Be'hemoth (Heb. behemoth, בּהֵמוֹת, 15; Sept. θηρία; in Coptic, according to Jablonski, Pehemout) is regarded as the plural of בּהֵמָה, behemah' (usually rendered "beast" or cattle"); but commentators are by no means agreed as to its true meaning. Among those who adopt elephant are Drusius, Grotius, Schultens, Michaelis, etc., while among the advocates of hippopotamus are Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 754 sq.), Ludolf (Hist. AEthiop. 1, 11), and Gesenius (Thes. Heb. p. 183). The arguments of the last in favor of his own view may be summed up thus:
(1.) The general purpose and plan of Jehovah's two discourses with Job require that the animal which in this second discourse is classed with the crocodile should be an amphibious, not a terrestrial animal, the first discourse (38, 39) having been limited to land-animals and birds.
(2.) The crocodile and hippopotamus, being both natives of Egypt and AEthiopia, are constantly mentioned together by the ancient writers (see Herod. 2:69-71; Diod. 1:35; Pliny 28:8).
(3.) It seems certain that an amphibious animal is meant from the contrast between ver. 15, 20, 21, 22, and ver. 23, 24, in which the argument seems to be, "Though he feedeth upon grass," etc., like other animals, yet he liveth and delighteth in the waters, and nets are set for him there as for fish, which by his great strength he pierces through.
(4.) The mention of his tail in ver. 17 does not agree with the elephant, nor can זָנָב, as some have thought, signify the trunk of that animal; and
(5.), though בּהֵמוֹת may be the plural "majestatis" of בּהֵמָה, beast, yet it is probably an Egyptian word signifying sea-ox, put into a Semitic form, and used as a singular.
The following is a close translation of the poetical passage in Job (Job 40:15-24) describing the animal in question:
Lo, now, Behemoth that I have made [alike] with thee! Grass like the [neat-] cattle will he eat. Lo! now, his strength [is] in his loins, Even his force in [the] sinews of his belly. He can curve his tail [only] like a cedar; The tendons of his haunches must be interlaced: His bones [are as] tubes of copper, His frame like a welding of iron. He [is the] master-piece of God: his Maker [only] can supply his sword [i.e. tushes]. For produce will [the] mountains bear for him; Even [though] all [the] animals of the field may spors [there]. Beneath [the] lotuses will he lie, In [the] covert of [the] reedy marsh; Lotuses shall entwine him his shade.
Osiers of [the] brook shall enclose him. Lo! [the] liver may swell-he will not start; He will be bold, although a Jordan should rush to his mouth. In his [very] eyes should [one] take him, Through [the] snares would [his] nose pierce.
"But in some respects this description is more applicable to the elephant, while in others it is equally so to both animals. Hence the term behemoth, taken intensively (for in some places it is admitted to designate cattle in general), may be assumed to be a poetical personification of the great Pachydermata, or even Herbivora, wherein the idea of hippopotamus is predominant. This view accounts for the ascription to it of characters not truly applicable to one species; for instance, the tail is likened to a cedar (provided זָנָב really denotes the tail, which the context makes very doubtful; see Zeddel, Beitr. z. Bibl. Zoolog'e), which is only admissible in the case of the elephant; again, "the mountains bring him forth food;" "he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan," a river which elephants alone could reach; "his nose pierceth through snares, "certainly more indicative of that animal's proboscis, with its extraordinary delicacy of scent and touch, ever cautiously applied, than of the obtuse perceptions of the river-horse. Finally, the elephant is far more dangerous as an enemy than the hippopotamus, which numerous pictorial sculptures on the monuments of Egypt represent as fearlessly speared by a single hunter standing on his float of log and reeds. Yet, although the elephant is scarcely less fond of water, the description referring to manners, such as lying under the shade of willows, among reeds, in fens, etc., is more directly characteristic of the hippopotamus. The book of Job appears, from many internal indications, to have been written in Asia, and is full of knowledge, although that knowledge is not expressed according to the precise technicalities of modern science; it offers pictures in magnificent outline, without condescending to minute and labored details. Considered in this light, the expression in Ps 50:10, "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle (behemoth) upon a thousand hills," acquires a grandeur and force far surpassing those furnished by the mere idea of cattle of various kinds. If, then, we take this plural noun in the sense here briefly indicated, we may, in like manner, consider the LEVIATHAN SEE LEVIATHAN (q.V.) its counterpart, a similarly generalized term, with the idea of crocodile most prominent; and as this name indicates a twisting animal, and, as appears from various texts, evidently includes the great pythons, cetacea, and sharks of the surrounding seas and deserts, it conveys a more sublime conception than if limited to the crocodile, an animal familiar to every Egyptian, and well known even in Palestine." SEE HIPPOPOTAMUS.