We spent our time last week on the Lord’s first speech to Job. So, after the speeches of Job and his three friends which appear in chapters 4 to 31, and after Elihu’s speeches, which appear in chapters 32 to 37, the Lord began to speak from out of them storm. And in the Lord’s first speech to Job he questioned Job about the running of the world. In the first part, he questioned Job about the inanimate world. And so, he referred to the creation in the beginning when God laid the foundation of the earth and marked off its dimensions. And he referred then to the sea and to the morning and to the place of the dead in the underworld and to light and darkness and to snow and hail and lightning and winds and rain and thunderstorms and to the stars and planets and the clouds. Who made all these things and who controls all of these things? It’s not Job, is it? No, it’s the Lord. He’s the one who created and rules the inanimate world.
And in the second part of the first speech, the Lord questioned Job about the animate world. And so, he referred to the lionness and lion and the ravens. Who provides them with their prey? He referred to the mountain goat, giving birth to its young. Are you involved in what happens, Job? He referred to the wild ox and his great strength. Will the ox agree to serve you, Job? Can you control him? He referred to the ostrich, that strange bird which lacks wisdom and mistreats its young and which cannot fly, but which can run faster than the horse and its rider. It’s a strange bird and the reason why God made this strange bird is one of the mysteries of God’s world which God understands, but Job does not. And then he referred to the war horse, who laughs at fear and charges into battle. Did you give him his strength, Job? And he referred to the hawk and eagle, soaring in the sky. Do they fly by your wisdom, Job?
Job had complained that God was treating him unfairly. God was being unjust to him. God was letting Job suffer unjustly. And by complaining like that, Job had become a faultfinder: he was finding fault with the way God runs the world. But when God appeared and questioned Job about the universe, Job soon realised how little he really knew and understood about the way the world works. And he realised that he was small and insignificant compared to God. And so, after the Lord’s first speech, Job put his hand over his mouth to prevent him from saying anything more which would be foolish and dishonouring to God.
And, of course, if Job could not understand how God governs the natural world, then there’s no way Job could understand how God deals with us. If Job couldn’t understand how God governs the stars and the weather and the wild animals, then there’s no way he could understand why God sent suffering into his life. How can he understand God’s ways with us when he can’t understand how God sustains and controls the rest of his creation? God’s way are higher than our ways and his providential control of our lives is beyond our understanding.
But then I also made the point that the name LORD in capital letters appeared at the beginning of the speech. And the name LORD in capital letters is God’s special covenant name which speaks to us of his steadfast love and faithfulness to his people. He has bound himself with a promise to be our God; and the Lord Jesus Christ — who is the mediator of God’s covenant with us — has made a lasting peace between us by his life and death and resurrection. And so, when we read God’s speech to Job which tells us that he is the Almighty God who made all things and who controls all things, we should take comfort because we know that this mighty God is for us and not against us. And whatever trouble he may send upon his people in this troubled life, he will turn to our good. He’s able to do it, because he’s Almighty God. And he’s willing to do it, because he’s the Lord our God who is for us and not against us. And when we suffer, we’re not to think that God’s love has been temporarily interrupted, because God’s steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting. It cannot be interrupted or paused. And so, when he sends trouble into our life, he sends it for some good and loving purpose.
That was the Lord’s first speech. Today we come to his second speech to Job.
And it begins in verse 6 of chapter 40 where we read once again that the Lord spoke to Job from out of the storm. This is the storm which Elihu saw as he was coming to the end of his speeches. And God was in the storm; and now he speaks to Job from the storm.
And just as he did at the beginning of his first speech, the Lord once gain tells Job to brace yourself like a man. I explained last week that the Hebrew word ‘man’ in these verses denotes a great man or warrior. And God is really saying to Job that he’s to get ready for a fight. They are going to wrestle one another, not physically, but verbally. God is going to speak and Job must try to answer him. And let’s see if Job will be able to get the better of the Lord.
And the Lord asks Job in verse 8: ‘Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?’ Job has been complaining that God was unjust and unfair to him. He complained that he — Job — had done nothing to deserve his suffering. And so, it was wrong of God to afflict him. That was Job’s complaint. And the Lord now asks: Will you, Job, condemn me? Will you, Job, condemn the just and mighty one?
And in verses 9 to 14 the Lord challenges Job to have a go at judging the world. So, do you have an arm like God’s arm? God’s arms represents his strength. And in the context of these verses, it represents God’s power to execute his judgment and to punish his enemies and to deliver his people. So, can you act in judgment the way God does? Can your voice thunder like God’s voice? Let’s see you adorn yourself with glory and splendour and honour and majesty. Put on my robes and sit down on my throne to judge the world. And let’s see you unleash the fury of your wrath in order to bring down the proud man and humble him. Let’s see you crush the wicked. Let’s see you bury them in the dust and cover their faces under the ground in the graves. Let’s see you do it. And if you’re able to do it, then I’ll admit to you, Job, that you are able to save yourself. Do you see that in verse 14? He means that he’ll then admit that Job is equipped to rule in God’s place.
So, he’s saying to Job: You think you can rule the universe better than I can? You think I’m unjust? Well, let me see if you have what it takes to rule the world in my place. And if you can prove it to me, then I’ll hand over the reins to you.
So, he’s throwing down a challenge to Job. You think you can rule the world in my place? Well, let’s see if you’re able to do that. And in the verses which follow, the Lord draws Job’s attention to these two mysterious creatures: the Behemoth first and then the Leviathan. And you get a sense of what the Lord is doing if you glance down to verse 24 of chapter 40 where he asks Job: ‘Can anyone capture him by the eyes or trap him and pierce his nose?’ And then take a look at verse 1 of chapter 40: ‘Can you pull in the Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?’ Job complained that God was unjust and unfair to him and he thereby implied he could do a better job than God of ruling the world. And so, the Lord asked him to consider the animate world first of all: the sea and the morning and the light and darkness and the stars and planets and the weather and so on. And then he asked him to consider the animate world: the lions and lionesses and ravens and mountain goats and wild ox and so on. Can you control these things? And then he asks Job to consider the Behemoth and the Leviathan. Can you subdue them? Can you rule over them? And, of course, the answer is that Job is not able to rule over these creatures. Job cannot do what only God can do. He’s not equipped to take over the reins from God and rule in God’s place.
So, let’s take a look at what God says about these two mysterious creatures. And once we’ve gone through the text, we’ll have a think about what they are.
God says about the Behemoth in verse 15 that he made the Behemoth along with Job. That is to say, the Behemoth — whatever he is — is part of God’s creation. He comes from God. And, according to the third line of verse 15, he feeds on grass like an ox. However, the word translated ‘feeds on’ really means devour. It’s not so much that he nibbles on grass, but he devours it. This great beast can consume a whole field.
And his strength lies in his loins and his muscles are powerful. His tail sways like a cedar. So, even his tail is strong like a tree and his thighs are powerful too. His bones and limbs are like tubes of bronze and rods of iron. So, they are hard and strong and unbreakable. And according to verse 19 Behemoth ranks first among the works of God. He stands out as pre-eminent among the creatures God has made.
And yet, his Maker — who is God — is able to approach him with his sword. The Behemoth is this strong, hard, powerful, unbreakable creature. There is nothing like him. And yet God is able to approach him and to subdue him. No one else can do it, but God can.
In verses 20 to 22 the Lord goes on to speak about Behemoth’s habitat. He mentions mountains in verse 20 which bring him their produce. Since he’s a herbivore who devours grass, we’re to imagine him, grazing on the grass on the side of a mountain. The word translated ‘produce’ can also mean tribute. In that case, we’re to imagine the other animals bringing him tribute, as if he is their king. And the Lord refers to wild animals which are playing nearby. Perhaps this means that they’re not afraid of him, because he’s only eats grass. But then he’s not afraid of them either, because he’s so strong and powerful.
And he’s content to lie under the lotus plant, which is a plant which grows in hot, damp places. And that fits in with what we read next about a marsh and a stream; and there’s a river too. So, Behemoth lives in marshy, wet places. And when the river rages, Behemoth is not alarmed. He feels safe and secure, because it cannot threaten him.
And the last thing the Lord says about Behemoth is to ask: ‘Can anyone capture him by the eyes, or trap him and pierce his nose?’ And this is really a rhetorical question, because we know that no one can capture him or trap him or put a ring on his nose to lead him. Behemoth cannot be tamed. At least, he cannot be tamed by Job but he can be tamed by God.
Let’s move on now to consider what God says about the Leviathan in chapter 41. And the Lord asks Job if he can pull in the Leviathan with a fishhook? We’re to imagine Job catching Leviathan with a fishing rod. But is Job strong enough to land him? Or, can Job tie down his tongue with a rope around his mouth to make him harmless? So, can you muzzle him? And can you put a cord through his nose to lead him or put a hook through his jaw to catch him like a fish? So, can you subdue him, Job? Can you tame him? And will he beg you for mercy and speak to you with gentle words? Will he make an agreement with you, Job? Will he try to make a deal with you, offering to serve you in exchange for his life?
So, is Leviathan terrified of you, Job? Is he afraid of you? And can you make a pet out of him? Can you put a leash on him and let your children play with him? In other words, can you tame him? Can you domesticate Leviathan? And will you be able to catch him and sell him at market so that traders will barter for him and divide him up between them? Can you fill his hide with harpoons? Can you thrust spears into his head? Can you do any of these things, Job? Can you subdue this creature?
And in verse 8 the Lord is saying to Job that if you lay a hand on him, you’ll not forget the experience in a hurry and you’ll know never to do it again. Once will be enough, because any hope of subduing Leviathan is false. You’ve got no chance against him. The mere sight of him is overpowering and no one is fierce enough to rouse him. In other words, who in their right mind would want to waken him?
And, of course, the answer to all these questions is ‘no’. Job is not able to capture Leviathan or tame him or kill him. No one is fierce enough to rouse him from sleep. No one is able to subdue him. The answer to all these questions is ‘no’. Leviathan is untameable.
However, he’s not the mightiest being who exists. The mightiest being who exists is the Lord. And so, the Lord asks Job in the second half of verse 10: ‘Who then is able to stand against me?’ If no one can stand against Leviathan, then who can stand against me since I’m mightier than he is? And everything under heaven belongs to me. So, the Lord is over all and he rules over all and he has authority over all. Even the mighty Leviathan is under God’s control.
In verses 12 to the end of the chapter, the Lord describes Leviathan’s body. So, he refers to the strength of Leviathan’s limbs in verse 12; and he compares his outer skin to a coat which cannot be removed. And no one is able to bridle or muzzle him. In verse 14 he refers to his mouth which is ringed with teeth. And his back looks as if it is covered with shields which are arranged tightly so that there are no gaps. There are no soft spots where he can be pierced. Verses 18 to 21 give the impression that he’s like a fire-breathing dragon with smoke and fire coming from his nostrils. His neck is strong and anyone who faces him is dismayed and distressed, because he cannot be stopped. His chest is hard as rock and when he gets up, the mighty are terrified and they retreat before him. In verse 26 we’re to imagine people gathering around him with swords and spears to attack him. But their swords and spears have no effect on him. He treats iron as if it were straw and bronze as if it were rotten wood. Iron and bronze weapons cannot hurt him. He’s not afraid of arrows or sling-stones. They cannot penetrate his thick armoured skin. And he laughs at the club and lance, because they cannot harm him. Nothing frightens him. And in case anyone thinks his underbelly might be a weak spot, verse 30 tells us that it’s like sharp ceramic which leaves a trail in the mud as if he were threshing the ground with a threshing-sledge. And verses 31 and 32 picture him thrashing about in the sea.
And according to verse 33, nothing on earth is his equal. We thought Behemoth was untameable, but Leviathan is worse. He is a creature without fear. He looks down on the haughty and rules as king over all the proud. As one of the commentators says (Ash), the world is full of proud and arrogant people, but Leviathan is the proudest and strongest and the ruler of them all.
And that’s where the Lord’s speech ends. He describes Behemoth and Leviathan, these two mighty, powerful creatures. And God has made the point that Job cannot subdue them. The only one who can subdue them is the Lord.
At the beginning of God’s second speech to Job, the Lord challenged Job to have a go at ruling the world in God’s place. Dress yourself like a judge and see if you can govern the world. Let’s see if you have what it takes to rule the world in place of me. That was God’s challenge. And then God showed Job the Behemoth and the Leviathan and it was clear that Job was not able to rule them. He was not able to do what only God can do.
And so, at the beginning of chapter 42 Job responded to the Lord and he said that he now knows that God can do all things and no plan of God’s can be thwarted. God is the great God who rules and reigns over all; and no one is able to overpower God or frustrate his plans. He’s able to do what no one else can do, which is to subdue Behemoth and Leviathan. They cannot thwart God’s plans, because God is greater than them.
Job then quotes God who asked in chapter 38 who is he that obscures God’s counsel without knowledge? He was talking about Job, who was complaining about the way God runs the world. But Job now admits that he was speaking of things he did not understand. He was talking about things which were beyond his comprehension.
And Job then quotes God again who said to Job at the beginning of both speeches that he would question Job and Job should answer him. He wanted Job to teach him. But Job is not God’s teacher. What can Job teach God? On the contrary, God has taught Job new things about God and about his greatness and about his glory which Job never knew before. He says that my ears had heard of you. In other words, I knew something about you. And then he says that now my eyes have seen you. In other words, now I know so much more about you, more than I ever knew before.
And because he now knows so much more about God and how God is able to subdue Behemoth and Leviathan, Job says he despises himself and he repents in dust and ashes. Now remember: Jod did not do anything to deserve his suffering. He was a blameless and upright man who feared God and who shunned evil. He did not do anything to deserve his suffering. But he had sinned against God because of his suffering. Because of what he suffered, he complained that God was unjust and unfair to him. Job had become a faultfinder and he found fault with the way God ruled the world. But Job now realises that he had spoken of things he did not understand and he had dishonoured God by the things he had said. And so, now he repents of the things he said about the Lord.
Behemoth and Leviathan
Now, if you compare Job’s response at the end of the Lord’s first speech to Job’s response at the end of the Lord’s second speech, you’ll see that his second response is stronger. At the end of the first speech, he realised his smallness. The Hebrew word translated ‘unworthy’ by the NIV in 40:4 means ‘light’ or ‘trifling’. So, he was acknowledging that he was insignificant. But at the end of the second speech, his response is stronger, isn’t it? Now he despises himself and repents of his sin.
And that stronger response suggests that there’s an escalation between the Lord’s first speech and his second speech. His second speech is not more of the same. It’s not just more of what he said in the first speech. In the first speech, he talked about natural things like the snow and wind and lightning and the lion and ox and ostrich. And in the second speech, he’s talking about something else, something stronger and scarier. Who or what are Behemoth and Leviathan?
If you look at the footnotes in the NIV, you’ll see that the NIV translators suggest in 40:15 that Behemoth is possibly a hippopotamus or elephant. That’s because Behemoth was described as a powerful herbivore who lives in wet, marshy areas. And you’ll also see from the footnotes that the NIV translators suggest in 41:1 that Leviathan is possibly a crocodile with his scaly back and mouth ringed with teeth who thrashes about in the water. And many of the commentators make the same suggestion. They say that Behemoth was a hippo and Leviathan was a crocodile. I’ve also heard some people suggest that Behemoth and Leviathan are dinosaurs.
But that would mean the Lord’s second speech is just more of the same. In his first speech, he described natural creatures like the lion and ox; and the second speech contains more of the same: natural creatures like the hippo and crocodile or perhaps even dinosaurs. They are powerful creatures, but they’re just more of the same. So, would more of the same cause Job to respond more strongly than before? Would more of the same cause Job to despise himself and to repent?
Other commentators suggest that God’s second speech is not more of the same. They suggest that he’s not describing natural creatures, but supernatural creatures. He’s not referring to animals on the earth, but he’s using story-book images of strange and scary creatures to refer to rulers and authorities and the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
This is not the only place in the Bible where the Leviathan is mentioned. Job refers to Leviathan in chapter 3 and there are a couple of references in the Psalms. But then, in Isaiah 27, Leviathan is mentioned again and he’s described as a gliding and coiling serpent. And, of course, that recalls the serpent who appeared in the Garden of Eden who was none other than the devil in disguise. And in the book of Revelation, we read of that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who was the deceiver of the whole world. And Satan is also described in Revelation as a dragon. And the book of Revelation also describes two beasts who appear, one out of the sea and one out of the earth. And these two beasts are in league with the Devil in his opposition to Christ and his church.
And here in the book of Job, God describes two beasts who cannot be controlled by anyone apart from God. And it’s therefore possible that these two creatures represent Satan and all his demons and all the spiritual forces of evil who are too mighty for us. They are too mighty for us, but they are not too mighty for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When he was on the earth, the Lord Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. And every demon he encountered on the earth was terrified of him, because they knew who he was and that one day he would come to destroy them. And the Lord Jesus described the devil as a strong man. But the strong man could be tied up by the even stronger man, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the book of Hebrews we read how the Lord Jesus shared in our humanity so that by his death he might make ineffective he who holds the power of death. He who holds the power of death is the devil; and the Lord Jesus made him ineffective when he broke the devil’s power over us by dying on the cross to pay for our sins and to set us free from the curse of death. And in that way, the strong man’s hold over us has been broken. And the Lord Jesus brings us in his kingdom and promises never to leave us or to forsake us, but to defend us against the devil and all his wicked schemes. And in the end, the Lord Jesus will return to destroy the devil and all his demons forever. And we shall live with God in perfect peace and rest forever.
In his first speech, the Lord drew Job’s attention to the natural world. Who controls it? Only God. And in his second speech, the Lord drew Job’s attention to the supernatural world of the devil and his demons, those dark powers of evil. Who can tame them? Not Job. And not you or me. But God is able to tame them and he has tamed them and he has defeated them by his Son, who died to break Satan’s power over us and to set us free. And therefore neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.