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JOB 41


God's Power Shown in Creatures God's Challenge to Job
Second Speech of the Lord
The Lord Answers Job

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 questions continue.

1. NASB – 16 questions, Job 41:1-11

2. NKJV – 13 questions, Job 41:1-11

3. NRSV – 12 questions, Job 41:1-11

4. NJB – 4 questions, Job 41:1-11

5. JPSOA – 4 questions, Job 41:1-11

The MT has the interrogative (BDB 566) in Job 41:11 and interrogative particle in Job 41:2,3,4,5,7. The English translations differ on how to place them (i.e., end of verses, end of each line of poetry). The NASB and NKJV assume the questions begin in Job 41:1.


B. For Leviathan see Special Topic: Leviathan.



 1"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?
 Or press down his tongue with a cord?
 2Can you put a rope in his nose
 Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
 3Will he make many supplications to you,
 Or will he speak to you soft words?
 4Will he make a covenant with you?
 Will you take him for a servant forever?
 5Will you play with him as with a bird,
 Or will you bind him for your maidens?
 6Will the traders bargain over him?
 Will they divide him among the merchants?
 7Can you fill his skin with harpoons,
 Or his head with fishing spears?
 8Lay your hand on him;
 Remember the battle; you will not do it again!
 9Behold, your expectation is false;
 Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?
 10No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;
 Who then is he that can stand before Me?
 11Who has given to Me that I should repay him?
 Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine."

41:1 (MT 40:25) "Leviathan" See Special Topic: Leviathan.

41:4 (MT 40:28) "forever" See Special Topic: Forever (‘olam).

41:5 (MT 40:29) This verse is imagery comparing Leviathan to a pet.

The term "maidens" (BDB 655, KB 707 I) has been interpreted as

1. daughter – NRSV, NJB

2. servant women – TEV, UBS Handbook suggestion, p. 753; KB 708 I, #3 or #4

3. child – LXX

4. children – Peshitta

Job has no children left alive.

41:6 (MT 40:30)

NJB"fishing guild"

The MT has "partner in trade" or "guildsman" (BDB 289, KB 288 II), found only here. I think NJB is the best guess, being parallel to "the merchants" (lit. "Canaanites," i.e., traders; cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 669).

41:8 (MT 40:32) This verse has two imperatives.

1. lay your hand on him – BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative

2. remember the battle – BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

The third verbal is jussive, singular. The TEV seems to catch the thrust of the passage: "Touch him once and you'll never try it again; you'll never forget the fight!"

41:9 (MT 41:1) This difficult verse is related to Job 41:8. There is no hope of capturing Leviathan, neither from mankind or "the gods" (Symmachus, Syriac, NRSV). Both LXX and Peshitta are very different from the MT.

AB (p. 282) suggests the editors of the MT purposely altered a name for "god" because the mythological implications bothered them.

41:10b-11 (MT 41:2-3) These last three poetic lines of the strophe (Job 41:1-11) are the crucial theological issue. The implication of all the questions is, "Job cannot, but YHWH can!" If YHWH has that kind of power, who can stand before Him? He is the creator of all, subject to none! (cf. 1 Cor. 10:26, quoted from LXX).

The AB (p. 280) suggests this verse also refers to Leviathan's fearful presence (TEV), not God, and is, thereby related to Job 41:9 (i.e., gods). The lessor gods are fearful of arousing Leviathan.


NASB"who has given to Me"
NKJV"who has preceded Me"
NRSV"who can confront it"
TEV, REB"who can attack him"
JPSOA"whoever confronts Me"
Peshitta"who has preeminence over me"

The verb (BDB 869, KB 1068, Hiphil perfect) means

1. BDB 870, Hiphil – anticipate

2. BDB 869 suggests a meaning to the root (but no examples given) – be before, former time, in front (KB 1069; NKJV)

Also, some translations see the object as

1. God – NASB, NKJV, Peshitta, JPSOA; also NRSV footnote

2. Leviathan – NRSV, TEV, REB


 12"I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
 Or his mighty strength, or his orderly frame.
 13Who can strip off his outer armor?
 Who can come within his double mail?
 14Who can open the doors of his face?
 Around his teeth there is terror.
 15His strong scales are his pride,
 Shut up as with a tight seal.
 16One is so near to another
 That no air can come between them.
 17They are joined one to another;
 They clasp each other and cannot be separated.
 18His sneezes flash forth light,
 And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
 19Out of his mouth go burning torches;
 Sparks of fire leap forth.
 20Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth
 As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
 21His breath kindles coals,
 And a flame goes forth from his mouth.
 22In his neck lodges strength,
 And dismay leaps before him.
 23The folds of his flesh are joined together, 
 Firm on him and immovable.
 24His heart is as hard as a stone,
 Even as hard as a lower millstone.
 25When he raises himself up, the mighty fear;
 Because of the crashing they are bewildered.
 26The sword that reaches him cannot avail,
 Nor the spear, the dart or the javelin.
 27He regards iron as straw,
 Bronze as rotten wood.
 28The arrow cannot make him flee;
 Slingstones are turned into stubble for him.
 29Clubs are regarded as stubble; 
 He laughs at the rattling of the javelin.
 30His underparts are like sharp potsherds; 
 He spreads out like a threshing sledge on the mire.
 31He makes the depths boil like a pot;
 He makes the sea like a jar of ointment.
 32Behind him he makes a wake to shine;
 One would think the deep to be gray-haired.
 33Nothing on earth is like him,
 One made without fear.
 34He looks on everything that is high;
 He is king over all the sons of pride."

41:12-34 This strophe continues the discussion of Leviathan. He is a powerful, fearful creation that no human can tame, but YHWH can!

41:19-21 This cannot describe a crocodile!


NASB, REB"dismay"

The MT has a feminine noun (BDB 178, NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 331,332), found only here in the OT, which could mean

1. faintness

2. dismay

"Sorrow" comes from another Hebrew root (NKJV, NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 906,909, cf. Deut. 33:25).

Another theory is related to a Ugaritic root, "strength," which is supported by KB 207, the DSS Targum of Job, and JPSOA. This fits the parallelism of "strength" (BDB 738) best in Job 41:22a and b.


NKJV"the mighty"
Symmachus"the gods"
TEV"the strongest"
NJB, REB"he" (i.e., Leviathan)
JPSOA"divine beings"
UBS Text
(alternating)"the waves" (emendation)

The MT has "gods" (i.e., ‘elim, plural of El, BDB 42). The UBS Text Project (p. 159) gives this a "B" rating (some doubt).

Leviathan brings fear to heaven (if "gods") and earth (if "powerful humans").

41:30-32 Andersen, in The Tyndale OT Commentary Series (p. 291), asserts that Job 41:30-32 speaks of how Leviathan moves through the water. See my notes next on Job 41:31-32.

41:31-32 These verses have several terms related to the sea.

1. the depths, Job 41:31 – BDB 846, KB 623, cf. Exod. 15:5; Jonah 2:4

2. the sea, Job 41:31 – BDB 410, KB 413, cf. Exod. 13:18; 15:4; Jonah 1:4

3. the deep, Job 41:32 – BDB 1062, KB 1690, cf. Gen. 1:2; Job 28:14; 38:16; Ps. 71:20; Jonah 2:6

The terms "sea," "watery chaos," "chaos creatures" all held important mythological connections in the ANE. See Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 277-278.

41:33-34 Should these verses be seen as

1. confirmation of the extra-natural nature of Leviathan

2. confirmation that it is just another powerful animal of this planet

I think overall, #1 fits the date and context of Job best.

41:3 "dust" This term (BDB 779) denotes

1. that from which humans were made – Gen. 2:7; Job 4:19; 8:19; 10:9; 34:15

2. that to which human bodies at death will return – Gen. 3:19

3. soil – Job 14:19; 28:6; 39:14

4. food of the serpent – Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25

Because of the proximity of Job 41:31-32 (i.e., several names for the underworld), this term may refer to death or Sheol here. There is nothing in the underworld/defeated world like Leviathan. He is still without fear, though merely a plaything for YHWH.

The phrase, "sons of pride," however, is used in Job 28:8 for animals. It is difficult to decide if this chapter refers to

1. an animal

2. ANE mythology

3. or both

I have come to see #2 as probable. See John H. Walton, ANE Thought and the OT: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible and Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology.


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. Is Leviathan an animal or a symbol of chaos?

2. To whom does Job 41:10 refer?

3. Why is Job 41:11 so hard to interpret?

4. How can Job 41:19-21 refer to an animal?

5. Does Job 41:31-32 have Canaanite mythology?


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