Job 41:7
Can you fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
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Job 41:7-8. Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? — A whale’s skin you may; but the skin of a crocodile is so hard that an iron, or spear, will not pierce it. It may, however, be understood also of the whale, for though they are taken at this day by piercing their skin with barbed irons, this art and way of taking them is but a late invention, and was not known in Job’s time; and, besides, he doth not speak of the absolute impossibility, but of the great difficulty of taking them. Lay thy hand upon him — Seize upon him, and take him by a strong hand, if thou darest to do so. Remember the battle, &c. — But ere thou attempt that, consider what thou art doing, and how hazardous thy enterprise is, and with what sort of a creature and with what disadvantage thou art going to contend; and, as it follows, do no more — Proceed no further; draw back thy hand, and be thankful for so great a deliverance. Or, as אל תוסŠ, al tosaph, literally signifies, non addes, that is, as Mercer very justly explains it, if once thou lay thy hand upon him, or attempt to do it, thou wilt no more remember the engagement with him, or any one else; for he will quickly despatch thee. Heath, however, gives a different turn to the sense, thus: Be sure thou strike home; mind thy blow; rely not on a second stroke.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 fill his skin with barbed irons? - Referring to its thickness and impenetrability. A common method of taking fish is by the spear; but it is here said that the leviathan could not be caught in this manner. The common method of taking the crocodile now is by shooting him; see the notes at Job 41:1. Nothing is more remarkable in the crocodile than the thick and impenetrable skin with which it is covered; and the description here will agree better with this animal than with any other.

Or his head with fish spears - The word here rendered "fish-spears" (צלצל tselâtsal) means properly a "tinkling, clanging," as of metal or arms, and then any tinkling instrument. Here it evidently refers to some metal spear, or harpoon, and the name was given to the instrument on account of its clanging noise. The Septuagint renders this strangely, referring it to the "Phenicians," or merchants mentioned in the previous verse - "With their whole fleet they could not carry the first skin of his tail, nor his head in their fishing-barks."

7. His hide is not penetrable, as that of fishes. This may be understood, either,

1. Of the whale. And whereas it is objected that the whales at this day are taken in this manner, and therefore this cannot be understood of them; it may be replied, both that this art and way of taking whales is a late invention, and was not known in Job’s time; and that he doth not speak of the absolute impossibility, but of the great difficulty of taking them. Or,

2. Of the crocodile, whose skin is so hard that an iron or spear will not pierce it, as we shall see hereafter. Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears? This seems not so well to agree with the whale; whose skin, and the several parts of his body, are to be pierced with harpoons and lances, such as fishermen use in taking whales; and their flesh to be cut in pieces with their knives: but better with the crocodile, whose skin is so hard, and so closely set with scales, that it is impenetrable; See Gill on Ezekiel 29:4. Or if the words are rendered, as by some, "wilt thou fill ships with his skin? and the fishermen's boat with his head" (n)? it makes also against the whale; for this is done continually, ships of different nations are loaded every year with its skin, flesh, and the bones of its head.

(n) Vid. Schultens in loc.

Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
Verse 7. - Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? The hippopotamus was captured in this way by the Egyptians at an early date, and hence the idea of trying the same mode of capture with the crocodile would naturally arise; but in the time of Job it would seem that no one had been bold enough to attempt it. The skin of the crocodile is penetrable in very few places, and his capture by a single man with a harpoon, though now sometimes practised (Wilkinson, in the author's 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. p. 99), is still a work of danger and difficulty. Or his head with fish-spears? Fish-spears would have small effect on the head of a crocodile, which is bony and covered by a very tough skin. There is a vulnerable place, however, at the point where the head joins the spine, at which the ancient Egyptians, when they ventured to attack the crocodile, were wont to strike (see the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 545). 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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