Job 40 Behemoth: There is in the heart of every person who tries to communicate God’s word a desire to make God’s word relevant to those to whom they’re ministering. And that’s a right and good desire. We want people to see that God’s word applies to their lives where they are. It’s not just theory and hypothetical.
And yet, as we’ve been studying the book of Job for these past months I am struck every so often at how unconcerned God seems to be to make this book “relevant.”
There is something that strikes our flesh as totally irrelevant about 30-some chapters of back-and-forth arguing between four grown men.
And as we’ve recently seen the Lord appear to Job and speak to him – he never once answers any of Job’s accusations. God doesn’t provide explanations. And I speak as a fool when I say this – but it seems like God really just keeps missing opportunity after opportunity to make this book “relevant” as we could consider it.
And yet, at the same time, I think that we’ve seen over and over again that the message that God is communicating through this book is utterly relevant to our lives. To trust God’s wisdom when we don’t understand his ways is a theme that we can’t review too much. It’s one that I know that I and my wife have been blessed with being reminded of over and over.
But we’re going to be in Job chapter 40 today – so you can turn there if you haven’t already. And in this chapter, we’re once again challenged with the seeming irrelevance of what God says here.
Because today in Job 40, verses 15-24, in response to all of Job’s deep questions – in response to Job’s tragic loss of children – in response to Job’s struggle to interpret life as it’s been going for him… God has Job think about an animal. And that animal’s name is Behemoth. That’s just a word that means “cattle” – though we’re going to see that Behemoth is not a bovine.
Now, God asks no questions about Behemoth. He just wants Job to look at and consider this amazing animal. And as strange as it might sound, God wants Job and us to imitate this creature.
If that sounds far-fetched, stay with me. Hopefully you’ll see it too by the end.
Job 40 Behemoth | Creation & Diet
Now, God begins by directing Job to consider Behemoth – and he points to both its creation and its diet.
15 [Behold now/Look now at/Look at the] behemoth,
which I made [with/as well as/as I made/along with] thee;
he eateth grass as an ox.
Job 40 Behemoth | “Behold”
So, Job is told by God to look at this creature. This creature then is one that Job would have apparently had some access to and knowledge of – otherwise, this whole section would have all just flown right over Job’s head. And that’s not what God was aiming for. Job would have been familiar with this beast referred to by God as Behemoth.
Job 40 Behemoth | “which I made with thee”
And then God wants Job to consider the creation of Behemoth. God says that this creature was “made with Job.” What does that mean?
Well, it could mean that God created this animal on the sixth day just like he created mankind. That would be true. All land animals were created on the same day during Creation Week as was man.
But this could also be the Lord stating more broadly that he created both Behemoth and Job. Even though we’ll see that this animal is amazing in numerous ways, it’s the same God who created both it and Job. God has the right to make both weak and vulnerable Job as well as to create this monstrous beast that he’ll be describing for the rest of this chapter. But it’s God who sovereignly does whatever he wishes.
Job 40 Behemoth | “he eateth grass as an ox”
And finally, God relates to Job the diet of Behemoth. Because even though this animal is so amazing and powerful – the creature apparently was an herbivore. He ate grass like an ox.
By the way, that tells us that Behemoth is not an ox. He eats grass like an ox. So, it and the ox are separate creatures.
Anyway, Behemoth – for all its size and strength eats grass and plants and herbs.
So, God wanted Job to consider Behemoth’s creation and diet.
Job 40 Behemoth | Locus of Strength
But next in verse 16 the Lord wants Job to consider the locus of Behemoth’s strength.
16 [Lo now, his/Behold now, his/Look at its/What X he has] strength is in his loins,
and his [force/power] is in the [navel/muscles] of his belly.
Job 40 Behemoth | “his strength is in his loins”
So, God wants Job to consider the location of the power of Behemoth. The central hub of its strength is not in its neck or its back or its shoulders. Its strength is not centered in its head or in its feet. Its strength is focused in what we could call its “core.” Its strength is concentrated in and emanates from its abdominal.
Job 40 Behemoth | What is Behemoth?
Now, this is where we can start consider what this creature really is and compare it to how God describes it. I’m fairly convinced that we don’t have this creature with us today for reasons that I think will become clear as we study this text.
And that’s OK – because identifying what this creature is, is not the main concern of the Lord. We can get a good idea of what this beast is like even without being able to identify it because of how thorough the Lord is in describing it. But he’s making a point by mentioning this creature beyond mere identification.
Nevertheless, we do like to try to figure out what Behemoth is. So, we already know that it eats grass. And now, we hear that its abdomen is very strong – and that that’s where its strength is centered. I think that doesn’t really give us enough to get a very complete picture of this creature just yet, so we’ll move on for now without further comment.
So, the Lord has pointed Job to the creation of Behemoth – it’s diet and the locus of its strength.
Job 40 Behemoth | Tail & Thighs
And next in verse 17, the Lord describes the tail and thighs of this beast.
17 He [moveth/bends/makes/sways] his tail [stiff…/sways…] like a cedar:
the sinews of his [stones/thighs] [ßhapax legomena…] are [wrapped together/knit together/tightly wound/close-knit].
Job 40 Behemoth | “his tail”
So, God draws attention to this tail of Behemoth. He says that this animal moves its tail as if the tail were a cedar tree. You get the picture of a massive swaying tail attached to this creature.
Now, I think that description alone disqualifies a number of candidates for identifying Behemoth. Some of those would include the elephant and the hippopotamus – the tails of which could hardly be compared to cedar trees.
Job 40 Behemoth | “the sinews of his thighs”
Well, God also wants Job to consider the sinews of Behemoth’s thighs. They’re strong – knit together.
Now, another word for sinew is “tendon.” Tendons and sinews typically connect muscle to bone. And the Lord in this verse has been speaking to Job about the muscles of this beast and how strong they are.
Job 40 Behemoth | Bones
And so, now God is going to focus on the bones of Behemoth.
18 His bones are [as strong pieces/tubes] of [brass/bronze];
his [bones/limbs] are like [bars/rods] of iron.
Job 40 Behemoth | “his bones are as strong as” “bronze” and “like bars of iron”
So, God wants Job to consider the strength of the bones and limbs of Behemoth. And the Lord compares these things to the two strongest metals of that time – bronze and iron. This creature is turning out to be a picture of strength in every way.
I would say that if we’re trying to identify Behemoth – the crocodile is at this point ruled-out. Some have said that Behemoth may have been a crocodile – but when I think of the bones and limbs of crocodiles, a description like the Lord gives here doesn’t really fit the bill. Plus, crocodiles don’t eat grass like Behemoth is said to do.
But whatever Behemoth is and was – he’s strong. From its muscles to its bones – its thighs and tail. And all that strength from an animal that eats only grass and plants!
Job 40 Behemoth | Preeminence & Danger/Inferiority to God
I’d say that the animal that’s being described is really quite amazing! And God is going to agree with that assessment in verse 19 – but he’s also going to point to the fact that the one who made this beast is even more powerful.
19 He [is the chief of/is the first of/ranks first among] the [ways/works] of God:
[he that made him/let his maker/the One who made it/yet his Maker] [can make his sword to approach unto him/bring near his sword/has furnished it with a sword/can approach him with his sword].
Job 40 Behemoth | “the chief of the ways of God”
So, God wants Job to consider that Behemoth is one of the crowning achievements of God’s creation. Since this creature was a land animal, it would have been created on Day 6 of creation week as we’ve mentioned. And so, this was one of God’s crowning achievements – one of his last creative works. And even though mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation – yet, in terms of size and strength, mankind doesn’t hold a candle to Behemoth.
Job 40 Behemoth | “he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him”
And yet, God then also wants Job to know that either a) God can destroy Behemoth or that b) God has given this creature dangerous weapons on himself. It depends on how you translate that last part of verse 19.
Either God is saying that the one who made him – the Lord himself – is able to draw near to this creature with a sword – which apparently a man like Job would have been unable to do.
Or the other way to translate this is that God is saying that when he created Behemoth, he furnished him with a sword. Perhaps this creature had something on his body that was sharp and dangerous and which he would use in battling other creatures.
I prefer to read this as God saying that even though this beast is one of the highlights of God’s creation – yet, God can slay it. And apparently, mankind could not say that regarding Behemoth. They would have been fairly powerless to capture and kill this creature.
Well, God has had Job consider both the preeminence of this animal as well as God’s ability to slay it.
Job 40 Behemoth | Eating Situation
And next in verse 20, the Lord speaks of Behemoth’s eating situation.
20 [Surely/For] the [mountains/hills] bring him forth [food/their produce],
[where/there/nearby] all the [beasts of the field/wild animals] play.
So, the Lord wants Job to consider Behemoth’s eating situation.
Job 40 Behemoth | “the mountains bring him forth food”
First, Job should take note that it’s as if the mountains or hills bring forth their produce just for Behemoth. It doesn’t need to make its own food. It doesn’t need to hunt its food. It’s just there for Behemoth.
Job 40 Behemoth | “where all the beasts of the field play”
Second, Behemoth’s fellow-beasts don’t seem all that frightened by this creature. This is a very peaceful scene that the Lord is painting. You do get the sense that though Behemoth is strong, it’s not a violent or aggressive creature. Other animals play near where it eats.
Job 40 Behemoth | At Rest
And when Behemoth is done eating, it takes a nap – verse 21.
21 He [lieth/lies down] under the [shady/lotus] [trees/plants],
[in the covert of/in the secrecy of/hidden among] the [reed/reeds], [and fens/and the marsh/in the marsh].
So, God wants Job to consider where Behemoth rests.
Job 40 Behemoth | “under the shady trees”
It does so under shady trees. We’re not sure if those trees were large or small.
Job 40 Behemoth | “the reed and fens”
And another place that Behemoth would rest is in the marshes – the swampy land filled with reeds.
So, Behemoth rests in these places.
Job 40 Behemoth | At Rest, Cont’d.
And then the Lord restates where Behemoth rests in verse 22 – with a little bit of a progression away from swampy areas and into the setting of a brook or stream with flowing water.
22 The [shady trees/lotus plants/lotus trees/lotuses] [cover/conceal] him with their [shadow/shade];
the [willows/poplars] [of/by] the [brook/stream] [compass him about/surround him/conceal it].
And perhaps this is God simply restating in a different way where Behemoth rests.
Job 40 Behemoth | “cover him” and “compass him about”
But there’s also an element of hiding and concealment. In verse 21 God spoke of Behemoth lying down under the shady trees. In verse 22 here God speaks of those shady trees once more – but he asserts that Behemoth is covered or concealed by the shadow of those trees.
Either way, there are elements of hiding and secrecy and also of rest in both verse 21 and 22. So, God wants Job to consider how Behemoth rests and hides himself.
Job 40 Behemoth | “the willows of the brook”
And whereas verse 21 spoke of Behemoth taking cover in what would likely have been a stagnant swamp – now in this verse God moves our thoughts of Behemoth in a stream of water that’s not stagnant but is rather flowing and fresh. The creature is surrounded by willows or poplars that surround this kind of stream.
Job 40 Behemoth | No Fear of Water
And then the Lord moves us along in this progression from swamp to stream – to now in verse 23 – a river.
23 [Behold, he drinketh up a river/If a river rages/When the river rages], [and hasteth not/he is not alarmed/it is not disturbed]:
[he trusteth/he is confident/it is secure] [that/though] [he can draw up/X rushes/X should surge] Jordan [into/to/up to/against] his mouth.
Job 40 Behemoth | “he drinketh up a river and hasteth not”
So, the Lord wants Job to consider that Behemoth is not afraid of the water in which it resides. The KJV says that Behemoth drinks up the river and doesn’t make haste about it. Another way to take that is that the river might rage against Behemoth but it is in no hurry to escape. This creature is not at all disturbed by a raging river.
Job 40 Behemoth | “he can draw up Jordan into his mouth”
And the second line according to the KJV makes it sound like Behemoth could take the entire Jordan River into his mouth! Which is surely hyperbolic. Other translations say that Behemoth is not afraid even if the Jordan River rages up to its mouth.
Whatever way it’s translated, it’s clear that even in the midst of a great deal of water, Behemoth is calm and not at all alarmed.
Job 40 Behemoth | No Fear of Man
And not only does Behemoth have no fear of water and the possibility of drowning in raging rapids – this creature also had no fear of man.
24 [He taketh/Can anyone capture] it [with his eyes/when he is on watch/by its eyes]:
[his/can anyone?] nose pierceth [through snares/with barbs/with a snare].
Job 40 Behemoth | “he taketh it with his eyes”
So finally, here the Lord wants to draw attention to the fact that no one is able to capture Behemoth.
Job 40 Behemoth | “his nose pierceth through snares”
And for that reason, this creature had no fear of man. No one apparently was able to pierce this beast’s nose with snares to catch it.
And that’s Gods message for Job. Job – the man full of questions and doubts and struggles – this is the answer that he gets from God – “think about this animal, Job.”
But why? Why does God answer Job in this seemingly-eccentric way?
And to try to answer that, let’s finish our consideration of Behemoth by attempting to answer two final questions.
- What was Behemoth?
- And why does God mention this creature at this point?
Job 40 Behemoth | What was Behemoth?
So, let’s just recap briefly what we’ve been told by God about this creature.
- It was created with man, so it’s a land animal.
- It eats grass.
- It has really strong abdominal muscles.
- It has a large strong tree-like tail and massive strong thighs.
- It’s bones and limbs are thick and solid and strong.
- It’s one of God’s most fascinating creations and yet God has mastery over it – to the point where God can kill it when he wants.
- It eats where other animals play, so it probably posed little danger to its fellow creatures.
- It rests under trees and in marshes and in streams.
- Sometimes it found itself in rivers – even ones with raging currents.
- But it wasn’t afraid of those rivers.
- And it wasn’t afraid of humans, either.
Now, crocodiles don’t eat grass, so it wouldn’t be that. Elephants and Hippopotamuses have small tails, so it can’t be them. What else could it be?
Some have suggested that this is a mythological beast or a “chaos creature.” I don’t want to go there. I think there might be an easier way to think of this beast.
I think that the creature described here is not with us anymore today. Job would have known this creature well, but we don’t have it dwelling among us anymore. I think it’s likely that this creature was some sort of what we would refer to as a dinosaur. Maybe something like a brontosaurus but a bit smaller – so that he can actually fit into marshes and under trees and such. Otherwise, the grass-eating, and the limbs and tail and everything else would seem to match what we know of those larger herbivorous dinosaurs.
So, that’s what I think Behemoth was – a dinosaur of some form.
Job 40 Behemoth | Why Does God Mention Behemoth?
But why does God take the time to mention a dinosaur at this point in his monologue to Job?
I think the fact that God starts this discussion by saying that Behemoth was created alongside mankind indicates that Job is supposed to learn something from this beast. It shares the timing of its origin with mankind – what else might it share with Job?
Well, I think that there are comparisons to be made as well as contrasts.
The strength of this creature far surpasses the physical strength of Job or any man.
But something that both Job and Behemoth share is a natural inferiority to their Creator. God can bring a sword against Behemoth as it were and slay him – even though he’s such a marvelous creature. And when it comes down to it, God has the right to take the life of his human creatures – or simply to do in that life whatever he wishes.
In Job’s life, God wished to prove Satan wrong and allow this righteous man to suffer as though he were wicked. And that’s God’s right. He can do that if he wants.
And Behemoth is OK with all of that. It’s at rest. It fears nothing – not water, not other animals, not man. It’s not even presented as being anxious in the presence of its Creator that bears the sword that will slay it. Behemoth is just living the life that God has given it – no fear. Entirely at rest.
And I think we also learn something about God himself from this passage about Behemoth.
Now, Behemoth is not necessarily presented as dangerous. It eats grass. It dwells among other animals. It’s fairly docile.
But it is incredibly strong. And yet it can be undone by God. And that tells you that God is all-powerful. He has power over this most-powerful creature.
So, with Behemoth we have a powerful God and the reaction of one of his most preeminent creatures is to not fear. To live with the strength that God gives and to be at rest.
God’s power allows you and me to fearlessly live with whatever strength that he’s given us.
Behemoth didn’t care at all about God’s ways. It was completely oblivious to them! It implicitly trusted God’s wisdom – wisdom in terms of how God created it. Behemoth lived his life with no fear.
And Job and you and I need to be that way. We are aware of God’s ways. And sometimes those ways don’t make sense to us. But when that’s the case, let’s take a cue from Behemoth. Be steadfast and immovable. Be anxious for nothing.
When God’s ways don’t make sense, trust his wisdom. Live fearlessly with the strength that he gives you. And may God help us do just that.Tags: Old Testament Poetry Old Testament Wisdom