Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?XLI.
(1) Leviathan.—There can be little doubt that by this is meant the crocodile or alligator, whatever may be the true meaning of behemoth.
Or his tongue . . .—Some render, “or press down his tongue with a cord”; but the Authorised Version seems preferable.
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?(2) Hook.—Or, cord of rush.
A thorn.—Or, spike or hook.
Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?(4) A servant for ever.—The crocodile being probably quite untameable.
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?(6) Shall the companions make a banquet of him?—Or, Shall the bands of fishermen make traffic of him? or, dig a pit for him?—the former suiting the parallelism better.
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.(8) Remember the battle.—“Bear in mind what thou dost attempt, and thou wilt not do it again.”
Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?(9) Behold the hope of him is in vain—i.e., the hope of the rash man who would venture to attack him: at the sight of him, i.e., the infuriated crocodile.
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?(10) None is so fierce that dare stir him up.—“If, therefore, the creatures of My hand strike so much terror, how far more terrible must I be? If thou canst not save thyself from them, how much less canst thou be saved without Me?” (See Job 40:14.) The first clause may be understood thus: “He is not so cruel (the common meaning of the word rendered fierce)—i.e., to himself—that he should venture to rouse him up.”
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.(11) Who hath prevented me?—It is manifest that this appeal would come more appropriately at the end of the following detailed description than, as it does here, just before it. “Who hath prevented me,” &c., of course means, Who hath first given to me, that I should repay him?
Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?(13) Who can discover . . . ?—Rather, Who can strip off his outer garment? i.e., his scales, which are the covering of his skin. Who shall come within his double bridle, i.e., the doubling of his jaw? Who would venture a limb within his jaws? This seems to be the meaning, rather than “Who shall come to him with his double bridle,” forsooth to take him therewith?
Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.(14) Who can open the doors of his face?—i.e., his mouth. Round about his teeth is terror.
By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.(18) By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning—i.e., fiery red and glowing.
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.(20) Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.—The last word is uncertain: it is the same as was rendered in the Authorised Version “hook” at Job 41:2; and taking the same sense here, we may render, as of a seething pot and rushes: i.e., a pot made hot with rushes.
In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.(22) Sorrow is turned into joy before him.—Literally, and before him danceth fear, or pining sorrow exulteth before him. A marvellous personification of the terror which goes with him wherever he goes.
The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.(23) The flakes of his flesh—i.e., the parts that in other animals hang down: e.g., dewlaps, &c., are not flabby, as with them.
His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.(24) His heart—i.e., his nature, his disposition. This seems to be the meaning, rather than the physical organ of life.
When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.(25) By reason of breakings—i.e., the waves he makes in the water, or the breakings he makes among the plants and trees in the water.
They purify themselves—i.e., they are beside themselves; they are so overwhelmed with terror, that they take themselves off, as those who have to dwell apart for uncleanness.
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.(26) The sword of him that layeth at him.—Literally, As to one approaching him (to slay him), his sword cannot stand; it will snap in his hand.
Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.(29) Darts.—Rather, clubs.
Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.(30) He spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.—Some render, “He spreadeth, as it were, a threshing-wain upon the mire.” The statement is, that he not only can lie without inconvenience upon sharp-pointed things, but his own body presents a sharp surface to the mud he lies on.
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.(31) The sea—i.e., not necessarily the salt water, for the Nile is still called the sea by the Arabs, and so with many other large rivers. Example, the “sea-wall” of the Thames below Gravesend.
Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.(33, 34) Upon earth there is not his like.—Some have proposed to take away the last two verses of Job 41 from their connection with the crocodile, and to transpose them, referring them to man, so as to come before Job 41:8, understanding them thus: “There is one whose like is not upon earth, who is made without dread. He seeth every high thing, and is king over all the proud beasts. To Him then I say (Job 41:8), Lay thine hand upon him; remember the battle, and do so no more. Lo! his hope is deceived. Is he indeed cast down at the very eight of him? He is not so cruel to himself that he should rouse him up. Who then can stand before me? Who hath first given to me, that I should have to repay him? That which is under the whole heavens is mine.” It cannot be denied that this makes very good sense, but it seems to be too great a liberty to take with the text as we find it to adopt this as the true order of the verses; for in that case, what is there that we might not deal with in a like manner? Those who advocate this transposition in the order of the verses would also place Job 40:1-5 so as to follow Job 40:6, in this manner: “Then Job answered the Lord and said, I know that thou canst do everything, and that no purpose can be withholden from thee, or that no purpose of thine can be restrained.” Then the next words come in as the implied answer of God: “Who is this that hideth my counsel for want of knowledge?” To which Job replies: “Therefore (I confess that) I have uttered without understanding things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” Again God replies, as in Job 38:3; Job 40:7 : “Hear, I beseech thee and I will speak, I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me; to which Job answers: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor what I have said, and repent it in dust and ashes.” Then the Lord answered Job and said, “Is he that contended with the Almighty reproved? Does he acknowledge his discomfiture? He that argueth with God, let him answer this question.” Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold I am vile. What shall I answer thee? I lay my hand before my mouth; once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yea twice, but I will not do so again.” There is a certain amount of sharpness and point obtained in thus making this confession the climax of the poem, and a kind of formal consistency is secured in regarding this resolution as Job’s last utterance instead of making him speak again, as he does, according to the present order, in Job 42:2. But this consistency is formal rather than real, inasmuch as there is no inconsistency in the tone of Job 42:2 seqq., and the promise of Job 40:5. Whatever advantage may be derived from the re-arrangement will be a matter for individual taste rather to decide, which will vary with the individual; and at all events, the climax of Job 42:6 as it stands is a very noble one, and we may question whether we can heighten its grandeur.