Job 41:1
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
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(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.

Job 41:1. Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook? — It is a great question among learned men, what creature is meant by לויתן, leviathan. Our translators were evidently uncertain respecting it, and therefore have given us here and elsewhere, where the word occurs, the original term itself, untranslated. The LXX., however, (who are followed in two instances by the author of the Vulgate,) have not done so, but have everywhere rendered it δρακων, the dragon. But it is far from being certain that in so doing they have given us the true meaning of the word. It is much more probable that either the whale or the crocodile is intended. It is evident the leviathan, mentioned Psalm 104:26, is an inhabitant of the sea, and the description given of him is generally thought best to suit the whale. There (in the great and wide sea) go the ships: there is that leviathan which thou hast made to play therein. The same may be said concerning the leviathan, mentioned Psalm 74:14. It also appears to be an inhabitant of the sea. Now the dragon and crocodile, it is argued, have nothing to do with the sea, but only with rivers, and therefore cannot be intended by leviathan here. Divers other reasons are also advanced to prove that the whale is the creature meant. “That which inclines me,” says Henry, “rather to understand it of the whale, is not only because it is much larger and a nobler animal, but, because, in the history of the creation there is such an express notice taken of it as is not of any other species of animals whatsoever; God created great whales, Genesis 1:21. By which it appears, not only that whales were well known in those parts in Moses’s time, who lived a little after Job; but that the creation of whales was generally looked upon as a most illustrious proof of the eternal power and godhead of the Creator. And we may conjecture that this was the reason (for otherwise it seems unaccountable) why Moses there so particularly mentions the creation of the whales; because God had so lately, in this discourse with Job, more largely insisted upon the bulk and strength of that creature than of any other, as the proof of his power.”

At the same time, however, that Mr. Henry thus delivers his opinion on the subject, he acknowledges that many learned men were of a different mind; and, in particular, observes of Sir Richard Blackmore, that though he admitted the more received opinion concerning the behemoth being the elephant, yet he agreed with the learned Bochart’s notion of the leviathan, that it is the crocodile, so well known in the river of Egypt. Poole also seems to have been of the same judgment. “It is evident,” says he, “that the Hebrew תנין, thannin, which is parallel to this word, leviathan, is used of the crocodile, Ezekiel 29:3-4; Ezekiel 32:3. But I shall not positively determine this controversy,” adds he, “but only show how far the text may be understood of both of them, and then submit it to the reader’s judgment, this being a matter wherein Christians may vary without any hazard. Only this I will say, that whatever becomes of the behemoth of the former chapter, whether that be the elephant or the hippopotamus, that doth not at all determine the sense of this leviathan, but leaves it indifferent to the whale or the crocodile, as the context shall determine, which, I confess, seems to me to favour the latter more than the former. To which may be added, that it seems more probable that God should speak of such creatures as were very well known to Job and his friends, as the crocodile was, than of such as it was very uncertain whether they were known in those parts, and in Job’s time.” The reader will observe, that the word leviathan is supposed to be derived from לוי, levi, joined, or coupled, and תן, than, or תנין, thannin, a dragon, that is, a large serpent, or fish, the word thannin being used both for a land-serpent and a kind of fish. And, “after comparing what Bochart and others have written on the subject, it appears to me,” says Parkhurst, “that the compound word לויתן, leviathan, the coupled dragon, denotes some animal partaking of the nature both of land-serpents and fishes, and, in this place, signifies the crocodile, which lives as well under water as on the shore.”

Dr. Dodd also agrees with Parkhurst, and the other learned men just mentioned, that Bochart “has proved by arguments, strictly conclusive, that the crocodile must be meant in this chapter.” It may be observed further here, that, although it might have been expected, that the Creator should have singled out and have dwelt upon two of the greatest of his works in the animal creation, the elephant and the whale, the former the largest and most eminent of quadrupeds, and the latter of fishes, for the display of his power and glory; yet, that naturalists have found great, if not insuperable difficulties in their endeavours to apply the particulars of this description to the whale. And all that can be said to solve these difficulties is, that there are many different species of whales, several that are known, and probably many more that are not known; and that although this description, in all its parts, may not exactly suit any species of them which we know, there may be others in the immense ocean with which we are not acquainted that it may suit; creatures which, though comprehended under the general name of whales, may, in many respects, be very different from, and much larger than, any that have been taken. But still it is very improbable, either that Job should know any thing of such whales, or that Jehovah, when reasoning with him and producing proofs of his power and providence, should make his appeal to creatures with which Job had no acquaintance. It seems, therefore, most probable that the crocodile is intended, and, we think, would be certain, were it not that the leviathan is represented in some of the passages where it is mentioned in Scripture, as we have observed, as an inhabitant of the sea, whereas the crocodile is only found in rivers. But perhaps the term leviathan does not always signify the same creature, but is put for different animals in different places, especially for such as are of extraordinary bulk, or of singular qualities. This verse, which speaks either of the impossibility, or rather of the great and terrible difficulty of taking the leviathan with the hook, or line, or such like instruments, may agree either to the whale or to the crocodile. As to the whale, there can be no doubt, nor much doubt as to the crocodile; the taking of which was generally esteemed by the ancients to be very difficult and perilous. Thus Diodorus Siculus says, they cannot be secured but in iron nets. When Augustus conquered Egypt, he struck a medal, the impress of which was a crocodile chained to a palm-tree, with this inscription, “None ever bound him before.” “In order to take these animals,” says Thevenot, “they make a number of holes, or ditches, on the banks of the river, which they cover with sticks, and things of the like kind; afterward, when the crocodiles pass over these cavities, especially when the waters rise in the river, which is the season of catching them, on account of their going further off from the river at that time, they fall into the holes and cannot get out again; in this confinement they are suffered to continue without food for several days; after which they let down certain nooses with running knots, wherewith they fasten their jaws, and then draw them out.” These nooses are the חבלי, cheblee, the cords, here mentioned, and this shows that the word לשׁון, leshon, is not to be understood of the tongue only, but of the whole fauces, or jaws. Or his tongue with a cord — This clause should be rendered, Canst thou bind his jaws with a cord? Some have objected, that this last clause cannot agree to the crocodile, because Aristotle, Pliny, and some other ancient authors have affirmed that it has no tongue. But, 1st, The notion that they have no tongues is a mistake, which has arisen from their tongues being but small in proportion to their vast bodies, and withal fastened to their under jaws. But that the crocodile hath a tongue is positively affirmed by several ancient authors, and by the Hebrew writers, and the Arabians, to whom this creature was best known, as also by later authors. But, 2d, It is not only of the tongue this clause speaks, but of the whole jaws of the leviathan. Maillet also bears testimony that the manner of taking these animals is very difficult, and sometimes very remarkable; the most common method, he says, is to dig great trenches, or ditches, along the Nile, which are covered with straw, and into which the creatures fall unawares. They are sometimes taken with hooks, baited with a quarter of a pig, or bacon, which they are very fond of. — Heath and Dr. Young. Hasselquist, speaking of the difficulty of taking this animal, says, “He frequently breaks the nets of fishermen, if they come in his way, and they are often exposed to great danger. I found a fishing-hook in the palate of the crocodile, which I dissected.” Hasselquist’s Voyages, p. 216.

41:1-34 Concerning Leviathan. - The description of the Leviathan, is yet further to convince Job of his own weakness, and of God's almighty power. Whether this Leviathan be a whale or a crocodile, is disputed. The Lord, having showed Job how unable he was to deal with the Leviathan, sets forth his own power in that mighty creature. If such language describes the terrible force of Leviathan, what words can express the power of God's wrath? Under a humbling sense of our own vileness, let us revere the Divine Majesty; take and fill our allotted place, cease from our own wisdom, and give all glory to our gracious God and Saviour. Remembering from whom every good gift cometh, and for what end it was given, let us walk humbly with the Lord.Canst thou draw out - As a fish is drawn out of the water. The usual method by which fish were taken was with a hook; and the meaning here is, that it was not possible to take the leviathan in this manner. The whole description here is of an animal that lived in the water.

Leviathan - Much has been written respecting this animal, and the opinions which have been entertained have been very various. Schultens enumerates the following classes of opinions in regard to the animal intended here.

1. The opinion that the word leviathan is to be retained, without attempting to explain it - implying that there was uncertainty as to the meaning. Under this head he refers to the Chaldee and the Vulgate, to Aquila and Symmacbus, where the word is retained, and to the Septuagint, where the word Δράκοντα Drakonta, "dragon," is used, and also the Syriac and Arabic, where the same word is used.

2. The fable of the Jews, who mention a serpent so large that it encompassed the whole earth. A belief of the existence of such a marine serpent or monster still prevails among the Nestorians.

3. The opinion that the whale is intended.

4. The opinion that a large fish called "Mular," or "Musar," which is found in the Mediterranean, is denoted. This is the opinion of Grotius.

5. The opinion that the crocodile of the Nile is denoted.

6. The opinion of Hasaeus, that not the whale is intended, but the "Orca," a sea-monster armed with teeth, and the enemy of the whale.

7. Others have understood the whole description as allegorical, as representing monsters of iniquity; and among these, some have regarded it as descriptive of the devil! See Schultens. To these may be added the description of Milton:

- That sea-beast

Leviathan, which God of all his works

Created hug'st that swim the ocean-stream,

Him, haply, slumb'ring on the Norway foam,

The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff



Job 41:1-34.

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 [563]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?God’s kingly power and authority above all the children of pride seen in the leviathan.

Canst thou take him with a hook and a line, as anglers take ordinary fishes? Surely no.

Quest. What is this


Answ. This is granted on all hands, that it is a great and terrible monster, living in the sea or rivers, as behemoth is a land monster. It is the general and received opinion that it is the whale, which is unquestionably called the leviathan, Psalm 104:25,26; which having been discovered in the seas next bordering upon Arabia, probably was not unknown to Job, who was a very inquisitive person, and well studied in the works of God, as this book manifests. But some later and very learned interpreters conceive that it is the crocodile; which was very well known in Egypt, and all the parts adjacent to it. And this is evident, that the Hebrew thannin (which is parallel to this word leviathan, these two words being synonymous, and the one promiscuously used for the other, as appears from Psalm 74:13,14 Isa 27:1 Ezekiel 32:2) is used of the crocodile, Ezekiel 29:3,4 32:2,3. But I shall not positively determine this controversy, but only show how far the text may be understood of both of them, and then submit it to the reader’s judgment; this being a matter of no great moment, wherein Christians may vary without any hazard. Only this I will say, that whatever becomes of the behemoth of the former chapter, whether that be the elephant, or the hippopotamus, that doth not at all determine the sense of this leviathan; but leaves it indifferent to the whale or the crocodile, as the context shall determine, which I confess seems to me to favour the latter more than the former. To which may be added, that it seems more probable that God would speak of such creatures as were very well known to Job and his friends, as the crocodile was, than of such as it is very uncertain whether they were known in those parts, and in Job’s time. This verse, noting either the impossibility, or rather the great and terrible difficulty, of taking this monster with his hook or line, or such-like instruments, may agree to either of them. For the whale there is no doubt; nor much doubt as to the crocodile; the taking whereof was generally esteemed by the ancients to be very difficult and perilous, whatsoever peculiar virtue or power from nature or art the Tentyritae had against them, as the Psylli were said to have against serpents. Some indeed object, that the last clause cannot agree to the crocodile, because that hath no tongue, as is affirmed by Aristotle, Pliny, and other ancient authors. But that is a mistake, and the ground of it is plain, because their tongues are but small in proportion to their vast bodies, and withal fastened to their under jaws, as the selfsame authors note. And that the crocodile hath a tongue is positively affirmed by the said ancient authors, and by the Hebrew writers, and by the Arabians, to whom this creature was best known, and by later authors.

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?.... That is, draw it out of the sea or river as anglers draw out smaller fishes with a line or hook? the question suggests it cannot be done; whether by the "leviathan" is meant the whale, which was the most generally received notion; or the crocodile, as Bochart, who has been followed by many; or the "orca", a large fish of the whale kind with many teeth, as Hasaeus, it is not easy to say "Leviathan" is a compound word of than the first syllable of "thanni", rendered either a whale, or a dragon, or a serpent, and of "levi", which signifies conjunction, from the close joining of its scales, Job 41:15; the patriarch Levi had his name from the same word; see Genesis 29:34; and the name bids fairest for the crocodile, and which is called "thannin", Ezekiel 29:3. Could the crocodile be established as the "leviathan", and the behemoth as the river horse, the transition from the one to the other would appear very easy; since, as Pliny says (a), there is a sort of a kindred between them, being of the same river, the river Nile, and so may be thought to be better known to Job than the whale; though it is not to be concealed what Pliny says (b), that whales have been seen in the Arabian seas; he speaks of one that came into the river of Arabia, six hundred feet long, and three hundred and sixty broad. There are some things in the description of this creature that seem to agree best with the crocodile, and others that suit better with the whale, and some with neither;

or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? into the river or sea, as anglers do, with lead to it to make it sink below the surface of the water, and a quill or cork that it may not sink too deep; but this creature is not to be taken in this manner; and which may be objected to the crocodile being meant, since that has no tongue (c), or at least so small that it is not seen, and cleaves close to its lower jaw, which never moves; and is taken with hooks and cords, as Herodotus (d), Diodorus Siculus (e), and Leo Africanus (f), testify; but not so the whale.

(See definition for 03882. Editor.)

(a) Nat. Hist. l. 28. c. 8. (b) Ib. l. 32. c. 1.((c) Diodor. Sicul. l. 1. p. 31. Herodot. Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 68. Solin. c. 45. Plutarch. de Is. & Osir. Vid. Aristot. de Animal. l. 2. c. 17. & l. 4. c. 11. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 37. Thevenot, ut supra. (Travels, part 1. c. 72.) Sandys's Travels, l. 2. p. 78. (d) Ut supra, (Herodot. Euterpe, sive, l. 2.) c. 70. (e) Ut supra. (Diodor. Sicul. l. 1. p. 31.) (f) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 762. See Sandy's Travels, ut supra, (l. 2.) p. 79.

Canst thou draw out {l} leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

(l) Meaning the whale.

1. The second clause appears to mean,

Wilt thou press down his tongue with a cord?

The “cord” may be that of the hook; when the hook is swallowed and the cord drawn tightly, it presses down the tongue.

1–9. The impossibility of capturing the animal.

Verses 1-34. - The crowning description of a natural marvel - the "leviathan," or crocodile - is now given, and with an elaboration to which there is no parallel in the rest of Scripture. It forms, however, a fit climax to the gradually more and more elaborate descriptions of Job 38:39-41; Job 39:1-30; and Job 40:15-24. Verse 1. - Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? The word leviathan, or more properly livyathan, which has previously occurred in ch. 3:8, and is found also in Psalm 74:14; Psalm 104:26; and Isaiah 27:1, seems to be derived from לוי, "twisting," and תן, "a monster," whence the תּנּין or תּנּים of the Pentateuch and also of Job (Job 7:12), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:11), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:3). It is thus a descriptive epithet rather than a name, and has not unnaturally been used to designate more than one kind of animal. The best modern critics regard it as applied sometimes to a python or large serpent, sometimes to a cetacean, a whale or grampus, and sometimes, as hero, to the crocodile. This last application is now almost universally accepted. The crocodile was fished for by the Egyptians with a hook, and in the time of Herodotus was frequently caught and killed (Herod., 2:70); but probably in Job's day no one had been so venturous as to attack him. Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? rather, or press down his tongue with a cord? (see the Revised Version); i.e. "tie a rope round his lower jaw, and so press down his tongue." Many savage animals are represented in the Assyrian sculptures as led along by a rope attached to their mouths. Job 41:1 1 Dost thou draw the crocodile by a hoop-net,

And dost thou sink his tongue into the line?!

2 Canst thou put a rush-ring into his nose,

And pierce his cheeks with a hook?

3 Will he make many supplications to thee,

Or speak flatteries to thee?

4 Will he make a covenant with thee,

To take him as a perpetual slave?

5 Wilt thou play with him as a little bird,

And bind him for thy maidens?

In Job 3:8, לויתן signified the celestial dragon, that causes the eclipses of the sun (according to the Indian mythology, râhu the black serpent, and ketu the red serpent); in Psalm 104:26 it does not denote some great sea-saurian after the kind of the hydrarchus of the primeval world,

(Note: Vid., Grsse, Beitrge, S. 94ff.)

but directly the whale, as in the Talmud (Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talm. 178f.). Elsewhere, however, the crocodile is thus named, and in fact as תּנּין also, another appellation of this natural wonder of Egypt, as an emblem of the mightiness of Pharaoh (vid., on Psalm 74:13.), as once again the crocodile itself is called in Arab. el-fir‛annu. The Old Testament language possesses no proper name for the crocodile; even the Talmudic makes use of קרוקתא equals κροκόδειλος (Lewysohn, 271). לויתן is the generic name of twisted, and תנין long-extended monsters. Since the Egyptian name of the crocodile has not been Hebraized, the poet contents himself in תּמשׁך with making a play upon its Egyptian, and in Arab. tmsâḥ, timsâḥ,

(Note: Herodotus was acquainted with this name (χάμψαι equals κροκόδειλοι); thus is the crocodile called also in Palestine, where (as Tobler and Joh. Roth have shown) it occurs, especially in the river Damr near Tantra.)


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