World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook,
or press down its tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in its nose,
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it make many supplications to you?
Will it speak soft words to you?
Will it make a covenant with you
to be taken as your servant forever?
Will you play with it as with a bird,
or will you put it on leash for your girls?
Will traders bargain over it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its skin with harpoons,
or its head with fishing spears?
Lay hands on it;
think of the battle; you will not do it again!
Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed;
were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it?
No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up.
Who can stand before it?
Who can confront it and be safe?
—under the whole heaven, who?
“I will not keep silence concerning its limbs,
or its mighty strength, or its splendid frame.
Who can strip off its outer garment?
Who can penetrate its double coat of mail?
Who can open the doors of its face?
There is terror all around its teeth.
Its back is made of shields in rows,
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.
Its sneezes flash forth light,
and its eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
From its mouth go flaming torches;
sparks of fire leap out.
Out of its nostrils comes smoke,
as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
Its breath kindles coals,
and a flame comes out of its mouth.
In its neck abides strength,
and terror dances before it.
The folds of its flesh cling together;
it is firmly cast and immovable.
Its heart is as hard as stone,
as hard as the lower millstone.
When it raises itself up the gods are afraid;
at the crashing they are beside themselves.
Though the sword reaches it, it does not avail,
nor does the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
It counts iron as straw,
and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make it flee;
slingstones, for it, are turned to chaff.
Clubs are counted as chaff;
it laughs at the rattle of javelins.
Its underparts are like sharp potsherds;
it spreads itself like a threshing sledge on the mire.
It makes the deep boil like a pot;
it makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a shining wake behind it;
one would think the deep to be white-haired.
On earth it has no equal,
a creature without fear.
It surveys everything that is lofty;
it is king over all that are proud.”
1. leviathan—literally, "the twisted animal," gathering itself in folds: a synonym to the Thannin (Job 3:8, Margin; see Ps 74:14; type of the Egyptian tyrant; Ps 104:26; Isa 27:1; the Babylon tyrant). A poetical generalization for all cetacean, serpentine, and saurian monsters (see on Job 40:15, hence all the description applies to no one animal); especially the crocodile; which is naturally described after the river horse, as both are found in the Nile.
tongue … lettest down?—The crocodile has no tongue, or a very small one cleaving to the lower jaw. But as in fishing the tongue of the fish draws the baited hook to it, God asks, Canst thou in like manner take leviathan?
2. hook—rather, "a rope of rushes."
3. soft words—that thou mayest spare his life. No: he is untamable.
4. Can he be tamed for domestic use (so Job 39:10-12)?
5. a bird?—that is, tamed.
6. Rather, "partners" (namely, in fishing).
make a banquet—The parallelism rather supports Umbreit, "Do partners (in trade) desire to purchase him?" So the Hebrew (De 2:6).
merchants—literally, "Canaanites," who were great merchants (Ho 12:7, Margin).
7. His hide is not penetrable, as that of fishes.
8. If thou lay … thou wilt have reason ever to remember … and thou wilt never try it again.
9. the hope—of taking him.
cast down—with fear "at the (mere) sight of him."
10. fierce—courageous. If a man dare attack one of My creatures (Ge 49:9; Nu 24:9), who will dare (as Job has wished) oppose himself (Ps 2:2) to Me, the Creator? This is the main drift of the description of leviathan.
11. prevented—done Me a favor first: anticipated Me with service (Ps 21:3). None can call Me to account ("stand before Me," Job 41:10) as unjust, because I have withdrawn favors from him (as in Job's case): for none has laid Me under a prior obligation by conferring on Me something which was not already My own. What can man give to Him who possesses all, including man himself? Man cannot constrain the creature to be his "servant" (Job 41:4), much less the Creator.
12. I will not conceal—a resumption of the description broken off by the digression, which formed an agreeable change.
his power—literally, "the way," that is, true proportion or expression of his strength (so Hebrew, De 19:4).
comely proportion—literally, "the comeliness of his structure" (his apparatus: so "suit of apparel" Jud 17:10) [Maurer]. Umbreit translates, "his armor." But that follows after.
13. discover—rather, "uncover the surface" of his garment (skin, Job 10:11): strip off the hard outer coat with which the inner skin is covered.
with—rather, "within his double jaws"; literally, "bridle"; hence that into which the bridle is put, the double row of teeth; but "bridle" is used to imply that none dare put his hand in to insert a bridle where in other animals it is placed (Job 41:4; 39:10).
14. doors of … face—his mouth. His teeth are sixty in number, larger in proportion than his body, some standing out, some serrated, fitting into each other like a comb [Bochart].
15. Rather, his "furrows of shields" (as "tubes," "channels," see on Job 40:18), are, &c., that is, the rows of scales, like shields covering him: he has seventeen such rows.
shut up—firmly closed together. A musket ball cannot penetrate him, save in the eye, throat, and belly.
18. Translate: "his sneezing, causeth a light to shine." Amphibious animals, emerging after having long held their breath under water, respire by violently expelling the breath like one sneezing: in the effort the eyes which are usually directed towards the sun, seem to flash fire; or it is the expelled breath that, in the sun, seems to emit light.
eyelids of morning—The Egyptian hieroglyphics paint the eyes of the crocodile as the symbol for morning, because the eyes appear the first thing, before the whole body emerges from the deep [Horæ Hierogliphicæ 1.65. Bochart].
19. burning lamps—"torches"; namely, in respiring (Job 41:18), seem to go out.
20. seething—boiling: literally, "blown under," under which a fire is blown.
21. kindleth coals—poetical imagery (Ps 18:8).
22. remaineth—abideth permanently. His chief strength is in the neck.
sorrow—anxiety or dismay personified.
is turned into joy—rather, "danceth," "exulteth"; wherever he goes, he spreads terror "before him."
23. flakes—rather, "dewlaps"; that which falls down (Margin). They are "joined" fast and firm, together, not hanging loose, as in the ox.
are firm—Umbreit and Maurer, "are spread."
in themselves—rather, "upon him."
24. heart—"In large beasts which are less acute in feeling, there is great firmness of the heart, and slower motion" [Bochart]. The nether millstone, on which the upper turns, is especially hard.
25. he—the crocodile; a type of the awe which the Creator inspires when He rises in wrath.
breakings—namely, of the mind, that is, terror.
purify themselves—rather, "they wander from the way," that is, flee away bewildered [Maurer and Umbreit].
26. cannot hold—on his hard skin.
habergeon—coat of mail; avail must be taken by zeugma out of "hold," as the verb in the second clause: "hold" cannot apply to the "coat of mail."
27. iron … brass—namely, weapons.
28. arrow—literally, "son of the bow"; Oriental imagery (La 3:13; Margin).
stubble—Arrows produce no more effect than it would to throw stubble at him.
29. Darts—rather, "clubs"; darts have been already mentioned (Job 41:26).
30. stones—rather, "potsherds," that is, the sharp and pointed scales on the belly, like broken pieces of pottery.
sharp-pointed things—rather, "a threshing instrument," but not on the fruits of the earth, but "on the mire"; irony. When he lies on the mire, he leaves the marks of his scales so imprinted on it, that one might fancy a threshing instrument with its sharp teeth had been drawn over it (Isa 28:27).
31. Whenever he moves.
pot of ointment—the vessel in which it is mixed. Appropriate to the crocodile, which emits a musky smell.
32. path—the foam on his track.
hoary—as hair of the aged.
33. who—being one who, &c.
34. beholdeth—as their superior.
children of pride—the proud and fierce beasts. So Job 28:8; Hebrew, "sons of pride." To humble the pride of man and to teach implicit submission, is the aim of Jehovah's speech and of the book; therefore with this as to leviathan, the type of God in His lordship over creation, He closes.