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Canst thou draw out - As a fish is drawn out of the water. The usual method by which fish were taken was with a hook; and the meaning here is, that it was not possible to take the leviathan in this manner. The whole description here is of an animal that lived in the water.
Leviathan - Much has been written respecting this animal, and the opinions which have been entertained have been very various. Schultens enumerates the following classes of opinions in regard to the animal intended here.
1. The opinion that the word leviathan is to be retained, without attempting to explain it - implying that there was uncertainty as to the meaning. Under this head he refers to the Chaldee and the Vulgate, to Aquila and Symmacbus, where the word is retained, and to the Septuagint, where the word Δράκοντα Drakonta, “dragon,” is used, and also the Syriac and Arabic, where the same word is used.
2. The fable of the Jews, who mention a serpent so large that it encompassed the whole earth. A belief of the existence of such a marine serpent or monster still prevails among the Nestorians.
3. The opinion that the whale is intended.
4. The opinion that a large fish called “Mular,” or “Musar,” which is found in the Mediterranean, is denoted. This is the opinion of Grotius.
5. The opinion that the crocodile of the Nile is denoted.
6. The opinion of Hasaeus, that not the whale is intended, but the “Orca,” a sea-monster armed with teeth, and the enemy of the whale.
7. Others have understood the whole description as allegorical, as representing monsters of iniquity; and among these, some have regarded it as descriptive of the devil! See Schultens. To these may be added the description of Milton:
- That sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hug’st that swim the ocean-stream,
Him, haply, slumb’ring on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
Paradise Lost, B. i.
For a full investigation of the subject, Bochart may be consulted, “Hieroz.” P. ii. Lib. v. c. xvi - xviii. The conclusion to which he comes is, that the crocodile of the Nile is denoted; and in this opinion critics have generally, since his time, acquiesced. The opinions which are entitled to most attention are those which regard the animal here described as either the whale or the crocodile. The objections to the supposition that the whale is intended are such as the following:
(1) That the whale tribes do not inhabit the Mediterranean, much less the rivers which empty into it - with which alone it is supposed Job could have been acquainted.
(2) That the animal here described differs from the whale in many essential particulars. “This family of marine monsters have neither proper snout nor nostrils, nor proper teeth. Instead of a snout, they have a mere spiracle, or blowing-hole, with a double opening on the top of the head; and for teeth, a hard expanse of horny laminae, which we call whalebone, in the upper jaw. The eyes of the common whale, moreover, instead of answering the description here given, are most disproportionately small, and do not exceed in size those of the ox. Nor can this monster be regarded as of fierce habits or unconquerable courage; for instead of attacking the larger sea-animals for plunder it feeds chiefly on crabs and medusas, and is often itself attacked by the ork or grampus, though less than half its size.” “Dr. Good.” These considerations seem to be decisive in regard to the supposition that the animal here referred to is the whale. In fact, there is almost nothing in the description that corresponds with the whale, except the size.
The whole account, on the contrary, agrees well with the crocodile; and there are several considerations which may be suggested, before we proceed with the exposition, which correspond I with the supposition that this is the animal intended. They are such as these:
(1) The crocodile is a natural inhabitant of the Nile and of other Asiatic and African rivers, and it is reasonable to suppose that an animal is referred to that was well known to one who lived in the country of Job. Though the Almighty is the speaker, and could describe an animal wholly unknown to Job, yet it is not reasonable to suppose that such an unknown animal would be selected. The appeal was to what he knew of the works of God.
(2) The general description agrees with this animal. The leviathan is represented as wild, fierce, and ungovernable; as of vast extent, and as terrible in his aspect; as having a mouth of vast size, and armed with a formidable array of teeth; as covered with scales set near together like a coat of mail, as distinguished by the fierceness of his eyes, and by the frightful aspect of his mouth; as endowed with great strength, and incapable of being taken in any of the ordinary methods of securing wild beasts. This general description agrees well with the crocodile. These animals are found in the rivers of Africa, and also in the southern rivers of America, and are usually called the alligator. In the Amazon, the Niger, and the Nile, they occur in great numbers, and are usually from eighteen to twenty-seven feet long; and sometimes lying as close to each other as a raft of timber. “Goldsmith.”
The crocodile grows to a great length, being sometimes found thirty feet long from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail; though its most usual length is about eighteen or twenty feet. “The armor, with which the upper part of the body is covered, may be numbered among the most elaborate pieces of Nature’s mechanism. In the full-grown animal it is so strong and thick as easily to repel a musket-ball. The whole animal appears as if covered with the most regular and curious carved work. The mouth is of vast width, the gape having a somewhat flexuous outline, and both jaws being furnished with very numerous, sharp-pointed teeth. The number of teeth in each jaw is thirty or more, and they are so disposed as to alternate with each other when the mouth is closed. The legs are short, but strong and muscular. In the glowing regions of Africa, where it arrives at its full strength and power, it is justly regarded as the most formidable inhabitant of the rivers.” Shaw’s “Zoology,” vol. iii. p. 184. The crocodile seldom, except pressed with hunger, or for the purpose of depositing its eggs, leaves the water. Its usual method is to float along the surface, and seize whatever animals come within its reach; but when this method fails, it then goes nearer the bank. There it waits, among the sedges, for any animal that may come down to drink, and seizes upon it, and drags it into the water. The tiger is thus often seized by the crocodile, and dragged into the river and drowned.
(3) A third reason for supposing that the crocodile is here intended, arises from the former conclusion concerning the “behemoth,” Job 40:15, following. The description of the leviathan immediately follows that, and the presumption is that they were animals that were usually found inhabiting the same district of country. If, therefore, the behemoth be the hippopotamus, there is a presumption that the leviathan is the crocodile - an inhabitant of the same river, equally amphibious, and even more terrible. “And this consideration,” says the Editor of the Pictorial Bible, “is strengthened, when we consider that the two animals were so associated by the ancients. Some of the paintings at Herculaneum represent Egyptian landscapes, in which we see the crocodile lying among the reeds, and the hippopotamus browsing upon the plants on an island. So also in the famous Mosaic pavement at Praeneste, representing the plants and animals of Egypt and Ethiopia, the river-horse and the crocodile are associated in the same group, in the river Nile.” The crocodile was formerly found in abundance in Lower Egypt and the Delta, but it now limits the extent of its visits northward to the districts about Manfaloot, and the hippopotamus is no longer seen in Lower Ethiopia. Neither the hippopotamus nor the crocodile appear to have been eaten by the ancient Egyptians. Pliny mentions the medicinal properties of both of them (xxviii. 8). and Plutarch affirms that the people of Apollinopolis used to eat the crocodile (“de Isid.” s. 50); but this does not appear to have been a usual custom.
Herodotus says that “some of the Egyptians consider the crocodile sacred, while others make war upon it; and those who live about Thebes and the lake Moeris (in the Arsinoite “nome”), hold it in great veneration,” ii. 69. In some cases the crocodile was treated with the greatest respect, and kept up at considerable expense; it was fed and attended with the most scrupulous care; geese, fish, and various meats were dressed purposely for it; they ornamented its head with earrings and its feet with bracelets and necklaces of gold and artificial stones; it was rendered tame by kind treatment, and after death the body was embalmed in a sumptuous manner. This was particularly the case in the Theban, Ombite, and Arsinoite nomes, and at a place now called Maabdeh, opposite the modern town of Manfaloot, are extensive grottoes cut far into the limestone mountain, where numerous crocodile mummies have been found, perfectly preserved and evidently embalmed with great care.
In other parts of Egypt, however, the animal was held in the greatest abhorrence, and so they lost no opportunity of destroying it. See Wilkinson’s “Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians,” vol. iii. pp. 75ff. The engraving opposite represents Egyptian crocodiles (“Crocodilus vulgaris”) disporting themselves on the banks of the Nile, or basking in the sun - one of their favorite practices. The figures were drawn from living animals. The word here rendered “leviathan” (לויתן livyâthân) occurs only in this place and in Job 3:8; Psalms 74:14; Psalms 104:26; Isaiah 27:1. In all these places it is rendered leviathan, except in Job 3:8, where it is rendered in the text, “their mourning,” in the margin, “leviathan;” see the notes at that verse, and compare the notes at Isaiah 27:1. The connection of the word with the root is not certainly known. Gesenius regards it as derived from לוה lâvâh, to join oneself to anyone, and then to wreathe, to fold, to curve; and in Arabic “to weave, to twist,” as a wreath or garland; and that the word is appiled to an animal that is “wreathed,” or that gathers itself “in folds” - a “twisted animal.”
In Job 3:8, the word is used to denote some huge, untamable, and fierce monster, and will agree there with the supposition that the crocodile is intended; see the notes at that place. In Psalms 74:14. the allusion is to Pharaoh, compared with the leviathan, and the passage would agree best with the supposition that the allusion was to the crocodile. The crocodile was an inhabitant of the Nile, and it was natural to allude to that in describing a fierce tyrant of Egypt. In Psalms 104:26, the allusion is to some huge animal of the deep, particularly of the Mediterranean, and the language would apply to any sea-monster. In Isaiah 27:1. the allusion is to the king and tyrant that ruled in Babylon, as compared with a dragon or fierce animal; compare the notes on that passage, and Revelation 12:0. Any of these passages will accord well with the supposition that the crocodile is denoted by the word, or that some fierce, strong, and violent animal that could involve itself, or that had the appearance of an extended serpent, is referred to. The resemblance between the animal here described and the crocodile, will be further indicated by the notes at the particular descriptions in the chapter.
With an hook - Implying that the animal here referred to was aquatic, and that it could not be taken in the way in which fish were usually caught. It is known now that the crocodile is occasionally taken with a hook, but this is not the usual method, and there is no evidence that it was practiced in the time of Job. Herodotus says that it was one of the methods which were used in his time. “Among the various methods,” says he, “that are used to take the crocodile, I shall relate only one which deserves most attention; they fix a hook (ἄγκιστρον agkistron) on a piece of swine’s flesh, and suffer it to float into the middle of the stream. On the banks they have a live hog, which they beat until it cries out. The crocodile, hearing the noise, makes toward it, and in the way encounters and devours the bait. They thus draw it on shore, and the first thing they do is to fill its eyes with clay; it is thus easily manageable, which it otherwise would not be.”
B. ii. 70. “The manner of taking it in Siam is by throwing three or four strong nets across a river at proper distances from each other, so that if the animal breaks through the first, it may be caught by one of the rest. When it is first taken it employs the tail, which is the grand instrument of its strength, with great force; but after many unsuccessful struggles, the animal’s strength is at length exhausted. Then the natives approach their prisoner in boats, and pierce him with their weapons in the most tender parts, until he is weakened with the loss of blood.” “Goldsmith.” From ancient sculptures in Egypt, it appears that the common method of attacking the crocodile was with a spear, transfixing it as it passed beneath the boat in shallow water, See Wilkinson’s “Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians,” vol. iii. pp. 75ff The most common method of taking the crocodile now is by shooting it. “Pococke.” it is quite clear, therefore, that, agreeably to what is said in the passage before us, the common method of taking it was not by a hook, and it is probable that in the time of Job this method was not practiced.
Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down - Or rather, “Canst thou sink his tongue with a cord?” - that is, Canst thou tame him by a thong or bit thrust into his mouth? “Gesenius.” The idea is that of “pressing down” the tongue with a cord, so that he would be tractable.
Canst thou put a hook into his nose - Or rather, a “rope,” or “cord.” The word used here (אגמון 'agmôn) means “a caldron,” or “kettle” Job 41:20, also a reed, or bulrush, growing in marshy places, and thus a rope made of reeds, a rush-cord. The idea is, that he could not be led about by a cord, as tame animals may be. Mr. Vansittart, however, supposes that the words here are expressive of ornaments, and that the allusion is to the fact mentioned by Herodotus, that the crocodile was led about by the Egyptians as a divinity, and that in this state it was adorned with rings and various stately trappings. There can be no doubt that such a fact existed, but this does not accord well with the scope of the passage here. The object is to impress the mind of Job with a sense of the strength and untamableness of the animal, not to describe the honors which were paid to it.
Or bore his jaw through with a thorn - Or with a ring. The word here properly means a thorn, or thorn-bush, Job 31:40; Proverbs 26:9; and then also a ring that was put through the nose of an animal, in order to secure it. The instrument was probably made sharp like a thorn or spike, and then bent so as to become a ring; compare Isaiah 37:29. Mr. Bruce, speaking of the manner of fishing in the Nile, says that when a fisherman has caught a fish, he draws it to the shore, and puts a strong iron ring into its jaw. To this ring is fastened a rope by which the fish is attached to the shore, which he then throws again into the water. “Rosenmuller.”
Will he make many supplications unto thee? - In the manner of a captive begging for his life. That is, will he quietly submit to you? Prof. Lee supposes that there is an allusion here to the well-known cries of the dolphin when taken; but it is not necessary to suppose such an allusion. The idea is, that the animal here referred to would not tamely submit to his captor.
Will he speak soft words unto thee? - Pleading for his life in tones of tender and plaintive supplication.
Will he make a covenant with thee? - That is, will he submit himself to thee, and enter into a compact to serve thee? Such a compact was made by those who agreed to serve another; and the idea here is, that the animal here referred to could not be reduced to such service - that is, could not be tamed.
Wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? - Canst thou so subdue him that he will be a perpetual slave? The meaning of all this is, that he was an untamable animal, and could not be reduced, as many others could, to domestic use.
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? - A bird that is tamed. The art of taming birds was doubtless early practiced, and they were kept for amusement. But the leviathan could not thus be tamed.
Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? - For their amusement. For such purposes doubtless, birds were caught and caged. There is great force in this question, on the supposition that the crocodile is intended. Nothing could be more incongruous than the idea of securing so rough and unsightly a monster for the amusement of tender and delicate females.
Shall thy companions make a banquet of him? - This is one of the “vexed passages” about which there has been much difference of opinion. Gesenius renders it, “Do the companions (“i. e.” the fishermen in company) lay snares for him?” So Noyes renders it. Dr. Harris translates it, “Shall thy partners spread a banquet for him?” The Septuagint renders it, “Do the nations feed upon him?” The Vulgate, “Will friends cut him up?” that is, for a banquet. Rosenmuller renders it, “Will friends feast upon him?” The word rendered “thy companions” (חברים chabbâriym) means properly those joined or associated together for any purpose, whether for friendship or for business. It may refer here either to those associated for the purpose of fishing or feasting. The word “thy” is improperly introduced by our translators, and there is no evidence that the reference is to the companions or friends of Job, as that would seem to suppose. The word rendered “make a banquet” (יכרוּ yikârû) is from כרה kârâh, “to dig,” and then to make a plot or device against one - derived from the fact that a “pitfall” was dug to take animals (Psalms 7:15; Psalms 57:6; compare Job 6:27); and according to this it means, “Do the companions, “i. e.” the fishermen in company, lay snares for him?” The word, however, has another signification, meaning to buy, to purchase, and also to give a feast, to make a banquet, perhaps from the idea of “purchasing” the provisions necessary for a banquet. According to this, the meaning is, “Do the companions, “i. e.” those associated for the purpose of feasting, make a banquet of him?” Which is the true sense here it is not easy to determine. The majority of versions incline to the idea that it refers to a feast, and means that those associated for eating do not make a part of their entertainment of him. This interpretation is the most simple and obvious.
Shall they part him among the merchants? - That is, Shall they cut him up and expose him for sale? The word rendered “merchants” (כנענים kena‛anı̂ym) means properly “Canaanites.” It is used in the sense of “merchants, or traffickers,” because the Canaanites were commonly engaged in this employment; see the notes at Isaiah 23:8. The crocodile is never made a part of a banquet, or an article of traffic.
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? - Referring to its thickness and impenetrability. A common method of taking fish is by the spear; but it is here said that the leviathan could not be caught in this manner. The common method of taking the crocodile now is by shooting him; see the notes at Job 41:1. Nothing is more remarkable in the crocodile than the thick and impenetrable skin with which it is covered; and the description here will agree better with this animal than with any other.
Or his head with fish spears - The word here rendered “fish-spears” (צלצל tselâtsal) means properly a “tinkling, clanging,” as of metal or arms, and then any tinkling instrument. Here it evidently refers to some metal spear, or harpoon, and the name was given to the instrument on account of its clanging noise. The Septuagint renders this strangely, referring it to the “Phenicians,” or merchants mentioned in the previous verse - “With their whole fleet they could not carry the first skin of his tail, nor his head in their fishing-barks.”
Lay thine hand upon him - Prof. Lee renders this, very improperly, as it seems to me, “Lay thine hand on thy mouth respecting him,” supposing it means that he should be awed into silence by dread of the animal referred to. But the meaning of the passage evidently is, “Endeavor to seize him by laying the hand on him, and you will soon desist from the fearful conflict, and will not renew it.”
Remember the battle - Remember what a fearful conflict will ensue. Perhaps there is an allusion to some fact fresh in the mind of Job, where such an attempt had been made to secure the leviathan, attended with fearful disaster to those who had made the attempt.
Do no more - Or, rather, “Thou wilt not do it again.” That is, he would be deterred from ever renewing the attempt, or the conflict would be fatal to him.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain - That is, the hope of taking him is vain.
Shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? - So formidable is his appearance, that the courage of him who would attack him is daunted, and his resolution fails. This agrees well also with the crocodile. There is perhaps scarcely any animal whose appearance would be more likely to deter one from attacking him.
None is so fierce that dare stir him up - No one has courage to rouse and provoke him.
Who then is able to stand before me? - The meaning of this is plain. It is, “If one of my creatures is so formidable that man dare not attack it, how can he contend with the great Creator? This may perhaps be designed as a reproof of Job. He had expressed a desire to carry his cause before God, and to urge argument before him in vindication of himself. God here shows him how hopeless must be a contest with the Almighty. Man trembles and is disarmed of his courage by even the sight of one of the creatures of God. Overpowered with fear, he retires from the contemplated contest, and flees away. How then could he presume to contend with God? What hope could he have in a contest with him?
Who hath prevented me? - As this verse is here rendered, its meaning, and the reason why it is introduced, are not very apparent. It almost looks, indeed, as if it were an interpolation, or had been introduced from some other place, and torn from its proper connection. Dr. Harris proposes to remove the principal difficulty by translating it,
“Who will stand before me, yea, presumptuously?
Whatsoever is beneath the whole heaven is mine.
I cannot be confounded at his limbs and violence,
Nor at his power, or the strength of his frame.”
It may be doubted, however, whether the original will admit of this translation. Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Noyes, unite in supposing the meaning to be, “Who has done me a favor, that I must repay him?” But perhaps the true idea of the passage may be arrived at by adverting to the meaning of the word rendered “prevented” - קדם qâdam. It properly means in the Piel, to go before; to precede; to anticipate, Psalms 17:13; Psalms 119:148. Then it means to rush upon suddenly; to seize; to go to meet anyone either for succor, Psalms 59:11, or for a different purpose. Isaiah 37:33, “no shield shall come up against her.” יקדמנה yaqâdamenâh “i. e.” against the city. So Job 30:27, “The days of affliction prevented me.” A similar meaning occurs in the Hiphil form in Amos 9:10, “The evil shall not overtake us nor prevent us;” that is, shall not rush upon us as if by anticipation, or when we are off our guard.
If some idea of this kind be supposed to be conveyed by the word here, it will probably express the true sense. “Who is able to seize upon me suddenly, or when I am off my guard; to anticipate my watchfulness and my power of resistance so as to compel me to recompense him, or so to overmaster me as to lay me under obligation to confer on him the favors which he demands?” There may be an allusion to the manner in which wild beasts are taken, when the hunter springs his gin suddenly, anticipates the power of the animal, rushes unexpectedly upon him, and compels him to yield. God says that no one could thus surprise and overpower him. Thus explained, the sentiment agrees with the argument which the Almighty is presenting. He is showing his right to reign and do all his pleasure. He appeals, in proof of this, to his great and mighty works, and especially to those specimens of the animal creation which “man” could not tame or overcome. The argument is this: “If man cannot surprise and subdue these creatures of the Almighty, and compel “them” to render him service, how can he expect to constrain the Creator himself to be tributary to him, or to grant him the favors which he demands?”
Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine - That is, “All belong to me; all are subject to me; all are mine, to be conferred on whom I please. No one can claim them as his own: no one can wrest them from me.” This claim to the proprietorship of all created things, is designed “here” to show to Job that over a Being thus supreme man could exert no control. It is his duty, therefore, to submit to him without a complaint, and to receive with gratitude what he chooses to confer.
I will not conceal his parts - This is the commencement of a more particular description of the animal than had been before given. In the previous part of the chapter, the remarks are general, speaking of it merely as one of great power, and not to be taken by any of the ordinary methods. A description follows of the various parts of the animal, all tending to confirm this general impression, and to fill the hearer with a deep conviction of his formidable character. The words rendered, “I will not conceal,” mean, “I will not be silent;” that is, he would speak of them. The description which follows of the “parts” of the animal refers particularly to his mouth, his teeth, his scales, his eyelids, his nostrils, his neck, and his heart.
Nor his comely proportion - The crocodile is not an object of beauty, and the animal described here is not spoken of as one of beauty, but as one of great power and fierceness. The phrase used here (ערכוּ חין chı̂yn ‛êrekô) means properly “the grace of his armature,” or the beauty of his armor. It does not refer to the beauty of the animal as such, but to the armor or defense which it had. Though there might be no beauty in an animal like the one here described, yet there might be a “grace” or fitness in its means of defense which could not fail to attract admiration. This is the idea in the passage. So Gesenius, Umbreit, and Noyes render it.
Who can discern the face of his garment? - literally, “Who can reveal the face, that is, the appearance, of his garment?” This “garment” is undoubtedly his skin. The meaning seems to be, “His hard and rough skin is his defense, and no one can so strip off that as to have access to him.” The word rendered “discover” (גלה gâlâh) means “to make naked”; then “to reveal”; and the idea is, that he cannot be made naked of that covering, or deprived of it so that one could attack him.
Or who can come to him with his double bridle? - Margin, “within” Gesenius renders this, “The doubling of his jaws;” that is. his double row of teeth. Umbreit, “His double bit.” Noyes, “Who will approach his jaws?” So Rosenmuller. Schultens and Prof. Lee, however, suppose it means that no one can come near to him and “double the bit” upon him, “i. e.” cast the bit or noose over his nose, so as to secure him by doubling it, or passing it around him. The former seems to me to be the true meaning. “Into the doubling of his jaws, who can enter?” That is, Who will dare approach a double row of teeth so formidable?” The word rendered “bridle” (רסן resen) means properly a curb or halter, which goes over a horse’s nose, and hence, a bit or bridle. But it may be used to denote the interior of the mouth, the jaws, where the bit is placed, and then the phrase denotes the double row of teeth of the animal. Thus, the description of the “parts of defense” of the animal is kept up.
Who can open the doors of his face? - His mouth. The same term is sti 1 used to denote the mouth - from its resemblance to a door. The idea is, that no one would dare to force open his mouth. This agrees better with the crocodile than almost any other animal. It would not apply to the whale. The crocodile is armed with a more formidable set of teeth than almost any other animal; see the description in the notes at Job 41:1. Bochart says that it has sixty teeth, and those much larger than in proportion to the size of the body. Some of them, he says, stand out; some of them are serrated, or like a saw, fitting into each other when the mouth is closed; and some come together in the manner of a comb, so that the grasp of the animal is very tenacious and fearful; see a full description in Bochart.
His scales are his pride - Margin, “strong pieces of shields.” The literal translation of this would be, “Pride, the strong of shields;” that is, the strong shields. There can be no doubt that there is reference to the scales of the animal, as having a resemblance to strong shields laid close to each other. But there is considerable variety of opinion as to its meaning. Umbreit and Prof. Lee take the word here rendered “pride” (גאוה gê'voh) to be the same as (גוה gêvâh), “back,” and then the meaning would be that his back was armed as with a shield - referring, as Prof. Lee supposes, to the dorsal fin of the whale. But there is no necessity for this supposition, and it cannot be denied that it is somewhat forced. The “connection” requires that we should understand it, not of the dorsal fin, but of the scales; for a description immediately follows in continuation of this, which will by no means apply to the fin. The obvious and proper meaning is, that the pride or glory of the animal - that on which his safety depended, and which was the most remarkable thing about him - was his “scales,” which were laid together like firm and compact shields, so that nothing could penetrate them. This description accords better with the crocodile than with any other animal. It is covered with scales, “which are so hard as to resist a musket-ball.” “Ed. Ency.” The description cannot be applied to a whale, which has no scales; and accordingly Prof. Lee supposes that the reference in this verse and the two following is not to the “scales,” but to the “teeth,” and to “the setting in of the dorsal fin!”
Shut up together - Made close or compact.
As with a close seal - As if they had been sealed with wax, so that no air could come between them.
They are joined one to another - literally, “A man with his brother;” that is, each one is connected with another. There is no natural fastening of one scale with another, but they lie so close and compact that they seem thus to be fastened down on one another; see Bochart on this verse. It is this which makes the crocodile so difficult to be killed. A musket-ball will penetrate the skin under the belly, which is there less firmly protected; and accordingly the efforts of those who attempt to secure them are directed to that part of the body. A ball in the eye or throat will also destroy it, but the body is impervious to a spear or a bullet.
By his neesings a light doth shine - The word rendered “neesings” means properly sneezing, and the literal sense here would be, “His sneezings, light shines.” Coverdale renders it, “His nesinge is like a glisteringe fyre.” Bochart says that the meaning is, “that when the crocodile sneezes, the breath is driven through the nostrils with such force that it seems to scintillate, or emit fire.” Probably the meaning is, that when the animal emits a sudden sound, like sneezing, the fire seems to flash from the eye. There is some quick and rapid motion of the eyes, which in the rays of the sun seem to flash fire. The sneezing of the crocodile is mentioned by Aristotle. Prof. Lee. Amphibious animals, the longer they hold their breath under water, respire so much the more violently when they emerge, and the breath is expelled suddenly and with violence. Schultens. This is the action here referred to - the strong effort of the animal to recover breath when he rises to the surface, and when in the effort the eyes seem to scintillate, or emit light.
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning - The “eyelids of the morning” is a beautiful poetic phrase quite common in Hebrew poetry. The eyes of the crocodile are small, but they are remarkable. When he lifts his head above water, his staring eyes are the first things that strike the beholder, and may then with great beauty be compared with the morning light. There is a remarkable coincidence here, in the fact that when the Egyptians would represent the morning by a hieroglyphic, they painted a crocodile’s eye. The reason assigned for this was, that before the whole body of the animal appeared, the eyes seemed to rise from the deep; see Bochart on the passage, “Hierez.,” and also Herapollo, “Hieroglyph.” i. c. 65.
Out of his mouth go burning lamps - The word “lamps” here is probably used to denote torches, or fire-brands. The animal is here described as in pursuit of his prey on land; and the description is exceedingly graphic and powerful. His mouth is then open; his jaws are distended; his breath is thrown out with great violence; his blood is inflamed, and the animal seems to vomit forth flames. The description is of course to be regarded as figurative. It is such as one would be likely to give who should see a fierce animal pressing on in pursuit of its prey.
And sparks of fire leap out - There is an appearance like sparks of fire. The animal, with an open throat highly inflamed, seems to breathe forth flames. The figure is a common one applied to a war-horse. Thus, Ovid:
“From their full racks the generous steeds retire,
Dropping ambrosial foam and snorting fire.”
The same thing is remarked by Achilles Tatius, of the hippopotamus, “With open nostrils, and breathing smoke like fire (πυρώδη καπνόν purōdē kapnon) as from a fountain of fire.” And in Eustathius it is said, “They have an open nostril, breathing forth smoke like fire from a furnace “ - πυρώδη καπνόν, ὠς ἐκ καμίνου πνέοντα purōdē kapnon, hōs ek kaminou pneonta. See Bochart.
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke - See the quotations on Job 41:19. This appearance of the crocodile, or alligator, has been often noticed. Bertram, in his “Travels in North and South Carolina,” p. 116, says, “While I was seeking a place of rest, I encountered an alligator that in the neighboring lake rushed through the canes that grew on its banks. He inflated his enormous body, and swung his tail high in the air. A thick smoke streamed from his wide-open nostrils, with a sound that made the earth tremble.” Rosenmuller, “Alte u. neue Morgenland,” No. 778.
As out of a seething-pot - A pot that is boiling. Literally, “a blown pot;” that is, a pot under which the fire is blown, or kindled.
Or caldron - Any kettle. The same word is used to denote a reed or bulrush, or a rope made of reeds, Isaiah 9:14; Job 41:1.
His breath kindleth coals - It seems to be a flame, and to set on fire all around it. So Hesiod, “Theog.” i. 319, describing the creation of the Chimera, speaks of it as
pneousan amaimaketon pur.
“Breathing unquenchable fire,” So Virgil, “Georg.” ii. 140:
Haec loca non tauri spirantes naribus ignem Invertere.
“Bulls breathing fire these furrows ne’er have known.”
A similar phrase is found in a sublime description of the anger of the Almighty, in Psalms 18:8 :
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,
And fire out of his mouth devoured:
Coals were kindled by it.
In his neck remaineth strength - That is, strength is “permanently residing” there. It is not assumed for the moment, but his neck is so constructed as to be the abode of strength. The word here rendered “remaineth” (ילין yālı̂yn), means properly to pass the night; then to abide or dwell; and there is a designed contrast here with what is said of “sorrow” in this verse. This description of strength residing in the neck, agrees well with the crocodile; see the figure of the animal on p. 255. It is not easy, however, to see how this is applicable to the whale, as Prof. Lee supposes. The whale is endowed, indeed, with great strength, as Prof. Lee has shown, but that strength is manifested mainly by the stroke of the tail.
And sorrow is turned into joy before him - Margin, “rejoiceth.” The proper meaning of the word used here (תדוץ tādûts) is “to dance, to leap, to skip;” and the sense is, that “terror dances before him.” It does not refer to the motion of the animal, as if he were brisk and rapid. but it is a poetic expression, as if terror played or pranced along wherever he came. Strength “resided” in his neck, but his approach made terror and alarm play before him wherever he went; that is, produced terror and dread. In his neck is permanent, calm strength; before him, everything trembles and is agitated. The beauty of the passage lies in this contrast between the strength and firmness which repose calmly in the neck of the animal, and the consternation which he everywhere produces, causing all to tremble as he approaches. Bochart has well illustrated this from the Classical writers.
The flakes of his flesh are joined together - Margin, “fallings.” The Hebrew word used here means anything “falling,” or “pendulous,” and the reference here is, probably, to the pendulous parts of the flesh of the animal; the flabby parts; the dew-laps. In animals commonly these parts about the neck and belly are soft, pendulous, and contribute little to their strength. The meaning here is, that in the leviathan, instead of being thus flabby and pendulous, they were compact and firm. This is strikingly true of the crocodile. The belly is, indeed, more soft and penetrable than the other parts of the body, but there is nothing like the soft and pendulous dew-laps of most animals.
His heart is as firm as a stone - As hard; as solid. Bochart remarks that the word “heart” here is not to be regarded as denoting the “courage” of the animal, as it sometimes does, but the heart literally. The statement occurs in the description of the various parts of the animal, and the object is to show that there was special firmness or solidity in every one of his members. There is special firmness or strength needed in the “hearts” of all animals, to enable them to propel the blood through the arteries of the body; and in an animal of the size of the crocodile, it is easy to see that the heart must be made capable of exerting vast force. But there is no reason to suppose that the affirmation here is made on the supposition that there is need of extraordinary strength in the heart to propel the blood. The doctrine of the circulation of the blood was not then known to mankind, and it is to be presumed that the argument here would be based on what “was” known, or what might be easily observed. The presumption therefore is, that the statement here is based on what had been “seen” of the remarkable compactness and firmness of the heart of the animal here referred to. Probably there was nothing so unique in the heart of the crocodile that this description would be applicable to that animal alone, but it is such doubtless as would apply to the heart of any animal of extraordinary size and strength.
Yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone - The mills commonly used in ancient times were hand-mills; see a description of them in the notes at Matthew 24:41. Why the lower stone was the hardest, is not quite apparent. Perhaps a more solid stone might have been chosen for this, because it was supposed that there was more wear on the lower than the upper stone, or because its weight would make the machine more solid and steady.
When he raiseth up himself - When he rouses himself for an attack or in self-defense.
The mighty are afraid - The Vulgate renders this “anqels.” The meaning is, that he produces alarm on those who are unaccustomed to fear.
By reason of breakings they purify themselves - This, though a literal translation, conveys no very clear idea, and this rendering is not necessary. The word rendered “breakings” (שׁבר sheber) means properly “a breaking, breach, puncture”; “a breaking down, destruction”; and then it may mean “a breaking down of the mind, that is, terror.” This is evidently the meaning here. “By reason of the prostration of their courage, or the crushing of the mind by alarm.” The word rendered “purify themselves” (חטא châṭâ') means in the Qal, “to miss,” as a mark; “to sin; to err.” In the form of Hithpael, which occurs here, it means to miss one’s way; “to lose oneself;” and it may refer to the astonishment and terror by which one is led to miss his way in precipitate flight. “Gesenius.” The meaning then is, “They lose themselves from terror.” They know not where to turn themselves; they flee away with alarm; see Rosenmuller in loc.
The sword of him that layeth at him - The word “sword” here (חרב chereb) means undoubtedly “harpoon,” or a sharp instrument by which an attempt is made to pierce the skin of the monster.
Cannot hold - That is, in the hard skin. It does not penetrate it.
The spear, the dart - These were doubtless often used in the attempt to take the animal. The meaning is, that “they” would not hold or stick to the animal. They flew off when hurled at him.
Nor the habergeon - Margin, “breastplate.” Noyes, “javelin.” Prof. Lee, “lance.” Vulgate, “thorax, breastplate.” So the Septuagint, θώρακα thōraka. The word used here (שׁריה shiryâh), the same as שׁריון shiryôn 1 Samuel 17:5, 1 Samuel 17:38; Neh 4:16; 2 Chronicles 26:14, means properly a “coat of mail,” and is so called from its shining - from שׁרה shârâh, “to shine.” It is not used in the sense of spear or javelin elsewhere, though perhaps it may have that meaning here - denoting a “bright” or “shining” weapon. This agrees best with the connection.
He esteemeth iron as straw - He regards instruments made of iron and brass as if they were straw or rotten wood. That is, they make no impression on him. This will agree better with the crocodile than any other animal. So hard is his skin, that a musket-ball will not penetrate it; see numerous quotations proving the hardness of the skin of the crooodile, in Bochart.
The arrow - Hebrew “the son of the bow.” So Lamentations 3:13, margin. This use of the word son is common in the Scriptures and in all Oriental poetry.
Sling-stones - The sling was early used in war and in hunting, and by skill and practice it could be so employed as to be a formidable weapon; see Judges 20:16; 1Sa 17:40, 1 Samuel 17:49. As one of the weapons of attack on a foe it is mentioned here, though there is no evidence that the sling was ever actually used in endeavoring to destroy the crocodile. The meaning is, that all the common weapons used by men in attacking an enemy had no effect on him.
Are turned with him into stubble - Produce no more effect on him than it would to throw stubble at him.
Darts are counted as stubble - The word rendered “darts” (תותח tôthâch) occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It is from יתח, obsolete root, “to beat with a club.” The word here probably means clubs. Darts and spears are mentioned before, and the object seems to be to enumerate all the usual, instruments of attack. The singular is used here with a plural verb in a collective sense.
Sharp stones are under him - Margin, as in Hebrew, “pieces of pot sherd.” The Hebrew word (חדוד chaddûd), means “sharp, pointed”; and the phrase used here means “the sharp points of a potsherd,” or broken pieces of earthenware. The reference is, undoubtedly, to the scales of the animal, which were rough and pointed, like the broken pieces of earthenware. This description would not agree with the whale, and indeed will accord with no other animal so well as with the crocodile. The meaning is, that the under parts of his body, with which he rests upon the mire, are made up of sharp, pointed things, like broken pottery.
He spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire - That is, when he rests or stretches himself on the mud or slime of the bank of the river. The word used here and rendered “sharp pointed things” (חרוץ chârûts) means properly something “cut in;” then something sharpened or pointed; and is used to denote “a threshing sledge;” see this instrument described in Isaiah 28:27-28, note; Isaiah 41:15, note. It is not certain, however, that there is any allusion here to that instrument. It is rather to anything that is rough or pointed, and refers to the lower part of the animal as having this character. The Vulgate renders this, “Beneath him are the rays of the sun, and he reposeth on gold as on clay.” Dr. Harris, Dr. Good, and Prof. Lee, suppose it refers to what the animal lies on, meaning that he lies on splinters of rock and broken stone with as much readiness and ease as if it were clay. But the above seems to me to be the true interpretation. It is that of Gesenius, Rosenmuller, and Umbreit. Grotius understands it as meaning that the weapons thrown at him lie around him like broken pieces of pottery.
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot - In his rapid motion through it. The word “deep” (מצולה metsôlâh) may refer to any deep place - either of the sea, of a river, or of mire, Psalms 69:2. It is applied to the depths of the sea, Jonah 2:3; Micah 7:19; but there is nothing in the word that will prevent its application to a large river like the Nile - the usual abode of the crocodile.
He maketh the sea - The word “sea” (ים yâm) is often applied to a large river, like the Nile or the Euphrates; see the notes at Isaiah 19:5.
Like a pot of ointment - When it is mixed, or stirred together. Bochart supposes that there is an allusion here to the smell of musk, which it is said the crocodile has, and by which the waters through which he passes seem to be perfumed. But the allusion seems rather to be merely to the fact that the deep is agitated by him when he passes through it, as if it were stirred from the bottom like a pot of ointment.
He maketh a path to shine after him - This refers doubtless to the white foam of the waters through which he passes. If this were spoken of some monster that commonly resides in the ocean, it would not be unnatural to suppose that it refers to the phosphoric light such as is observed when the waters are agitated, or when a vessel passes rapidly through them. If it refers, however, to the crocodile, the allusion must be understood of the hoary appearance of the Nile or the lake where he is found.
One would think the deep to be hoary - Homer often speaks of the sea as πολιὴν θάλασσαν poliēn thalassan - “the hoary sea.” So Apollonius, speaking of the Argonauts, Lib. i. 545:
- μακραὶ δ ̓ αἰὲν ἐλευκαίνοντο κέλευθοι -
- makrai d' aien eleukainonto keleuthoi -
“The long paths were always white”
So Catullus, in Epith. Pelei:
Totaque remigio spumis incanuit unda.
And Ovid, Epis. Oeno:
- remis eruta canet aqua.
The rapid motion of an aquatic animal through the water will produce the effect here referred to.
Upon earth there is not his like - Hebrew, “Upon the dust.” The meaning is, that no other animal can be compared with him; or the land does not produce such a monster as this. For size, strength, ferocity, courage, and formidableness, no animal will hear a comparison with him. This can be true only of some such fierce creature as the crocodile.
Who is made without fear - Margin, “Or, behave themselves with fear.” The meaning is, that he is created not to be afraid; he has no dread of others In this respect he is unlike other animals. The Septuagint renders this, “He is made to be sported with by my angels.”
He beholdeth all high things - That is, he looks down on everything as inferior to him.
He is a king over all the children of pride - Referring, by “the children of pride,” to the animals that are bold, proud, courageous - as the lion, the panther, etc. The lion is often spoken of as “the king of the forest,” or “the king of beasts,” and in a similar sense the leviathan is here spoken of as at the head of the animal creation. He is afraid of none of them; he is subdued by none of them; he is the prey of none of them. The whole argument, therefore, closes with this statement, that he is at the head of the animal creation; and it was by this magnificent description of the power of the creatures which God had made, that it was intended to impress the mind of Job with a sense of the majesty and power of the Creator. It had the effect. He was overawed with a conviction of the greatness of God, and he saw how wrong it had been for him to presume to call in question the justice, or sit in judgment on the doings, of such a Being. God did not, indeed, go into an examination of the various points which had been the subject of controversy; he did not explain the nature of his moral administration so as to relieve the mind from perplexity; but he evidently meant to leave the impression that he was vast and incomprehensible in his government, infinite in power, and had a right to dispose of his creation as he pleased. No one can doubt that God could with infinite ease have so explained the nature of his administration as to free the mind from perplexity, and so as to have resolved the difficulties which hung over the various subjects which had come into debate between Job and his friends. “Why” he did not do this, is nowhere stated, and can only be the subject of conjecture. It is possible, however, that the following suggestions may do something to show the reasons why this was not done:
(1) We are to remember the early period of the world when these transactions occurred, and when this book was composed. It was in the infancy of society, and when little light had gleamed on the human mind in regard to questions of morals and religion.
(2) In that state of things, it is not probable that either Job or his friends would have been able to comprehend the principles in accordance with which the wicked are permitted to flourish and the righteous are so much afflicted, if they had been stated. Much higher knowledge than they then possessed about the future world was necessary to understand the subject which then agitated their minds. It could not have been done without a very decided reference to the future state, where all these inequalities are to be removed.
(3) It has been the general plan of God to communicate knowledge by degrees; to impart it when people have had full demonstration of their own imbecility, and when they feel their need of divine teaching; and to reserve the great truths of religion for an advanced period of the world. In accordance with this arrangement, God bas been pleased to keep in reserve, from age to age, certain great and momentous truths, and such as were particularly adapted to throw light on the subjects of discussion between Job and his friends. They are the truths pertaining to the resurrection of the body; the retributions of the day of judgment; the glories of heaven and the woes of hell, where all the inequalities of the present state may receive their final and equal adjustment. These great truths were reserved for the triumph and glory of Christianity; and to have stated them in the time of Job, would have been to have anticipated the most important revelations of that system. The truths of which we are now in possession would have relieved much of the perplexity then felt, and solved most of those questions; but the world was not then in the proper state for their revelation.
(4) It was a very important lesson to be taught to people, to bow with submission to a sovereign God, without knowing the reason of his doings. No lesson, perhaps, could be learned of higher value than this. To a proud, self-confident, philosophic mind, a mind prone to rely on its own resources, and trust to its own deductions, it was of the highest importance to inculcate the duty of submission to “will” and to “sovereignty.” This is a lesson which we often have to learn in life, and which almost all the trying dispensations of Providence are fitted to teach us. It is not because God has no reason for what he does; it is not because he intends we shall never know the reason; but it is because it is our “duty” to bow with submission to his will, and to acquiesce in his right to reign, even when we cannot see the reason of his doings. Could we “reason it out,” and then submit “because” we saw the reason, our submission would not be to our Maker’s pleasure, but to the deductions of our own minds.
Hence, all along, he so deals with man, by concealing the reason of his doings, as to bring him to submission to his authority, and to humble all human pride. To this termination all the reasonings of the Almighty in this book are conducted; and after the exhibition of his power in the tempest, after his sublime description of his own works, after his appeal to the numerous things which are in fact incomprehensible by man, we feel that God is great - that it is presumptuous in man to sit in judgment on his works - and that the mind, no matter what he does, should bow before him with profound veneration and silence. These are the great lessons which we are every day called to learn in the actual dispensations of his providence; and the “arguments” for these lessons were never elsewhere stated with so much power and sublimity as in the closing chapters of the book of Job. We have the light of the Christian religion; we can look into eternity, and see how the inequalities of the present order of things can be adjusted there; and we have sources of consolation which neither Job nor his friends enjoyed; but still, with all this light, there are numerous cases where we are required to bow, not because we see the reason of the divine dealings, but because such is the will of God. To us, in such circumstances, this argument of the Almighty is adapted to teach the most salutary lessons.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 41". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26