Job 41:11-34; Description of Leviathan; God’s sovereign dominion and independency laid down; The Leviathan, even prima facie–at first sight, appears formidable and inaccessible. B.C. 1520

Description of Leviathan – Part 2

Job 41:11-34

11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.   12 I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.   13 Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?   14 Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.   15 His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.   16 One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.   17 They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.   18 By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.   19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.   20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.   21 His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.   22 In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.   23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.   24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. 25 When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.   26 The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.   27 He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.   28 The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.   29 Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.   30 Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.   31 He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.   32 He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.   33 Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.   34 He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

God, having in the foregoing verses shown Job how unable he was to deal with the leviathan, here sets forth his own power in that massy mighty creature. Here is,

I. God’s sovereign dominion and independency laid down, v. 11. 1. That he is indebted to none of his creatures. If any pretend he is indebted to them, let them make their demand and prove their debt, and they shall receive it in full and not by composition: “Who has prevented me?” that is, “who has laid any obligations upon me by any services he has done me? Who can pretend to be before-hand with me? If any were, I would not long be behind-hand with them; I would soon repay them.” The apostle quotes this for the silencing of all flesh in God’s presence, Rom. xi. 35. Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? As God does not inflict upon us the evils we have deserved, so he does bestow upon us the favours we have not deserved.

2. That he is the rightful Lord and owner of all the creatures: “Whatsoever is under the whole heaven, animate or inanimate, is mine (and particularly this leviathan), at my command and disposal, what I have an incontestable property in and dominion over.” All is his; we are his, all we have and do; and therefore we cannot make God our debtor; but of thy own, Lord, have we given thee. All is his, and therefore, if he were indebted to any, he has wherewithal to repay them; the debt is in good hands. All is his, and therefore he needs not our services, nor can he be benefited by them. If I were hungry I would not tell thee, for the world is mine and the fulness thereof, Ps. l. 12.

II. The proof and illustration of it, from the wonderful structure of the leviathan, v. 12.

1. The parts of his body, the power he exerts, especially when he is set upon, and the comely proportion of the whole of him, are what God will not conceal, and therefore what we must observe and acknowledge the power of God in. Though he is a creature of monstrous bulk, yet there is in him a comely proportion. In our eye beauty lies in that which is small (inest sua gratia parvislittle things have a gracefulness all their own) because we ourselves are so; but in God’s eye even the leviathan is comely; and, if he pronounce even the whale, even the crocodile, so, it is not for us to say of any of the works of his hands that they are ugly of ill-favoured; it is enough to say so, as we have cause, of our own works. God here goes about to give us an anatomical view (as it were) of the leviathan; for his works appear most beautiful and excellent, and his wisdom and power appear most in them, when they are taken in pieces and viewed in their several parts and proportions.

(1.) The leviathan, even prima facieat first sight, appears formidable and inaccessible, v. 13, 14. Who dares come so near him while he is alive as to discover or take a distinct view of the face of the garment, the skin with which he is clothed as with a garment, so near him as to bridle him like a horse and so lead him away, so near him as to be within reach of his jaws, which are like a double bridle? Who will venture to look into his mouth, as we do into a horse’s mouth? He that opens the doors of his face will see his teeth terrible round about, strong and sharp, and fitted to devour; it would make a man tremble to think of having a leg or an arm between them.

(2.) His scales are his beauty and strength, and therefore his pride, v. 15-17. The crocodile is indeed remarkable for his scales; if we understand it of the whale, we must understand by these shields (for so the word is) the several coats of his skin; or there might be whales in that country with scales. That which is remarkable concerning the scales is that they stick so close together, by which he is not only kept warm, for no air can pierce him, but kept safe, for no sword can pierce him through those scales. Fishes, that live in the water, are fortified accordingly by the wisdom of Providence, which gives clothes as it gives cold.

(3.) He scatters terror with his very breath and looks; if he sneeze or spout up water, it is like a light shining, either with the froth or the light of the sun shining through it, v. 18. The eyes of the whale are reported to shine in the night-time like a flame, or, as here, like the eye-lids of the morning; the same they say of the crocodile. The breath of this creature is so hot and fiery, from the great natural heat within, that burning lamps and sparks of fire, smoke and a flame, are said to go out of his mouth, even such as one would think sufficient to set coals on fire, v. 19-21. Probably these hyperbolical expressions are used concerning the leviathan to intimate the terror of the wrath of God, for that is it which all this is designed to convince us of. Fire out of his mouth devours, Ps. xviii. 7, 8. The breath of the Almighty, like a stream of brimstone, kindles Tophet, and will for ever keep it burning, Isa. xxx. 33. The wicked one shall be consumed with the breath of his mouth, 2 Thess. ii. 8.

(4.) He is of invincible strength and most terrible fierceness, so that he frightens all that come in his way, but is not himself frightened by any. Take a view of his neck, and there remains strength, v. 22. His head and his body are well set together. Sorrow rejoices (or rides in triumph) before him, for he makes terrible work wherever he comes. Or, Those storms which are the sorrow of others are his joys; what is tossing to others is dancing to him. His flesh is well knit, v. 23. The flakes of it are joined so closely together, and are so firm, that it is hard to pierce it; he is as if he were all bone. His flesh is of brass, which Job had complained his was not, ch. vi. 12. His heart is as firm as a stone, v. 24. He has spirit equal to his bodily strength, and, though he is bulky, he is sprightly, and not unwieldy. As his flesh and skin cannot be pierced, so his courage cannot be daunted; but, on the contrary, he daunts all he meets and puts them into a consternation (v. 25): When he raises up himself like a moving mountain in the great waters even the mighty are afraid lest he should overturn their ships or do them some other mischief. By reason of the breakings he makes in the water, which threaten death, they purify themselves, confess their sins, betake themselves to their prayers, and get ready for death. We read (ch. iii. 8) of those who, when they raise up a leviathan, are in such a fright that they curse the day. It was a fear which, it seems, used to drive some to their curses and others to their prayers; for, as now, so then there were seafaring men of different characters and on whom the terrors of the sea have contrary effects; but all agree there is a great fright among them when the leviathan raises up himself.

(5.) All the instruments of slaughter that are used against him do him no hurt and therefore are not error to him, v. 26-29. The sword and the spear, which wound nigh at hand, are nothing to him; the darts, arrows, and sling-stones, which wound at a distance, do him no damage; nature has so well armed him cap-a-pie–at all points, against them all. The defensive weapons which men use when they engage with the leviathan, as the habergeon, or breast-plate, often serve men no more than their offensive weapons; iron and brass are to him as straw and rotten wood, and he laughs at them. It is the picture of a hard-hearted sinner, that despises the terrors of the Almighty and laughs at all the threatenings of his word. The leviathan so little dreads the weapons that are used against him that, to show how hardy he is, he chooses to lie on the sharp stones, the sharp-pointed things (v. 30), and lies as easy there as if he lay on the soft mire. Those that would endure hardness must inure themselves to it.

(6.) His very motion in the water troubles it and puts it into a ferment, v. 31, 32. When he rolls, and tosses, and makes a stir in the water, or is in pursuit of his prey, he makes the deep to boil like a pot, he raises a great froth and foam upon the water, such as is upon a boiling pot, especially a pot of boiling ointment; and he makes a path to shine after him, which even a ship in the midst of the sea does not, Prov. xxx. 19. One may trace the leviathan under water by the bubbles on the surface; and yet who can take that advantage against him in pursuing him? Men track hares in the snow and kill them, but he that tracks the leviathan dares not come near him.

2. Having given this particular account of his parts, and his power, and his comely proportion, he concludes with four things in general concerning this animal:–

(1.) That he is a non-such among the inferior creatures: Upon earth there is not his like, v. 33. No creature in this world is comparable to him for strength and terror. Or the earth is here distinguished from the sea: His dominion is not upon the earth (so some), but in the waters. None of all the savage creatures upon earth come near him for bulk and strength, and it is well for man that he is confined to the waters and there has a watch set upon him (ch. vii. 12) by the divine Providence, for, if such a terrible creature were allowed to roam and ravage upon this earth, it would be an unsafe and uncomfortable habitation for the children of men, for whom it is intended.

(2.) That he is more bold and daring than any other creature whatsoever: He is made without fear. The creatures are as they are made; the leviathan has courage in his constitution, nothing can frighten him; other creatures, quite contrary, seem as much designed for flying as this for fighting. So, among men, some are in their natural temper bold, others are timorous.

(3.) That he is himself very proud; though lodged in the deep, yet he beholds all high things, v. 34. The rolling waves, the impending rocks, the hovering clouds, and the ships under sail with top and top-gallant, this mighty animal beholds with contempt, for he does not think they either lessen him or threaten him. Those that are great are apt to be scornful.

(4.) That he is a king over all the children of pride, that is, he is the proudest of all proud ones. He has more to be proud of (so Mr. Caryl expounds it) than the proudest people in the world have; and so it is a mortification to the haughtiness and lofty looks of men. Whatever bodily accomplishments men are proud of, and puffed up with, the leviathan excels them and is a king over them. Some read it so as to understand it of God: He that beholds all high things, even he, is King over all the children of pride; he can tame the behemoth (ch. xl. 19) and the leviathan, big as they are, and stout-hearted as they are. This discourse concerning those two animals was brought in to prove that it is God only who can look upon proud men and abase them, bring them low and tread them down, and hide them in the dust (ch. xl. 11-13), and so it concludes with a quod erat demonstrandum–which was to be demonstrated; there is one that beholds all high things, and, wherein men deal proudly, is above them; he is King over all the children of pride, whether brutal or rational, and can make them all either bend or break before him, Isa. ii. 11. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and thus the Lord alone shall be exalted.

– Matthew Henry Commentary

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