Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
1. leviathan—literally, "the twisted animal," gathering itself in folds: a synonym to the Thannin (Job 3:8, Margin; see Ps 74:14; type of the Egyptian tyrant; Ps 104:26; Isa 27:1; the Babylon tyrant). A poetical generalization for all cetacean, serpentine, and saurian monsters (see on Job 40:15, hence all the description applies to no one animal); especially the crocodile; which is naturally described after the river horse, as both are found in the Nile.
tongue … lettest down?—The crocodile has no tongue, or a very small one cleaving to the lower jaw. But as in fishing the tongue of the fish draws the baited hook to it, God asks, Canst thou in like manner take leviathan?
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
2. hook—rather, "a rope of rushes."
thorn—rather, a "ring" or "hook." So wild beasts were led about when caught (Isa 37:29; Eze 29:4); fishes also were secured thus and thrown into the water to keep them alive.
Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
3. soft words—that thou mayest spare his life. No: he is untamable.
Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
4. Can he be tamed for domestic use (so Job 39:10-12)?
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
5. a bird?—that is, tamed.
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?
6. Rather, "partners" (namely, in fishing).
make a banquet—The parallelism rather supports Umbreit, "Do partners (in trade) desire to purchase him?" So the Hebrew (De 2:6).
merchants—literally, "Canaanites," who were great merchants (Ho 12:7, Margin).
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
7. His hide is not penetrable, as that of fishes.
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
8. If thou lay … thou wilt have reason ever to remember … and thou wilt never try it again.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
9. the hope—of taking him.
cast down—with fear "at the (mere) sight of him."
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
10. fierce—courageous. If a man dare attack one of My creatures (Ge 49:9; Nu 24:9), who will dare (as Job has wished) oppose himself (Ps 2:2) to Me, the Creator? This is the main drift of the description of leviathan.
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
11. prevented—done Me a favor first: anticipated Me with service (Ps 21:3). None can call Me to account ("stand before Me," Job 41:10) as unjust, because I have withdrawn favors from him (as in Job's case): for none has laid Me under a prior obligation by conferring on Me something which was not already My own. What can man give to Him who possesses all, including man himself? Man cannot constrain the creature to be his "servant" (Job 41:4), much less the Creator.
I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
12. I will not conceal—a resumption of the description broken off by the digression, which formed an agreeable change.
his power—literally, "the way," that is, true proportion or expression of his strength (so Hebrew, De 19:4).
comely proportion—literally, "the comeliness of his structure" (his apparatus: so "suit of apparel" Jud 17:10) [Maurer]. Umbreit translates, "his armor." But that follows after.
Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?
13. discover—rather, "uncover the surface" of his garment (skin, Job 10:11): strip off the hard outer coat with which the inner skin is covered.
with—rather, "within his double jaws"; literally, "bridle"; hence that into which the bridle is put, the double row of teeth; but "bridle" is used to imply that none dare put his hand in to insert a bridle where in other animals it is placed (Job 41:4; 39:10).
Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
14. doors of … face—his mouth. His teeth are sixty in number, larger in proportion than his body, some standing out, some serrated, fitting into each other like a comb [Bochart].
His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
15. Rather, his "furrows of shields" (as "tubes," "channels," see on Job 40:18), are, &c., that is, the rows of scales, like shields covering him: he has seventeen such rows.
shut up—firmly closed together. A musket ball cannot penetrate him, save in the eye, throat, and belly.
One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
18. Translate: "his sneezing, causeth a light to shine." Amphibious animals, emerging after having long held their breath under water, respire by violently expelling the breath like one sneezing: in the effort the eyes which are usually directed towards the sun, seem to flash fire; or it is the expelled breath that, in the sun, seems to emit light.
eyelids of morning—The Egyptian hieroglyphics paint the eyes of the crocodile as the symbol for morning, because the eyes appear the first thing, before the whole body emerges from the deep [Horæ Hierogliphicæ 1.65. Bochart].
Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
19. burning lamps—"torches"; namely, in respiring (Job 41:18), seem to go out.
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
20. seething—boiling: literally, "blown under," under which a fire is blown.
His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
21. kindleth coals—poetical imagery (Ps 18:8).
In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.
22. remaineth—abideth permanently. His chief strength is in the neck.
sorrow—anxiety or dismay personified.
is turned into joy—rather, "danceth," "exulteth"; wherever he goes, he spreads terror "before him."
The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.
23. flakes—rather, "dewlaps"; that which falls down (Margin). They are "joined" fast and firm, together, not hanging loose, as in the ox.
are firm—Umbreit and Maurer, "are spread."
in themselves—rather, "upon him."
His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.
24. heart—"In large beasts which are less acute in feeling, there is great firmness of the heart, and slower motion" [Bochart]. The nether millstone, on which the upper turns, is especially hard.
When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
25. he—the crocodile; a type of the awe which the Creator inspires when He rises in wrath.
breakings—namely, of the mind, that is, terror.
purify themselves—rather, "they wander from the way," that is, flee away bewildered [Maurer and Umbreit].
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.
26. cannot hold—on his hard skin.
habergeon—coat of mail; avail must be taken by zeugma out of "hold," as the verb in the second clause: "hold" cannot apply to the "coat of mail."
He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
27. iron … brass—namely, weapons.
The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.
28. arrow—literally, "son of the bow"; Oriental imagery (La 3:13; Margin).
stubble—Arrows produce no more effect than it would to throw stubble at him.
Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.
29. Darts—rather, "clubs"; darts have been already mentioned (Job 41:26).
Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.
30. stones—rather, "potsherds," that is, the sharp and pointed scales on the belly, like broken pieces of pottery.
sharp-pointed things—rather, "a threshing instrument," but not on the fruits of the earth, but "on the mire"; irony. When he lies on the mire, he leaves the marks of his scales so imprinted on it, that one might fancy a threshing instrument with its sharp teeth had been drawn over it (Isa 28:27).
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.
31. Whenever he moves.
sea—the Nile (Isa 19:5; Na 3:8).
pot of ointment—the vessel in which it is mixed. Appropriate to the crocodile, which emits a musky smell.
He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.
32. path—the foam on his track.
hoary—as hair of the aged.
Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
33. who—being one who, &c.
He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.
34. beholdeth—as their superior.
children of pride—the proud and fierce beasts. So Job 28:8; Hebrew, "sons of pride." To humble the pride of man and to teach implicit submission, is the aim of Jehovah's speech and of the book; therefore with this as to leviathan, the type of God in His lordship over creation, He closes.