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Definition: leviathan from The Penguin English Dictionary
1

(often Leviathan) a biblical sea monster.

2

something very large or powerful [Middle English via late Latin from Hebrew liwyāthān].


Summary Article: Leviathan from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

The name of a monster of the waters. In Job 41:1 and Psalm 74:14 it appears to refer to a crocodile, in Psalm 104:26 it is probably a whale and in Isaiah 27:1 it is a sea serpent.

There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

Psalm 104:26

The name came to apply to any huge sea creature or large ship. Hobbes took the name as the title for his treatise on ‘the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil’ (1651) from the Bible as he also did for his BEHEMOTH. His Leviathan is the absolute state.

I have set forth the nature of man (whose Pride and other Passions have compelled him to submit himselfe to Government;) together with the great power of his Governour, whom I compared to Leviathan, taking that comparison out of the two last verses of the one and fortieth of Job; where God having set forth the great power of Leviathan, called him King of the Proud.

Leviathan, Pt II, ch xxviii

The name itself is probably from Hebrew lawo, ‘to twist’, ‘to writhe’, with tan (used only in the plural, tannīm, from Arabic tinīn, ‘dragon’) translated as ‘whale’, ‘sea serpent’, or whatever best suits the context. If this interpretation is correct, it could not refer to a crocodile, since that reptile does not writhe.

According to rabbinical tradition, it was Leviathan who seduced EVE in its male incarnation of Samael, and ADAM in its female incarnation of LILITH.

Leviathan of Literature, The

Dr Johnson (1709-84) . See also GREAT CHAM OF LITERATURE.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2012

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