Dinosaurs in the Bible?

Author: Brad T. Bromling

Does the Bible mention dinosaurs specifically? A study of two Hebrew words (behemoth and leviathan) opens the door to that possibility. There are three possible explanations for the identity of these creatures: (1) they were unreal, mythological creatures; (2) they were non-dinosaurian creatures (living or extinct) that can be identified in the ecosystem of the ancient world; or (3) they were now-extinct creatures that are classified as dinosaurs. The first option does not harmonize with the verbal, plenary concept of divine inspiration; the Bible does not contain the fabrications of heathen imagination. The second option would be acceptable if creatures were found that matched the biblical descriptions. The third option fits the data best, as the following study will show.
Behemoth occurs with certainty one time in the Hebrew text. In form, behemoth is the plural of behema – the Hebrew word for “beast.” However, behemoth is used as a singular word in Job 40:15, indicating that a specific animal is being described. In Hebrew, this grammatical construction usually emphasizes the majesty of the word so used.

Job 40:15-24 provides an explicit description of behemoth. The creature was herbivorous, massive in size (with extremely strong muscles and bones), had a noteworthy tail, dwelt near water, and was fearless. But, what was behemoth? Some have argued that it was a hippopotamus or an elephant. While the habitat may be fitting, there are some difficulties with this view. First, neither of these creatures possesses a noteworthy tail. Second, behemoth is said to be “chief of the ways of God.” If this phrase indicates size (which is reasonable), it would rule out hippos since at full size they are but seven feet high. Although elephants may be twice as tall, they still are dwarfed by dinosaurs that reached heights of up to three stories and weights of over 90 tons. While it is inappropriate to be dogmatic, it is likely that a dinosaur (such as Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, or Apatosaurus) is under consideration in Job 40.

Leviathan occurs six times in the Hebrew text (Job 3:8; 4 1: 1; Psalm 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27: 1). In these passages, leviathan is considered a creature on the same fearful scale as ships, the ocean, and sea-monsters; in fact, it is probably an inhabitant of the seas. The fullest description is given in Job 41. Many scholars have supposed that leviathan was a giant crocodile, but there are several problems with this view. When a crocodile is compared to the description of leviathan, noticeable differences are obvious.

(1) Crocodiles have short legs and are not much more frightening when they stand than when they sit. But, the Bible says of leviathan, “When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid; because of his crashings they are beside themselves.” “He beholds every high thing: he is king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:25,34). This does not describe a crocodile. How could it be said of the crocodile “He beholds every high thing”?

(2) Crocodiles are stealthy swimmers. Yet, leviathan causes such commotion in the water that he leaves behind a churning wake (Job 41:31-32).

(3) Crocodiles have a smooth, vulnerable underside. A spear can easily penetrate this hide. But the Bible says of leviathan, “Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail; nor does the spear, dart, or javelin.” “Darts are regarded as straw; he laughs at the threat of javelins. His undersides are like sharp potsherds, he spreads pointed marks in the mire” (Job 41:26,29-30).

(4) Crocodiles do not have capacity to breathe fire – leviathan did (Job 41:18-21).

These are just a few incongruities that show that leviathan was not a crocodile. Regardless of the similarities that one might find (and they are indeed difficult to discover), these dissimilarities are incontrovertible. Although it may not be possible to single out the one animal, which alone could he called leviathan, we cannot dismiss the possibility that it was a dinosaur-like animal or an extinct sea-dwelling creature.

Reprinted by permission from Reason & Revelation, August 1993. Copyright © Apologeties Press, Inc., 230 Landmark Dr., Montgomery, AL 36117.