Leviathan and Behemoth: Mot and Satan

These monster figures appear at the end of the book of Job, forming a kind of inclusio with the opening reference to Satan; and they are clearly part of God’s final answer to Job’s “case”. Behe-mot can be understood as a reference to Mot, the Canaanite god of death; and Leviathan appears to be the Canaanite version of the orthodox ‘Satan’ figure, perhaps a reference to the ‘Lotan’ of the Ugaritic myths. In great detail, these figures are deconstructed. They are shown to be created beings—created by the one almighty God of the Old Testament, to be completely under His control to the point that He can even tease them, so enormously greater is His power than theirs. These Canaanite ‘Satan’ figures are thereby shown to have no significant existence; and they certainly don’t exist as opposed to God. They are totally under His control. And yet these monster figures clearly have characteristics shared by known animals, such as the hippopotamus, crocodile etc. Those similarities are intended. It’s been well observed: “To say that Leviathan has characteristics of the crocodile and the whale is not to say that it is such a creature, but rather to suggest that evil is rooted in the natural world”⁴—and the point is so laboured in Job that the natural world is of God’s complete creation. ‘Evil’ in a form independent of Him, in radical opposition to Him, simply isn’t there. It is He who not only created Behemoth, but can effortlessly control him in accord with His purpose (Job 40:15). That’s the comfort of the message. Indeed the descriptions of the natural world which lead up to the Leviathan/Behemoth passages are there to underline this point; and it’s interesting that those passages zoom in upon the cruelties and even brutalities within nature. Yet these are all of God’s ultimate design and creation, and under His providential control. Job had earlier perceived this; for he responds to the friends’ allusions to an evil ‘Satan’ figure as the source of his suffering by observing: “Ask the animals… the birds of the air… [they show that] the hand of the Lord [and not any supernatural ‘Satan’] has done this” (Job 12:7-9). Ginzberg demonstrates that the Jews saw the monster ‘Rahab’ and Leviathan as the same entity⁵; and twice Job stresses how infinitely greater than Rahab is Yahweh. When God starts speaking about Leviathan, He is therefore confirming the truth of what Job has earlier said about His power over Rahab/Leviathan. The context of Job’s comments was to answer the theories of the friends—and God is as it were confirming that Job’s deconstruction of their ‘Satan’ theories was correct. The same Hebrew words are used about God’s binding and loosing of the stars [which were thought to control evil on earth] and His binding, loosing and opening of Leviathan’s mouth (Job 38:31 cp. Job 40:29). Whether or not Leviathan/a ‘Satan’ figure, or the bad stars, are for real… God is in utter control of them, and there is thus no conflict, no war in Heaven, no ultimate dualism at all in the cosmos. Which is just the message we would expect from a monotheistic Old Testament book. Israel’s God is truly the Almighty. Just as Job is described as God’s “servant” (Job 1:8), so is Leviathan (Job 40:28; 41:4). No evil power uncontrolled by God is at work in Job’s life. We also need to give due weight to the fact that God speaks the Leviathan/Behemoth passages “out of the storm”, which had been gathering since Job 37:2. This is significant because storms were seen as manifestations of evil powers. Yet here (and elsewhere in Scripture), the one true God speaks out of such storms, to demonstrate how far greater He is than any storm god; and showing by implication that such storm gods don’t exist, and the ‘evil’ which supposedly came from them was in fact under His control.

Much of the language used about Leviathan and Behemoth is also used about God’s manifestation of Himself:

To continue reading this Bible article, click here.

Author: Duncan Heaster

Keywords: Leviathan, behemoth, Mot, Satan, Behe-mot

Bible reference(s): Job 3:8, Job 40:15, Job 41:1

Source: “The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration.”

Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.