Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JOB CHAPTER 40
God’s reproof of Job, Job 40:1,2. He humbleth himself, Job 40:3-5. God again declareth his righteousness, majesty, and the power of his wrath to abase the proud, Job 40:6-14. A description of behemoth, Job 40:15-21.
Having made a little pause to try what Job could answer to his questions, and Job being it seems astonished with God’s rebukes, or expecting what God would further say, continued silent.
Shall Job, who presumed to contend with me in judgment, and to dispute the reasonableness and equity of my proceedings, give me instructions or directions how to manage my own affairs, and govern my creatures? He justly mentions his almightiness, as a convincing argument of his justice. For how can he be unjust to his creatures, who hath no obligation to them, and never did nor can receive any thing from them; and who hath an absolute, sovereign, and uncontrollable dominion over them; and who being infinitely and necessarily perfect, and all-sufficient within himself, can neither have any inclination to unrighteousness, which is an imperfection, nor any temptation to it from any need he hath of it to accomplish his designs, which he can do by his own omnipotence, or front any advantage accruing to him by it.
That reproveth God; that boldly censureth his ways or works; which thou hast done.
Let him answer it; let him answer my former and further questions at his peril.
I am vile, what am I, a mean and contemptible creature that should presume to contend with my Maker and Judge? I confess my fault and folly.
What shall I answer thee? I neither desire nor am able to dispute with thee. I will for the future bridle my tongue, and instead of contesting with thee, do here humbly and willingly submit myself to thee.
I will not answer, or speak again; answering being oft put for speaking. I will contend no more with thee.
Yea, twice, i.e. ofttimes, 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 towards me. Vain therefore are the excuses which some interpreters make for Job, as if he were faultless in his foregoing discourses, when both God chargeth him with faultiness therein, and Job himself confesseth it.
The whirlwind was renewed when God renewed his charge upon Job, whom he intended to humble more thoroughly than yet he had done. Both this and the next verse are repeated out of Job 38:1,3, where they are explained.
Every word is emphatical,
Wilt (art thou resolved upon it)
thou (thou, Job, whom I took to be one of a better mind and temper; had it been a stranger or my enemy who had spoken thus of me, I could have borne it, but I cannot bear it from thee)
also (not only vindicate thyself, and thy own integrity, but also accuse me)
disannul (not only question and dispute, but even condemn, repeal, and make void, as if it were ungrounded and unjust)
my judgment, i.e. my sentence against thee, and my government and administration of human affairs? Wilt thou make me unrighteous, that thou mayst seem to be righteous?
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; of which See Poole "Job 40:2".
Canst thou thunder with a voice like him? therefore do not presume to contend with him.
Seeing thou makest thyself equal, yea, superior to me in justice, and consequently in power and majesty, 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.
Inflict heavy judgements upon thine enemies, the Chaldeans and Sabeans, and others who have injured or provoked thee. Destroy him with an angry look, as I can do and delight to do with such persons.
1. Wheresoever they are. Or,
2. Where they are in their greatest strength and glory, and therefore are most secure and confident. Or,
3. Forthwith, upon the spot, that the quickness and immediateness of the strike may discover that it comes from a Divine hand.
Kill every one of them (as he said, Job 40:12) at one blow, as I can do, and bring them all to their graves, that they may sleep in the dust, and never offend thee nor trouble others more.
Bind their faces, i.e. condemn or destroy them. He alludes to the manner of covering the faces of condemned persons, Esther 7:8, and of dead men, John 11:44 20:7. See Poole "Job 9:21".
In secret; either in a secret place, bury them in their graves; or secretly, with a secret and invisible stroke, that it may appear it comes from the hand of a God.
i.e. That thou art mine equal, and mayst venture to contend with me. But since thou canst do none of these things, it behoves thee to submit to me, and to acquiesce in my dealings with thee.
That some particular beast is designed by this word is evident from Job 40:15, and from the peculiar characters given to him, which are not common to all great beasts. But what it is is matter of some dispute amount the learned. The generality of them are agreed that this is the elephant, and the following leviathan the whale; which being two of the goodliest and vastest creatures which God made, the one of the land, the other of the sea, and withal such to whom the description here given for the most part manifestly agrees, and the like is presumed concerning the rest, may seem to be here intended. And the difficulty of reconciling some few passages to them, may arise either from our ignorance of them, or from the different nature and qualities of creatures of the same general kind in divers parts. But some late and very learned men take the leviathan to be the crocodile, and the behemoth to be a creature called the hippopotamus, which may seem fitly to be joined with the crocodile, both being very well known to Job and his friends, as being frequent in the adjacent parts, both amphibious, living and preying both in the water and upon the land, and both being creatures of great bulk and strength. I shall not undertake to determine the controversy, but shall show how each part of the following description is or may be applied to them severally. And this being no point concerning faith or a good life, every one may take the more liberty to understand the place of one or other of them.
Which I made with thee; either,
1. Upon the earth, where thou art, whereas the leviathan is in the sea. Or,
2. As I made thee, for this Hebrew particle is oft used as a note of comparison, as Job 9:26 Psalms 143:7, and elsewhere; in the same manner, and upon the same day. Whereby he may intimate, that being equally the Creator and sovereign Lord, both of Job, and of this behemoth, he had equal right to dispose of them in such manner as he thought meet. Or, (nigh, as the particle oft signifies,) unto thee, i.e. in a place not far from thee, to wit, in the river Nile, where the hippopotamus, as well as the crocodile, doth principally abide. But although those creatures were now in the river, yet they were made elsewhere, even where the first man was made. He eateth grass as an ox: This is mentioned as a thing strange and remarkable, as indeed it is; either,
1. Of the elephant, in which God hath wisely and mercifully planted this disposition, that he should not prey upon other creatures, which if he had, being so strong and vast a creature, he must needs have been very pernicious to them, but feed upon grass as an ox doth. Or,
2. Of the hippopotamus; of whom historians relate that he comes out of the river upon the land to feed upon corn, and hay, or grass, as an ox doth, to whom also he is not unlike in the forth of his head and feet, and in the bigness of his body, whence the Italians call him the sea ox.
He hath strength answerable to his bulk, but this 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, as it is in other creatures, whereby he is rendered more serviceable to men by the carrying of vast burdens.
His force is in the navel of his belly; which though in the elephant it be weaker than his loins, whence the rhinoceros fighting with him aims at that part; yet hath a more than ordinary strength in it, as appears by the binding of the heaviest burdens under and about it. This also agrees to the hippopotamus in an eminent degree, whose whole skin is noted by ancient writers to be harder than any other creature’s, and almost impenetrable.
He moveth his tail; which though it be but short, both in the elephant and in the hippopotamus, yet when it is erected is exceeding stiff and strong. But this may be understood, either,
1. Of his generative part, which is off called by that or the like name, which the following close of the verse may seem to favour. Or,
2. Of the elephant’s trunk, which being so eminent and remarkable a part, would not probably be omitted in this description, to which these words very fitly agree, because of its admirable motion and strength. Nor is it strange that this is called his tail, because that word is oft used improperly for any end of a thing, as Isaiah 7:4. See also Deuteronomy 25:18 28:13,44.
The sinews of his stones: this may be noted, because the elephant’s testicles do not hang down below the belly, as they do in other beasts, but are contained within his belly, where they are fastened by ligaments of extraordinary strength. Or, the sinews of the terror thereof, to wit, of the trunk last mentioned, under the name of the
tail, i.e. its terrible sinews are strongly and strangely wrapped together, that he can move it as he listeth with wonderful dexterity and strength. Or,
the sinews of his thighs, as the latter word oft signifies in the Arabic tongue, which is very near akin to the Hebrew. The thighs and feet of the hippopotamus are noted to be so sinewy and strong, that one of them is able to break or overturn a large boat.
His bones; under which title are comprehended his ribs (as the LXX here render it) and his teeth.
As strong pieces of brass, exceeding hard and strong, as they are in both these creature.
Of the ways of God, i.e. of God’s works, to wit, 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 mankind, his lord and master, and God’s vicegerent in the world, and many other commendable qualities. And the hippopotamus also is in some sort, as others note, the chief, or one of the chief, of God’s works, in regard of its great bulk, and strength, and sagacity, and the manner of his living, both in the water and upon the land. But it must be granted that the elephant doth exceed the hippopotamus in many things.
Though he be so strong and terrible, yet God can easily subdue and destroy him, either immediately, or by arming other creatures, as the rhinoceros, or dragon, or tiger, against him. Or, he that made him hath applied or given to him his sword, or arms, to wit, his trunk, which may not unfitly be called his sword, because thereby he doth both defend himself and offend his enemies. And this trunk of his being a thing very observable and admirable in him, and therefore not likely to be neglected in his description, if it were not intended by his tail, Job 40:17, may seem to be designed in these words.
Though this creature be vastly great, and require much food, and no man careth for it; yet God provides for it out of his own stores, and makes even desert mountains to afford him sufficient sustenance. The hippopotamus also, though he live most in the water, fetched his food from the land, and from the mountains or hills, which are nigh unto the river Nile.
Where all the beasts of the field play; they not only feed securely, but sport themselves by him or with him, being taught by experience that he is gentle and harmless, and never preys upon them.
The elephant lies down to rest himself; and it is but fabulous which some writers affirm, that they have no joints in their legs, and so cannot lie down, but sleep or rest themselves standing or leaning against a tree; which is denied and confuted by Aristotle in his History of Living Creatures, 2, 4. and by later writers. For the elephant, being a creature naturally hot, and living generally in hot countries, diligently seeks for and delights in shady and waterish places, as is noted by Aristotle, and after him by Pliny and Ælian.
Of the brook; or, of Nilus, of which this word is oft used in Scripture. And this seems to be the chief argument by which the learned Bochart proves this to be meant of the hippopotamus, whose constant residence is in or near the river of Nilus, or the willows that grow by it. But it is well alleged by our learned and judicious Caryl, that this word Naal is never used to express Nilus when it is put by itself, as here it is, but only where the word Egypt is added to it, as it is in all the places which Bochart produceth. And this very phrase,
the willows of the brook, is used of other brooks or rivers besides Nilus, as Leviticus 23:40: compare Isaiah 15:7.
He drinketh up; or, he snatcheth, or draweth, or drinketh up as it were with force and violence, as the word signifies.
A river, i.e. a great quantity of water, hyperbolically called a river, as it is also Psalms 78:16 105:41. This may be fitly applied to the elephant, which because of its great bulk and vehement thirst drinks a great deal of water at one draught, as naturalists and historians have observed.
Hasteth not; he drinks not with fear and caution, and sparingly, as the dogs do at Nilus, 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 drinketh securely and liberally.
He trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth; he drinks as if he designed, or hoped, or desired to drink up the whole river. He mentions Jordan, either as a river well known in and nigh unto Job’s land; or because possibly there were many elephants which used to drink at it; or as a river in some parts of it but small, which therefore might give more colour to the hyperbole, and to the elephant’s fancy or expectation, than a vaster river, such as Euphrates, would have done. Bochart expounds this also of the hippopotamus, which though he cannot swim, and may be drowned, as naturalists report, yet will continue securely under water at the bottom of Nilus for some days together; and he renders the verse thus, Behold, if a river oppress or cover him, he fears not; he is confident or secure, though Jordan (which is here put for any river) should break forth or overflow above his mouth, i.e. should overwhelm him. But the judgment of this I leave to the reader.
According to this translation the sense is this, He taketh, or snatcheth, or draweth up (as was now said, Job 40:23)
it (to wit, the river Jordan) with his eyes, i.e. when he sees it, he trusteth that he can drink it all up; as we use to say, The eye is bigger than the belly: his nose or snout pierceth, &c., i.e. he securely thrusteth his snout into the river, even to the bottom of it, to stir up the mud, because he delights to drink muddy water; and if there be any snares laid for other creatures, he breaks them to pieces. But this verse is otherwise translated by others. Will or can any man take him in his eyes, (i.e. openly, and by manifest force? Surely no. His force and strength is too great for man to resist or overcome; and therefore men are forced to use many wiles and engines to catch him; which is true both of the elephant and of the hippopotamus,) or pierce his nose with snares or gins? No. He may be taken by art and cunning, but not by violence.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 40". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25