Job 41:1-34 (40:25-41:26)

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Leviathan (“dragon” [LXX]) is usually thought to be the crocodile, the large African crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). The question directed to Job emphasized his inability to control this creature, with the implication being that God could easily do so. “Can you [Job] draw out” or catch “Leviathan with a fishhook and press down [or restrain] its tongue with a rope?” The Septuagint does not include a reference to the tongue but refers to placing a halter around the creature’s nose. (41:1 [40:25])

The series of questions continued. “Can you [Job] put a reed in [Leviathan’s] nose [or through its nostrils] and pierce its jaw with a thorn [or hook]?” (41:2 [40:26]; see the Notes section.) “Will it make many supplications to you [speak to you with supplications (LXX)] or speak to you in a gentle manner [with an entreaty, softly, gently, or in a mild manner (LXX)]?” (41:3 [40:27]) “Will it make a covenant with you so that you may take it as your servant forever” or permanently? (41:4 [40:28]) “Will you play with it as with a bird and bind it [like a sparrow (LXX)] for your maidens [a child (LXX)]” (apparently so that the animal could be led about by means of a leash)? (41:5 [40:29]) In response to all these rhetorical questions, Job would have been forced to acknowledge that he could not do any of the things that had been mentioned. The implication is that he simply could not do things that God can and, therefore, could also not comprehend what God might do or permit in carrying out his ultimate purpose. This precluded his passing judgment on God’s activity as he did when maintaining that God had dealt unjustly with him.

Apparently because Leviathan would elude capture, the questions are raised, “Will partners [in trade] barter [karáh] for it? Will they divide it up among traders [literally, Canaanites; Phoenicians [LXX], peoples who were known as traders]?” The implication is that Leviathan would not become an object of barter or trade nor would it be divided into parts, with the portions thereafter being sold. (41:6 [40:30]; see the Notes section regarding karáh and the rendering of the Septuagint.)

If Leviathan is correctly identified as the crocodile, the next rhetorical question relates to its scales that are like strong armor. Job was asked whether he could fill the skin of Leviathan with barbs or spears (any kind of pointed instrument) or “its head with fishing spears?” Job knew that he could not do so. In modern times, glancing hits of crocodiles by bullets have ricocheted. (41:7 [40:31]; see the Note section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

To lay one’s hands or palms on Leviathan would be foolhardy. The phrase “remember the battle” may mean to think about the disastrous result from any attempt to confront the creature. In the Septuagint, the reference is to “remembering the battle occurring in its body.” A struggle with Leviathan could not be undertaken again. (41:8 [40:32])

The interjection “look” serves to focus attention on the words that are next spoken to Job. One’s hope being disappointing, deceptive, or a falsehood may refer to the impossibility of realizing the hope of gaining the mastery over Leviathan. So formidable is the creature that one would be cast down, laid low, or overwhelmed with fright by the mere sight of it. (41:9 [41:1]; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

No one is so fierce as to stir up or awaken Leviathan. Therefore, YHWH, its maker, is represented as asking, “Who then can stand [in opposition] before me?” In the Septuagint, the focus is on God, and the implication is that it would be folly to resist him. “Do you not fear [the creature] because it has been prepared by me? For who is the one opposing me?” (41:10 [41:2])

As YHWH has the most powerful of creatures under control, there is no one who can successfully “confront” (qadám) him so that he would need to make payment for any service or favor. Everything “under the heavens,” or under the celestial vault, is his. Therefore, nothing exists that could be given to him. Even though the wording of the Hebrew text represents YHWH as speaking, numerous translators have rendered the verse to apply to Leviathan. “Who has ever attacked him [Leviathan] and come out of it safely? No one under the wide heaven.” (REB) “Who has ever attacked him with impunity? No one beneath all of heaven!” (NJB) “Who can confront it and be safe? — under the whole heaven, who?” (NRSV) Other translators have not made this change but have variously rendered the Hebrew text. “Whoever confronts Me I will requite, for everything under the heavens is Mine.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (NIV) “I am in command of the world and in debt to no one.” (CEV) (41:11 [41:3]; see the Notes section.)

According to the Hebrew text, the description of Leviathan continues, with YHWH being represented as the speaker. He is quoted as saying that he would not be silent “about its parts” (body members or limbs), the report or matter of its strength, and the “grace of its symmetry.” The expression “grace of its symmetry” could indicate that Leviathan’s whole frame is ideally suited for the functions it performs. (41:12 [41:4]; see the Notes section.)

Regarding Leviathan, the question is raised, “Who can strip off its outer garment,” or its protective armor? (“Who will uncover the face of its dress [possibly the skin that covers the monster like an article of clothing]?” [LXX]) The next rhetorical question about another act that would be unthinkable contains the Hebrew word résen, which is the noun for “bridle.” In this context, résen is linked with a Hebrew word meaning “double,” and has been considered to designate the jowls or a “double jaw” filled with sharp teeth. The interpretive renderings of modern translations vary considerably. “Who can penetrate the folds of his jowls?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) [“Who can] penetrate his double corselet?” (NAB) “Who would approach him with a bridle?” (NIV) “[Who could] bring it under control with a harness?” (CEV) “[Who has ever] “penetrated his doublet of hide?” (REB) “[Who can] pierce the double armour of his breastplate?” (NJB) The Septuagint rendering is, “And who could enter [or penetrate] the fold [possibly the overlapping scales] of its breastplate?” (41:13 [41:5])

The “doors” of Leviathan’s “face” may designate the creature’s upper and lower jaw, and the head could here be called its “face.” Who would dare to open the mouth, the most prominent feature of the head? “Round about” in the mouth of Leviathan are fearsome teeth or, according to the Septuagint, “fear” is “round about its teeth.” In the Nile crocodile, the teeth are long, sharp, and conical. (41:14 [41:6])

“Pride” or “majesty” is linked to the expression that may be rendered “rows [literally, channels] of scales [literally, shields].” As the scales provide protection, they may have been identified as a basis for pride. These scales are additionally described as “having been shut up” or closed as with a “tight seal.” (41:15 [41:7]; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering.)

The scales “draw near one to another” or fit closely together, and “air [literally, spirit or wind] cannot come between them.” (41:16 [41:8]; see the Notes section.)

Like a “man to his brother,” the scales “cleave” as if having taken hold of one another and “cannot be separated.” (41:17 [41:9]; see the Notes section.) The Nile crocodile has “prominent dorsal scales or scutes” that are “arranged in even rows.” (Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Second Edition, Volume 7, page 186)

The “sneezings” of Leviathan “flash forth light,” and its “eyes” are like “eyelids” or “eyes of dawn” (the rays of the morning sun). Possibly the “sneezings” refer to spray proceeding from the nostrils whenever the submerged creature rises to the surface of the water — spray that shines in the sunlight. The reflection of the early morning sun in the eyes of Leviathan may be why its eyes are poetically described like the “eyelids” or “eyes of dawn.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the eyes of the monster have the appearance of the “morning star” (Venus). (41:18 [41:10])

The poetic description of Leviathan is expressed in language that seemingly influenced the Septuagint translator to use the designation “dragon” for the monster. “Torches” (possibly the spray that sunlight illuminates) or “burning lamps” (LXX) come out of the mouth of Leviathan, and “sparks of fire” (perhaps bright drops of water) issue forth. Instead of “sparks of fire,” the Septuagint contains the expression that may be rendered “grates of fire,” which could apply to burning coals on the grates. (41:19 [41:11]) “Smoke goes forth” from the “nostrils” of Leviathan as it would from a furnace “being blown upon” (or greatly heated) and from the “rushes” that provide fuel for the fire. The Septuagint refers to the “smoke of a furnace burning with a fire of coals.” (41:20 [41:12) Leviathan’s “soul,” or the monster itself, ignites “coals.” The Septuagint rendering may be understood to indicate that the “soul” of the monster or the monster itself is like “coals.” It is also possible that, in this context, the Hebrew and Greek words for “soul” designate the creature’s breath. The concluding phrase in both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint is, “and a flame goes forth from its mouth.” (41:21 [41:13])

“Strength resides” in the “neck” of Leviathan, “and despair leaps” or dances “before its face.” This could mean that any creature before Leviathan (the monster endowed with great power in its neck) would leap or move in terror. According to the Septuagint, “destruction runs before it,” suggesting that the monster uses its strength to bring ruin to everything in its path. The rendering “runs” appears to have arisen because the Septuagint translator read the letter resh (R) in the Hebrew word for “leap” or “dance” as the letter daleth (D). (41:22 [41:14])

The “folds” of Leviathan’s “flesh” cleave together, “being cast upon it” — not to be dislodged. The reference to the “folds” has been variously interpreted, and this is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “The strips of his flesh are jointed together, firmly set in and immovable.” (NJB) “The weakest parts of its body are harder than iron.” (CEV) “Close-knit is his underbelly, no pressure will make it yield.” (REB) In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding word for “folds.” It says, “And the flesh [plural in Greek] of its body cleaves together.” According to the marks of Origen, the next phrase is added from the Greek version of Theodotion. It could be understood to say that, if someone were to pour something upon the monster, “it will not be moved,” shaken, or caused to tremble. (41:23 [41:15])

Leviathan’s “heart” is as if “cast” or hard (“firmly fixed” [LXX]) like a “rock” and as if “cast” or hard like a “lower millstone.” This may be understood to suggest that nothing will frighten the creature. In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding expression for “lower millstone.” It refers to the monster as standing “like an anvil,” not malleable or not yielding. (41:24 [41:16])

When Leviathan “raises itself up” (“turns” [LXX]), “gods” or “mighty ones” (“four-footed wild beasts jumping upon the earth” or the land [LXX]) are afraid. “At the crashings” (possibly the thrashing of Leviathan’s tail, they are confused or reduced to a panic-stricken state. (41:25 [41:17])

Well-protected with armor, Leviathan is fearless when faced with any kind of weapon. Although it might reach the monster, a sword is no match against it nor is a spear, dart, or javelin (a “raised spear and breastplate” [Theodotion]). (41:26 [41:18]; see the Notes section.) Leviathan “regards iron as straw” or chaff, and copper” or “bronze as rotten wood.” (41:27 [41:19]) No “arrow” (literally, “son of a bow”) can make it flee, and slingstones are as ineffective as if Leviathan had turned them into stubble. According to the Septuagint, a “copper” or “bronze bow” (a bow mounted with copper or bronze) “will by no means wound” the monster. “It regards a sling [for throwing stones] as grass.” (41:28 [41:20]; see the Notes section.)

There is uncertainty about the weapon that the Hebrew word tohthách designates, with one suggested meaning being “club.” In the Greek version of Theodotion, the corresponding rendering is the plural form of sphýra, (“hammers” or “mallets”). Whatever the weapon might be, Leviathan regards it as stubble. Being unaffected by weapons that might be wielded against it, Leviathan “laughs at the shaking sabers” or “javelins.” (41:29 [41:21]; see the Notes section.)

The “underparts” of Leviathan are like “sharp” or “pointed potsherds.” “It spreads out a threshing implement upon the mire.” This suggests that, as its “underparts” pass over it, the mud takes on the appearance of having been harrowed. The Septuagint rendering differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It seems to depict the monster’s lair as consisting of sharp, pointed objects. The Septuagint then indicates that “all the gold of the sea under it” is like an unspeakably large amount of “clay.” (41:30 [41:22])

Leviathan “makes the deep boil like a pot. It makes the sea like a pot of ointment.” This could refer to the bubbles that come to the surface when Leviathan is diving into the water of the “deep.” The “sea” or lake is churned up like ointment would be when being heated in a pot. According to the Septuagint, the monster “considers the sea like a pot of ointment” (as something to be stirred up). (41:31 [41:23])

As it passes through water, Leviathan leaves a “shining path behind it” or a wake that glitters in the sunlight. One might think that the “deep” or the body of water through which Leviathan swims takes on the appearance of “gray hair.” (41:32 [41:24]; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Leviathan has no equal on the soil or on the “earth” (LXX). There is no animal like it. Leviathan is a creature that was made to have no fear. The Septuagint refers to it as a creature that was made to be mocked by God’s “angels.” This could signify that only angels possessed sufficient power to handle the monster. (41:33 [41:25]; see the Notes section.)

Leviathan is portrayed as seeing “everything high.” This could mean that, without any sense of fear, it looked down upon all creatures that the ancients regarded as strong and fearsome. Leviathan is identified as “king over all of the sons of dignity” or “pride.” The expression “sons of dignity” may refer to majestic wild beasts — the largest and strongest wild animals. According to the Septuagint rendering, the monster is “king over all [creatures] in the waters.” (41:34 [41:26])

Notes

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of the initial phrase in verse 2 (40:26) was added from the version of Theodotion. It differs somewhat from the Hebrew text (“If you will secure a ring in its nose [or nostril]”). Then follows the text of the Septuagint, which may be rendered, “And will you pierce its lip for a clasp?”

Definitions for the Hebrew word karáh (41:6 [40:30]) include “barter,” “trade in” or “for,” “purchase,” “feast,” or “give a feast.” Context determines just which meaning might be chosen. In the Septuagint, the questions are, “And do the nations feast on it? And do the peoples of the Phoenicians divide [it]?”

In verse 7 (40:31), the initial phrase of the Septuagint is quite unlike that of the extant Hebrew text. Regarding the skin of the creature’s tail, the Septuagint indicates that an entire assembled flotilla (everything afloat) could not carry it. According to the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of the next phrase was added from the version of Theodotion. It continues with the words, “and its head in fishing boats.” In connection with the preceding phrase, this wording suggests that the head is so large or so heavy as not to be transportable.

The wording of verse 9 (41:1) in the Septuagint departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. Regarding the monster, Job is asked, “Have you not seen it, and have you not marveled over the things said” (about the creature)?

In verse 11 (41:3), the extant Hebrew text could be translated, “Who has anticipated [qadám] me that I should repay him?” This literal reading of the Hebrew text is closer to the wording of Romans 11:35 than is the extant text of the Septuagint. The Hebrew word qadám has been defined as meaning “go in front,” “be in front” or “first,” “anticipate,” “meet,” and “confront.” On the basis of Romans 11:35, the word qadám has been regarded as meaning to be first with the giving of a gift. The Septuagint, however, uses a Greek word for “resist,” and this supports translating qadám as “confront” or “attack” in the Job passage. According to the Septuagint, the question is, “Who will resist me and endure since all that is under heaven is mine?”

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of verse 12 (41:4) was added from the version of Theodotion. The rendering differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “I will not be silent because of it; and because of the matter [or word] of strength, it will be compassionate to its equal.” The meaning could be that God would not be silent regarding the creature but would call attention to its characteristics. Although having great strength, the monster would not use its power against an equal.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 7 [15] differs significantly from the reading of the Hebrew text. It refers to the “inward parts” of the creature as being like copper or bronze “shields” and its binding element (sýndesmos) like “emery stone.” The Greek word sýndesmos basically applies to something that binds together and can designate a ligament, joint, fetter, or bond.

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of the initial phrase of verse 8 [16] is added from the version of Theodotion. With seeming reference to the “inward parts” that are like copper or bronze “shields,” the Greek rendering is, “they cleave one to one.” The Septuagint then continues with the words, “and by no means will air [literally, wind or spirit] pass through it” (the binding element [sýndesmos]). In the Greek text, there are two words for “not” that convey the emphatic sense, and this is preserved with the expression here rendered “by no means.”

The marks of Origen indicate that the Greek wording of verse 9 [17] was added from the version of Theodotion. Much of the wording is like that of the extant Hebrew text. “A man will cleave to his brother. They stick together and will by no means be drawn apart.” The expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

In verse 18 (41:26), the initial phrase of the Septuagint reads, “If lances encounter it [the monster], they will not accomplish anything.” According to the marks of Origen, the wording of the rest of the verse was added from the Greek version of Theodotion.

In verse 20 (41:28), the expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of two Greek words for not.

For verse 21 (41:29), the marks of Origen indicate that the Greek wording of the first phrase was added from the version of Theodotion (“Hammers were reckoned as straw”). The concluding phrase of the Septuagint may be rendered, “and it laughs at the shaking” or waving of a “firebrand” (pyrphóron [something or someone bearing or bringing fire]).

The Septuagint rendering of verse 24 [32] depicts Leviathan as a mythical creature. It refers to the monster as regarding as its captive “Tartarus of the abyss” (a realm of the underworld). The next phrase, according to the marks of Origen, was added from the Greek version of Theodotion. “It reckoned the abyss for a walkway.”

In the Septuagint, the phrase that mentions angels (verse 25 [33]) repeats what was earlier said regarding Behemoth (40:19).