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The crowning description of a natural marvel—the "leviathan," or crocodile—is now given, and with an elaboration to which there is no parallel in the rest of Scripture. It forms, however, a fit climax to the gradually more and more elaborate descriptions of Job 38:39-41; Job 39:1-30; and Job 40:15-24.
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? The word leviathan, or more properly livyathan, which has previously occurred in Job 3:8, and is found also in Psalms 74:14; Psalms 104:26; and Isaiah 27:1, seems to be derived from לוי, "twisting," and תן, "a monster," whence the תּנּין or תּנּים of the Pentateuch and also of Job (Job 7:12), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:11), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:3). It is thus a descriptive epithet rather than a name, and has not unnaturally been used to designate more than one kind of animal. The best modern critics regard it as applied sometimes to a python or large serpent, sometimes to a cetacean, a whale or grampus, and sometimes, as hero, to the crocodile. This last application is now almost universally accepted. The crocodile was fished for by the Egyptians with a hook, and in the time of Herodotus was frequently caught and killed (Herod; 2:70); but probably in Job's day no one had been so venturous as to attack him. Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? rather, or press down his tongue with a cord? (see the Revised Version); i.e. "tie a rope round his lower jaw, and so press down his tongue." Many savage animals are represented in the Assyrian sculptures as led along by a rope attached to their mouths.
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? rather, a reed, or a rope of reeds. The exact meaning is doubtful. Or bore his jaw through with a thorn? A hook or ring is meant, rather than a "thorn"—such a "hook" or "ring" as was commonly used for keeping fish captive in the water, or for bringing prisoners of rank into the presence of the monarchs who had captured them.
Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? Ironical. Will he behave as human captives do, when they wish to curry favour with their captors?
Will he make a covenant with thee? As captive monarchs do. Wilt thou take him as a servant for ever? (comp. Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17).
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? The Egyptians were especially fond of pet animals, and Job's countrymen, it may be assumed, were the same. Besides dogs, we find the Egyptians keeping tame antelopes, leopards, and monkeys. A tame crocodile would certainly seem to be an extraordinary pet, but Herodotus says that the Egyptians tamed them (2:39), and Sir Gardner Wilkinson informed me that he had known some tame ones at Cairo. The Mesopotamian Arabs domesticate falcons to assist them in the chase of the bustard and the gazelle. And this usage, though not represented on the Assyrian monuments, is likely to have been ancient. Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? i.e. Wilt thou so secure him that he may be delivered over to thy handmaidens, to be made their pet and playfellow?
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? rather. Shall the companions make a traffic of him? By "the companions" we may understand either the guilds or companies of fishermen, which might be regarded as engaged in making the capture, or the travelling bands of merchants, who might be supposed willing to purchase him and carry him away. As no one of these last could be imagined rich enough to make the purchase alone, a further question is asked, Shall they part him among the merchants? i.e. allow a number to club together, each taking a share.
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? The hippopotamus was captured in this way by the Egyptians at an early date, and hence the idea of trying the same mode of capture with the crocodile would naturally arise; but in the time of Job it would seem that no one had been bold enough to attempt it. The skin of the crocodile is penetrable in very few places, and his capture by a single man with a harpoon, though now sometimes practised, is still a work of danger and difficulty. Or his head with fish-spears? Fish-spears would have small effect on the head of a crocodile, which is bony and covered by a very tough skin. There is a vulnerable place, however, at the point where the head joins the spine, at which the ancient Egyptians, when they ventured to attack the crocodile, were wont to strike.
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more. This is again ironical, like Job 41:3-6. "Only just put forth thy hand against him—bethink thee of war—do it once and no more.". The idea is that once will be enough. A man will not live to do it a second time.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain; i.e. the hope of capturing or killing him. Shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? The very sight of the savage and invulnerable animal is enough to make a man fall to the ground with fear.
None is so fierce that dare stir him up. The crocodile is often seen asleep, or nearly asleep, upon sand-banks washed by the Nile. He would be a bold man who should creep near, and stir him up. Who then is able to stand before me? Here we reach the point whereto the whole argument has been working up. If man cannot cope with creatures, which are the work of God's hands, how much leas can he presume to cope with him who is their Maker!
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? i.e. "Who hath laid me under any obligation, so that I should be bound to fall in with his views, and take such a course as he might prescribe?" The allusion is to Job's persistent demand for a hearing—a controversy (Job 9:34, Job 9:35; Job 10:3; Job 13:3, Job 13:22; Job 23:3-7, etc.)—a trial, in which he shall plead with God, and God with him, upon even terms as it were, and so the truth concerning him, his sins, his integrity, his sufferings, and their cause or causes, shall be made manifest. God resists any and every claim that is made on him to justify himself and his doings to a creature. He is not a debtor to any. If he explains himself to any extent, if he condescends to give an account of any of his doings, it is of pure grace and favour. It has been observed that we might have expected this to be the conclusion of the entire discourse begun in Job 38:1-41; and that no doubt would have been, according to ordinary laws of human composition, its more proper place. But Hebrew poetry is erratic, and pays little regard to logical lawn If anything important has been omitted in its more proper place, it is inserted in one which is, humanly speaking, less proper. The details concerning the crocodile, which are calculated to deepen the general impression, having been passed over where we might have expected them, are here subjoined, as filling out the description of Job 38:1-10.
I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion. The further description is introduced by this formal announcement, which is perhaps best rendered, I will not keep silence concerning his limbs' nor concerning the matter of his might' or the comeliness of his proportion (see the Revised Version); i.e. I will enter upon these points seriatim, and set them forth severally.
Who can discover the face of his garment? Some critics understand this in a general sense, "Who can lay him open to assault?" Others suggest a more definite meaning," Who can strip off his outer covering?" the scaly coat, that is, which forms his special defence, and expose the comparatively tender skin below? If this were done, he would then be at the hunter's mercy; but who will undertake to do it? Who, again, can come to him with his double bridle? Come, i.e; with a double bridle in his hand, and place it in the monster's jaws. (So Schultens and Professor Lee.) Others translate, "Who will come within [the range of] his double bridle? and understand by "his double bridle" his two rows of teeth—Homer's ἑρκος ὀδόντων (Rosenmuller, Canon Cook, Professor Stanley Leathes, etc.).
Who can open the doors of his face? Who can make him open his huge, gaping jaws, if he chooses to keep them shut? Who would dare to do so? His teeth are terrible round about. The crocodile has "two rows of sharply pointed teeth, thirty or more on each side". They are "so formed and disposed as to tear their prey rather than masticate it". The voracity of the full-grown crocodile is great; and.he will not scruple to attack and devour men, if they come in his way. The natives of Upper Egypt have a wholesome terror of him.
His scales are his pride; or, his pride is in the channeling of his scales (literally, of his shields). The scales of the crocodile are arranged in five rows along his entire back, with a depression between the rows which is like a "channel." Each individual scale resembles a shield. They are shut up together as with a close seal; each, i.e.' closely attached to its fellow,so that there is no space between them. "A rifle-ball," according to Canon Tristram, "glances off from them as from a rock".
One is so near to another, that no air can come between them (see the comment on the preceding verse).
They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered; literally, they are soldered one to another (comp. Isaiah 41:7).
By his neesings a light doth shine. "Neesings" is old English for "sneezings." According to Aristotle, the crocodile is in the habit of sneezing, but I do not find this fact noted by modern writers Boehart asserts it very positively, but he does not profess to speak from his own knowledge. And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. This probably does not mean more than that his eyes flash with light upon occasion, which is no doubt true, though the eyes, being small, have not generally attracted very much attention.
Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. The description now becomes highly poetical, and it would be a mistake to endeavour to substantiate it. The intention is to represent the impression which the animal would make on an impressible but unscientific observer viewing it in its native haunts for the first time. Splashing, snorting, and throwing up spray all around, it would seem to be breathing out steam and smoke, from which the idea of fire is inseparable (see the next verse).
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron; rather, as from a seething pot and rushes; i.e. as from a pot heated by burning rushes.
His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. All the representations of dragons breathing smoke and flames, found in the myths and sagas of so many countries, probably rest upon the observed fact of ,team or spray streaming forth from the mouth and widely opened nostrils of the crocodile. The steam has seemed to be smoke, and smoke has naturally suggested flame and fire.
In his neck remaineth strength. It has been well remarked that the whale has no neck, or at any rate none that is visible, while the crocodile has one that is of great strength, and that naturally attracts observation. "Le cou assez marque," says the 'Dictionnaire des Sciences' (l.s.c.). It is nearly of the same diameter with the head at the point of junction, and where it adjoins the body is still larger. And sorrow is turned into joy before him; rather, and terror danceth before him (see the Revised Version). Whithersoever he proceeds, he causes terror; people tremble, take to flight, and disappear.
The flakes of his flesh are joined together. Even the softer muscles, and parts which in most animals are yielding and flabby, in the crocodile are bound up, and, as it were, soldered together (comp. Job 41:17). They are firm in themselves; rather, they are firm upon him; literally, fused upon him, like detached pieces of metal, which are melted one into another. They cannot be moved. His whole body is so firmly compacted together that it is all one piece; the separate parts cannot be moved separately. One result is that the crocodile has great difficulty in turning.
His heart is firm as a stone. Some regard this as intended physically, and note that the great saurians, with their cold and sluggish circulation, have hearts which are comparatively torpid, not contracting or expanding readily. Others take the "stony heart" to mean a fierce and obstinate disposition. In either case, the description will well suit the crocodile. Yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. A repetition and slight exaggeration of the preceding idea.
When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid. Egyptian historians said that one of their early kings had been slain by a crocodile. The worship paid to crocodiles in some parts of Egypt, and the hatred felt towards them in others, were probably alike inspired by fear. AElian says that, in the districts where crocodiles were worshipped, it was not safe for any one to wash his feet or to draw water at the.river, and that in the vicinity of some towns people did not dare to walk along the bank of the stream ('Nat. An.,' 10.24). In modern times they have been known to precipitate men from the bank into the water by a sweep of their tail, and then to devour them at their leisure. By reason of breakings they purify themselves; rather, they are confounded. The "breakings" may by either the breakings forth of the animal from his lair among the Nile rushes, or his "breaking" of the weapons of his assailants.
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold. It either makes no impression or it snaps in his hand. Equally vain are the spear, the dart, and the javelin. Habergeon is a mistranslation.
He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass (rather, bronze) as rotten wood. Even the hardest metals are useless against the crocodile. Moderns observe that even firearms are of little avail against him. The back and tail, at any rate, resist musket-balls (Bochart); and a rifle-bullet will glance aside if it strikes one of the scales (Tristram); see Job 41:15.
The arrow cannot make him flee; literally, the son of the bow (comp. Lamentations 3:13, where arrows are called "sons of the quiver"). Sling-stones are turned with him into stubble. (On "stubble" as a metaphor for weakness, see above, Job 21:18, and compare the next verse.)
Darts are counted as stubble; rather, the club is counted as stubble. Maces, either of hard wood or of metal, were used by the Assyrians. They had heavy heads, and were quite as effective weapons as either swords or spears. If a strong man could have succeeded in dealing a blow with one on the head of a crocodile, it would probably have proved fatal; but intending assailants were doubtless charged, and scattered "as stubble," before they could find opportunity to strike. He laugheth at the shaking of a spear; rather, at the rushing of the javelin (see the Revised Version).
Sharp stones are under him; rather, jagged potsherds are under him; i.e. "his belly is covered with jagged scales"—a thing which is true of the crocodile, but scarcely of any other beast. He spreadeth sharp pointed things (rather, a threshing-wain, or a corn-drag) upon the mire. He leaves on the mud on which he has lain, i.e.' an impression as of an Oriental threshing-wain, or corn-drag, which is "a thick plank of timber, stuck full on the under side, of flints or hard cutting stones arranged in the form of the palate or rough tongue of a cow". The mud-banks on which crocodiles have been lying are said to be scored all over with such impressions.
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot. The rush of the crocodile through the water of the stream or pool in which he dwells causes a stir and a commotion which is forcibly compared to the boiling of water in a caldron. He maketh the sea like a pot of ointment. It is generally allowed that by "the sea" here is meant the Nile, as in Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 19:5; and Nahum 3:8. The swirl of the Nile, as the crocodile makes his rush, is like the heaving of a pot of boiling oil or ointment
He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary. He leaves a white trail behind him as he passes from sand-bank to sand-bank through the shallows. It is as if the Nile had grown old and put on hoar hairs.
Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear (comp. Job 41:24-29).
He beholdeth all high things He looks without fear on everything that is high and great. Nothing alarms him; nothing disturbs his equanimity. He is a king over all the children (literally, sons) of pride (comp. Job 28:8). He feels himself superior to all other animals that come within his ken. They may be "sons of pride," but he has more to be proud of than the proudest of them. Ordinarily, the lion poses as "the king of beasts;" but here he is, as it were, deposed, and relegated into the second position (Job 38:39), the crocodile being exalted into his place. From different points of view, there are several great beasts which might be regarded as the lords of the animal creation.
Jehovah to Job: the second answer: 3. Concerning leviathan.
I. THE ANIMAL INTENDED.
1. A serpentine creature. This implied in the name leviathan, which signifies "a wreathed or twisted animal," as distinguished from the tannin, or "long-extended monsters" (Genesis 1:21).
2. An aquatic monster. Though amphibious as to its habits, the behemoth was essentially a land animal; the entire description of leviathan points to a tenant of the deep (verses l, 2, 31, 32).
3. A gigantia crocodile. Believed by earlier interpreters to be the whale, it is now commonly accepted as the crocodile, which, equally with behemoth, frequented the Nile.
II. THE MONSTER DESCRIBED.
1. Its untamable ferocity. (Verses 1-9.) The idea is presented in a variety of ways.
(1) The impossibility of catching the animal is his tongue with a cord exhibited. Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or which thou lettest down?' literally, "or with a cord pressest thou down his tongue," The meaning is that the crocodile cannot be caught like a fish; hence men cannot do with it as fishers do with fish, "put a hook [literally, 'a rope of rushes'] into his nose, or bore his jaw through with a thorn," rather "with a hook or ring "—the allusion being to the Egyptian mode of dealing with fish that have been caught. "They passed the stalk of a rush through the gills, and thus attached them together, in order more conveniently to carry them home'.
(2) The impossibility of utilizing the animal is next represented. "Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?" in order to be spared when caught?—persuading thee, perhaps, that thou canst turn him to good and profitable account. Well, what canst thou make of him? A bond-servant like one of the domesticated animals? "Will he make a covenant with thee, to take him as a perpetual slave?"—a toy or plaything for thyself or children? "Wilt thou play with him as a little bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?" an article of trade for the merchants? Wilt thou kill him and cut him up for the fish-market? "Shall the companions [literally, ' the partners,' i.e. of the fish-guild] banquet of him [or rather, as the parallel shows, ' trade upon or with him ']? shall they part him among the merchants?" literally, "the Canaanite" or Phoenician merchants.
(3) The impossibility of destroying him is further portrayed. "Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish-spears?" Nay, wert thou only to lay thine hand upon him, thou shouldst have speedy cause to repent thy rashness; "thou shouldest remember the battle" so decidedly that thou wouldst not care to repeat it. Nay, the hope of any assailant being able to prevail against the formidable creature is absolutely vain, the very sight of it being such as to fill one with dismay. Probably no one in Job's time had ever thought of attacking the monster, although crocodiles were caught in Egypt prior to the days of Herodotus.
2. Its terrifying aspect. (Verses 12-24.) Jehovah invites attention to three points: the parts of the animal, i.e. the separate limbs or members; the power of the brute, i.e. the great strength of which it is possessed; and the comely proportion of the creature, i.e. the beauty of his armour, or hide.
(1) The limbs of the animal. Its massive jaws set round with a twofold row of teeth: "Who can come to him with [or, 'within'] his double bridle?" i.e. who can enter within his double teeth, which "are terrible round about"? Its mouth emitting violent puffs of hot breath: "Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth." Its nostrils sneezing as it lies basking in the sun: "By his neesings a light doth shine." Its eyes flashing in the morning light as they rise above water. "His eyelids are like the eyelids of the morning;" i.e. they appear first above the water, intimating that the creature's body is about to rise as the first streaks of dawn announce the approach of day. Hence to describe the dawn the Egyptians depict two eyes of the crocodile.
(2) The strength of the brute. "In his neck remaineth strength," so that "sorrow rejoiceth before him" (margin), which falls below the original—"On his neck strength dwells, and horror danceth before him," meaning that wherever the monster appears he spreads consternation before him, which is represented by a lively poetic fancy as if those who ran before the animal were dancing before him. The effect of his appearance is likewise vividly portrayed. "When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves," literally, "from (or by) breakings" i.e. the breakings forth of the creature from his lair, they miss the way, becoming utterly confounded in presence of the huge brute.
(3) The comely proportion of the creature. The impenetrable hide of the crocodile is one of its most characteristic features. Jehovah describes its close-fitting scales, which, like strong shields soldered together (verse 15), are so close that no air can come between (verse 15), and so fast together that they cannot be sundered (verse 17), and so impervious that "darts are counted as stubble, and he laugheth at the shaking of a spear" (verses 26-29). Even the under parts of this creature's body, unlike those of other animals, are compact and firm (verse 23), being furnished also with splinters of potsherd, i.e. sharp scales, so that on the mud-bank where it lies it leaves the impression of a threshing-sledge (verse 30); while its "heart is firm as a stone; yea, as a piece of the nether millstone" (verse 24).
3. Its impetuous movement. One who saw two alligators fighting says "that their rapid passage was marked by the surface of the water as if it were boiling" (verse 23). The animal also moves with such velocity as to leave behind it a bright white trail of foam, as if the deep were hoary (verse 32).
4. Its incontestable supremacy. "Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear." Hence all other creatures shrink before him. "He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride," i.e. over all other beasts of prey.
III. THE LESSON INDICATED.
1. The impossibility of contending with God. If no man can hope successfully to encounter a crocodile, how foolish must it be to think of striving against God (verse 10)!
2. The sovereignty of God's procedure in the world. If God in fashioning so wonderful a beast had acted solely on his own irresponsible will, was it not probable that he might in the same manner act in connection with man (verse 11)?
3. The probability of God's works in providence being marked by wisdom. If in the structure of a crocodile there was so much appearance (and reality) of design, it was not surely unreasonable to hope that the same characteristic of design would not be absent from the Creator's doings in the higher realm of intelligence.
4. The likelihood of finding mysteries in God's dealings with men. If Job had been asked to say why God had made so ferocious a beast, he could not have done so. It is doubtful if any one can satisfactorily explain the introduction of carnivorous animals among other peaceful creatures. Why, then, should there not be found enigmas in the higher world of human life?
1. The great power of God, who can control the fiercest of creatures.
2. The weakness of man, whom an unreasoning animal can affright.
3. The wisdom of faith, which always trusts where it cannot understand.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Description of the leviathan, or crocodile.
The description is in two parts.
I. The first part shows THE DIFFICULTY OR WELL-NIGH IMPOSSIBILITY OF CIRCUMVENTING AND CAPTURING THIS HUGE AND SLIPPERY CREATURE. (Job 41:1-7.) In language of irony and almost of taunt this fact is set forth. Here, then, is a mere creature of God before which man must feel his helplessness. If man cannot overcome the creature, how much less shall he pretend to vie with the Creator, make his imperfect will the rule of the world, and bend the pride of the wicked beneath him?
II. The second part (Job 41:8-34) is A DESCRIPTION IN DETAIL OF THE PARTS, THE ORGANS, THE TERRIBLE ASPECT, THE FURY, THE OBSTINATE POWER OF DEFENCE, AND THE PROUD DOMINION OF THIS TERRIBLE CREATURE OVER ALL OTHERS IN HIS RIVER-HAUNTS. Without at all straining the language or the sense, the crocodile may be regarded as the type or allegory of the wicked—in his destructive fierceness and passion, his callousness, his place of pride and worldly defences—the alarm and confusion which he spreads around him. So fearful and so real does wickedness seem in the high places of the earth. Inwardly, the good man may escape from its power and influence; outwardly, he seems exposed to its baneful sway, and seeks in vain for dominion over it. The leviathan is the symbol of those "kings of the children of pride." The conquest over the kingdoms of force and fraud is reserved for the Divine might of righteousness alone.
The great lesson of this chapter is, then, that almighty power and justice are inseparable. Separate in thought for a moment these principles, and imagine either without the other to be associated with the nature of God, and we have a world that is horrible to contemplate—a world where force without right is the only law, or a world where right is ever vainly struggling against force. Put these cases before the mind, and we at once see that they are not only dreadful but impossible alternatives, Neither is that human world, in which, with all its mysteries and seeming inconsequences, pious and dutiful souls are thankful and content to live, the world that is firmly and broadly based upon the eternal will of absolute power and justice. Thus, too, we are taught the truth concerning ourselves. Till we know both our weakness and our moral frailty, we know nothing truly about ourselves. To be conscious of impotence in presence of evil is to confess that we are unrighteous. And this leads to that humble conviction of dependence in which is the great root of piety. Dependence, in the natural and in the moral life, is the law of our being. In the recognition of it, in the acceptance of those relations and the fulfilment of those duties which the gospel builds upon this foundation, consists man's health and peace. The thought of a God who is mere arbitrary power, as the gods and fates of the heathen, can never inspire loving trust or holiness. The thought of a God who is just, but not all-powerful, so that he cannot carry out his righteous purposes (as in ancient Manichaeism and in the strange theory, e.g; of J. S. Mill), can never support the feeble soul in the midst of the temptations of the world, in its struggle against evil. The foundation laid in Zion is built of no such crumbling material; it is raised upon a truth on which to rest is to be secure from disturbance, for upon it all the history of time and the life of mankind are built.
"Praise, everlasting praise, be paid
To him that earth's foundations laid;
Praise to the Lord whose strong decrees
Sway the creation as he please."
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Leviathan the terrible.
This terrible monster has a whole chapter to himself. His portrait is painted on a broad canvas, and it is as full of life and movement as it is of form and colour. Representing the crocodile, though enlarged and idealized, leviathan is a picture of the most terrible of the works of nature.
I. THERE ARE TERRIBLE THINGS IN NATURE. When we look at the cruel jaws of the crocodile, gaping in readiness for its prey, and the little snake-like eyes watching intently, in spite of an inert attitude of body that tempts us to despise the creature as no better than a log of wood, we have before us the mystery of natural terror. Could God have made this horrible monster? Is there something in the animal world like the tares in the field, that an enemy sowed in the night? The unity and harmony of nature forbid such a thought. Moreover, the crocodile has as much right to live as the fish or the calf that it feeds on. Even when it snaps at an innocent and beautiful young creature, it is but fulfilling that great natural instinct of hunger, without which the world would perish. Far more terrible than the crocodile is the old serpent, who brought into the world not natural death, hut sin and the death of the soul.
II. NATURE IS ADVANCING IN BEAUTY AND JOY. Both behemoth and leviathan—the idealized hippopotamus and the idealized crocodile—are survivals of a more ancient order of creatures than those which now inhabit our globe. Geology teaches us that once such creatures, and greater ones, were the chief if not the sole inhabitants of the earth. They are really akin to the huge mastodon, a monster that would dwarf an elephant; and the dinosaurus and ichthyosaurus, in comparison with which the most tremendous reptile of our own day is an insignificant animal. While these monsters crashed through the forests or plunged in the rivers the world was no fit place for man. But since their time God has peopled the earth with a fairer and more docile fauna. At all events, with such animals as now inhabit it, he has made it possible for so weak a being as man to rule the world. The older ugly and fearful creatures remain to bear witness to the past. But by their contrast with the general life of the present they show how God is improving the earth.
III. THE MOST FEARFUL CREATURES HAVE THEIR LIVES ADJUSTED BY GOD. There is poetry in the magnificent description of leviathan, especially because the whole hangs together in harmony. There are no real "freaks of nature." The most eccentric creatures have their spheres. The terror and fury of the lower life of nature is all calmly provided for by God. We may, perhaps, think that something must have been wrong,
"When dragons in their prime
Tare each other in their slime."
To us this fury, this agony of nature, is fearful and mysterious. But in the sight of God it is innocence itself compared with fury of sin and the agony of remorse. The terrible things of nature may possibly prove to have come from some perversion of God's original plan by the influence of evil beings; this, however, is but a will conjecture. But the terrible sin of man is a certain fact, and the evil of the heart from which it springs is worse than the cruel rage of leviathan, just because the human evil is quite out of harmony with the will of God and in direct antagonism to his law.—W.F.A.
The universal rule of God.
This is witnessed to even by leviathan. The splendid terror of the water-master is depicted in order that we may be made to feel in some way how great God must be, who made him and who rules over him.
I. IT INCLUDES THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE. All nature is as much under the hand and power of God to-day as when it first appeared at the dawn of creation. Even the disorder and confusion that have entered into nature have not been able to tear it away from the rule of God. God rules through terror and confusion and death as truly as through beauty and life. God does not confine himself to what we call the spiritual. He is not only concerned with that which, in the narrow sense of the word, we understand as "the religious." He is the great Architect, Mechanic, Engineer, of the universe.
II. IT IS NOT ALWAYS VISIBLE TO MAN. The hand that guides is unseen. The reign of law seems to drive back the reign of God. Thus Matthew Arnold writes—
"The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full and round earth's shore,
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled; But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world."
III. IT IS NOT THE LESS REAL BECAUSE IT IS UNSEEN. We cannot see the guiding hand, but often we can most thankfully detect its presence by the providential result. We may not be able to discern the steersman for the driving spray, but if we have come safely into port we may be sure that he is at-the helm. The reign of law cannot dispense with the rule of God, if God is the great Lawgiver. The most wonderful scientific truth that has been brought home to recent generations is the fixed and uniform system of law in nature. How came this to be so? and how is it that the rigorous laws make for the well-being of God's creatures, as they obviously do? Surely law itself points to a ruling mind. The world is not left to itself, or it would be in chaos. The order of the world throughout, extending to the most distant galaxy of stars, proclaims the universal rule of its one Lord.
IV. IT WILL MAKE ITSELF FELT BY THOSE WHO DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE IT AT PRESENT. Our denial of God's universal rule does not destroy it. We do not abrogate God's laws by ignoring them. The existence of an atheist does not mean the non-existence of God. For the present God waits, giving us our trial, and opportunities for knowing him peaceably and happily. But some day we must behold his throne of glory, if that throne exists at all. Then it will be well for us to have acknowledged it first, and to approach it as his obedient servants coming home from their toil.—W.F.A.
A king over all the children of pride.
This magniloquent title crowns the elaborate description of leviathan, which occupies the whole chapter. It gives us a vivid idea of the supremacy and kinship that are to be found in nature.
I. THERE ARE GRADATIONS OF RANK IN NATURE. Nature is not democratic or communistic. Among her various orders we observe ascending ranks of living creatures. There is a natural aristocracy; there is a natural kingship. All creatures are not endowed alike. Some are gifted with powers that lift them above their fellows. We see the same facts in the human world. All men are not endowed equally. Some have five talents, some two talents, some but one talent. There are men who seem born to rule; power is native to them. Now, these facts may seem to justify a rigid adherence to differences of rank and a repression of efforts to bring about a state of equality. But we must modify the application of them to men in two or three respects.
1. Men are all of one greatly, and are therefore am! brethren, whereas in the animal world we have been considering differences of species.
2. Men have a moral nature, and can discern a higher right than that of might.
3. Men have a religion, which teaches them that their own instincts and wills are to be subordinate to the will of God.
II. THE HIGHEST KINGSHIP IS MENTAL AND MORAL. It is only in a highly rhetorical description that the crocodile, even when idealized, can be described as "a king over all the children of pride," for he does not really rule over the beasts and birds and fishes of the Nile. It is his dragon-like size and form and power that suggest to us an idea of royalty. And what royalty! Here we have the reductio ad absurdum of the kingship of force. It is natural and right in the crocodile, who lives up to his nature. Yet with all his toughness and terror this animal is one of the most senseless of creatures. It is not much to be able to boast of physical supremacy. The born kings of men are the great leaders in the higher life—leaders of thought, as Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Bacon, Newton, Kant; leaders of religious life and conduct, as St. Paul, Athanasius, Luther, Wesley.
III. GOD IS KING OF KINGS. It would be a fearful thing if the power and supremacy that are entrusted to the larger animals had been given to them without limits or restraints. But the kingly animals, the lion and the eagle, as well as leviathan himself, are all obedient subjects of the Lord who rules over all the works of nature. They could not rebel against their Suzerain if they would. Their kingdoms are but satrapies of the grand empire of nature which God rules absolutely. Hence the order of the worm in spite of the power of these monstrous creatures. Man alone is able to rebel. Yet God overrules the rebellion even of the human world, and brings kings to do his will, although they may recognize him as little as leviathan recognizes his Lord and Maker. Thus God gives power within limits. Men of the largest liberty and the highest privileges will be called to account before their supreme Master. Therefore it is for us to look up above all earthly greatness and rule to that perfect kingship and that one supreme authority which has been revealed to us in Christ for the guidance of our lives into the path of loyal obedience.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 41". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany