Job 40:15-40:24 Judging Behemoth

…God glorying in behemoth… Job can’t even judge a beast, how dare he judge God? … ‘judge’ includes action as well as reason… more like Judge Dredd than anything else in modern literature… God, grant me the serenity of behemoth…

Job 40:15-40:24

Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.

After more or less chewing Job out, I almost expected God to stop and let Job respond. Yet God continues with two of the most fearsome beasts in the menagerie. Why? What important thing does God still want to say?

Well, one point that comes out almost in passing is that God made (`asah) Job — a verb we saw quite often in Genesis 1. God is asserting his authorship over both Job and behemoth (b@hemowth). I find it odd that the eating of grass (‘akal chatisyr) is the first attribute mentioned. Perhaps the domesticity of the ox (baqar) is used to contrast with the independence of the behemoth.

Lo now, his strength [is] in his loins, and his force [is] in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones [are as] strong pieces of brass; his bones [are] like bars of iron.

Having just chided Job on the limits of his strength (koach), God stresses the vigour (‘own) of the behomoth. You can almost see God glorying in the construction of behemoth, like a nature special successively rendering the bones, muscles, and skin in 3-D.

He [is] the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach [unto him].

Perhaps this is why he’s saved for the encore: he’s considered the best example (re’shiyth) of the ways (derek) of God (‘el). The implication is that only his creator (`asah) can bring a sword against (nagah chereb nagash) him: Job can’t even judge a beast, how dare he judge God?

Interesting. I just realized that I usually read ‘judge’ as a purely intellectual activity and role. But, I suspect that the Herbraic view includes action as well as reason — and emotion and intention. That is, a judge must not only have the right mental attitude, but also the physical capability to carry out that judgment. And arguably the proper amount of wrath. The concept of a remote figure in a powdered wig issuing intellectual pronouncements is far from the Old Testament; the Hebrew ideal is probably more like Judge Dredd than anything else in modern literature. That would certainly explain why God focuses so much on issues like power and wrath.

Is that a good thing? Well, I do think it is a good thing that we have a separation of powers, to avoid tyranny by unjust men. Yet, it does make me realize we have lost something along the way. Perhaps what we have lost is a role for proper emotion, as well as a recognition that our own power is limited; something the restorative justice movement is trying to fix.

Getting back to Job:

Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him [with] their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about. Behold, he drinketh up a river, [and] hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth. He taketh it with his eyes: [his] nose pierceth through snares.

Clearly, the behemoth doesn’t worry about any of these things. He lazes (shakab) around without haste (chaphaz), full of confidence (batach) even while drinking (`ashaq). He has no fear of being taken (laqach ) or snared (mowqesh).

An immense picture. And he’s just a warm-up for our next guest star. Something to think about.


God, grant me the serenity of behemoth. You’ve filled him with power and strength, and set him in a lush valley where he need fear nothing. He never questions your provision, or his position. Grant me the grace to do the same. Humble me with the realization that you are my God as much as his. Bless me with a vision of the manifold dimensions of your justice, that I may not judge like the weak or foolish. Amen.


I find the supposition that behemoth was a dinosaur, or leviathan a dragon, highly intriguing. However, given the translational difficulty with so many of the unique Hebrew words in Job, as well as the poetic nature of these passages, I would be extremely reluctant to use these as the basis for revising paleontology. Sure, it might well inspire someone to form the belief that such beasts were alive at the time of Job, but that should be tested as a hypothesis, not asserted as a fact. I believe that the core message of scripture is readily accessible from English translations, but that if one cares about tangential details like this it is essential to go back to the earliest manuscripts.