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Job 40:15-24

The Description of Behemoth 1 

40:15 “Look now at Behemoth, 2  which I made as 3  I made you;

it eats grass like the ox.

40:16 Look 4  at its strength in its loins,

and its power in the muscles of its belly.

40:17 It makes its tail stiff 5  like a cedar,

the sinews of its thighs are tightly wound.

40:18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,

its limbs like bars of iron.

40:19 It ranks first among the works of God, 6 

the One who made it

has furnished it with a sword. 7 

40:20 For the hills bring it food, 8 

where all the wild animals play.

40:21 Under the lotus trees it lies,

in the secrecy of the reeds and the marsh.

40:22 The lotus trees conceal it in their 9  shadow;

the poplars by the stream conceal it.

40:23 If the river rages, 10  it is not disturbed,

it is secure, 11  though the Jordan

should surge up to its mouth.

40:24 Can anyone catch it by its eyes, 12 

or pierce its nose with a snare? 13 

1 sn The next ten verses are devoted to a portrayal of Behemoth (the name means “beast” in Hebrew). It does not fit any of the present material very well, and so many think the section is a later addition. Its style is more like that of a textbook. Moreover, if the animal is a real animal (the usual suggestion is the hippopotamus), then the location of such an animal is Egypt and not Palestine. Some have identified these creatures Behemoth and Leviathan as mythological creatures (Gunkel, Pope). Others point out that these creatures could have been dinosaurs (P. J. Maarten, NIDOTTE, 2:780; H. M. Morris, The Remarkable Record of Job, 115-22). Most would say they are real animals, but probably mythologized by the pagans. So the pagan reader would receive an additional impact from this point about God’s sovereignty over all nature.

2 sn By form the word is the feminine plural of the Hebrew word for “beast.” Here it is an abstract word – a title.

3 tn Heb “with you.” The meaning could be temporal (“when I made you”) – perhaps a reference to the sixth day of creation (Gen 1:24).

4 tn In both of these verses הִנֶּה (hinneh, “behold”) has the deictic force (the word is from Greek δείκνυμι, deiknumi, “to show”). It calls attention to something by pointing it out. The expression goes with the sudden look, the raised eye, the pointing hand – “O look!”

5 tn The verb חָפַץ (khafats) occurs only here. It may have the meaning “to make stiff; to make taut” (Arabic). The LXX and the Syriac versions support this with “erects.” But there is another Arabic word that could be cognate, meaning “arch, bend.” This would give the idea of the tail swaying. The other reading seems to make better sense here. However, “stiff” presents a serious problem with the view that the animal is the hippopotamus.

6 tn Heb “the ways of God.”

sn This may be a reference to Gen 1:24, where the first of the animal creation was the cattle – bÿhemah (בְּהֵמָה).

7 tc The literal reading of the MT is “let the one who made him draw near [with] his sword.” The sword is apparently a reference to the teeth or tusks of the animal, which cut vegetation like a sword. But the idea of a weapon is easier to see, and so the people who favor the mythological background see here a reference to God’s slaying the Beast. There are again many suggestions on how to read the line. The RV probably has the safest: “He that made him has furnished him with his sword” (the sword being a reference to the sharp tusks with which he can attack).

8 tn The word בּוּל (bul) probably refers to food. Many take it as an abbreviated form of יְבוּל (yÿvul, “produce of the field”). The vegetation that is produced on the low hills is what is meant.

9 tn The suffix is singular, but must refer to the trees’ shade.

10 tn The word ordinarily means “to oppress.” So many commentators have proposed suitable changes: “overflows” (Beer), “gushes” (Duhm), “swells violently” (Dhorme, from a word that means “be strong”).

11 tn Or “he remains calm.”

12 tn The idea would be either (1) catch it while it is watching, or (2) in some way disabling its eyes before the attack. But others change the reading; Ball suggested “with hooks” and this has been adopted by some modern English versions (e.g., NRSV).

13 tn Ehrlich altered the MT slightly to get “with thorns,” a view accepted by Driver, Dhorme and Pope.

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