While it’s true that, as I’ve shown before, Behemoth and Leviathan in the book of Job are being used as images of Satan, this does not mean that they’re not also real creatures. The case and point of this is in Revelation 18:3, which simply summarizes a long biblical pattern of identifying unclean birds as symbols of unclean spirits. However, does the fact that eagles, ravens, and vultures (Leviticus 11:13) symbolize unclean spirits mean that these creatures don’t actually exist? Of course not, because God has woven symbolism into the very fabric of creation itself; it’s not something that is arbitrarily imposed an an otherwise meaningless world. Thus, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that Behemoth and Leviathan are not merely symbols of Satan and his demons, but they’re also real creatures.
This then begs the question of what kind of creatures they were, and rather than answer this question myself, I’ve decided to consult Dr. Karl Shuker, who is a leading academic cryptozoologist in England. The question of Behemoth and Leviathan’s identity is discussed by Dr. Shuker on pages 36-37 of his wonderful book Dragons: A Natural History, wherein he effectively summarizes my own view of these two magnificent creatures. Thus, below I have excerpted it for all of you dear readers. Enjoy!
Over the centuries, biblical scholars have devoted great time and energy to the riddle of Leviathan’s identity. Could this majestic symbol of God’s power have been based upon a real creature? The most popular candidate is the Nile crocodile, which did exist in the Middle East during biblical times. Whereas Leviathan was marine, however, this species is restricted to fresh water. And although it certainly possesses a scaly, elongated body of considerable (but hardly colossal) size, a powerful neck, glittering eyes, and numerous large and sharp teeth, the Nile crocodile lacks the smoking nostrils and fins of Leviathan.
Whales constitute another possible identity for Leviathan. Yet whereas several species are indeed huge, relatively streamlined in shape, and equipped with fins and sometimes large teeth, as well as blowholes that spout spray upward when they exhale air (which may explain Leviathan’s smoking nostrils), they are neither scaly nor shiny-eyed, and their necks are short.
More recently, a particularly thought-provoking contender has reared its head. Could Leviathan have been based upon some mysterious, still undiscovered sea beast currently responsible for various sea serpent reports?
Leviathan’s biblical description, and many illustrations based upon it, certainly do recall various elongated, reptilian mystery creatures that have been spied by reliable eye-witnesses in many marine localities. It is particularly reminiscent of a supposedly long-extinct form of dragon like marine reptile, known as the mosasaur. Could an undiscovered modern-day species of mosasaur be the explanation for the saltwater serpent dragon found in the Bible?
Perhaps there will yet come a day when science obtains a complete specimen of one of the ocean’s elusive reptilian sea monsters for formal study and classification. Then, at last, we may know the identity of Leviathan itself, the greatest sea monster of all.
Another zoological enigma from the Bible, closely linked with Leviathan, is Behemoth… What is Behemoth? Said to be seven miles in length, this unidentified creature is described in great detail in the Old Testament Book of Job: “Behold, Be′hemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron. He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants he lies, in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him with hooks, or pierce his nose with a snare?”
Traditionally, Behemoth is deemed to be either a hippopotamus or a crocodile. Yet neither of these fits the description very satisfactorily. After all, Behemoth’s ability to move his tail “like a cedar” implies a long, powerful appendage-a far cry from the hippo’s short, insignificant tail. And a vegetarian crocodile-one that “eats grass as an ox”-would be a rare beast indeed.
American biologist Professor Roy Mackal has boldly stated that, in his opinion, Behemoth might be an undiscovered species of living long-necked dinosaur, similar to Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. Such a beast would certainly resemble the Bible’s description of Behemoth.
How fascinating, and how sensational, it would be if a dragon of the past proves to be a dinosaur of the future.