Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 41. Leviathan, that is, the crocodile
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?1. The second clause appears to mean,
Wilt thou press down his tongue with a cord?
The “cord” may be that of the hook; when the hook is swallowed and the cord drawn tightly, it presses down the tongue.
1–9. The impossibility of capturing the animal.
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?2. a hook] lit. a cord of rush.
a thorn] That is, a spike.
The reference in the first clause may be to the habit of passing a cord through the gills of fish when caught, and letting them down into the water again, to preserve them in freshness.
Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?3. Ironical question whether Leviathan will beg to be spared or treated kindly.
Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?4. Will he consent to be one of thy domesticated animals, and serve thee?
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?5. Wilt thou make a pet thing of him? The commentators quote Catullus, passer, deliciœ meœ puellœ.
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?6. The first clause reads,
Will the partners bargain over him?
This sense is sustained by the second clause; comp. ch. Job 6:27. By “the partners” is meant the company of fishermen; comp. Luke 5:7; Luke 5:10.
the merchants] lit. the Canaanites. The Phoenicians were the great merchants of antiquity; comp. Isaiah 23:8; Zechariah 14:21; Proverbs 31:24.
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.8. The verse is ironical,
Lay thine hand upon him!
Think of the battle: thou shalt do so no more.
The last words, thou shalt do so no more (so the Geneva), refer to the ironical advice given in the first clause, “lay thine hand upon him”! The thought of the “battle,” that is, the conflict, will be sufficient to deter from any attempt to renew it.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?9. the hope of him is in vain] Rather, behold, one’s hope is belied; lit. his hope. The hope of the assailant to overcome Leviathan is disappointed.
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?10, 11. In these verses the speaker turns aside from describing the invincibility of Leviathan to impress the moral which he intends to teach by introducing the monster. If none dare stir up this creature, which God has made, who will stand before God who created him, or venture to contend with Him?
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.11. who hath prevented me] Rather, who hath first given to me? So Tyndale, Or who hathe geven me anye thinge afore hand, that I am bounde to reward him agayne? As none dare contend with God (Job 41:10), so none have any ground of contention with Him. None hath given aught to God, so as to have a claim against Him, for all things under the heavens are His; comp. Psalm 50:10 seq.
I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.12–34. Description of the parts of Leviathan.
Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?13. The verse reads,
Who hath uncovered the face of his garment?
Or who will enter into his double jaw?
The “face of his garment” seems to mean the upper side or surface of his coat of scales, his armour; and the question is, Who has turned back, or removed this scaly covering? The question seems a general, preliminary one, as the scales are more particularly described in Job 41:15 seq. His “double jaw” is lit. his double bridle, the term “bridle” referring particularly perhaps to the corners of his jaws.
13, 14. The terrible jaws of the animal.
Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.14. who can open] Or, who hath opened. The “doors of his face” is an expression for his “mouth” which has something artificial and forced in it.
his teeth are terrible] The jaws of the crocodile are very extended; the two rows of long, pointed teeth, thirty-six, it is said, above, and thirty beneath, being bare, as the mouth has no lips, present a formidable appearance.
His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.15. his scales are his pride] Rather, the rows of his shields are a pride. Each of his scales is a shield, and they are disposed in rows, or courses, lit. pipes (ch. Job 40:18), so called from their being curved or bossed. Of these rows there are said to be seventeen. The second clause describes the firmness and closeness with which each scale adheres to the body.
15–17. His armour of scales.
One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.16, 17. These verses refer to the close coherence of the scales to one another.
They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.18. The animal is said to inflate itself, as it lies basking in the sun, and then force the heated breath through its nostrils, which in the sun appears like a stream of light.
the eyelids of the morning] The reference may be to the shining of the reddish eyes of the animal, which are seen even under the water, before its head comes to the surface. In the Egyptian hieroglyphs the eyes of the crocodile are a symbol of the dawn.
18–21. The monster breathes smoke and flame.
Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.19. burning lamps] Or, burning torches.
19–21. These verses refer probably to the animal’s emergence from the water, when the long-repressed hot breath is blown out along with water from his mouth, and shines in the sun like a fiery stream.
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.20. as out of a seething pot or caldron] Rather perhaps, like a seething pot with rushes, i. e. with a fire of rushes.
His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.22. The verse means,
In his neck dwelleth strength,
And terror leapeth up before him.
His neck is the dwelling-place, the home of strength; and wherever he appears terror leaps up. The prosaic meaning in the last words is that in the presence of Leviathan every thing starts up affrighted and seeks escape.
22–24. His strength and hardness of muscle.
The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.23. The verse reads,
The flakes of his flesh cleave fast together;
It is firm upon him, it is not moved.
The “flakes” of his flesh are the parts beneath the neck and belly, which in most animals are soft and pendulous; in him they are firm and hard. In the second clause it refers to his flesh, which is “firm,” lit. cast or molten, and does not move, or shake, with the motions of his body.
His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.24. The second clause reads,
Yea, firm as the nether millstone.
Gen. “as hard as the nether millstone.” The term “firm,” lit. cast, is repeated from the first clause (cf. Job 41:23). The nether millstone, bearing all the pressure upon it, needs to be harder even than the upper stone.
When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.25. With his “firmness” of heart there naturally goes a corresponding courage and fierceness.
by reason of breakings] Rather, by reason of terrors they are beside themselves; lit. they lose themselves. The Geneva has: for fear they faint in themselves. The expression “lose themselves” seems more naturally said of mental confusion from terror, than of literally losing their way in their attempts to escape (Gesen.).
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.26. that layeth at him] That is, that striketh at him; lit. he that layeth at him with the sword,—it doth not hold. The sword does not hold, or bite, but glances off his adamantine armour.
the habergeon] That is, the mail. “And be ye apparelled or clothed, saith Paul, with the habergeon, or coat armour of justice,” Latimer, Serm. p. 29 (Wright, Bible Word-Book).
26–29. He can be subdued by no weapon.
He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.
Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.29. darts are counted] Rather, clubs.
Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.30. The impression left where he has lien.
Under him he hath sharp potsherds,
He spreadeth a threshing-sledge upon the mire.
The scales of the belly, though smoother than those on the back, still are sharp, particularly those under the tail, and leave an impression on the mire where he has lien as if a sharp threshing-sledge with teeth had stood on it or gone over it (Isaiah 41:15).
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.31. The commotion he raises in the deep.
The second clause of the verse hardly refers to fermentation in the pot of ointment, but rather to the foaming mixture of ingredients.
He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.32. The verse refers to the shining track which his swift darting through the water leaves behind him.
Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.33. who is made] That is, he who is made without fear—so as to fear nothing.
33, 34. He has no rival, he is king among the proud beasts.
He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.34. he beholdeth all high things] Or, he looketh on all that is high; he looks them boldly in the face without terror.
the children of pride] That is, the proud beasts; comp. ch. Job 28:8.