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behemoth Summary and Overview

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behemoth in Easton's Bible Dictionary

(Job 40:15-24). Some have supposed this to be an Egyptian word meaning a "water-ox." The Revised Version has here in the margin "hippopotamus," which is probably the correct rendering of the word. The word occurs frequently in Scripture, but, except here, always as a common name, and translated "beast" or "cattle."

behemoth in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(great beasts). There can be little or no doubt that by this word, #Job 40:15-24| the hippopotamus is intended since all the details descriptive of the behemoth accord entirely with the ascertained habits of that animal. The hippopotamus is an immense creature having a thick and square head, a large mouth often two feet broad, small eyes and ears, thick and heavy body, short legs terminated by four toes, a short tail, skin without hair except at the extremity of the tail. It inhabits nearly the whole of Africa, and has been found of the length of 17 feet. It delights in the water, but feeds on herbage on land. It is not found in Israel, but may at one time have been a native of western Asia.

behemoth in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

BE'HEMOTH . Job 40:15-24. The word elsewhere translated beasts -- i. e. great beasts -- is here given in its Hebrew form. Evidently this is right, for Job plainly refers to a beast preeminently great. The animal described as the behemoth in the passage above cited was of prodigious size and strength, and corresponds better with the river-horse of Africa (Hippopotamus amphibius), than with any other known animal. It is very probable that this creature, though not now found in Palestine, may once have inhabited the rivers of Western Asia. The average length of the male hippopotamus (including a tail about 1 foot long) is 14 feet. His girth is nearly the same, and his height at the shoulder is 5 or 6 feet. The huge, uncouth body of the animal is supported by short, stout limbs with four toes, each of which toes has a small hoof. The aperture of his mouth is 2 feet broad, and his tusks are more than a foot long. Cutting-teeth, which retain their sharpness by the same wonderful provision seen in the squirrel, enable him to mow as with a scythe the coarse, tough plants, aquatic roots, and grasses which are his food. A stomach capable of containing 5 or 6 bushels of vegetable matter prepares him to devour enormous quantities of herbage along river-margins and prove sadly destructive to neighboring crops. Though clumsy on the land, in the water the movements of the hippopotamus are often graceful and rapid. For the most part, he loves to lie "in the covert of the reeds and fens," or float in the water with only his nostrils visible. By way of exercise, he walks at the bottom of the river or climbs the neighboring hillsides ("mountains" of the Bible). "The old commentators have made all sorts of conjectures on the behemoth. Some have maintained it was the elephant, others the wild buffalo, others the mammoth or some extinct pachyderm, others that it is a poetical description of these large creatures generally. But it appears clear that the description suits the hippopotamus exactly, and it alone; and this description has been adopted by Bochart and most modern critics. We know from the Egyptian monuments that this huge animal was hunted with spears; and noting its place in the description of the marvels of creation in Job, just before the leviathan or crocodile, the sequence seems to be that, powerful and terrible as is the hippopotamus, yet it may sometimes be taken with spears: 'But what canst thou do with the crocodile? Will spears and barbs avail against him?' " -- Tristram.

behemoth in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

(Job 40:15-24.) The Egyptian, Coptic, pehemout, "the water ox," Hebraized; our "river horse", hippopotamus. "Behold I made him with thee." Yet how great the difference! "He eateth grass as an ox;" a marvel in an animal so much in the water, and that such a monster is not carnivorous. "His force is in the navel (rather muscles) of his belly"; the elephant's skin there is thin, but the hippopotamus' skin thick. "He moveth his tail like a cedar," short indeed, but straight and rigid as the cedar. "The sinews of his thighs are twisted together," like a thick rope. "His bones are as strong tubes of copper .... his spine like bars of iron." He that made him hath furnished him with his sword" (his sickle-like teeth). Though so armed, he lets "all the beasts of the field play" near him, for he is herbivorous. "He lieth under the lotus bushes," in the covert of the reed and fens (being amphibious). "The lotus bushes cover him with their shadow." "Behold (though) a river be overwhelming, he is not in hasty panic (for he can live in water as well as land); he is secure, though a Jordan swell up to his mouth." Job cannot have been a Hebrew, or he would not adduce Jordan, where there were no river horses. He alludes to it as a name known only by hearsay, and representing any river. "Before his eyes (i.e. openly) will any take him, or pierce his nose with cords?" Nay, he can only be taken by guile. Jehovah's first discourse (Job 38-39) was limited to land animals and birds; this second discourse requires therefore the animal classed with the crocodile to be amphibious, as the river horse.