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No. 88: Leviathan and Job, Part 2

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 88
October, 1996
Copyright 1996 Biblical Horizons

(Concluded from Biblical Horizons No. 87.)

Leviathan (41:1-11) is the climax of the theophany, the culmination of the Lord’s speech. His final answer to Job’s injudicious charges against God’s justice. After hearing God rehearse the characteristics of Leviathan and His absolute power over him, Job instantly repents in dust and ashes. He confesses, "I know now that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted" (42:2).

What or who is Leviathan? Later in OT history, under the inspiration of the Spirit, Leviathan becomes symbolic of Satan and the personal forces of evil arrayed against God’s people. I say "later" but these symbolic associations probably begin right here in Job. Consider a few representative passages:

Ps. 74:12-14: "But you, O God, are my king from of old; You bring salvation upon the earth. It was You who split open the sea by your power; You broke the heads of the monster in the waters. You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces and gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness."

Isa. 51:9: "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yahweh. Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart and wounded the serpent?"

Ezk. 29:3: "Speak, and say, `Thus says the Master Yahweh: "Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster [dragon] who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, `My river is my own; I have made it for myself.’"’"

Ezk. 32:2: "Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: `You are like a young lion among the nations, and you are like a monster in the seas, bursting forth in your rivers, troubling the waters with your feet, and fouling their rivers.’"

Rev. 12:3-4: "And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. . . . And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born."

Rev. 12:9: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the land, and his angels were cast out with him."

It is clear that later biblical writers identify Leviathan as symbolic of Satan. Where did they get this idea? From the book of Job!


God can talk all He wants about the beauty and harmony and complexity of His creation (38-39), but as long as Leviathan/Satan is alive and well and wreaking havoc at will, there is a fly in the sacred ointment, a loose end that unravels the whole argument. The Lord answers this problem in chapter 41. God speaks of Satan using the serpentine language He uses in other parts of His Word. Satan is the serpent. (Isa. 27:1, "In that day, Yahweh will punish with His sword, His fierce, great, and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; He will slay the monster of the sea"). Remember the personal nature of evil. Evil is not metaphysical, some substance and stuff, or even some lack of substance. Evil is personal rebellion. Satan is evil: pure rebellion against God. Nevertheless, God has sovereign power over "the evil one." That is why we can ask the Lord to "deliver us from the evil one" in the Lord’s prayer. But, of course, we learned this in the prologue to the book of Job.

The same God who made and sustains the weird ostrich also made the "king of terrors" (18:14). Satan is a created being. Evil is completely within God’s control. He must appear before God’s court and give an account of his activity (Job 1:6 & 2:1). Yahweh leads Satan around with a ring in his nose (41:2)! He is an awesome creature, but a creature nonetheless. Job 41:33-34, "Nothing on earth is his equal–a creature without fear. He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over the proud."

Nevertheless, at the end of the book of Job, the Lord alone speaks the word that interprets Satan’s activity. Satan is reduced to silence. He appears in the prologue as "the Satan" (lit: the accuser), attempting to turn Yahweh’s faithful servant against Him. He is full of proud words. "Job will surely curse You to Your face," and the like. He continues to speak through Job’s faithless "friends." Eliphaz’s first speech establishes their link with the demonic spirit world (4:12-21). Job’s three "friends" become "satans," accusing Job of secret sins. At the conclusion of this long story, however, Satan has been silenced. His braggadocio has been exposed as a lie. Job has not cursed God, he has never disengaged himself from intense prayer to God–lamenting, pleading, even cursing his own life and the day of his birth so as not to turn his back on his Creator and Lord.

Is this not comforting? So what if you and I can’t put a ring on the nose of Leviathan and tame him. God can and will. So what is Satan is alive and well and living on planet earth? He is God’s servant. The Bible knows nothing of the Manichaean dualism inherent in so much of Evangelical talk about Satan. There is no ultimate war between good and evil, God and Satan. We have genuine evil here, but not dualism. There is not a smidgen of a hint in the Old or New Testament of an alien order of spirits or demons that forms a rival realm outside of God’s dominion. This is God’s answer to Job’s questions about God’s justice. Once again we have suficient reason to trust God. Why? He controls all things, including the powerful forces of evil: Leviathan & Leviathan’s cosmic counterpart, Satan himself.

Now, finally, Job discovers something that the reader has known since the beginning of the story. God has Satan on a short leash and therefore evil is completely under His control. Remember the prologue: Satan must report to Yahweh. Many people complain that the prologue introduces Satan, who appears before God twice, but then he disappears. Job never mentions him. His friends never mention him. I believe Job’s three "friends" take over Satan’s business and become accusers. No one in the story of Job seems to be aware of his presence. But he is there. And the conclusion of Job is unsatisfactory to many because they want some resolution, some answer to the Satan factor. Well, here it is. The fire that destroyed Job’s sheep and servants (1:16) parallels the fire of Leviathan’s breath (41:19-21). God uses Satan to further His own gracious purposes for His people.

Of course, I wouldn’t think of ending this short article without noting that the book of Job is prophetic of Christ. Jesus, the Greater Job, will suffer as the Lord’s uses Satan to further His salvific purposes for mankind. Poor Satan. Just a pawn. God’s errand boy. Terrifying to us, but completely under God’s thumb.