Behemoth (Job 40) and Leviathan (Job 41) are frequently referenced as evidence that the patriarch Job lived alongside such dinosaurs as brachiosaurus and kronosaurus. Is this fact or fiction?
First, it is important to recognize that Job serves as a literary polemic*, a written indictment, against the gods of ancient Near Eastern mythology. Not only were pagans literally supplanted by people of the promise, but their mythological narratives were literarily supplanted by the metanarrative*, the overarching story of Scripture. It is not Baal who destroys “the writhing serpent, encircler-with-seven-heads” (Ugaritic text) but Yahweh who “crushed the heads of Leviathan” (Psalm 74:14). Thus, through literary subversion*, God recasts pagan myth in a manner that corresponds to reality.
Furthermore, it is crucial to note the literary progression of Job. After thirty-plus chapters of rambling human speculations, God answers Job out of the storm. In essence, the Almighty asks Job if he would like to try his hand at running the universe for a while: “Who fathers the drops of dew?” “Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens?” “Do you give the horse his strength?” “Does the eagle soar at your command?” Consider Behemoth, who “ranks first among the works of God” or the sea dragon—“Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook?” The literary progression moves from creation, to creatures, to the cherub who once ranked first in the order of creation. To Job, the primal monster of the land, like the primal monster of the sea, was indomitable. To Jehovah, Behemoth and Leviathan were mere pets on a divine leash. In the literary progression of the Bible, the monster is vanquished. Says Isaiah, “Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; [God] will slay the monster of the sea” (27:1).
Finally, in interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture, the literary personification of Satan becomes readily apparent. In Genesis he is presented as an alluring serpent that tempts humanity to fall into lives of perpetual sin terminated by death; in Psalms he is portrayed as a multiheaded monster opposing the purposes of God; in Isaiah he is a coiling serpent emerging out of the primal waters; and in Revelation, a red dragon that personifies the extremities of evil.
In sum, Leviathan and Behemoth are not dinosaurs but personifications that illustrate a metaphysical reality. As such, the mythology of the dragon underscores the reality of the devil.
the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the
dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and
bound him for a thousand years.