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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 41



Verse 1


α. Leviathan — his intractableness and invincibility, Job 41:1-11.

a. If Job be what he professes to be, let him catch, tame, and reduce to perpetual servitude leviathan, and in full confidence enter into contract with the merchants to deliver unto them on demand, leviathan: if he feel himself impotent to essay such an enterprise as this, he may form some idea of the folly of contending with Him who made leviathan, and of his foolhardiness in summoning a being of such power and wisdom to the tribunal of human judgment, Job 41:1-7.

1. Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook? — According to the almost unanimous opinion of recent commentators, the term leviathan is here used of the crocodile. See Excursus VIII. This animal, together with the hippopotamus, formerly abounded in the Nile; and it is possible that both, in very ancient times, were to be found in some of the rivers of Palestine, though rarely, we may assume, because of the comparative smallness of these rivers. It is supposed by some that the lengthy description given of these monsters is due to their being entirely unknown, except by vague report, to the people among whom Job lived, and that this is the ground for their having been selected for the climactical closing of the object lessons from nature, set before Job by his Creator. But the lesson would have been none the less impressive on the supposition that, now and then, one of these monsters should have been seen among the marshes either of the Jordan, of Merom, of the Wady Zerka, or of the lower portions of Esdraelon, in which the crocodile would have enjoyed a decided vantage ground in case of any effort to take or destroy him. Dr. Tristram speaks of various reports of the existence of the crocodile in the Wady Zerka or “Blue River,” on the plain of Sharon, a little to the south of Carmel, and says, “I have not the smallest doubt that some few specimens of this monster reptile, known to the natives under the name of timsah, still linger among the marshes of the Zerka. This is undoubtedly the Crocodile River of the ancients, and it is difficult to conceive how it should have acquired the name, unless by the existence of the animal in its marshes.… The crusading historians mention the existence of the crocodile in their day in this very river.… When we observe the strong affinity between the herpetological and ichthyological fauna of Egypt and Palestine, there is scarcely more reason to doubt the past existence of the crocodile in the one, than its present continuance in the other.” — The Land of Israel, 103, 104. “There is nothing,” says Zockler, “to forbid the assumption that instead of the Egyptian crocodile, (or, at least, along with it,) the author had in view a Palestinian species or variety of the same animal, which is no longer extant, and that this Palestinian crocodile, just because it was rarer than the saurian of the Nile, was, in fact, held to be impossible of capture.” See Pierrotti, (Cust. and Trad. of Palestine, pp. 33-39;) also Dr. Robinson, (Phys. Geog., p. 175,) who remarks that “it does not appear that any person, either native or foreigner, has ever himself actually seen a living crocodile in this region.” These animals belong to the class of saurian reptiles, crocodilidae, and sometimes attain to the enormous length of thirty or even thirty-five feet. AElian relates that during the reign of Psammetichus a crocodile was seen of more than thirty-seven feet, and speaks of another under Amasis more than thirty-nine feet in length. (Larcher’s Herodotus, 1:283.) Sonnini and Captain Norden declare, that they have been sometimes met with in the Nile, fifty feet in length. They are of a bronzed green color, speckled with brown; are covered with bony plates in six rows of nearly equal size all along the back, giving it the appearance of Mosaic; they have as many as sixty vertebrae. The head is oblong, about half as broad as it is long; there are, according to Oken, fifteen teeth on each side of the lower jaw, and eighteen on each side of the upper. “Naturalists,” says Chabas, cited by Delitzsch, “count five species of crocodiles living in the Nile, but the hieroglyphics furnish a greater number of names determined by the sign of the crocodile.” There was certainly a great variety of species of this monster, and some which differ from all living species have, according to Delitzsch, also actually been found in Egyptian tombs. This animal is exceedingly fierce, wily, and treacherous, and its destructive voracity may be symbolized by the immense size of its mouth.

Canst thou draw תמשׁךְ, timshok. This, the first word in this abrupt and startling introduction of leviathan, appears without the mark of interrogation, unless, with Hitzig, we find it in the א, nose, with which the preceding description closes, and which also signifies “even,” “yea even,” and in ironical affirmation is used with the force of a question, as in the sneering remark of the serpent to Eve, Genesis 3:1, which commences with an א “really?” “is it really so?” Compare 1 Samuel 14:30; Habakkuk 2:5. In the opinion of some there is peculiar reason for the use of this word timshok, from the fact that the Egyptian hieroglyph msuh for crocodile, (Coptic, temsah; Arabic, timsah,) had not been Hebraized, and they (Ewald, Delitzsch, and Dillmann) find in the likeness of the Hebrew verb and the Egyptian noun, a possible play upon words: but all such constrained allusion is rather a play of critical fancy, and is unworthy of the occasion. The employment of the Hebrew verb may, possibly, serve as a finger pointer to the animal intended by livyathan.

With a hook — The hhakkah was a draw net, (Delitzsch, Hitzig,) or, according to Ewald and Furst, an ordinary fishhook. Literally: Thou drawest out leviathan with a hoop net! Job’s moral prowess must have received a severe shock as the intensified irony of this verse — which, with great significance, waited not for an interrogation particle — burned down into his soul.

Or his tongue — It is worthy of special notice, that the wisest naturalists of antiquity, Herodotus, (ii, 68,) Aristotle, Plutarch, (De Iside., 75,) Pliny, (H. N., 8:37,) etc., either denied that the crocodile had a tongue, or, in the case of Pliny, any use for it; while the text unpretendingly assumes its existence, indicating a minuteness of knowledge upon natural subjects, which should make modern naturalists wary of questioning the poet’s statements, even in a single point. The peculiar form of the question of the text seems to imply special knowledge of the structure of the tongue of the crocodile, which is fleshy and flat, and attached nearly the whole of its length to the jaw. On this account the animal is not able to protrude it forth. Sir Samuel Baker says, “The tongue of the crocodile is so unlike that of any other animal, that it can hardly be called by the same name; no portion throughout the entire length is detached from the flesh of the lower jaw — it is more like a thickened membrane from the gullet, to about half way along the length of the jaw.” — Nile Tributaries, 241.

With a cord which thou lettest down And with a cord dost thou press down his tongue? or “sinkest thou his tongue into the line?” The latter reading, of Schultens, Hirtzel, Delitzsch, is grammatically admissible, but as Dillmann well says, “presents an impracticable idea.” The question rather looks to the compressing of the tongue by some rope of the net alluded to in the preceding clause. The accompanying engraving exhibits a portion of an ancient Egyptian net now in the Berlin Museum. It was of a long form, says Wilkinson, like the common dragnet, with wooden floats on the upper, and leads on the lower, side; but, though it was sometimes let down from a boat, those who pulled it generally stood on the shore, and landed the fish on a shelving bank.


Verse 2

2. A hook — Hebrew, agmon, rush, cord, or reed. (Note, Job 40:21.) Wilkinson (iii, 6) says of the ancient Egyptians, they passed the stalk of a rush through the gills, and thus attached the fish together, in order the more conveniently to carry them home.

Nose — The second word rendered nose is lehi, jaw bone or jaw.

Thorn Hhoahh, either a hook or a thorn. These four questions imply that the huge monster here described was taken with great difficulty at the time the scenes of this book took place. These questions do not contemplate the improvements made in modern times in all kinds of murderous instruments, but simply the relation man sustained in ancient times to this ferocious monster, and “are shaped according to the measure of power man had then obtained over nature.” — Delitzsch. Also, it is the beast as he then existed, in his primitive vigour and in his untamed wildness, that we have to consider, with his wondrous coat of armour and his powerful weapons of attack, which unquestionably made him the terror of beasts and men. In later times (about B.C. 450) Herodotus (ii, 70) describes at large the mode of taking the crocodile in his day.

Verse 3

3. Many supplications unto thee? — That thou mayest set him, a captive, at liberty. The preceding verses evidently refer to the taking of the crocodile alive. Suspended on a rush cord, he is now represented as begging for his life. The ancients fancied that the dolphin, the supposed mortal enemy of the crocodile, would make supplications for its life. Eichhorn’s rendering. “Will he (sincerely) make moan unto thee,” were it correct, might justify his note based on a singular fancy of the ancients, that the crocodile moaned simply that he might entice the wanderer to sure destruction. Thence rises the idea, which, in the form of “crocodile’s tears,” has become proverbial.

Verse 4

4. Will he make a covenant? — The same phrase, כרת ברית, is used in the description in Genesis 15:18, of the covenant between the Lord and Abraham. The phrase means literally, “cut a covenant,” and reappears in the Greek and the Latin, and apparently springs from a like primeval custom common to them all.

A servant for ever — Will he, as a consideration for sparing his life, enter into a covenant of perpetual service? On the hypothesis that this book was written subsequently to the Mosaic economy, there may be in the phrase “servant for ever,” an allusion to the mode by which Israelitish servants covenanted to serve for ever. Exodus 21:6.

Verse 5

5. As with a bird — Catullus (ii, 1) speaks of “the sparrow, the delight of my girl.” Generically, the crocodile was probably the most untamable of animals, and yet even they have now and then been tamed to do the will of man. A Roman statue now in the British Museum represents an Egyptian tumbler performing on the back of a crocodile, as exhibited in the theatre at Rome. See note on Job 3:8; and Sharpe’s Bible Texts, page 96.

Verse 6

6. The companions חברים . There can be but little question that the word refers to partners in trade. Compare Luke 5:7-10. Fishermen in ancient Egypt were banded together in fraternities or guilds. Ruppell (Reisen, 1:254) speaks of the existence of such fraternities in Abyssinia, even at the present day.

Make a banquet of him? — (Septuagint, Targum, Schultens;) but better, traffic in him, (Ewald, Delitzsch, Zockler,) a meaning for karah which corresponds with the Arabic kara, “to buy,” also with the Sanscrit kri, (kara;) and at the same time helps to confirm the rendering of the same word in Job 6:27, on which see note. The mention of “merchants” in the next clause substantiates such an interpretation, notwithstanding it is against the view of Gesenius and Conant, who, with Winer, (Lex., s.v.,) hold to the radical meaning of the word “to dig,” and read: “Will partners dig a pit for him?” But this substantially repeats what had been said before about catching the crocodile with a hook; and while it does violence to the parallelism, it gives an incongruous meaning. Carey follows Schultens in the speculation “that originally passing the contract of a purchase was signified or ratified by some such act as digging, as being perhaps significant that payment of a purchase was originally made in manual labor or tillage.”

Merchants כנענים, literally, Canaanites; unquestionably Phoenicians, who were pre-eminently the merchants of the ancient world. Isaiah, (Isaiah 23:8,) speaking of the merchants of Tyre, calls them, in the Hebrew, “Canaanites.” In Hosea 12:7, Canaan stands as the synonyme of merchant. Homer also speaks of the arrival of a Phoenician merchant, (Φοινιξ,) “skilled in wiles, a greedy knave, working much ill to men.” — Odys., 14:288, 289. These merchants were notorious in the ancient world as slave dealers and kidnappers. The Phoenicians called their primogenitor כנע, (Χνα,) chna, which, according to Sanchoniatho, was changed into Phoenix, thence “Phoenicians.” See Cory’s Anc. Frag., p. 16. A Phoenician coin is still extant bearing the inscription, “Laodicea, Mother in Canaan.” The Septuagint here, as well as frequently elsewhere, renders the word Canaanite, Phoenicians, Φοινικων εθνη. The reference in the text is to caravans like that of the Midianites, which in patriarchal times visited Egypt, bringing back with them various commodities taken in barter. “It is an evidence of the antiquity of this book, unless there is interposed the objection, which grows weaker the more it is studied, that the writer cunningly adapts every thing to the patriarchal times, without ever forgetting himself, or failing in any part of his picture.” — Tayler Lewis.

Verse 7

7. Barbed irons Sukkoth; a general term for pointed weapons.

Fish spears Tsiltsal dagim. At the root of tsiltsal lies the idea of “tinkling,” or “clanging,” and “buzzing,” and is spoken of insects, cymbals, fishing instruments, etc. The spear was evidently hurled from the hand like a harpoon. The weapon was used in taking the life of the hippopotamus. See note, Job 40:24; also, Gesenius, Thesaurus, 1167.

Verse 8

b. If Job by no means dare to stand before the creature, how dare he appear before the Creator, prating of his rights, and urging preposterous claims upon a Being who has received nothing from man, and is, therefore, untrammelled by obligaions; but who is, on the contrary, the sole proprietor of all things, Job 41:8-11. “In these two questions, Who am I? and Who art thou? is expressed the ruling thought of the Almighty’s discourses.” — Hengstenberg.

8. Do no more — The Hebrew may be rendered either as an imperative or as a second person singular. He who enters alone upon an encounter with this monster will not care to try it again.

Verse 9

9. Of him — The rash assailant.

Verse 10

10. Fierce — Zockler renders “foolhardy,” which is not to be preferred to the text, since the same word akzar, fierce, is in Job 30:21 applied by Job to God.

Dare stir him up — The same Hebrew word עור, “stir up,” is used in Job 3:8, of “raising up” leviathan, where it is implied that the only conceivable mode of dealing with him was by incantations — possibly spells of Satan, certainly by power supposed to be derived from the invisible world. See note on Job 3:8 . The coincidence between the two passages should be noted, and is among many similar ones scattered through the Jehovistic section, which point to its integral oneness with the rest of the book. See Excursus VIII, page 281. In an inscription on a tablet at Karnak, Amun Ra thus addresses Thothmes III.: “I have made them behold thy majesty like unto a crocodile: he is the terrible master of the waters: no one ventures to approach him.”

Verse 11

11. Prevented me First given to me. Tyndale’s rendering will express the idea: “Or who hathe given me anye thinge afore hand, that I am bounde to reward him agayne.” Comp. Job 34:13; Isaiah 40:13-15; and Romans 11:35-36. The lengthened description of leviathan is interrupted, that Job may be again reminded of its moral import — that God is governor; that his dominion is world wide, because all belongs to him: that he is under no obligations to his creatures on account of favours received; therefore, if he give, it must be exclusively of grace. “This digression in Jehovah’s speech does not disturb the harmony of the passage. It is an agreeable change, after the long description of the sea monster.” — Umbreit.

Verse 12

β — The divine Speaker resumes the description of leviathan, in order that he may dwell more at large upon the artistic skill and the esthetic wisdom displayed in the making of a reptile whose eyes, mouth, nostrils and breath are a source of terror: and show that even so insignificant a thing as his garment has been exquisitely elaborated, so as to serve the twofold object of covering and martial defence, Job 41:12-22.

12. Conceal his parts — Hebrews, baddim; pass in silence his members. Same as in Job 18:13. See note. The divine Being has thus far spoken of the invincibility of leviathan; he will now speak of his bodily structure and mode of life.

Nor his power — Literally, and the word of powers. דבר, word, Vaihinger understands to mean “fame;” Delitzsch, “proportion.”

Verse 13

13. Who can discover — Rather, uncover, in the sense of lift up, as one would a veil, his outside garment; his closely wrought and scaly coat of mail. The text beautifully calls it his “garment” — לבושׁ — a description of which is given at large, Job 41:15-17. The double bridle — Literally, the double of his bridle, is here used figuratively for the jaws, each of which contained a double row of teeth, numbering, in the upper jaw, as many as thirty-six, and in the lower, thirty; and as they were uncovered by the lip, presenting a frightful appearance. Into his double jaws, who enters?

Verse 14

14. The doors of his face — His mighty jaws, which extend back of his eyes and ears. Martial (iii, 90) jests over a large mouth, and compares it to that of the crocodile of the Nile.

His teeth… terrible — Literally, Round about his teeth is terror: within his teeth terror takes up its abode. The lofty conception of the speaker which clothed the war horse with thunder, (Job 39:19,) now finds within the ugly jaws of leviathan the dwelling place of terror.

Verse 15

15. Scales — Literally, strong shields, (Rosenmuller, Furst;) or, according to others, (Delitzsch, Hitzig,) furrows of the shields. Tristram observes that the whole head, back, and tail are covered with quadrangular horny plates or scales, which not only protect the body, so that a rifle ball glances from them as from a rock, but also serve as ballast, enabling the creature to sink rapidly on being disturbed, by merely expelling the air from its lungs.

Shut up together… a close seal — Each shield fits as closely as the seal to the clay; nay, more closely, as the next verse shows, for no air can penetrate nature’s work; it is airtight. (See note on Job 38:14.)

Verse 16

16. No air Rouahh, used in an active sense for air in motion, and poetically rendered by Scott, “no breath of wind.”

Verse 17

17. Joined one to another — The beauty of the original is lost. Literally, This holds fast to that, (Hitzig,) or “each to its fellow (literally, brother) is firmly attached.”

They stick together — The same word in Job 38:30, was used of the formation of ice.

Verse 18

18. By his neesings a light doth shine — Rather, His sneezings flash forth light. “This delicate observation of nature is here compressed into three words; in this concentration of whole grand thoughts and pictures we recognise the older poet.” — Delitzsch. This animal, as travellers have remarked from the days of Herodotus to the present, delights to he on the sandbank, turning his open jaws to the sun — an act which naturally gives rise to sneezing. The sun’s light, shining through the abundant spray thrown from the nostrils, produces a striking luminous appearance. A like delicate observation of the hippopotamus is made by Dr. Schweinfurth, an African traveller: “In the sunlight the fine spray emitted from their nostrils gleamed like a ray of light.” — Heart of Africa, 2:315. The Jews, according to Buxtorf, (col. 1599,) connect with this text a notion that sneezing saves life by the light which it gives. In keeping with this conceit, the Jews, says Chappelow, when any one sneezes, say: “A happy life to thee.”

The eyelids of the morning — (See Job 3:9.) The Egyptian made the flashing, cat-like eyes of this animal the symbol of the morning. A passage from Horus-Apollos, who wrote on hieroglyphs about 500 A.D., furnishes a remarkable illustration: “To describe the dawn, the Egyptians depict two eyes of a crocodile, inasmuch as the eyes make their appearance out of the deep before its entire body.”

Verse 19

19. Burning lamps Flames better expresses the root idea of the Hebrew lappidh, and it is the rendering of Gesenius. A forcible figure for the burning, fiery breath.

Verse 20

20. A…

caldron — Thus Hitzig, Delitzsch, etc. The same word, agmon, appears in the second verse, and is here correspondingly read by some, kindled reeds. See note on Job 40:21.

Verse 21

21. His breath kindleth coals — A highly poetical description of the beast when engaged in the pursuit of his prey, or when inflamed with rage. In equally bold and high-wrought figure, Ovid describes a ferocious wild boar: Fulmen ab ore venit, frondesque adflatibus ardent: “Lightning comes from his mouth, and the boughs burn with his breath.”

Verse 22

22. Remaineth — Literally, pass the night, same as in Job 19:4. A literal rendering brings out the personification: —

In his neck lodgeth strength;

Before him runneth terror.

His neck at night is the resting place of strength; terror is his avant-courier by day; “terror bounds before him.” — Renan.

Is turned into joy before him — The Septuagint gives better sense, as it more correctly interprets the original — runs before him. The word דוצ, douts, means “to jump,” “to leap,” and in the Targum is used for “rejoicing,” “leaping for joy:” a sense our translators have entered in the margin. The Arabic name for the Sphinx is “father of terror.”

Verse 23

γ. This section resumes the subject left at Job 41:17, (from which Job 41:18-22 are a digression, setting forth the terribleness of leviathan,) and shows that even the fleshy parts of this monster have been fitted close to it like a metal casting, and his heart made firm as a stone, and that even his path through the mire resembles the impress of a threshing machine; so that he fears neither the assaults of man nor those of the entire brute creation. Monster of monsters! there is not on earth a dominion like his, who is made without fear, and who looketh down upon every high thing, Job 41:23-34.

23. Firm in themselves — Literally, molten upon them. On him is no flabby, pendulous flesh as on other animals; all is welded together as if made of metal.

Verse 24

24. Hard… millstone Hard as the nether millstone. This was, in general, compact and heavy, often made of sandstone, and quite thick, while the upper one, having to be driven round by the hand, was made lighter, and of more porous texture. The hardness spoken of may be the cold, sluggish action of the heart, that characterizes all the saurians, which, on this account, are distinguished as cold-blooded; or the disposition of the reptile, of which AElian says, he is the most pitiless of animals.

Verse 25

25. By reason of breakings — The word שׁברים, from shabar, (Arabic shabara,) “to break,” blends the twofold effect of fear — the breaking down of the nervous force, the morale of the man, and the confounding, the bewildering, of the judgment. Among Orientals terror is expressed by verbs of breaking, as Bochartus has observed.

They purify themselves יתחשׂאו — The meaning of the hithpael form of the verb hhatah is not essentially different from the kal form, commented upon in Job 5:24, (which see,) and may be read, they miss their way; or, according to Delitzsch and Zockler, miss their aim, so confused are these “heroes” by reason of overpowering fear. The word is spoken, says Gesenius, of those who wander from the way, driven into precipitate flight by excessive terror. (Thes., 465.) Like our own translators, who mystified the passage by rendering the word hhatah “purify,” Hengstenberg adopts this secondary meaning of “absolving,” and thinks that in their great fear they betake themselves to God as their only hope, “in other words, repeat a pater noster.” “Absolution (he says) is the means of obtaining help from God.” His views may serve as a gloss upon our Authorized Version, but will not help toward the interpretation of the passage.

Verse 26

26. The sword of him that layeth at him, etc. — If one (literally, he who) reaches him with the sword.

Cannot hold — Literally, stand, stand fast, keep hold.

The spear Hhanith, Delitzsch erroneously supposes to be the long lance, in contradistinction to the kidhon. See on Job 41:29. The dart — Massa’h, from nasa’h. “to move on,” “to hasten,” probably signified some missile. The Septuagint and Targum regard this and the preceding word as one, and render it “spear.”

The habergeon — French, haubergeon. The rendering of our Authorized Version answers to the hauberk, the old Norman armour for the neck, head, and breast, formed of rings. (Dr. Clarke.) The shiryah, of which the Hebrew speaks, was a coat of mail. (Furst.) Others suppose some kind of missile to be meant. “The poet means to say, the defensive weapons, also, are useless, and that the breastplate of the warrior affords no protection against the monster.” — Umbreit.

Verse 27

27. He esteemeth iron as straw — An expression some suppose to refer to the enormous power of the crocodile’s snap. Kitto cites a case which occurred in Ceylon, in which an enraged alligator bit the barrel of a gun completely in two. On the contrary, the text describes the crocodile’s contemptuous disregard of the missiles employed by the ancients in their assaults upon him.

Verse 28

28. The arrow — Literally, the son of a bow. Compare “sons of his quiver,” Lamentations 3:13. See note on chap. 5. 7.


Verse 29

29. Darts Thothahh. Either clubs, battle axe, or bludgeon. (Furst.) The like meaning of the same word in the Arabic favours the first of these definitions. The boomerang, or club-stick, (now called lissan, tongue,) was much in use among the ancient Egyptian soldiers, and, in close combat, was really a formidable weapon, as the experience of modern times sufficiently testifies. It was about two and a half feet long, and made of hard acacia wood. See Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, (P.A., i, p. 365.)

The spear — The kidhon (javelin) or spear was borne upon the shoulder, as in the case of Goliath, (1 Samuel 17:6-7,) and was in common use among the Babylonians and Persians. Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 50:42.

Verse 30

30. Sharp stones — Literally, pieces of potsherd. For description of potsherd, see Job 2:8. AElian, (H.A., 10:24,) also compares the sharp-edged scales, on the under side of the crocodile, to pointed potsherds, οστρακοις καρτεροις.

Sharp pointed things Hharouts, signifies “a threshing sledge;” also “gold;” a sense in which Carey takes it, who remarks “that the crocodile is said to spread gold upon the mud when his tail, the upper part of which is of a saffron colour, trails along, or lies upon, a bed of mud… A kind of seeming incongruity is doubtless intended in the notion of the crocodile spreading gold upon the mud. It is what man would not do.… The crocodile, on the contrary, spreads the gold-entinted portions of his belly and tail on the mud.” The word is almost unanimously accepted to signify an instrument for threshing, and is here used tropically. The impression that the tail of the animal (which is half his length) makes on the mire, is as if a threshing sledge had lain there. “This sledge consisted simply of two planks fastened together side by side, and bent upward in front; precisely as is the common stone-sledge of New England, though less heavy. Many holes are bored in the bottom beneath, and into these are fixed sharp fragments of hard stone.” — Dr. Robinson, ii, p. 307. “This comparison is somewhat ironical, as it is not customary to spread out threshing instruments ‘upon the mire,’ but upon the fruits of the ground.” — Umbreit.

Verse 31

31. The sea — The Arabs still call the Nile bahr, a sea.

Pot of ointment — This figure rests, as some suppose, upon the strong, musk-like odour emitted by the crocodile. “There is a follicle, of the bigness of a hazel nut, under the shoulders of the old crocodiles; this contains a thick matter which smells like musk. The Egyptians are very anxious to get this when they kill a crocodile, it being a perfume much esteemed by the grandees.” — HASSELQUIST, Travels, page 215. The preparation of perfumes, in ancient times, evidently involved the process of boiling. Wilkinson’s statement, that ointment (found in an alabaster vase) two or three thousand years old still retained its odour, seems to indicate a lost art. (Ancient Egyptians, i, p. 34.) A scene which Dr. Livingstone describes gives a curious insight into the habits of the crocodile, and forcibly illustrates this and the following verse: “The corpse of a boy floated past the ship; a monstrous crocodile rushed at it with the speed of a greyhound, caught it, and shook it as a terrier dog does a rat. Others dashed at the prey, each with his powerful tail causing the water to churn and froth as he ferociously tore off a piece. In a few seconds it was all gone.” — Zambesi, p. 477.

Verse 32

32. Hoary — This figure (comparing the foaming water to hair white with age) is one of great dignity, and is common in the classics. For instance, Homer (Iliad, 1:350) speaks of “the hoary sea,” and Moschus of “the hoary deep.” — Id., Job 5:5.

Verse 33

33. Upon earth there is not his like — Thus the Septuagint, Delitzsch, and Umbreit. The word משׁלו, his like, may also signify “his ruler,” (Hitzig, Ewald, etc.,) and the sentence be read literally, There is not on the dust his ruler: among beasts and among men he has no king. The reason is obliquely given for the honour accorded the two monsters, of crowning the tableau held up from nature; the one is a firstling of God’s works; the other is one of nature’s monarchs, which acknowledges no superior.

Verse 34

34. He beholdeth all high things — Without fear he looks in the face of man, the monarch, here standing in contradistinction to the king of beasts, in the second clause. Comp. Job 40:11-12. Children of pride — Rendered “the lion’s whelps,” in Job 28:8. It is here used of the most formidable of beasts, with their characteristically majestic and haughty step. Aben Ezra, however, remarks that בני שׁחצ “is a comprehensive expression, including whatsoever hath its birth in the waters.” That pride should be the last word of this wonderful description is orthy of note; and may help somewhat to solve the mystery of the divine address. The figure with which it closes is a startling one — that of the most fearful of all reptiles — their king, and, as the ancients thought, the embodiment of evil — staring not only at all that is high, but at poor, humbled Job. His pride — if such were his infirmity — is now all broken, and the work of discipline is complete.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 41:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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