Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Leviathan - or whale?

Was Job's Leviathan a whale?  The beauty of the poetry of chapter 41 of the book of Job in the Old Testament is almost unsurpassed.

7    Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
8    Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
9    Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10    None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
11    Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12    I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
13    Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?
14    Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
15    His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.

[Interrupting the poetry, here is one reason why this might not be describing a whale.  Scales?]

19    Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
20    Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
21    His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

In many ways you can see how this description describes the world's greatest predator, the sperm whale.  'Smoke' from the nostrils so adequately describes the way that they exhale after a long deep dive, where a cloud of water droplets could easily give the impression of fire breathing. 

Let's forgive the author for the sparks of verse 19 and the flames in verse 21.  They are artists licence - just like a lot of other passages in the bible I think!

Related post: Carpenter Fish

2 comments:

Dobbin said...

Whatever your view on Christianity, it has to be said that the King James is an incredible (excuse the pun) book. One of the greatest works of fiction ever written? And 500 years old this very year.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh....so you're a Christian apologist after all. Makes sense.