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Job 41:34.

He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

Who is the king of the children of pride and who is he symbolic of in reality?

6 Answers 6

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Leviathan is two things at the same time. He is a living creature, and he is a symbol.

On the first question, I regard the RSV suggestion "crocodile" as an absurd anti-climax. The previous creature mentioned was Behemoth, described (ch40 v19) as "the first of the works of God". This is evidently the climax of the list of animals beginning in ch39. So the last creature mentioned ought to offer an intensified climax.

The end of the chapter makes it clear that he lives in the sea; "He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment. Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be hoary" (ch41 vv31-32, RSV). Surely this has to be the whale. Only the whale is greater than the greatest of the land-animals. The description of the terror he causes looks like a graphic account of a whale-hunt.

If we insist on being naively literal about the physical description, then "out of his mouth go flaming torches" (19) actually rules out the crocodile. If we don't, then the limited effect of primitive harpoons on whale skin would be enough to account for the description of armour (vv13-17).

But Leviathan is also a symbol. Consider the logic of this list. The first climax was "the first of the works of God", evidently in order of greatness rather than in order of time. The placing of Leviathan implies that he is even greater. But if Leviathan is greater than the greatest of the works of God, then he cannot himself be one of the works of God. Indeed, he is the only living creature on the list for whom God makes no provision and offers no support.

In Isaiah ch27 v1, Leviathan is destined to be punished by God. he is the twisting serpent, the dragon who lives in the sea. Job ch3 v8 alludes to him as the mythical creature capable of swallowing the sun and causing eclipses (compare Revelation ch12 v4), who can be raised by the magical arts of those witches who want to "curse the day". The "serpent" imagery does not necessarily clash with the "whale" hypothesis. Imagination based on verbal description of behaviour was apparently capable of turning an African rhinoceros into a mediaeval European unicorn, and I suggest that it could easily turn a thrashing whale into a sea-serpent.

His home in the sea also has symbolic relevance. The process outlined in Genesis ch1 vv1-10 identifies the sea as a surviving remnant of the original Abyss. It is the part of God's creation which he has not actually put in order, apart from placing limits. When Jonah is swallowed by a "great fish", he feels that he has been "cast into the deep".The sea is the source of evil things in Daniel ch7 v2 and on a number of occasions in Revelatino, which is presumably why it is abolished in Revelation ch21 v1. So Leviathan as a sea-creature appears to represent the source of all evil.

That would explain his place as the climax of the book of Job. God is ending his final speech to Job by acknowledging that the source of all evil exists and tacitly refusing to explain why, or to reveal what he is going to do about it. The great refusal is precisely what the book of Job is all about.

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  • Now we are getting somewhere. I would think a king of proud men rules over his subjects, just as the great red dragon rules over those with the mark of the beast. This implies more influence than just a crocodile or whale could exert.
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 24 at 15:44
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    Some interesting facts. Regarding a large sea creature leaving a shining wake, any disturbance in the sea can result in bioluminescence from algae, phytoplankton, protozoans, and small crustaceans. For more detail, see britannica.com/science/marine-bioluminescence. Regarding the oceans as a remnant of the abyss, a Harvard study suggests that the earth might have started as a water world: news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/04/….
    – Dieter
    Feb 24 at 18:14
  • I accept that Leviathan may be a living creature and a symbol at the same time. But I do not consider the idea of Leviathan as a sea-crocodile to be absurd. See psalm 74 where God's victory over Leviathan is described in the context of the parting of the sea in Exodus, where sea-crocodiles could indeed have been the monsters referred to: "Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the waters. Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness." Feb 24 at 18:40
  • @DanFefferman I think Stephen's problem with crocodiles is that they aren't big enough or impressive enough to match the description of the leviathan. However, we have some evidence of truly massive crocodiles existing in the past, perhaps weighing several tons. (I'm not going to attempt to reconcile carbon dating to the Biblical records here; so any info I link to would be effectively useless.)
    – jpaugh
    Feb 25 at 18:31
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The "King of Pride" is a reference to a sovereignty futilely opposed to God. The author may have had in mind one or both of two specific local deities: Lotan (Canaan) and Sobek (Egypt). Both were represented by serpent-like sea creatures. Leviathan's identity with the Canaanite sea-serpent Lotan is relatively clear, as his name is linguistically very close to Leviathan. He was a servant of the sea deity Yam. Sobek was the Egyptian crocodile god who was closely associated with kingship.

In this sense, the passage emphasizes God's complete sovereignty over the natural world, which was mistakenly deified and worshiped in Canaanite fertility religion. The "children of pride" would be those who resist God's rule and continue to worship in the Canaanite tradition.

enter image description here

Above: Urgaritic depiction of Lotan

Turning to Egypt, Psalm 74 seems to associate God's victory over Leviathan with the parting of the sea in Exodus:

13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the waters. 14 Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

The parting of the sea harkens back to Egypt and the Exodus. In that context, it is significant that the Egyptian god Sobek was portrayed as crocodilian. Sobek was closely associated with Horus and with kingship, so there may be a connection here with the idea of the "King of Pride." In this case, the "children of pride" could be Egyptians, who continued to pose a serious threat to Israel long after the Exodus.

enter image description here

Above: the Egyptian god Sobek, often depicted as a standing human with a crocodile's head.

Looking forward, since both Lotan and Yam were sometimes depicted as sea serpents - and the crocodile too can be thought of as a kind of serpent - Job may have anticipated the idea of Leviathan as the "Great Serpent" of Revelation. But in terms of Job's human author, it is more likely that Leviathan represented one of the aforementioned deities of Egypt or Canaan. In any case, for Christians, as well as some Jews, Leviathan represents satanic power.

Conclusion: the exact sense of Leviathan as the of "King of Pride" in Job is not entirely clear. However, it is almost certainly a reference to the animal/s associated with Canaanite or Egyptian sea-gods. These deities supported the cultural and political forces - "the children of pride" - opposed to the God of Israel.

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Job 41 focuses on a creature known in English as 'Leviathan', a large aquatic creature that mankind cannot assert dominance over. The purpose of the text is to demonstrate God's greatness by showing off the power of some of his greatest creatures, those which man cannot control. And yet God has created these things.

Leviathan has been likened by commentators to a crocodile, shark or other large aquatic reptile - some have compared it to aquatic dinosaurs like the plesiosaur.

Job 41:34.

He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

Job 38-41 comes at the end of a great deal of debate between Job and his friends, and at this point in the narrative both Job and his friends are being directly rebuked by the Lord, drawing their attention to how little they know, in spite of the many words and accusations they have thrown around in the book so far.

When Leviathan is called 'king over all the children of pride', this is a direct rebuke to Job and his friends, and a demonstration that even this creature is far greater than the proudest and strongest of men. By extension it would further apply to all others who exalt themselves in pride. And yet still, this creature is less than the Lord. This is the crescendo of the Lord's rebuke, immediately after which Job answers:

Job 42 (NIV)

1 Then Job replied to the Lord:

2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job receives the Lord's rebuke, applies it correctly and repents accordingly.

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    @ Steve can help Referring to the scripture given, how does an aquatic animal beholdeth all high things?
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 24 at 17:57
  • In Job, the LXX translators chose the Greek word, drakón (dragon), for leviathan. In the LXX, Job 41:34 reads, “Every lofty thing he sees and he is king of all the things in the waters.” The Greek word, “lofty” is hupsélos, meaning high or lofty. The same word is used in Romans 12:16, which is translated as “haughty” in some versions.
    – Dieter
    Feb 24 at 18:33
  • @RHPclass79 - the KJV isn't the most helpful translation there because of its translation approach. 'high' is a simple way of rendering h1364 and they've chosen it to be consistent with other passages, but in Hebrew it also carries tones of being haughty or arrogant, which get lost to us in the English. In the context of v33-34 the CSB does a better job of it: He surveys everything that is haughty; he is king over all the proud beasts.
    – Steve can help
    Feb 24 at 22:44
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    @ Steve can help: Ez.28: 1-10 speaks of the prince of Tyrus. He is said to be wiser than Daniel. He thinks of himself as God. God prophecies he will die as a man. Based upon only these verses I think we would agree the subject is only a mortal man. Then verses 11-19 speak of the king of Tyrus , which I know of no one that fails to recognize as Satan. Deeper understanding requires using context from the whole Bible, at least from my perspective. Are you sure there is not a deeper truth on Leviathan in Job as was the example I gave from Ezekiel. The other answers seem to present that possibility
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 24 at 23:31
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    Agree to disagree. But all opinions are appreciated.
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 25 at 15:02
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  • Who was the mother of all living things?
  • Who is the mother of prostitutes?
  • Who is the father of lies?
  • Who is the son of man?
  • Who is the daughter of Zion?
  • Who is the prince of peace?
  • Who is the king of kings?

There’s a direct answer to each of these questions, but they're not clearly symbolic of someone else. Instead, each is an idiom used for a superlative or intensifier.

We also use this type of expression in modern English: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/mother-of-all

There are some biblical exceptions:

  • Adam nicknamed Eve, Zoe (dzo-WAY) apparently because she mothered everything.
  • Jesus called himself the son of man, as a reference to Daniel’s prophetic writings.
  • The daughter of Zion is a metaphor for Israel, specifically for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. This is closest to what you're asking.

Thus, the “king of the children of pride” (“king over all the sons of pride” in the ESV) is a comparison of a powerful sea creature called leviathan to anyone who thinks they have a lot to be proud of.

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    @ Dieter This verse has a specific reference. Based on the characteristics the true identity can be examined elsewhere in the Bible. Who is it?
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 24 at 7:30
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Job 41:34 is a metaphor (compare the same idea in Job 28:8) as pointed out by Benson:

He is king over all the children of pride — He carries himself with princely majesty and courage toward the strongest, loftiest, and fiercest creatures, which, though far higher in stature than himself, he strikes down with one stroke of his tail, as he commonly does cows and horses, and sometimes elephants.

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Before answering who is the king, let us review who are the children of pride.

Job 41:34 NIV

It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud.”

In the poem, the terms "haughty" and "proud" are typical Hebrew parallelism essentially convey the same meaning. While these adjectives directly describe human behavior, their application to animals takes on a fundamentally symbolic nature. The context of Job 41:34 unveils that the pronoun "It" refers to the formidable creature known as the "Leviathan". Thus the verse exhibits a hybrid structure - a literal description coexisting within a broader symbolic narrative.

In the Bible, "Pride" is often depicted as an obstacle to submission to God, contrasting with the virtue of "Humility"

Proverbs 11:2 NIV

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 29:23 NIV

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

Therefore in Jobs 41:34, "The children of pride" represent God's adversaries who resist submission to divine authority. The king ruling over them is often associated with Satan, or the evil one.

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  • @ Vincent Wong: My interpretation of the first half of verse 34 sees a high vantage point of Leviathan based on the KJV. It reminds me of the description of Prince of the power of the air. We are on the same page as a whole.
    – RHPclass79
    Feb 24 at 23:54

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