Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Job 41

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

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

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? — As men use to do the lesser fishes in angling? No, as little as thou canst bore behemoth’s nose with a snare, Job 40:24 . Leviathan is a common name for all great sea monsters, Psalms 104:26 . Beza and Diodati understand it to be the crocodile; others, of the sea dragon; others, of the whirlpool: but most, of the whale; in creating whereof, Creavit Deus vastitates et stupores, saith one. Pliny writeth about them, when they swim and show themselves, annare insulas putes, you would think them to be so many islands (lib. ix. cap. 2). Another saith, they appear like huge mountains; and that when they grow old they are so fat and corpulent that they keep long together in a place, so that upon their backs (by the dust and filth gathered and condensed) grass and shrubs grow, as if there were some islands there; whereat seamen attempting to land, have cast themselves into no small dangers (Heidfeld). Some tell us of a whale that would have covered four acres of ground, his mouth so wide, that he could have swallowed a whole ship (Plin. lib. 9). Virgil calleth whales monsters; the Greeks call them θηρας and θηρια , wild beasts. The majesty and power of the Creator is much seen in these vast creatures. Psalms 77:14 , "Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness." Hereupon the Jewish doctors have fabled, that God at first made two leviathans only; the one whereof he gave to the Israelites in the wilderness to feast with, the other he hath salted up for a feast to be made for the Jews, to be gathered together by the Messiah at the end of the world. Others have turned all this, and a great part of the former chapter, into allegories; whereof see Job 40:24 . Let us by the ensuing description take notice of, l. God’s omnipotence, who hath made such great wonders, whereof the sea hath more store than the earth, as they know well who are conversant therein. 2. His justice, who by these creatures oft punisheth offenders. Procopius telleth us, That in his time a great whale much infested the coasts of Constantinople, and did great mischief for fifty years together, till at length being taken and brought to land, he was found to be thirty cubits long, and ten broad. 3. His wisdom in making the whale so complete in all its parts, which all have their various uses; all which are here noted and numbered; how much more are our members, yea, our very hairs! 4. His goodness in creating such sea monsters for man’s use and benefit in many particulars; as his flesh for meat, his fat for oil, his hide for thongs, his teeth for combs, his bones for building, mounding, bodice making, … In Africa the whales’ bones serve commonly for rafters of houses. Leviathan he is called because of the fast joining together of his scales and members, wherein consisteth his strength; and so doth ours in unity.

Verse 2

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

Canst thou put a hook into his nose? — Canst thou ring him like a swine, or rule him like a bear? God can, and did Sennacherib that crooked leviathan, Isaiah 27:1 ; Isaiah 37:29 ; and doth still the Great Turk, who desireth to devour Christendom.

Or bore his jaw through with a thorn? — Or twig, as men do lesser fishes, taken with an angle, or herrings from the fish market. These are facetious and ironic questions that are put to Job in these five first verses; hinting to him, that although he could not do any of these things, yet God could with ease.

Verse 3

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

Will he make many supplications unto thee? — As conquered captives use to do; witness Benhadad, 1 Kings 20:32 , and Teridates, king of Parthians, who being brought prisoner to Nero, thus bespake him: I come unto thee as unto my god, and will henceforth worship thee as I do the sun in heaven; I will be whatsoever thou shalt appoint me; for thou art my fate and fortune, Sυ γαρ μοι, και μοιρα ει και τυχη (Dio in Neron.).

Will he speak soft words unto thee?Verba byssina; as unto his lord and master. An elegant and pleasant prosopopoeia (personification). No, his stomach is too great to stoop so low.

Verse 4

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

Will he make a covenant with thee? — And compound, where he cannot conquer.

Wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? — To be at thy disposal, and to do thy drudgery? q.d. He scorns the motion. Before the fall this and all other creatures were at man’s service, Genesis 1:28 ; Genesis 2:19-20 ; but now, alas! it is otherwise. Howbeit to those that are in Christ this part of God’s lost image is in part restored, Hebrews 2:6 , with Psalms 8:4-5 , and shall be perfectly, Revelation 2:26 . What singular service the whale did Jonas in shipping him to land who knows not?

Verse 5

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

Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? — Shall he make thee sport, as those poor birds that serve as pastime for little children? Or as the foolish Emperor Honorius delighted in his bird Roma (so he called it), at the loss whereof, when the city was taken by the Vandals, he grieved more than at all the rest? Indignum sane, regem aves praeferre viribus, saith the divine chronologer.

Wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? — Shall your daughters tie him with a thread, which, lengthening or strengthening at their discretion, shall make his prison either larger or straiter?

Verse 6

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

Shall the companions make a banquet of him? — The Cetarii, whale fishers, who usually go out in companies. It was anciently held impossible, and is still perilous, to take the whale and make a banquet of him; as the tongue and some other parts of the whale are good meat. Or, Make a banquet for him; shall they feast those merchants they mean to sell him to, that they may get the better price for him?

Shall they part him among the merchants? — Who might sell him out for sundry uses. See Job 41:1 .

Verse 7

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

Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons?Harpagonibus. Heb. With thorns; sc. to pull him to the shore? Opianus, Albertus Magnus, Gesner, and others now write, how whales are to be taken; and experience proves it to be seizable. They are sometimes cast upon the land by the surging rage or violence of the sea, or, by the ebbing thereof, left in a ford, where they cannot swim, and so they become a prey to the fishermen with their guns, darts, …

Verse 8

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

Lay thy hand upon him — Stroke him, clap him on the back, and see if that way thou canst win upon him, since by force thou canst not catch and kill him. Or draw near and offer but the least violence to him if thou darest, and he will quickly make thee repent it; so that thou wilt have little joy either to flatter him or to fight it out with him, for he will be the death of thee.

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 — Heb. is lying. A man may promise himseff or others to take the whale, but how or when will he effect it? It is a misery to lie languishing at Hope’s Hospital, and after all to be disappointed; to labour all night, and take nothing, …

Shall not one be cast down at the sight of him? — Surely there is cause enough to be cast down, if he be so big and dreadful to behold as is reported. See Trapp on " Job 41:1 "

Verse 10

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

None is so fierce that dare stir him up — Unless he be ambitious of his own destruction; cruel (so the word here signifieth) to his own life, which hereby he desperately casteth away. Aristotle telleth us that fishes do sleep: and perhaps these greater fishes take more sleep. Now who dare awake them sleeping, or encounter them waking, and rolling in the waters? None surely but a mad man.

Who then is able to stand before me?Et est qui coram me stet? No more surely than a man before a whale, or a glass bottle before a cannon shot. Here then we have the accommodation and application of the former discourse, which we must not look upon as cunningly devised fables, 2 Peter 1:6 , or read as we do the old stories of foreign businesses, but as that wherein ourselves are nearly interested and concerned, that we may give God the glory of his power (as here, far beyond that of the whale or any other creature) and of his justice, as Job 41:11-12 .

Verse 11

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

Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? — Who can tax me wath injustice, who am bound to no man, but owner of all things? If any one can say I am beholden to him, let him prove it, and I shall readily requite it, he shall have no cause at all to complain about me as ungrateful, Romans 11:34-35 .

Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine — The devil told our Saviour that all was his, and to whomsoever he would he gave it, Luke 4:6 . The pope also (that firstborn of the devil) takes upon him, as lord of all, to dispose of spirituals or temporals in all countries, as Boniface VIII wrote to Philip, king of France, who answered him with a Sciat fatuitas tua, …; and as the pope that then was gave our Henry VIII’s kingdom, primo oecupaturo, to him that should first take it; but he slighted him with Os Papae et oculus Diaboli in eodem sunt praedicamento. It is for God alone to say, as Daniel 4:32 , I rule in the kingdom of men, and give it to whomsoever I will. How then can I do any man wrong who am obliged to none, but all are engaged to me for all they have?

Verse 12

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

I will not conceal his parts, nor his power — That therein, as in a picture of the most principal piece of my workmanship, thou mayest behold how great and how glorious a God I am. In the year of grace 1577, July 2nd, the shipmen took a whale not far from Antwerp, the picture whereof was printed and published to this effect: His hide was without scales, and of a leaden colour. He was eighty-five feet long and sixteen feet high. From his mouth to his eyes was fifteen feet; from his eyes to his fins four feet and three fingers, … Such a kind of picture or character of this sea monster we have here, from the most skilful hand of heaven. Pliny observeth that pictures of things, exact and excellent, are seldom drawn but with great disadvantage. Not so this in the text, as will appear in the sequel.

Nor his comely proportion — Heb. Nor the grace of his disposition, i.e. Dicam quam egregio et concinne membra eius composita sint, I will declare how finely and fitly all his parts are proportioned and put together (Vatab.). In the most deformed creatures (as we count them) there is no part superfluous, useless, or uncomely. Deus est magnus in minimis, nec parvus in maximis. God is great in the smallest things and not small in the greatest things.

Verse 13

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

Who can discover the face of his garment? — That is, saith Piscator, who can pull him out of the sea, wherewith he is covered as with a garment? Who can slip off his skin while he is alive, as men do the eel’s skin, say others? Who (as men use to do when horses are to be saddled) will take off his cloth, and set the saddle upon his back? This last is Beza’s paraphrase; and it suits best with that which followeth.

Or who can come to him with his double bridle? — Let it be never so large or strong, his mouth is too wide, his jaws too strong, to be held in with bit and bridle, lest he come near unto thee.

Verse 14

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

Who can open the doors of his face? — The two leaved doors of his jaws, to let in a bridle? Samson dared to venture upon a roaring lion and rend him, as a man would rend a kid. But never dared any such thing be done to a whale.

His teeth are terrible round about — The whale’s teeth are said to be 120, each tooth four cubits long.

Verse 15

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

His scales are his pride — They are like so many glistering shields, wherein he puts his confidence and takes his pride; as thinking them impenetrable.

Shut up together as with a close seal — So closed and put together, like paper sealed with wax, as that nothing can part them. The Jews use to write upon the back of their sealed letters, Nun, Cheth, Shin; that is, Niddui, Cherem, and Shemmatha; all sorts of excommunication to those that open them.

Verse 16

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

One is so near to another, that no air, … — One scale or flake is. This is more proper, say some, to the crocodile than to the whale; but who can tell the different kinds of whales, some whereof are said to have great and thick scales close compacted, as here? Quod si squammae Leviathan ita cohaereant, ut earum opere textili densato, … (Vide Cocceium in locum). Let the saints strengthen themselves by close sticking the one to the other, as the primitive Christians did; so that the very heathens acknowledged that no people under heaven did so hold together and love one another as they, being like that Sacra cohors, holy band of soldiers in the Theban army, which consisted εξ εραστων και ερωμενων , of such only who were joined together in the bonds of love; and these they esteemed the prime of all their strength in battle (Athenaeus, lib. 3).

Verse 17

They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.

They are joined one to another, … — They are lapped over one another, like tiles on a house. See Trapp on " Job 41:16 "

Verse 18

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

By his neesings a light doth shine — When this dreadful monster sneezeth, or snorteth, fire breaketh out at his eyes and nose. By this neesing of the whale is meant the abundance of white frothy water which he casteth forth at his nostrils, In sublime nimbos efflat (Plin. lib. 9, c. 6).

And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning — Bright and beamy. Olaus writeth of the Norway whales, that their eyes shine in a dark night like a fire; so that mariners have oft thought, when they have seen them, that they saw a great fire.

Verse 19

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

Out of his mouth go burning lamps — This and those that follow are all hyperbolic expressions. Here he is brought in as a spit fire, as the devil was wont to be in plays and pageants. And by this passage some conjecture, that not the whale, but the sea dragon, is here described. Let it be what it will, it must needs be a great heat within this great fish, that sendeth forth, as it were, burning lamps and sparks of fire; and a strong sulphurous breath he must have, like the outbursts of Aetna, by this description. Aristotle saith the whale is of a hot fiery nature; and that he hath lungs, and breatheth; a pipe or passage also he hath in his forehead, whereat he throweth out the water he hath taken in, either by his breathing or eating (lib. 4, Depart. Anim. cap. 12). This transparent water, thus with a force thrown up against the sunbeams, may bear a show of lightning, or burning lamps.

Verse 20

Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as [out] of a seething pot or caldron.

Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, … — While his meat heateth in his stomach for concoction; as if fire were put under some great reeking pot or caldron boiling; Heb. blown ( sufflati); for from blowing comes boiling.

Verse 21

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

His breath kindleth coals — Or, would kindle coals (as a smith’s bellows), if there were any to kindle. Such a kindling of coal was Arius and Hildebrand of old, the Jesuits of this day, and not a few others, Proverbs 26:21 Isaiah 33:11 , "your breath, as fire, shall devour you." Some men’s tongues are like gunpowder, which, touched with the least spark, will instantly be in the face. A flame goeth out of their mouths enough to set the whole course of nature on fire, James 3:6 .

Verse 22

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

In his neck remaineth strength — Aristotle saith, that among fishes the dolphin, whale, and such as breathe, have necks proportionate to their bodies. The word rendered remaineth is in the Hebrew lodgeth, or abideth all night; so spoken, saith one, because the whale, as also the dolphin, sleepeth with his head erected above water.

And sorrow is turned into joy before himi.e. He knows no sorrows, he fears no hurt, but always rejoiceth, bearing himself bold upon his strength, God having made him to sport in the sea, Psalms 104:26 . Others read it, And before him danceth fear ( Pavor et Pallor, Tullus Hostilius’s two gods); men dance, or start for fear.

Verse 23

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

The flakes of his flesh are joined together — Heb. The failings, or the refuse and vilest parts, as the word is rendered, Amos 8:6 . Now if God be so punctual in the description of these also, can any one think that he hath let pass anything in the Holy Scriptures that belong to our salvation? What need is there then of human traditions?

They are firm in themselves — Heb. molten. Firm they must be, because so joined together. Vis unita fortior; but dissension is the mother of dissolution. England is a mighty animal (saith a great politician) which can never die, except it kill itself.

They cannot be moved — Or, he cannot be moved. He may say, as Terminus of old, Nulli cedo, I give place to none unless I please.

Verse 24

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

His heart is as firm as a stone — He is corpore et corde validissimus. Of the sword fish, Plutarch saith, that he hath a sword, but not a heart to use it, μαχαιραν μεν εχει, εχει, καρδιαν δε μη εχει . But the whale hath courage to his bulk: his heart is as firm as a stone, as his head (saith Scaliger) is as hard as a flint. In the hearts of some creatures, saith Aristotle, is found a bony or grisly hardness; but the whale’s heart is all as it were a bone; and this bone as a stone.

As a piece of the nether millstone — Metae, upon which the whole weight lieth. The Greek call it ονος μυλικος , Matthew 18:6 , the mill ass; because it is the bigger and harder of the two. The Vulgate here for the nether millstone hath the smith’s anvil, which, by hammering, is made harder.

Verse 25

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

When he raiselh up himself, the mighty are afraid — When he shows himself like some moving mountain upon the surface of the water, the most assured pilots or passengers are seized with fear of death, and seek to make peace with God, as those mariners did, John 1:5-6 , …

By reason of breakings — Broughton reads, of shiverings.

They purify themselvesExpiant se, they beg pardon of sin, and prepare to die. Others render it aberrant, they are dispirited; and know not what course to take. Others again, they purge downwards; their retentive faculty being weakened with fear, they let go their excrements; as Loper the traitor did, when he was upon his trial before the lords of the council; and as God somewhere in Ezekiel threateneth his rebels, that for fear of his displeasure they shall not be able to hold their water.

Verse 26

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

The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold — So close are his scales, so thick his skin, that there is no wounding of him. There was not of old, it seemeth. But now there is a way found of shooting and piercing him, so that he dieth with a horrible noise and outcry.

Nor the habergeon — A defensive weapon will be as useless as those other offensive; for the whale will soon swallow up the armed as well as the unarmed.

Verse 27

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

He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood — He makes nothing of anything that shall be done against him. Bears and lions may be wounded with hunting weapons; other fishes with eel spears, and the like: not so the whale, or not so easily.

Verse 28

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

The arrow cannot make him flee — Heb. Sons of the bow; as, Job 5:7 , sparks are called Boas of the coal. Arrows were then as much in use as bullets are now.

Slingstones are turned with him into stubble — Those stones which the sling casts with so much force make as little impression upon his body as a straw would, which the hand of a child should push.

Verse 29

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

Darts are counted as stubble — When any thing in the decrees or decretals likes not the pope, he sets pales, that is, stubble, upon it; or Hoc non credo: so doth this leviathan upon all kinds of weapons; he slights them. The word here rendered darts is as strange as the weapon it signifieth is to us unknown, lapides ballistic, an engine whereby great stones were thrown against walls or towers (as now cannon balls), to make a breach in them. Catapulta, aries vel simile aliquod tormentum. Be they what they will, the whale fears them not, no, though they were as terrible to others as those two great pieces of ordinance cast by Alphonsus, duke of Ferrara; the one whereof he called the earthquake, the other grandiabolo, the great devil.

Verse 30

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

Sharp stones are under him — Heb. Sharp pieces of the potsherd, Acumina testacea, which prick him no more than if he lay upon the softest couch, so hard is his belly.

He spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire — When he might lie softer, he scorns it; as our hardy forefathers some two or three hundred years ago, who ordinarily lay upon straw pallets covered with canvas, and a round log under their heads instead of a bolster. As for pillows, they said they were fit only for women in childbed, … (Hollinshed).

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 — He troubleth the whole ocean, he maketh a mighty commotion in the sea, when he rolls himself therein upward and downward, and casts up water on high through a certain conveyance that he hath in his head (Plin. lib. ix. c. 3, 6).

He maketh the sea like a pot of ointment — Turning it into a team, like the scum of a boiling pot. Beza rendereth it thus, He maketh the sea like a mortar, wherein colours are beaten; that is, the whirling of the water is like unto a quern, that is turned round of the painter, to temper his colours.

Verse 32

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

He maketh a path to shine after him — A ship doth so, much more a whale.

One would think the deep to be hoary — By reason of the white shining foam left behind him.

Verse 33

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

Upon earth there is not his like — Heb. There is no comparison of him. Much was said before of behemoth, but leviathan is far beyond him for size and strength; which yet Mercer noteth to be the work of God, and not of nature, quod humor solvat et infirmet; and therefore in reason earthly creatures would be harder and stronger than those in the sea.

Who is made without fear — He seems not to come into the world but to fear nothing, and to defy all things. No creature carrieth itself so stately or stoutly as the whale.

Verse 34

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

He beholdeth all high things — As far below him (be they never so excellent) both for bulk of body and stoutness of mind.

He is a king over all the children of pride — Or, over all the wild creatures (so Tremellius and Buxtorf interpret it), which are proud, and do domineer over the tame ones, no less than leviathan, if he were among them, would do over them.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 41". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/job-41.html. 1865-1868.
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