God rapidly fire a series of questions Job, beginning in the 38th chapter of Job. These questions demand a negative response, and are posed to demonstrate to Job that God is the mighty,and wise controller of the universe; and that God is sovereign.
In the 38th chapter, verse 39 and following, God illustrates from the animal kingdom His control, provision, and sovereignty He has over life. Twelve animals are used in this illustration. The first ten animals are fairly easy for us to identify (though some of these are perhaps extinct). These first ten include: the lion, raven, mountain goat, deer, wild donkey, wild ox, ostrich, horse, hawk and the eagle.
The final two, however, are not so easy for us to identify, and their identity has troubled many a Bible student. They are Behemoth and Leviathan.
Some dismiss these as fictional, mythological creatures. Thomas Nelson’s New Open Bible (NKJV) rightly says on page 618, “Those who believe that the Bible contains mythology have no problem with these creatures; to them, they simply never existed.” However, explaining these creatures as fictional, mythology destroys the whole argument of this passage. God is reasoning with Job by appealing to these creatures. How can Job consider a nonexistent animals to be proof of His majestic sovereign rule?
If not myth, what then are the identities of these creatures?
Behemoth is the plural form of the hebrew word for “beast” (Behema), but in the book of Job this word is joined syntactically with singular verb forms, and singular pronouns. Therefore, it is clear that the plural, “Behemoth,” is majestic plural. The plural is used for intensification and is referring to a “great beast,” a “beast of beasts.”
Some have contended that this animal is the hippopotamus. In fact, the American Standard Version 1901, has so translated this word. However, this is not plausible for several reasons. First, this creature has a tail like a cedar (40:17). This does not describe the hippo. Second, this creature is “chief of the ways of God” (40:19), obviously a reference to size and might. The hippo is large: 5 feet tall, 13 feet long, and 3 1/2 tons. But other animals are larger. The elephant is larger: 13 feet high at the shoulders, 24 feet long, and 13,000 in weight. The wooly mammoth was about the size of an African elephant. Dinosaurs were much larger. Argentinosaurus is thought to have been 120 feet long and to have weighted nearly 100 tons. Brachiosaurus is thought to have stood 50 feet in height. Sauroposeidon was perhaps 70 feet tall. Third, this creature feeds on mountains (40:20), while the hippo remains near the water.
Evidently this creature, whatever it is, dwells primarily in the sea (Psalm 104:26). What was it?
Some have suggested this creature to be the crocodile, but there are some difficulties in accepting such. First, this creature is described as raising itself up high and in a frightening manner (41:21,34). This does not sound like a crocodile. Second, this creature’s belly is evidently tough (41:30). While it is true that this may describe the crocodile’s backside, it certainly doesn’t fit the description of its underside. Third, this creature churns the water as it swims (41:31-32). The crocodile moves stealthily in the water. Fourth, this creature breaths fire (41:19-21). This can’t be a description of the crocodile. Fifth, this creature appears to be untamable (41:1-8). Herodotus (2:39) says that the Egyptians tamed the crocodile.
These creature were alive after the flood. This is evident because the book of Job was written after the flood (cf Job 22:16).
What are these creatures? I don’t know, but likely they are both some type of extinct dinosaur. Yes, God made the dinosaurs (Exodus 20:11)!
Whatever the case, God’s argument still stands. “No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him (Leviathan B.H.) up. Who then is able to stand before Me? Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is mine” (Job 41:10-11).
May we try to grasp how wise and mighty our God is. No, in our limited understanding, we will not fully understand. But let us try to grasp it even in an imperfect way. He is truly awesome. He should be respected. He should be trusted. He knows what He is doing with His creation. Moreover, He is sovereign.