What is behemoth in the book of Job?
Was behemoth in Job 40:15 a dinosaur?
Or was it an elephant, a hippopotamus, or a mythical creature?
We believe behemoth was a real animal that is now extinct, and that it could have been a dinosaur. We will tell you why.
The problem of translation
In Job 40:15, God says to Job, “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.” This word behemoth appears only once in the whole Bible. This makes it difficult to translate because the full descriptions of behemoth in Job 40 do not match any known living animal. And Bible translators had no other passage to compare it with for extra meaning. The safest choice then, and one taken by careful Bible translators, has been simply to use the word behemoth, and not to try to translate it.
In the first edition of the King James Bible, in 1611, the translators used behemoth in the biblical text, but added the margin note “Or, the Elephant, as some thinke.” The slightly earlier Geneva Bible of 1599 also left behemoth in the text, but also added the margin note “This beast is thought to be the elephant, or some other, which is unknowen.” (Note of interest: The passage that became Job 40:15 in the King James Version was Job 40:12 in the Geneva Bible because the chapter breaks were slightly different.)
The Authorised Standard Version of 1901 marched into dangerous territory when, following Dr. James Strong's awkward earlier attempt to translate the word, it substituted hippopotamus for behemoth in the biblical text.
Some people have thought behemoth is a mythical creature. More recently, creationist scholars have suggested that, as incredible as it seems to some, the creature that best fits the description is a dinosaur.
So what is it?
Navel of his belly
Skeptics sometimes point out that Job 40:16 describes the behemoth as having his force “in the navel of his belly”. “But dinosaurs are reptiles,” they say, “so they would not have had navels.”
However, the Hebrew word that the King James translators chose to translate as navel is more likely to mean muscles, as most other Bible translations attest.
And that makes more sense anyway, because an animal's power (force) is more likely to reside in it muscles than in its belly button. Navels are not things of force, but muscles are.
Chief of God's ways
God describes Behemoth as “the chief of the ways of God”, which fits a massive dinosaur better than any other creature. No one at the time knew about dinosaur fossils when the translators worked on the Geneva Bible and King James Version, so the translators did the best they could with their margin notes.
God says “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee.” God created dinosaurs and all other land animals with man on the sixth day of creation week. Their bodies were all formed from the basic elements of the earth. But only humans were made in the image of God.
Possibly dinosaurs existed in Job's time about 4000 years ago. This was not long after Noah's Flood, and there would have been dinosaur representatives on the Ark. Dr. Henry Morris says in The Defender's Study Bible, “Some descendants survived to and beyond Job's day, giving rise to all the traditions of dragons in various parts of the world.”
We cannot be dogmatic that behemoth was a dinosaur. Possibly it was another extinct creature. But the description fits a dinosaur better than any other creature known.