Were Dinosaurs Intended?
Damien F. Mackey
“Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.
What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly!”
“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?”
Some Creationists think dinosaurs were probably intended in these biblical descriptions.
Wayne Jackson, for example, referring to Creationist Dr. Henry Morris, will ask the question: “Why do you suppose that a dinosaur is rarely proposed as a candidate for behemoth?”
Why do you suppose that a dinosaur is rarely proposed as a candidate for behemoth? The answer is very simple. As noted earlier, the common perception is that dinosaurs became extinct long before man arrived upon this planet (approximately 65 million years, it is alleged).Accordingly, behemoth simply could not be a variety of dinosaur — because the chronological disparity prohibits such. Dr. Henry Morris has addressed the matter in this fashion.
“Modern Bible scholars, for the most part, have become so conditioned to think in terms of the long ages of evolutionary geology that it never occurs to them that mankind once lived in the same world with the great animals that are now found only as fossils” (p. 115).
As we have demonstrated already, there is unequivocal biblical testimony that human beings and dinosaurs inhabited the same early environment of the earth, and there is not a shred of scientific evidence that proves otherwise. ….
And Mart-Jan Paul, in “Behemoth and leviathan in the book of Job”, asking, “What, then, was behemoth?”, will suggest that it may have been a now extinct apatosaur, or something akin to it: https://creation.com/behemoth-and-leviathan
What, then, was behemoth?
If we take extinct animals into consideration, a herbivorous dinosaur seems a more likely candidate. The apatosaur had a large tail, lived on green plants and weighed about 30 tonnes. The ultrasaur could reach a height of 18 m and a length of 30 m, with a weight of 136 tonnes. It also was a herbivore with an enormous tail. The brachiosaur was 12 m tall, 23 m long and 60 to 70 tonnes in weight. Its tail could reach a length of nearly 6 m and a breadth of nearly 1.5 m. In the sauropods, large bundles of muscles are visible on the outside of the body of the animal. Behemoth is not only a herbivore, but more specifically it is a grass-eater. An animal that does fit this aspect is the 15 m long nigersaur, found in the Republic of Niger in Africa.13
Because new kinds of extinct animals continue to be found in our time, and because the description in Job 40 is not specific enough, we cannot identify precisely which animal is described. Neither do we know whether the above-mentioned animals still lived in the time of Job, but it is useful for our exegesis to include such examples. ….
Allan Steel has, for his part, written an entire article on the subject, “Could Behemoth Have Been a Dinosaur?”: https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/could-behemoth-have-been-a-dinosaur/ in which he concludes:
The whole passage in Job 40 concerning Behemoth certainly suggests a large animal, and no known living animal fits the passage adequately (for various reasons, including the detailed habitat presented).
The most natural interpretation of the key clause Job 40:17a is that the tail of Behemoth is compared to a cedar for its great size, and there is nothing in the context which contradicts this possibility, even though the exact sense of the verb is extremely difficult to determine.
Consequently, the most reasonable interpretation (which also takes the whole passage into account) is that Behemoth was a large animal, now extinct, which had a large tail. Thus some type of extinct dinosaur should still be considered a perfectly reasonable possibility according to our present state of knowledge. ….
Some Creationists are actually of the view that there were dinosaurs on board Noah’s Ark.
The ridiculousness of such a view has been painfully – but also humorously (as well it should be) – exposed by professor Ian Plimer in his book, Telling Lies for God.
Plimer, whom Creationists are quick to denounce, has actually done a service for conservative biblical scholars throughout much of this book.
But such science-based criticisms do not deter not stop the likes of John Mackay, “DINOSAURS: How could Noah have fitted such huge animals on the Ark?”: http://askjohnmackay.com/dinosaurs-how-could-noah-have-fitted-such-huge-animals-on-the-ark/ Apparently Noah and his family had been busy collecting dinosaur eggs:
Many years ago sceptic and Geology Professor Ian Plimer made this same challenge in his book Telling Lies for God (Random House, 1994) where he claimed Noah had to take on board two “80 tonne Ultrasaurus dinosaurs”. (pp105 & 115) Other critics have challenged: “How could you fit a four story high Brachiosaurus on a three story high boat?”
But these questions expose a hidden assumption: Why do most people think that all the creatures that got on the ark were overgrown adults? Why not babies or juveniles, and if so, how big was a baby dinosaur? Genesis specifies the size of the ark, but not the size of the animals that came to get on board. However, since it was God who sent the land dwelling, air breathing creatures to Noah, and since this God had told Noah how big to build the Ark, (Genesis 6:14-16) then it shouldn’t surprise you that the same God would have known exactly what size Diamantinasaurus or Deinonychus to send.
So how small could dinosaurs have been? It may surprise you to know that all dinosaur eggs discovered to date can be held in your hand. The largest dinosaur egg known is 16” (41 cm) long. All others are smaller than the biggest bird eggs. It seems that just like their living cousins the crocodiles, dinosaurs hatched out of eggs and were born cute little guys. Just as present day 10cm (4 inch) long baby crocs make neat little pets, so ‘hold in your hand’ size baby dinos would have also.
Noah could easily have taken two of every kind of dinosaur hatchling onto the Ark in his pockets. It also seems that like their living relatives the crocodiles, (and most modern reptiles), dinosaur bones show that dinosaurs grew fairly fast for the first 25 years of their life, and then their growth slowed down – but most never seemed to cease growing till they died. So in the world before the Noah’s Flood where even men lived to nearly 1,000 years of age, a cute little 6 month old Dino could have reached adult size by the time he was 25 and would then grown to be even more impressive by the time he was 250 yrs old.
But it doesn’t matter how big he could have become – only how small he was when he turned up at the bottom of Noah’s plank.
Of course there is one question still in abeyance here. Since the Bible says that God sent two of every kind of land dwelling air breathing creatures to Noah, then did dinosaurs only live on the dry land? Sir Richard Owen who invented the term Dinosaur said so, and it’s been the trend ever since to think this way. Dino’s are certainly reptilian, but then so are sea snakes and crocodiles. Increasingly there is evidence some Dinosaurs lived along the edge of the water (fresh or salt ) where they used the buoyancy of water to hold up their massive weight. Be worth keeping your eye on that research to see where it goes next.
Were they non dinosaur animals?
Now the word Behemoth is undoubtedly a Hebrew attempt to render the Egyptian, p-ehe-mau, ‘hippopotamus’, probably not found in Palestine. Leviathan is obviously, from its description, the crocodile. These fierce creatures were both natives of the Nile in Egypt. They were not dinosaurs.
In Part One we saw that some Creationists favour, for the identification of the monsters in the Book of Job (and here I am most interested in the pair, “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”), now-extinct dinosaurs.
I personally would not admit dinosaurs, though, either to Noah’s Ark (refer to Part One), or to the Book of Job. For one thing, the Book of Job is far too late by my estimations of it, according to which the prophet Job was the C8th BC (conventional dating) Tobias, son of Tobit. See e.g. my article:
Job’s Life and Times
That is not to say that there were no dinosaurs on earth at that time, or even much later.
There is, for instance, that intriguing bas-relief of what looks like a Stegosaurus carved on the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, built supposedly around 1186 AD.
But dinosaurs were not wandering around in the region where Job-Tobias lived, the Fertile Crescent (where evidence for dinosaurs tends to be scarcer, anyway), as late as the C8th BC.
Others think that the Job-ian monsters were meant to intend, either regular animals, or demons. Or, that they were somewhat exaggerated descriptions of regular animals intended also to symbolise demons.
I personally would favour that firstly regular animals are intended.
After all, the horse which is so majestically described in Job 39:19-25:
“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?
He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray.
He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance.
In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry. …”.
is simply a horse, though poetically described.
But that secondly they (“Behemoth” and “Leviathan” at least) can be extended to symbolise (figurative sense) demons.
If they indeed were regular animals, then which ones might have been intended?
Eric Lyons, in a well titled article, “Behemoth and Leviathan–Creatures of Controversy”, refers to the view of St. Thomas Aquinas, that “Behemoth” was the elephant, whilst “Leviathan” was the whale:
BEHEMOTH AND LEVIATHAN—
MYTHOLOGICAL OR LITERAL?
For centuries, students of the Bible have questioned the identity of behemoth and leviathan. “In the Middle Ages, some theologians, like Albert Magnus, conceived of behemoth as a symbol of sensuality and sin. Others, like Thomas Aquinas, equated behemoth with the elephant, and leviathan with the whale” (Gordis, 1978, p. 569)—both being natural monsters in the literal sense, but representing diabolical power in a figurative sense. In 1663, Samuel Bochart published a two-volume work identifying the two animals under consideration as the hippopotamus and the crocodile. Then, as additional extrabiblical literature came to light in the middle-to-late nineteenth century (most notably from Mesopotamia), the mythological interpretation was revived and comparative mythology became very popular among biblical scholars.
By the closing of the nineteenth century, some scholars began to see mythology as the solution to the “identification problem” of the creatures described in Job 40-41. That problem was stated by T.K. Cheyne as early as 1887 when he observed that “…neither Behemoth nor Leviathan corresponds strictly to any known animal” (p. 56). In 1892, C.H. Toy argued that behemoth and leviathan were water animals associated with the “primeval seas Apsu and Tiamat as they appeared to be presented in the emerging Babylonian Epic of Creation” (as quoted in Wilson, 1975, 25:2). In his commentary on Job, Tur-Sinai dismissed behemoth altogether, and suggested instead that the passage of Scripture from Job 40:15 through the end of the chapter is concerned with only one powerful figure—the mythological leviathan (1967, p. 558). Marvin Pope probably is the most recent well-known supporter of the mythological view. Using the Ugaritic texts as support for his theory, Pope has proposed that behemoth and leviathan of Job 40-41 are the same mythological creatures found in the ancient Jewish writings of Enoch, IV Ezra, and the Apocalypse of Baruch. ….
Given traditions associating the prophet Job with Egypt, The Testament of Job going so far as to make Job a king in Egypt, a tradition that I have embraced:
Stellar Life and Career of the holy Prophet Job
then I would favour the view that these were animals well-known to Egypt, Behemoth being the hippopotamus and Leviathan the crocodile.
I have previously written on this:
As those in the know have shown, however, the Book of Job is saturated with Egyptianisms – just as is the Book of Genesis – indicating an author/editor who had spent much time in Egypt (as Moses certainly had – but I have also argued this for Job as a long time resident in Egypt) …. Now the word Behemoth is undoubtedly a Hebrew attempt to render the Egyptian, p-ehe-mau, ‘hippopotamus’, probably not found in Palestine. Leviathan is obviously, from its description, the crocodile. These fierce creatures were both natives of the Nile in Egypt. They were not dinosaurs.
But as wise commentators have also discerned down through the centuries, these Job-ian creatures also symbolically denoted demons. The hippopotamus and the crocodile were often depicted together by Egyptian artists as savage and vengeful demon-idols. The Egyptians, unlike modern skeptics, believed in the powers of darkness and worshipped them. In this they were philosophically advanced at least over the skeptics, then and now, who can believe in nothing beyond matter. Skeptics therefore cannot explain psychic phenomena, miracles, and diabolical possessions – in some cases of which even physically small people have been known to resist the efforts of six strong men to hold them down.
That the supernatural and preternatural are factors in the Book of Genesis, and indeed throughout the entire Bible – with cases of demonic possession being recorded in the New Testament – I find quite in keeping with reality in all of its totality, with the perennial philosophy (philosophia perennis) of humankind. The typical modern-day ‘philosopher’, due to his lack of courage to search for the whole truth, but preferring only bits of truth, lives on a flatlining level of existence, admitting nothing vertical or transcendent, nothing to relieve the bitter passions. ….
Part Three: The demonic aspect
“… [Job] chapters 38 and 39 … God had asked Job to survey the universe and ponder its complexity and intricacy. Here, in chapters 40 and 41, God is saying something more than that. Leviathan and Behemoth are representatives of evil, of Satan!”
New World Encyclopedia (“Leviathan”) entertains the possibility that “a demonic beast” may be intended in the Book of Job: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Leviathan
The Leviathan is a Biblical sea monster, a mythical creature referred to in sections of the Old Testament, and while a popular metaphor in both Judaism and Christianity, the creature nonetheless is viewed differently in each religion. The creature can either be seen as a metaphor for the sheer size and power of God‘s creative abilities, or a demonic beast. In this context, the Leviathan is regarded as the monster of the waters, while the Behemoth and the Ziz are regarded as monsters of the earth and the air, respectively. Outside of religion, leviathan has become synonymous with any large sea creature, particularly whales. ….
And Derek Thomas has provided this original discussion (a sermon) of Job-ian monsters, according to which “Behemoth” is not a hippopotamus, nor “Leviathan” a crocodile: https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/behemoth-and-leviathan
Behemoth and Leviathan
Did you ever ask yourself, Why did God make the hippopotamus?
Strange question? Yes! Especially in the context Job was in. Imagine it! Job is dying; he has suffered incalculable loss and pain. And He is asked: “Did you ever think about the hippopotamus?” You have to admit, this is a little weird.
Actually, the creature God alludes to in chapter 40 is not really a hippopotamus at all, but something called “the Behemoth.” “Look at the behemoth, which I made” (Job 40:15). Modern interpretations of this creature have tried to identify it with the hippo, but not with any great enthusiasm. Others have declared their allegiance to the rhinoceros. Older interpreters preferred to think that what God was talking about here was an elephant. Truth is, the description does not fit any of these creatures with ease.
Nor is this all. The next chapter opens with a description of something called “the Leviathan” (Job 41:1). Again, modern interpreters sometimes think this is a crocodile, whilst older ones prefer to think of it as a whale. A creature of the water certainly, but read the description of it and you will find yourself scratching your head and saying, “This is not like anything I’ve ever seen!”
Elephant, rhinoceros, or hippopotamus; whale, or crocodile, it doesn’t really matter; all are creatures that look a little odd. …. Everything about them seems out of proportion; cartoon-like exaggerations of mysterious creatures hard to describe without raising a wry smile.
What is more puzzling is not so much the identity of Behemoth or Leviathan, but that forty-four verses should be devoted to them at this point in the story. Think about it: Job is at his wits end, and finally God has spoken! He has come with a series of about fifty questions on the nature and origin of the universe. Job has responded to this “ordeal” for that is what it was, a trial of wisdomѕ by submitting to his divine opponent the response of ignorance. He simply did not know the answer to any of God’s questions. Job has to confess to his limitations as a finite human being. He cannot possibly be expected to understand God’s providence any more than he can understand the complexity of the origin and behaviour of the universe I which he lives.
But, there is more to Job’s dilemma. He has not only been unreasonable in his demands, asking for answers that he could not possibly have understood even if they had been given him; Job has also been sinful in his criticisms of the Almighty. Job has already lost the first round of this battle, saying: “I put my hand over my mouth, I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5). “Best of three” we almost hear Job saying! And so he must now prepare for another round:
“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me”
The Ultimate Challenge
S. Lewis noted in his book A Grief Observed, that we can sometimes ask questions which God finds unanswerable! Questions like, How many hours are there in a mile? ….
But Job’s problem had extended further than merely asking silly questions. Job had been angry with God. In being angry, he had entered into judgment of God and His ways. God had been placed “in the dock.” Job had, in effect, set himself above God. He had committed man’s most prevalent sin: of making himself a god. As Eden-like as this is, Job must now face a deeper reality than his ignorance. He must face up to the sinfulness of his response. If Job had been morally “blameless” before the trial, he had not been during it.
In what must be one of the most startling passages in this extraordinary book, God throws down the gauntlet. If Job really does can discern right and wrong, then let him extend his fury and judge accordingly.
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like His?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at every proud man and bring him low,
look at every proud man and humble him,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
…. This reduction of God in our minds, has been going on since Adam’s time. We think we know better than God does. Not only that we know better, but that this gives us the moral edge. We are better than God! Somehow, in this whole business of asking moral and theological questions, we assume that our opinion is the right one. We do it all the time, putting God in the dock along with everyone and everything else. We make ourselves God, by making our moral sense the judge of everything. It is not so much our ignorance as it is our impiety that offends.
Dungeons and Dragons
Don’t you think Job might have been saying to himself: “This is like a nightmare! Here I am, about to die, and God is asking me about scary animals! He cannot be serious!”
Yes, He is!
But why does God ask about Behemoth and Leviathan? And what are they exactly?
And what in the world has this to do with Job’s problem?
Behemoth! We have already noted such suggestions as the elephant, or the rhinoceros, or even the hippopotamus. But the description that follows, especially of “his tail sways like a cedar” (40:17), doesn’t fit any of these creatures. ….
So too, Leviathan. This creature is capable of breathing out fire!
His snorting throws out flashes of light;
his eyes are like the rays of dawn.
Firebrands stream from his mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
A fire-breathing dragon! ….
Interesting as this is, there is another interpretation which calls for our attention. The book of Job has already used the word “Leviathan” in chapter 3. There, it seems to function as a synonym for “death” (Job 3:8). Jewish interpreters have been almost unanimous in their interpretation of both Leviathan and Behemoth as symbolic of all that is evil. An entire mythology of evil grew using these creatures to depict it. Nor is this difficult for us to imagine. Those who love the writings of C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien are familiar enough with the genre of mythological creatures depicting forces of good and evil, whether it be The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings. The Egyptians, for example, represented Seti, god of darkness, as a hippopotamus, and Canaanite myth often depicted the god of death skulking in swamps. The Gilgamesh epic has as its central character a bull.
Perhaps, the point of this passage is to further elucidate the point made in chapters 38 and 39. God and His ways are unknowable. What better way to reinforce that truth by asking the question: “Did you ever ask yourself why God made the hippopotamus? Or the whale?” The answer, of course, is that we have no idea. And pain is like that! We don’t understand it! But it is not important that we understand it; what is important for us to know is that God understands it!
It may be that this section is reinforcing the idea that much of God’s providence is incomprehensible to us.
To us not to God!
We are to live with mystery every day of our lives, just as we will in heaven. Even there, there will be things that will baffle us, confound us, knock us off our feet. With angels, we will be in awe of the complexity of what God does.
But there will never be a moment when we shall conclude: this isn’t fair.
The truth encapsulated in Romans 8:28, that everything works out in fulfillment of a divine and all-wise plan does not imply that we can fathom its intricate blue-prints. Sometimes all we can do is gasp at its audacity and sublimity. God’s providence takes out breath away.
But perhaps there is more here than that. That, after all, had been the message of chapters 38 and 39 as God had asked Job to survey the universe and ponder its complexity and intricacy. Here, in chapters 40 and 41, God is saying something more than that. Leviathan and Behemoth are representatives of evil, of Satan! Job, remember, knew virtually nothing about Satan. He was certainly entirely ignorant of the first two chapters where we are told of Satan’s wager: “allow me to take away from Job all that he has and you will see him in full scale denial.” That, mercifully, had proved to be false. But Job had very close to it, blaming God for what in fact had been Satan’s doing. Now he is being told in the language of pictures that another being as at work in the universe. This creature is powerful and threatening.
And fearsome! “he is king over all that are proud” (Job 41:34).
Is this what Job confesses following the depictions of these two beasts, whenever he says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5)? Has Job come to realize that God is so powerful that not even the threats of Satan himself can undo his purpose towards his own? Satan may well be uncontrollable as far as we are concerned:
“Can you make a pet of him like a bird
or put him on a leash for your girls?” (Job 41:5)
But he is not uncontrollable as far as God is concerned. Job may not be able to overcome Leviathan’s power. He may not be able to “pull in leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope [or] put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a [hook] …” (Job 41:1-2). But God can! That is what Job has come to see. No matter how evil things may appear, or how afraid he may be, God is in control of everything and nothing is a threat to Him. To put it in a form in which the New Testament might say it: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:37-39). He who is able to “seize the dragon” (Rev 20:2), the “great dragon, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev 12:9), will be victorious. How come? “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).
There is no power that can undo the purposes of Almighty God. Job finds himself reduced to confessing his ignorance and his sinfulness:
“I know that You can do all things;
no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me to know.
My ears had heard of You
But now my eyes have seen You.
Therefore I despise myself
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Job had failed to consider the complexity of God’s ways. He had also failed to consider the malevolence of Satan. Who can fathom how God “allows sin and evil” but yet, is not the author of it? Who of us can understand how God can bring Satan into the picture as He does in the opening chapters, saying to him, “Have you considered My servant Job?” while at the same time maintaining His moral goodness and perfection.
The Devil wants us to think about him as little as possible. He is never happier than when he is ignored. As Lewis so cleverly put it:
“the more a man was in the Devil’s power, the less he would be aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows he’s drunk. It is the people who are fully awake and trying hard to be good who would be most aware of the Devil. It is when you start arming against Hitler that you first realize your country is full of Nazi agents. Of course, they don’t want you to believe in the Devil. If devils exist, their first aim is to give you an anaestheticѕ to put you off your guard. Only if that fails, do you become aware of them.” ….
For a while, a good while, the Devil had gained such a victory over Job. But now the anaesthetic has worn off. His mask has fallen. Job has come to see that the universe is much more complicated than he first assumed.
But God is still in control. And that is the best instruction he can receive. The shadow of the cross falls over every Christian’s pain and says: that pain is mine; it fills up “what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). And what is more wondrous still, God has sent His Son into the world so that in His life and death, He has “disarmed the powers and authorities, [making] a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).
Job has only glimpsed it, of course. Like a man who desires to see over a wall, jumps into the air to catch a fleeting glimpse of what lies the other side, so Job has caught a moments glance at what lies “the other side” of the cross. He has caught sight of the … victory which he cannot fully explain, but which he knows to be a certainty.
It is something that holds true for every believer. For you and for me. ….
Conclusion: Real animals are intended in the Book of Job because of the sober instance of the horse, but “Behemoth” and “Leviathan” in particular – respectively hippo and crocodile? – are presented in the Book of Job in such a highly poetic and exaggerated fashion as to suggest that they may be pointing to something more sinister lurking beyond the animal world.