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Monday, April 02, 2012

Behemoth

Job 40:15 “See now, behemoth, which I made as well as you.
He eats grass as an ox.
16 Look now, his strength is in his thighs.
His force is in the muscles of his belly.
17 He moves his tail like a cedar.
The sinews of his thighs are knit together.
18 His bones are like tubes of brass.
His limbs are like bars of iron.
19 He is the chief of the ways of God.
He who made him gives him his sword.
20 Surely the mountains produce food for him,
where all the animals of the field play.
21 He lies under the lotus trees,
in the covert of the reed, and the marsh.
22 The lotuses cover him with their shade.
The willows of the brook surround him.
23 Behold, if a river overflows, he doesn’t tremble.
He is confident, though the Jordan swells even to his mouth.
24 Shall any take him when he is on the watch,
or pierce through his nose with a snare? (World English Bible, public domain)

This passage, part of God's dialog with Job, apparently meant to show Job how little he really knew, is the only place in the Bible where the word, behemoth, is used. Some scholars believe that the word refers to the elephant, or, more likely, the hippopotamus, but at least one source suggests that behemoth may have been a dinosaur. Clearly, we don't know for sure what creature is referred to, or if, in fact, it was a real, as opposed to an imagined, being. The Wikipedia article on Behemoth suggests that it was mythological. William Blake, for one, produced a picture of behemoth, based on the description in Job. (Blake's picture includes leviathan, another beast mentioned in Job, and elsewhere. I hope to post on leviathan, also.)

In medieval times, books of bestiaries were produced. As this source says, the purpose of these books, and their descriptions of the creatures in them, some real, some mythological, was a larger one than teaching about animals. These books were meant to teach moral lessons. Was the behemoth a real animal? Was it an animal that Job thought was real, but did not exist? We don't know. We do know that God's power and knowledge transcends that of us humans. As Job finally did, we must say that we must be silent in awe at what God can do.

Thanks for reading!


2 comments:

FancyHorse said...

I feel sure it must have been real. I have no idea what it was, but I don't think that God would speak so definitely to Job about an imaginary animal.

I used to call my husband's old Suburban a behemoth - I did not like driving it because it was so big!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, FancyHorse. Yes, "behemoth" is a word we occasionally use, mostly for something large and somewhat unwieldy, like that Suburban.