Delahoyde & Hughes
These texts seem to refer to some kind of monstrosity. Psalm 74 may simply be referring to Egypt symbolically and the Exodus, but the word "Leviathan" has since been rendered as "tortuous monster" and some kind of sea creature.
- Job 3:8, 40:20-41:25, 26:10-14
- Psalm 74; Psalm 104:25-26
- Psalms 12, 13, 89
- Psalms 9, 10 [re: Rahab]
- Isaiah 27:1
What is the sea monster referred to as Leviathan?
The whale was proposed, but did the ancient Hebrews know about whales? (The Jonah story has been mistranslated from an unspecified "big fish.")
Job 3:8 evokes a mythical dragon of chaos, the embodiment of darkness and disorder that Yahweh subdued but did not annihilate.
Job 40:20-41:25 describes something unserpentlike. A crocodile? The Hebrews would know about these.... But Psalm 104 indicates a deep sea creature.
Once texts were discovered relating the ancient Canaanite creation story of Baal's defeat of Lothan, the primeval sea monster (the story goes back as early as the 14th century bce; var. Lotan, Lawtan, Lat = goddess in Canaanite), similar to Tiamat overpowered by Marduk, the source of Leviathan became clear. Leviathan is a variation on the same name, representing the chaos existing before creation and subdued when order was established by the male god. It remains as a primal energy unassimilated into the new stable order.
The Hebrews retained only a vague memory of the mythic battle between Yahweh and the primordial serpent, Leviathan, since this has mostly been removed from scriptures, certainly from the creation story; but hints remain unexcised in the passages listed above.
Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. 3rd ed. Toronto: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1992.
The Old Testament