Leviathans are found five times, by name, in four Old Testament verses in the King James translation. The animal is described in Job 41, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1. All references are derived from the Hebrew word livyathan (Strong's Concordance #H3882).
The Behemoth, unlike the Leviathan, is found only in Job 40:15 and is described in verses 15 to 24. Its name comes from the Hebrew word spelled like its English counterpart (Strong's #H930). Of all the mythical beasts examined in this series, the characteristics of these two are discussed in greater detail than any other found in God's word.
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? (Job 41:1, KJV)
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat . . . (Psalm 74:14).
Behold now behemoth, which I (God) made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox . . . (Job 40:15).
In that day the Lord . . . shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent . . . (Isaiah 27:1).
Unlike Leviathans, the behemoth is a creature God himself directly names as one he made (Job 41:15). It eats grass and not meat (verses 15, 20) and is able to drink a remarkable amount of water (verse 23). Its size is huge (verse 23), having powerful legs and a belly (verse 16), and possessing bones so strong that they are likened to iron (verse 18).
The behemoth has a thick tail that it moves like a giant cedar (Job 41:17) and lives under shady trees (verse 21). The animal is so massive that no man can trap it (verse 24). Only God can overcome this exotic creature (verse 19).
Like the behemoth, leviathans are one of the greatest creatures ever created (Job 41:33). This fearsome, powerful animal (verses 8 - 9) is said to have a large tongue (Job 41:1) and a thick, impenetrable skin composed of scales (verse 7, 13, 15 - 17, 23). It is said to be quite strong (verse 12), possessing two rows of teeth (verse 13) in a jaw that cannot be forced open (verse 14).
Leviathans can look like it is breathing out fire and smoke (Job 41:19 - 21) and is unafraid of any man or any weapons used against it (verses 25 - 30, 33). In Psalm 74:12 - 14 this creature symbolizes Egypt, which God defeated in order to free his people. In Isaiah 26:21 - 27:1 it represents, in the end time, God's punishment for the world's sin and his judgment against evil.
Are they mythical?
Commentaries speculate the Biblical description of leviathans is actually referring to a crocodile or whale. Concerning the behemoth, opinion is split between referring to a hippopotamus or an elephant. The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, however, not only states that it would be "patently absurd" to believe this creature is a hippo or elephant, it also postulates this beast might be an extinct dinosaur.
Some commentaries are honest enough to admit that modern conclusions regarding leviathans and behemoths may be nothing more than guesses. Adam Clarke, in writing about the Biblical reference to the behemoth, states the following.
"These, having been carefully considered and deeply investigated both by critics and naturalists, have led to the conclusion that either the elephant, or the hippopotamus or river-horse, is the animal in question . . .
"But even here there are still some difficulties, as there are some parts of the description which do not well suit even the hippopotamus . . . " (commentary on Job 40:15).
Surprisingly, the Biblical descriptions of leviathans and behemoths better fits extinct dinosaurs than any other beast or mythical creature! Henry Morris writes the following in this regard.
"The description of behemoth seems to fit perfectly what we know about such a land dinosaur as apatosaurus, for example, and leviathan fits what we know about some large marine reptiles, such as the plesiosaur or ichthyosaur, for example . . .
"No man could trap this animal (in reference to the behemoth) . . . Every sentence is appropriate in describing such a huge dinosaur, but no other animal we are aware of, living or extinct, fits the bill" (The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Chapter 12, section "Dragons and Unicorns").