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Job 40:15--41:34

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 

The Description of Leviathan

41:1 (40:25) 14  “Can you pull in 15  Leviathan with a hook,

and tie down 16  its tongue with a rope?

41:2 Can you put a cord through its nose,

or pierce its jaw with a hook?

41:3 Will it make numerous supplications to you, 17 

will it speak to you with tender words? 18 

41:4 Will it make a pact 19  with you,

so you could take it 20  as your slave for life?

41:5 Can you play 21  with it, like a bird,

or tie it on a leash 22  for your girls?

41:6 Will partners 23  bargain 24  for it?

Will they divide it up 25  among the merchants?

41:7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons

or its head with fishing spears?

41:8 If you lay your hand on it,

you will remember 26  the fight,

and you will never do it again!

41:9 (41:1) 27  See, his expectation is wrong, 28 

he is laid low even at the sight of it. 29 

41:10 Is it not fierce 30  when it is awakened?

Who is he, then, who can stand before it? 31 

41:11 (Who has confronted 32  me that I should repay? 33 

Everything under heaven belongs to me!) 34 

41:12 I will not keep silent about its limbs,

and the extent of its might,

and the grace of its arrangement. 35 

41:13 Who can uncover its outer covering? 36 

Who can penetrate to the inside of its armor? 37 

41:14 Who can open the doors of its mouth? 38 

Its teeth all around are fearsome.

41:15 Its back 39  has rows of shields,

shut up closely 40  together as with a seal;

41:16 each one is so close to the next 41 

that no air can come between them.

41:17 They lock tightly together, one to the next; 42 

they cling together and cannot be separated.

41:18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;

its eyes are like the red glow 43  of dawn.

41:19 Out of its mouth go flames, 44 

sparks of fire shoot forth!

41:20 Smoke streams from its nostrils

as from a boiling pot over burning 45  rushes.

41:21 Its breath sets coals ablaze

and a flame shoots from its mouth.

41:22 Strength lodges in its neck,

and despair 46  runs before it.

41:23 The folds 47  of its flesh are tightly joined;

they are firm on it, immovable. 48 

41:24 Its heart 49  is hard as rock,

hard as a lower millstone.

41:25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified,

at its thrashing about they withdraw. 50 

41:26 Whoever strikes it with a sword 51 

will have no effect, 52 

nor with the spear, arrow, or dart.

41:27 It regards iron as straw

and bronze as rotten wood.

41:28 Arrows 53  do not make it flee;

slingstones become like chaff to it.

41:29 A club is counted 54  as a piece of straw;

it laughs at the rattling of the lance.

41:30 Its underparts 55  are the sharp points of potsherds,

it leaves its mark in the mud

like a threshing sledge. 56 

41:31 It makes the deep boil like a cauldron

and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment, 57 

41:32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;

one would think the deep had a head of white hair.

41:33 The likes of it is not on earth,

a creature 58  without fear.

41:34 It looks on every haughty being;

it is king over all that are proud.” 59 

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.

14 sn Beginning with 41:1, the verse numbers through 41:9 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 41:1 ET = 40:25 HT, 41:2 ET = 40:26 HT, etc., through 41:34 ET = 41:26 HT. The Hebrew verse numbers in the remainder of the chapter differ from the verse numbers in the English Bible. Beginning with 42:1 the verse numbers in the ET and HT are again the same.

15 tn The verb מָשַׁךְ (mashakh) means “to extract from the water; to fish.” The question here includes the use of a hook to fish the creature out of the water so that its jaws can be tied safely.

16 tn The verb שָׁקַע (shaqa’) means “to cause to sink,” if it is connected with the word in Amos 8:8 and 9:5. But it may have the sense of “to tie; to bind.” If the rope were put around the tongue and jaw, binding tightly would be the sense.

17 tn The line asks if the animal, when caught and tied and under control, would keep on begging for mercy. Absolutely not. It is not in the nature of the beast. The construction uses יַרְבֶּה (yarbeh, “[will] he multiply” [= “make numerous”]), with the object, “supplications” i.e., prayers for mercy.

18 tn The rhetorical question again affirms the opposite. The poem is portraying the creature as powerful and insensitive.

19 tn Heb “will he cut a covenant.”

20 tn The imperfect verb serves to express what the covenant pact would cover, namely, “that you take.”

21 tn The Hebrew verb is שָׂחַק (sakhaq, “to sport; to trifle; to play,” Ps 104:26).

22 tn The idea may include putting Leviathan on a leash. D. W. Thomas suggested on the basis of an Arabic cognate that it could be rendered “tie him with a string like a young sparrow” (VT 14 [1964]: 114ff.).

23 tn The word חָבַּר (khabbar) is a hapax legomenon, but the meaning is “to associate” since it is etymologically related to the verb “to join together.” The idea is that fishermen usually work in companies or groups, and then divide up the catch when they come ashore – which involves bargaining.

24 tn The word כָּרַה (karah) means “to sell.” With the preposition עַל (’al, “upon”) it has the sense “to bargain over something.”

25 tn The verb means “to cut up; to divide up” in the sense of selling the dead body (see Exod 21:35). This will be between them and the merchants (כְּנַעֲנִים, kÿnaanim).

26 tn The verse uses two imperatives which can be interpreted in sequence: do this, and then this will happen.

27 sn Job 41:9 in the English Bible is 41:1 in the Hebrew text (BHS). From here to the end of the chapter the Hebrew verse numbers differ from those in the English Bible, with 41:10 ET = 41:2 HT, 41:11 ET = 41:3 HT, etc. See also the note on 41:1.

28 tn The line is difficult. “His hope [= expectation]” must refer to any assailant who hopes or expects to capture the creature. Because there is no antecedent, Dhorme and others transpose it with the next verse. The point is that the man who thought he was sufficient to confront Leviathan soon finds his hope – his expectation – false (a derivative from the verb כָּזַב [kazab, “lie”] is used for a mirage).

29 tn There is an interrogative particle in this line, which most commentators ignore. But others freely emend the MT. Gunkel, following the mythological approach, has “his appearance casts down even a god.” Cheyne likewise has: “even divine beings the fear of him brings low” (JQR 9 [1896/97]: 579). Pope has, “Were not the gods cast down at the sight of him?” There is no need to bring in this mythological element.

30 sn The description is of the animal, not the hunter (or fisherman). Leviathan is so fierce that no one can take him on alone.

31 tc MT has “before me” and can best be rendered as “Who then is he that can stand before me?” (ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, NJPS). The following verse (11) favors the MT since both express the lesson to be learned from Leviathan: If a man cannot stand up to Leviathan, how can he stand up to its creator? The translation above has chosen to read the text as “before him” (cf. NRSV, NJB).

32 tn The verb קָדַם (qadam) means “to come to meet; to come before; to confront” to the face.

33 sn The verse seems an intrusion (and so E. Dhorme, H. H. Rowley, and many others change the pronouns to make it refer to the animal). But what the text is saying is that it is more dangerous to confront God than to confront this animal.

34 tn This line also focuses on the sovereign God rather than Leviathan. H. H. Rowley, however, wants to change לִי־חוּא (li-hu’, “it [belongs] to me”) into לֹא הוּא (lohu’, “there is no one”). So it would say that there is no one under the whole heaven who could challenge Leviathan and live, rather than saying it is more dangerous to challenge God to make him repay.

35 tn Dhorme changes the noun into a verb, “I will tell,” and the last two words into אֵין עֶרֶךְ (’enerekh, “there is no comparison”). The result is “I will tell of his incomparable might.”

36 tn Heb “the face of his garment,” referring to the outer garment or covering. Some take it to be the front as opposed to the back.

37 tc The word רֶסֶן (resen) has often been rendered “bridle” (cf. ESV), but that leaves a number of unanswered questions. The LXX reads סִרְיוֹן (siryon), with the transposition of letters, but that means “coat of armor.” If the metathesis stands, there is also support from the cognate Akkadian.

38 tn Heb “his face.”

39 tc The MT has גַּאֲוָה (gaavah, “his pride”), but the LXX, Aquila, and the Vulgate all read גַּוּוֹ (gavvo, “his back”). Almost all the modern English versions follow the variant reading, speaking about “his [or its] back.”

40 tn Instead of צָר (tsar, “closely”) the LXX has צֹר (tsor, “stone”) to say that the seal was rock hard.

41 tn The expression “each one…to the next” is literally “one with one.”

42 tn Heb “a man with his brother.”

43 tn Heb “the eyelids,” but it represents the early beams of the dawn as the cover of night lifts.

44 sn For the animal, the image is that of pent-up breath with water in a hot steam jet coming from its mouth, like a stream of fire in the rays of the sun. The language is hyperbolic, probably to reflect the pagan ideas of the dragon of the deep in a polemical way – they feared it as a fire breathing monster, but in reality it might have been a steamy crocodile.

45 tn The word “burning” is supplied. The Syriac and Vulgate have “a seething and boiling pot” (reading אֹגֵם [’ogem] for אַגְמֹן [’agmon]). This view is widely accepted.

46 tn This word, דְּאָבָה (dÿavah) is a hapax legomenon. But the verbal root means “to languish; to pine.” A related noun talks of dejection and despair in Deut 28:65. So here “despair” as a translation is preferable to “terror.”

47 tn Heb “fallings.”

48 tn The last clause says “it cannot be moved.” But this part will function adverbially in the sentence.

49 tn The description of his heart being “hard” means that he is cruel and fearless. The word for “hard” is the word encountered before for molten or cast metal.

50 tc This verse has created all kinds of problems for the commentators. The first part is workable: “when he raises himself up, the mighty [the gods] are terrified.” The mythological approach would render אֵלִים (’elim) as “gods.” But the last two words, which could be rendered “at the breaking [crashing, or breakers] they fail,” receive much attention. E. Dhorme (Job, 639) suggests “majesty” for “raising up” and “billows” (גַּלִּים, gallim) for אֵלִים (’elim), and gets a better parallelism: “the billows are afraid of his majesty, and the waves draw back.” But H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 263) does not think this is relevant to the context, which is talking about the creature’s defense against attack. The RSV works well for the first part, but the second part need some change; so Rowley adopts “in their dire consternation they are beside themselves.”

51 tn This is the clearest reading, following A. B. Davidson, Job, 285. The versions took different readings of the construction.

52 tn The verb קוּם (qum, “stand”) with בְּלִי (bÿli, “not”) has the sense of “does not hold firm,” or “gives way.”

53 tn Heb “the son of the bow.”

54 tn The verb is plural, but since there is no expressed subject it is translated as a passive here.

55 tn Heb “under him.”

56 tn Here only the word “sharp” is present, but in passages like Isa 41:15 it is joined with “threshing sledge.” Here and in Amos 1:3 and Isa 28:27 the word stands alone, but represents the “sledge.”

57 sn The idea is either that the sea is stirred up like the foam from beating the ingredients together, or it is the musk-smell that is the point of comparison.

58 tn Heb “one who was made.”

59 tn Heb “the sons of pride.” Dhorme repoints the last word to get “all the wild beasts,” but this misses the point of the verse. This animal looks over every proud creature – but he is king of them all in that department.

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