The Beasts of Job
By Carl Hagensick
When one wants to study prophetic beasts in the Bible, it is customary to turn to either the books of Daniel or the Revelation. However, other books of the Bible also speak of beasts in a prophetic sense. In this article we want to address two beasts who figure prominently in the story of Job—behemoth and leviathan.
Outline of Job
While the book of Job is generally treated as a general lesson as to why God permits evil, with Job representing all of mankind; the story may be treated equally well with Job picturing the nation of Israel. After all, Israel is a microcosm of the human race and their experiences; and if mankind has suffered from the permission of evil, Israel has done so even to a greater degree.
The book itself divides into five sections: (1) the introductory narrative; (2) the discussions with the three comforters; (3) the monologue of the fourth man, Elihu; (4) the voice of God speaking out of the whirlwind; and (5) the repentance and restoration of Job.
It is in this latter section, covering chapters forty through forty-two that we meet behemoth and leviathan.
The repentance of Job comes in stages. First, after God speaks from the whirlwind we find Job uttering these words: “Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5).
Although this is an admission of his own failures it falls far short of the abject repentance he expresses in chapter 42:6 “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
The natural inquiry is to ask what produced this further degree of repentance. The obvious answer is God’s continued discussion with Job in the intervening chapters. This is the presentation of God concerning behemoth and leviathan.
If Israel, indeed, be the antitype of Job, what will bring them to the state of abject repentance necessary for them to assume their kingdom role? The answer lies in examining these two beasts.
Both of these two animals are described as being virtually invincible. In fact the point of chapters 40 and 41 is that God alone is able to handle these two creatures.
Although leviathan is introduced last, we will discuss him first since he is the easiest to identify. Two clues establish firmly who is represented by this beast.
First, in verse 34 of this 41st chapter of Job, we have a summary of his description: He beholdeth all high things: “he is a king over all the children of pride.” Can there be a better description of Satan himself? (See Isa. 14:13, 14.)
Second, we have a further description of leviathan in Isaiah 27:1: “In that day the LORDwith 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.”
Here the double identification of leviathan with both the serpent and the dragon links the image with not only Satan, but more particularly with his activity as the dragon, midst the civil governments of the world.
Job Describes Leviathan
In the first nine verses of the chapter, God shows Job the futility of man trying to tame leviathan. His strength is just too great. But, beginning with the latter half of verse ten, God shows that he is in control of the entire situation and he will “repay” or recompense leviathan for all his evil deeds.
“Who then is able to stand before me? Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine. I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.”—Job 41:10-12
Fearsome as is this beast, God admits that he is of “comely proportions.” This is reminiscent of the description of Satan in Ezekiel 28:12-15.
The portrayal of leviathan calls special attention to four physical features: (1) his sharp teeth; (2) his tight-fitting scales; (3) his fiery breath; and (4) his hard heart.
The sharp teeth show the unsated appetite of the Adversary. The tight-fitting scales emphasize his invincibility. The fiery breath emphasizes the ferociousness with which he intimidates all opposition. And the hard heart shows not only his lack of compassion, but also his self-confidence and lack of fear. It is the teeth and scales that cause many commentators to assign leviathan to being a characterization of the crocodile. The fiery breath, not common to any natural beast, lends itself to the mythological image of the fire-breathing dragon. In fact this fire shows the bold and intimidating claims by which the Adversary has imposed himself as the “god of this world.”
In verse 18, the expression his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning could with equal ease be translated his outward appearance is as the rays of dawn or his focus is on the first rays of dawn. If the first of these suggested translations is intended, note the similarity with 2 Cor. 11:14; and no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
If the second interpretation be correct, this also matches with other Scriptures, most notably with 2 Thess. 2:8, 9 RS, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.” The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders.
In verses 31 and 32 we have Satan’s techniques in this final battle of the ages: “He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.”
The boiling of “the deep”, the sea, is prophetic of the roiling up of humanity to the furors of anarchy—”the sea and the waves roaring” (See Luke 21:25). The shining path, making the deep appear to be “hoary,” or having white hair refers to the pseudo-knowledge and philosophy which make evil appear as good, again the technique of appearing as “an angel of light.”
This animal, described in Job 40:15-24, is more difficult to identify. We only meet up with him here in Job. Like leviathan, he is invincible. Otherwise he can best be described as “indescribable.” That very lack of specific identification helps to link him with another beast, this one from the book of Daniel. “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.”—Daniel 7:7
This fourth beast of Daniel, particularly after the little horn rises and displaces three other horns, represents the religio-political government that evolved when church and state joined in the days of Consantine and especially as seen in the so-called Holy Roman Empire.
Like Satan this mammoth defies domesticating. God is showing to Job that once again only Jehovah is strong enough to control the uncontrollable forces which have been unleashed on the earth.
In verse nineteen he is described as the most powerful of the creations of God, again an apt description for the wealth and power amassed by this great universal empire. But, as the better translation put the latter part of the verse, the one who made him has power to raise the sword against him. How true that will be in the final collapse of Babylon the great!
The self-confidence of this “behemoth” is shown in verse 23 where he defies even the flood, yea, even the swelling of “the river Jordan.” The river Jordan represents humanity, those under the death sentence, those who have been “judged down” as the name Jordan signifies. Even when these rise up in anarchous rebellion, behemoth retains his confidence. However it is a false confidence and this very rising up of the populace brings about the downfall of behemoth—the anti-Christ system.
The Effect on Israel
As the development of the second presence have brought Israel to an hour of judgment, they have responded increasingly with a vocalized knowledge of their need of God to pull them through, but not with the degree of repentance fitting them for the illustrious role they will play in God’s kingdom on earth.
They still have natural bitterness for the success of their two greatest tormentors during the dark days of their Diaspora—Satan and his masterpiece, the anti-Christ church-state governments. But when God will show, through the means of fighting for Israel against these very enemies in Jacob’s trouble, that He is in charge, that he can indeed bring about the recompense which justice requires, then Israel will bow the knee and say, “I repent” in sackcloth and ashes.