Job 40:1-24

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The words attributed to YHWH continue. They are introduced with the phrase, “And YHWH [the Lord God (Theodotion)] answered Job and said.” (40:1; see the Notes section.)

The extant Hebrew text phrases the rhetorical question in a way that could be understood as asking whether a faultfinder should contend with the Almighty. Then follows the statement, “Let the one reproving [or arguing with] God answer [for] it.” In this way, Job seemingly is asked to set forth the basis for his contention that God had been unjust in his dealings with him. (40:2)

The Greek version of Theodotion frames the wording of this verse somewhat differently. “Will one pervert judgment with the Self-sufficient One” (representing God as being in the wrong)? As to “one reproving God, will he [or one] answer [for] it” (providing a basis for the contention)? (40:2)

Numerous modern translations of the Hebrew text commonly render the words as a direct or implied reproof of Job. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (NIV) “Will we have arguing with the Almighty by the critic? Let him who would correct God give answer!” (NAB) “Shall one who should be disciplined complain against Shaddai? He who arraigns God must respond.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Is Yahweh’s opponent going to give way? Has God’s critic thought up an answer?” (NJB) “But you [Job] have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me.” (CEV) (40:2)

Job’s response is introduced with the words, “And Job answered YHWH and said.” The Septuagint reads, “But responding, Job said to the Lord.” (40:3)

The words of YHWH that had been directed to Job in the previous chapter impressed upon him the great limits of his knowledge. Therefore, he acknowledged, “Look! I am of little account.” In view of his very limited understanding, Job began to recognize how incomparably greater and wiser God was and came to consider himself as insignificant before him. As expressed by his rhetorical question (“What shall I answer you?”), Job was left with nothing to say. To indicate that he had been silenced, he said, “I put my hand on my mouth.” From Job’s mouth, no additional utterance would be heard. (40:4; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Emphasizing that he would have nothing additional to say to God, Job continued, “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer. And twice, and I will not add” anything or continue speaking. A number of modern translations are specific in representing Job as saying that he had spoken twice. “Twice have I spoken; I shall do so no more.” (REB) “I have spoken twice, I have nothing more to say.” (NJB) “I did speak once or twice, but never again.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering, however, could be understood to indicate that Job would not proceed to speak for a second time. (40:5)

The continuation of the words attributed to YHWH is expressed as in verse 1 but with the additional phrase “out of the tempest.” “And YHWH answered Job out of [the] tempest and said.” With the exception of the missing definite article (“the”), this verse reads the same as verse 1 of chapter 38. The Septuagint translator used similar wording to render the Hebrew text of verse 6. “But still responding, the Lord said to Job out of the cloud.” (40:6)

What YHWH is represented as having said to Job is worded like the text of Job 38:3. “Please gird up your loins like a man. I will question you, and you declare to me.” In this manner, Job was asked to prepare himself to be attentive, assuming the position of a man (géver, a mighty man like a warrior) ready to listen and (if he could do so) to respond to the questions addressed to him. The literal act of girding up the loins for activity required pulling up one’s robe between the legs and then securing it under the sash. (40:7; see the Notes section.)

YHWH is represented as asking Job, “Will you even invalidate my judgment? Will you condemn me so that you may be justified?” The “judgment” may be understood to designate the losses and suffering that God permitted Job to experience. Job’s invalidating that judgment could signify rejecting it as wrong. According to the Septuagint rendering, Job was told, “Do not reject my judgment.” When insisting that God had dealt with him like an enemy and afflicted him unjustly, Job had condemned God and represented himself as being right. The questions that were directed to him served to make him consider whether he had been correct in his evaluation of the situation. According to the Septuagint rendering, the question appears to be whether Job thought that God should have dealt differently with him so that he, Job, would appear as righteous or right. The Qumran Targum of Job (as translated by Geza Vermes) reads, “Would you indeed tear up the judgement and declare me guilty so that you may be innocent?” (40:8)

The questions next directed to Job seemingly focused on whether he had the power to correct situations and to handle affairs better than God did. “And do you have an arm [representative of power] like God [the Lord (LXX)]? And can you thunder with a voice like his” (authoritatively and powerfully like the sound of thunder)? (40:9)

Job was challenged to handle matters better than God and to attire himself to reflect the exalted position that he would then occupy. He was told to array himself with “majesty [loftiness (LXX)] and loftiness” or grandeur (“power” [LXX]) and to clothe himself with “glory and splendor” (“honor” [LXX]) According to the Qumran Targum, Job was admonished to cast away “pride and arrogance” and then to put on “splendor, glory, and honor.” (40:10)

The challenge for Job was whether he, as a man, could unleash (literally, cause to flow) the “outbursts” of his “anger” and abase every proud one he might see. In the Septuagint, the initial phrase is, “And send out messengers [or angels] in anger” or do so in expression of anger against every haughty one. (40:11)

The concluding thought of verse 11 is repeated, with Job again being told, “See every proud one; abase him.” Then the imperative continues, “And trample the wicked where they stand.” Job knew that he could not humble all the proud and put an end to the wicked but that God alone could do so. The Septuagint rendering is, “And extinguish the haughty one, and cause the impious one to rot immediately.” (40:12)

Again Job was challenged to do what he knew only God could accomplish. He was told to hide the wicked “together in the dust,” burying them after having brought them to their end. According to the Septuagint, the hiding of them together is to be done “outside in the earth.” To “bind their faces in the hidden place” would signify to confine them to the realm of the dead. In this case, the word for “faces” apparently means the individuals themselves. The Septuagint rendering expresses a different thought, “Fill their faces with dishonor.” (40:13)

If Job could actually do what he had been challenged to accomplish, YHWH is represented as telling him, “And also I will acknowledge to you that your right hand [or your own power] can deliver you.” These words impressed upon Job that he could neither save himself nor end all the misery and oppression for which haughty individuals and wicked ones were responsible. Accordingly, he would have to leave everything in God’s hands and be content to wait until such time as God chose to take action. (40:14)

At this point, YHWH is represented as calling attention to another amazing work of his creation. The introductory interjection that may be rendered “look” served to focus attention on an animal that is called “Behemoth,” which God had made as he also had made Job. Behemoth is described as eating greenery just like a bovine. The Septuagint translator understood the Hebrew word “Behemoth” to be a plural designation and rendered it as “beasts.” While some have considered “Behemoth” to be mythical creature (which would have the support of the Septuagint rendering of verse 20), the reference to its having been made just as Job had been and its eating vegetation points to its being an actual animal. The commonly accepted view is that Behemoth is the hippopotamus. A number of modern translations are explicit in making this identification. “I created both you [Job] and the hippopotamus. It eats only grass like an ox.” (CEV) “See now the hippopotamus, which I made as well as you. He eats grass like an ox.” (NLB) A hippopotamus may feed for about five or six hours at night, consuming some 80 pounds (c. 35 kilograms) of greenery in the form of grass, water plants, reeds, and bushes. (40:15)

The strength of Behemoth is in its “loins” and its “power in the muscles [or sinews (sharír] of its belly.” There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word sharír, especially if there is a link to the noun shor, which is the designation for the navel. The Septuagint does contain the expression “navel of the belly.” Believing the Hebrew words to apply to the “loins” and “navel” of Behemoth, some have interpreted the description to relate to sexual power or virility. If “muscles” or “sinews” are to be linked to the power of the hippopotamus, the meaning could be that the animal’s strength is in its hips or in the muscles of its back and in the sinews or muscles of its belly. (40:16)

Regarding what Behemoth can do with its tail, the verb in the Hebrew text is a form of chaphéts, which word usually means “to desire” or “to delight.” In this context, the verb has been understood to mean “bend down,” “extend,” or “stretch out.” Translators have variously rendered the phrase concerning the tail. “He carries his tail like a cedar.” (NAB) “He makes his tail stand up like a cedar.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “His tail is as stiff as a cedar.” (NJB) “His tail sways like a cedar.” (NIV) “Its tail is like a cedar tree.” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, it “set” or raised up its “tail like a cypress.” The hippopotamus can raise its tail rigidly upright or swing it about like a tree that sways back and forth in the wind. (40:17)

The sinews of the animal’s “thighs are knit together.” In the case of the hippopotamus, it can be said that the fibers and tendons of the muscles in the thighs are woven together like strong cables. (40:17; see the Notes section.)

The “bones” (“sides” or “ribs” [LXX]) of Behemoth are described as being like “tubes [sides or ribs (LXX)] of copper” or bronze and its “limbs” (“spine” [LXX]) “like rods of iron” (“cast iron” [LXX]). A full-grown hippopotamus may weigh about 3,000 pounds (c. 1,400 kilograms), with the largest males weighing more than twice as much. In view of the great weight the animal’s legs must support, its dense bones are fittingly designated as strong copper tubes. In fact, the entire skeleton may be described as having the strength of iron rods. (40:18)

Behemoth is called the “beginning” or “chief of the ways of God.” This may indicate that Behemoth, because of its great size and power, proved to be the most prominent animal among the herbivorous quadrupeds. The expression “ways of God” probably applies to God’s activity or his creative work. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the animal as the product of God’s act of forming or creating. The next phrase of the Hebrew text reads, “Let the one making it bring near the sword.” This suggests that, even though Behemoth is powerful, the one who created it, God, is far more powerful (comparable to the one who would succeed in wielding a sword against it). The Septuagint expresses a different thought. It says that the Lord made it to be “mocked by angels.” Perhaps the Septuagint translator thought in terms of an ungainly creature when thus rendering the Hebrew words in the text available to him. (40:19)

Possibly because Behemoth daily consumes a huge quantity of greenery, the Hebrew text says that the “mountains” or hills yield food for it. There where Behemoth finds food, “all the beasts of the field play.” The very different reading of the Septuagint suggests that the reference is to a mythical creature. This creature is said to come up “on a steep mountain” and to cause the “quadrupeds in Tartarus” (a region the ancients associated with the underworld) to rejoice. (40:20)

The Hebrew noun tse’elím is commonly considered to designate the “lotus” (Ziziphus lotus), a thorny shrub of the buckthorn family. Behemoth is referred to as lying under lotus trees and in a concealed place of “reed [a collective singular in Hebrew] and marsh,” or lying hidden among the reeds of a marsh and under the taller lotus shrubs growing there. According to the Septuagint, the animal rests under a variety of trees, alongside the “papyrus and reed and sedge.” (40:21)

For Behemoth, lotus shrubs provided shade, and “poplars of the wadi” surrounded it. Poplars (Populus euphratica, a tree of the willow family) may be found growing along wadis in arid and semiarid regions. The Septuagint indicates that big trees were shaded by the animal, along “with twigs and branches of a chaste tree” or willow. (40:22)

A rapidly flowing river at flood stage poses no problem for Behemoth or the hippopotamus. Regardless of how turbulent the stream might be, the animal is not frightened, for it can swim against the force of the current. With the Jordan rushing against its mouth, Behemoth remains confident. The Septuagint says that, if a flood comes, the animal will “by no means take notice.” (40:23; see the Notes section.)

The question may be whether one could, by means of a snare, seize Behemoth “by” or “in” its “eyes” (or while the animal is alert and on guard) and then pierce its nose. Translators vary in the way they render the text. “Can he be taken by his eyes? Can his nose be pierced by hooks?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Can anyone capture him by the eyes, or trap him and pierce his nose?” (NIV) “Who can capture him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a trap?” (NAB) “Who is going to catch him by the eyes or put poles through his nose?” (NJB) “Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?” (NRSV) “Can anyone blind his eyes and take him or pierce his nose with the teeth of a trap?” (REB) “There is no way to capture a hippopotamus — not even by hooking its nose or blinding its eyes.” (CEV) For a man to attempt capturing a hippopotamus that is watching him would not be possible but would have disastrous consequences for the foolhardy one. (40:24; see the Notes section.)


The marks of Origen indicate that the Greek wording of verses 1 and 2 was added from the version of Theodotion. In the existing text of the Septuagint, chapter 40 begins with the words in verse 3 of the extant Hebrew text.

The wording of verse 4 in the Septuagint includes expressions that are not found in the extant Hebrew text. Job raised the rhetorical question, “Why do I yet dispute?” In the continuation of this question, he acknowledged himself as one whom God had admonished or instructed but whom he had reproved (the apparent reference being to his contention that God been unjust in his dealings with him). The verse continues, “hearing these things [though] I am nothing.” Although Job began to see himself as not amounting to anything, he had received the divine response to his contention. What he heard made him recognize his error. His understanding was far too limited to render a judgment about what God may do or permit. Verse 4 then concludes with Job’s words, “But I, what reply shall I give to these things [the things God said to him]? I will put my hand on my mouth.”

The same wording in Job 38:3 and 40:7 indicates that this poetic composition is not meant to represent the very words of YHWH. With the exception of the first two words that may be rendered, “no, but,” the words in the Septuagint correspond to those of the Hebrew text and are identical to those in Job 38:3.

In verse 17, the Septuagint does not include a corresponding word for the Hebrew noun that is rendered “thighs.”

In verse 23, the rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words in the text of the Septuagint. The phrase about the Jordan, as indicated by the marks of Origen, was added from the Greek version of Theodotion. This phrase differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “It trusts that the Jordan will strike at [literally, into] its mouth.”

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of verse 24 was added from the version of Theodotion. Contextually, the Greek text could be translated, “Will one catch it by its eye? [While it is] twisting and turning [enskolieuómenos], will one pierce its nose?” It is uncertain just what the participle enskolieuómenos means. One conjectural definition is “twisting and turning.”