Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Job humbles himself before the Lord, Job 40:1-5. And God again challenges him by a display of his power and judgments, Job 40:6-14. A description of behemoth, Job 40:15-24.
Moreover the Lord answered - That is, the Lord continued his discourse with Job. Answered does not refer to any thing said by Job, or any question asked. I think it very likely that this whole piece, from the beginning of this first verse to the end of the fourteenth, was originally the ending of the poem. Mr. Heath has noticed this, and I shall lay his words before the reader: "The former part of this chapter is evidently the conclusion of the poem; the latter part whereof seems to be in great disorder; whether it has happened from the carelessness of the transcriber, or, which appears most probable, from the skins of parchment composing the roll having by some accident changed their places. It is plain from the seventh verse of the forty-second chapter (Job 42:7) that Jehovah is the last speaker in the poem. If, then, immediately after the end of the thirty-ninth chapter, we subjoin the fifteenth verse of the forty-second chapter, and place the fourteen first verses of the fortieth chapter immediately after the sixth verse of the forty-second chapter, and by that means make them the conclusion of the poem, all will be right; and this seventh verse of the forty-second chapter will be in its natural order. The action will be complete by the judgment of the Almighty; and the catastrophe of the poem will be grand and solemn." To these reasons of Mr. Heath, Dr. Kennicott has added others, which the reader may find at the end of the chapter. (Job 40:24) Without taking any farther notice of the transposition in this place, I will continue the notes in the present order of the verses.
He that reproveth God, let him answer it - Let the man who has made so free with God and his government, answer to what he has now heard.
Behold, I am vile - I acknowledge my inward defilement. I cannot answer thee.
I will lay mine hand upon my mouth - I cannot excuse myself, and I must be dumb before thee.
Once have I spoken - See on Job 42:3 (note), etc.
I will proceed no farther - I shall attempt to justify myself no longer; I have spoken repeatedly; and am confounded at my want of respect for my Maker, and at the high thoughts which I have entertained of my own righteousness. All is impurity in the presence of thy Majesty.
Gird up thy loins - See Job 38:1-3. Some think that this and the preceding verse have been repeated here from Job 38:1-3, and that several of the words there, here, and Job 42:3, have been repeated, in after times, to connect some false gatherings of the sheets of parchment, on which the end of this poem was originally written. See on Job 40:1 (note), and at the end of the chapter.
Wilt thou condemn me - Rather than submit to be thought in the wrong, wilt thou condemn My conduct, in order to justify thyself? Some men will never acknowledge themselves in the wrong. "God may err, but we cannot," seems to be their impious maxim. Unwillingness to acknowledge a fault frequently leads men, directly or indirectly, to this sort of blasphemy. There are three words most difficult to be pronounced in all languages, - I Am Wrong.
Hast thou an arm like God? - Every word, from this to the end of Job 40:14, has a wonderful tendency to humble the soul; and it is no wonder that at the conclusion of these sayings Job fell in the dust confounded, and ascribed righteousness to his Maker.
Deck thyself now with majesty - Act like God, seeing thou hast been assuming to thyself perfections that belong to him alone.
Hide them in the dust together - Blend the high and the low, the rich and the poor, in one common ruin. Show them that thou art supreme, and canst do whatsoever thou pleasest.
Bind their faces in secret - This seems to refer to the custom of preserving mummies: the whole body is wrapped round with strong swathings of linen or cotton cloth. Not only the limbs, but the very head, face, and all, are rolled round with strong filleting, so that not one feature can be seen, not even the protuberance of the nose. On the outside of these involutions a human face is ordinarily painted; but as to the real face itself, it is emphatically bound in secret, for those rollers are never intended to be removed.
Thine own right hand can save thee - It is the prerogative of God alone to save the human soul. Nothing less than unlimited power, exerted under the direction and impulse of unbounded mercy, can save a sinner. This is most clearly asserted in this speech of Jehovah: When thou canst extend an arm like God, i.e., an uncontrollable power - when thou canst arm thyself with the lightning of heaven, and thunder with a voice like God - when thou canst deck thyself with the ineffable glory, beauty, and splendor of the supreme majesty of Jehovah - when thou canst dispense thy judgments over all the earth, to abase the proud, and tread down the wicked - when thou canst as having the keys of hell and death, blend the high and the low in the dust together; then I will acknowledge to thee that thy own right hand can save thee. In other words: Salvation belongeth unto the Lord; no man can save his own soul by works of righteousness which he has done, is doing, or can possibly do, to all eternity. Without Jesus every human spirit must have perished everlastingly. Glory be to God for his unspeakable gift!
Behold now behemoth - The word בהמות behemoth is the plural of בהמה behemah, which signifies cattle in general, or graminivorous animals, as distinguished from חיתו chayetho, all wild or carnivorous animals. See Gen 1:24. The former seems to mean kine, horses, asses, sheep, etc., and all employed in domestic or agricultural matters; the latter, all wild and savage beasts, such as lions, bears, tigers, etc.: but the words are not always taken in these senses.
In this place it has been supposed to mean some animal of the beeve kind. The Vulgate retains the Hebrew name; so do the Syriac and Arabic. The Chaldee is indefinite, translating creature or animal. And the Septuagint is not more explicit, translating by θηρια, beasts or wild beasts; and old Coverdale, the cruell beaste, perhaps as near to the truth as any of them. From the name, therefore, or the understanding had of it by the ancient versions, we can derive no assistance relative to the individuality of the animal in question; and can only hope to find what it is by the characteristics it bears in the description here given of it.
These, having been carefully considered and deeply investigated both by critics and naturalists, have led to the conclusion that either the elephant, or the hippopotamus or river-horse, is the animal in question; and on comparing the characteristics between these two, the balance is considerably in favor of the hippopotamus. But even here there are still some difficulties, as there are some parts of the description which do not well suit even the hippopotamus; and therefore I have my doubts whether either of the animals above is that in question, or whether any animal now in existence be that described by the Almighty.
Mr. Good supposes, and I am of the same opinion, that the animal here described is now extinct. The skeletons of three lost genera have actually been found out: these have been termed palaeotherium, anoplotherium, and mastodon or mammoth. From an actual examination of a part of the skeleton of what is termed the mammoth, I have described it in my note on Gen 1:24.
As I do not believe that either the elephant or the river-horse is intended here, I shall not take up the reader's time with any detailed description. The elephant is well known; and, though not an inhabitant of these countries, has been so often imported in a tame state, and so frequently occurs in exhibitions of wild beasts, that multitudes, even of the common people, have seen this tremendous, docile, and sagacious animal. Of the hippopotamus or river-horse, little is generally known but by description, as the habits of this animal will not permit him to be tamed. His amphibious nature prevents his becoming a constant resident on dry land.
The hippopotamus inhabits the rivers of Africa and the lakes of Ethiopia: feeds generally by night; wanders only a few miles from water; feeds on vegetables and roots of trees, but never on fish; lays waste whole plantations of the sugar-cane, rice, and other grain. When irritated or wounded, it will attack boats and men with much fury. It moves slowly and heavily: swims dexterously; walks deliberately and leisurely over head into the water; and pursues his way, even on all fours, on the bottom; but cannot remain long under the water without rising to take in air. It sleeps in reedy places; has a tremendous voice, between the lowing of an ox and the roaring of the elephant. Its head is large; its mouth, very wide; its skin, thick and almost devoid of hair; and its tail, naked and about a foot long. It is nearly as large as the elephant, and some have been found seventeen feet long. Mr. Good observes: "Both the elephant and hippopotamus are naturally quiet animals; and never interfere with the grazing of others of different kinds unless they be irritated. The behemoth, on the contrary, is represented as a quadruped of a ferocious nature, and formed for tyranny, if not rapacity; equally lord of the floods and of the mountains; rushing with rapidity of foot, instead of slowness or stateliness; and possessing a rigid and enormous tail, like a cedar tree, instead of a short naked tail of about a foot long, as the hippopotamus; or a weak, slender, hog-shaped tail, as the elephant."
The mammoth, for size, will answer the description in this place, especially Job 40:19 : He is the chief of the ways of God. That to which the part of a skeleton belonged which I examined, must have been, by computation, not less than twenty-five feet high, and sixty feet in length! The bones of one toe I measured, and found them three feet in length! One of the very smallest grinders of an animal of this extinct species, full of processes on the surface more than an inch in depth, which shows that the animal had lived on flesh, I have just now weighed, and found it, in its very dry state, four pounds eight ounces, avoirdupois: the same grinder of an elephant I have weighed also, and found it just two pounds. The mammoth, therefore, from this proportion, must have been as large as two elephants and a quarter. We may judge by this of its size: elephants are frequently ten and eleven feet high; this will make the mammoth at least twenty-five or twenty-six feet high; and as it appears to have been a many-toed animal, the springs which such a creature could make must have been almost incredible: nothing by swiftness could have escaped its pursuit. God seems to have made it as the proof of his power; and had it been prolific, and not become extinct, it would have depopulated the earth. Creatures of this kind must have been living in the days of Job; the behemoth is referred to here, as if perfectly and commonly known.
He eateth grass as an ox - This seems to be mentioned as something remarkable in this animal: that though from the form of his teeth he must have been carnivorous, yet he ate grass as an ox; he lived both on animal and vegetable food.
His strength is in his loins - This refers to his great agility, notwithstanding his bulk; by the strength of his loins he was able to take vast springs, and make astonishing bounds.
He moveth his tail like a cedar - Therefore it was neither the elephant, who has a tail like that of the hog, nor the hippopotamus, whose tail is only about a foot long.
The sinews of his stones - I translate with Mr. Good, and for the same reasons, the sinews of his haunches, which is still more characteristic; as the animal must have excelled in leaping.
His bones are as strong pieces of brass-bars of iron - The tusk I have mentioned above is uncommonly hard, solid, and weighty for its size.
He is the chief of the ways of God - The largest, strongest, and swiftest quadruped that God has formed.
He that made him - No power of man or beast can overcome him. God alone can overcome him, and God alone could make his sword (of extinction) approach to him.
The mountains bring him forth food - It cannot therefore be the hippopotamus, as he is seldom found far from the rivers where he has his chief residence.
Where all the beasts of the field play - He frequents those places where he can have most prey. He makes a mock of all the beasts of the field. They can neither resist his power, nor escape from his agility. All this answers to what we know of the mammoth, but not at all to the hippopotamus.
He lieth under the shady trees - This and the following verses refer to certain habits of the behemoth, with which we are and must be unacquainted,
The willows of the brook compass him - This would agree well enough with the hippopotamus.
Behold, he drinketh up a river - A similar mode of expression, and of precisely the same meaning, as that in Job 39:24 : "He swalloweth the ground with fierceness." No river can stop his course: he wades through all; stems every tide and torrent; and hurries not as though he were in danger.
He trusteth that he can draw up Jordan - Even when the river overflows its banks, it is no stoppage to him: though the whole impetuosity of its stream rush against his mouth, he is not afraid. Mr. Good has seized the true idea in his translation of this verse: -
"If the stream rage, he revileth not:
He is unmoved, though Jordan rush against his mouth."
From this mention of Jordan it is probable that the behemoth was once an inhabitant of the mountains, marshes, and woods, of the land of Palestine.
He taketh it with his eyes - He looks at the sweeping tide, and defies it.
His nose pierceth through snares - If fences of strong stakes be made in order to restrain him, or prevent him from passing certain boundaries, he tears them in pieces with his teeth; or, by pressing his nose against them, breaks them off. If other parts of the description would answer, this might well apply to the elephant, the nose here meaning the proboscis, with which he can split trees, or even tear them up from the roots! Thus ends the description of the behemoth; what I suppose to be the mastodon or mammoth, or some creature of this kind, that God made as the chief of his works, exhibited in various countries for a time, cut them off from the earth, but by his providence preserved many of their skeletons, that succeeding ages might behold the mighty power which produced this chief of the ways of God, and admire the providence that rendered that race extinct which would otherwise, in all probability, have extinguished every other race of animals! I am not unapprized of the strong arguments produced by learned men to prove, on the one hand, that behemoth is the elephant; and, on the other, that he is the hippopotamus or river-horse, and I have carefully read all that Bochart, that chief of learned men, has said on the subject. But I am convinced that an animal now extinct, probably of the kind already mentioned, is the creature pointed out and described by the inspiration of God in this chapter.
On Job 40:1 of this chapter we have seen, from Mr. Heath's remarks, that the fourteen first verses were probably transposed. In the following observations Dr. Kennicott appears to prove the point. "It will be here objected, that the poem could not possibly end with this question from Job; and, among other reasons, for this in particular; because we read in the very next verse, That after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, etc. If, therefore, the last speaker was not Job, but the Lord, Job could not originally have concluded this poem, as he does at present. "This objection I hold to be exceedingly important; and, indeed, to prove decisively that the poem must have ended at first with some speech from God. "And this remark leads directly to a very interesting inquiry: What was at first the conclusion of this poem? This may, I presume, be pointed out and determined, not by the alteration of any one word, but only by allowing a dislocation of the fourteen verses which now begin the fortieth chapter. Chapters 38, 39, 40, and 41, contain a magnificent display of the Divine power and wisdom in the works of the Creator; specifying the lion, raven, wild goat, wild ass, unicorn, peacock, ostrich, horse, hawk, eagle, behemoth, and leviathan. "Now, it must have surprised most readers to find that the description of these creatures is strangely interrupted at Job 40:1, and as strangely resumed afterwards at Job 40:15; and therefore, if these fourteen verses will connect with and regularly follow what now ends the poem, we cannot much doubt that these fourteen verses have again found their true station, and should be restored to it. "The greatness of the supposed transposition is no objection: because so many verses as would fill one piece of vellum in an ancient roll, might be easily sewed in before or after its proper place. In the case before us, the twenty-five lines in the first fourteen verses of chapter xl. seem to have been sewed in improperly after Job 39:30, instead of after Job 42:6. That such large parts have been transposed in rolls to make which the parts are sewed together is absolutely certain; and that this has been the case here, is still more probable for the following reason: - "The lines here supposed to be out of place are twenty-five, and contain ninety-two words; which might be written on one piece or page of vellum. But the MS. in which these twenty-five lines made one page, must be supposed to have the same, or nearly the same, number of lines in each of the pages adjoining. And it would greatly strengthen this presumption if these twenty-five lines would fall in regularly at the end of any other set of lines, nearly of the same number; if they would fall in after the next set of twenty-five, or the second set, or the third, or the fourth, etc. Now, this is actually the case here; for the lines after these twenty-five, being one hundred or one hundred and one, make just four times twenty-five. And, therefore, if we consider these one hundred and twenty-five lines as written on five equal pieces of vellum, it follows that the fifth piece might be carelessly sewed up before the other four. "Let us also observe that present disorder of the speeches, which is this. In chapters 38 and 39, God first speaks to Job. The end of chapter 39 is followed by, 'And the Lord answered Job and said,' whilst yet Job had not replied. At Job 40:3-5, Job answers; but he says, he had then spoken Twice, and he would add no more; whereas, this was his first reply, and he speaks afterwards. From Job 40:15-41:34 are now the descriptions of behemoth and leviathan, which would regularly follow the descriptions of the horse, hawk, and eagle. And from Job 42:1-6 is now Job's speech, after which we read in Job 42:7, 'After the Lord had spoken these words unto Job!' "Now, all these confusions are removed at once if we only allow that a piece of vellum containing the twenty-five lines, (Job 40:1-14), originally followed Job 42:6. For then, after God's first speech, ending with leviathan, Job replies: then God, to whom Job replies the second time, when he added no more; and then God addresses him the third, when Job is silent, and the poem concludes: upon which the narrative opens regularly, with saying, 'After the Lord had spoken these words unto Job,' etc. Job 42:7." - Kennicott's Remarks, p. 161. The reader will find much more satisfaction if he read the places as above directed. Having ended chapter 29, proceed immediately to Job 40:15; go on regularly to the end of Job 42:6, and immediately after that add Job 40:1-14. We shall find then that the poem has a consistent and proper ending, and that the concluding speech was spoken by Jehovah.