Job 41:1
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

Psalm 74:14
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

Psalm 104:26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

Isaiah 27:1
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

3 Answers 3


The Masoretic Text word here is לִוְיָתָן - liw·yā·ṯān.

The Septuagint renders this word into Greek as δράκων - drakon (whose meaning should be obvious). Looking at the Greek doesn't give much clarity, though, since the same Greek word is used to translate at least a half dozen different Hebrew words, including "snake" (Jobe 26:3), "jackal" (Jeremiah 9:10), and "young lion" (Job 4:10).

The root of the word is לִוְיָה - liw·yā - which means something like "coil".

The only other thing I think I can offer to the discussion is this discourse on how "Leviathan" is described in Talmudic literature (from The Jewish Encyclopedia):

According to a midrash, the leviathan was created on the fifth day (Yalḳ., Gen. 12). Originally God produced a male and a female leviathan, but lest in multiplying the species should destroy the world, He slew the female, reserving her flesh for the banquet that will be given to the righteous on the advent of the Messiah (B. B. 74a). The enormous size of the leviathan is thus illustrated by R. Johanan, from whom proceeded nearly all the haggadot concerning this monster: "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'" (B. B. l.c.). When the leviathan is hungry, reports R. Dimi in the name of R. Johanan, he sends forth from his mouth a heat so great as to make all the waters of the deep boil, and if he would put his head into paradise no living creature could endure the odor of him (ib.). His abode is the Mediterranean Sea; and the waters of the Jordan fall into his mouth (Bek. 55b; B. B. l.c.).

The body of the leviathan, especially his eyes, possesses great illuminating power. This was the opinion of R. Eliezer, who, in the course of a voyage in company with R. Joshua, explained to the latter, when frightened by the sudden appearance of a brilliant light, that it probably proceeded from the eyes of the leviathan. He referred his companion to the words of Job xli. 18: "By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning" (B. B. l.c.). However, in spite of his supernatural strength, the leviathan is afraid of a small worm called "kilbit" (), which clings to the gills of large fishes and kills them (Shab. 77b).

There is an interesting link in the New Testament, in that the Greek word for "Leviathan" (δράκων) is found only in the Book of Revelation, where it occurs 13 times. Apparently there is a reference in the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch to "Leviathan" in end times (quoting from the Jewish Encyclopedia article):

"On that day [the day of judgment] two monsters will be produced: a female monster, named 'Leviathan,' to dwell in the depths of the ocean over the fountains of the waters; but the male is called 'Behemoth,' who occupies with his breast a waste wilderness named 'Dendain' [read "the land of Naid" after LXX., ἐν γη Ναίδ = , Gen. iv. 16], on the east of the garden, where the elect and the righteous dwell. And I besought that other angel that he should show me the might of these monsters; how they were produced on one day, the one being placed in the depth of the sea and the other in the main land of the wilderness. And he spake to me: 'Thou son of man, dost seek here to know what is hidden?'"

In the Septuagint the word θηρίον is used to translate "Behemoth" (e.g. Job 40:15) - the same word that appears as "beast" in Revelation.

  • Thanks for the illumination on the term "Leviathan" I appreciate your efforts, but the Talmudic source weren't able to tell what is spirit and what isn't. However, the last article is true to the letter!, according to what is written about Behemoth and Leviathan in Job and several places cconcerning the nature of judgment of men and the famed ''that day''.
    – Ted O
    Mar 7, 2017 at 10:51
  • 2
    I offered the Jewish commentary for linguistic not theological value, as your question asked what the word meant and there didn't seem to be much out there. I'm not a big fan of cutting and pasting lexicon entries. Thanks for the question! It was fun to research.
    – user33515
    Mar 7, 2017 at 14:54

I tend to think of the Leviathan as the constellation of Draco, with the 'heads' being the individual stars thereof. Draco circles close to the Pole Star.

In both the Indus script and the early Assyrian pictographs, stars are represented by fish symbols and there's some fishy gematria correspondences for Leviathan too.

יַמִּ֑ים‎ – ‘Yammîm’ (100); Seas.‎

לִוְיָתָ֑ן‎ – ‘livyatan’ (100); Leviathan.‎

אגמון‏ - 'Agmown' (100); Line

בְּהַשָּׁמַ֣יִם - 'BhShmim' (100); in the fiery waters; in the heavens.

בַּכּ֣וֹכָבִ֔ים - 'Bkvkbim' (100); by the stars.

סַלֵּ֥י‎ – ‘Salle’ (100); baskets.‎ The Egyptian hieroglyph of the basket means "all" or "everything" and is preceded on the Rosetta Stone by the sign nut for "the waters". Baskets were obviously connected with fishing.

אֲטֻמִֽים‎ – ‘atumim’ (100); uncertain word that appears to be connected with shutting windows[1].‎

The opening lines of Job 41 are here numbered with Paleo-hebrew gematria[2]:

תמשך(67) לויתן(100) בחכה(35) ובחבל(48) תשקיע(167) לשנו(89)‏

‎1“They will draw, Leviathan, by hook, and a cord, they settle, into his ‎tongue.‎

התשים(62) אגמון(100) באפו(89) ובחוח(30) תקוב(92) לחיו(54)‏

‎2"Then set, a line, in his nose, and hook, they will, into his jaw.‎

Note the concordances of 'Leviathan' with 'Line' (or cord) on the first and second lines, also with 'into [his] tongue' and 'into [his] jaw'.

[1] Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Rosh Hashanah ‎‎2:5 reads:

''The Holy One blessed be He ‎created 365 windows that the world might ‎use them: 182 in the east, and 182 in the ‎west and one in the center of the firmament ‎from which it came forth at the beginning of ‎the Creation.''‎ - https://tinyurl.com/y8epx538

[2] Paleo-hebrew gematria uses the following values:

א 1 ב 2 ג 3 ש 3 ד 4 ת 4 ה 5 ו 6 ז 7 ח 8 ט 9 י 10 כ 20 ל 30 מ 40 נ 50 ס 60 ע 70 פ 80 צ 90 ק 100 ר 200

Gematria is a traditional method of Hermeneutics. It has a poor reputation among academics because they have only tested the incorrect values used openly in the Talmud and Mishnah. I expect that will change now the correct gematria values for the Tanakh are now available.


You will find the meaning of "Leviathan" in the writings of Pope Gregory The Great.

The Neck of Leviathan

  1. For what is designated by the ‘neck’ of that Leviathan, except the stretching out of his pride, with which he raises himself up against God, when, with pretended sanctity, he is exalted also by the pride of power? For that pride is expressed by the ‘neck,’ the Prophet Isaiah witnesses, who reproves the daughters of Jerusalem, saying, They have walked with stretched forth neck. [Isaiah 3:16] Strength then is said to remain in the ‘neck’ of this Leviathan, because power is also subjoined and ministers to his pride. For all his haughty pride, all his crafty machinations, he prosecutes at that time by the strength also of secular power. Which the prophet Daniel observing, says, Craft will be directed aright in his hand. [Daniel 8:25] For craft in his hand, is fraud in his strength; for all his wicked designs he is able also, for the time, to carry out with strength. But his craft is said to be ‘directed,’ because the malice of his fraud is impeded by no difficulty. For this Leviathan or his vessels are wont frequently to possess this peculiarity, that, to add to their iniquity, they are able to carry out more wickedly what they wickedly desire.

(Source: The Books of the Morals of St. Gregory the Pope, or An Exposition on the Book of Blessed Job. Volume III - The Sixth Part, Book XXXIV.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.