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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Job 41

Verses 1-34

Can You Draw Out Leviathan? (41:1-34)

Once again the general features of the picture point to an actual animal, in this case the crocodile (see the descriptive phrases in vss. 13-17, 22-24, 30-32). But there can be no doubt that the poet used the crocodile to symbolize the ancient monster of "the deep" which always stood for the chaotic and demonic forces of the world (see Psalms 74:14 and Job 26:12). The full ironic force of the speech appears precisely in the fact that man is unable to deal with the crocodile, unable to domesticate it (vss. 3-9) or even to capture it (vss. 25-34); how much less is he able to control the vast forces of the universe about him, forces that defy his understanding and dwarf his strength!

Verses 10 and 11 make the application so far as Job’s case is concerned. If man is not able to stand up to one such element of God’s order, how can he stand up to God? Thus the priority of God in all matters is established. No one is able to anticipate God (vs. 11). Here the ground is cut finally from any view of God that places him at the end of man’s thought or worship or activity. God is not one who can be placated or appeased. He remains forever the First Actor. He is not recipient, but Giver. He has his own questions to ask, his own gifts to give, his own righteousness to bestow.

Verse 12 is diflQcult and is, in fact, missing in the Greek translation. As it stands in the Revised Standard Version it does serve one useful purpose: to bring up again the subject of "Leviathan." From here on to the end of the chapter the poem is concerned with elaborating the picture of this beast. It is so elaborate, in fact, that one may suspect here some additions to the original, although if this be the case the balance between the actual and the mythical elements in the picture is still nicely preserved. Particularly apt expressions occur in verses 15, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32. The association of "light," "sparks," and "smoke" (vss. 18-21) is often explained as a natural exaggeration of a description of a crocodile, or as poetic imagery. It is possible that the explanation, however, is to be found in the author’s intent to suggest by this image the primeval creature of the sea, and by these very elements to stress the unnatural character of such a creature and its power.

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"Commentary on Job 41". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-41.html.