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JOB 40


Job: What Can I Say? The Lord Reveals His Omnipotence to Job
First Speech of the Lord
The Lord Answers Job
YHWH's First Discourse
40:1 40:1-2
  Job's Response to God      
40:3 40:3-5
    Second Discourse
God Questions Job God's Challenge to Job
Second Speech of the Lord
  God Is Master of the Forces of Evil
40:6 40:6-9
40:6 40:6-14
God's Power Shown in Creatures       Behemoth
LXX versing

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The Hebrew text (MT) of Job 40 has 32 verses. Job 41:1-8, in English, is Job 40:25-31 in Hebrew.


B. YHWH's first response to Job runs from Job 38:1–40:2.


C. Job answers YHWH in Job 40:3-5.


D. YHWH continues His questioning of Job in Job 40:6-41:34.


E. My best guess is that both Behemoth and Leviathan are mythical animals that demonstrate YHWH's control of rebellious forces in physical creation (see notes).



 1Then the Lord said to Job,
  2"Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
 Let him who reproves God answer it."

40:1 The repeated introductory formula (i.e., the verb "answer," BDB 772, KB 851, cf. Job 38:1; omitted in LXX) highlights this last question of YHWH, which characterizes Job as a "faultfinder" (BDB 416, KB 417), found only here in the OT.

Job is a "faultfinder" because of his accusations against God's character and justice throughout the dialogues.

▣ "the Almighty" See SPECIAL TOPIC: The Almighty (Shaddai).

▣ "Let him who reproves God answer it" This is an imperfect of "answer" used in a jussive sense and a Hiphil participle of a legal term (BDB 406, KB 410), meaning "to decide," "to adjudge," or "to prove." This refers to Job's legal case against God's justice (esp. Job 9 and 16).

 3Then Job answered the Lord and said,
 4"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
 I lay my hand on my mouth.
 5Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
 Even twice, and I will add nothing more."

40:3-5 This is Job's brief reply to God's questions of Job 38:1-40:2. Job said he wanted to question God (Job 31:35-37), but now in His presence he has nothing to say!

Commentators take this strophe in different senses.

1. positive, Job is humbled

2. negative, Job refuses to let go of his legal case (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 787-788)


40:4a "I am insignificant" This is the verb (BDB 886, KB 1103, Qal perfect) that denotes "smallness" or "lightness," which, in Hebrew thought, would be the opposite of "honorable" or "glorious" (i.e., that which is heavy).

40:4b "I lay my hand on my mouth" See note at Job 21:5.

 6Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm and said,
 7"Now gird up your loins like a man;
 I will ask you, and you instruct Me.
 8Will you really annul My judgment?
 Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
 9Or do you have an arm like God,
 And can you thunder with a voice like His?"

40:6-9 This strophe is similar to Job 38:3, and especially Job 40:7. Is Job so bold as to "instruct" (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil imperative, like Job 38:3) YHWH? Job has overstepped the bounds of "creature." He has brought a legal charge against "The Judge" of the universe. He has been willing to make himself look righteous (cf. Job 13:18; 27:6) at YHWH's expense (cf. Job 10:3,7; 16:11; 19:6; 27:2)!

What shocks me is that Job is approved by YHWH (cf. Job 42:)! His charges against God are never answered.

40:8 "condemn" This verb (BDB 957, KB 1294, Hiphil imperfect) means "condemn as guilty." It is used often in Job (cf. Job 9:20; 10:2; 15:6; 32:3; 34:29; 40:8) because the issue of the book is "justice." Who is guilty—Job or God?

40:9 Again, these questions show Job's ignorance and powerlessness.

 10"Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity,
 And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
 11Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
 And look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.
 12Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him,
 And tread down the wicked where they stand.
 13Hide them in the dust together;
 Bind them in the hidden place.
 14Then I will also confess to you,
 That your own right hand can save you."

40:10-14 God asks Job to act against wickedness (i.e., act in God's stead) and when he does, then he will be affirmed (lit. "confess" or "give thanks" in Hiphil). This is sarcasm (or satire)!

Notice the series of imperatives on how Job should act.

1. "adorn yourself," Job 40:10 – BDB 725, KB 798, Qal imperative

a. with eminence (BDB 144)

b. with dignity (BDB 147)

c. with honor (BDB 217 I)

d. with majesty (BDB 214)

2. "pour out the overflowings of your anger," Job 40:11 – BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil imperative

3-4. "look on everyone who is proud," Job 40:11,12 (twice) – BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

5. "make him low," Job 40:11 – BDB 1050, KB 1631, Hiphil imperative

6. "humble him," Job 40:12 – BDB 488, KB 484, Hiphil imperative

7. "tread down the wicked," Job 40:12 – BDB 213, KB 239, Qal imperative (found only here in the OT)

8. "hide them in the dust together," Job 40:13 – BDB 380, KB 377, Qal imperative

9. "bind them in the hidden place," Job 40:14 – BDB 289, KB 289, Qal imperative


40:13 "dust" This was a Hebrew idiom for death or the grave (cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; 34:15). Line a is parallel to line b, both referring to Sheol.


 15"Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you;
 He eats grass like an ox.
 16Behold now, his strength in his loins
 And his power in the muscles of his belly.
 17He bends his tail like a cedar;
 The sinews of his thighs are knit together.
 18His bones are tubes of bronze;
 His limbs are like bars of iron."

40:15-24 These two strophes deal with "Behemoth" (BDB 97, KB 112; plural form of the word for "beast"). There have been several ways to view this creation of God.

1. a reference to a large animal that lives in the marsh and river areas, usually associated with the hippopotamus (i.e., eats grass)

2. both Behemoth and Leviathan are the "great sea monsters" of Gen. 1:21 (cf. Ps. 104:25-26; II Bar. 29:4); Job 40:19 may be a hint for this option

3. in some Jewish lore (i.e., IV Ezra 6:49-52) it is viewed as the water counterpart of the female Leviathan (i.e., thereby denoting a fertility couple)

4. a mythical creature (i.e., chaos monster) that opposes God, like Leviathan (i.e., Interbiblical Apocalyptic Writings); the rabbis say that after an end-time rebellion by them, God will barbeque them for the eschatological banquet (B.B. 75a)

5. possibly linked to Egyptian "water ox" that was seen as the enemy of immortality in Egyptian lore

6. the AB (pp. 268-271) also suggests a possible connection with

a. Sumerian "bull of heaven," associated with the Gilgamesh Epic (i.e., had a large tail, Job 40:17, or possibly "penis"; other sexual terms found in Job 40:16)

b. Ba'al buffalo associated with Ugarit poems

There is little in Job 40 suggesting that Behemoth is anything more than a large mammal (it is surprising it is separated from the earlier texts on YHWH's creation of animals). The mythological associations come from the biblical usages of "Leviathan." It is possible that Job 40:19-20 hints at a mythological association.

John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Job, p. 406, shows how God's mentioning forces of cosmic disorder fits into earlier comments by Job.

1. accuses God of treating him like a chaos monster (cf. Job 7:12)

2. Job's accusation that God is beating him like a chaos monster (Job 30)

3. here in Job 40:15-41:34, God mentions His creation (Job 40:19a) and control (Job 40:19b) of the watery chaos, with its mythological imagery (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 261-262)


 19"He is the first of the ways of God;
 Let his maker bring near his sword.
 20Surely the mountains bring him food,
 And all the beasts of the field play there.
 21Under the lotus plants he lies down,
 In the covert of the reeds and the marsh.
 22The lotus plants cover him with shade;
 The willows of the brook surround him.
 23If a river rages, he is not alarmed;
 He is confident, though the Jordan rushes to his mouth.
 24Can anyone capture him when he is on watch,
 With barbs can anyone pierce his nose?"

40:19a This same phrasing is used of "wisdom" in Pro. 8:22. It may imply that "Behemoth" was a special creation of God. This is stated in Enoch 60:7-9; Apoc. of Baruch 29:4; and IV Ezra 6:49-52.

40:19b This verse seems to allude to conflict between God the creator and the created. This verse introduces a "conflict" theme.

40:20 This is an unusual verse.

1. NJB translates it as "forbidding him the mountain regions and all the wild animals that play there"

2. REB has "for he takes the cattle of the hills for his prey and in his jaws he crushes all beasts of the wild."

3. The Peshitta has "He roams about the mountains and all the wild beasts of the field lie down under his protection."


40:21-24 Although Behemoth is often identified as a "land" animal, these verses show it is a fresh water animal. Therefore, both creatures of this last section could be seen as the water monsters of creation, one fresh water and one salt water (cf. Gen. 1:21).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does YHWH give a second speech?

2. Why is Job 40:8 so important?

3. Does Job 40:10-14 represent YHWH saying to Job, "Here, you run the universe"?

4. Are Behemoth and Leviathan animals or cosmic chaos monsters? Why or why not.

5. Why is Job 40:19 crucial in interpreting this chapter?


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