Behemoth: Elephant or Hippo?
“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.”
In Job 40, there is an account of a large animal called a behemoth. The word behemoth is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, which is a plural of the word behemah. Whereas behemah appears a lot in the Old Testament, behemoth appears only once, and, despite its plural form, appears to be referring to a singular example. It is likely, therefore, that the word is not being used simply as a plural of behemah, but being used to describe a similarly large animal. Behemah is usually translated as hippopotamus. Some Bible versions, therefore, footnote the word behemoth and comment that it is either a hippo or an elephant. So which is it? The answer is to read the description.
Behemoth is a large animal. It eats plants. This fits both animals so far. But the biggest clue is the description of the animal’s tail. This is described as being like a cedar tree. The trunk of a cedar tree is big. If you look at the rear end of a hippo (a rather unpleasant thing to do) we notice that its tail – which it moves rapidly in order to scatter… stuff – is pretty small. But so is an elephant’s tail. So behemoth is neither hippo nor elephant. The description sounds more like that of a sauropod dinosaur, made by God on Day Six, as He declares to Job that He made it “along with you”; that is, on the same day as God made people.
Prayer: Lord, You told Job about behemoth in order to emphasize that Your ways are often beyond our understanding – and always better and higher than our ways. Amen.
Author: Paul F. Taylor
Ref: Steel, A. (2001), Could Behemoth Have Been a Dinosaur?, Journal of Creation 15, no 2 (August 2001): 42-45. Image: Charles Knight, Diplodocus, Public Domain.
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