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Originally depicted as a giant sea monster with biblical origins, the term Leviathan today has grown to have metaphorical implications that extend on the original symbolism. Let’s take a closer look at the origins of the Leviathan, what it symbolizes and how it’s depicted.
Leviathan History and Meaning
The Leviathan refers to a gigantic sea serpent, mentioned in Jewish and Christian religious texts. The creature is referenced in the biblical books of Psalms, Book of Isaiah, Book of Job, Book of Amos, and the First Book of Enoch (an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text). In these references, the depiction of the creature varies. It’s sometimes identified as a whale or crocodile and sometimes as the Devil itself.
- Psalms 74:14 – The Leviathan is described as a many-headed sea serpent, which is killed by God and given to the starving Hebrews in the wilderness. The story symbolizes the power of God and his ability to nourish his people.
- Isaiah 27:1 – The Leviathan is depicted as a serpent, symbolic of Israel’s enemies. Here, the Leviathan symbolizes evil and needs to be destroyed by God.
- Job 41 – The Leviathan is again described as a giant sea monster, one that terrifies and amazes all who look at it. In this depiction, the creature symbolizes God’s powers and abilities.
However, the general idea is that the Leviathan is a giant sea monster, sometimes identified as a creation of God and at other times a beast of Satan.
The image of God destroying the Leviathan brings to mind similar stories from other civilizations, including Indra killing the Vritra in Hindu mythology, Marduk destroying Tiamat in Mesopotamian myth or Thor slaying Jormungandr in Norse mythology.
While the name Leviathan can be broken down to mean wreathed or twisted in folds, today the term is used to refer to a general sea monster or any gigantic, powerful creature. It also has symbolism in political theory, thanks to the influential philosophical work by Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.
The meaning of Leviathan depends on the cultural lens from which you view the monster. Some of the many meanings and representations are explored below.
- A Challenge to God – The Leviathan stands as a powerful symbol of evil, challenging God and His goodness. It’s an enemy of Israel and must be slain by God for the world to be restored to its natural balance. It can also represent human opposition to God.
- Power of Unity – In the philosophical discourse of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, the Leviathan is symbolic of the ideal state – a perfect Commonwealth. Hobbes views the perfect republic of many people united under a single sovereign power, and argues that just as nothing can match the power of the Leviathan, nothing can match the power of a united commonwealth.
- Scale – The term Leviathan is often used to describe anything large and all-consuming, usually with a negative bent.
The Leviathan Cross is also known as the Cross of Satan or the Brimstone Symbol. It features an infinity symbol with a double-barred cross located at the midpoint. The infinity sign symbolizes the eternal universe, while the double-barred cross symbolizes protection and balance between people.
The connection between Leviathan, Brimstone (an archaic word for sulfur) and Satanists likely springs from the fact that the Leviathan Cross is the symbol for sulfur in Alchemy. Sulfur is one of the three essential natural elements and is associated with fire and brimstone – the supposed torments of hell. Thus, the Leviathan Cross symbolizes Hell and its torments, and Satan, the devil himself.
The Leviathan Cross was adopted by the Church of Satan, along with the Petrine Cross to represent their anti-thiestic views.
Wrapping It All Up
Whether you are referring to the Leviathan monster or the Leviathan cross, the symbol of the Leviathan inspires fear, terror and awe. Today, the term Leviathan has entered our lexicon, symbolizing any terrifying, gigantic thing.