What was Leviathan in Job? I've heard people say a crocodile, but every other real animal has an accurate description and this one (and behemoth) do not

What was Leviathan in Job? I’ve heard people say a crocodile, but every other real animal has an accurate description and this one (and behemoth) do not. It seems unlikely that while, yes, this is technically poetry, God described animals correctly except for two? It seems more likely that we’re off in our ideas that it’s a crocodile, but nothing we know matches the description?


@Fritters Great question :slight_smile: While some have proposed that it was some form of dinosaur, it seems more likely it may have literally described a hippo / crocodile, but had a deeper mythological significance within the context of the book of Job. The Bible sometimes uses the mythological language of surrounding cultures to help clarify truths about God. For example, many of the pagan gods were born out of chaos, but in Genesis 1 we clearly see that God established creation in an orderly fashion. He was not born out of chaos—He is the one who gave order to all things.

Here is an excerpt from the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary:

In the Hebrew Bible the Leviathan is a mythological sea monster defeated by Yahweh, as n Psalm 74:13-14:

It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.

In Amos 9:3 Leviathan is a snake at the bottom of the sea and in Psalm 104:26 a mere plaything of the Lord… In Revelation 20:2-3 the ancient serpent, “who is the devil or Satan,” is thrown into the Abyss. The Leviathan in Job 41 may be a natural animal as he is described, and crocodile (also hippopotamus) hunting is well known from Egyptian paintings.

However, because Godi s the only one that can control the Leviathan and Behemoth, as argued by Job, they can only be supernatural and should best be undersetood against the mythological background of the book of Job. The Leviathan embodies cosmic evil par excellence, and the combination fo these two animals is also important. The hippopotamus and crocodile occur together as forces of chaos in Egyptian mythology, representing the god of confusion, Seth, who is defeated by the god Horus. This may indicate the mythological symbolism behind the texts.

1 Like

You’re right @Fritters - a crocodile does seem a bit short of the Biblical description. A growing number of Bible students are beginning to turn to extinct solutions for the identities of the behemoth and leviathan.

See if this article makes sense to you:

1 Like

Thank you very much for your thoughtful answer, SeanO!

1 Like

That is a MARVELOUS article and really helps explain things well, thank you Mr. Lyons!


Sounds like a fire-breathing dragon to me