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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Job 40

Verse 1

JOB 40


"This concluding speech of God to Job falls into three parts: (1) Job is (ironically) invited to assume the throne of the universe (Job 40:7-14). (2) There is the description of Behemoth (Job 40:15-24), and (3) the description of Leviathan (Job 41:1-34)."[1]

In the Genesis account of Jacob's wrestling with `a man' until the breaking of day, some respected writers find a similar thing revealed in the Book of Job, Job `wrestling with God.' Kline, depending upon some of the ancient versions which support that analogy, noted that, "The `first fall' of the wrestling ordeal is about to be decided."[2]

Job 40:1-2

"Moreover Jehovah answered Job, and said,

Shall he that cavilleth contend with the Almighty?

He that argueth with God, let him answer it."

Kline interpreted this to mean, "Will the contender with the Almighty yield"?[3] There is evidence here of God's disapproval of things that Job has spoken; but it appears to be somewhat a mild disapproval. Certainly, God's Words to Job are far more contradictory of the arrogant over-confidence of Job's friends, "Who believed that they had arrived at a definition of God's righteousness on the basis of human experience."[4]

God's disapproval of Job's complaint appears to have centered, "In the spirit which Job had manifested, and especially for his presumption,"[5] in supposing that he could even carry his case before God Himself (Job 13:3,21,22). But now, having considered the immeasurable greatness and wonder of God's power as exhibited in the natural and sidereal creations, the contender with God is greatly subdued, but not yet repentant. "Actually (whether or not Job realized it), his many complaints were the equivalent of his `contending with God.'"[6]

Driver's paraphrase of these first two verses is, "Will Job still carry on the dispute? If so, he must answer the questions Jehovah has put to him, and explain the marvels of creation that God has brought before him; and if he cannot do so, he has no right to criticize and reprove."[7]

Verse 3


"Then Job answered Jehovah, and said,

Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee?

I lay my hand upon my mouth.

Once have I spoken, and I will not answer;

Yea, twice, but I will proceed no further."

"Here we have a classical illustration of the results which must always follow when the silence of heaven is broken, when there is a revelation of God himself, to which men must listen in the posture of faith without which it is impossible to please God; and at such times the speech of earth is stilled."[8] Hearing the Word of God has changed the defiant critic into an humble worshipper; and, today, it will do the same for all who hear God's Word. "Job here confessed his insignificance,"[9] but said nothing of repentance. "He admits that he cannot answer, but he still does not admit any sin."[10] Kelly called this response, "Partial and relatively noncommittal."[11] It is in this very fact that we have the reason and the explanation of why these additional matters which are spoken of in these two chapters (Job 40-41) were required to be said. This also makes it impossible to accept the postulations of some critics that these two chapters are unnecessary interpolations.

In this we see the reason for these chapters in which God spoke to mankind out of the whirlwind. "They were written to combat the pride and egotism of men."[12] The inordinate pride and arrogant egotism of the human race are the most prevalent and the most dangerous of human failures and sins. It was this sin that led to the expulsion of Satan and his angels from heaven, that led to the Fall of Mankind and resulted in his Paradise Lost. This sin leads the procession of the seven deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19.

Verse 6


"Then Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Gird up thy loins now like a man:

I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

Wilt thou even annul my judgment?

Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be justified?

Or hast thou an arm like God?

And canst thou thunder with a voice like him?

Deck thyself now with excellency and dignity;

And array thyself with honor and majesty.

Pour forth the overflowings of thine anger;

And look upon every one that is proud, and abase him.

Look upon every one that is proud, and bring him low.

And tread down the wicked where they stand.

Hide them in the dust together;

Bind their faces in the hidden place.

Then will I also confess of thee

That thine own right hand can save thee."

OK, mankind! Here God challenges you to take over the universe. The humanistic idiots of our own generation need to read this. Their manifesto in 1933 declared that, "Never again shall we seek to build a society upon the principles of the Judeo-Christian scriptures." And the sorrows that have overwhelmed all nations since then have demonstrated conclusively that "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

In these verses, we have the revelation of Job's sin, namely, pride. Although his manifold sufferings were not the visitation of God upon him for gross and reprobate wickedness (as his friends erroneously concluded); nevertheless, Job had imagined that God was acting as his enemy, and had even wished for an `umpire' who might plead against that imagined hostility on the part of God.

"Job's criticism of God's judgment, especially his boast that he will overcome the Lord's imagined opposition to his justification was, in principle, a usurpation of the divine prerogative of world government, a lusting after God-like knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5)."[13] See under Job 40:8, below.

"Gird up thy loins ... declare thou unto me" (Job 40:7). Some critics have resented what they interpret as God's efforts to "browbeat Job into a more abject submission." Has he not admitted that he is silenced? Why go any further? This is to miss the whole point that Job is indeed a sinner (not as the friends imagined), but in his conception of God.

"Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be justified" (Job 40:8)? To paraphrase this, "Do you think it necessary to accuse me of injustice and to condemn me in order to establish thine own innocence"?[14] There was no need whatever for such a viewpoint. God's justice and Job's innocence were perfectly compatible. In order to see this, it was only necessary to get rid of the false theory, held by Job's friends and unconsciously supported by Job's own suppositions (i.e., that God was his enemy), that earthly sorrows and afflictions are necessarily punitive. In these verses, Job would come to see that, "The things that had been, and still were, a puzzle to men were no puzzle at all to God.[15]

"Hast thou an arm like God? And canst thou thunder with a voice like him" (Job 40:9)? The argument here is that, "The world is so large, and the circumstances and situations of individual life are so infinitely varied, that none but an omnipotent Ruler could govern them with perfect justice. Therefore, one who does not possess God's might must refrain from passing judgment upon God's justice."[16]

"Deck thyself with excellency ... dignity ... honor ... majesty" (Job 40:10). Such language as this is ironical and sarcastic. If Job is really going to take over management of the universe, "He would need to be as splendid and majestic as God."[17] By his imagining that, if he had an umpire, he might even dispute the judgments of God (as he understood his sufferings) with the Lord himself, Job had presumed to question the infinite wisdom and justice of God; and, if he were indeed to succeed in such a role, he would have to look the part! As Franks understood the implication of God's Words here, "If Job cannot put himself in the place of God, and govern the world, neither can he understand the method of the government."[18]

This tremendously significant paragraph makes the devastating charge against Job, that, "If he can do what God here challenged him to do, and what by implication his words had assumed that he could do, - then he will BE God! That was the ancient sin of the pair in Eden, with their attempt to be `like God' (Genesis 3:5); and here it is revealed to be the sin of Job. Every effort at self-justification must ultimately stand under the same condemnation."[19]

"Then will I confess of thee that thine own right hand can save thee" (Job 40:14). If any mortal could justify himself before God, he would not need a Saviour; and by God's Words to Job in this passage, we see that such a justification is impossible, apart from the redemptive love of God and the unspeakable gift of his beloved Son upon Calvary as an atonement for the sins of the whole world.

Verse 15


"Behold now, behemoth, which I made as well as thee;

He eateth grass as an ox.

Lo now, his strength is in his loins,

And his force is in the muscles of his belly.

He moveth his tail like a cedar:

The sinews of his thighs are knit together.

His bones are as tubes of brass;

His limbs are like bars of iron.

He is the chief of the ways of God:

He only that made him giveth him his sword.

Surely the mountains bring him forth food,

Where all the beasts of the field do play.

He lieth under the lotus-trees,

In the covert of the reed, and the fen.

The lotus-trees cover him with their shade;

The willows of the brook compass him about.

Behold, if a river overflow, he trembleth not;

He is confident, though a Jordan swell even unto his mouth.

Shall any take him when he is on the watch, or pierce through his nose with a snare?"

"Behold now, behemoth, which I made as well as thee" (Job 40:15). Both "behemoth" in this passage and "leviathan" in Job 41 are creatures which God has made; and therefore they may not be identified as mythological creatures. We confess that it is difficult to understand just what God intended by this extensive presentation of these two strange animals. All kinds of explanations have been attempted, identifying behemoth as a mythological creature, a prehistoric beast now extinct, an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus. The general consensus is that the hippopotamus is the animal spoken of. Still, there are things mentioned here that do not fit that animal at all, for example, the statement that, "He moves his tail like a cedar" (Job 40:17), the tail of a hippopotamus being, in fact, a somewhat insignificant and minor member of his body.

There are many strange and inexplicable things about any of God's creatures, just as there are of the huge beast mentioned here. That his great strength should come from eating grass appears early in the description, reminding us of the childhood mystery of how a red horse, a yellow cow, a black sheep, and a white goose could all be feeding on a field of green grass, and making diverse colored coverings for themselves out of the same diet, and how the cow produced milk, the sheep wool, and the goose feathers!

"He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together" (Job 40:17 in KJV). We have selected the King James rendition here, because it supports a radical interpretation of this passage by Van Selms:

"The hippopotamus is a creature of mine, just like you, but really not made for your sake! It is only an animal that feeds on grass; but, unlike cattle, it will never be tamed by you. Its being of no benefit to you does not mean that it has no value for me. Just look at it, and marvel! Just notice, for example, (and this is the part that interests you human beings the most), how the hippo contrives to raise that extraordinary weight of his when the male is about to impregnate the female. What concentrated power there is in his underbelly ... and that sexual organ itself, thick and hard like a cedar-tree! No human being could ever construct anything like that. It is my masterpiece. And just look at those enormous teeth, like swords"![20]

We have included this interpretation because it is supported by two things: (1) It is supported by the KJV rendition of the word `stones' (Job 40:17), which is translated "testicles" in the Douay Version of the Bible and (2) the fact the comparison to a cedar-tree does not fit a hippopotamus' tail at all.

"For he is the chief of the ways of God" (Job 40:19). "This suggests that God's masterpiece was the hippopotamus. However, the passage bears the translation that, `He is the beginning of the ways of God,' indicating that, as a grass-eater, the behemoth belonged to the creative category of cattle, which were mentioned ahead of the beasts in Genesis 1:24."[21] Andersen also agreed with this[22]

"Shall any take him when he is on the watch" (Job 40:24)?

This is perhaps the key as to why God gave this description of behemoth. If Job, like all other humans, cannot either tame or contend against one of his fellow-creatures, how could he possibly presume to pass judgment upon the justice of the Eternal? Whatever God's purpose might have been in these accounts of behemoth and leviathan (Job 41). they had the desired effect upon Job.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 40". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.