove that one borrowed (or copied) from the other. The Canaanite creature was feared, and was portrayed as a seven-headed dragon.[9] In pagan terms, it was feared, but in biblical terms, God formed the Leviathan to play in the sea (Psalm 104:26).

In later Jewish literature, the Leviathan was often portrayed as a dragon who serves over the Sources of the Deep. Tradition taught that God created a male and female Leviathan, but so that they did nit reproduce and destroy the world, God destroyed the female, and is reserving her meat for a banquet at the arrival of the Messiah. This tradition was also found in the Rashi, a medieval French Rabbi, in a commentary on Genesis. The gigantic size of the Leviathan was detailed by R. Johanan, from whom we have much Jewish tradition (aggadot), "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.). In a legend called Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (recorded in a Midrash, a Jewish interpretation), the text conveys that the fish which swallowed the prophet Jonah (Jonah 1:17-2:10) barely avoided being eaten by the Leviathan, which, according to the legend, eats one whale every day. Not surprisingly, the Leviathan also appears in Apocryphal literature. 

According to 2nd Esdras 6:49-52 (written AD 90-96 or 218), on the fifth day of creation, God created the Leviathan and the Behemoth, setting "apart two creatures: one you call Behemoth and the other Leviathan. You put them in separate places, for the seventh part where the water was collected was not big enough to hold them both. A part of the land which was made dry on the third day you gave to Behemoth as his territory, a country of a thousand hills. To Leviathan you gave the seventh part, the water. You have kept them to be food for whom you will and when you will." Also, in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch 29:4, "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."[10] The pseudipigraphal work of 1st Enoch, written between the 3rd-1st centuries BC, 1st Enoch 60:7-9 records, "And on that day two monsters were separated from one another, a female monster named Leviathan, to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of the waters; And the male is named Behemoth... And I asked the other angel to show me the might of those monsters, how they were separated on one day and thrown, the one into the abyss of the sea, and the other to the earth's desert." Gnostic literature also has a bit of a different interpretation of the Leviathan.

Having established a bit of a general understanding concerning how different views have been formed concerning the creature over the ages, it is now pertinent to delve into the possible identity of the creature itself. There are those who would argue that the Leviathan is nothing more than a mythological or figurative construct, and there are those who would argue otherwise. Footnotes in different versions of the Bible identify the creature as a "crocodile or alligator," although some identify the creature as a whale or shark. In Egypt, the crocodile (particularly along the Nile river) was a hunted animal. In ancient Egypt, the crocodile is thought to have, in some contexts, symbolized royal power, and some hold the notion that the Leviathan would symbolize a force that only God could overcome. Ancient Hebrews likely never encountered alligators, and it is the view of many evangelical and secular scholars that the Leviathan was influenced by the Nile crocodile. But is this a good interpretation of the Biblical Leviathan? Though a controversial view, the often maligned Young Earth Creationists hold that the Leviathan was likely a kind of dinosaur. While we may not fully agree with this perspective, it is one worth exploring.

Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research explains in one of his works, concerning Job 41, "The witness of the great beast behemoth is brought into still sharper focus when God begins to speak of leviathan. As the behemoth was the greatest terrestrial animal, the leviathan was the greatest aquatic animal. Like the behemoth, it seems to be extinct, although reports continue to persist of great sea serpents and plesiosaur-like animals in oceans and deep lakes around the world... Note a few characteristics of leviathan. 'Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?... Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up:... The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold' (Job 41:7, 9, 10, 26). These and other verses indicate that the leviathan was impregnable to human efforts to capture or slay him. Yet zoos are full or crocodiles, and crocodiles have been hunted so successfully that they are often considered an endangered species. The same applies to whales. And what about the following description? 'By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth' (Job 41:18-21)."[11]

Job's description also notes that the creature "maketh the deep to boil like a pot" (Job 41:31). Evidently, these sea creatures were still living in the time of King David (Psalm 104), probably in the Mediterranean Sea. The creature, if indeed it was a dinosaur (although it is noted that many will disagree with this interpretation), was likely a Kronosaurus or something similar to it. It was not actually a true dinosaur, but was actually a reptile-like sea creature with large, sharp teeth. For centuries, reports have come from people in all walks of life concerning sea serpents or lake creatures similar in description to the Leviathan. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Loch Ness Monster, thought by some, if it exists, to be a kind of plesiosaur. In the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán of Iona (c.AD 627-704, written in the 7th century, a story is detailed concerning St. Columba in the 6th century, when he approached Loch Ness, and an incident allegedly occurred with the creature, in which the Saint commanded the creature to retreat from a man. When a lakeside road was built in the 1930s, a series of consecutive photos and reports flooded in, and to this day continue in some degree, though the debate surrounding the creature rages on.

Some believe the Leviathan was a Kronosaurus
There are many other reports of living dinosaurs, sea serpents or lake creatures. Perhaps one of the more relevant reports to the discussion concerning the Leviathan comes from Georg von Forstner, a captain in World War II who commanded a German submarine. The report came during the war. According to Forstner, "On July 30, 1915, our U28 torpedoed the British steamer Iberian carrying a rich cargo in the North Atlantic. The steamer sank quickly, the bow sticking almost vertically into the air. When it had gone for about twenty-five seconds there was a violent explosion. A little later pieces of wreckage, and among them a gigantic sea animal (writhing and struggling wildly), was shot out of the water to a height of 60 to 100-feet. At that moment I had with me in the conning tower my officers of the watch, the chief engineer, the navigator, and the helmsman. Simultaneously we all drew one another’s attention to this wonder of the seas…we were unable to identify it. We did not have time to take a photograph, for the animal sank out of sight after ten or fifteen seconds. It was about 60-feet long, was like a crocodile in shape and had four limbs with powerful webbed feet and a long tail tapering to a point."[12]

Critics of such reports have attempted (sometimes aggressively) to refute them. The claim of the critics usually go something like, "It is impossible for the creature to have been a Kronosaurus because science has proven that the dinosaur died off 65 million years ago, and is now extinct." While this may be true, there are a myriad of examples where we have found creatures from pre-historic times still with us. Another common objection is that the dinosaur theory does not take Psalm 74 into account. The claim is essentially as follows, "Psalm 74:13-14 describes the seven heads of the Leviathan. Therefore, the dinosaur theory could not be true, since the story is more reminiscent of the hydra or other mythical creatures." The Leviathan was portrayed in Canaanite mythology as being a seven-headed dragon, although the Biblical text does not mention seven heads, so the claim is partially falsified. Second, while it is true that the text mentions the "heads of Leviathan," that does not necessitate that the text is referring to only one Leviathan.

There are many other common objections, and there are many good, in-depth replies to said objections. It is not the purpose of this article to answer these, but to provide a background on the Leviathan and offer possible identifications of the creature. On a different, more eschatological note, what of the notion that God is going to defeat the creature at the end of time? For this answer, we turn to the New Testament. Revelation 12 describes an enigmatic end-time battle between the archangel Michael and his angels against the fallen Satan and his angels. Of interest is the description of the form in which Satan chooses to appear in this battle. Elsewhere, Satan appears, disguised as the serpent in Eden (Genesis 3; Revelation 12:9, 20:2), sometimes appearing in his likely pre-fall state, as an angel of light (2nd Corinthians 11:14), and may be able to disguise himself as a human, given the heavenly angels ability to do so (Hebrews 13:2). In Revelation 12, however, Satan appears in a very different form - as "an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads" (12:3). Perhaps one of the more striking passages follows, which says, "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him" (12:7-9). To note, here, Satan appears as a dragon - with seven heads. 

This, then, is the missing piece of the puzzle. Given the context of the book of Job and the cosmic drama between God and Satan, "In ending His discourse, God called leviathan 'a king over all the children of pride' (Job 41:34), so the animal is also symbolic of Satan, whose challenge to God instigated Job’s strange trials. He is 'the great dragon . . . that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world' (Revelation 12:9). Perhaps, therefore, the mysterious and notorious extinction of the dinosaurs is a secular prophecy of the coming Day of Judgment, when God 'shall punish leviathan' (Isaiah 27:1), and the 'devil that deceived them' will be 'cast into the lake of fire . . . and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever' (Revelation 20:10)."[13] In Job 41, we may infer that God was weaving hints in and out of His discourse concerning the Leviathan toward Satan, essentially God was saying to him, "Job did not deny Me and curse Me, therefore, you serpent, you have lost." With Revelation 12 in mind, texts such as Isaiah 27, which speak of God fighting or defeating the great serpent/dragon, the passage is further elucidated. The Leviathan was used by God in His discourse to show Job the first in rank of His aquatic creatures, something which Job had evidently been aware of prior to this (Job 3:8). While critics of the Biblical text may contend that the Leviathan is a mythological construction, regardless, it should on a personal level remind us that God, who noted that He had control of the creature, also has control of everything else. Even though our problems may become larger than life, so to speak, God is larger than those problems. 

Troy Hillman

[1] Burket, Walter. "Kynaithos, Polycrates and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo" from Arktouros: Hellenic studies presented to B. M. W. Knox. ed. G. W. Bowersock, W. Burkert, M. C. J. Putnam. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1979. 53-62, Print.
[2] Kerenyi, Karl. The Gods of the Greeks. Thames and Hudson, 1951. 136. Print.
[3] Sturluson, Snorri. Gylfaginning ch. xxxiv. 2008. 37. Print.
[4] Ibid, 61-62.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Jacobsen, Thorkild. "The Battle between Marduk and Tiamat". Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1). 1968.104–108. 
[7] Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, et al.. Apologetics Study Bible for Students. 1st ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009. 513. Print.
[8] Christian, James L. Philosophy: An Introduction To The Art of Wondering. 3rd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. 3. Print.
[9] Ibid, [7]. 609.
[10] "LEVIATHAN AND BEHEMOTH." Jewish Encyclopedia. N.p., 2011. Web. 8 Feb 2012.
[11] Morris, Ph.D., Henry M. The Remarkable Record of Job. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Master Books, 2004. 117-125. Print.
[12] Taylor, Paul S.. "Sightings." The Great Dinosaur Mystery. Eden Communications, n.d. Web. 9 Feb 2012.
[13] Morris, Ph.D., Henry M.. "Leviathan." Institute for Creation Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Feb 2012.