“In that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1, NSAB 1995).
This is a warning of approaching judgment against sinful nations, as in previous chapters of Isaiah’s 8th-century-BC prophecies, the Lord’s “sword” symbolizing death and destruction. Egypt and Assyria are specifically named (vv. 12-13).
The term “Leviathan” is typically a poetic expression, a serpentine sea creature emblematic of evil forces (cp. Psa. 74:13-14), similar to the metaphoric depictions of the Roman Empire as a seven-headed sea beast and Satan as a seven-headed dragon (Rev. 13:1-8; 12:3-9).
Isaiah was prophesying about the Lord’s punishment of evil nations, using symbolic imagery. While fulfilled many times over, in particular the mighty empire of Egypt succumbed to the invasions and control of the Assyrians (671 BC), the Persians (525 BC), the Greeks (332 BC), and the Romans (30 BC). The Assyrian empire fell, after prolonged civil wars and uprisings, to the Babylonians, with the help of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Medes and Persians, by 609 BC. All of this was God's judgment for the wickedness of these nations.
--Kevin L. Moore
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