If we were to make a list of all the monsters mankind has dreaded over the centuries, the list would be lengthy indeed. In no particular order we can think of: vampires, werewolves, ghouls, goblins, ghosts, dragons, basilisks, Nessie the Lochness monster, Jaws, mummies, Bigfoot, Medusa, Davy Jones, gremlins, sirens, banshees, Chupacabra, poltergeists, the Headless horseman, zombies, yeti’s, Godzilla, King Kong, Frankenstein, or perhaps our very own SonRise monster, the infamous Hogmeister. One monster in particular was meaningfully scary to me as a child, the Kracken.
In the 1981 film Clash of the Titans (or in it’s modern remake) Zeus and Hades are in a quarrel and Perseus, son of Zeus, gets in the middle of it and endeavors to go on a quest with the goal of saving the beautiful princess Andromeda, doomed to die by being eaten by the Kracken. To accomplish this quest Perseus must brave many difficulties, barren lands, enemies, and other trials, the foremost being cutting the head off of Medusa without looking at her to try and use her head to turn the Kracken into stone. I remember watching the film as a young boy and being terrified but unable to look away from the screen as the Kracken was loosed from his ocean cave to rise up and unleash terror on the port city of Argos (or Joppa in the remake). When the foul beast is roused, dread fills the hearts of the people. It is a moment hard to forget.
Perhaps the thought of these monsters hits closer to home, or out of fantasy and into reality, as we come to God’s final speech to Job where He speaks of two monsters He’s created: Behemoth and Leviathan.
God’s Power Challenges Job (40:6-14)
After Job laid his hand on his mouth and began to recognize the smallness of man and the bigness of God, God continues on challenging Job in regard to His power in 40:6-14, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.”
God addresses Job in a very similar manner as He did a few chapters ago, but here His words are sharper and a bit more pointed. God tells Job in v8 that Job cannot put Him in the wrong, or on trial in order to condemn Him and prove himself as right, not at all. In v9 we see then that God’s challenge concerns power. Does Job have an ‘arm’ like God? The arm, and more specifically the right arm, throughout Hebrew culture is seen as a source of strength, so for God to refer to His arm means God is referring to His incomparable strength, might, and power. This power will remain the subject of this second speech from here on out. Naturally then, v10-14 display God’s power in with an unparalleled grandeur. God in His power is adorned with majesty, dignity, glory, and splendor. God in His power pours out His anger on the proud bringing them low, and pours out His anger on the wicked treading them down, throwing them in the dusty prisons of the world below. There’s more than just a touch of irony in these statements, as God invites Job to display his own power and majesty as if he were really a person of true power and authority. Then in an ironic conclusion God says in v14 that if Job can do these things than He will gladly acknowledge Job’s power and admit that Job doesn’t really need Him at all. Of course, God is speaking very pointedly to Job reminding him that he cannot do any of these things, far from it! Therefore, Job must acknowledge his own powerlessness and God’s powerfulness, looking to Him and Him alone for redemption and salvation.
God’s Power Illustrated to Job (40:15-41:34)
But God isn’t done, He continues on challenging Job by illustrating His power to him with two of the most famed creatures of history: the Behemoth in the rest of chapter 40 and the Leviathan for all of chapter 41. Let’s take them one at a time.
The Behemoth (40:15-24)
“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron. He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?”
Only present in Scripture here, the Behemoth is first to come into view. The word behemoth is a plural word in Hebrew but the description is clear that only one animal is in view not multiple, which makes the translation something of ‘beast of beasts’ or ‘giant beast’[i]or even ‘Superbeast!’[ii]The first thing we learn about him is that God made this beast, he eats grass, and is massively powerful. Strength surrounds him entirely from his loins, belly, thighs, tail[iii], bones, and limbs. He is called the first of the works of God meaning among all the creatures God has made the Behemoth carries a kind of supremacy or preeminence or primacy. The mountains yield food to him, the lotus, the reeds, and the willows shelter him. And though he seems to be a land animal he is comfortable in water as well, so comfortable that even if the river rouses up against him he is never shaken by it.
Even so, notice v19 and v24. v19 shows a weakness present in him. A weakness that Job needs to be reminded of. There is only One who can approach this mammoth beast with a sword with intent to tame or kill. Who is it? God. Only He who made him can come near with a sword. God’s power is more powerful than the Behemoth. This then leads to the question posed in v24. Can Job take him by the eyes (or fix his gaze on him) and bring him into submission? No. Not even close. No human can capture this animal and subdue him or domesticate him. As God is the only One who can approach him with a sword, so too, God is the only One who can subdue the Behemoth.
Before moving on to chapter 41 it would be good to just make a small note that in the Hebrew ordering of the book of Job chapter 40 keeps going at this point and continues all the way until what we see in our versions as 41:9. Why then do we change it for our modern English versions? Well, an answer is difficult to come by here but one reason is many modern interpreters see all of chapter 41 as a continuous description of the next animal, the Leviathan, while many historical interpreters see only 41:1-8 as the description of the Leviathan and see 41:9-34 as something of a response to both of these animals. I do prefer the English rendering of it, I think it makes more sense textually but either way the meaning largely stays the same in both orderings. I mention solely because it’s good to be aware of this nonetheless.
The Leviathan (41:1-34)
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again! Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him. No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame. Who can strip off his outer garment? Who would come near him with a bridle? Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth is terror. His back is made of rows of shields, shut up closely as with a seal. One is so near to another that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated. His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth. In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him. The folds of his flesh stick together, firmly cast on him and immovable. His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone. When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin. He counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; for him, sling stones are turned to stubble. Clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the rattle of javelins. His underparts are like sharp potsherds; he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire. He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment. Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be white-haired. On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear. He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”
As the description about the Leviathan begins we see questions. Clearly, whatever this creature is, it seems as if Job is aware of him and would therefore know the answers to all of these questions. v1-7 immediately show us two things: first, that this next mammoth creature is a sea-creature, and second, that any idea of anyone attempting to catch or fish for Leviathan, whether by hooking him or roping him, is as absurd in the highest degree. If by chance someone did catch him it is also absurd to think Leviathan would then try to plead or bargain with the fisherman and try to work out a deal to be set free or become his servant forever. More so, it is even more absurd to think Leviathan would become a pet to a person or a family, or even to be caught and sold off for parts like the fish markets of coastal towns. No, this is all absurd. One thing and one thing only will be remembered by anyone who attempts to catch this sea monster – the battle fought, the battle lost, and because you’re dead, the battle never to be repeated.
v9-11 give us a brief break from the description to speak to us pointedly about the folly of those who think they can catch this sea beast. v9 tells us even if some desire to catch him, they desire a false hope, and Leviathan is so terrifying that all true desire to catch him vanishes at the sight of him. Then v10-11 shifts a bit and God poses a new thought. Does the though of Leviathan make you tremble? It should! But I, the Lord says, am even more terrifying and awesome than it, no one can stand before Me, I own all things, everything under the heavens belongs to Me!
Then comes the longest, fiercest, and probably the most confusing description of this creature there is. v12-24 says many things about Leviathan. Beginning with his limbs, there is a cascade of might and power as the author walks through his various attributes of strength. Limbs and a frame that demand discussion instead of silence, a face and teeth of sheer terror, a hide that cannot be taken off, scales so tight they make rows of shields that none can separate or penetrate, eyes bright as the dawn, a nose and mouth that spews fire, smoke, and burning rushing flame, a neck of stout strength, and a heart or chest of impenetrable stone. If this isn’t enough to terrify you, v25-32 describes what happens when he is attacked. Fear reigns because swords and spears and javelins and arrows are little more than stubble or rotten wood against him. This makes us conclude that Leviathan is fire-breathing sea monster of storybook proportions whose dwelling place is desolation and death. Then after this v33-34 tell us what we likely have already concluded, that because he is king over creatures and sees all and doesn’t fear anything, this sea-beast is without equal on earth.
Job has a response to all of this, but we’ll leave that for next week as Andrew, Lord willing, will finish our series on Job covering chapter 42. For now, let’s ask a question: what are to make of these two creatures? As you can imagine there is little agreement when it comes to how to interpret these two animals. The majority of people take one of two views: that they’re actual creatures, or that they’re mythological creatures which point beyond themselves symbolically. The first view, that these two are actual creatures we find in zoos today is a popular view, which believes the Behemoth to be the hippo and the Leviathan to be a crocodile. But I don’t think we can make agree with such a position because these two animals, though fierce in their own right, fall utterly short of the reality described here in these passages. The language presented to us here describes qualities and characteristics outside of the natural animal world.
So I believe the Behemoth and Leviathan are mythological creatures who symbolically point to realities within our fallen world. This brings up a new question then doesn’t it? What do they symbolize, what do they point to? I think they symbolize chaos, evil, and destruction. Follow this thought. Isaiah 27 likens the Leviathan to a fleeing serpent, a twisting serpent, a dragon in the sea. Psalm 74 mentions that in the Exodus God broke the many heads of Leviathan. Psalm 104 mentions the sea as the arena the Leviathan plays in. The book of Revelation picks up many of these themes and applies the imagery of beasts, dragons, serpents, and monsters to Satan in Revelation 12:9. The Behemoth begins this alarming tune with a more natural image and the evil melody increases enormously and reaches its apex in the Leviathan who is presented to us as the embodiment of evil itself.[iv]So as we saw Satan present with God in the beginning of Job we also see him present in the speeches of God at the end of Job.
Therefore, what is God doing in bringing up these symbolic images of death and evil? Job must be reminded that he has no control over these things, but rather than despair at his obvious weakness before such evil, Job may rejoice because God does have control over all evil. Behemoth and Leviathan are mythical and legendary in their descriptions of power, might, wickedness, and terror – but both of them are portrayed to Job (and to us) as being under the sovereign power of Almighty God! As we’ll see in chapter 42, as fierce as Satan is in his own vile cruel wickedness, he is God’s Satan, he is on God’s leash, only able to do what he is allowed to do. In this we rejoice in our God who is sovereign over all evil and sovereign over us.
But we rejoice in more…Centuries later we would see one called Legion[v]enter pigs and run off into the sea at the order of who? Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who would defeat the devil putting him to an open shame on the cross. He may prowl around still today as a lion seeking to devour, but his time is short and his fangs have been broken off!
[iv]Ash, page 417-424. Also, see Richard Belcher Jr., Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018) page 123-125. Both of these were massively helpful in regard to these chapters.