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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Job 40

Verses 1-24

Job 40:4 . Behold, I am vile. Job boldly answered his friends; but when the Lord speaks, he lays his mouth in the dust.

Job 40:15 . Behold now behemoth. Here sacred criticism is divided in opinion; and not less than about the unicorn and the rhinoceros. The ancients believed that the behemoth, ta therial, the beast, was an elephant. The description of this noble animal is too large to be transcribed here. It should be remarked that there is little of hyperbole in the description of animals in these two chapters. Hence one is the more surprised that his tail should be said to be like a cedar; for it resembles the tail of a hog. Modern authors, among whom are Buffon and our Dr. Shaw, contend that the behemoth of Job is the Hippopotamus or river horse, an animal found on the Nile, and in the interior of Africa. This animal, though often noticed by the ancients, has not till lately been exactly described. “Hippopotame has four cutting teeth in each jaw. Those in the middle are straight and pointed forward, the two middle-most the largest. It has four tusks, those in the upper jaw are short, and the lower very long, and truncated obliquely. The head is of an enormous size, and the mouth is immensely wide and large. The ears are small and pointed, and lined within very thickly with short fine hairs. The eyes and nostrils are small in proportion to the bulk of the animal. On the lips are some strong hairs scattered in patches here and there. The hair on the body is very thin, of a whitish colour, and scarcely discernible at first sight. There is no mane on the neck, as some writers feign, only the hairs on that part are rather thicker. The skin is very thick and strong, and of a dusky colour. The tail is about a foot long, taper, compressed, and naked. The hoofs are divided into four parts; but notwithstanding it is an amphibious animal, they are not connected by membranes. The legs are short and thick. In bulk, it is second only to the elephant. The length of a male has been found to be seventeen feet, the circumference of the body is fifteen, the height near seven, the legs near three, the head above three and a half, and the girth near nine.” Pennant’s Synops. of quad. p. 78. But here we are more at a loss than before. This prodigious animal is amphibious. He floats in lakes and rivers by day, and eats the herbage at night. Hence he does not resemble the ox. Secondly, he is not chief of all the ways of God. His tail is remarkably short, and therefore in no sense can it resemble a cedar. The elephant therefore, not the river horse, seems to be the beast described in Job. But the mammoth, which has so much interested the learned world during the last fifty years, is obviously a species of the elephant. Mr. Peal of Philadelphia dug up one, as described by Mr. Ashe, of the following magnitude. “Height over the shoulders eleven feet, length from the chin to the rump fifteen feet, from the end of the tusk to the end of the tail thirty one feet, width of the hips and body five feet eight inches, length of the under jaw three feet one inch, weight of the same sixty three pounds and a half, length of the thigh bones three feet seven inches, smallest circumference of the same one foot six inches, length of the bone of the fore leg two feet nine inches; length of the tusks, defences, or horns, ten feet seven inches; circumference of one tooth one foot six inches and a half; weight of the same four pounds ten ounces. The whole weighing about a thousand pounds.” Other remains of the mammoth or large elephant, and of much larger magnitude, have been dug up in Siberia; as also skeletons of the terrific Megalonyx. See note on Numbers 24:9.

Job 40:19 . He is chief of the ways of God. The Mastodon or Mammoth might have existence in ancient times, though now extinct; and indeed its remains are still found immersed in marshes, both on the Wabash and in Siberia.

Job 40:20 . The mountains bring him food; therefore it cannot be the African hippopotame, which never leaves the shores of lakes and rivers, when he feeds on vegetables.

Job 40:21 . In the covert of reeds and fens, the identical places where the remains of the mammoth are discovered.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 40". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.