Books, Films

Leviathans

Leviathans are not just creatures from Supernatural. There are several references to Leviathans in various religious scriptures and literature from centuries ago. The word leviathan in today’s context is used to describe large objects or animals like whales. However, there does not seem to be a clear consensus as to what Leviathans are. Let’s explore where the concept of Leviathans originated and the different connotations of them.

Origin of Leviathans

Leviathans make an appearance first in Ugaritic writings, as the sea monster Lôtān who was a servant of Yammu, the sea god, and was defeated by Hadad, the rain and storm god. However, there are discrepancies about whether Lôtān is the sea monster being referred to, as there are gaps in the Ugaritic account because there were other monsters also under Yammu such as Tannin.  Most scholars have reached consensus that Lôtān is, ‘the fugitive serpent,’ referred to in the account, but they cannot make out whether the reference to ‘the mighty one with seven heads,’ or ‘the wriggling serpent,’ may be Lôtān instead.

Leviathans In The Hebrew Bible

One of the first references to Leviathans are in the bible. While Behemoth is the land monster repeatedly mentioned in The Book of Job as a land monster, Leviathan was considered as the primeval monster of the sea. According to the Book of Enoch, the Leviathan resides in, ‘The Abyss,’ which is considered that chasm or bottomless pit that leads to the underworld. In the Tanakh, Leviathans are mentioned six times. Leviathans are also mentioned in the Book of Amos, Book of Isaiah and the Book of Psalms. The word Leviathan is used both figuratively, referencing to Babylon (the enemy) and literally as a giant sea monster.

Leviathans In Literature

Leviathans are now used to refer to sea monsters in general; and Leviathan has been referenced so for centuries now. In the early 17th century, the word leviathan was heavily used to refer to large, powerful things or people due to the release of Thomas Hobbs’ book named, ‘Leviathan.’ This word, which was previously used for sea monsters, was then slowly equated to great whales, as can be seen in ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville. Modern Hebrew uses the word Leviathans to denote to a whale. In the 1830 sonnet, ‘The Kraken,’ by Alfred Tennyson, the characteristics of the supposed Leviathan are likened to the Kraken, which is a giant sea creature that resides at the bottom of the ocean. In the painting, ‘The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan,’ by William Blake, it shows Admiral Lord Nelson going to war (war being signified by the use of the Leviathan). And of course, this lead to the use of the word ‘Leviathan,’ in the highly acclaimed Supernatural series. Leviathans in this context have been shown as one of the first created beasts of God that live in purgatory. They are shapeshifting monsters that feed on humans for sustenance.

Thus, the meaning of Leviathan has constantly changed since its origin, and is used either figuratively or is used to indicate creatures like whales in today’s world.

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