Job 40:15
Behold now behemoth, which I made with you; he eats grass as an ox.
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(15) Behemoth.—The identification of behemoth has always been a great difficulty with commentators. The word in Hebrew is really the natural plural of behēmāh, which means domestic cattle; and this fact would suggest the idea that more than one animal may be meant in the description (Job 40:15-24), which scarcely seems to answer to one and the same. In this way the Job 40:15-20 would describe very well the elephant, and Job 40:21-24 the hippopotamus. The objection to this is, that behēmāh is commonly used of domestic cattle in contrast to wild beasts, whereas neither the elephant nor the hippopotamus can come under the category of domestic animals. There is a word in Coptic (p-ehe-emmou, meaning water-ox), used for the hippopotamus, which may, perhaps, lie concealed in behemoth. Then the difficulty is to make the description answer throughout to the hippopotamus (e.g., Job 40:20), since the hippopotamus does not frequent mountains, neither does it exactly eat grass like an ox (Job 40:15).

Which I made with thee.—Fellow-creatures of thine, to inhabit the world with thee: thus skilfully reminding him that he had a common origin with the beasts.

Job 40:15. Behold now behemoth — The word properly means beasts, and is so understood by the LXX., whose interpretation of the verse is, ιδου θηρια παρα σοι, χορτυν ισα βουσιν εσθιουσιν, Behold the beasts with thee, they eat grass, like oxen. According to Ab. Ezra, and the Targum, it is the name of any great beast. But R. Levi says, bestiam esse specialem, that it is an animal peculiarly called by that name. This, indeed, is probable from what follows, namely, His strength is in his loins: he moveth his tail, &c., and though the word, according to the termination oth, be strictly a plural in the feminine gender, yet we sometimes find it irregularly used for a singular. Thus, Psalm 73:22. So foolish was I, &c., I was, behemoth, a beast before thee. But the great question is, What beast it meant? The ancient and most generally received opinion has been, that it is the elephant. Thus Buxtorf, Singulariter, capitur pro elephante proper ingentem magnitudinem, It is taken in the singular number for the elephant, because of its vast greatness. “And I confess,” says Henry, “I see no reason to depart from the opinion, that it is the elephant that is here described, which is a very strong, stately creature, of a very large stature, above any other, and of wonderful sagacity, and of such great reputation in the animal kingdom, that, among so many four-footed beasts as we have had the natural history of, chap. 38. and 39., we can scarce suppose this should be omitted.” They who understand this of the elephant, take the following animal, called leviathan, for the whale; observing, that as these are two of the goodliest and vastest creatures which God hath made, the one of the land, the other of the sea, and withal such as the description here given, for the most part, manifestly agrees to, it is most probable they are here intended. But some later and very learned men take the leviathan to be the crocodile, and the behemoth to be a creature called the hippopotamus, or river-horse, which may seem to be fitly joined with the crocodile, both being very well known to Job and his friends, as being frequent in the adjacent places, both amphibious, living and preying both in the water and upon the land, and both being creatures of great bulk and strength. Dr. Dodd, who is of opinion that Bochart has proved to a demonstration that the behemoth is the hippopotamus, has presented us with two descriptions, one from the ancients, and the other from a modern, who saw the creature; which descriptions, he thinks, may serve instead of a commentary upon the passage. The ancient is Achilles Tatius, who thus describes the animal: “Some persons chanced to meet with, and take a river monster, which was very remarkable. The Egyptians call it the river-horse, or horse of the river Nile; and it resembles a horse, indeed, in its feet and body, excepting that its hoofs are cloven. Its tail is short, and without hair, as well as the rest of the body. Its head is round, but not small; its jaws, or cheeks, resemble those of a horse; its nostrils are very large, and breathe out a vapour like smoke; its mouth is wide, and extends to the temples; its teeth, especially those called the canine, are curved like those of a horse, both in their form and situation, but thrice as large. It is a very voracious animal, and would consume the produce of a whole field. It is very strongly made all over, and its skin so hard that it is impenetrable to any weapon.” The modern traveller is the Sieur Thevenot, who saw one of these animals at Cairo. “This animal,” says he, “was of a tan colour; its hind parts resembled those of an ox, or buffalo, excepting that its feet were shorter and thicker; in size it is equal to a camel; its snout, or nose, is like that of an ox, and its body twice as big; its head resembles that of a horse, and is of the same size; its eyes are small; its crest is very thick; its ears are small; its nostrils very wide and open; its feet are very thick, pretty large, and have each four toes, like those of a crocodile; its tail is small, without any hair, like that of an elephant; its lower jaw has four large teeth, about half a foot long, two of them crooked, and as thick as the horns of an ox, one of which is on each side of the throat; beside these, it has two others, which are straight, of the same thickness as those which are crooked, and project forward.” “The river-horse,” says the doctor,” shelters himself among the reeds; and the behemoth is said to be in the coverts of the reeds and fens, and to be compassed about with the willows of the brook. The river-horse feeds upon the herbage of the Nile; and the behemoth is said to eat grass as an ox. No creature is known to have stronger ribs than the river-horse; and the bones of the behemoth are as strong pieces of brass, like bars of iron.” See Lowth’s Notes on his sixth Prelection, 8vo. edit.40:15-24 God, for the further proving of his own power, describes two vast animals, far exceeding man in bulk and strength. Behemoth signifies beasts. Most understand it of an animal well known in Egypt, called the river-horse, or hippopotamus. This vast animal is noticed as an argument to humble ourselves before the great God; for he created this vast animal, which is so fearfully and wonderfully made. Whatever strength this or any other creature has, it is derived from God. He that made the soul of man, knows all the ways to it, and can make the sword of justice, his wrath, to approach and touch it. Every godly man has spiritual weapons, the whole armour of God, to resist, yea, to overcome the tempter, that his never-dying soul may be safe, whatever becomes of his frail flesh and mortal body.Behold now behemoth - Margin, "or, the elephant, as some think." In the close of the argument, God appeals to two animals as among the chief of his works, and as illustrating more than any others his power and majesty - the behemoth and the leviathan. A great variety of opinions has been entertained in regard to the animal referred to here, though the "main" inquiry has related to the question whether the "elephant" or the "hippopotamus" is denoted. Since the time of Bochart, who has gone into an extended examination of the subject ("Hieroz." P. ii. L. ii. c. xv.), the common opinion has been that the latter is here referred to. As a "specimen" of the method of interpreting the Bible which has prevailed, and as a proof of the slow progress which has been made toward settling the meaning of a difficult passage, we may refer to some of the opinions which have been entertained in regard to this animal. They are chiefly taken from the collection of opinions made by Schultens, in loc. Among them are the following:

(1) That wild animals in general are denoted. This appears to have been the opinion of the translators of the Septuagint.

(2) Some of the rabbis supposed that a huge monster was referred to, that ate every day "the grass of a thousand mountains."

(3) It has been held by some that the wild bull was referred to. This was the opinion particularly of Sanctius.

(4) The common opinion, until the time of Bochart, has been that the elephant was meant. See the particular authors who have held this opinion enumerated in Schultens.

(5) Bochart maintained, and since his time the opinion has been generally acquiesced in, that the "riverhorse" of the Nile, or the hippopotamus, was referred to. This opinion he has defended at length in the "Hieroz." P. ii. L. v. c. xv.

(6) Others have held that some "hieroglyphic monster" was referred to, or that the whole description was an emblematic representation, though without any living original. Among those who have held this sentiment, some have supposed that it is designed to be emblematic of the old Serpent; others, of the corrupt and fallen nature of man; others, that the proud, the cruel, and the bloody are denoted; most of the "fathers" supposed that the devil was here emblematically represented by the behemoth and the leviathan; and one writer has maintained that Christ was referred to!

To these opinions may be added the supposition of Dr. Good, that the behemoth here described is at present a genus altogether extinct, like the mammoth, and other animals that have been discovered in fossil remains. This opinion is also entertained by the author of the article on "Mazology," in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, chiefly for the reason that the description of the "tail" of the behemoth Job 40:17 does not well accord with the hippopotamus. There must be admitted to be some plausibility in this conjecture of Dr. Good, though perhaps I shall be able to show that there is no necessity for resorting to this supposition. The word "behemoth" (בהמות behêmôth), used here in the plural number, occurs often in the singular number, to denote a dumb beast, usually applied to the larger kind of quadrupeds. It occurs very often in the Scriptures, and is usually translated "beast," or collectively "cattle."

It usually denotes land animals, in opposition to birds or reptiles. See the Lexicons, and Taylor's "Hebrew Concordance." It is rendered by Dr. Nordheimer (Heb. Con.) in this place, "hippopotamus." The plural form is often used (compare Deuteronomy 32:24; Job 12:7; Jeremiah 12:4; Habakkuk 2:17; Psalm 50:10), but in no other instance is it employed as a proper name. Gesenius supposes that under the form of the word used here, there lies concealed some Egyptian name for the hippopotamus, "so modified as to put on the appearance of a Semitic word. Thus, the Ethiopian "pehemout" denotes "water-ox," by which epithet ("bomarino") the Italians also designate the hippopotamus." The translations do not afford much aid in determining the meaning of the word. The Septuagint renders it, θηρία thēria, "wild beasts;" Jerome retains the word, "Behemoth;" the Chaldee, בעיריא, "beast;" the Syriac retains the Hebrew word; Coverdale renders it, "cruelbeast;" Prof. Lee, "the beasts;" Umbreit, "Nilpferd," "Nile-horse;" and Noyes, "river-horse." The only method of ascertaining, therefore, what animal is here intended, is to compare carefully the characteristics here referred to with the animals now known, and to find in what one these characteristics exist. We may here safely "presume" on the entire accuracy of the description, since we have found the previous descriptions of animals to accord entirely with the habits of those existing at the present day. The illustration drawn from the passage before us, in regard to the nature of the animal, consists of two parts:

(1) The "place" which the description occupies in the argument. That it is an "aquatic" animal, seems to follow from the plan and structure of the argument. In the two discourses of yahweh Job 38-41, the appeal is made, first, to the phenomena of nature Job 38; then to the beasts of the earth, among whom the "ostrich" is reckoned Job 39:1-25; then to the fowls of the air Job 39:26-30; and then follows the description of the behemoth and the leviathan. It would seem that an argument of this kind would not be constructed without some allusion to the principal wonders of the deep; and the fair presumption, therefore, is, that the reference here is to the principal animals of the aquatic race. The argument in regard to the nature of the animal from the "place" which the description occupies, seems to be confirmed by the fact that the account of the behemoth is immediately followed by that of the leviathan - beyond all question an aquatic monster. As they are here grouped together in the argument, it is probable that they belong to the same class; and if by the leviathan is meant the "crocodile," then the presumption is that the river-horse, or the hippopotamus, is here intended. These two animals, as being Egyptian wonders, are everywhere mentioned together by ancient writers; see Herodotus, ii.-69-71; Diod. Sic. i. 35; and Pliny, "Hist. Nat." xxviii. 8.

(2) The character of the animal may be determined from the "particular things" specified. Those are the following:

(a) It is an amphibious animal, or an animal whose usual resort is the river, though he is occasionally on land. This is evident, because he is mentioned as lying under the covert of the reed and the fens; as abiding in marshy places, or among the willows of the brook, Job 40:21-22, while at other times he is on the mountains, or among other animals, and feeds on grass like the ox, Job 40:15, Job 40:20. This account would not agree well with the elephant, whose residence is not among marshes and fens, but on solid ground.

(b) He is not a carnivorous animal. This is apparent, for it is expressly mentioned that he feeds on grass, and no allusion is made to his at any time eating flesh, Job 40:15, Job 40:20. This part of the description would agree with the elephant as well as with the hippopotamus.

(c) His strength is in his loins, and in the navel of his belly, Job 40:16. This would agree with the hippopotamus, whose belly is equally guarded by his thick skin with the rest of his body, but is not true of the elephant. The strength of the elephant is in his head and neck, and his weakest part, the part where he can be most successfully attacked, is his belly. There the skin is thin and tender, and it is there that the rhinoceros attacks him, and that he is even annoyed by insects. Pliny, Lib. viii. c. 20; Aelian, Lib. xvii. c. 44; compare the notes at Job 40:16.


15-24. God shows that if Job cannot bring under control the lower animals (of which he selects the two most striking, behemoth on land, leviathan in the water), much less is he capable of governing the world.

behemoth—The description in part agrees with the hippopotamus, in part with the elephant, but exactly in all details with neither. It is rather a poetical personification of the great Pachydermata, or Herbivora (so "he eateth grass"), the idea of the hippopotamus being predominant. In Job 40:17, "the tail like a cedar," hardly applies to the latter (so also Job 40:20, 23, "Jordan," a river which elephants alone could reach, but see on [560]Job 40:23). On the other hand, Job 40:21, 22 are characteristic of the amphibious river horse. So leviathan (the twisting animal), Job 41:1, is a generalized term for cetacea, pythons, saurians of the neighboring seas and rivers, including the crocodile, which is the most prominent, and is often associated with the river horse by old writers. "Behemoth" seems to be the Egyptian Pehemout, "water-ox," Hebraized, so-called as being like an ox, whence the Italian bombarino.

with thee—as I made thyself. Yet how great the difference! The manifold wisdom and power of God!

he eateth grass—marvellous in an animal living so much in the water; also strange, that such a monster should not be carnivorous.

That some particular beast is designed by this word is evident from Job 40:15, and from the peculiar characters given to him, which are not common to all great beasts. But what it is is matter of some dispute amount the learned. The generality of them are agreed that this is the elephant, and the following leviathan the whale; which being two of the goodliest and vastest creatures which God made, the one of the land, the other of the sea, and withal such to whom the description here given for the most part manifestly agrees, and the like is presumed concerning the rest, may seem to be here intended. And the difficulty of reconciling some few passages to them, may arise either from our ignorance of them, or from the different nature and qualities of creatures of the same general kind in divers parts. But some late and very learned men take the leviathan to be the crocodile, and the behemoth to be a creature called the hippopotamus, which may seem fitly to be joined with the crocodile, both being very well known to Job and his friends, as being frequent in the adjacent parts, both amphibious, living and preying both in the water and upon the land, and both being creatures of great bulk and strength. I shall not undertake to determine the controversy, but shall show how each part of the following description is or may be applied to them severally. And this being no point concerning faith or a good life, every one may take the more liberty to understand the place of one or other of them.

Which I made with thee; either,

1. Upon the earth, where thou art, whereas the leviathan is in the sea. Or,

2. As I made thee, for this Hebrew particle is oft used as a note of comparison, as Job 9:26 Psalm 143:7, and elsewhere; in the same manner, and upon the same day. Whereby he may intimate, that being equally the Creator and sovereign Lord, both of Job, and of this behemoth, he had equal right to dispose of them in such manner as he thought meet. Or, (nigh, as the particle oft signifies,) unto thee, i.e. in a place not far from thee, to wit, in the river Nile, where the hippopotamus, as well as the crocodile, doth principally abide. But although those creatures were now in the river, yet they were made elsewhere, even where the first man was made. He eateth grass as an ox: This is mentioned as a thing strange and remarkable, as indeed it is; either,

1. Of the elephant, in which God hath wisely and mercifully planted this disposition, that he should not prey upon other creatures, which if he had, being so strong and vast a creature, he must needs have been very pernicious to them, but feed upon grass as an ox doth. Or,

2. Of the hippopotamus; of whom historians relate that he comes out of the river upon the land to feed upon corn, and hay, or grass, as an ox doth, to whom also he is not unlike in the forth of his head and feet, and in the bigness of his body, whence the Italians call him the sea ox. Behold, now behemoth,.... The word is plural, and signifies beasts, and may be used to denote the chiefest and largest of beasts, and therefore is commonly understood of the elephant; and certain it is that a single beast is described in the following account, and so the word is rendered, Psalm 73:22; The word is here rendered by the Septuagint "beasts"; which is the word used by the Greeks (c) for elephants as "belluae", a word of the same signification, is by the Latins (d): and so the Sabines called an elephant "barrus", and the Indians "barro" (e), a "beast"; and it may be observed, that ivory is called "shenhabbim", 1 Kings 10:22; that is, "shenhabehim", "behem" or "behemoth" (f), the tooth of the beast: and it may be also observed, that Seneca (g) says, that the Nile produces beasts like the sea; meaning particularly the crocodile and hippopotamus. Bochart dissents from the commonly received opinion of the elephant being meant; and thinks the "hippopotamus", or river horse, is intended so called from its having a head like a horse; and is said to have a mane, and to neigh like one, and to bear some resemblance to it in its snout, eyes, ears, and back (h). And the reasons that celebrated author has given for this his opinion have prevailed on many learned men to follow him; and there are some things in the description of behemoth, as will be observed, which seem better to agree with the river horse than with the elephant. It is an amphibious creature, and sometimes lives upon the land, and sometimes in the water; and by various (i) writers is often called a beast and four footed one:

which I made with thee; or as well as thee; it being equally the work of my hands, a creature as thou art: or made on the continent, as than art, so Aben Ezra; and made on the same day man was made; which those observe, who understand it of the elephant; or, which cometh nearest to thee, the elephant being, as Pliny (k) says, the nearest to man in sense; and no beast more prudent, as Cicero (l) affirms. But the above learned writer, who interprets it of the river horse, takes the meaning of this phrase to be; that it was a creature in Job's neighbourhood, an inhabitant of the river Nile in Egypt, to which Arabia joined, where Job 54ed; which is testified by many writers (m): and therefore it is thought more probable that a creature near at hand, and known should be instanced in, and not one that it may be was never seen nor known by Job. But both Diodorus Siculus (n) and Strabo (o) speak of herds of elephants in Arabia, and of that as abounding: with them; and of various places called from them, and the hunting of them, and even of men from eating them;

he eateth grass as an one; which is true both of the elephant and of the river horse: that a land animal should eat grass is not so wonderful; but that a creature who lives in the water should come out of it and eat grass is very strange and worthy of admiration, it is observed: and that the river horse feeds in corn fields and on grass many writers (p) assure us; yea, in the river it feeds not on fishes, but on the roots of the water lily, which fishermen therefore use to bait their hooks with to take it. Nor is it unlike an ox in its shape, and in some parts of its body: hence the Italians call it "bomaris", the "sea ox"; but it is double the size of an ox (q). Olaus Magnus (r) speaks of a sea horse, found between Britain and Norway; which has the head of a horse, and neighs like one; has cloven feet with hoofs like a cow; and seeks its food both in the sea and on the land, and grows to the bigness of an ox, and has a forked tail like a fish.

(See Definition for 0930. Editor)

(c) Suidas in voce Plutarch in Eumenc. (d) Terent. Eunuch. Acts 3. Sc. 1. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 3.((e) Isidor. Origin. l. 12, c. 2. Vid. Horat. Epod. 12. v. 1.((f) Hiller. Oaomastic, Sacr. p. 434. (g) Nat. Quaest. l. 4. c. 2.((h) Vid. lsidor. Origin. l. 12. c. 6. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 25. Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 7. (i) Herodot. Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 71. Plin. ib. Ammian, Marcellin. l. 22. Leo African. Descript. African, l. 9. p. 758. (k) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 1.((l) De Natur. Deor. l. 1.((m) Solin. Polyhist. c. 45. Aelian. de Animal. l. 5. c. 53. Philo de Praemiis, p. 924. Plin. Afric. ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 1.) (n) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 136. & l. 3. p. 173, 174, 175. (o) Geograph. l. 16. p. 531, 533. (p) Diodor. Sic. l. 1. p. 31. Aelian. Plin. Solin. Ammian. ut supra. (q) Ludolf. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 11. (r) De Ritu Septent. Gent. l. 21. c. 26.

Behold now {e} behemoth, which I made {f} with thee; he eateth {g} grass as an ox.

(e) This beast is thought to be the elephant, or some other, which is unknown.

(f) Whom I made as well as you.

(g) This commends the providence of God toward man: for if he were given to devour as a lion, nothing would be able to resist him, or content him.

15. Behold now behemoth] The word, behemoth, may be a Heb. plur. of intensity, signifying the beast or ox, par excellence; but probably it is an Egyptian name Hebraized. It has been supposed to be the Egyptian p-ehe-mout, i. e. the water, or river ox. At all events the animal referred to appears to be the hippopotamus, or river-horse, of the Greeks.

I made with thee] Or, have made with thee; that is, have created, as well as thee. This strange animal, though fitted by his size and strength to prey upon other creatures, feeds upon grass like the cattle.Verses 15-24. - This passage, together with the whole of ch. 41, has been regarded by some critics as an interpolation. Its omission would certainly not affect the argument; and it is thought, in some respects, to contain traces of a later age than that which most commentators assign to the remainder of the book, or, at any rate, to the greater portion of it. The recurrence to the animal creation, when the subject seemed to have been completed (Job 39:30), is also a difficulty. But, on the other hand, as there is no variation, either in the manuscripts or in the versions, and no marked difference either of style or tone of thought between the rest of the book and this controverted passage, it is best regarded as an integral portion of the work, proceeding from the same author, although perhaps at a later period. No one denies that the style is that of the best Hebrew poetry, or that the book would be weakened by the excision of the passage. "Le style," says M. Renan, "est celui des meilleurs endroits du poeme. Nulle part la coupe n'est pins vigoreuse, le parallelisme plus sonore.' Verse 15. - Behold now behemoth. "Behemoth" is ordinarily the plural of behemah "a beast;" but it is scarcely possible to understand the word in this sense in the present passage, where it seems to be a noun singular, being followed by singular verbs, and represented by singular pronouns. Hence modern critics almost unanimously regard the word here as designating "some particular animal." The mammoth, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, and the elephant have been suggested. Of these the mammoth is precluded by the want of any evidence that it existed in Job's day, and the rhinoceros by the absence of any allusion to its peculiar feature. Authorities are divided almost equally between the elephant and the hippopotamus; but the best recent Hebraists and naturalists incline rather to the latter. Which I made with thee; i.e. "which I created at the same time as I created thee" (Genesis 1:24-26). He eateth grass as an ox; i.e. he is graminivorous, not carnivorous. This is admitted to be true of the hippopotamus, which lives in the Nile during the day, and at night emerges from the river, and devastates the crops of sugar-cane, rice, and millet. 7 Gird up thy loins manfully:

I will question thee, and do thou answer me!

8 Wilt thou altogether annul my right,

Condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?

9 And hast thou then an arm like God,

And canst thou with the voice thunder like Him?

The question with האף stands to Job 40:2 in the relation of a climax: Job contended not alone with God, which is in itself wrong, let it be whatsoever it may; he went so far as to lose sight of the divine justice in the government of the world, and in order not to be obliged to give up his own righteousness, so far as to doubt the divine. ואם, Job 40:9, is also interrogative, as Job 8:3; Job 21:4; Job 34:17, comp. Job 39:13, not expressive of a wish, as Job 34:16. In the government of the world, God shows His arm, He raises His voice of thunder: canst thou perhaps - asks Jehovah - do the like, thou who seemest to imagine thou couldst govern the world more justly, if thou hadst to govern it? וּבקוּל כּמהוּ are to be combined: of like voice to Him; the translation follows the accents (ובקול with Rebia mugrasch).

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