Leviathan and Behemoth

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Leviathan and Behemoth

Postby lyons24000 » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:17 pm

I had a conversation today about these two mysterious creatures with someone. He said that he was taught that these referred to dinosaurs. I didn't contradict him but Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that. We believe they are the alligator (Leviathan) and hippopotamus (Behemoth). I was wondering what everyone else thought about these two creatures.

Here are the applicable Bible verses:
"Here, now, is Behemoth that I have made as well as you.
Green grass it eats just as a bull does. Here, now, its power is in its hips, and its dynamic energy in the tendons of its belly. It bends down its tail like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are interwoven. Its bones are tubes of copper; its strong bones are like wrought-iron rods."-Job 40:15-18
"Can you draw out Le·vi´a·than with a fishhook, or with a rope can you hold down its tongue? Can you put a rush in its nostrils, or with a thorn can you bore its jaws? Will it make many entreaties to you, or will it say soft words to you? Will it conclude a covenant with you, that you may take it as a slave to time indefinite? Will you play with it as with a bird, or will you tie it for your young girls? Will partners barter for it? Will they divide it up among tradesmen? Will you fill its skin with harpoons, or its head with fish spears? Put your hand upon it. Remember the battle. Do not do it again."-Job 41:1-8
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Postby wizzard » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:22 pm

In the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Behemoth is translated directly as hippopotamus. It has the same root as the general word for beast. It may also be related to the ancient Egyptian word for hippopotamus.

Leviathan is not quite so straightforward. It seems to be related to the Hebrew word for "wreath", which is based on the verb "to twist, wind, encircle". It appears to be used to refer to various types of creatures, from a sea serpent or a dragon, to a crocodile or a whale.

The tricky thing about Biblical Hebrew is that the bible is the only surviving text written in this language. This gives us a very small corpus to work with. The word Leviathan shows up less than 10 times, so there's not really a lot of context for what it means.
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Postby Rei » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:38 pm

I think that verses 18-21 tend to cast doubt on the alligator or crocodile suggestion, although I have a few study Bibles which all suggest that:
18"His sneezes flash forth light,
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
19"Out of his mouth go burning torches;
Sparks of fire leap forth.
20"Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth
As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
21"His breath kindles coals,
And a flame goes forth from his mouth.
Job 41.18-21, NASB
More likely I tend to think that it's either figurative language describing the most terrible beast the redactor could imagine, or fire-breathing dragons really did once roam the Earth (which is what I personally hope).
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Postby elfprince13 » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:19 pm

I usually hear leviathans interpreted as whales and/or dolphins, which would make sense with the smoke/boiling pot analogy.
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Postby lyons24000 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:08 am

I admit that dragons would be cool but it just seems too good to be true.

One thing that I've always wondered: Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there will be a new Heavens and a new earth. (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13) We believe that this is the "re-creation" that Jesus referred to. (Matthew 19:28 ) I do not know how this belief fits in with anyone else's particular belief system but I was wondering if you believe that one day God is going to restore--'re-create'--all the lost animal species in that day.

As for me, I am not sure. I have thought about that many times and, since the Bible doesn't say anything like that, I cannot really come to a strong conclusion. I can just say that I hope he does!

Thoughts?
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Postby lyons24000 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:52 am

Another thing I read in regard to Leviathan is that some scholars believe that when different Scriptures refer to Leviathan at separate places in the Bible, that it is talking about different animals.

Is that something that any of you have ever considered?
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Postby elfprince13 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:15 pm

always a good place to start your quest for information ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan
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Postby Taalcon » Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:22 pm

Behemoth, is apparently the intensive plural of behemah, meaning “beast.” A large river animal (possibly the hippopotamus). Only reference in the scriptures is from the unknown ancient writer of Job.

Leviathan, however, is referenced much more. Isaiah makes another reference to Leviathan, "In that day the LORD (Jehovah) with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. " (Isaiah 27:1)

Anciently, Leviathan was a (symbolic) beast representing the forces of chaos that opposed the Creator in his Works of bringing Order from Chaos.

This is also referenced in the Psalms: (Ps. 74: 13-14) "Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness."

Leviathan and Behemoth (or Bahumut in Arabic) are often paired together as symbolic forces of either Nature or Chaos that God is able to keep in check.

One commentator wrote, "as powerful as is this sinister force that promotes death, chaos, and destruction upon all living things, there is a countervailing, counteracting power that emanates from the Atonement. It is the power of the resurrection."

Just as one means of conquering Chaos was the Creation, the Resurrection (brought about by Christ) was another means of conquering disorder and chaos that would result if such an Atonement had not occurred.

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Postby Azarel » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:22 am

I have read that:

- Behemoth from the Hebrew BAHAMET means "Kingly Beast".

- The word DINOSAUR was not 'invented' until 200 years after the King James version of the bible was translated.

- The description of Behemoth if read carefully read does NOT match the descripton and features of a Hippopotamus, let me give and example...
> Behemoth's tail is compared to a Cedar Tree. Cedar trees are known for their great width and a simple search will show http://www.habeeb.com/images/cedar.of.l ... r.tree.jpg and when looking at a hippo's tail, it's somewhat of an anti climax compared to the cedar tree.
>It is also mentioned that he is pretty much uncatchable
>It also states that only God can put the Sword to Behemoth i.e. bring about it's destruction, and perhaps that eludes to the extinction event that killed dinosaurs? If so, the Bible details history rather well.

...I'd like to believe it's a Dinosaur though I can see why people think it's a hippo.

When we read about Leviathan, it is even harder to accept the notion that it is an Alligator or Crocodile, given the fire breathing abilities and such.

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Postby elfprince13 » Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:01 pm

I think that relying on psalms for any sort of historical information is a mistake. It was never intended as history, or prophecy, but as prayers in the form of poetry, and poetry is well known for taking....errmm...."poetic license" with the things it describes.

Leviathan to me most certainly seems to be referring to a cetacean of some sort (reread that description, and think about a whale's blowhole)

The behemoth would be more likely to be a crocodile given the description of the tail.
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Postby lyons24000 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:08 am

I think that relying on psalms for any sort of historical information is a mistake. It was never intended as history, or prophecy, but as prayers in the form of poetry, and poetry is well known for taking....errmm...."poetic license" with the things it describes.
I was wondering: When you make that statement, do you mean to say that there is no prophecy in the Psalms nor any historical information? That is a little difficult for me to believe when we see statements like this:

Historical
To the One severing the Red Sea into parts:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;

14 And who caused Israel to pass through the middle of it:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;

15 And who shook off Pharaoh and his military force into the Red Sea:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;


Interestingly, this about Pharaoh being killed in the Red Sea is documented nowhere else in the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that we can find historical information in the Psalms. In other words, that is literally what happened.

18 And who proceeded to kill majestic kings:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;

19 Even Si´hon the king of the Amorites:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;

20 And Og the king of Bashan:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite;

21 And who gave their land as an inheritance:
For his loving-kindness is to time indefinite."-Psalm 136:14-15, 18-21

Prophetic
"I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter. Therefore my heart does rejoice, and my glory is inclined to be joyful. Also, my own flesh will reside in security. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit."

"He is guarding all the bones of that one;
Not one of them has been broken."-Psalm 16:8-10; 34:20

-----------------------------------

Are you including Scriptures like this in your statement or just saying the Psalms in general?
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Postby starlooker » Wed Mar 04, 2009 11:40 am

elfprince13 wrote:
I think that relying on psalms for any sort of historical information is a mistake. It was never intended as history, or prophecy, but as prayers in the form of poetry, and poetry is well known for taking....errmm...."poetic license" with the things it describes.

I was wondering: When you make that statement, do you mean to say that there is no prophecy in the Psalms nor any historical information?
That seems to me to be an excessively black-and-white rendition of both what elfprince is saying and what poetry is/is formed of. Saying that it's poetry doesn't mean that it cannot have some basis in history, etc. Poetry about, say, 9/11 is going to have some accurate information about its historical context. However, giving accurate historical information is not the main purpose or function of the poetry. The purpose is to evoke imagery or emotion. Poetry written about religion is going to have some basis in more historic/prophetic parts of the Bible. But just because poetry has some basis in reality doesn't mean it's intended to be read as reliable history/prophecy/etc. One does not approach a poetry anthology in the same spirit one approaches a history book.
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Postby elfprince13 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:32 pm

Are you including Scriptures like this in your statement or just saying the Psalms in general?
Psalms in general, as mentioned by starlooker, is a collection of poetry, and not intended as historical narrative. Obviously there will be mention of important historical events, but even those are likely to have had poetic license taken with them. I am not in any way dismissing the importance of Psalms as a part of the Bible, I am simply saying they are intended as creative works to glorify the acts of God, or to call out to him for help, and not as a means of relaying historical information.
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Postby lyons24000 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:47 pm

That's what I thought you meant but I just wanted clarification.
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Postby Slim » Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:40 am

I admit that dragons would be cool but it just seems too good to be true.

One thing that I've always wondered: Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there will be a new Heavens and a new earth. (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13) We believe that this is the "re-creation" that Jesus referred to. (Matthew 19:28 ) I do not know how this belief fits in with anyone else's particular belief system but I was wondering if you believe that one day God is going to restore--'re-create'--all the lost animal species in that day.

As for me, I am not sure. I have thought about that many times and, since the Bible doesn't say anything like that, I cannot really come to a strong conclusion. I can just say that I hope he does!

Thoughts?
Personally, I believe that there will be plants and animals in heaven. I don't know about dinosaurs... guess if it's heaven they'll have to be friendly. :)
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Postby elfprince13 » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:54 pm

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling [a] together;
and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
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Postby Jebus » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:53 am

I admit that dragons would be cool but it just seems too good to be true.

One thing that I've always wondered: Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there will be a new Heavens and a new earth. (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13) We believe that this is the "re-creation" that Jesus referred to. (Matthew 19:28 ) I do not know how this belief fits in with anyone else's particular belief system but I was wondering if you believe that one day God is going to restore--'re-create'--all the lost animal species in that day.

As for me, I am not sure. I have thought about that many times and, since the Bible doesn't say anything like that, I cannot really come to a strong conclusion. I can just say that I hope he does!

Thoughts?
Personally, I believe that there will be plants and animals in heaven. I don't know about dinosaurs... guess if it's heaven they'll have to be friendly. :)
CALVIN: Do you think tigers go to the same heaven people go to?

I mean, in heaven, everyone is supposed to be happy, right? But people wouldn't be happy if they were always in danger of being eaten by tigers!

On the other hand, heaven wouldn't be very nice without tigers, either. I wouldn't be happy there if there weren't any tigers.

Maybe tigers just don't eat people in heaven.

HOBBES: But then we wouldn't be happy.

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Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:34 am

They'd do just fine given enough tuna fish.
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Postby lyons24000 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:56 pm

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling [a] together;
and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
I don't understand what this has to do with anything. There is nothing here about heaven. This speaks of the coming paradise earth. "For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."

(I've always loved Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65)
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Postby elfprince13 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:04 pm

It was a response to
I don't know about dinosaurs... guess if it's heaven they'll have to be friendly
Most people use the remade Earth interchangeably with the idea of heaven and paradise. I realize that this isn't necessarily the correct usage, but that's how I was interpreting his statement....otherwise I'm having a hard time imagining dinosaurs in heaven at all.
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Postby Taalcon » Thu May 14, 2009 11:19 am

I've been reading up on my Mesopotamian and Canaanite mythology. It opens up the Old Testament and allows a lot of symbolism and imagery used to be viewed in a whole new light. This reinforces my belief that understanding the historic and socio-context in which something is presented is essential for a better understanding as to how the original recipients of the text received it.

Leviathan is highly related to Tiamat, the primordial Salt Water Sea of Chaos (when Genesis refers to the spirit/wind of god hovering over the deep - the word for deep is the related tehom).

It was this primordial Chaos (which is also presented at times as being in the form of a dragon/sea-serpent) that the Babylonian Marduk (mixed in with the Canaanite Bel) conquered and divided into Heaven and Earth.

I've created an image to illustrate how a large part of the ancient world (Hebrews and later Greeks, in a very lightly modified form) visualized their cosmology.

Image

It's all very, very symbolic. And yes, many (including several of the prophets) probably believed these symbols to be the complete literal truth. But then again, many of them didn't, but spoke in a language and used symbols people would be able to understand.

Much like how I understand the Adam and Eve story. I believe there is much there that is historic, and also much that is presented symbolically.

Symbols are a very, very rich and on-going teaching device, allowing one to learn levels of understanding depending on what already knows, and experiences one has already had. It's a key reason Jesus Christ taught in parables. Each symbolic story had layers of meaning that people are still gaining new insights from and application today


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