The Book of Job - Lesson 33

Behemoth as the Beginning of the Ways of God (Job 40.19)

Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 33
Watching Now
Behemoth as the Beginning of the Ways of God (Job 40.19)

I. Behemoth as the Beginning of the Ways of God

A. Some explain this as an allusion to Genesis 1:24

B. Possibly alludes to "Lady Wisdom"

II. Behemoth May Have Been the Forces of Chaos Present at Creation

A. Before God created, there was a lifeless void

B. Principalities and powers

C. The vision in Revelation of the woman and the dragon

D. Behemoth becomes the Beast in Revelation 13:1

Class Resources
  • When you see what you would describe as evil and injustice in the world, how does that affect your view of God? When someone is suffering, do you assume that it’s because they are getting what they deserve? This lecture gives you an overview of book of Job by describing his situation, how he interacts with his friends and God, and what we can learn about how God is managing the world.

  • Because there is nothing specific in the text that tells you when the book of Job was written, the sections in Job that allude to other passages of scripture give you some helpful clues. The structure of the book of Job focuses your attention on the main subject of the book which is God’s wisdom.

  • Other cultures in the ancient near east created literature with themes that are similar to the book of Job. The book of Job is unique because of his character and the answer that the book provides for the situation he is in.

  • Job is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. It covers more “advanced” topics than Proverbs and uses a variety of literary genres and allusions to other Biblical passages to explain and illustrate profound truths about God’s nature and his involvement in the world.

  • There is limited information in the book of Job about its geographical and historical background. However, it can be helpful to understand general information about the geography and history of the area to give you a context for reading and studying the book of Job. The author of the book of Job was a Hebrew poet who had an extensive vocabulary. Being uncertain about history and geography is good because the message is timeless.

  • Job contains literary elements that are similar to what you find in other Biblical books that are Apocalyptic. These elements include depictions of events in heaven and on earth, the emphasis on specific numbers and persevering in your faith in God, the references to mythological animals and God’s supernatural control of all events. 

  • Satan appears before God with an accusation against Job. Even though Job is described as, “upright and blameless,” Satan accuses Job of serving God only because Job is prosperous. God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions, children and health. The remainder of the book is the dialogue of Job and his friends attempting to determine why this is happening.

  • Job curses the day he was born. When you carefully examine what he is saying, you realize that it is more intense than just saying that he wished he had never lived.

  • Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

  • Eliphaz considers the message of the, “night spirit” a revelation from God. However, at it’s core, this message is inconsistent with God’s attitude toward Job, and creation in general.

  • Job’s theological worldview has fallen apart because he knows he doesn’t deserve to suffer. Eliphaz calls Job to repent. Job responds questioning why he is suffering, because according to his worldview, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.   

  • Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

  • When Job’s friends describe God as all powerful in an attempt to comfort Job, he becomes terrified because he sees God as causing his suffering and there is nothing that can stop it.

  • Zophar assumes that Job is being punished because he sinned and accuses him of mocking God. Job's three friends move from tactful suggestions to open hostility. As Job is searching for answers, he becomes disappointed in his friends.

  • Job agrees with his friends that God is causing his suffering, but disagrees with them about why it’s happening. Job believes that God will eventually vindicate him.

  • Eliphaz appeals to the night spirit and the tradition of the elders to tell Job that he is a babbling and blaspheming fool.

  • Job begins by criticizing what his friends are saying to him and then professes his faith in God. Bildad responds harshly to Job.

  • Even though Job’s friends have criticized him, he has grown in his faith in God. Job is worn out and begs for compassion. When he gets nothing but contempt and hostility instead, he confesses his faith and hope in God. The messianic theology of Job is different from any other book of the Bible.  

  • Zophar uses metaphors that are found in other passages of scripture as well as Job’s own words to accuse Job of being wicked. However, Zophar made a serious error, which we need to avoid in our lives.

  • Job continues to wrestle with the presence of evil in the world and the apparent injustice of God. 

  • Eliphaz attacks Job as being wicked by twisting the meaning of what Job has said previously. The irony is that Job will be reconciled to God and will pray for Eliphaz.

  • Job wants to lay out his case before God by claiming his innocence. Job says that God is hidden and does as he chooses, but that God neither judges the guilty nor helps the righteous. Bildad responds by contrasting God’s holiness and human lowliness.

  • Job sarcastically thanks the friends for their wise words, which he doesn’t think were wise at all.

  • This is a poem about wisdom that divides the content of the book and points to a deep truth. It is inserted by the author of the book and is not attributed to Job or the friends.

  • The crisis that Job is experiencing is not just the material losses and physical suffering, but also his crisis of faith. He thought he understood what his relationship with God is all about but he feels that God has abandoned him for no apparent reason. Job laments the pain he feels from being disgraced and humiliated.

  • This is the last major statement that Job makes, other than his responses to God that come later. Job is taking a series of oaths that he has not committed any of the sins he mentions. The Bible is distinctive in declaring that all people are created equally, in the image of God. In ancient cultures, some people intrinsically have more value than others because of heritage, wealth, gender, race, etc. God looks on everyone impartially.  

  • Elihu is not mentioned either before or after his speech. He claims to be perfect in knowledge. Elihu thinks that the other three did not convince Job because they did not give a satisfactory answer, but Elihu ends up repeating what they have already said. He thinks that the doctrine of retribution is the answer to Job’s situation. Elihu is a warning to us that we don’t have all the answers.

  • The questions of the book of Job are, “How does God address the problem of evil and why do we serve God? God created a world that is stable and not chaotic. Where there was chaos, God brought in light, shape and beauty. Chaotic forces are necessary for life and God controls them.

  • People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in constant fear of the chaos, danger, ferocity of nature and they valued subduing, controlling and pushing back nature. Wilderness was something to be tamed and pushed back by civilization. In the Gilgamesh epic poem, Enkidu is transformed into a civilized man who protects the domestic animals from the wild animals. In Egypt, there were gods of the Black Land and gods of the Red Land. God sees everything in the world as entirely under his control.

  • God’s care for the animals and how this relates to the problem of Job. All of the things that we see as chaos, and out of control depend on God and thrive because he provides for them and things that he manages and glories in. God describes nature as good, unlike the night spirit that describes it with contempt and loathing. God knows how to manage the chaotic elements of creation.

  • The societies of the Ancient Near East had a high concept of justice. It was the duty of the rulers to uphold justice and protect the powerless. If you are a man who leads, you need to make sure that evil is held in check. Listen to people who come to you with a grievance. God is asking Job if he comprehends what it means to bring justice to the world. It involves both power and wisdom.

  • Behemoth is the plural form of a Hebrew word that refers to animals in general also specifically to wild animals. In Job, it’s also used as a metaphor representing the composite forces of the powers of the earth that are against God.

  • Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

  • Job 41 describes Leviathan. Leviathan is not a natural animal like a crocodile. Sometimes Leviathan refers to a large sea creature, and sometimes death, chaos and the embodiment of evil. Satan is present at the first of the book but he is never mentioned again. In order for God to deal with evil in the world, he must defeat Leviathan.

  • Leviathan is a ferocious creature that no human can subdue. God is saying that he is willing to oppose Leviathan and  is not frightened of Leviathan or intimidated by his boasting. God is the one who will defeat this enemy who seems unbeatable to humans. God tells Job that he will deal with Leviathan but God doesn’t tell him how he will do it. Job embraced God’s answer even though Job didn’t know how God would deal with evil.

  • Job announces that he has changed his outlook on evil, God’s governance of the world and his own suffering. Job knew that God is all-powerful. Now Job knows something more about how God uses his power. Should God be merciful to people who will still be evil? Eschatological is an event that can only happen by a work of God. Emergence of divine power within the historical context. Job admits that he didn’t understand the complexity that is involved in God conquering evil. God forgives Job’s three friends because Job interceded for them. God is showing his approval with job by publicly restoring him.

  • Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

  • Job mentions composite animals similar to those described in other apocalyptic passages. Job had faith that God would do a work of salvation but didn’t understand everything that Jesus would do. There is a hidden plan of God to redeem people and conquer evil that is a major theme in apocryphal books and also in Job.

  • Job tells us about the heavenly mediator. Prior to his afflictions, Job’s life was almost god-like because he was relatively free of suffering. Job through his affliction, faces the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race. Even though some people commit evil and violent acts, Job describes them in pitiful terms.

  • Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

If God is good and powerful, why do you see suffering in the world? Why do you serve God even when you experience suffering? How do you respond to others when they ask these questions? How have you answered them for yourself? These are such important questions that the entire book of Job is devoted discussing only these issues in the context of the perspective of the experiences of one person. 

The theme of the book of Job is timeless and singular. There are clues about its geographical and historical setting but nothing in the book itself that identifies the place or time of its writing. However, the setting is irrelevant because the questions that are addressed in the Book of Job are ones that people have asked in all cultures, throughout time. It would be distracting and even limiting to frame the dialogue in a specific time or culture. There are enough clues in the text to give you a general idea of the culture and time it was written in to help you understand the logic and metaphors used by the main characters in their dialogue. 

The complete book of Job is composed of the dialogue of Job, his friends and God regarding the issues of God's goodness, his power, and evil in the world. No historical events. No other personal, corporate or theological issues. Since these questions are central to your understanding of God's character and how he works in the world around us throughout history, the book of Job compels you to consider this question deeply and exhaustively. The point is that by the end of the book, you can understand and articulate who God is and how he works in your life and in the world. 

The value of this class is that Dr. Garrett helps you understand what the text means, the historical and theological implications, and how you apply it to your life. Dr. Garrett's knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the Hebrew language and background in Ancient Near Eastern history and culture inform his insights into the message of the book and what it means to you. He is skilled at explaining technical linguistic and theological issues in a way that helps you comprehend them and see how they apply to your life. Whether you are just beginning in your study of the Bible or you have had training at an advanced academic level, studying the Book of Job with Dr. Garrett has the potential change the way you understand God and also how you live each day. 

Recommended Books

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

This Student's Guide is for the class on The Book of Job in BiblicalTraining.org. It contains the outlines to the lectures, a summary of each point, and reflection...

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide


In our last lecture we introduced behemoth and talked about that he was a composite animal. We saw parallels in Daniel and saw in Daniel where the
composite animals represent the imperial powers with their multitude of nations and races and languages, and also represent the ways that they exercise their powers. So also behemoth in God’s speech is probably some kind of composite representation of the powers of the earth, the empires, the kingdoms, the wealthy, the powerful, and kind of the beings, the heavenly beings that stand above them.

I. Behemoth as the Beginning of the Ways of God

Now consider what we have in Job 40:19, just specifically looking at this verse and what the verse implies. The verse says of behemoth: “He was the beginning of the ways of God, the One who made him must bring his sword.” The second line of this verse tells us something significant. Behemoth is in some way dangerous, it is in some way a power to be reckoned with; and God must reckon with it. God must bring his sword to get behemoth under control, if not slay behemoth. That much is pretty plain. What is not so plain is, what does it mean by saying he was the beginning of the ways of God? How was behemoth the beginning of God’s ways? There are various ways people explain it.

A. Some explain this as an allusion to Genesis 1:24

Some explain it from Genesis 1, verse 24 where we read in the account of the creation: “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds, the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground and the wild animals according to its kind.’ And it was so. And God made the wild animals according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds and all the creatures that move along the ground, according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

Here clearly we have God creating what the Israelites would have called the behemoth, the beasts, the animals. There is no question that that is the topic of Genesis 1:24. Is that what God is alluding to when he says that behemoth is the beginning of all his ways?

In my opinion, despite the fact that these are a multitude of animals and God makes them in the creation, I don’t think it is an allusion to this passage. Why
not? First of all, because the behemoth of this passage are simply literal animals and no more than that. They are just real oxen and real eagles and real snakes and real dogs and real cats and real sheep, etc., whereas behemoth in Job is clearly something more than that. Behemoth is something that is more like a sentient being. It is a kind of power that is much more pervasive and much more dangerous than just literal animals. God would not say of just ordinary literal animals that God must bring his sword against them.

Furthermore, the creatures that are made in Genesis 1:24 are clearly not the beginning of all God’s ways. A great deal of creation has taken place before God gets around to making the animals. He makes the light, he causes the dry land to appear, he separates the waters below from the waters above and creates the heavens. He creates the great bearers of light – the sun, moon and the stars -- and he creates the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Finally he gets around to creating the beasts. These are far from being the beginning of his ways.

Finally, the beasts of Genesis 1:24 are good. God looks upon all that he has made and declares that it is good. He doesn’t see it as some kind of evil thing. He doesn’t see it as some representation of the powers that rule the world or anything like that. They are simply declared to be good. In that way, I would say clearly the behemoth of Job is not the literal animals of Genesis 1:24.

B. Possibly alludes to “Lady Wisdom”

There is another possibility, that behemoth as the beginning of the ways of God somehow alludes to Lady Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. We have talked about this before. In the book of Proverbs Lady Wisdom is a personification of the teaching of the book of Proverbs and she desires to teach men her ways so that they may not go astray, that they may not fall into folly and destroy themselves. Again, we have looked at this, but we will take a quick look at it again. Proverbs chapter 8, verse 22: “The Lord brought me forth as the first of all his works.” There you go, “the first of his works.” That sounds a lot like the beginning of his ways. “…before his deeds of old; I was formed long ago at the very beginning when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place…”

So Lady Wisdom clearly claims to be there at the beginning. Before the watery depths, before the hills, before anything, God made wisdom. We talked about this and we have seen how Lady Wisdom is the wisdom that God has in effect built into creation, so that when God made the world, you could say wisdom was the blueprint, wisdom was the pattern.

We have also talked about what this means for the reader of the book of Proverbs and for the Bible. It means that morality, right and wrong, wise behavior,
prudence, all of these virtues, diligence, knowing how to get along with people; all of these things are built into creation and into how we are made. So that any time we do something wrong, we are in effect going against how the world is made. It is analogous to, if we are high on a cliff and we jump off, we are going to fall and we are going to hurt ourselves. That is just how the world works. If we engage in folly, if we lie to people and gain a reputation for lying, it is going to hurt us in our lives and as we try to function within our communities. If we engage in sexual immorality, it will hurt us, not just because God will punish us, but because the sin itself is against how God made the world, so it is destructive to us.

What does that have to do with behemoth? Nothing. They have nothing in common. Behemoth is clearly some kind of dangerous beast against whom God
must take his sword and that is certainly not the case with Lady Wisdom. Clearly, behemoth is not the embodiment of prudence and good behavior. Behemoth is dangerous, behemoth is some force to be reckoned with, some force that has to be tamed and brought under control, if not slain outright. So, despite the similarity of the idea of behemoth being the beginning of his ways and Lady Wisdom being there at creation, I do not see any real parallel between the two.

II. Behemoth May Have Been the Forces of Chaos Present at Creation

Can there be anything else in the Bible that might clue us into what this is? In Genesis 1:1 and 2 we read: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Here we are, clearly at the beginning, the beginning of creation. This passage is a very difficult passage and an enormous amount has been written about it. It is a complex issue and I am not going to try to in the course of this lecture on Job, unpack everything in Genesis 1:1 and 2 according to my understanding of it.

I will say, however, that saying that the earth is formless and empty is widely understood to say that there was a void; and it is a strange kind of void because it is also a chaos. It is also antithetical to life. These are all the forces of chaos that we have kind of talked about throughout this course and especially here at the end.

A. Before God created, there was a lifeless void

Before God made the light, before God began the process of creation, there was no possibility of life. It is all kind of paradoxical. There was emptiness, there was chaos, there was death, there was lifelessness. This is what God brooded over before he made the light and went on to make heaven and earth and then all of the things that live in heaven and earth.

That seems to me to be the closest parallel to behemoth in Job chapter 40, because behemoth does seem to be a creature of chaos and a creature of death, whom God must bring under control. In the book of Genesis when God broods over this chaotic void, the waters that are formless and empty, God begins the work of bringing forth life. So also as behemoth in some way dominates the world, in some way is the power behind the world, God must bring this under control again.

B. Principalities and powers

We have already referred to Paul’s reference to the principalities and powers. We can look at a passage or two where Paul specifically refers to it. For example, he says in Colossians 1:16: In Christ, “For in him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Here we have one of these mysterious references to the principalities and powers in the Apostle Paul. Once again, this is a very difficult passage and a great deal has been written about it; and it is not our purpose here to fully unravel what Paul has said. But clearly Paul is teaching that there are powers beyond what we see in this world. There are the powers we do see in this world – kings and rulers, etc. -- and there are powers that are above this world; and basically that Christ is dominant over all of them. Christ can control them. They ultimately belong to him and he can do with them as he pleases. That seems to me to be pretty close to what we have in behemoth in the book of Job. It is some kind of power that dominates the earth. It is analogous to what we see in Genesis 1:1 and 2; and it is something that ultimately only God can control and can contain.

C. The vision in Revelation of the woman and the dragon

There is one other thing that we ought to look at when we consider this. This is how the book of Revelation describes the powers of this world. In Revelation chapter 12 we have the vision again of the woman and the dragon. The woman gives birth to a male child. The dragon wants to consume it, but the male child is taken up to heaven.

Pretty clearly, In the metaphor the dragon is Satan, the male child is Jesus and Jesus after his crucifixion and ascension is taken up to heaven to the right hand of God in glory. Then the dragon makes war upon the woman and all the rest of her seed, her offspring; and the dragon desires to consume her or to drown her in a flood and desires to destroy all her children. God intervenes to enable her to survive, to flee into a wilderness and to endure all of this fury from the dragon.

Again, I think the meaning of it for me is pretty straightforward. The dragon represents Satanic opposition to the people of God and to the Church. The dragon is persecuting them, seeking to destroy them. The people of God are protected by God from all this fury and all this wrath.

After the dragon has done all of this, Revelation says, he stands on the shore of the sea, Revelation 13:1: “The dragon stood on the shore of the sea and I saw a beast coming out of the sea, it had ten horns and seven heads with ten crowns on its horns and on each head a blasphemous name.” Then he gives it another one of these composite descriptions. “The beast I saw resembled a leopard and it had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.”

D. Behemoth becomes the Beast in Revelation 13:1

We’ll just pause right there. First of all, notice that he calls it “the beast.” That is the name that John gives to this creature that comes out of the sea. I would
suggest that the beast of Revelation 13 is analogous to behemoth the beast of the book of Job. Behemoth is grammatically a plural word. It means “behemoth beasts” plural. But in the way it is described in the book of Job, it is as if it is one single creature. It is not described as a plurality of creatures, but is one creature. Again, it is some kind of great composite creature.

Also here in Revelation he is simply called “the beast” which is singular; but he is described as a composite creature. Again, he is like a leopard, he is like a bear, he is like a lion, etc. So the meaning of Revelation 13 and following of course is going to be debated and people will have different opinions. I will give you mine: I think, again, it is fairly straightforward. I think the beast represents the powers of this earth, especially the governments of this earth, that oppose the Church.

What is Antichrist in Revelation? In my view, primarily Antichrist or the beast is human power that exalts itself, that takes all authority to itself, that in effect
seeks to become God for people; and in so doing, displaces God. As it does this, it oppresses the Church and it also is a very oppressive and cruel rulership over people. In my opinion, there are many manifestations of the beast.

Let me give you a simple example. Within my lifetime, Communist China went through a period of terrible upheaval under its first dictator, Chairman Mao.
Under Chairman Mao the Communist government brought about the deaths of millions and millions of their own people. They elevated Mao to a God-like status, calling him “the great helmsman” and wanting everybody to have a picture of him in their homes. They had people buy his book, called “the little red book” and carry that book around as though it were a Bible. His sayings became Scripture for the people. Chairman Mao in that sense displaced God. He took the place of God. He was very oppressive to his own people and of course was a severe persecutor of the Church and of missionaries.

I don’t say Chairman Mao is “the one Antichrist” or beast. I say that he is a representation of this pattern, of this type. In my opinion, that is what Revelation
is all about when it speaks of “the beast.” Mao could be one example; but you can go through human history and you can find many, many examples. What
Revelation presents as “the beast,” human authority, human power with a kind of demonic power behind it, I believe Job presents as behemoth, this strange composite figure who is in one sense a force of chaos right out of Genesis chapter 1, verse 2. On the other hand, he has parallels in passages such as Revelation 13, that he is this oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.

Once again Job says, “Only God can handle and no human can. God must seize his sword to bring the beast down.” What we have in the beast is, in my opinion, not a single figure or person. Again, the plurality of the term “beast” may be significant here. Although behemoth is presented in one sense as one entity, he doesn’t represent one person. He represents an idea, a type; and it is the idea of this oppressive power, the idea of powers that seek to take the place of God and of tyrannical governments that behind them have demonic powers.

So that gives us a look at behemoth. Next time we will take a look at the other supernatural creature, Leviathan.