The leviathan spirit, king over the proud
The Bible highlights a fearsome sea serpent called leviathan in Job 41 and Jeremiah 8. Since all scripture is useful for “training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” what should we learn about leviathan, especially since it is called “the king over all that are proud?”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Job 41:1,34 NIV “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud.”
The Bible figuratively uses different animals to describe the nature of God and the nature of evil spirits, so that we can distinguish between the two.
We see that Jesus is called the Lamb of God (John 1:29, John 1:36) as well as the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5), while Satan and evil spirits are described as serpents (also called vipers, adders, and snakes) and scorpions. Satan is referred to as a serpent the first time he is mentioned in the Bible.
Genesis 3:1 ESV Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Luke 10:19 ESV Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.
Leviathan is a serpent that “plays“ in the sea. From Revelation 17:15, we see that the sea figuratively represents “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” Referred to as a “king”, this evil spirit is therefore a powerful ruler within the demonic realm that governs multitudes of people in this world. Even in the world of sorcery, the leviathan is seen as a high ranking demon. In Magic the Gathering, a card “game” where one summons evil spirits, the leviathan is a high-attacking and high-defence power that one can summon but cannot control without making significant sacrifices to it.
Psalm 104:26 ESV There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
Revelation 17:15 ESV And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.
Ephesians 6:12 ESV For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
God, leviathan, pride, and self-righteousness
In Job 41, God Himself took a significant amount of time to elaborate on the leviathan as part of His response to Job’s lamentations over the terrible disasters that had fallen upon him and his family. For God to go through such lengths to describe one creature calls for deeper study.
God described Job as a “blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil.” He was a man who was greatly blessed with many children, much wealth, and good reputation. Then one day, God gave Satan consent to test his faithfulness to God. An evil spirit was sent against Job and the man lost all his children and all his property literally overnight. The evil spirit also attacked Job with painful sores all over his body later on.
Job 1:8-12 ESV And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Even in his grief and anguish, Job sought not to sin against God. But then his wife started to tell him to curse God and die. Three friends came to “comfort” him but instead insinuated that Job must have sinned against God to deserve such terrible things. This led Job to vigorously defend himself. Their dialogue is recorded as they go back and forth for a total of 30 out of 42 chapters in the book of Job.
Finally in chapter 32, a young man called Elihu who “burned with anger” at the self-righteous attitudes of these four older men finally confronted Job and his three friends.
Job 32:1-5 ESV So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
Led by the Spirit of God, Elihu prophetically drew the true picture for all to see.
Job 36:2 ESV “Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf.
- Job was proud in thinking himself as being sinless | Job 33:9 You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.
- Job accused God for allowing him to suffer even though he was “right” (thereby accusing God of being “wrong” and sinning against him) | Job 34:5-6 ESV For Job has said, ‘I am in the right, and God has taken away my right; in spite of my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’
- Job was in fact scoffing at God in his heart | Job 34:7 ESV What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water,
- Job spoke without true insight into God’s will and character, he only cared about his own will and character (and being righteous for righteous sake) | Job 34:35 ESV ‘Job speaks without knowledge; his words are without insight.’
- Job was full of judgment | Job 36:17 ESV “But you are full of the judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice seize you.
- Job had spoken wickedly | Job 34:36 ESV Would that Job were tried to the end, because he answers like wicked men.
- Job was in fact rebellious in his attitude towards God | Job 34:37 ESV For he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”
- Elihu reminded Job that God does not answer prayers “because of the pride of evil men” | Job 35:12 ESV There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men.
- Elihu reminded Job to remember God’s majesty and His wondrous works | Job 37:14 ESV “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
- Elihu explained that God had allowed Job to suffer so as to “bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life.” | Job 33:29-30 ESV “Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life.
- Elihu taught Job how to pray to repent in humility | Job 34:31-33 ESV “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’? Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it? For you must choose, and not I; therefore declare what you know.
As Elihu spoke (Job 32 to 37), he praised God continually. Then God powerfully confronted the four men and spoke for Himself.
God didn’t answer any of Job’s questions. Instead, He reminded them of who He truly is and showed them that they don’t know Who they were dealing with. Then in chapter 41, God described the nature of the leviathan spirit, a demon who mirrored Job’s own pride, stubbornness, and self-righteousness:
- Arrogant | Job 41:1,34 ESV “Can you draw out Leviathan … He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”
- Feisty, strong-willed, cannot be subdued | Job 41:8-9 NIV If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! Any hope of subduing it is false; the mere sight of it is overpowering…
- A hardened heart | Job 41:1,24 ESV “Can you draw out Leviathan … His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone.
- Has no fear of God, no fear of other people | Job 41:1,33 ESV “Can you draw out Leviathan … On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.
- Twists words | Isaiah 27:1 ESV … Leviathan the twisting serpent…
Thankfully, Job repented of his pride. God then blessed him even more abundantly than before, restoring children and property to the humbled Job.
Job 42:5 ESV I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:10-12 ESV And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning….
This story serves as a warning to all believers to not fall into the same sin of pride, self-righteousness, and self-justification as Job did, even as we genuinely seek to be blameless. God will not hesitate to allow Satan to come against us if that means teaching us to be humble and saving our souls, so that we do not become proud like Satan – sometimes even at the cost of losing or destroying our own children!
Leviathan cannot harm humble believers
In the natural world, all sea snakes are highly venomous. Their bites do not necessarily cause pain nor are they necessarily visible. Their effect, however, is always deadly. So, we can see that leviathan is a spirit that seeks to kill, it is not interested in only stealing or disabling. It kills by subtly poisoning one’s hearts and thoughts.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
God will slay the leviathan spirit one day. Before then, He gives genuine followers authority to trample out the power of all such serpents. These are those have been saved through faith in and humbly obey Jesus Christ. Their names are written in heaven.
Isaiah 27:1 ESV In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
Luke 10:19-20 ESV Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
How leviathan preys on arrogant believers
On the other hand, those who call themselves a child of God but who remain arrogant in heart become quick prey for leviathan. The proud are “an abomination to the Lord.” They will not receive God’s blessing or protection from such serpent bites.
Proverbs 16:5 ESV Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
In Jeremiah 8, we find some descriptions of the “arrogant in heart” amongst God’s people whom He sent serpents to bite because they deliberately and continually disobeyed Him. As God’s people, they misused His name and invited His punishment.
Jeremiah 8:17 ESV For behold, I am sending among you serpents, adders that cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,” declares the Lord.
Exodus 20:7 NLT “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
From Jeremiah 8, we see that some attitudes of the heart which invite serpent bits include:
- Refusal to turn fully to God | Jeremiah 8:5 Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
- Perpetual backsliding | Jeremiah 8:5 Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
- Following own will, no genuine pursuit of God or holiness | Jeremiah 8:6 I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle…
- No shame in one’s sinful nature | Jeremiah 8:12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.
- Rejection of the true Word God | Jeremiah 8:9 The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?
- Dealing falsely for unjust gain in the name of God | Jeremiah 8:10 … from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
Leviathan also works through spiritual leaders
These traits can also describe the Pharisees in the Bible, whom Jesus called “serpents” and a “brood of vipers” who were sentenced to hell. This may have sounded like very harsh words from our Saviour, but it came from a place of grief at their hardened hearts. At the end of the day, it was even the Pharisees who plotted to kill Jesus.
Matthew 23:29,33 ESV“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Mark 3:5-6 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The spirit behind the Pharisees can continue to operate in spiritual leaders today. We can recognise them because:
- They are hypocritical | Luke 12:1 ESV … “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
- They always resist the Holy Spirit | Acts 7:51 ESV “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.
- They take pride in their own religousity and self-righteousness, but look down on others | Luke 18:11-12 ESV The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
- They are offended when God’s Word is applied to them | Matthew 15:11-12 ESV it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
- They speak out of insincere, evil hearts | Matthew 12:34 ESV You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
- They look good on the outside but are greedy and wicked on the inside | Luke 11:39 ESV And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.
- They cause people to fear them more than God | John 12:42-43 ESV Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
We would be well advised to stay away from any church whose leadership fits these descriptions!
How leviathan gains entry into a person’s life
An arrogant heart gives leviathan a legitimate entry point into one’s life. Other things also give it legitimacy because it is sent to kill. Job had had wanted to die and even cursed the day he was born. This was another area of sin that gave leviathan a foothold.
Things that give leviathan legitimacy include:
- Pride | Job 41:1,34 ESV “Can you draw out Leviathan … He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”
- Cursing | Job 3:8 NLT Let those who are experts at cursing— whose cursing could rouse Leviathan— curse that day.
- Hatred, since hatred is murder | 1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
- Murder in the family line, since this brings a generational curse | Numbers 35:16 ESV … The murderer shall be put to death.
- Contempt towards God and declaring death over oneself | Numbers 21:5-6 ESV And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
- Alcoholism | Proverbs 23:30,32 ESV Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
Deliverance from leviathan
Leviathan is not a spirit you can simply cast out. It is a serpent that God allows to work inside a person until they are willing to repent and humble themselves before Him completely. No one can stand against God as He declared in Job 41:10-11, “Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
Job 41:1,8,10-11 ESV “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again! No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
Leviathan is not a spirit we try to battle. It is a spirit that will leave once we repent of pride, self-righteousness, and self-justification and truly yield ourselves to God.
2 Chronicles 30:8 ESV Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.
If we know loved ones and spiritual leaders who may be under the power of leviathan, let us pray for their hearts to turn to God in true humility. There is still hope. For example, we can pray for God to send a prophet like Elihu to speak truth into their hearts or for them to encounter God in a powerful way like the apostle Paul did (Acts 9:1-19).
The apostle Paul lived as a Pharisee until he met Jesus on his way to Damascus. Paul was at first proud, stiff-necked, and stubbornly committed in his mission to persecute Jesus’ followers. After he humbled himself before Jesus, Paul willingly suffered greatly for the sake of proclaiming Jesus’ name. His stubborn pride was turned to stubborn faithfulness to the Lord.
Acts 26:5 ESV They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Both Job and Paul suffered from spiritual pride. Job acted out of indignation at his deep personal affliction while Paul acted out of his association with a religious sect that had Jesus crucified on the cross. In spite of all this, God in His mercy, reached out to both of them to correct them. Thankfully they were willing to humble themselves and repent.
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