Job 41 Leviathan: Let’s turn to Job chapter 41. We’ll be studying verses 12-21 today. You can read our study in Job 41:1-11 here.
And of course, this is a continuation of God’s response to Job. And God’s response has included drawing Job’s attention to this creature named Leviathan.
And we’ve learned that no one can control this creature. No one can kill him. No one can make him beg for mercy or make him serve them or make him their pet.
And God then made the transition from Leviathan to himself when he declared that no one can stand before him. And finally, God declared that he owes no man anything.
So, through all of that we’ve seen that God mentions Leviathan here in order to help us think more accurately about God himself. The fear and caution that we would exercise in the presence of Leviathan informs us as to how we should behave with this God who is perfectly controlled – and yet is completely uncontrollable. Our God is kind and loving and patient. But he is not tame.
Job 41 Leviathan: Leviathan’s Physical Construction
And so, as we continue on in Job chapter 41 we witness the Lord continuing to speak of Leviathan by declaring that he is going to boast of the physical construction of this creature.
12 I will not [conceal/keep silence concerning/fail to speak of] his [parts/limbs],
[nor/or/and] his [power/mighty strength/might/strength],
[nor/or/and] [his comely proportion./his orderly frame/the grace of its arrangement/its graceful form]
So, the limbs of this beast and its strength and the orderliness of its arrangement are all points that God will not be silent about. Leviathan is God’s creation and he did an awesome job of it and so he’s going to talk about these things in regard to Leviathan in the rest of this chapter.
And once more though – if Leviathan is a thing of awesome power – something to behold with awe – then how much more worthy of such awe – how powerful the Lord – its Creator is!
Job 41 Leviathan: Q81-82: Scales
And then, God continues to extoll this magnificent creature in verse 13 by drawing attention to its scales.
13 Who can [discover/strip off/uncover] [the face of his garment/his outer armor/its outer covering/his outer coat]?
or who can [come to him with/come within/penetrate to the inside of/approach him with] his [double bridle/double mail/its armor/bridle]?
So, apparently the outer layer of this beast – his coat of scales perhaps – was impenetrable. That’s at least what that first line is saying.
For the second line about the bridle – God is saying either what’s being said in the first line – that no one can stab through his outer scales. Or God’s saying that no one can put a bridle on Leviathan to subdue him and ride him anywhere.
Either way, you get a picture of invulnerability when it comes to Leviathan. You can’t stab him. You certainly can’t ride him anywhere. He’s undomesticated and he will stay that way.
And of course, God his Creator is also invulnerable. You can’t find a chink in his armor. There are no vulnerabilities to expose in the Lord – not in him personally and not in his word.
Job 41 Leviathan: Q83-84: Teeth
So, God continues to speak of Leviathan in verse 14 and he focuses on the teeth of this creature.
14 Who [can/dares] open the doors of his [face/mouth]?
[his teeth are terrible round about./Around his teeth there is terror./Its teeth all around are fearsome./ringed about with his fearsome teeth?]
And so, if Leviathan were around today you’d be very careful not to get close to his teeth. It’s like how I treat the bottom of my lawn mower – do not touch – do not get close – not with your hands or your feet – not when it’s running at least. And Leviathan is always running. And so, it was always best to stay away from the terror-inspiring teeth of this creature.
Job 41 Leviathan: God Can Be Dangerous
Teeth can be dangerous in any animal – especially when they’re sharp. And as strange as it seems at first, God can be considered dangerous.
We’re used to – and very thankful for – a God who is love and who is mercy and peace and who has reconciled us to himself by his son.
And yet, we need to remember the means by which God reconciled us to himself – by nailing his son to a cross and punishing him for the sins of the world.
And we also need to remember the fate that awaits those who reject this gift provided in Jesus Christ. That fate is eternity burning in darkness.
In light of those facts, yes, God is dangerous. Now, he’s not capricious. He’s not a God who’s going to make a promise and then not keep it. In that sense he’s not unpredictable. But he is dangerous. As dangerous as – and even more so than – Leviathan's sharp teeth.
Job 41 Leviathan: How Job & Co. Had Been Treating God
And Job and his friends – I think we can say that they hadn’t been dealing with God on that level.
As the three friends were trying to convince Job that if he just confessed his secret sins and resumed praying to God, then God would start blessing Job again – had these men taken into account that God isn’t some magical Pez dispenser or gumball machine that can be manipulated? Put good works in – get blessings in return! No – God is a dangerous being! Show him the respect such a being deserves!
As Job has been demanding that God answer his summons to a court of law – as he’s been explicitly accusing God of being unjust to him – as Job has been pointing to numerous situations in which he thinks that God has not been executing justice on people who deserve justice – Job has been treating God on a far-too-familiar basis.
Job 41 Leviathan: Don’t Be Too Familiar
Now, God is our Father and he’s kind and gracious. But at the same time – he's not a teddy bear! Treat him like you would a creature who has sharp teeth. Show him some respect and fear! Don’t let your familiarity with the Almighty breed contempt of him in you.
I think we get the point. I think Job did, too.
So, now, with verse 14 that we just read, we saw the 83rd and 84th questions that God asks Job. And worthy of noting – after that verse, God asks no more questions for the rest of the book. After 84 questions – one after the other – God is satisfied to leave off any more questioning.
And yet, God’s not done speaking.
Job 41 Leviathan: Scales (15-17)
Because in verses 15 through 17 the Lord speaks of the scales of Leviathan.
15 His scales are his pride,
shut up together as with a [close/tight] seal.
NAU Job 41:15 "His strong scales are his pride,
NET Job 41:15 Its back has rows of shields,
NIV Job 41:15 His back has rows of shields
16 [One/Each one] is so [near/close] to [another/the next],
that no air can come between them.
17 They are joined one to another,
they [stick together/clasp each other/cling together], that they cannot be [sundered/separated/parted].
And so, Leviathan is protected from external harm. Nothing can get to him. Nothing can physically harm him.
And not only can no external force physically harm Leviathan – but no external force can physically affect Leviathan on any level. His armor is so tight that not even air can get through!
Job 41 Leviathan: God is Impervious to Outside Influences
And once more, this teaches Job and us a lesson about God. God is impervious to outside influences.
Job’s three friends have been acting as though God could be moved in some sort of automated way based on the effort of man.
Job had been acting as though he could somehow encourage God to change his behavior and dealings in Job’s life.
But ultimately, if God wants to remain unaffected by external forces he is able to do that.
Job 41 Leviathan: God Allows Himself to Be Affected
And yet, there are ways in which the Lord does allow himself to be affected by external forces. You can think of some ways.
How about prayer? As we ask God to do things that are in keeping with his will, he allows us to – as it were – move his hand to action!
Job 41 Leviathan: Jesus Was Touched
And once again, we’re reminded of God’s supreme exception to this rule of his being unaffected by external influences – when he sent his son to be our Savior. Jesus Christ was touched. He was handled. His human creatures grasped his garments to be healed. They grasped his garments to apprehend him. They nailed his hands and feet to a cross. They hit him. They spit on him. They killed God – the God who by his very nature is untouchable.
What irony and even paradox! That God who is unaffected by external forces allowed himself to not only be touched – but also abused and killed – because he loved us so much!
And this doesn’t make Jesus any less God – that he allowed himself to be affected by external forces in a way that’s contrary to his very nature. It simply shows God’s extreme love in sending us his son.
Well, so, God can’t be affected by external influences – just like Leviathan.
Job 41 Leviathan: Firemouth talk! (18-21)
And as we return to a consideration of this beast – we are alerted to an additional factor in why Leviathan is so unapproachable – so impervious to external forces. He literally breathes fire out of his mouth. That’s what we hear in verses 18-21.
Job 41 Leviathan: Sneezing and Eyes
And the explanation of that begins in verse 18 with a focus on Leviathan’s sneezing and his eyes.
18 [By his neesings/His sneezes/Its snorting] [a light doth shine/flash forth light/throws out flashes of light],
and his eyes are like the [eyelids/red glow/rays] of [the morning/dawn].
Job 41 Leviathan: Mouth
Then God focuses on Leviathan's mouth in relation to his ability to breathe out fire.
19 Out of his mouth [go/stream forth] [burning lamps/burning torches/flames/firebrands],
and sparks of fire [leap out/leap forth/shoot forth/shoot out].
Job 41 Leviathan: Nostrils
Next, God turns to consider Leviathan’s nostrils in terms of his ability to breathe fire in verse 20.
20 Out of his nostrils [goeth/goes forth/streams/pours] smoke,
as out of a [seething/boiling] pot [or/and/over] [caldron/rushes/burning rushes/a fire of reeds].
Job 41 Leviathan: Breath
And lastly, the Lord considers Leviathan’s breath in relation to his ability to breathe out fire in verse 21.
21 His breath [kindleth/sets ablaze] coals,
and [a flame/flames] [goeth/goes forth/shoots/dart] [out of/from] his mouth.
And so, we’re faced with a creature that is presented as breathing fire out of his mouth. And that fire causes smoke, which billows out of Leviathan’s nostrils.
Job 41 Leviathan: Is this Poetic?
And we might hear this and think that God is being poetic or hyperbolic. And that certainly is a possibility in this book in which poetry is so extensively used.
But we need to remember that poetic descriptions of things that tend to use concrete images to convey some abstract idea – well, there needs to be some abstract idea.
Job 41 Leviathan: “The Lord is My Shepherd”
I’ll give you a basic example. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” That’s poetic.
The Lord is not a man whose job is to herd sheep. David was not a literal sheep.
But picturing God as a shepherd is a concrete image. You can see that. You can picture that in your mind. You know what a shepherd looks like. You know what sheep are like.
And then you can transfer all of that meaning into the realm of the abstract. Where God’s being a shepherd means in the abstract that he cares for you. He feeds you. He sees to it that all of your needs are met. He’s close to you. He knows you. He is willing to get dirty in order to help you. He will help you get out of the problems that your own – I don’t know how else to say it – your stupid decisions get you into.
Now, Psalm 23 could mention all of those abstract ideas – that God helps and heals and feeds and provides and comforts and rescues – and on and on.
But there’s a beauty to the poetic picture that David paints with simply stating “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Job 41 Leviathan: Back to Leviathan
So, bring that into the discussion of Leviathan. If God intends to use the concrete imagery of breathing fire to teach some abstract lesson about Leviathan… then what is it? That his breath is really offensive? I don’t think so.
I can’t think of anything that God would be trying to communicate in a poetic way by relating that Leviathan breathes out fire.
Job 41 Leviathan: We Know of No Creature Who Can Do This
And so, that leads me to think that the only reason that we might want to view Leviathan’s ability to breathe fire as poetic or fictional is because we don’t know of any creature that can do this exact same thing in our day.
Now, you might be aware of a little creature known as the Bombardier Beetle. This little insect is able to shoot out a combination of chemicals and enzymes from inside its body. And what comes out of them is hotter than boiling water. These little creatures are able to make smoke and fire come out from their bodies.
Could it be that Leviathan did something like this? Maybe.
Is it entirely possible that Leviathan had some other way of making fire come out of its mouth that we have no idea about? Yes. And we have God’s word – God himself – saying that Leviathan did this.
How? We don’t know. But we do know one who cannot lie and is giving us infallible testimony that this did happen.
So, that’s all been an attempt to prove that Leviathan did literally breathe out fire.
Job 41 Leviathan: Why Does God Mention Fire?
But why does God mention that?
Remember that we’re supposed to think of God the way that we’d think about Leviathan. Leviathan breathes fire. … Does God breathe fire?
Well, not literally. God did not have a literal mouth that breathes out literal fire.
But we can think of a few times in Scripture where God sent fire from himself. Even in this book and the first few chapters we had one of Job’s servants testify that fire from God came down from heaven and consumed Job’s things. The fire came from God.
We have testimony concerning the wicked sons of Aaron – Moses’s brother. They didn’t approach God’s holy things with due reverence and God sent out fire that consumed them.
God actually calls himself in Deuteronomy 4 and several other passages “a consuming fire.” God appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire. When God came down on Mount Sinai it was in fire. God sent fire to consume Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel. As soldiers came for Elijah later on, God sent fire to consume those soldiers. And of course, the end of every soul that rejects God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ involves eternal fire.
Job 41 Leviathan: God vs. Leviathan
And so I think that we can say that God’s use of fire far supersedes Leviathan’s. We look at Leviathan and how he’s described as breathing fire and it would strike fear into our hearts to have to confront that beast with this frightening ability to call forth fire from his mouth and burn us.
Are we not to fear the being who not only sends out fire at will – but whom to reject is to suffer fire for all eternity?
So, God is warning Job and all of us here.
Job 41 Leviathan: God vs. a Beetle!
I mean – if I was aware that there was a Bombardier Beetle living in my yard, I would alert my kids and tell them to stay far from it. I would help them learn to identify this creature and keep their distance. I myself would not play with this little bug. I wouldn’t handle it or try to step on it or get near it in any way. It might burn me and my family!
But do I – do you – show such caution when approaching God? Do we even extend the carefulness to God that we would extend to a beetle?!
Job 41 Leviathan: Acting Like a Child
How do you speak to God when you’re not happy with the way your life is going?
I imagine that we might respond the way a small child would to a parent who is intent on not reacting to the child’s impatient questioning.
The child asks for something that the parent has already said “no” to. The parent doesn’t respond. He’s already given his answer – “no.”
The child ratchets up the impatience a little and maybe asks in a louder voice. No response from the parent.
The child stomps his foot and swings his arms around. No response.
The child might get up into the face of the parent. He might try to shake the parent with all of the strength his little body can muster.
And at some point, the parent has to react. And he might react in a way that puts that child back into the place of being the child – not as an equal to the parent.
Job 41 Leviathan: God Treats Us Like Children
And I think that’s what God is doing here.
Job has been complaining to God. And like he usually does, God has not verbally responded to Job.
So, Job has started to accuse God of being unjust and unkind. And God has patiently held his tongue.
So, Job has demanded God to come to court and explain his actions – the God of the universe needs to come and explain his actions to one of his weak small human creatures! No response from God.
Job continues to make himself look good at God’s expense.
And so, finally the Lord needs to respond and say, “Don’t you remember that I’m ultimately the God who utilizes fire to deal with people both in time and in eternity? Are you really going to approach me like that?”
“I use fire. I am untouchable. I have teeth!”
“And while I am gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in loyal covenant love… don’t treat me lightly.”
Job 41 Leviathan: How Do You Treat God?
So, let me ask. Has God been dealing with you in this life in ways that you don’t like? Maybe you’re frustrated with what God is doing. Maybe you’re dissatisfied for one reason or another. And maybe your pleas and cries to God – your supplications – your pleas for mercy – maybe they’ve transformed into bitter insults against the Almighty! Insinuations that you are right and God is out of his mind!
No, no! God is in control. God is all wise. He knows what he’s doing. And he has the right to do anything he wishes in your life – both good and what we would consider to be not-so-good.
He can arrange things so that you can get a promotion at work. He’s equally entitled to arrange things so that you get fired or that your boss quits leaving you with no direction or allowing you to stay in a job where everyone hates you and you aren’t so fond of them either.
God can make it so that your family situation is one of bliss and comfort and joy. Or he can bring great difficulties into that situation.
He can make you rich or poor – healthy or weak – abounding or suffering need. You might be rejoicing right now. Or you might be filled with heaviness and sorrow.
Job 41 Leviathan: Trust Him
And either way, when it really comes down to it – we don’t understand God’s ways – the ways that he has not revealed in Scripture. And so, when we don’t understand his ways, we must trust his wisdom.
God knows what he’s doing – even though we don’t.
He is good. He is gracious. He is loving. But we’ve been reminded in this portion of Scripture that he has teeth. He is completely able to remain untouched by external influences. And when it comes down to it, we owe him more fear and reverence and respect than is due a fire-breathing monster like Leviathan.
So, may the Lord help us to think of him the way we would think about this awesome creature of his that we know as Leviathan.