God of the Week: Leviathan

09/13/2010: Leviathan

Leviathan is the fire breathing sea dragon that boils the sea with his flaming breath, as well as one of the most ancient and archaic images in the Tanakh. A great battle between Leviathan and the Hebrew god Yahweh is described in the Book of Job.

His sneezings flash forth light, And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.Out of his mouth go burning torches, And sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils a smoke goeth, As of a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindleth coals, And a flame goeth forth from his mouth.
-Job 41:18-21

Crazy, crazy stuff.

Stories of this nature seem to be more common among ancient religions than not: In Hinduism the god Indra defeated the dragon Vritra, and in the Norse religion Thor battled the dragon Midgard. These legends may have passed by the proto-Indo-Europeans as they spread across Asia and Europe. Another early precursor, one much closer to the Hebrew and possibly the immediate predecessor to the Leviathan legend may have been the story of Lotan, the seven headed dragon in Ugaritic mythology.

Destruction of Leviathan

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