The Word Made Fresh
1Can you catch a crocodile with a fishhook and shut its mouth with a rope? 2Can you wrap a rope around its snout? Can a fishhook penetrate its jaw? 3Will it beg you for mercy? Will it talk sweetly to you? 4Will it make a pact with you, and promise to serve you forever? 5Will you play with it as you would a bird, or put a leash on it for your girls? 6Will traders try to make a deal with you for it and divide it up to sell to the merchants? 7Can you penetrate its thick hide with a harpoon, or pierce its head with fishhooks? 8Lay hold of it with your hands; consider what you would be in for, and you’ll never do it again! 9If you have any hope of being its master you will be disappointed; even the gods are afraid of it. 10No one is aggressive enough to dare wrestling with it. Who could do such a thing?
11“Who can safely demand anything of it? In all the earth, who? 12I can keep on talking about its legs, its might, its amazing form. 13Who can strip it of its thick skin, or force it to wear a bridle? 14Who would dare open its mouth and not be terrified by its teeth? 15It proudly displays the rows of impenetrable shields on its back, 16so closely arranged that not even air can penetrate them. 17They are joined together so tightly they can’t be separated. 17It sneezes lightning, its eyes bright as sunrise. 18Sparks like flaming torches leap from its mouth. 19Smoke pours from its nostrils like a pot boiling, or like weeds burning, 21with breath hot as coals and flames flashing from its mouth. 22There is strength in its neck to terrify all. 23Its skin is thick and enfolded like impenetrable armor. 24Its heart is hard as rock, as hard as a millstone. 25When it is aroused even the heavenly beings are frightened and recoil from its thrashing about. 26A sword strike will not penetrate it, nor will the spear or the dart or the javelin. 27Iron is like straw to this beast, and bronze as rotten wood. 28It will not flee from arrows or slingstones; such things are no more than rubbish. 29Clubs are rubbish as well, and it laughs at the rattle of weapons. 30Underneath it, the skin is like hard potsherds, and it flattens itself like a sledge sliding over the mud. 31When it dives under the water the surface roils like a boiling pot and the sea is churned like a kettle of perfume, 32leaving a frothing wake behind that makes the ocean appear to have white hair. 33There is nothing like this creature on the land. No other creature is completely without fear. 34It looks calmly over everything above it and is the king of every proud living thing.”
1-11: Leviathan is Behemoth’s ocean-dwelling counterpart. In commentaries Leviathan is sometimes identified as a crocodile, sometimes as a whale, sometimes as a mythological creature. Based on the description of it here, it is most likely what we would call a giant crocodile. Some scholars think both Leviathan and Behemoth are straight out of the popular religious myths of the day and that the main point of God’s speech here is to show that God is superior to all mythical creatures. Leviathan is pictured here as a powerful and elusive monster of which even “gods” are afraid. That is to say, in the popular religious myths of the day the gods are afraid of this aquatic beast but God, of course, is not.
12-34: Leviathan is painted in great sweeping strokes of fantastic imagery; its powerful limbs, its thick hide, its awful teeth, its spiny back, its interlocking scales. It breathes smoke and fire. Its flesh is impenetrable. Weapons are useless against it. It turns the sea into a foamy cauldron.
If God can make such a creature as this, what makes Job think he can defend himself before God?
There is no creature on land (chapter 40) or sea (chapter 41), no matter how mighty or terrible, that God has not created. The whole purpose of this final installment of God’s speech is to reinforce the truth that there is no creature on earth not under God’s authority. Not even Job, of course.