"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."
This was not the only encounter with something strange in the sea. For centuries, sailors have reported things that defy explanation. Is it possible these men saw what the Bible calls a leviathan?
What is a Leviathan?
Some scholars see it as Tananim, a great sea monster. This was either a Nile crocodile or a large snake. The Talmud recognized it as a monstrous fish created on the fifth day of creation. Others see it as a demon or natural monster associated with Satan. Is it the pre-existent forces of chaos before the creation of the world? Perhaps it is nothing more than a symbol of mankind in opposition to God, nothing more than a metaphor. More than a few see it as an exaggerated tale of a whale or a large dolphin. The Bible describes it as a fire-breathing sea monster and one of God’s creatures. Or does it?
The description of the Leviathan seems to fit the basic description of a sea serpent or some sort of unknown marine reptile group. Its apparent ability to breathe fire and support many heads is mystifying to say the least.
Whatever its true nature, mankind is helpless against him. And no wonder, when you think about its biblical description.
Job 41 asks about it. “Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook or his tongue with a cord? Canst thou put a hook into his nose? Or bore his jaw through with a thorn?” Job 41:1-2 Harpoons and fishing spears are useless against him.
“His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered…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…The flakes of his flesh are joined together; they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved….He esteemeth iron and straw, and brass as rotten wood…He maketh the deep to boil like a pot; he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear…” Job 41:15-34
The Bible says that God made Leviathan to play in the sea. Psalm 104:24-26
What a description! The thought of seeing such a creature is enough to strike fear into the heart of any person who stirs him up!!
“When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid….” Job 41:25
“None is so fierce that dare stir him up….” Job 41:10
R. Johanan wrote in the haggodot about this creature: “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'“
Centuries ago, seafarers saw Leviathan as a gigantic whale-like sea monster that devoured whole ships by swimming around them so rapidly that they were swallowed up by whirlpools.
Some say his habitat is the Mediterranean Sea where the waters of the Jordan River flow into his mouth. Legend teaches the basic diet of the Leviathan is whales. However, we are not so interested in legend here as we are in learning what the Bible says. God’s Word is not based on legends that were rewritten by another culture. And God’s Word does not contain truth. It is the truth!
References to the Leviathan are found in Job 41, Psalm 74, Psalm 104, and Isaiah 27.
Is it still alive today? If it is a symbol of God’s apocalyptic enemies, it is yet to be destroyed. If it is the dragon spoken of in Revelation 12, destruction is yet to come.
There are questions I may have to ask the Lord about when I get to heaven. I’m not really sure what the Leviathan of Scripture includes. What do you think about it? I don’t think it was a whale because whales do not have scales or the ability to coil themselves or breathe fire. It appears as some sort of serpent, either literal or figurative. This is one of many questions the Lord has chosen not to completely answer in His Word. Let’s get together and talk about it in heaven, shall we?