Q&A: Behemoth in Job

Behemoth in Job

Question

What is the behemoth in Job 40:15? I know it is a primeval beast. Does this refer to the first creation? Does this mean that God created evil as well as good?

Answer

The behemoth may be an animal of unknown type, though some speculate it is a hippopotamus. The word "behemoth" is simply an intensive form of the word for "cattle" or "beast," perhaps indicating that the behemoth is something of a monster, or, as 40:19 might suggest, that it is the most powerful land animal. From the way it is mentioned in Job, it seems to have been known at the time this book was written, though some suggest that it was known by mythology at this time and not by experience. In approaching this text, it is also worth remembering that we are dealing with poetry, which tends to use figurative language, including exaggeration. If the description is of a hippopotamus, it is highly exaggerated. If it is of a monstrous creature, it may not be real. Still, it could also be a very real creature of which we now know almost nothing.

The Bible does not indicate that the behemoth was evil (or that God created evil), but only that it was very powerful. In fact, its power is the point of the passage. Whatever the behemoth was, it was so powerful that only God dared approach it with a sword (i.e. to hunt it, or to threaten it with violence [Job. 40:19]). The implication is that it could have destroyed any mere mortal who tried to do it violence.

In the context of the book of Job, the passage is intended to show Job his own limits and weaknesses. Whereas God can do as he wills even with the behemoth, Job cannot, nor can any other man. Job is nowhere near being God's equal, and thus should not presume to question God's actions or motives.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.