Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 3. Judgment. Job had frequently acknowledged that God could not be in the wrong. But he had expressed himself in too forcible language, of which God makes him, as it were, ashamed. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “rejectest thou not my decision? yea, dost thou think that I have judged thee in a different manner, in order that thou mayst appear just?” (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Scatter. Septuagint is shorter: (Calmet) “Send angels or messengers in wrath, and humble every insulting person. 7. Extinguish the proud, destroy the wicked at once. 8. Hide them in the earth together, and fill their faces with shame.” (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Pit, or grave. Cause the earth to swallow them up, and I will confess thy power. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Behemoth; the elephant, (Challoner) “as some think.” (Protestants’ marginal note) (Haydock) — This is the most common opinion, though Sanchez explains it of the bull; and Bochart, after Beza and Diodati, declares in favour of the hippopotamus, (Calmet) or “river horse.” Parkhurst even thinks Bochart has proved this “to a demonstration.” The sea or river horse, (Haydock) is an amphibious animal, (Calmet) found in the Nile and Indus, and said to have the feet of an ox and the teeth of a boar, but not quite so sharp, while the neighing, back, mane, and tail, resemble those of a horse. Its hide, when dry, is said to resist even a musket-ball. (Button; Dict.) — We find a good description of this animal in Watson, p. 91. But the plural Bemoth, female (Haydock) “beasts,” seems more applicable to the elephant, on account of its great size, as it is designated by theria, or Bellua, by the Greek and Roman authors. (Suidas.) (1 Machabees vi. 35.) (Pliny, [Natural History?] viii. 3.) — It may have received the name of elephant from (Calmet) alp, “to lead or teach,” (Haydock) on account of its great sagacity and strength. All that Job says of behemoth, may be well explained of it. The Fathers have supposed, that the devil is meant: but we stick to the literal sense. (Calmet) — He may, however, (Haydock) have been hinted at by this name, (Worthington) as well as by that of leviathan. (Houbigant) — With thee, on the same day, or as well as thee. (Amama) — Grass. The elephant does so, and is by no means savage. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “Yet, behold, near thee wild beasts, equal to oxen, eat grass.” (Haydock) — The spontaneous productions of the earth, and branches of trees, afford the principal sustenance to satisfy the prodigious stomach of the elephant; which is frequently twelve feet high, and of a dark colour. A sword can scarcely pierce it in the back or sides. It has small eyes, eight teeth, and two tusks; which last are sometimes above a hundred weight each, and being cast every tenth year, (Button) afford ivory. The proboscis serves it instead of hands to collect the smallest grain, or to defend itself. (Haydock) — The female goes with young a whole year, and the duration of its life is generally supposed to be above a hundred. Elephants inhabit warm climates, and were formerly much used in war, to carry wooden towers, from which twenty, or even thirty, men might throw darts, 1 Machabees vi. 37. (Button.) — If this greatest and most temperate of all beasts be overcome by the unicorn, or led by the nose, how much more will God enable man to overcome the devil? (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Loins. The towers were fastened here by an iron chain. — Belly. Yet it is nowhere so easily wounded, 1 Machabees vi. 45. (Pliny, viii. 20.) — Hence some would translate Hebrew, “and its pain in the belly,” (Calmet) as it is only subject to an inflammation and flux; profluvium alvi. (Pliny) (Ælian xvii. 44.) — But the original rather denotes the parts of generation, which lie concealed, (Aristotle, anim. ii. 1., and v. 2.) and are styled the strength, Genesis xlix. 3., and Deuteronomy xxi. 17.
Ver. 12. Tail, which is very small, and without hair. (Calmet) — Vavassor rather thinks “the trunk” is meant. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 13. Gristle. Hebrew again, “bones.” (Calmet) — Septuagint, “back-bone, like cast iron.”
Ver. 14. Beginning, or prince. (Haydock) — The elephant may be considered as the king of beasts for strength, agility, gratitude, longevity, &c. None approaches so near to man. (Pliny viii. 1.; Calmet; Lipsius, 1 ep. 50.; Amama) — Sword; which is the rhinoceros, killing the elephant under the belly with its horn; (Pliny viii. 20.; Grotius) or God seems to have entrusted his sword to the elephant, for the destruction of his enemies. Nothing can withstand its fury, as it overturns houses and trees with its trunk. (Junius) (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Play. No animal is of a milder nature. It never attacks, unless in its own defence. When a crowd of other beasts obstruct its passage, it removes them quietly with its proboscis. (Pliny vi. 9., &c.)
Ver. 16. Places, insomuch that Ælian (iv. 24.) styles it a “beast of the marshes.” It is fabulous that it is forced to sleep against a tree, as if it could not rise without much difficulty. (Calmet) — Septuagint, (14) “This is the beginning or chief (arche) of the creation of the Lord, being made for his angels to play with, or beat. Departing to the craggy rock, it has made sport for the quadrupeds in the field. It sleepeth under all sorts of trees; near the reed and papyrus, and the boutomon, or ox-herb.” (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Wonder. Hebrew, “make haste,” taking time to render it muddy. (Ælian xiv. 44.) — It can drink a great deal at once, and then abstain for a week. (Calmet) — Run. Hebrew, “he may draw.” Septuagint, “may knock at his mouth,” (Haydock) in vain, (Calmet) as long as it can breathe by holding by holding its trunk out of the water. (Aristotle ix. 46.) — Theo.[Theodotion?] in the Septuagint, “If there should be an inundation, it shall not perceive. It confideth that, or when, the Jordan shall knock at its mouth. He shall take it by its eye; laying snares, he shall bore [its] nose.” (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Stakes. Serpents attack the eyes of the elephant, and sometimes drag it by the trunk into the deep, where it is drowned. (Pliny viii. 12.; Solin xxxviii.) — Others read with an interrogation: “Shall one take?” &c. Will any one dare to attack it openly? The elephant is taken by stratagem, either in pits covered with a little earth, or by a tame elephant in an inclosure, and (Calmet) lying on her hack to receive the male. (Aristotle, anim. v. 2.) — When he has entered, the gate is shut, and the animal is tamed by hunger; being thus taken by his eyes, Judith x. 17. Chaldean, “They pierce his nostrils with bands.” Thus other animals are led about, (ver. 21) and the elephant might be so treated in those days; though of this we have no account. (Calmet) — Protestants, “his nose pierceth through snares;” or marginal note, “will any bore his nose with a gin?” Here they conclude this chapter, which commences chap. xxxix. 31., in Hebrew. But the Septuagint agree with us. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Leviathan: the whale, or some sea monster. (Challoner) — Protestants’ marginal note, “or a whirlpool.” (Haydock) — But some animal is designated; and Bochart understands the crocodile, which agrees very well with the context. The Thalmudists also say that the calbish is a small fish, which gets into the throat of the leviathan. They mean probably the ichneumon, which kills the crocodile by that means. Leviathan, “the winding serpent,” (Calmet) often denotes the dragon or crocodile, (Psalm ciii. 26., and Isaias xxvii. 1.) which frequents the Nile. (Haydock) — It can live as well by land as under water, (Watson, p. 293) and hence may be translated, (Haydock) “the coupled dragon.” (Parkhurst) — Moses mentions the choled, (Leviticus xi. 29.) which the Septuagint and most others translate, “the land crocodile:” but what could induce the Protestants “to render it tortoise, we are at a loss to determine.” Crocodiles lay about sixty eggs, like those of geese, in the sand, the warmth of which soon hatches them. Their bodies are covered with scales, which are scarcely penetrable, except under the belly; and they are between twenty and thirty feet in length, running very fast, straight forward, though their feet be short, and they cannot turn easily. They have several rows of sharp teeth, which enter one within another, and their throat is very wide. (Button.) — The same word may however denote whales, (Parkhurst) which are the greatest fishes with which man is acquainted. (Haydock) — They may also be styled coupled dragons, because many smaller fishes accompany them, and they are well protected by scales, &c. (Menochius) — This huge fish, perhaps the whale, representing the devil, is subject to God. (Worthington) — Cord. The crocodile may be taken, but with the utmost hazard; though the Tentyrites attacked it without fear, chap. iii. 8. Herodotus (ii. 70.) says it may be caught with a hook, baited with hog’s flesh, while the fisher has a pig grunting, at which the crocodile comes open-mouthed. Having swallowed the hook, it is drawn to land, and its small eyes being filled with dirt it is easily slain. But the method was not yet invented, or was deemed too rash in Job’s days.
Ver. 21. Buckle. Literally, “bracelet,” (armilla.; Haydock) or ring. Horses were thus ornamented, (Virgil vii. 7.) and other beasts led about. But this fierce animal could not be tamed. Hebrew, “Wilt thou put a rush through its gills, or nose, or pierce its jaw with a thorn?” like those little fishes which are thus brought fresh to market. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Will it lay aside its ferocity, (Haydock) and flatter thee? (Menochius)
Ver. 24. Handmaids? or little girls. (Calmet) Septuagint, “Wilt thou tie it like a sparrow for thy boy?” (Haydock)
Ver. 25. Friends. Hebrew also, (Haydock) “enchanters.” (Calmet) — Frigidus in pratis cantando rumpitur anguis. (Virgil, Ec. viii.) — Septuagint, “the nations.” — Merchants. Septuagint, “the generation of the Phœnicians (Hebrew) of Chanaan, (Haydock) famous for merchandise, (Calmet) insomuch that the name is used for any merchant. (Haydock) — Will they salt the crocodile for sale? (Calmet) — Its flesh was much liked. (Herodotus, &c.)
Ver. 26. Cabins, (gurgustium) the reservoir or basket. (Calmet) — Protestants, “Canst thou fill his skin with barbed prongs, (for which they have now irons) or his head with fish spears?” — But this is hardly the meaning of the original, chap. xli. 6. Hebrew, “wilt thou fill tents with its skin, or the fish net, with its head?” to catch other fish, or to cover thy tent? &c. The skin is very hard, except under the belly. (Calmet) — One defended itself against 36 men, who fired at it six times in vain. (Herera.) — Septuagint, “a whole fleet collected would not carry off the skin of its tail.” (Haydock) — They seem to speak of the whale. (Calmet) — Theodotion adds, “and its head in fisher boats.” (Haydock)
Ver. 27. Speak. Hebrew, “do.” (Haydock) — Thy rash attempt will prove thy ruin. If thou escape, thou wilt not dare to engage again. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “Wilt thou lay thy hand upon it, remembering the battle with its body? and let it not be done any more. (28.) Hast thou not seen it, nor been astonished at what has been said?” (Haydock)
Ver. 28. Down, whoever engages in the conflict, (Menochius) except the bold citizens of Tentyra. All the rest are terrified at the very sight. Hence the Egyptians have ever given divine honours to the crocodile. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Of the power of God in the behemoth and the leviathan.
1 And the Lord answering Job out of the whirlwind, said:
2 Gird up thy loins like a man; I will ask thee, and do thou tell me.
3 Wilt thou make void my judgment: and condemn me, that thou mayst be justified?
4 And hast thou an arm like God, and canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
5 Clothe thyself with beauty, and set thyself up on high, and be glorious, and put on goodly garments.
6 Scatter the proud in thy indignation, and behold every arrogant man, and humble him.
7 Look on all that are proud, and confound them, and crush the wicked in their place.
8 Hide them in the dust together, and plunge their faces into the pit.
9 Then I will confess that thy right hand is able to save thee.
10 Behold behemoth whom I made with thee, he eateth grass like an ox.
11 His strength is in his loins, and his force in the navel of his belly.
12 He setteth up his tail like a cedar, the sinews of his testicles are wrapped together.
13 His bones are like pipes of brass, his gristle like plates of iron.
14 He is the beginning of the ways of God, he who made him, will apply his sword.
15 To him the mountains bring forth grass: there all the beasts of the field shall play.
16 He sleepeth under the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places.
17 The shades cover his shadow, the willows of the brook shall compass him about.
18 Behold, he will drink up a river, and not wonder, and he trusteth that the Jordan may run into his mouth.
19 In his eyes, as with a hook, he shall take him, and bore through his nostrils with stakes.
20 Canst thou draw out the leviathan with a hook, or canst thou tie his tongue with a cord?
21 Canst thou put a ring in his nose, or bore through his jaw with a buckle?
22 Will he make many supplications to thee, or speak soft words to thee?
23 Will he make a covenant with thee, and wilt thou take him to be a servant for ever?
24 Shalt thou play with him as with a bird, or tie him up for thy handmaids?
25 Shall friends cut him in pieces, shall merchants divide him?
26 Wilt thou fill nets with his skin, and the cabins of fishes with his head?
27 Lay thy hand upon him: remember the battle, and speak no more.
28 Behold his hope shall fail him, and in the sight of all he shall be cast down.