What is the behemoth in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Behemoth

The name behemoth is a transliteration of the Hebrew. It is the plural form of the common Hebrew word behemah, translated “cattle” (Genesis 1:24, 25; etc.), or beast (Genesis 8:20; 36:6; etc.). The name behemoth is found in the book of Job chapter 40:

15 Look now at the [a]behemoth, which I made along with you;
He eats grass like an ox.
16 See now, his strength is in his hips,
And his power is in his stomach muscles.
17 He moves his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
18 His bones are like beams of bronze,
His ribs like bars of iron.
19 He is the first of the ways of God;
Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
20 Surely the mountains yield food for him,
And all the beasts of the field play there.
21 He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.
22 The lotus trees cover him with their shade;
The willows by the brook surround him.
23 Indeed the river may rage,
Yet he is not disturbed;
He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth,
24 Though he takes it in his eyes,
Or one pierces his nose with a snare.

It seems in Job 40 that behemoth is used as an intensive plural referring to a mammoth beast with the following descriptions:

  1. It is a plant-eater (verse 15)
  2. It is very strong and muscular (verses 16, 18)
  3. It has a massive tail that “sways like a cedar” (verse 17)
  4. It “ranks first among the works of God” (verse 19)
  5. It lives in the mountains (verse 20)
  6. It lives near the water (verses 21–23)
  7. No one can rule it except God (verse 24)

Theories

  1. Some Bible commentators identify the behemoth as a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, or an elephant. But the description of the cedar-like tail doesn’t fit these animals.
  2. Some other scholars see it as an extinct specie.
  3. Others stress that the passage has an emblematic representation.
  4. Still others describe it as a type of dinosaur such as a diplodocus or an apatosaurus, who was a plant-eater, had a tail like trees, and was muscular and strong. This seems to be a more reasonable supposition.

The Lesson in the Passage

God mentioned the behemoth creature in response to Job’s questions to Him, a creature that God has made is so terrifying that man dares not “stir him up.” How, then, dares any man to contend with his Maker? This was a rebuke to Job’s repeated demands for a hearing (chs. 9:34, 35; 13:3, 22; 23:3–7). God is not in debt to any of His creatures. His wisdom, love and justice goes beyond the realm of human understanding. Therefore, no man should doubt His dealings. God has proved His love with His redemption of man (Genesis 3:15; John 3:16).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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