Leviathan and Behemoth, by Melissa Gibbs
Leviathan and Behemoth, Job 40:6- 42:17

Oh, how I wish there was a unanimous opinion amongst Bible scholars on these creatures! Some claim that they represent modern-day animals, with Behemoth being an elephant or hippopotamus, and Leviathan being a crocodile or giant squid. The problem with this explanation is that the physical descriptions given in Job (and other books of the Bible) do not match perfectly with what we know these animals to look like. For instance, hippos do not have tails like a cedar and crocodiles do not breathe fire. On the whole, the descriptions given in the Bible seem to point to animals far more fantastic than these.

Another option is that Leviathan and Behemoth were dinosaurs. There are dinosaur fossils that fit the descriptions listed in Job, namely brachiosaurus, the largest of all dinosaurs, and kronosaurus, an aquatic dinosaur. The problem with this theory is that there have not been any fossil discoveries of dinosaurs that prove they co-existed with humans. Yet the text reads "take a look at Behemoth" and "can you catch Leviathan with a hook?" Such passages seem to imply that Job had plausible contact with both creatures. Of course, just because fossils have not been found yet does not mean that dinosaurs and humans did not co-exist. A fossil discovery proving that fact could be made tomorrow. Perhaps they did co-exist and Job knew exactly what those animals were. On the other hand, God could have been referring to creatures (dinosaurs) that pre-existed and were now extinct. Whether or not Job understood the reference is irrelevant.

A third alternative is that the language used in the account is figurative and is borrowed from mythology commonly known to Job's contemporaries. Again, since the book of Job is a poetic work, it is not to be held to the same standards of literal accuracy as a historic book. Leviathan and Behemoth could simply be poetic figures used to convey the image of an uncontrollable beast that only God could subdue. This imagery heightens the emotional impact of the message without implying a literal interpretation. The problem here is that God speaks of them as part of His creation. "Take a look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you."

So there you have it...all three interpretations. This may need to be filed in that category of "things we won't know until we get to Heaven", though I'd prefer to keep that list as short as possible! No matter how we classify Leviathan and Behemoth, the point of their mention is to illustrate man's inferiority to God, such that He should not be called into question.

About Melissa Gibbs:

 Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD.  He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.  JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries.  Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family.  Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches.

 Visit Melissa at http://chronologicalbiblein2010.blogspot.com/

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