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God's great power in the Leviathan.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 41:1. Canst thou draw out Leviathan— לויתן leviathan, is derived from לוה lavah, coupled, and תן ten, a dragon, i.e. a large serpent, or fish: as the word תנין tanin, is used both for a land serpent, and a kind of fish; so that, after comparing what Bochart and others have written on the subject, it appears to me, says Parkhurst, that the compound לויתן leviathan, the coupled dragon, denotes some animal partaking of the nature both of land serpents and fishes, and in this place signifies the crocodile, which lives as well under water as on shore. See Boch. tom. ii. p. 769, who seems to have proved, by arguments strictly conclusive, that the crocodile must be meant in this chapter. I would just observe, of the word occurring in the Margin to chap. Job 3:8 of this book, that Parkhurst thinks it contains an allusion to the punishment of some kind of criminals, who were cast to the crocodiles to be devoured by them. Johnson, in his Natural History of Quadrupeds, p. 143, says, that among some of the Indians these animals were formerly kept for this purpose. And I would just remark, that as these animals are found in many of the eastern rivers, as well as in the Nile, it does not follow at all from this description, either that Moses was the writer of this Book, or any other person who drew his ideas immediately from Egypt and the Nile. This first verse relates to the manner of taking the crocodile; and therefore the best commentary on it will be to give an authentic account how it is done. The difficulty of this enterprise will appear from Diodorus Siculus, who says, that they cannot be secured but in iron nets. When Augustus conquered Egypt, he struck a medal, the impress, of which was a crocodile chained to a palm-tree, with this inscription: "None ever bound him before."—"In order to take these animals," says Thevenot, "they make a number of holes or ditches on the banks of the river, which they cover with sticks, and things of the like kind: afterwards, when the crocodiles pass over these cavities, especially, when the waters rise in the river, which is the season of catching them, on account of their going further off from the river at that time, they fall into the holes, and cannot get out again: in this confinement they are suffered to continue without food for several days; after which they let down certain nooses with running knots, wherewith they fasten their jaws, and then draw them out." These nooses are the חבל chebel, the cord here mentioned, and this shews that the word לשׁון lashon, is not to be understood of the tongue only, but of the whole fauces. The clause should be rendered, Canst thou bind his jaws with a cord? Maillet, speaking of these animals, says, that the manner of taking them is very difficult, and sometimes very remarkable: the most common method is, to dig great trenches or ditches along the Nile, which are covered with straw, and into which the creatures fall unawares. They are sometimes taken with hooks, baited with the quarter of a pig, or bacon, which they are very fond of. See Heath and Dr. Young. Hasselquist, speaking of the difficulty of taking this animal, says, "He frequently breaks the nets of fishermen, if they come in his way, and they are exposed to great danger. I found a fishing-hook in the palate of the crocodile which I dissected." See his voyages, p. 216.
Job 41:2. Canst thou put an hook into his nose?— Canst thou put a bandage about his nose? Heath. The word אגמון agmon, rendered bandage signifies a rope of rushes. This was to tie his mouth fast, as the thorn was to prevent his getting off the bandage. It is usual to this day, to fasten the jaws of the crocodile when taken.
Job 41:6. Shall the companions make a banquet of him, &c.— Will the companies of merchants drive a bargain for him? shall he be divided among the merchants? Heath. Houbigant follows our translation: see the next note. See also Dr. Shaw's travels, p. 426.
Job 41:8-9. Lay thine hand upon him, &c.— Be sure thou strikest home; mind thy blow; rely not on a second stroke, Job 41:9. See, he is deceived in his expectation: will he also faint away at the sight of them? Heath. But Houbigant translates it according to his own reading, thus: Whoever shall lay his hand upon him, shall not hereafter be nourished from his flesh: Job 41:9. Behold, his hope is made vain; shall he therefore take away his gall? He observes, that the flesh of the crocodile was esteemed excellent food, and that his gall was much used in medicine. Hasselquist says, that the gall of the crocodile is good for the eyes: The Egyptians make use of it as a certain remedy for barrenness in women, taking about six grains internally; and outwardly they apply a pessus, made of cotton, with the gall of a crocodile. They use the fat against the rheumatism, and a stiffness of the tendons; esteeming it a powerful remedy, outwardly applied; there is a folliculus of the bigness of a hazle-nut, under the shoulders of the old crocodile, containing a thick matter which smells like musk. The Egyptians are very anxious to get it when they kill a crocodile, it being a perfume much esteemed by the grandees.
Job 41:11. Who hath prevented me— Who hath made me any present, that I may requite him? Heath. See Micah 6:6.
Job 41:12. I will not conceal his parts, &c.— I will not pass over in silence his limbs, nor any thing of his bravery, nor the gracefulness of his proportion. Heath. I will not on account of him hold silence, I will declare his fortitude, and the strength of his nerves. Houb.
Job 41:13. Who can discover the face of his garment, &c.— Who can strip off his outer robe? Who can come within his double row of teeth? Heath. See the next verse. The crocodile's mouth is exceedingly wide. Pliny says, strongly, "When he gapes, fit totum os, he becomes all mouth."
Job 41:15. His scales are his pride— Strong scales cover his back. Heath.
Job 41:18. By his neesings a light doth shine— Literally, His sneezings cause the light to sparkle. The next clause gives as great an image of the thing it would express, says Dr. Young, as can enter the thought of man. His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. The eyes of the crocodile were used as a hieroglyphick by the ancient Egyptians, to denote the rising of the sun; because, says Horapollo, when it emerges from the river, its eyes are the first part of the body which becomes visible.
Job 41:19-21. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, &c.— This is nearer the truth, says Dr. Young, than at first view may be imagined. The crocodile, according to the naturalists, lying long under water, and being there forced to hold its breath; when it emerges, the breath, long repressed, is hot, and bursts out so violently, that it resembles fire and smoke. The horse suppresseth not his breath by any means so long; neither is he so fierce and animated, yet the most correct of poets ventures to use the same metaphor concerning him. By this I would caution against a false opinion of the boldness of the eastern metaphors from passages ill understood.
Job 41:22. In his neck remaineth strength, &c.— Houbigant renders this admirably; Strength has its dwelling on his neck; before him marches destruction. See his note.
Job 41:25. When he raiseth up himself, &c.— When he raiseth up himself, the mighty fly; the princes quit their purposed journey. Houb. Heath renders the last clause; for very terror they fall to the ground; and he observes very well, that the word שׁבר sheber, here used, strongly expresses the idea of terror: our English word shiver seems derived from it.
Job 41:26. The habergeon— The pike. Heath and Houb. It certainly means some missile weapon.
Job 41:28. Sling-stones are turned with him into stubble— He throweth about sling-stones like stubble. Heath. Sling-stones are no more to him than stubble. Houb. An extraordinary instance of the strength of a crocodile is related by Maillet. "I saw one," says he, "twelve feet long, which had not eaten any thing for thirty-five days (having had its mouth tied close during that interval), which with a single blow from its tail overturned five or six men together with a bale of coffee, as easily as I could overturn six men at a game of draughts." What force then must one of twenty feet long have, in its full strength and not weakened by such a fast? Thevenot also speaks of one which he had stripped of its skin, and says, that it was so strong, though but eight feet in length, that after they had turned him upon his back, and four persons stood upon him with both their feet, while they were cutting open his belly, he moved himself with so much force as to throw them off him with violence. See Maillet's Descript. of Egypt, p. 33, and Thevenot, part. 2: p. 72.
Job 41:30. Sharp stones are under him— His nether parts are like sharp potsherds. He dasheth himself on the mud like a threshing cart. Heath. חרוצ charutz, is rightly rendered by Bochart tribula, an instrument used in threshing of corn, a kind of sledge, furnished with sharp iron wheels. This was drawn over the straw by oxen, and at the same time thrashed out the corn, and cut the straw into small pieces, reducing it to chaff. An instrument of this kind is still used in the east for the same purpose. See Parkhurst on the word, and Observations, p. 142.
Job 41:32. One would think the deep to be hoary— He accounteth the deep as his habitation. Heath. Houbigant renders the verse, He leaves behind him a shining path; he esteems the deep to be dry land.—Rutilantia post se vestigia relinquit; abyssum reputat ut aridum tellurem.
Job 41:33. Upon earth there is not his like— Houbigant renders this, His dwelling is not upon the dust; He who made him, made him to be without law. This he supposes to express the amphibious nature of the crocodile; which, though living under the waters, yet is observed almost every day at morning and evening to come from thence, and continue awhile on the land. This learned critic also gives a turn to the next verse very different from that in which it is generally understood. Heath renders the verse, and with great seeming propriety, as referring to, and closing the description of, the crocodile: He will look upon any thing with contempt, be it ever so high: he is king over all the sons of rapine; i.e. the most ravenous beasts, according to the Syriac and Arabic. "But," says Houbigant, "I am persuaded that these words do not refer to the crocodile; but close the parable here taken from the beasts: God openly declaring who he is of whom he spoke in the 10th verse (who then is able to stand before me?) and that he meant that Leviathan, or old serpent, who raised his proud look even to the highest, and who possesses great power, though received from God, and so moderated, that whomever he shall oppress, as he had oppressed Job, God, when he pleased, could wholly deliver from his power and tyranny." Dr. Young very well paraphrases these last verses, agreeably to the common interpretation, as follows:
His like earth bears not on her spacious face, Alone in nature stands his dauntless race, For utter ignorance of fear renown'd: In wrath he rolls his baleful eye around, Makes every swol'n disdainful heart subside, And holds dominion o'er the sons of pride.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The learned are divided in opinion about Leviathan, whether the whale or crocodile be meant; some parts of the description seeming most adapted to the one, and some more peculiar to the other. Whatever animal be designed, the intention is evidently to shew Job's weakness and God's power. He is represented here as not to be caught with a hook or bait: not to be terrified or tamed: his flesh unfit for food: not to be taken with barbed irons and spears. It was at his peril who approached him; he would rouse himself for battle; therefore it were wise not to meddle with him. To hope to take him as a fish in a net, were vain; the very sight of him was terrible. The boldest dared not provoke him; and if a creature thus intimidate us from approaching him, and so surpass our strength, who then is able too stand before God, to contend with the Almighty, and to impeach his proceedings, or awaken his wrath?
2nd, 1. God challenges the universal property of all things; none ever made him their debtor, whilst every creature receives from him life and breath, and every thing conducive to the comfort or preservation of it. Note; (1.) The best services that we can render God, lay no obligation on him; the favour is done to us, that he enables us to serve him, or accepts our humble duty. (2.) If God giveth not an account to us of his matters, have we the shadow of right to question him? may he not do what he will with his own?
2. He describes the several parts of this terrible animal Leviathan. None dare approach him, to flay his skin, or open those devouring jaws, to look on which only, were enough to make the beholder tremble. His scales, which are his strength and pride, like a coat of mail, shut close over each other, to defend him; and are so near each other that even the air cannot come between. When he sneezes, a light shines, and his eyes are bright and sparkling as the eyelids of the morning. His breath is like the smoke of the furnace; and hot, like the steam of the boiling caldron; coals are ready to kindle from his nostrils. Strong and fierce, he fears no sorrow. His flesh, firm as a rock, defies all the instruments of death. When he lifts up himself in terrors, the mighty purify themselves, as dying men fly to their prayers. He makes his bed on the hard sharp-pointed stones. Before him the boiling deep smokes; behind him, the white foam marks his shining path, as if the deep was hoary-headed grown. Upon earth there is not his equal, fearless of danger. With contempt he beholds the vessels sailing by; and is a king over the children of pride, greater than the greatest of them, in magnitude and bodily strength. Or this is spoken of God, who beholdeth all these stupendous creatures: and all the children of pride, whether devils, men, or the most lawless animals, must submit to his government. Highly then it becomes Job to bow, to humble himself under God's mighty hand, and own the transcendent glory, greatness, and unsearchableness of all his works and ways.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 41". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25