August 15, 2018
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The Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré (1865)

Leviathan (HebrewלִוְיָתָןModern LivyatanTiberian Liwyāṯān) is a sea monster referenced in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of JobPsalms, the Book of Isaiah, and the Book of Amos.  The Leviathan of the Book of Job is a reflection of the older Canaanite Lotan, a primeval monster defeated by the god Hadad. Parallels to the role of Mesopotamian Tiamat defeated by Marduk have long been drawn in comparative mythology, as have been wider comparisons to dragon and world serpent narratives such as Indra slaying Vrtra or Thor slaying Jörmungandr,[1] but Leviathan already figures in the Hebrew Bible as a metaphor for a powerful enemy, notably Babylon (Isaiah 27:1), and some scholars have pragmatically interpreted it as referring to large aquatic creatures, such as the crocodile.[2] The word later came to be used as a term for “great whale” as well as of sea monsters in general.

The name לִוְיָתָן‎ is a derivation from the root לוה‎ lvh “to twine; to join”, with an adjectival suffix ן-‎, with a literal meaning of “wreathed, twisted in folds”.[2] Both the name and the mythological figure are a direct continuation of the Ugaritic sea monster Lôtān, one of the servants of the sea god Yammu defeated by Hadad in the Baal Cycle.[3][4] The Ugaritic account has gaps, making it unclear whether some phrases describe him or other monsters at Yammu’s disposal such as Tunannu (the Biblical Tannin).[5] Most scholars agree on describing Lôtān as “the fugitive serpent” (bṯn brḥ)[4] but he may or may not be “the wriggling serpent” (bṯn ʿqltn) or “the mighty one with seven heads” (šlyṭ d.šbʿt rašm).[6] His role seems to have been prefigured by the earlier serpent Têmtum whose death at the hands Hadad is depicted in Syrian seals of the 18th–16th century bce.[6]

Sea serpents feature prominently in the mythology of the Ancient Near East.[7] They are attested by the 3rd millennium bce in Sumerian iconography depicting the god Ninurta overcoming a seven-headed serpent. It was common for Near Eastern religions to include a Chaoskampf: a cosmic battle between a sea monster representing the forces of chaos and a creator god or culture hero who imposes order by force.[8] The Babylonian creation myth describes Marduk‘s defeat of the serpent goddess Tiamat, whose body was used to create the heavens and the earth.[9]

Hebrew Bible

The Leviathan is mentioned six times in the Tanakh, in Job 3:8Job 40:15–41:26Amos 9:3Psalm 74:13–23Psalm 104:26 and Isaiah 27:1.  Job 41:1–34 is dedicated to describing him in detail: “Behold, the hope of him is in vain; shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?”[10] In Psalm 74, God is said to “break the heads of Leviathan in pieces” before giving his flesh to the people of the wilderness. In Psalm 104, God is praised for having made all things, including Leviathan, and in Isaiah 27:1, he is called the “tortuous serpent” who will be killed at the end of time.[7]  The mention of the Tannins in the Genesis creation narrative[11] (translated as “great whales” in the King James Version)[12] and Leviathan in the Psalm[13] do not describe them as harmful but as ocean creatures who are part of God’s creation. The element of competition between God and the sea monster and the use of Leviathan to describe the powerful enemies of Israel[14] may reflect the influence of the Mesopotamian and Canaanite legends or the contest in Egyptian mythology between the Apep snake and the sun god Horus. Alternatively, the removal of such competition may have reflected an attempt to naturalize Leviathan in a process that demoted it from deity to demon to monster.[8][15]


Later Jewish sources describe Leviathan as a dragon who lives over the Sources of the Deep and who, along with the male land-monster Behemoth, will be served up to the righteous at the end of time. The Book of Enoch (60:7–9) describes Leviathan as a female monster dwelling in the watery abyss (as Tiamat), while Behemoth is a male monster living in the desert of Dunaydin (“east of Eden”).[7]  When the Jewish midrash (explanations of the Tanakh) were being composed, it was held that God originally 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.[16][17]  Rashi‘s commentary on Genesis 1:21 repeats the tradition:

the…sea monsters: The great fish in the sea, and in the words of the Aggadah (B.B. 74b), this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for He created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. הַתַּנִינִם is written. [I.e., the final “yud,” which denotes the plural, is missing, hence the implication that the Leviathan did not remain two, but that its number was reduced to one.] – [from Gen. Rabbah 7:4, Midrash Chaseroth V’Yetheroth, Batei Midrashoth, vol 2, p. 225].[18]

In the Talmud Baba Bathra 75a it is told that the Leviathan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in [the] Time to Come, and its skin used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place. The festival of Sukkot (Festival of Booths) therefore concludes with a prayer recited upon leaving the sukkah (booth): “May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan. Next year in Jerusalem.”[19]

The enormous size of the Leviathan is described by Johanan bar Nappaha, from whom proceeded nearly all the aggadot 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'”.[20][17]

“Leviathan” (1983) a painting by Michael Sgan-Cohen, the Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem


Leviathan the sea-monster, with Behemoth the land-monster and Ziz the air-monster. “And on that day were two monsters parted, a female monster named Leviathan, to dwell in the abysses of the ocean over the fountains of the waters. But the male is named Behemoth, who occupied with his breast a waste wilderness named Duidain.” (1 Enoch 60:7–8)

When the Leviathan is hungry, reports Rabbi Dimi in the name of Rabbi 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.[20] His abode is the Mediterranean Sea; and the waters of the Jordan fall into his mouth.[21][17]

In a legend recorded in the Midrash called Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer it is stated that the fish which swallowed Jonah narrowly avoided being eaten by the Leviathan, which eats one whale each day.

The body of the Leviathan, especially his eyes, possesses great illuminating power. This was the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, who, in the course of a voyage in company with Rabbi 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 fish and kills them (Shab. 77b).[17]

In the eleventh century piyyut (religious poem), Akdamut, recited on Shavuot (Pentecost), it is envisioned that, ultimately, God will slaughter the Leviathan, which is described as having “mighty fins” (and, therefore, a kosher fish, not an inedible snake or crocodile), and it will be served as a sumptuous banquet for all the righteous in Heaven.


Leviathan in the fresco The Last Judgment; painted by Giacomo Rossignolo, c. 1555

Leviathan can also be used as an image of Satan, endangering both God’s creatures—by attempting to eat them—and God’s creation—by threatening it with upheaval in the waters of Chaos.[22] St. Thomas Aquinas described Leviathan as the demon of envy, first in punishing the corresponding sinners (Secunda Secundae Question 36). Peter Binsfeld likewise classified Leviathan as the demon of envy, as one of the seven Princes of Hell corresponding to the seven deadly sins. Leviathan became associated with, and may originally have referred to, the visual motif of the Hellmouth, a monstrous animal into whose mouth the damned disappear at the Last Judgement, found in Anglo-Saxon art from about 800, and later all over Europe.[23][24]  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible suggests in a footnote to Job 41:1 that Leviathan may be a name for the crocodile, and in a footnote to Job 40:15, that Behemoth may be a name for the hippopotamus.[25]

Dukante Leviathan Sigil
Dukante Leviathan Sigil

From The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.

“(e) It will be noticed at once that of the four Symbols of this Chapter, the
first has the name of the Archangel Uriel, and the three others those of three of
the Chief Princes of the Demons, viz. Lucifer, Leviathan, and Satan.”

“12. Meaning apparently the Four Princes and Eight Sub-Princes of the Demons, before so often alluded to.

In many of the old books, Leviathan is represented in a very negative way and many of the rituals are portrayed in a way where you force the demon to appear and command them. Demonosophers are totally opposed to the enslavement and commanding of the demons and the representation of the Dark Lords in such a light, and as such our research and experience with him has led to a very different take.

The Church of Satan

Anton Szandor LaVey in his Satanic Bible (1969) has Leviathan representing the element of Water and the direction of west, listing it as one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell. This association was inspired by the demonic hierarchy from The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. The Church of Satan uses the Hebrew letters at each of the points of the Sigil of Baphomet to represent Leviathan. Starting from the lowest point of the pentagram, and reading counter-clockwise, the word reads “לִוְיָתָן”. Transliterated, this is (LVIThN) Leviathan.[28]

Direction: West
Planet: Neptune
Metal: Platinum
Element: Water
Color: Blue, Teal, Turquoise, Silver, Black and Emerald Green
Incense and Scents:  Sandalwood, Copal, Lotus, and Eucalyptus
Rank : Dark Lord, Emperor, Abyssal Demonic Lord
Species: Abyssal Demon
Realm: Abyssal and Void Realms of the Outer Spiritual World
Attributes: The Lord of the Depth and one who is the master of Emotions and the subconscious mind. Master of conquering the battle of the self and lord of the emotional realm.

Leviathan in Litterature

Leviathan is the title of Thomas Hobbes‘ 1651 work on the social contract and the origins of creation of an ideal state, and his proper name for the Commonwealth. The word Leviathan has come to refer to any sea monster, and from the early 17th century has also been used of overwhelmingly powerful people or things (comparable to Behemoth or Juggernaut), influentially so by Hobbes’ book (1651).

In Paradise LostMilton uses the term Leviathan to describe the clout and power of Satan, the ruler of many kingdoms.

As a term for sea monster, it has also been used of great whales in particular, e.g. in Herman Melville‘s Moby-Dick. In Modern Hebrew, the word now simply means “whale”.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote a sonnet, “The Kraken” (1830), which describes Kraken, a Leviathan-like massive creature that dwells at the bottom of the sea.[26]

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.[27]

The German poet Heinrich Heine mentions Leviathan in his Romanzaro. A Rabbi tells his Catholic opponent in a debate (the “Disputation”) that every day of the year, but one, the God of the Jews plays for an hour with the fish at the bottom of the sea. God will one day serve the flesh of Leviathan to his chosen people. The poem gives the recipe that God will use to cook the giant fish. It will be served with garlic, raisins and rettich.[1]

George Oppen‘s seminal 1962 poem “Leviathan” addresses the leviathan of the all-consuming force of mankind’s own actions, which Oppen felt posed a very real threat to human survival.

The Leviathan appears in the last book of the 1975 The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson as a colossal, intelligent sea creature in the shape of a tentacled pyramid.

In his book, In Search of Prehistoric Survivorscryptozoologist Dr. Karl Shuker considers the Leviathan to be a myth inspired, at least in part, by sightings of a Mosasaur-type sea monster.

In the Dungeons and Dragons novel Darkwalker on Moonshae, set in the Forgotten Realms world, the author, Douglas Niles, presents the Leviathan as a giant sea creature that fights the forces of evil on behalf of the Earthmother, an aspect of Chauntea.

In Steven Brust‘s novel To Reign in Hell, Leviathan (female in this case) is one of seven elder inhabitants of Heaven who conspire to prevent Yahweh from creating the Earth as a sanctuary for himself and those loyal to him.

Leviathan is the name of a novel by Scott Westerfeld about an alternate history in World War I.

Leviathan is the title of a 1992 novel by Paul Auster.

In Boris Akunin‘s novel Murder on the Leviathan, Leviathan is the name of a gigantic steamship.

Leviathan Wakes is the title a 2011 science fiction novel by James S. A. Corey which was a Hugo Awards Best Novel nominee and Locus Awards Best Science Fiction Novel nominee in 2012.

The narrative history book Against His-Story, Against Leviathan by Fredy Perlman critically explores the progress of Hobbes’s Leviathan, as western civilization, inspiring and defining Anti-civilization theory.

Jim Butcher’s series, Codex Alera, mentions leviathans as part of the Alera realm, a species of giant creatures swimming in the river and seas. In the 4th book of the series, Captain’s Fury the main characters attempt to trick their enemy by swimming past their ship when leviathans are nearby. The leviathans also make their appearance in the 5th book, the Princeps’ Fury, when Aleran and Canim armies cross the sea on ships.

Mike Carey‘s ongoing comic The Unwritten features Leviathan as a central character/force of nature that lies at the heart of the plot.

In the book – Prisoner, Jailor, Prime Minister, the author – Tabrik C has used Leviathan as a chapter name, essentially comparing the antagonist to the biblical sea monster.

Escape from Leviathan is a book on libertarian philosophy by J C Lester.

Leviathan In Music

In 1994, the American rapper Nas released his first solo album, Illmatic. The first official single released from the album was “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” in which Nas rapped “Begin like a violin / End like Leviathan”, suggesting his music can have a soothing effect to the ear of its listeners but a rough ending for his competition.

American metalcore band Leathermøuth wrote a song named “Leviathan” for their debut album .

The American progressive metal band Mastodon named their second album Leviathan in reference to the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick, on which the concept of the album is based.

Neal Morse, progressive rock composer, wrote a song called Leviathan for his 2008 album Lifeline. The song is based on all biblical references to the creature.

The power metal band Alestorm mention Leviathan multiple times in their albums, specifically “Leviathan” and “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid”.

English-born American rapper MF DOOM references Leviathan on a track entitled “Strange Ways” on the 2004 collaboration album Madvillainy.

Australian metalcore band Parkway Drive included a track entitled ‘Leviathan I’ on their 2010 release, Deep Blue.

The United States Navy is referred to as “Leviathan” in the music video produced by the Warrior Project and titled “The Warrior Song – Leviathan”.

London based dubstep/drum and bass artists KillSonik named a 2013 free download release “Leviathan”, it’s a drum and bass song with dubstep, drumstep and electro house elements with a dark theme.

Swedish metal band Dissection mentions the leviathan in the chorus of the song “Black Dragon” from their last album Reinkaos.

Swedish metal band Raubtier have a track named Leviatan at their album Pansargryning (2014).

Norwegian electro-rock band Ultra Sheriff have a track named “Leviathan”, which was covered by Ukrainian progressive oriental metal band Ignea.

Australian deathcore band Signal The Firing Squad have a track named “Into the Mouth of the Leviathan”

American musician Josh Ritter references Leviathan in the second verse of his song “Change of Time”.

American black metal band Order of Leviathan was formed in 2012.

Rock band Icarus The Owl have an album named Love Always, Leviathan with a track on the album of the same name.

Solo artist black metal band Leviathan from San Francisco – founded and fronted by Jef Whitehead.

Swedish electronic band Covenant has a track named Leviathan on their album Europa (1998).

The Leviathan in Film and TV

In the television series, Farscape (1999-2003), Leviathans are sentient spaceships, with the ship Moya used by the main characters being one of them. More details can be seen on the wiki page List of races in Farscape.

In the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, the Leviathans are an ancient race of beings who ruled the Earth before mankind came into existence. Their forms were hideous and inhuman, although many Leviathans took human shape after they lost control of the planet. They longed to return to the Earth and reclaim it as their own.

Leviathan is a 1989 science-fiction horror film about a hideous creature that stalks and kills a group of people in a sealed environment, in a similar way to such films as Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982).

In the 2001 Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the Leviathan is a gigantic and terrifying Atlantean war machine which looks like a mechanical lobster a hundred times the dimension of even the largest man-made sea vessel. It serves as the guardian of the entrance to Atlantis, which lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. In the opening scene it is revealed to be an aerial warship, but after Atlantis sank it became aquatic. In 2003 sequel Atlantis: Milo’s Return, it is revealed that it is still guarding the entrance to Atlantis, but didn’t attack Milo’s friends upon their return since, thanks to their crystals, it knew they were friends.

In the Hellraiser series by Clive Barker, the deity that rules Hell is named Leviathan. However, this being takes the form of a gigantic lozenge, rotating in the air above its realm, and pertains in no other way to a sea monster.

A season one episode of Martin Mystery had Martin and his friends dealing with a Leviathan that was guarding undersea treasure.

In the television series Supernatural, the Leviathans are an ancient race of monsters that were freed from Purgatory when the angel Castiel absorbed its entire population. Described by Death as God’s original creations (created before angels and humanity but locked away because they proved too dangerous), Leviathans are capable of shape-shifting into human form after contact with their DNA, able to eat virtually anything and almost indestructible. They are only vulnerable to the household chemical Borax and being stabbed with the bone of a righteous mortal (Sister Mary Constant) soaked in blood from the three fallen: a fallen Angel (Castiel), Ruler of fallen humanity (Crowley) and the father of fallen beasts (Alpha Vampire).

In the Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu episode “The Last Voyage”, Zane’s father is revealed to be still alive and trapped on a prison surrounded by water and guarded by a squid-like creature known as a Leviathon.

Dave Bautista wrestled under the name Leviathan in the early 2000s for Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE’s developmental territory at the time before he got called up to the main roster.

In the television series, Once Upon a Time, “the Leviathan” is the nom de guerre of Lancelot.

In the television series, Elementary, the episode “The Leviathan” features an impossible to crack bank vault named The Leviathan, hence the title of the episode.

In the HBO series Veep, “The Leviathan” is the nickname that Gary, the Vice President’s personal aide, gives to the 60-pocket bag that he carries containing everything the VP might need while out of the office.

In the television Series Red Dwarf, the season seven episode “Epideme” features a ship called the Leviathan which the Red Dwarf crew discover buried in the middle of an ice planetoid.

In the television series Marvel’s Agent Carter, Leviathan is referenced as the possible head of the enemy operation. The identity of Leviathan is yet to be revealed on the show, but in the Marvel Universe, Leviathan is known to be an evil organization.

Leviathan is a 2014 film by the Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev

In the 2016 television series Legends of TomorrowVandal Savage uses a giant robot created from Palmer’s technologies known as the Leviathan to crush rebellion forces. In order to stop it, The Atom, grows to the same dimension to fight it.



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