Leviathan - The animals here mentioned seem to be the crocodile, rigid by the stiffness of the backbone, so that he cannot readily turn himself when he pursues his prey; hence the easiest way of escaping from him is by making frequent and short turnings: the serpent or dragon, flexible and winding, which coils himself up in a circular form: and the sea monster, or whale. These are used allegorically, without doubt for great potentates, enemies and persecutors of the people of God: but to specify the particular persons or states designed by the prophet under these images, is a matter of great difficulty, and comes not necessarily with in the design of these notes. R. D. Kimchi says, leviathan is a parable concerning the kings of the Gentiles: it is the largest fish in the sea, called also תנין tannin, the dragon, or rather the whale. By these names the Grecian, Turkish, and Roman empires are intended. The dragon of the sea seems to mean some nation having a strong naval force and extensive commerce. See Kimchi on the place.
In that day - In that future time when the Jews would be captive in Babylon, and when they would sigh for deliverance (see the note at Isaiah 26:1). This verse might have been connected with the previous chapter, as it refers to the same event, and then this chapter would have more appropriately commenced with the poem or song which begins in Isaiah 27:2.
With his sore - Hebrew, הקשׁה haqāshâh - ‹Hard.‘ Septuagint, Τὴς ἁγίαν Tēn hagian - ‹Holy.‘ The Hebrew means a sword that is hard, or well-tempered and trusty.
And great, and strong sword - The sword is an emblem of war, and is often used among the Hebrews to denote war (see Genesis 27:40; Leviticus 26:25). It is also an emblem of justice or punishment, as punishment then, as it is now in the Turkish dominions, was often inflicted by the sword Deuteronomy 32:41-42; Psalm 7:12; Hebrews 11:37. Here, if it refers to the overthrow of Babylon and its tyrannical king, it means that God would punish them by the armies of the Medes, employed as his sword or instrument. Thus in Psalm 17:13, David prays, ‹Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword‘ (compare the notes at Isaiah 10:5-6).
Leviathan - לויתן livyâthân The Septuagint renders this, Τὴν δράκοντα Tēn drakonta - ‹The dragon.‘ The word ‹leviathan‘ is probably derived from לוה lâvâh in Arabic, to weave, to twist (Gesenius); and literally means, “the twisted animal.” The word occurs in six places in the Old Testament, and is translated in Job 3:8, ‹mourning,‘ Margin, ‹leviathan;‘ in Job 41:1, ‹leviathan‘ - in which chapter is an extended description of the animal; in Psalm 74:14, it is rendered ‹leviathan,‘ and seems to be applied to Pharaoh; and in Psalm 104:26, and in the passage before us, where it is twice also rendered ‹leviathan.‘ Bochart (Hierez. ii. 5. 16-18) has gone into an extended argument to show that by the leviathan the crocodile is intended; and his argument is in my view conclusive. On this subject, Bochart, Dr. Good (on Ezekiel 29:3-5, the dragon, or the crocodile of the Nile, represents Pharaoh; in Ezekiel 22:2, Pharaoh is compared to a young lion, and to a whale in the seas; in Psalm 74:13-14, Pharaoh is compared to the dragon, and to the leviathan. In Job 26:13. The term ‹piercing,‘ is, in the Margin, ‹Crossing like a bar.‘ The Septuagint renders it, Ὄφιν Φεύγοντα Ophin pheugonta - ‹Flying serpent. The Hebrew, בריח bāriyach rendered ‹piercing,‘ is derived from ברץ bârach to flee;” and then to stretch across, or pass through, as a bar through boards Exodus 36:33. Hence, this word may mean fleeing; extended; cross bar for fastening gates; or the cross piece for binding together the boards for the tabernacle of the congregation Exodus 26:26; Exodus 36:31. Lowth renders it, ‹The rigid serpent;‘ probably with reference to the hard scales of the crocodile. The word “extended, huge, vast,” will probably best suit the connection. In Job 26:13, it is rendered, ‹the crooked serpent;‘ referring to the constellation in the heavens by the name of the Serpent (see the note at that place). The idea of piercing is not in the Hebrew word, nor is it ever used in that sense.
That crooked serpent - This is correctly rendered; and refers to the fact that the monster here referred to throws itself into immense volumes or folds, a description that applies to all serpents of vast size. Virgil has given a similar description of sea monsters throwing themselves into vast convolutions:
‹Ecce autem gemini a Tenedo tranquilla per alta
- immensis orbibus angues.‘
- AEn. ii. 203.
‹Sinuantque immensa volumine terga.‘
The reference in Isaiah, I suppose, is not to “different” kings or enemies of the people of God, but to the same. It is customary in Hebrew poetry to refer to the same subject in different members of the same sentence, or in different parts of the same parallelism.
The dragon - Referring to the same thing under a different image - to the king of Babylon. On the meaning of the word ‹dragon,‘ see the note at Isaiah 13:22.
In the sea - In the Euphrates; or in the marshes and pools that encompass Babylon (see Isaiah 11:15, note; Isaiah 18:2, note). The sense of the whole verse is, that God would destroy the Babylonian power that was to the Jews such an object of loathsomeness and of terror.