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Behemoth

BEHEMOTH bĭ he’ məth (hippopotamus, בְּהֵמוֹת, H990). This is the most common Heb. word for beast (all Eng. VSS). This pl. form occurs nine times in the OT, and in all passages except one it is tr. “beast” or “beasts.” The exception is in Job 40:15 where the context clearly suggests a specific animal, for which most Eng. VSS give the transliteration “behemoth” but RSVmg. has “hippopotamus.” Some Heb. scholars consider that pl. is used here for intensive effect and many commentators agree with RSVmg. The Heb. scholar and zoologist Bodenheimer differs, regarding it as a general expression here also, and refers to its discussion in Job commentary of Tur. Sinai. The passage is largely fig. and the only points which seem clear are that it is aquatic and powerful (v. 23) and eats grass (v. 15). Also there are ancient records of hunting hippos with harpoons and barbed hooks (Diodorus Siculus 37:35). The hippo was certainly known in Biblical times, esp. in Egypt, where its numbers were greatly