Question: In Job 41, what is your interpretation or knowledge of Leviathan? Some say it is a dragon some say a dinosaur.
So this is an interesting question and one that when I was a young believer really excited me. I remember pondering, “Does this mean fire breathing dragons really existed?”
I like that the one who asked the question said, “What is your interpretation or knowledge of?” These two, are very different and I want address both for the purpose of learning. On interpretation, we should never seek “our interpretation”, nor anyone else’s. We only want truth. It is true that ideas of truth can be called interpretation but there is a reason I somewhat come against this. The reason is because one of the biggest issues when it comes to scripture is the idea that it’s subject to interpretation. It is only if you don’t want to understand it! I like what one person once said, “If we read any other book the way people read the Bible we wouldn’t know anything!” But you also said knowledge, and for that I commend you!
My knowledge of Leviathan is somewhat limited although I have listened to a lot of people’s interpretations of it. 😉 I have also heard a real good argument that what is truly being described is an alligator or crocodile and that Behemoth is a hippo. That may sound funny but if you listened to this scholar’s reasons, they were actually truly compelling. To understand what the Bible is saying in various places we have to understand the nature of what is being written. So much will not make sense on the surface only because we may not understand other things.
For example, when the Bible talks about slavery, we instantly think of the slavery that happened in the United States in the early years of this country. But this is not what is being talked about. It is misleading to “interpret” scripture through our world view, yet many American Christians do just this. Many doctrines are built errantly on the misguided “interpretations” of scripture. We must understand, the Bible is not a description of all history. It is also not a book on zoology. Its purpose was not to explain everything but it is intended to explain some things, giving Godly direction.
This account of Leviathan is not about introducing us to some mythical like creature or verifying that dinosaurs existed. If you consider the context of Job 41, you can clearly see this. The happenings of scripture and what or how God did things was so often answering questions or speaking to specific people groups in ways they would understand. Jesus didn’t just do random things. Everything He did related back to their customs, their traditions, or what was said about the Messiah from the prophets of old.
In Job 41, God is talking to Job about His greatness and is correcting Job’s thinking. He is using an illustration that Job would surely understand. Think about it this way, it’s like if I’m giving an illustration for a sermon and I started talking about Godzilla. Most people today would surely know what I was referring to yet no one would leave going, “I guess he really does exist!” Now if in a thousand years someone was listening to that same sermon would they be correct in assuming I was talking about something real? Of course not! Yet someone might try and make doctrine on it for sure!
Look at this example in Acts 17:22-23 (NASB). So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” Was Paul implying that these Greeks had actually discovered the true God? Not in the least. However, he did take opportunity to take something they would understand and relate it to the truth. This kind of teaching is seen all through the Scripture. Jesus never implied that people and sheep in fact are exactly the same, yet He often referred to us in such a way. He is called a Lion and a Lamb. Ok Jesus, which is it?!
There are people that get really hung up on things like Leviathan in scripture. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, what I am saying is that we need to keep what really matters at the surface and not get distracted by things that are unprovable. Too many times people have taken a stance on scripture in things that are just not profitable. All scripture is profitable, just not everyone’s interpretations of it!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.