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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Job 41

Verses 1-34


Job 41:1. “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook.” The term “Leviathan” (לִוְיָתָן) rendered here by the SEPTUAGINT, SYRIAC, and ARABIC, “the dragon.” The VULGATE and TARGUM leave it untranslated. Almost all the earlier interpreters understood the Whale to be the animal intended. BEZA and DIODATPS among the first to incline for the Crocodile. GROTIUS remarks: “From terrestrial he passes to marine animals.” SANCTIUS is uncertain which animal of the whale kind is meant; and observes that the Balœna would not be unknown to Job, as being found, according to Pliny, in the Arabian Gulf. CODURCUS remarks that the whale is found in the Mediterranean Sea. According to DRUSIUS, some large unknown fish akin to the dragon is meant. SCHULTENS, with the Hebrew interpreters, thinks the animal to be a terrestrial dragon. LEE: “A sea monster in general; though the description rather suits the whale, and more particularly one of the Dolphin tribe, the Delphinus Orcus Communis, or common Grampus.” KITTO: “A sea monster: here the crocodile. FAUSSET: “Literally, the twisted animal, gathering itself into folds: a poetic generalization for all cetacea, serpentine, and saurian monsters, especially the crocodile; described after the river horse, both being found in the Nile. Bishop PATRICK observes that the whale is not armed with scales, nor impenetrable, nor creeping on the earth; and that therefore the crocodile is the animal intended. S. WESLEY remarks that the crocodile was probably once in Palestine; a town named Crocodilo-polis, or the city of the Crocodile, having stood in the neighbourhood of Mount Carmel. A. CLARKE thinks some extinct animal of the waters is probably intended. DODEHLEIN thinks the word a general name of a very large and cruel beast, the real name being gathered from its attributes.


Nearly the whole of the chapter occupied with the description of “Leviathan.” The section remarkable for its grandeur and sublimity. The idea of terribleness and power conveyed in a variety of striking particulars. The image of a formidable monster vividly placed before our eyes. The details naturally often obscure. The most extended description in the Almighty’s address and in the whole book. The object to exhibit the might and majesty of the Creator. “Such a power of description as to constitute in my mind an evidence of its inspiration.”—Dr. Chalmers.

I. The description itself. May be divided under various heads.

1. The creature’s fierceness and indomitableness. Job 41:1-18.41.10.—“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down (or, ‘press down his tongue with a rein,’ or perhaps ‘a fishing-line’)? Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn (i.e., an iron hook resembling one—so as to lead him about as thou wilt, like other wild beasts, as Ezekiel 29:4; Isaiah 37:29). Will he make many supplications unto thee [to spare him]? Will he speak soft words [of persuasion] unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? Wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens (as a plaything for thy little girls)? Shall the companions (the partners employed in taking him) make a banquet of (or on account of) him (after taking and killing him, or, will they ‘make a bargain over him,’ or ‘dig pits for him, in order to take him)? Shall they part him among the merchants (to be sold like other animals)? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears? Lay thine hand upon him; remember the battle [which thou hast rashly entered on], do no more (—do not, or thou wilt not, repeat it). Behold, the hope of him (of taking him, or overcoming him) is in vain (will be disappointed). Shall not one be cast down [with terror] even at the sight of him. None is so fierce that dare stir him up” (or awake him when sleeping).

2. His powerful structure and terrible aspect. Job 41:12-18.41.24.—“I will not conceal his parts (or members), nor his power, nor his comely proportions (or, ‘the grace of his array’). Who can discover the face of his garment (strip off his skin or the scales that cover it)? or who can come to him with his double bridle (or, ‘enter into the doubling of his jaws,’ or his double row of teeth)? Who can open the doors of his face? His teeth are terrible round about (or, ‘the circuits of his teeth are a terror’). His scales (Marg., ‘the strong pieces of his shields,’ i.e., his strong shields or scales) are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal (or, ‘as a close seal’—a seal sticking closely to the material on which it is impressed). One is so near to another that no air can come between them; they are joined one to another; they stick together that they cannot be sundered. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning (as he lifts his head above the water.) Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out (expressive of his hot fiery breath). Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals (live burning coals), and a flame goeth out of his mouth. In his neck remaineth (lodgeth) strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him (Marg., ‘rejoiceth;’ or ‘terror danceth before him’—a bold personification, indicating the terror and dismay occasioned by his appearance). The flakes (or pendulous parts) of his flesh are joined together; they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone (or ‘as the lower millstone’).”

3. His invincibleness and invulnerableness. Job 41:25-18.41.29.—“When he raiseth up himself (out of the water) the mighty are afraid; by reason of breakings (which he makes while plunging in the water, or ‘from the destruction’ which his appearance threatens, or the ‘terror’ which it causes) they purify themselves (or. lose their recollection—are bewildered). The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold (or stand): the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon (coat of mail, or perhaps the javelin). He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass (or the brazen weapon) as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts (or clubs) are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.”

4. His habits, motion, and supremacy among beasts. Job 41:30-18.41.34.—“Sharp stones are under him (or, ‘his lower parts are sharp potsherds’—the scales on his belly resembling such); he spreadeth sharp pointed things (or, ‘a threshing cart,’—his sharp spikes resembling the teeth of one) upon the mire (i.e., when he moves upon his belly, whether on the soft shore or on the bed of the river. He maketh the deep (the water in which he mostly lives—whether sea, lake, or river) to boil like a pot (from the agitation which he causes); he maketh the sea (or river, to which the term is also applied) like a pot of ointment (seething on the fire, and emitting a smell which that of the crocodile is said to resemble). He maketh a path to shine after him (like the phosphorescent light sometimes produced by the rapid motion of a ship); one would think the deep to be hoary (from the white froth and foam which the creature occasions by his motions). Upon earth there is not his like (or ‘any dominion’ to which he is subject), who is made without fear [of any assailant]. He beholdeth all high things (looks down upon the loftiest creature with disdain; or ‘terrifies every boaster’); he is king (holds supremacy) over all the children of pride” (or, ‘ferocity’—all proud ferocious animals, such as the lion and other beasts of prey).

II. The creature described. Opinions various. According to the Greek translation used by the Apostles, a dragon. With some a sea-monster. By almost all the old commentators, understood to be the whale, as in Psalms 104:26. Now generally believed to be the crocodile. The name apparently denoting the twisting or folding one, and so applicable either to a serpent or a crocodile. The description more suitable to the crocodile than any other known living animal. The crocodile also, as an inhabitant of the Nile, likely to be known both to Job and the writer of the book. The more likely to be the crocodile as connected with Behemoth; if that creature be supposed to be the hippopotamus, also a native of that river. A familiarity with Egypt and its productions on the part of the writer, apparently indicated by the poem.

The animal intended, however, conjectured by some to be one of an extinct species of the order of Saurians, the description corresponding in all particulars neither to the whale nor the crocodile. By others, the description thought to be rather, like that of Behemoth, a poetical generalization; in this case, for all monsters of the whale, serpent, or lizard tribes, the idea of the crocodile being the predominant one.
The crocodile, an amphibious animal of the order of Saurians, has a single range of pointed teeth in each jaw. The tongue fleshy, flat, and adhering close to the edges of the jaws a circumstance which induced the ancients to believe that the animal was destitute of a tongue altogether. The back and tail covered with very stout, large, square scales or plates, so thick as easily to repel a musket ball, those on the belly being smooth and thin. The crocodile inhabits rivers and lakes, and is extremely ferocious and carnivorous. Found nearly twenty feet long and five feet in circumference.
Another family of the same order is the dragon (draco, Linnæus), supposed by some to be the Leviathan, which is also mentioned in Isaiah 27:0 as “the dragon that is in the sea.” The dragon of the naturalists distinguished from all other animals of the order, by their first six false ribs; which, extending outwards in a straight line, and supporting a production of the skin, form a kind of wing, like that of a bat, but not connected with, the four feet; and having sufficient power to enable them to leap from one branch to another, but not to rise, like a bird, into the air. They are completely covered with scales. The tongue fleshy and somewhat extensive; while a long pointed dewlap hangs under their throats. To this tribe of Saurians probably belongs the long-extinct reptile only found in a fossil state, and known by the name of Pterodactylus. This animal of a bygone world had a short tail, an extremely long neck, and a very large head. The jaws armed with equal and pointed teeth. The second the of the fore foot so elongated as to make the foot double the length of the trunk, and probably serving to support some membrane which enabled the animal to fly. Enormous eyes enabled it to see in the dark twilight, while its jaws were furnished with sixty pointed teeth. Some specimens must have had a spread of wing exceeding sixteen feet. The Greek term draco, or dragon, generally used to designate a large serpent; while some ancient Greek writers speak of flying dragons. Some of them speak also of dragons with a crest or beard; which can only apply to the Iguanas, properly so called, and belonging to the same family as the dragons. In these the head is covered with plates, and the body and tail with scales; while along the entire length of the back is a range of spines, or rather recurved, compressed, and pointed scales; and under the throat is a pendant compressed dewlap, whose edge is supported by a cartilaginious process of the hyoid bone. Each jaw is surrounded with a row of teeth, while two small rows are on the posterior edge of the palate. An iguana, common in South America and the West Indies, measures about five feet in length. To the same family belongs the enormous fossil reptile known as the Iguanodon, a monstrous lizard, sixty or seventy feet long; its form resembling the iguana of the West Indies, with the addition of a horn, situated like that of the rhinoceros, and of about the same size.

Other monstrous animals, living at the same period, and found as fossils, were equally or even more terrific in appearance. The hylosaurus, or forest-lizard, had a row of scaly fringes on its back seventeen inches long, which it had the power of erecting when advancing to attack its enemy or to seize its prey. The megalosaurns exhibited the structure of the crocodile and monitor, from forty to fifty feet in length. The plesiosaurus united to the head of the lizard, the teeth of the crocodile, a neck of enormous length resembling the body of a serpent, with a body and tail of the proportions of an ordinary quadruped, and the paddles of a whale. The ichthyosaurus, or fish-lizard, was the ruling monster of the waters. In some of these the eye must have been twelve inches long and nine broad, protected by scales. The jaws, armed with one hundred and eighty conical teeth, were, in the larger species, six feet long, the whole length of the animal being thirty feet.

III. The Lessons from the Description

1. The resistless power and universal dominion of the Almighty. This, the lesson mainly intended to be taught the patriarch himself. Indicated expressly by the Almighty in Job 41:10-18.41.11 : “None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me? Who hath prevented me (in rendering any service, so as to lay me under an obligation to him), that I should repay him? (words referred to by the Apostle in Romans 11:35). Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.” The inference obvious: If you are unable to stand before or resist any of these monsters of the land or sea, how can you stand before me, from whom they all live, and move, and have their being? How vain to think to lay Him under obligation to us, to whom all creatures, from the least to the greatest, belong as His own property, and on whom they depend every moment for existence! Hence—

(1) Humility and submission to God, with confidence in the justice of His government and the wisdom of His providential dealings, man’s duty in all circumstances. The Creator, Possessor, and Ruler of universal nature may well be believed to be infinite in His perfections, and trusted in as righteous, wise, and good in all His procedure.

(2) Terrible to have Him for a foe to whom the mightiest monsters of sea or land belong, as only an insignificant portion of His creatures. “A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Unspeakably blessed to have Him for our friend. Our highest wisdom to secure, without delay, a personal interest in His favour and friendship, through the redemption and mediation of His Son Jesus Christ.

2. The mysterious sovereignty of God in the formation of His creatures. The same Divine hand the former of the harmless dove and the terrible dragon. The Creator of the lamb pleased also to produce the Leviathan. The useful ox and the destructive crocodile made to inhabit the same locality. Why God should have formed creatures of such terrible aspect and ferocious dispositions, clothed them with such impenetrable armour, and furnished them with such destructive weapons,—among the secrets of His Divine wisdom. All things made for Himself; even the wicked for the day of evil. For His pleasure all things are, and were created. No creature but made to show forth, in some way or other, the glory of His Divine perfections, and to secure some purpose or other in His all-comprehensive government. Variety everywhere displayed in the works of the Creator’s hands. That variety directed by infinite wisdom, goodness, and justice.

3. God’s works of creation worthy of all admiration. His works such as to bear to be taken to pieces and viewed in detail. The better known, the more admired. Exhibited by God himself for our admiration. “I will not conceal his parts.” The crocodile, or the dragon, as truly worthy of admiration as the noble war-horse. Job pointed to the Leviathan as an object of beauty and gracefulness as well strength and power. If God sees beauty in the crocodile, what beauty then in many of His other works! Objects in creation doubtless viewed otherwise by God, angels, and unfallen men, than they are by creatures in a state of rebellion against their Creator, and, therefore, with their faculties impaired, and themselves at enmity with the rest of creation. Things viewed with terror by the consciously guilty and condemned, which might otherwise have only excited admiration. God’s standard of beauty the true one. What God views with admiration and complacency certain to be viewed by His children with the same feelings, but for the effects of sin in their nature. Those effects entirely removed in a better state, when the universal song will be, “Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all Thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3). Interesting to mark in the above section the delighted contemplation by God on His own works. “Stamps a warrant of sacredness on our tasteful admiration of them.”—Dr. Chalmers.

4. The fact and effects of the fall seen in man’s relation to the creatures. Man originally made to have dominion over all the terrestrial works of the Creator’s hands. Man fitted for such dominion, as created in his Maker’s image. That dominion an obvious part of his natural right as a child of God. His intellectual nature, placing him so immensely above the brute creation, such as to warrant the expectation of it. That dominion enjoyed by Adam in a state of innocence, when he gave names to all the creatures. Naturally and justly forfeited, however, and lost by man’s rebellion against his Creator. Rebellion justly followed by attainder. Rights naturally forfeited by rebellion against an earthly sovereign. Hence, but for sin, the crocodile and the tiger as harmless to man, and as much under his subjection, as the cow or the dog. The dominion forfeited by the first Adam, regained and restored by the second. Christ, the Second Man, without sin, made Ruler over all the creatures as man’s representative. Was in the wilderness forty days with the wild beasts, as Adam was with them in Paradise (Mark 1:13). The lions at the feet of Daniel in the den, a specimen of what may be “in the regeneration.” All things reconciled in Christ. The members made partakers with the Head in the restored rule of creation. In the kingdom of Messiah, a state of things indicated which will probably have its external and physical, as well as its internal and spiritual, aspect: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them; and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,” &c. (Isaiah 11:6-23.11.9).

5. An emblem afforded of the great adversary of man. That adversary named in Scripture, “the Dragon, that Old Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 20:2). Under the figure of Leviathan, “the dragon that is in the sea,” mention made by the prophet (Isaiah 27:1) of some powerful adversary and oppressor of the Church and people of God: whom the Lord, when he comes “out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the world for their iniquity,” will punish and slay “with his sore and great and strong sword.” Perhaps some human oppressor of the Church thus indicated, as Pharaoh, the great enemy of Israel, is spoken of under the same figure (Psalms 74:13-19.74.14; Isaiah 51:9). The king of Egypt expressly called “the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers” (Ezekiel 29:3). These, however, exhibited as types of the great oppressor of man, called by Peter, “Your adversary, the devil, [that] goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The chosen form of that adversary, in his first and successful attempt upon the human race, that of a serpent. The Leviathan, as some kind of dragon, very generally understood by early Christian writers as allegorically representing the dragon and old serpent of the Revelation. Parts of the description impressively applicable to our great adversary, and very frequently employed by evangelical writers and preachers as illustrative of his character. Leviathan may be viewed as an emblem of Satan in respect to—

(1) His loftiness and dignity as a creature. Satan a fallen angel; probably one of the highest, if not the very highest of the heavenly hierarchy.

(2) His fierceuess and cruelty. Satan a murderer from the beginning, sparing neither age, sex, nor condition.

(3) His power of inflicting mischief and working destruction. One of Satan’s names Apollyon or Abaddon, viz., the Destroyer.

(4) The difficulty of overcoming him. Satan not to be overcome by any mere human effort. The strong man armed who is only to be evercome by one stronger than he (Luke 11:21).

(5) The universality of his sway. Satan the god and prince of this world; the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience; the ruler of the darkness of this world. Keeps his palace (our fallen race), and has his goods in peace until the stronger than he—the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mighty God, or God the Champion (Isaiah 9:9)—comes upon him, overcomes him, and “divideth the spoils” (Luke 11:21). “He is so strong that if all of us should combine against him, he would laugh at us, as Leviathan ‘laugheth at the shaking of a spear.’ … He is well armed at every point, and he knows how to arm his slave, the sinner, too; he will plate him from head to foot with mail, and put weapons into his hand against which the puny might of Gospel ministers and human conscience can never prevail. Prejudice, ignorance, evil education—all these are the chain-armour with which Satan girds himself. A hard heart is the impenetrable breastplate which this evil spirit wears; a seared conscience becomes to him like greaves of brass; habitude in sin is a helmet of iron. The demon who possesses men is not to be wounded by our artillery.”—Metropolitan Pulpit, Feb. 5, 1865. Bunyan’s description of Apollyon, partly taken from that of Leviathan in the text. “Now the monster was hideous to behold: he was clothed with scales like a fish (and they are his pride); he had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion.” But one conqueror of the great Leviathan—the Lord Jesus Christ; who took our nature, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-58.2.15). But one weapon by which he can be wounded, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “I have written unto young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14).

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 41". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.