on Job 40 :15
Behold now behemoth - The word בהמות behemoth is the plural of בהמה behemah, which signifies cattle in general, or graminivorous animals, as distinguished from חיתו chayetho, all wild or carnivorous animals. See Genesis 1:24. The former seems to mean kine, horses, asses, sheep, etc., and all employed in domestic or agricultural matters; the latter, all wild and savage beasts, such as lions, bears, tigers, etc.: but the words are not always taken in these senses.
In this place it has been supposed to mean some animal of the beeve kind. The Vulgate retains the Hebrew name; so do the Syriac and Arabic. The Chaldee is indefinite, translating creature or animal. And the Septuagint is not more explicit, translating by θηρια, beasts or wild beasts; and old Coverdale, the cruell beaste, perhaps as near to the truth as any of them. From the name, therefore, or the understanding had of it by the ancient versions, we can derive no assistance relative to the individuality of the animal in question; and can only hope to find what it is by the characteristics it bears in the description here given of it.
These, having been carefully considered and deeply investigated both by critics and naturalists, have led to the conclusion that either the elephant, or the hippopotamus or river-horse, is the animal in question; and on comparing the characteristics between these two, the balance is considerably in favor of the hippopotamus. But even here there are still some difficulties, as there are some parts of the description which do not well suit even the hippopotamus; and therefore I have my doubts whether either of the animals above is that in question, or whether any animal now in existence be that described by the Almighty.
Mr. Good supposes, and I am of the same opinion, that the animal here described is now extinct. The skeletons of three lost genera have actually been found out: these have been termed palaeotherium, anoplotherium, and mastodon or mammoth. From an actual examination of a part of the skeleton of what is termed the mammoth, I have described it in my note on Genesis 1:24.
As I do not believe that either the elephant or the river-horse is intended here, I shall not take up the reader's time with any detailed description. The elephant is well known; and, though not an inhabitant of these countries, has been so often imported in a tame state, and so frequently occurs in exhibitions of wild beasts, that multitudes, even of the common people, have seen this tremendous, docile, and sagacious animal. Of the hippopotamus or river-horse, little is generally known but by description, as the habits of this animal will not permit him to be tamed. His amphibious nature prevents his becoming a constant resident on dry land.
The hippopotamus inhabits the rivers of Africa and the lakes of Ethiopia: feeds generally by night; wanders only a few miles from water; feeds on vegetables and roots of trees, but never on fish; lays waste whole plantations of the sugar-cane, rice, and other grain. When irritated or wounded, it will attack boats and men with much fury. It moves slowly and heavily: swims dexterously; walks deliberately and leisurely over head into the water; and pursues his way, even on all fours, on the bottom; but cannot remain long under the water without rising to take in air. It sleeps in reedy places; has a tremendous voice, between the lowing of an ox and the roaring of the elephant. Its head is large; its mouth, very wide; its skin, thick and almost devoid of hair; and its tail, naked and about a foot long. It is nearly as large as the elephant, and some have been found seventeen feet long. Mr. Good observes: "Both the elephant and hippopotamus are naturally quiet animals; and never interfere with the grazing of others of different kinds unless they be irritated. The behemoth, on the contrary, is represented as a quadruped of a ferocious nature, and formed for tyranny, if not rapacity; equally lord of the floods and of the mountains; rushing with rapidity of foot, instead of slowness or stateliness; and possessing a rigid and enormous tail, like a cedar tree, instead of a short naked tail of about a foot long, as the hippopotamus; or a weak, slender, hog-shaped tail, as the elephant."
The mammoth, for size, will answer the description in this place, especially Job 40:19 : He is the chief of the ways of God. That to which the part of a skeleton belonged which I examined, must have been, by computation, not less than twenty-five feet high, and sixty feet in length! The bones of one toe I measured, and found them three feet in length! One of the very smallest grinders of an animal of this extinct species, full of processes on the surface more than an inch in depth, which shows that the animal had lived on flesh, I have just now weighed, and found it, in its very dry state, four pounds eight ounces, avoirdupois: the same grinder of an elephant I have weighed also, and found it just two pounds. The mammoth, therefore, from this proportion, must have been as large as two elephants and a quarter. We may judge by this of its size: elephants are frequently ten and eleven feet high; this will make the mammoth at least twenty-five or twenty-six feet high; and as it appears to have been a many-toed animal, the springs which such a creature could make must have been almost incredible: nothing by swiftness could have escaped its pursuit. God seems to have made it as the proof of his power; and had it been prolific, and not become extinct, it would have depopulated the earth. Creatures of this kind must have been living in the days of Job; the behemoth is referred to here, as if perfectly and commonly known.
He eateth grass as an ox - This seems to be mentioned as something remarkable in this animal: that though from the form of his teeth he must have been carnivorous, yet he ate grass as an ox; he lived both on animal and vegetable food.
on Job 40 :15
Behold now behemoth - Margin, "or, the elephant, as some think." In the close of the argument, God appeals to two animals as among the chief of his works, and as illustrating more than any others his power and majesty - the behemoth and the leviathan. A great variety of opinions has been entertained in regard to the animal referred to here, though the "main" inquiry has related to the question whether the "elephant" or the "hippopotamus" is denoted. Since the time of Bochart, who has gone into an extended examination of the subject ("Hieroz." P. ii. L. ii. c. xv.), the common opinion has been that the latter is here referred to. As a "specimen" of the method of interpreting the Bible which has prevailed, and as a proof of the slow progress which has been made toward settling the meaning of a difficult passage, we may refer to some of the opinions which have been entertained in regard to this animal. They are chiefly taken from the collection of opinions made by Schultens, in loc. Among them are the following:
(1) That wild animals in general are denoted. This appears to have been the opinion of the translators of the Septuagint.
(2) Some of the rabbis supposed that a huge monster was referred to, that ate every day "the grass of a thousand mountains."
(3) It has been held by some that the wild bull was referred to. This was the opinion particularly of Sanctius.
(4) The common opinion, until the time of Bochart, has been that the elephant was meant. See the particular authors who have held this opinion enumerated in Schultens.
(5) Bochart maintained, and since his time the opinion has been generally acquiesced in, that the "riverhorse" of the Nile, or the hippopotamus, was referred to. This opinion he has defended at length in the "Hieroz." P. ii. L. v. c. xv.
(6) Others have held that some "hieroglyphic monster" was referred to, or that the whole description was an emblematic representation, though without any living original. Among those who have held this sentiment, some have supposed that it is designed to be emblematic of the old Serpent; others, of the corrupt and fallen nature of man; others, that the proud, the cruel, and the bloody are denoted; most of the "fathers" supposed that the devil was here emblematically represented by the behemoth and the leviathan; and one writer has maintained that Christ was referred to!
To these opinions may be added the supposition of Dr. Good, that the behemoth here described is at present a genus altogether extinct, like the mammoth, and other animals that have been discovered in fossil remains. This opinion is also entertained by the author of the article on "Mazology," in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, chiefly for the reason that the description of the "tail" of the behemoth Job 40:17 does not well accord with the hippopotamus. There must be admitted to be some plausibility in this conjecture of Dr. Good, though perhaps I shall be able to show that there is no necessity for resorting to this supposition. The word "behemoth" (בהמות behêmôth), used here in the plural number, occurs often in the singular number, to denote a dumb beast, usually applied to the larger kind of quadrupeds. It occurs very often in the Scriptures, and is usually translated "beast," or collectively "cattle."
It usually denotes land animals, in opposition to birds or reptiles. See the Lexicons, and Taylor's "Hebrew Concordance." It is rendered by Dr. Nordheimer (Heb. Con.) in this place, "hippopotamus." The plural form is often used (compare Deuteronomy 32:24; Job 12:7; Jeremiah 12:4; Habakkuk 2:17; Psalm 50:10), but in no other instance is it employed as a proper name. Gesenius supposes that under the form of the word used here, there lies concealed some Egyptian name for the hippopotamus, "so modified as to put on the appearance of a Semitic word. Thus, the Ethiopian "pehemout" denotes "water-ox," by which epithet ("bomarino") the Italians also designate the hippopotamus." The translations do not afford much aid in determining the meaning of the word. The Septuagint renders it, θηρία thēria, "wild beasts;" Jerome retains the word, "Behemoth;" the Chaldee, בעיריא, "beast;" the Syriac retains the Hebrew word; Coverdale renders it, "cruelbeast;" Prof. Lee, "the beasts;" Umbreit, "Nilpferd," "Nile-horse;" and Noyes, "river-horse." The only method of ascertaining, therefore, what animal is here intended, is to compare carefully the characteristics here referred to with the animals now known, and to find in what one these characteristics exist. We may here safely "presume" on the entire accuracy of the description, since we have found the previous descriptions of animals to accord entirely with the habits of those existing at the present day. The illustration drawn from the passage before us, in regard to the nature of the animal, consists of two parts:
(1) The "place" which the description occupies in the argument. That it is an "aquatic" animal, seems to follow from the plan and structure of the argument. In the two discourses of yahweh Job 38-41, the appeal is made, first, to the phenomena of nature Job 38; then to the beasts of the earth, among whom the "ostrich" is reckoned Job 39:1-25; then to the fowls of the air Job 39:26-30; and then follows the description of the behemoth and the leviathan. It would seem that an argument of this kind would not be constructed without some allusion to the principal wonders of the deep; and the fair presumption, therefore, is, that the reference here is to the principal animals of the aquatic race. The argument in regard to the nature of the animal from the "place" which the description occupies, seems to be confirmed by the fact that the account of the behemoth is immediately followed by that of the leviathan - beyond all question an aquatic monster. As they are here grouped together in the argument, it is probable that they belong to the same class; and if by the leviathan is meant the "crocodile," then the presumption is that the river-horse, or the hippopotamus, is here intended. These two animals, as being Egyptian wonders, are everywhere mentioned together by ancient writers; see Herodotus, ii.-69-71; Diod. Sic. i. 35; and Pliny, "Hist. Nat." xxviii. 8.
(2) The character of the animal may be determined from the "particular things" specified. Those are the following:
(a) It is an amphibious animal, or an animal whose usual resort is the river, though he is occasionally on land. This is evident, because he is mentioned as lying under the covert of the reed and the fens; as abiding in marshy places, or among the willows of the brook, Job 40:21-22, while at other times he is on the mountains, or among other animals, and feeds on grass like the ox, Job 40:15, Job 40:20. This account would not agree well with the elephant, whose residence is not among marshes and fens, but on solid ground.
(b) He is not a carnivorous animal. This is apparent, for it is expressly mentioned that he feeds on grass, and no allusion is made to his at any time eating flesh, Job 40:15, Job 40:20. This part of the description would agree with the elephant as well as with the hippopotamus.
(c) His strength is in his loins, and in the navel of his belly, Job 40:16. This would agree with the hippopotamus, whose belly is equally guarded by his thick skin with the rest of his body, but is not true of the elephant. The strength of the elephant is in his head and neck, and his weakest part, the part where he can be most successfully attacked, is his belly. There the skin is thin and tender, and it is there that the rhinoceros attacks him, and that he is even annoyed by insects. Pliny, Lib. viii. c. 20; Aelian, Lib. xvii. c. 44; compare the notes at Job 40:16.
on Job 40 :15
40:15 Behemoth - Very learned men take the leviathan to be the crocodile, and the behemoth to be the river - horse, which may fitly be joined with the crocodile, both being well known to Joband his friends, as being frequent in the adjacent parts, both amphibious, living and preying both in the water and upon the land. And both creatures of great bulk and strength. Made - As I made thee. Grass - The river - horse comes out of the river upon the land to feed upon corn, and hay, or grass, as an ox doth, to whom also he is not unlike in the form of his head and feet, and in the bigness of his body, whence the Italians call him, the sea - ox.