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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 40

 

 

Verse 1

Job 40:1. Moreover the Lord answered Job — Having first made a little pause to try what Job had to allege in his own defence, or could answer to his questions; and he continuing silent, as being, it seems, astonished at God’s rebukes, or expecting what he would further say, the Lord proceeded with his questions and rebukes. What follows is not said to be spoken out of the whirlwind, and therefore some think God said it in a still, small voice, which wrought more upon Job (as upon Elijah) than the whirlwind did. Though Job had not spoken any thing, yet God is said to answer him: for he knows men’s thoughts, and can return a fit answer to their silence.


Verse 2

Job 40:2. Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? — Shall Job, who presumeth to contend with me in judgment, and to dispute the reasonableness and equity of my proceedings, give me instructions or directions how to govern my creatures? The Hebrew, however, may be rendered, Is it instruction, or learning, or does it indicate instruction or erudition, to contend with the Almighty? An eruditi est? Buxtorf. Is it the part of a well-instructed and wise man? This agrees with Ab. Ezra’s comment, which is, Is it the way of instruction for a man to contend with the Almighty? The words are also capable of being translated, He that disputeth with the Almighty shall be chastised: thus Heath. God’s almightiness is fitly mentioned as an argument of his justice. For how can he be unjust, who, having boundless power and every other perfection in an infinite degree, must necessarily be all-sufficient within himself, and therefore can neither have any inclination to unrighteousness, which is an imperfection, nor any temptation to it, from any need he can have of it to accomplish his designs, which his own omnipotence is sufficient to accomplish, or from any advantage that can accrue to him by it? He that reproveth God — That boldly censureth his ways or works; let him answer it — Or, answer for it; or, he shall answer for it, that is, it is at his peril.


Verses 3-5

Job 40:3-5. Then Job answered — Job, whose confusion had made him silent, at length answered with great humility, and said, Behold I am vile — I am a mean, sinful, and wretched creature, and not worthy to speak unto thy majesty; nor do I know what to answer. I will lay my hand upon my mouth — I will, for the future, check and suppress all passionate thoughts that may arise in my mind, and, by keeping my mouth, as it were, with a bridle, will prevent them from breaking out in intemperate speeches. I will humbly and willingly submit myself to thee. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer — Or speak again. I confess my fault and folly, and will contend no more with thee. Yea, twice — That is, oft-times, or again and again, the definite number being used indefinitely. I will proceed no further In such bold and presumptuous expressions, and accusations of thy providence toward me. Vain, therefore, are the excuses which some interpreters make for Job, as if he were faultless in his foregoing speeches, when both God charges him with blame therein, and Job himself confesses that he was blameable.


Verse 6

Job 40:6. Then answered the Lord out of the whirlwind — Which was renewed when God renewed his charge upon Job, whom he intended to humble more thoroughly than he had yet done. This and the next verse are repeated out of Job 38:1; Job 38:3, where the reader will find them explained.


Verse 8

Job 40:8. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? — Wilt thou take exceptions to what I say and do, and not only call in question and dispute, but even censure, condemn, and endeavour to make void, my judgment? — My sentence against thee, and my government and administration of human affairs. God’s judgment cannot, must not, be disannulled, for we are sure it is according to truth, and therefore it is a great piece of impudence and iniquity in us to call it in question. Wilt thou condemn me, &c.? — Must my honour suffer for the support of thy reputation? Must I be charged as dealing unjustly with thee, because thou canst not otherwise clear thyself from the censures that thou liest under? Must I be represented as unrighteous, and be condemned, that thou mayest seem to be righteous, and be justified? Our duty is to condemn ourselves, that God may be righteous. David was, therefore, ready to own the evil he had done in God’s sight, that God might be justified when he spake, and clear when he was judged, Psalms 51:4 : see Nehemiah 9:33; Daniel 9:7. But those are very proud, and very ignorant, both of God and themselves, who, to clear themselves, will condemn God. And the day is coming when, if the mistake be not rectified in time by repentance, the eternal judgment will be both the confutation of the plea, and the confusion of the prisoner; for the heavens shall declare God’s righteousness, and all the world shall become guilty before him.


Verse 9

Job 40:9. Hast thou an arm like God? — Hast thou, a poor, weak worm of the earth, an arm comparable to his, who upholdeth all things? The power of creatures, even of angels themselves, is derived from God, limited by him, dependant on him; but the power of God is original, independent, and unlimited: he can do every thing without us; we can do nothing without him; and therefore we have not an arm like God. The meaning is, Thou art infinitely short of God in power, and therefore in justice: for all his perfections are equal and infinite. Injustice is much more likely to be in thee, an impotent creature, than in the Almighty God; see on Job 40:2. Canst thou thunder with a voice like him? — No: his voice will soon drown thine; and one of his mighty thunders will overpower and overrule thy weak speeches. Therefore do not presume to contend with him.


Verses 10-14

Job 40:10-14. Deck thyself with majesty, &c. — Seeing thou makest thyself equal, yea, superior to me, take to thyself thy great power, come and sit in my throne, and display thy divine perfections in the sight of the world. These and the following are ironical expressions, to make Job more sensible of his distance from, and subjection to God. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath — Inflict heavy judgments on thy enemies, the Chaldeans, and Sabeans, and others who have injured or provoked thee. Behold every one that is proud, and abase him — Destroy him with an angry look, as I can do, and delight to do, with such persons. Tread down the wicked in their place — Either, 1st, Wherever they are; or, 2d, Where they are in their greatest strength and glory, and therefore are most secure and confident; or, 3d, Forthwith upon the spot, that the quickness and immediateness of the stroke may discover that it comes from a divine hand. Hide them in the dust together — Kill every one of them at one blow. Bind their faces — Condemn or destroy them. He alludes to the manner of covering the faces of condemned persons and of dead men. In secret — Either secretly, with a secret and invisible stroke, that it may appear to come from the hand of God, or in a secret place: that is, bury them in their graves. Then will I confess unto thee, &c. — That thou art my equal, and mayest venture to contend with me.


Verse 15

Job 40:15. Behold now behemoth — The word properly means beasts, and is so understood by the LXX., whose interpretation of the verse is, ιδου θηρια παρα σοι, χορτυν ισα βουσιν εσθιουσιν, Behold the beasts with thee, they eat grass, like oxen. According to Ab. Ezra, and the Targum, it is the name of any great beast. But R. Levi says, bestiam esse specialem, that it is an animal peculiarly called by that name. This, indeed, is probable from what follows, namely, His strength is in his loins: he moveth his tail, &c., and though the word, according to the termination oth, be strictly a plural in the feminine gender, yet we sometimes find it irregularly used for a singular. Thus, Psalms 73:22. So foolish was I, &c., I was, behemoth, a beast before thee. But the great question is, What beast it meant? The ancient and most generally received opinion has been, that it is the elephant. Thus Buxtorf, Singulariter, capitur pro elephante proper ingentem magnitudinem, It is taken in the singular number for the elephant, because of its vast greatness. “And I confess,” says Henry, “I see no reason to depart from the opinion, that it is the elephant that is here described, which is a very strong, stately creature, of a very large stature, above any other, and of wonderful sagacity, and of such great reputation in the animal kingdom, that, among so many four-footed beasts as we have had the natural history of, chap. 38. and 39., we can scarce suppose this should be omitted.” They who understand this of the elephant, take the following animal, called leviathan, for the whale; observing, that as these are two of the goodliest and vastest creatures which God hath made, the one of the land, the other of the sea, and withal such as the description here given, for the most part, manifestly agrees to, it is most probable they are here intended. But some later and very learned men take the leviathan to be the crocodile, and the behemoth to be a creature called the hippopotamus, or river-horse, which may seem to be fitly joined with the crocodile, both being very well known to Job and his friends, as being frequent in the adjacent places, both amphibious, living and preying both in the water and upon the land, and both being creatures of great bulk and strength. Dr. Dodd, who is of opinion that Bochart has proved to a demonstration that the behemoth is the hippopotamus, has presented us with two descriptions, one from the ancients, and the other from a modern, who saw the creature; which descriptions, he thinks, may serve instead of a commentary upon the passage. The ancient is Achilles Tatius, who thus describes the animal: “Some persons chanced to meet with, and take a river monster, which was very remarkable. The Egyptians call it the river-horse, or horse of the river Nile; and it resembles a horse, indeed, in its feet and body, excepting that its hoofs are cloven. Its tail is short, and without hair, as well as the rest of the body. Its head is round, but not small; its jaws, or cheeks, resemble those of a horse; its nostrils are very large, and breathe out a vapour like smoke; its mouth is wide, and extends to the temples; its teeth, especially those called the canine, are curved like those of a horse, both in their form and situation, but thrice as large. It is a very voracious animal, and would consume the produce of a whole field. It is very strongly made all over, and its skin so hard that it is impenetrable to any weapon.” The modern traveller is the Sieur Thevenot, who saw one of these animals at Cairo. “This animal,” says he, “was of a tan colour; its hind parts resembled those of an ox, or buffalo, excepting that its feet were shorter and thicker; in size it is equal to a camel; its snout, or nose, is like that of an ox, and its body twice as big; its head resembles that of a horse, and is of the same size; its eyes are small; its crest is very thick; its ears are small; its nostrils very wide and open; its feet are very thick, pretty large, and have each four toes, like those of a crocodile; its tail is small, without any hair, like that of an elephant; its lower jaw has four large teeth, about half a foot long, two of them crooked, and as thick as the horns of an ox, one of which is on each side of the throat; beside these, it has two others, which are straight, of the same thickness as those which are crooked, and project forward.” “The river-horse,” says the doctor,” shelters himself among the reeds; and the behemoth is said to be in the coverts of the reeds and fens, and to be compassed about with the willows of the brook. The river-horse feeds upon the herbage of the Nile; and the behemoth is said to eat grass as an ox. No creature is known to have stronger ribs than the river-horse; and the bones of the behemoth are as strong pieces of brass, like bars of iron.” See Lowth’s Notes on his sixth Prelection, 8vo. edit.


Verse 16

Job 40:16. His strength is in his loins — He hath strength answerable to his bulk, but he is of a mild disposition, and his strength, by God’s wise and merciful providence, is not an offensive strength, consisting in, or put forth by, horns or claws, as it is in ravenous creatures, but only defensive, and seated in his loins. And his force is in the navel of his belly — From hence Bochart argues that behemoth cannot be the elephant, as is generally supposed: because the strength of an elephant consists not in his belly; for though his hide on the back is very hard, yet on the belly it is soft. And therefore the rhinoceros, contending with him, aims chiefly at his paunch, knowing, as it were, that to be a soft place, and more capable of being injured. On the other hand, the description, he urges, agrees well with the hippopotamus, which is remarkable, both for the strength of his belly and navel, as well as other parts of his body; the skin being so firm and thick as to be almost impenetrable, and able to resist the force of spears and darts.


Verse 17

Job 40:17. He moveth his tail like a cedar — Though the tail be but short, both in the elephant, and in the hippopotamus; yet, when it is erected, it is exceeding stiff and strong. The sinews of his stones, &c. — Rather, of his thighs, as the Hebrew may be rendered. The thighs and feet of the river- horse are so sinewy and strong that one of them is able to break or overturn a large boat.


Verse 18-19

Job 40:18-19. His bones — Under which title are comprehended his ribs, (as the LXX. here render it,) and his teeth; are as strong pieces of brass — Exceeding hard and strong. Such they are both in the elephant and river- horse. He is the chief of the ways of God — That is, of God’s works, namely, of that sort, or among living and brute creatures. This is eminently and unquestionably true of the elephant, in regard of his vast bulk and strength, joined with great activity; and especially of his admirable sagacity, and aptness to learn; and of his singular usefulness to man, his lord and master; and many other commendable qualities. And the hippopotamus also is, in some sort, the chief, or one of the chief, of God’s works, in regard of his bulk, which, say the authors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, “is so great that twelve oxen were found necessary to draw one ashore, which had been shot in a river beyond the Cape of Good Hope; and Hasselquist says, his hide is a load for a camel.” His strength and sagacity also are very remarkable, as well as the manner of his living, both in the water and on the land. But it must be granted, that the elephant exceeds the hippopotamus in many things. Can make his sword to approach unto him Though he be so strong and terrible, yet God can easily subdue, or destroy him, either immediately, or by arming other creatures against him. But, העשׁו יגשׁ חרבו, hagnosho jaggesh charbo, may be properly rendered, He that made him hath applied, or given to him, his sword, or arms, that is, He hath formed him so as to make him appear dreadful and terrible. Heath renders it, He who made him hath furnished him with his scythe, taking the Hebrew word, rendered sword, or scythe, to denote the instrument by which this animal gathers his food. Houbigant’s translation of the clause is, His Creator sharpeneth his crooked tooth.


Verse 20

Job 40:20. The mountains bring him forth food — Though this creature be so vastly large, and require much food, and no man careth for it, yet God provides for it out of his own stores, and makes the desert mountains to afford it sufficient sustenance. This particular of the description seems more applicable to the elephant than the hippopotamus, which, though he fetches his food, in a great measure, from the land, feeding on the herbage on the banks of the Nile, and among the lakes and fens of Ethiopia, through which that river passes, yet can hardly be said to pasture upon the mountains. Both animals consume great quantities of food, and it must be acknowledged to be an instance of the goodness of God that he hath so ordered it that they feed on grass, and the other products of the field, and not on flesh; for if the latter had been their usual food, great multitudes of creatures must have died continually to keep them alive. Where all the beasts of the field play — This is equally applicable both to the elephant and the river-horse. The beasts of the field not only feed securely, but sport themselves by both of them, being taught by experience that they are gentle and harmless, and never prey upon them.


Verse 21-22

Job 40:21-22. He lieth under the shady trees, &c. — Or, He lieth down secretly between the shady trees, under the covert of the reed, and in the fens, Houbigant and Heath. The shady trees cover him — The Hebrew, literally translated, is, The shady trees, ( צללו, tzillo,) his shadow, cover him, or, are his arbour: the willows of the brook, or, as נחל, nachal, is often rendered, of the river, compass him about. Bochart argues, that the elephant is not described here, because he rarely lies down, sed rectus dormit, sleeps standing upright. And he quotes a passage from Marcellinus, exactly parallel to this, to show that it is perfectly applicable to the river-horse, which inter arundines celsas et squalentes nimia densitate cubilia ponit, makes his bed among the lofty reeds and in muddy fens.


Verse 23

Job 40:23. Behold, he drinketh up a river — A great quantity of water, hyperbolically called a river. He swalloweth the waters to such a degree, says Aben Ezra, as to diminish their fulness. This may be fitly applied to the elephant, says Poole, ‘which, because of its great bulk and vehement thirst, drinks a great quantity of water at one draught, as naturalists and historians have observed.” And hasteth not — He does not drink with fear and caution, and sparingly, as the dogs do, who drink at the Nile, for fear of the crocodile; but such is his courage and self-confidence, that he fears no enemy either by water or by land, but drinks securely and freely. He trusteth he can draw up Jordan into his mouth — He drinks as if he designed, or hoped, to drink up the whole river. Bochart and others say that Jordan is put here, by a figure, for any river; but Houbigant is of opinion that Jordan itself is meant, which was not far from the land of Uz, and at which not only many elephants, no doubt, used to drink, but in which it is probable there were river-horses, as well as in the Nile. For, it is supposed, they might come into Jordan from the Dead sea, and into that by subterraneous passages from the Red, or the Mediterranean sea. It may be proper to observe here, that many other learned men who interpret this paragraph of the hippopotamus propose a different translation of this verse: thus, Behold, let the river press him, he will not tremble; he trusteth that he can spout forth Jordan with his mouth. And they paraphrase it thus, No sudden rising of the river, which makes it flow with uncommon violence and fury, gives him any alarm or fear. He is not borne away with the rapidity of the stream from his place, but enjoys himself the same as if the river ran with its usual flow: and, were such a river as Jordan to break forth suddenly from the earth, he would not be terrified; for he trusteth he can throw back its waters from his mouth.


Verse 24

Job 40:24. He taketh it with his eyes — He imagines, when he sees it, that he can take the whole river and drink it up. His nose pierceth through snares — The elephant will not be kept from the water by any snares or impediments, but removes them all by his trunk; and both he and the river- horse securely thrust their snouts deep into the river, through their eagerness to satisfy their thirst. But different constructions are put upon this verse also by learned men. Bochart and several others think the former clause should be read with an interrogation, thus, Who will, or who can take him in his eyes? That is, while he sees them, and is sensible what they are about: or openly, and by manifest force? Surely none. His force and strength are too great for men to resist and overcome, and therefore they are compelled to make use of many wiles and stratagems to take him; which is true, both of the elephant and of the hippopotamus. And the latter clause is rendered by Heath, Can cords be drawn through his nose? and by Houbigant, Can his nose be perforated with hooks? “The way of taking these animals,” (the hippopotami,) says Dr. Dodd, “as related by Achilles Tatius, will explain this passage. The huntsmen, having found the places where they haunt, dig a trench or ditch, which they cover with reeds and earth, having placed underneath a wooden chest whose lids are opens like a folding-door, on each side, to the height of the cavity; after this they conceal themselves, watching till the beast is taken; for as soon as ever it treads on the surface of the hole, it is sure to fall to the bottom. The huntsmen run up immediately to the cavity and shut down the lids, and by these means catch the beast, which could not be taken by any other method, on account of its prodigious strength.” The latter clause of the verse signifies literally, Canst thou bore his nose with cords? But this kind of boring is made by a hook, in order to insert a cord to lead the creature about with pleasure. It is very remarkable, that this cord in the ox’s nose serves instead of a bit to guide him. This Thevenot confirms in his Voyage to Indostan, where, having mentioned that oxen are used instead of horses for travelling, he adds, “These creatures are managed like our horses, and have no other bits or bridles than a cord which passes through the tendon of their nose or nostrils.” So that this boring his nose and introducing a cord were not to take, but to keep him, in order to make him serviceable when taken. — Heath. I would just observe upon this and the following description, that nervous and excellent as they are, they do not strike us with the same degree of admiration as the foregoing description of the horse, because we are not so well acquainted with the nature of the animals described. Dr. Young renders the last two verses of this chapter thus:

“His eye drinks Jordan up, when fired with drought,

He trusts to turn its current down his throat:

In lessen’d waves it creeps along the plain,

He sinks a river, and he thirsts again.”

The reader who can have access to the Encyclop. Brit. may there find a full account both of the elephant and the hippopotamus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 40:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/job-40.html. 1857.

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