Oracle on the desert animals (Isa 30:6-30:7)

“An oracle concerning

The animals of the Negeb.

Through a land

Of trouble,

Of distress,

Of the lioness.

Of the roaring lion,

Of the viper,

Of the flying serpent,

They carry their riches

On the backs of donkeys.

They carry their treasures

On the humps of camels,

To a people

That cannot profit them.

Egypt’s help is worthless.

Their help is empty.

Therefore I have called her

‘Rahab who sits still.’”

This seems to be an oracle by Yahweh about the animals in the Negeb desert, south of Israel. The messengers of the King of Judah were going to pass by these animals as they went with their riches on the backs of donkeys and treasures on the camel humps on their way to Egypt. Along the way, they would suffer trouble and distress. They would see many animals, like lioness, lions, vipers, and flying serpents. However, Isaiah says that their mission was worthless and empty. It was a waste of time since the Egyptians could not help them. In fact, Isaiah calls Egypt a useless sitting still ‘Rahab,’ a mythological sea monster like the Leviathan monster.

Leviathan (Isa 27:1-27:1)

“On that day,

Yahweh,

With his hard sword,

With his great sword,

With his strong sword,

Will punish

Leviathan,

The fleeing serpent.

Leviathan was

The twisting serpent.

Yahweh will kill

The dragon

That is in the sea.”

Leviathan was a mythical personified sea serpent that was also mentioned predominately in the Book of Job, chapters 40-41, so that this oracle may be from the same milieu. Isaiah says that Yahweh will take his hard, great, and strong sword to punish the fleeing serpent Leviathan. Yahweh was going to kill this twisting serpent dragon of the sea. Later in medieval Christianity, the Leviathan was considered to be the devil in popular works. For the philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan was a symbol of big government that came from a social contract.

The seas (Sir 43:23-43:26)

“By the Lord’s plan,

He stilled the great deep sea.

He planted islands in it.

Those who sail the sea

Tell of its dangers.

We marvel at

What we hear.

In the sea

Are strange creatures.

In the sea

Are marvelous works.

There are

All kinds of living things.

There are

Huge sea-monsters.

Because of him,

Each of his messengers succeeds.

By his word

All things hold together.”

Next Sirach explains how the Lord controls and stills the seas. The Lord planted the islands in these seas. Many sailors tell of their dangerous adventures on the high seas, mostly on the Mediterranean Sea. Within these waters, there are many strange and marvelous creatures. Among the many living things in the sea are the sea monsters, in particular Leviathan that played a major role in biblical stories, particularly in the book of Job, chapter 41. All these things stay together because of the power of the Lord.

Yahweh controls the seas (Ps 104:24-104:26)

“Yahweh!

How manifold are your works!

In wisdom,

You have made them all.

The earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the great wide sea.

Innumerable creeping things are there.

There are living things,

Both small and great.

There go the ships!

There is Leviathan

That you formed to play sport with it.”

The works of Yahweh are marvelous. Yahweh created all these things out of wisdom. The earth is full of all Yahweh’s creatures. Then the psalmist turned to the seas and how great and wide they are. However, he then talked about the innumerable living things, both great and small in the sea. Even today, we are still just beginning to understand all the living creatures in the seas. Of course, there were the ships that transported goods and people around. However, there also was the great sea monster Leviathan. Interesting enough here it is considered some kind of sport rather than a menace as outlined in Job, chapter 41.

The power of God (Ps 74:12-74:17)

“Yet God!

My King is from of old.

He is working salvation in the earth.

You divided the sea by your might.

You broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.

You crushed the heads of Leviathan.

You gave him as food

For the creatures of the wilderness.

You cut openings for springs and torrents.

You dried up ever-flowing streams.

Yours is the day.

Yours also is the night.

You have established the luminaries.

You have established the sun.

You have fixed all the bounds of the earth.

You have made summer and winter.”

This is a prayer to God about his creative power. God had been an old fashioned king for a long time. He brought salvation to the earth. He divided the seas to produce the earth. He had to defeat the sea monsters, particularly the mythical Leviathan, the great beast that was so important in Job, chapter 41. However, God was able to defeat Leviathan and feed his body to the wild animals. God definitely controlled the water ways, big and small. He was in charge of day and night as well as all the heavenly lights, including the sun. He set up the boundaries of the earth. He had control of the seasons of the year with its various climate changes of summer and winter. God was the powerful creator of heaven and earth as well as the water and the land.

The power of Leviathan (Job 41:30-41:34)

“It’s under parts are like sharp potsherds.

It spreads itself like a threshing sledge on the mire.

It makes the deep boil like a pot.

It makes the sea like a pot of ointment.

It leaves a shining wake behind it.

One would think that the deep to be white-haired.

On earth it has no equal.

It is a creature without fear.

It surveys everything that is lofty.

It is king over all that are proud.”

The Leviathan is powerful. Yahweh reminded Job that the Leviathan was the king of the proud. Its underbelly had sharp ceramic pieces that come from the breaking of pots. It is like sledge as it is so big it makes the sea seem like a bottle of ointment. Somehow it has control of the waters since there is nothing equal to it on earth. It has no fear since it is in charge of all the proud folks as it leader king. So ends this long description of the Leviathan, as Yahweh explained it to Job.

It is hard to kill the Leviathan (Job 41:25-41:29)

“When it raises itself up

The gods are afraid;

At the crashing they are beside themselves.

Although the sword reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the spear reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the dart reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the javelin reaches it,

It does not avail.

It counts iron as straw.

It counts bronze as rotten wood.

The arrow cannot make it flee.

Sling stones are turned to chaff.

Clubs are counted as chaff.

It laughs at the rattle of javelins.”

Even the gods are afraid of the Leviathan. No matter what you use, you cannot kill the Leviathan. The sword, the spear, the dart, and the javelin are useless against it. Iron is like straw, while bronze is like rotten wood. Arrows have no effect. Stones and clubs are turned into useless dried out grain. The Leviathan laughs at spears and javelins.