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Job Chapter Forty


Job 40 Outline of Contents

The Lord Reveals His Omnipotence to Job (v.1~2)

Job’s Response to God (v.3~5)

God’s Challenge to Job (v.6~24)

New King James Version (NKJV)



In this chapter Job is called upon to give in his answer, Job 40:1, which he does in the most humble manner, acknowledging his vileness and folly, Job 40:3; and then the Lord proceeds to give him further conviction of his superior justice and power, Job 40:6; and one thing he proposes to him, to humble the proud, if he could, and then he would own his own right hand could save him, Job 40:10; and observes to him another instance of his power in a creature called behemoth, which he had made, and gives a description of, Job 40:15.


Job 40:1  Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said:

   YLT  1And Jehovah doth answer Job, and saith: --

Moreover the Lord answered Job,.... The Lord having discoursed largely of the works of nature, in order to reconcile the mind of Job to his works of providence, stopped and made a pause for a little space, that Job might answer if he thought fit; but he being entirely silent, the Lord began again:

and said; as follows:


Job 40:2  2 “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”

   YLT  2Is the striver with the Mighty instructed? The reprover of God, let him answer it.

Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?.... Is he capable of it? He ought to be that takes upon him to dispute with God, to object or reply to him; that brings a charge against him, enters the debate, and litigates a point with him; which Job wanted to do. But could he or any other instruct him, who is the God of knowledge, the all wise and only wise God; who gives man wisdom, and teaches him knowledge? What folly is it to pretend to instruct him! Or can such an one be "instructed?" as the Targum: he is not in the way of instruction; he that submits to the chastising hand of God may be instructed thereby, but not he that contends with him; see Psalm 94:12. Or should he be one that is instructed? no, he ought to be an instructor, and not one instructed; a teacher, and not one that is taught; he should be above all instruction from God or man that will dispute with the Almighty, The word for instruct has the signification of chastisement, because instruction sometimes comes that way; and then the sense either is, shall a man contend with the Almighty that chastises him? Does it become a son or a servant to strive against a parent or a master that corrects him? Or does not he deserve to be chastised that acts such a part? Some derive the word from one that signifies to remove or depart, and give the sense, shall the abundance, the all sufficiency of God, go from him to another, to a man; and so he, instead of God, be the all sufficient one? Or rather the meaning of the clause is, has there not been much, enough, and more than enough said, Job, to chastise thee, and convince thee of thy mistakes? must more be said? is there any need of it?

he that reproveth God, let him answer it; he that reproves God, for his words, or works, or ways, finding fault with either of them, ought to answer to the question now put; or to any or all of those in the preceding chapters, and not be silent as Job now was.


Job 40:3  3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

   YLT  3And Job answereth Jehovah, and saith: --

Then Job answered the Lord,.... Finding that he was obliged to answer, he did, but with some reluctance:

and said; as follows:


Job 40:4  4 “Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.
4Lo, I have been vile, What do I return to Thee? My hand I have placed on my mouth.

Behold, I am vile,.... Or "light"F1קלתי "levis sum", Cocceius, Michaelis; "leviter locutus sum", V. L. ; which may have respect either to his words and arguments, which he thought had force in them, but now he saw they had none; or to his works and actions, the integrity of his life, and the uprightness of his ways, which he imagined were weighty and of great importance, but now being weighed in the balances of justice were found wanting; or it may refer to his original meanness and distance from God, being dust and ashes, and nothing in comparison of him; and so the Septuagint version is, "I am nothing"; see Isaiah 40:17; or rather to the original vileness and sinfulness of his nature he had now a sight of, and saw how he had been breaking forth in unbecoming expressions concerning God and his providence: the nature of man is exceeding vile and sinful; his heart desperately wicked; his thoughts, and the imaginations of them, evil, and that continually; his mind and conscience are defiled; his affections inordinate, and his understanding and will sadly depraved; he is vile in soul and body; of all which an enlightened man is convinced, and will acknowledge;

what shall I answer thee? I am not able to answer thee, who am but dust and ashes; what more can I say than to acknowledge my levity, vanity, and vileness? he that talked so big, and in such a blustering manner of answering God, as in Job 13:22; now has nothing to say for himself;

I will lay mine hand upon my mouth; impose silence upon himself, and as it were lay a restraint upon himself from speaking: it looks as if there were some workings in Job's heart; he thought he could say something, and make some reply, but durst not, for fear of offending yet more and more, and therefore curbed it in; see Psalm 39:1.


Job 40:5  5 Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”

   YLT  5Once I have spoken, and I answer not, And twice, and I add not.

Once have I spoken; but I will not answer,.... Some think this refers to what he had just now said of his vileness, he had owned that, and that was all he had to say, or would say, he would give no other answer; Jarchi says, some suppose he has respect to his words in Job 9:22;

yea, twice; but I will proceed no further; the meaning seems to be, that he who had once and again, or very often, at least in some instances, spoken very imprudently and indecently, for the future would take care not to speak in such a manner: for this confession was not quite free and full; and therefore the Lord takes him in hand again, to bring him to make a more full and ingenuous one, as he does in Job 42:1.


Job 40:6  6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

   YLT  6And Jehovah answereth Job out of the whirlwind, and saith: --

Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind,.... Some think that the whirlwind ceased while the Lord spake the words in Job 40:2; which encouraged Job to make the answer he did; but others are of opinion that it continued, and now increased, and was more boisterous than before. The Targum calls it the whirlwind of tribulation: comfort does not always follow immediately on first convictions; Job, though humbled, was not yet humbled enough: God will have a fuller confession of sin from him: it was not sufficient to say he was vile, he must declare his sorrow for his sin, his abhorrence of it, and of himself for it, and his repentance of it; and that he had said things of God he ought not to have said, and which he understood not; and though he had said he would answer no more, God will make him say more, and therefore continued the whirlwind, and to speak out of it; for he had more to say to him, and give him further proof of his power to his full conviction;

and said; as follows.


Job 40:7  7 “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me:

   YLT  7Gird, I pray thee, as a man, thy loins, I ask thee, and cause thou Me to know.

Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and,

declare thou unto me,.... And prepare to give an answer to what should be demanded of him. The same way of speaking is used in Job 38:3; See Gill on Job 38:3.


Job 40:8  8 “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
8Dost thou also make void My judgment? Dost thou condemn Me, That thou mayest be righteous?

Wilt thou also disannul my judgment?.... The decrees and purposes of God concerning his dealings with men, particularly the afflictions of them, which are framed with the highest wisdom and reason, and according to the strictest justice, and can never be frustrated or made void; or the sentence of God concerning them, that is gone out of his mouth and cannot be altered; or the execution of it, which cannot be hindered: it respects the wisdom of God in the government of the world, as Aben Ezra observes, and the particular dealings of his providence with men, which ought to be submitted to; to do otherwise is for a man to set up his own judgment against the Lord's, which is as much as in him lies to disannul it; whereas God is a God of judgment, and his judgment is according to truth, and in righteousness, and will take place, let men do or say what they please;

wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Is there no other way of vindicating thine own innocence and integrity, without charging me with unrighteousness; at least saying such things as are judged by others to be an arraignment of my justice, wisdom, and goodness, in the government of the world? Now though Job did not expressly and directly condemn the Lord, and arraign his justice, yet when he talked of his own righteousness and integrity, he was not upon his guard as he should have been with respect to the justice of God in his afflictions; for though a man may justify his own character when abused, he should take care to speak well of God; and be it as it will between man and man, God is not to be brought into the question; and though some of his providences are not so easily reconciled to his promises, yet let God be true and every man a liar.


Job 40:9  9 Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
9And an arm like God hast thou? And with a voice like Him dost thou thunder?

Hast thou an arm like God?.... Such power as he has, which is infinite, almighty, and uncontrollable, and therefore there is no contending with him; as he has an arm on which good men may lean on and trust in, and by which they are supported, protected, and saved, so he has an arm to crush like a moth all that strive with him or against him;

or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? thunder is his voice; see Job 37:4, &c. and is expressive of his power, Job 26:14; and his powerful voice may be observed in calling all things out of nothing into being in creation; in commanding and ordering all things in providence according to his pleasure; and in quickening sinners through his Gospel, by his Spirit and grace in conversion, and will be in calling men out of their graves and summoning them to judgment at the last day. God can both overpower and out voice men, and therefore it is in vain to oppose him and contend with him.


Job 40:10  10 Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, And array yourself with glory and beauty.
10Put on, I pray thee, excellency and loftiness, Yea, honour and beauty put on.

Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency,.... With excellent majesty, as I am decked and clothed, Psalm 93:1;

and array thyself with glory and beauty; appear in the most glorious and splendid manner thou canst, make the best figure thou art able, put on royal robes, and take thy seat and throne, and sit as a king or judge in state and pomp, and exert thyself to do the following things; or take my seat and throne as the judge of the whole earth, and try if thou canst govern the world better than I do; for these and the expressions following are said in an ironic manner.


Job 40:11  11 Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him.
11Scatter abroad the wrath of thine anger, And see every proud one, and make him low.

Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath,.... Work thyself up into a passion, at least seemingly; put on all the airs of a wrathful and enraged king on a throne of state, whose wrath is like the roaring of a lion, and as messengers of death; pour out menaces plentifully, threatening what thou wilt do; and try if by such means thou canst humble the spirit of a proud man, as follows;

and behold everyone that is proud, and abase him; look sternly at him, put on a fierce, furious, and menacing countenance, and see if thou canst dash a proud man out of countenance, and humble him before thee, as I am able; among the many instances of divine power the Lord settles upon this one, and proposes it to Job to try his skill and power upon, the humbling of a proud man.


Job 40:12  12 Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; Tread down the wicked in their place.
12See every proud one -- humble him, And tread down the wicked in their place.

Look on everyone that is proud, and bring him low,.... As the Lord often does; see Isaiah 2:11; this is the same as before;

and tread down the wicked in their place; the same with the proud, for pride makes men wicked; it is a sin, and very odious in the sight of God, and is highly resented by him; he resists the proud: now Job is bid, when he has brought proud men low, and laid their honour in the dust, to keep them there, to trample upon them, and tread them as mire in the street; and that in their own place, or wherever he should find them; the Septuagint render it "immediately"; see Isaiah 28:3.


Job 40:13  13 Hide them in the dust together, Bind their faces in hidden darkness.
13Hide them in the dust together, Their faces bind in secret.

Hide them in the dust together,.... Either in the dust of death, that they may be seen no more in this world, in the same place and circumstances where they showed their pride and haughtiness; or in the dust of the grave, and let them have an inglorious burial, like that of malefactors thrown into some common pit together; as, when multitudes are slain in battle, a large pit is dug, and the bodies are cast in together without any order or decency; or it may be rendered "alike"F2יחד "pariter", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Schultens. , let them be treated equally alike, no preference given to one above another;

and bind their faces in secret; alluding, as it is thought, to malefactors when condemned and about to be executed, whose faces are then covered, as Haman's was, Esther 7:8; or to the dead when buried, whose faces are bound with napkins, as Lazarus's was, John 11:44; the meaning of all these expressions is, that Job would abase and destroy, if he could, every proud man he met with, as God does, in the course of his providence, sooner or later. There had been instances of divine power in this way before, or in the times of Job, which might come to his knowledge; as the casting down of the proud angels out of heaven, 2 Peter 2:4; and of casting proud Adam out of paradise, Genesis 3:24; the drowning the proud giants of the old world, Genesis 7:23; and of dispersing the proud builders of Babel, Genesis 11:8; and of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah by fire, Genesis 19:24, one of whose reigning sins was pride, Ezekiel 16:49; and of drowning proud Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea, Exodus 15:4, which last seems to have been done much about the time Job lived.


Job 40:14  14 Then I will also confess to you That your own right hand can save you.

   YLT  14And even I -- I do praise thee, For thy right hand giveth salvation to thee.

Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee. From all his enemies temporal and spiritual, and out of all evils and calamities whatsoever; and that he stood in no need of his help and assistance, yea, that he was a match for him, and might be allowed to contend with him; but whereas he was not able to do the above things proposed to him, it could not be admitted that his own right hand could save him; and therefore ought quietly to submit to the sovereignty of God over him, and to all the dispensations of his providence, and be humbled under his mighty hand, since no hand but his could save him; as no man's right hand can save him from temporal evils and enemies, and much less from spiritual ones, or with an everlasting salvation; nor any works of righteousness done by him, only the arm of the Lord has wrought salvation, and his right hand only supports and saves. Two instances are given in this and the following chapter, the one of a land animal, the other of a sea animal, as is generally supposed; or it may be of amphibious ones, that live both on land and water.


Job 40:15  15 “Look now at the behemoth,[a] which I made along with you; He eats grass like an ox.
15Lo, I pray thee, Behemoth, that I made with thee: Grass as an ox he eateth.

Behold, now behemoth,.... The word is plural, and signifies beasts, and may be used to denote the chiefest and largest of beasts, and therefore is commonly understood of the elephant; and certain it is that a single beast is described in the following account, and so the word is rendered, Psalm 73:22; The word is here rendered by the Septuagint θηρια, "beasts"; which is the word used by the GreeksF3Suidas in voce θηρια. Plutarch in Eumenc. for elephants as "belluae", a word of the same signification, is by the LatinsF4Terent. Eunuch. Act. 3. Sc. 1. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 3. : and so the Sabines called an elephant "barrus", and the Indians "barro"F5Isidor. Origin. l. 12, c. 2. Vid. Horat. Epod. 12. v. 1. , בער, a "beast"; and it may be observed, that ivory is called "shenhabbim", 1 Kings 10:22; that is, "shenhabehim", "behem" or "behemoth"F6Hiller. Oaomastic, Sacr. p. 434. , the tooth of the beast: and it may be also observed, that SenecaF7Nat. Quaest. l. 4. c. 2. says, that the Nile produces beasts like the sea; meaning particularly the crocodile and hippopotamus. Bochart dissents from the commonly received opinion of the elephant being meant; and thinks the "hippopotamus", or river horse, is intended so called from its having a head like a horse; and is said to have a mane, and to neigh like one, and to bear some resemblance to it in its snout, eyes, ears, and backF8Vid. lsidor. Origin. l. 12. c. 6. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 25. Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 7. . And the reasons that celebrated author has given for this his opinion have prevailed on many learned men to follow him; and there are some things in the description of behemoth, as will be observed, which seem better to agree with the river horse than with the elephant. It is an amphibious creature, and sometimes lives upon the land, and sometimes in the water; and by variousF9Herodot. Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 71. Plin. ib. Ammian, Marcellin. l. 22. Leo African. Descript. African, l. 9. p. 758. writers is often called a beast and four footed one:

which I made with thee; or as well as thee; it being equally the work of my hands, a creature as thou art: or made on the continent, as than art, so Aben Ezra; and made on the same day man was made; which those observe, who understand it of the elephant; or, which cometh nearest to thee, the elephant being, as PlinyF11Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 1. says, the nearest to man in sense; and no beast more prudent, as CiceroF12De Natur. Deor. l. 1. affirms. But the above learned writer, who interprets it of the river horse, takes the meaning of this phrase to be; that it was a creature in Job's neighbourhood, an inhabitant of the river Nile in Egypt, to which Arabia joined, where Job lived; which is testified by many writersF13Solin. Polyhist. c. 45. Aelian. de Animal. l. 5. c. 53. Philo de Praemiis, p. 924. Plin. Afric. ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 1.) : and therefore it is thought more probable that a creature near at hand, and known should be instanced in, and not one that it may be was never seen nor known by Job. But both Diodorus SiculusF14Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 136. & l. 3. p. 173, 174, 175. and StraboF15Geograph. l. 16. p. 531, 533. speak of herds of elephants in Arabia, and of that as abounding: with them; and of various places called from them, and the hunting of them, and even of men from eating them;

he eateth grass as an one; which is true both of the elephant and of the river horse: that a land animal should eat grass is not so wonderful; but that a creature who lives in the water should come out of it and eat grass is very strange and worthy of admiration, it is observed: and that the river horse feeds in corn fields and on grass many writersF16Diodor. Sic. l. 1. p. 31. Aelian. Plin. Solin. Ammian. ut supra. assure us; yea, in the river it feeds not on fishes, but on the roots of the water lily, which fishermen therefore use to bait their hooks with to take it. Nor is it unlike an ox in its shape, and in some parts of its body: hence the Italians call it "bomaris", the "sea ox"; but it is double the size of an oxF17Ludolf. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 11. . Olaus MagnusF18De Ritu Septent. Gent. l. 21. c. 26. speaks of a sea horse, found between Britain and Norway; which has the head of a horse, and neighs like one; has cloven feet with hoofs like a cow; and seeks its food both in the sea and on the land, and grows to the bigness of an ox, and has a forked tail like a fish.

(See Definition for 0930. Editor)


Job 40:16  16 See now, his strength is in his hips, And his power is in his stomach muscles.
16Lo, I pray thee, his power [is] in his loins, And his strength in the muscles of his belly.

Lo now, his strength is in his loins,.... The strength of the elephant is well known, being able to carry a castle on its back, with a number of men therein; but what follows does not seem so well to agree with it;

and his force is in the navel of his belly; since the belly of the elephant is very tender; by means of which the rhinoceros, its enemy, in its fight with it, has the advantage of it, by getting under its belly, and ripping it up with its hornF19Aelian. de Amimal. l. 17. c. 44. Plin. l. 8. c. 10,20. Vid. Solin. c. 38. Diodor. Sic. l. 3. p. 167. & Strabo. Geograph. l. 16. p. 533. . In like manner Eleazar the Jew killed one of the elephants of Antiochus, by getting between its legs, and thrusting his sword into its navelF20Joseph. Ben Gorion. Hist. Heb. l. 3. c. 20. 1Maccab. vi. 46. ; which fell and killed him with the weight of it. On the other hand, the "river horse" is covered with a skin all over, the hardest and strongest of all creaturesF21Diodor. Sic. ut supra. (l. 3. p. 167) Plin. l. 8. c. 25. , as not to be pierced with spears or arrowsF23Ptolem. Geograph. l. 7. c. 2. Fragment. Ctesiae ad Calcem Herodot. p. 701. Ed. Gronov. Boius apud Kircher. China cum Momument. p. 193. ; and of it dried were made helmets, shields, spears, and polished dartsF24Herodot. ut supra. (p. 701) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 7. Plin. l. 11. c. 39. . That which Monsieur ThevenotF25Travels, part 1. c. 72. saw had several shot fired at it before it fell, for the bullets hardly pierced through its skin. We made several shot at him, says another travellerF26Dampier's Voyages, vol. 2. part 2. p. 105. , but to no purpose; for they would glance from him as from a wall. And indeed the elephant is said to have such a hard scaly skin as to resist the spearF1Heliodor. Ethiop. Hist. l. 9. c. 18. : and PlinyF2Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 39. Vid. Vossium in Melam. de Situ Orbis, l. 1. c. 5. p. 28. , though he speaks of the hide of the river horse being so thick that spears are made of it; yet of the hide of the elephant, as having targets made of that, which are impenetrable.


Job 40:17  17 He moves his tail like a cedar; The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
17He doth bend his tail as a cedar, The sinews of his thighs are wrapped together,

He moveth his tail like a cedar,.... To which it is compared, not for the length and largeness of it; for the tail both of the elephant and of the river horse is short; though VartomannusF3Navigat. l. 4. c. 9. says, the tail of the elephant is like a buffalo's, and is four hands long, and thin of hair: but because of the smoothness, roundness, thickness, and firmness of it; such is the tail of the river horse, being like that of a hog or boarF4Aristot. Plin. Solin. & Isidore ut supra. (See Job 40:16.) ; which is crooked, twisted, and which it is said to turn back and about at pleasure, as the word used is thought to signify. Aben Ezra interprets it, "maketh to stand": that is, stiff and strong, and firm like a cedar. One writerF5Nicet. Choniat. apud Fabrit. Gr. Bibliothec. vol. 6. p. 410. speaks of the horse of the Nile, as having a scaly tail; but he seems to confound it with the sea horse. Junius interprets it of its penis, its genital part; to which the Targum in the King's Bible is inclined: and CiceroF6Epist. l. 9. ep. 22. says, the ancients used to call that the tail; but that of the elephant, according to AristotleF7Hist. Amimal. l. 2. c. 1. , is but small, and not in proportion to the size of its body; and not in sight, and therefore can hardly be thought to be described; though the next clause seems to favour this sense:

the sinews of his stones are wrapped together; if by these are meant the testicles, as some think, so the Targums; the sinews of which were wreathed, implicated and ramified, like branches of trees, as Montanus renders it. Bochart interprets this of the sinews or nerves of the river horse, which having such plenty of them, are exceeding strong; so that, as some report, this creature will with one foot sink a boatF8Apud Hierozoic, par. 2. l. 5. c. 14. col. 758. ; I have known him open his mouth, says a travellerF9Dampier's Voyages, vol. 2. part 2. p. 105. , and set one tooth on the gunnel of a boat, and another on the second strake from the keel, more than four feet distant, and there bite a hole through the plank, and sink the boat.


Job 40:18  18 His bones are like beams of bronze, His ribs like bars of iron.
18His bones [are] tubes of brass, His bones [are] as a bar of iron.

His bones are as strong pieces of brass: his bones are as bars of iron. Than which nothing is stronger. The repetition is made for greater illustration and confirmation; but what is said is not applicable to the elephant, whose bones are porous and rimous, light and spongy for the most part, as appears from the osteologyF11In Philosoph. Transact. vol. 5. p. 155, 156. of it; excepting its teeth, which are the ivory; though the teeth of the river horse are said to exceed them in hardnessF12Odoardus Barbosa apud Bochart. ut supra. (Apud Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 14. col. 758.) ; and artificers sayF13Diepenses apud ib. they are wrought with greater difficulty than ivory. The ancients, according to PausaniasF14Arcadica, sive, l. 8. p. 530. , used them instead of it; who relates, that the face of the image of the goddess Cybele was made of them: and KircherF15China cum Monument. p. 193. says, in India they make beads, crucifixes, and statues of saints of them; and that they are as hard or harder than a flint, and fire may be struck out of them. So the teeth of the morss, a creature of the like kind in the northern countries, are valued by the inhabitants as ivoryF16Olaus Magnus, ut supra, (De Ritu. Septent. Gent.) l. 2. c. 19. Voyage to Spitzbergen, p. 115. , for hardness, whiteness, and weight, beyond it, and are dearer and much traded in; See Gill on Job 40:20; but no doubt not the teeth only, but the other bones of the creature in the text are meant.


Job 40:19  19 He is the first of the ways of God; Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
19He [is] a beginning of the ways of God, His Maker bringeth nigh his sword;

He is the chief of the ways of God,.... Or the beginning of them, that is, of the works of God in creation; which must be restrained to animals, otherwise there were works wrought before any of them were created. There were none made before the fifth day of the creation, and on that day was the river horse made; in which respect it has the preference to the elephant, not made till the sixth day. But if this phrase is expressive of the superior excellency of behemoth over other works of God, as it seems to be, it must be limited to the kind of which it is; otherwise man is the chief of all God's ways or works, made either on the fifth or sixth day: and so as the elephant may be observed to be the chief of the beasts of the earth, or of land animals, for its largeness and strength, its sagacity, docility, gentleness, and the like; so the river horse may be said to be the chief of its kind, of the aquatic animals, or of the amphibious ones, for the bulk of its body, which is not unlike that of the elephant, as says Diodorus SiculusF17Ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 136. & l. 3. p. 173. 174. 175.) ; and it has been by some called the Egyptian elephantF18Achilles Tatius, l. 4. ; and also from its great sagacity, of which instances are given by some writersF19Ammian. Marcellin. Plin. Solin. ut supra. Vid. Plin. l. 28. c. 8. . However, it is one of the chief works of God, or a famous, excellent, and remarkable one, which may be the sense of the expression; see Numbers 24:20. It might be remarked in favour of the elephant, that it seems to have its name from אלף, the first and chief; as the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet is called "aleph"; unless it should have its name from this root, on account of its docility;

he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him; not the sword of God, as if this creature could not be killed by any but by him that made it; for whether the elephant or river horse be understood, they are both to be taken and slain: but the sword of behemoth is that which he himself is furnished with; which some understand of the trunk of the elephant, with which he defends himself and annoys others; but that has no likeness of a sword. BochartF20Ut supra, (Apud Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 14.) col. 760. renders the word by "harpe", which signifies a crooked instrument, sickle or scythe; and interprets it of the teeth of the river horse, which are sharp and long, and bent like a scythe. That which ThevenotF21Travels, part 1. c. 72. saw had four great teeth in the lower jaw, half a foot long, two whereof were crooked; and one on each side of the jaw; the other two were straight, and of the same length as the crooked, but standing out in the length: see the figure of it in ScheuchzerF23Physic. Sacr. tab. 532. ; by which it also appears to have six teeth. Another traveller saysF24Dampier's Voyages, vol. 2. part 2. p. 105. , of the teeth of the sea horse, that they are round like a bow, and about sixteen inches long, and in the biggest part more than six inches about: but another relationF25Capt. Rogers apud Dampier, ib. p. 106. agrees more nearly with Thevenot and Scheuchzer; that four of its teeth are longer than the rest, two in the upper jaw, one on each side, and two more in the under; these last are four or five inches long, the other two shorter; with which it mows down the corn and grass in great quantities: so that Diodorus SiculusF26Ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 136. & l. 3. p. 173. 174. 175.) observes, that if this animal was very fruitful, and brought forth many young and frequently, the fields in Egypt would be utterly destroyed. This interpretation agrees with what follows.


Job 40:20  20 Surely the mountains yield food for him, And all the beasts of the field play there.
20For food do mountains bear for him, And all the beasts of the field play there.

Surely the mountains bring him forth food,.... Grass, which grows on mountains, and is the food of the river horse as well as of the elephant; and therefore is furnished with teeth like a scythe to mow it down; and it is not a small quantity that will suffice it, mountains only can supply it; and marvellous it is that a creature bred in a river should come out of it to seek its food on mountains. There is a creature in the northern parts, as in Russia, Greenland, &c. which is called morss and sea morss, and by the description of it is much like the river horse, of the size of an ox, and having an head like one, with two large long teeth standing out of its upper jaw, and an hairy skinF1Olaus Magus ut supra, (De Ritu. Septent. Gent.) l. 21. c. 19. Vid. Bochart. ut supra, (Apud Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 14.) Colossians 763. Eden's Travels, p. 318. , said to be an inch thick, and so tough that no lance will enter itF2See the North West Fox, p. 232. Voyage to Spitzbergen, p. 115,120. Supplement, p. 194. ; it comes out of the sea, and by its teeth gets up to the tops of mountains, and having fed on grass rolls itself down again into the sea; and this it does by putting its hinder feet to its teeth, and so falls from the mountain with great celerity, as on a sledgeF3Olaus Magnus, ut supra, (De Ritu. Septent. Gent. l. 21. c. 19.) & Eden's Travels, ut supra. (p. 318.) ;

where all the beasts of the field play; skip and dance, and delight in each other, being in no fear of behemoth; whether understood of the elephant or river horse; since neither of them are carnivorous creatures that feed on other animals, but on grass only; and therefore the beasts of the field may feed with them quietly and securely. PlinyF4Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 7. says of the elephant, that meeting with cattle in the fields, it will make signs to them not to be afraid of it, and so they will go in company together.


Job 40:21  21 He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh.
21Under shades he lieth down, In a secret place of reed and mire.

He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed,

and fens. This may be thought to agree very well with the river horse, the inhabitant of the Nile, where reeds in great plenty grew, and adjoining to which were fenny and marshy places, and shady trees; and, as historians relateF5Ammian. Marcellin. l. 22. Bellonius & Achilles Tatius apud Bochart ut supra. (Apud Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 14. Colossians 760.) , this creature takes its lodging among high reeds, and in shady places; yea, the reeds and sugar canes, and the leaves of the papyrus, are part of the food on which it lives; and hence the hunters of them sometimes cover their bait with a reed to take them; though it must be allowed that the elephant delights to be about rivers, and in clayey and fenny placesF6Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 46. Plin. l. 8. c. 10. Aelian. de Animal. l. 9. c. 56. , and therefore AelianusF7lbid. l. 9. c. 24. says it may be called the fenny animal.


Job 40:22  22 The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him.
22Cover him do shades, [with] their shadow, Cover him do willows of the brook.

The shady trees cover him with their shadow,.... Under which it lies, as in Job 40:21; which is thought not so well to agree with the elephant, since, according to AelianusF8Ibid. (Aelian. de Animal.) c. 31. and other writers, it lies not down, at least but rarely, but sleeps standing; it being very troublesome to it to lie down and rise up again; and besides it is represented by some authorsF9Ibid. l. 7. c. 6. as higher than the trees, and therefore this is supposed to agree better with the river horse; especially since it follows,

the willows of the brook compass him about; or the willows of the Nile, as some choose to render it; which would put it out of all doubt that the river horse is intended, if it could be established, it being an inhabitant of that river; and yet the above writerF11Ibid. c. 2. speaks of elephants, when grown old, seeking large thick and shady woods to take up their abode in.


Job 40:23  23 Indeed the river may rage, Yet he is not disturbed; He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth,
23Lo, a flood oppresseth -- he doth not haste, He is confident though Jordan Doth come forth unto his mouth.

Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not,.... The elephant is indeed a very thirsty animal, and drinks largely; the philosopherF12Aristot. ut supra. (l. 9. c. 56.) says it drinks nine Macedonian bushels at a feeding, and that it will drink fourteen Macedonian measures of water at once, and eight more at noon; but to drink up a river seems to be too great an hyperbole; wherefore the words may be rendered, "Behold, let a river oppress him", or "bear" ever so hard upon him, and come with the greatest force and pressure on himF13Vid. Bochart. ut supra, (Apud Hierozic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 14.) Colossians 766. , "he hasteth not" to get out of it; or he is not frightened or troubled, as the Targum; which agrees with the river horse, who walks into the river, and proceeds on in it, with the greatest ease and unconcernedness imaginable; now and then lifting up his head above water to take breath, which he can hold a long time; whereas the elephant cannot wade in the water any longer than his trunk is above it, as the philosopher observesF14Aristot. ut supra. (l. 9. c. 56.) Vid Aelian. l. 7. c. 15. ; and LivyF15Hist. l. 21. c. 28. speaks of fear and trembling seizing an elephant, when about to be carried over a river in boats;

he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan in his mouth; so bold and confident he is, and not at all disturbed with its rapidity; or "though Jordan", or rather any descending flowing stream, "gushes into his mouth", so Mr. Broughton: for perhaps Jordan might not be known by Job; nor does it seem to have any connection with the Nile, the seat of the river horse; which has such large holes in its nostrils, and out of which, water being swallowed down, he can throw it with great force. Diodorus SiculusF16Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 31. Isidor. Origin. l. 12. c. 6. represents it as lying all day in the water, and employing itself at the bottom of it, easy, careless, and unconcerned.


Job 40:24  24 Though he takes it in his eyes, Or one pierces his nose with a snare.

   YLT  24Before his eyes doth [one] take him, With snares doth [one] pierce the nose?

He taketh it with his eyes,.... Or "can men take him before his eyes?" so Mr. Broughton; and others translate it to the same purpose; no, he is not to be taken openly, but privately, by some insidious crafty methods; whether it be understood of the elephant or river horse; elephants, according to StraboF17Geograph. l. 15. p. 484. and PlinyF18Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 8. See Ovington's Voyage to Surat, p. 192, 193. were taken in pits dug for them, into which they were decoyed; in like manner, according to someF19Apud Bochart. ut supra, col. 768. , the river horse is taken; a pit being dug and covered with reeds and sand, it falls into it unawares;

his nose pierceth through snares; he discerns them oftentimes and escapes them, so that he is not easily taken in them. It is reported of the sea morssF20Eden's Travels, p. 318. Supplement to the North East Voyages, p. 94. , before mentioned; see Gill on Job 40:20, that they ascend mountains in great herds, where, before they give themselves to sleep, to which they are naturally inclined, they appoint one of their number as it were a watchman; who, if he chances to sleep or to be slain by the hunter, the rest may be easily taken; but if the watchman gives warning by roaring as the manner is, the whole herd immediately awake and fall down from the mountains with great swiftness into the sea, as before described; or, as Mr. Broughton, "cannot men take him, to pierce his nose with many snares?" they cannot; the elephant has no nose to be pierced, unless his trunk can be called so, and no hook nor snare can be put into the nose of the river horse. Diodorus SiculusF21Bibliothec, l. 1. p. 32. says, it cannot be taken but by many vessels joining together and surrounding it, and striking it with iron hooks, to one of which ropes are fastened, and so the creature is let go till it expires. The usual way of taking it now is, by baiting the hook with the roots of water lilies, at which it will catch, and swallow the hook with it; and by giving it line enough it will roll and tumble about, until, through loss of blood, it faints and dies. The way invented by Asdrubal for killing elephants was by striking a carpenter's chopping axe into his earF23Orosii Hist. l. 4. c. 18. p. 62. Liv. Hist. l. 27. c. 49. ; the JewsF24T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 77. 2. & Gloss. in ib. say a fly is a terror to an elephant, it enters into his nose and torments him grievously.


──John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible


New King James Version (NKJV)


  1. Job 40:15 A large animal, exact identity unknown