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[Job 40:19 NLT] (19) It [Behemoth] is a prime example of God's handiwork, and only its Creator can threaten it.

[Rev 13:4 NET] (4) they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: "Who is like the beast?" and "Who is able to make war against him?"

I notice another strange relationship...

[Rev 12:16 NLT] (16) But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon.

Job 40:23 KJV Behold,º he drinketh upºº a river,º [and] hastethºº not:º he trustethºº thatº he can draw upºº Jordanº intoº his mouth.º

In Job 40:23,the Behemoth appears to be an agent of Chaos, but in Revelation 12:16 the same figure appears to be benevolent and an agent of God! The Revelation usage seems to describe the Behemoth as being "the land".

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    Now, THAT is a very different question and a very good question. +1. – Dottard Feb 6 at 22:36
  • Many times verses at various places in the Bible touch on the same issue, but in this case the answer has to be “no”, because the word creator in the Job verse obviously refer to God, which the dragon in the Rev verse hardly could refer to. But doesn’t this question fall into the category of truth questions? – Constantthin Feb 6 at 23:28
  • Truth questions don't fly on Christianity, but here, this kind of question is par for the course. – Ruminator Feb 6 at 23:37
  • It may be so; but anyway, for your assertion to be true, the dragon has to be the creator - God, which most bible scholars probably would disagree with. – Constantthin Feb 6 at 23:37
  • I certainly understand why you say that, but God often takes credit for things attributed to others in other places, doesn't he? – Ruminator Feb 6 at 23:42
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I absolutely believe that the two beasts in Revelation refer to Behemoth (the beast on the land) and Leviathan (the beast from the sea), and that this can aid in interpreting Revelation.

This is a personal belief, there is no verse that directly says this, but there are some suggestive parallels which lead me to believe it. But again, this is an attempt at interpreting prophetic imagery, not doctrine (which would require multiple and clear explicit statements from scripture). No one should be taking theology from Revelation or at least solely from proof texts in Revelation, as there are many clearer texts to use.

Behemoth as "beast"

First "Behemoth" is just a transliteration of "behemot", or "beasts", which is the plural form of "behema" which means "beast" or "cattle". It is used as an intensive plural, or plural of majesty. The corresponding Greek word, theria, is what is translated as "beast" in Revelation. So there is one connection.

This passage from the Anchor Yale Bible on Job makes the linguistic and interpretive case:

An apparent plural of the common noun bĕhēmāh, “beast, cattle.” The verbs used with the noun in this passage are third person masculine singular thus indicating that a single beast is intended and that the plural form here must be the so-called intensive plural or plural of majesty, The Beast, par excellence. LXX renders thēria, “animals,” and similarly Targ., but Vulg. and Syr. transliterate the word and take it to refer to a single animal. Some interpreters have understood the term to apply to the elephant. However, since Bochart most modern critics have identified the animal in question as the hippopotamus. It has been suggested that the word Behemoth itself is derived from a hypothetical Egyptian compound pʾ-iḥ-mw, “the ox of the water,” but no such word has yet been found in Coptic or Egyptian and no known Egyptian designation of the hippopotamus bears any close resemblance to the word Behemoth. The descriptions of Behemoth and Leviathan (cf. 41:1 ff.) are indeed vivid and detailed enough to convince most moderns that the creatures are the two most impressive of Egypt’s numerous fauna, the ponderous hippopotamus and the extremely fierce and dangerous crocodile. If this were the case, one might wonder why less puzzling terms were not used. Actually there are considerations which militate against the view that the animals described are creatures from the natural world. Both the hippopotamus and the crocodile were killed and captured by the Egyptians, whereas Leviathan at least is represented as too powerful and ferocious for mere man to dare to come to grips with it. Pope, M. H. (2008). Job: Introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 15, p. 320). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

Note that if we accept Behemoth as the quintessential beast, or behema, we have more avenues for interpreting this passage in Job, as several times people in the Bible were called "beasts" when they were arrogant or questioned God -- which incidentally is what Job did.

This label of beast carries the connotation of reckless stupidity - similar to Balam, who was dumber than his donkey. Even the ominous "Consider (Hinneh) Behemoth that I made as you" should be viewed as a warning to Job to consider his own beastliness or beast-nature, and it could be that this beast-nature is what is impossible for man to defeat, rather than a big hippopotamus. I'll also note that this is the first "Hinneh" that God says to Job (Hinneh is a important discourse marker signifying "pay attention to this".

Then we have Psalm 73.20-22

In this passage, the plural "Behemoth" is used also, and the context is when the psalmist begins to lose faith and question God, and for a moment considers joining the ranks of the wicked:

As a dream when one awaketh;

So, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

Thus my heart was grieved,

And I was pricked in my reins.

So foolish was I, and ignorant:

I was as a beast (behemot) before thee

And we have the story of Nebuchadnezzer, who was turned into an ox to "eat grass like an ox" to punish him for his arrogance, reminiscent of "Consider Behemoth, he eats grass like an ox"

Daniel 4.25

you will be driven away from human society and you will dwell with the animals of the field, and you will be caused to graze grass like the oxen yourself, and you will be watered with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time will pass over you until that you have acknowledged that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of humankind, and to whom he wills he gives it.

And similarly we have Psalm 49.20:

Humankind in its pomp,

but does not understand,

is like the beasts (behemot) that perish.

And even in Job 18.2:

Why are we considered as animals (behemot)?

Why are we taken as stupid in your eyes?

So we have at least one interpretation of Behemoth in Job as a reckless/stupid individual who is arrogant and tries to challenge or question God.

Leviathan and Behemoth both as sibling "beasts"

The second connections comes from Second Temple pseudo-epigraphia, specifically the apocalyptic works in the Book of Enoch, 4 Ezra, and the Apocalypse of Baruch. Now these are pseudo-epigraphical works, but were very popular (some early patristics treated Enoch as canonical in that they quoted from it, and the Egyptian Church still views it as canonical). And the point is not to claim canonicity for these works but I claim that much of the imagery of Revelation -- the metaphorical language -- can be understood as part of a long tradition of acolyptic texts of which these other works are a member. So John was using this well known imagery from these other works.

In all of these other works, Leviathan and Behemoth are viewed as siblings with Leviathan the more powerful sibling cast into the sea and Behemoth cast onto land.

Here is Enoch 60.7-9:

7 And on that day two monsters were separatedb—the female monster whose name is Leviathan, to dwell in the depth of the sea, above the fountains of the waters. 8 But the name of the male is Behemoth, who occupies with his breast the trackless desert named †Dundayn†, east of the garden where the chosen and righteous dwell, where my great-grandfather was taken up, the seventh from Adam, the first man whom the Lord of Spirits created. 9 And I asked another angel to show me the might of those monsters, how they were separated in one day and were thrown the one into the depth of the sea, and the other into the dry land of the desert. Nickelsburg, G. W. E., & VanderKam, J. C. (2012). 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37–82. (K. Baltzer, Ed.) (p. 233). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

You can find similar statements in 4 Ezra 6:49–52 and Apocalypse of Baruch 24:4. These citations are also discussed in Pope's Job.

So even if these texts are not scripture, they were nevertheless cited by early Christians and formed part of the background of apocalyptic imagery in which Revelation was written, so I believe early Christians would interpret Revelation in light of these references.

There is a similar belief in the Talmud, where these Behemoth and Leviathan were viewed as "two beasts of the chase". At the last judgement, the righteous will hunt them down and then have a banquet eating their flesh at the wedding feast on the 8th day of Succoth. Elsewhere it says the walls of the succoth will be made from Leviathan's skin.

In another comment the verse is read There shall be a sukkah for shade from the searing heat of the Day [of Judgment] (Isa. 4:6). R. Levi said: In this world, whosoever obeys the command to dwell in a sukkah—[that is, in awareness of the presence of God]—him, in the world-to-come, the Holy One will have dwell, [safe from His fiery wrath], in a sukkah made of the Leviathan’s skin, as is said in the verse in which God asked Job: [Dost thou not realize that even the tiniest gap in] the walls of the sukkah [of the righteous] will be filled in with skin from the Leviathan? (Job 40:31). Braude, W. G., & Kapstein, I. J. (2002). Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Rab Kahăna: R. Kahana’s compilation of discourses for Sabbaths and festal days (2nd ed., p. 623). Philadephia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

Also we read in the Targum to Genesis: 21. God created the great sea monsters, Leviathan and his mate, that are designated for the day of consolation 1 Cathcart, K., Maher, M., & McNamara, M. (Eds.). (1992). The Aramaic BibleB: Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis. (M. Maher, Trans.) (Vol. 1, Ge 1:21). Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

The rabbis (as you would expect) veer off into a discussion of how the meat will be preserved, with Leviathan preserved in salt water (get it!) and Behemoth not salted because fish taste better salted than meat. And the discussions go on. Leviathan is even said to have "horns". For more details, see the Babylonian talmud, Baba Batra 5:1a, IV.21.A–22.K or do a keyword search online in sefaria, there are many fun references as above.

So also in Jewish tradition these two (Behemoth and Leviathan) are treated together as beasts that will be hunted and they both have horns.

Finally in Job they are presented next to each other as the examples of beasts two powerful for Job (and thus man) to conquer. But as man was given authority over all the beasts of the earth, these must be supernatural beasts or metaphors for something else, not real animals like the stork that are also described in Job.

Leviathan as the world

Now Leviathan is one of the many sea monsters in Bible that are echoes of the Babylonian chaoskampf in which these monsters symbolize primordial chaos as in the Babylonian creation story. Interestingly, although in the Old Testament Leviathan is not portrayed as having seven heads, it is so portrayed in the Babylonian traditions. Here is the Anchor Yale Bible again:

A Mesopotamian seal cylinder from Tell Asmar depicts a seven-headed dragon in the process of being subdued by two divine heroes. One attacks from the rear while the other battles the monster head on. Four of the dragon’s heads are drooping, but the three upper ones are still erect with forked tongues protruding. The creature has six long tongues of flame rising along its back. The cylinder dates from the early Akkadian period, but certainly represents a prototype of the seven-headed serpentine monster Leviathan (cf. H. Frankfort, Stratified Cylinder Seals from the Diyala Region, Pl. 45, No. 478, and J. B. Pritchard, ANEP, 691). Equally interesting is a small shell plaque of unknown provenience (ANEP, 671) which depicts a god kneeling before a seven-headed fiery monster. The heads are serpentine and the body leonine with flames rising from the creature’s back. The lowest head and neck appears to be drooping a bit, but the other six are still erect. There is something draped over the drooping neck, but it is difficult to tell just what it represents, perhaps a sword, a club, or a noose or muzzle.

Going back to the many sea monsters in the Bible, we have in Ezekiel 29.3-4 a passage reminiscent of Leviathan in Job, equating "sea monster" (tannim) with Egypt:

Speak, and you must say, ‘thus says the Lord Yahweh: “Look! I am against you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great sea monster, the one lying down in the midst of his Nile streams, who says to me, “It is my Nile, and I made it for myself.” And so I will put hooks in your jawbones, and I will make the fish of your Nile streams stick to your scales, and I will bring you up from the midst of your Nile streams, and all of the fish of your Nile streams which cling to your scales.

And in Jeremaiah 51.34 we have Babylon so equated:

Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me and sucked me dry; he has made me an empty vessel; he has swallowed me like the sea monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies; he has rinsed me.

So Tannim was a general reference to Egypt and Babylon, or "the world" or "the nations". But in Isaiah 27.1 tannim is equated with leviathan:

On that day, Yahweh will punish with his cruel, great and strong sword Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and Leviathan, the twisting serpent, and he will kill the sea monster (tannim) that is in the sea.

The prophecy of Isaiah of killing the sea monster with his sword could refer to the mortal headwound of the beast from the sea in Revelation.

So there are at least suggestions that the great beast Leviathan is a metaphor for the kingdoms of this world as Leviathan is equated with tannim which is equated with both Egypt and Babylon.

This metaphor fits with the metaphor of "sea" as the world or as the affairs of men, with Leviathan being a sea monster rising out of it.

Moreover the great beast with 7 heads rising out of the sea in Revelation, would correspond to the traditional mythic view of the sea monster with seven heads. But the beast from the sea in Revelation is well known as an amalgam of all four beasts in Daniel, which were described as empires in that book.

So with this interpretation, God's warning to Job is that this "world system" is impossible for man to defeat as well, again rather than a big sea snake.

Conclusion

So the above are at least hints that Leviathan is the beast from the sea in Revelation and Behemoth is the beast from the land. In this interpretation, we can view the beast from the sea as a metaphor for consolidation of all the worldly empires or at least for Egypt and Babylon and whatever other empires were in Daniel's dream and the beast from the land as a metaphor for the arrogant man who recklessly challenges God.

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  • Where have you been all my life? This is fantastically useful info. Thank you so much, Robert, for posting this. Honestly, I'm simply amazed that one person could throw so much light on such an ancient obscure matter. I thought I might have touched on something obscure but in reality, this looms large in ancient thought. I got into this quest because of the way Genesis 1 reflects and grates against the sensibilities of its near east neighbors: oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-145/lecture-3 – Ruminator Feb 7 at 11:27
  • Thanks, @Ruminator I was digging into Behemoth and Leviathan a few months ago, and so quickly dug up some of my notes. The comparison of Genesis and the Babylonian creation myths is indeed very interesting. I can almost imagine the discussion now: Babylonians: "The world was created in 6 days! We have a base 6 system." Jews: "No, it was 7 days, but on the 7th day God rested from creating it." :) I will check out the Yale course, it looks interesting! Thanks for the reference! – Robert Feb 7 at 11:36
  • Robert, you probably know by now that people that agonize over details regarding Behemoth and Leviathan are odd and probably "disturbed", so to find someone who is likewise obsessed is prolly sick, etc.. but also affirming. Your observations are probably cause for an unwelcome diagnosis but to me are affirmation that maybe I'm not insane... or at least not alone in my insanity! – Ruminator Feb 7 at 11:44
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    Everything in Job is deserving of close study. It's an absolute masterpiece. "Look, these are the outer fringes of his ways, and how faint is the word that we hear of him! But who can understand the thunder of his power?" – Robert Feb 7 at 12:07
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    Job 41:19-21 New International Version 19 Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. 20 Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. 21 Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth. looks like he is a dragon as well,which reinforces your view on revelation.The great red dragon. – Bagpipes Feb 7 at 14:55

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