Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dragon of the Middle East: Leviathan

My first introduction to the Leviathan was reading Psalm 104 of the Christian Bible.  This Psalm spoke of the Leviathan frolicking in the sea.  From that, I imaged a huge dragon having fun, enjoying itself.

Later I read a charming story of the Hebrew God (Yahweh) and the Leviathan.  Every evening Yahweh would visit and play with this dragon.  Yahweh had created Leviathan and his mate, but soon realized his mistake.  Two leviathans would destroy the world, so He had to eliminate one of them.  Afterwards, He promised to play with the survivor every day.  This story made me think of friendship and forgiveness.

However, when I researched the Leviathan, a different picture emerged.  Several Middle Eastern myths had merged together to depict a huge chaos monster.  In one myth, the Hebrew God would slay this dragon, and serve him to the Righteous at the world’s end.  Then in later Christian writings, the Leviathan became a symbol of evil.

Further investigations revealed conflicting descriptions of this dragon, even the gender could not be agreed upon.  Most agreed however that the Leviathan is a dragon of chaos.  Also, they concurred that the Leviathan was huge, churning up the depths of the seas.  According to all the sources I read, this dragon was a world destroying one.

In the creation myths of the Babylonians, Canaanites, and Hebrews, the Leviathan (under various names) was a dragon of chaos.  Then the Prophet Isaiah of the Jews said that the Leviathan was the first of the great acts of God.  He further states that at the end of history, God will slay this dragon.  During the Middle Ages, Christians asserted that Leviathan was the Hellmouth, a monstrous animal with a huge mouth.  Into this animal’s stomach went the damned.  In modern times, the Leviathan became the tool of Satan and as well as a force of evil.

My conclusion after my research is that the Leviathan is a dragon of chaos.  However, I do not view this dragon as evil. Instead of the ending of the Jewish myth, I prefer the Canaanite myth of re-creation.  In this myth, Baal (the God of Order) and the Leviathan reached a compromise of mutual co-existence.

For me, the Leviathan sports in the sea and meets with God in the evenings at the seashore.  Between time and space, the Leviathan and Yahweh play together.  The Leviathan has forgiven God for destroying his mate, and God has made amends to him.  Now, they frolic together as good friends, unconcerned what humans may think.

Works Used:
Sutherland, Robert, “Putting God on Trial:  The Biblical Book of Job”, Trafford, Toronto,, 2006 .
Van Scott, Miriam, “The Encyclopedia of Hell”, St. Martin’s, London, 1999.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, “A Wizard’s Bestiary”, New Page, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007.

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