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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Job 41

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

Leviathan - Latin, the twisted animal, gathering itself in folds. The last syllable, than, appertains to the form of the noun, as in Nehushtan; the first part, levi, in Arabic, means twisting (Bochart, 1: 737): a synonym to the Thannin (Job 3:8, margin; see Ps. 85:14 ; type of the Egyptian tyrant; Psalms 104:26; Isaiah 27:1, "Leviathan, that crooked serpent:" the Babylonian tyrant). A poetical generalization for all cetacean, serpentine, and saurian monsters (note, Job 40:15; hence, all the description applies to no one animal); especially the crocodile, which is naturally described after the river-horse, as both are found in the Nile.

Tongue ... lettest down. The crocodile has no tongue, or a very small one cleaving to the lower jaw. But as in Tongue ... lettest down. The crocodile has no tongue, or a very small one cleaving to the lower jaw. But as in fishing the tongue of the fish draws the baited hook to it, God asks, Canst thou in like manner take leviathan? Translate literally [bªchebel tashqia` lªshownow], 'Canst thou press down his tongue with a cord?'

Verse 2

Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?

Hook - rather, a rope of rushes [ 'agmown (H100)].

Thorn - rather, a ring or hook [ chowach (H2336)]. So wild beasts were led about when caught (Isaiah 37:29; Ezekiel 29:4); fish also were secured thus, and thrown into the water, to keep them alive.

Verse 3

Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?

Soft words - that thou mayest spare his life. No; he is untameable.

Verse 4

Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?

Can he be tamed for domestic use? (so Job 39:10-12.)

Verse 5

Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?

A bird - that is tamed. Bind him for thy maidens? - with a thread or string, as a pet or toy for them.

Verse 6

Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?

Companions - rather, partners (namely, in fishing).

Make a banquet. The parallelism rather supports Umbreit, 'Do partners (in trade) desire to purchase him?' [ kaarah (H3739) `al (H5921)] (so the Hebrew, Deuteronomy 2:6.) DeWette translates as the English version.

Merchants - literally, Canaanites, who were great merchants, (Hosea 12:7, margin.)

Verse 7

Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?

His hide is not penetrable, as that of fish.

Verse 8

Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.

If thou lay, etc., thou wilt have reason ever to REMEMBER the battle, how severe it was, and thou wilt never try, it again.

Verse 9

Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?

The hope - of taking him: or else, 'of any one who tries a battle with him' (Job 41:8).

Is in vain nikzaabaah (H3576) - 'is convicted of a lie;' is proved false.

Cast down - with fear "at the (mere) sight of him."

Verse 10

None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?

Fierce - courageous; foolhardy. If a man dare not attack one of my creatures (Genesis 49:9; Numbers 24:9), who will dare (as Job had wished) oppose himself (Psalms 2:2) to ME, THE CREATOR? This is the main drift of the description of leviathan.

Verse 11

Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Prevented - done me a favour first: anticipated me with service (Psalms 21:3). None can call me to account ("stand before me," Job 41:10) as unjust, because I have withdrawn favours from him (as in Job's case) which I was not in the least bound to give: for none has laid me under a prior obligation by conferring on me something which was not already my own. What can man give to Him who possesses all, including man himself? Man cannot constrain the creature to be his "servant" (Job 41:4) much less the Creator.

Verse 12

I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.

I will not conceal. A resumption of the description broken off by the digression, which formed an agreeable change.

His power - literally, the word or way; i:e., true proportion or expression [ dªbar (H1697)] of his strength (so Hebrew, Deuteronomy 19:4).

Comely proportion - literally, the comeliness of his structure (his apparatus, accoutrement; so "suit of apparel" [ chiyn (H2433) `eeruk (H6186)], Judges 17:10). (Maurer.) Umbreit translates, 'beauty of his armour.' But that follows after.

Verse 13

Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?

Discover - `Who can uncover the surface of his garment?' (akin, Job 10:11:) strip off the hard outer coat with which the inner skin is covered.

With - rather, within his double jaws-literally, bridle [ recen (H7448)]: hence, that into which the bridle is put, the double row of teeth; but 'bridle' is used to imply that none dare put his hand in to insert a bridle where in other animals it is placed (Job 41:4; Job 39:10).

Verse 14

Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.

Doors of ... face - his jaws. His teeth are 60 in number, larger in proportion than his body, some standing out, some serrated, fitting into each other like a comb (Bochart).

Verse 15

His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.

Rather [ 'ªpiyqeey (H650) maaginiym (H4043)], his furrows of shields (as 'tubes' 'channels,' note, Job 40:18) are his pride - i:e., the rows of scales, like shields, covering him: he has seventeen such rows in his furrowed coat of scales.

Shut up - firmly closed together. A musket ball cannot penetrate him except in the eye, throat, and belly.

Verses 16-17

One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 18

By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.

His neesings, [ `ªTiyshaah (H5846)]. Translate, 'his sneezing causeth a light to shine.' Amphibious animals, emerging after having long held their breath under water, respire by violently expelling the breath like one sneezing: in the effort the eyes, which are usually directed toward the sun while it basks in the sunshine, seem to flash fire: or it is the expelled breath that in the sun seems to emit light.

Eyelids of morning. The Egyptian hieroglyphics paint the eyes of the crocodile as the symbol for morning, because the eyes appear the first thing, before the whole body emerges from the deep ('Horae Hieroglyphicae,' 1: 65; Bochart).

Verse 19

Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.

Burning lamps - torches: namely, in respiring (Job 41:18) seem to go out.

Verse 20

Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. Seething - boiling: literally, blow under, a pot under which a fire is blown [ duwd (H1732) naapuwach (H5301)].

Caldron, [ 'agmon (H100), from 'aagam (H98), to glow] - a glowing caldron.

Verse 21

His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

Kindleth coals - poetical imagery (Psalms 18:8, "There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it").

Verse 22

In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.

Remaineth - abideth permanently. His chief strength is in the neck.

Sorrow - anxiety or dismay personified.

Is turned into joy - rather, danceth, exulteth [ taaduwts (H1750), from duwts (H1750)]: wherever he goes, he spreads terror "before him."

Verse 23

The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.

Flakes - rather, dewlaps. That which falls down: margin, fallings [ mapaal (H4651), from naapal (H5307), fall]. They are "joined" fast and firm together, not hanging loose, as in the ox.

Are firm - Umbreit and Maurer, '(His flesh) is spread over him.' [The image in yaatsuwq (H6694), from yaatsaq (H3332), is from metal poured out and spread until it becomes hard and firm, as the English version rightly expresses.]

In themselves - rather, upon him.

Verse 24

His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.

Heart. 'In large beasts, which are less acute in feeling, there is great firmness of the heart, and slower motion' (Bochart). The nether millstone, on which the upper turns, is especially hard.

Verse 25

When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.

When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid. The crocodile: a type of the awe which the Creator inspires when He rises in wrath.

Breakings - namely, of the mind: i:e., terrors.

Purify themselves - rather, they wander from the way - i:e., flee away bewildered [ yitchaTaa'uw (H2398).] (Maurer and Umbreit).

Verse 26

The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.

Cannot hold - on his hard skin.

Habergeon - coat of mail: avail must be taken by Zeugma out of "hold," as the verb in the second clause; "hold" cannot apply to the coat of mail.'

Verse 27

He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.

Iron ... brass - namely, weapons.

Verse 28

The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.

Arrow - literally, the son of the bow; Oriental imagery, (Lamentations 3:13, margin.)

Stubble - sling stones produce no more effect than it would to throw stubble at him.

Verse 29

Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.

Darts, [ towtaach (H8455), from yaatach] - Arabic, 'smite with a club:' rather, clubs; darts have been already mentioned.

Verse 30

Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.

Sharp stones - rather, as margin, potsherds [ chaduwdeey (H2303) chaares (H2789)]: i:e., the sharp and pointed scales on the belly, like broken pieces of pottery.

Sharp-pointed things - rather, a threshing instrument [ chaaruwts (H2742)], but not on the fruits of the earth, but 'on the mire;' irony. When he lies on the mire he leaves the marks of his scales so imprinted on it that one might fancy a threshing instrument with its sharp teeth had been drawn over it (Isaiah 28:27).

Verse 31

He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.

He maketh the deep to boil like a pot - whenever he moves.

Sea - the Nile (Isaiah 19:5; Nahum 3:8).

Pot of ointment - the vessel in which it is mixed. Appropriate to the crocodile, which emits a musky smell.

Verse 32

He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.

Path - the foam on his track.

Hoary - as the hair of the aged.

Verse 33

Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.

Upon earth - literally, 'upon the dust:' upon this crumbling transitory earth.

There is not his like, [ moshel (H4915)] - anything like to him.

Who - being one "who is made without fear," etc.

Verse 34

He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

Beheldeth - as their superior.

Children of pride - the proud and fierce beasts. So Job 28:8; Hebrew, sons of pride. To humble the pride of man, and to teach implicit submission, is the aim of Yahweh's speech, and of the book; therefore, with this, as to leviathan, the type of God in His lordship over creation he closes.


(1) How strange and perverse the presumption of man is! He does not are to provoke the creature that is his superior in strength, yet he dares to provoke the Almighty Creator (Job 41:10). If he could not stand in the contest with some of God's lower creatures, what hope could there be for him in conflict with the infinite Yahweh?

(2) People in their complaints against God, when He afflicts them, forget that the benefits and prosperity which they have previously enjoyed were altogether gratuitous on the part of God. He was under no pre-existing obligation to confer favours on them: and in taking back what He has given He cannot justly be called to account as guilty of injustice (Job 41:11).

(3) Not only is God under no obligation to continue to benefit even the best of men, regarded in themselves, but if He were to deal with them according to their deserts toward Him, He might justly consign them to everlasting misery. Nothing but the long-suffering of God, whom we so often provoke, keeps us from suffering far worse things than the very worst which we are called on to suffer.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 41". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-41.html. 1871-8.
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