Hippopotamus an animal regarded by Bochart (Hieroz. 3, 705), Ludolf (Hist. Aethiop. 1, 11), Shaw (Trav. 2, 299, Lond. 8vo), Scheuzer (Phys. Sac. on Job 40), Rosenmuller (Not. ad Bochart. Hieroz. 3, 705, and Schol. ad Vet. Test. in Job 40), Taylor (Appendix to Calmet's Dict. Bibl. No. 65), Harmer (Observations, 2, 319), Gesenius (Thes. s.v.בּהֵמוֹת), Fürst (Concord. Heb. s.v.), and English commentators generally, as being designated by the Heb. word בּהֵמוֹת (behemoth' in Job 40:15), by which, however, some writers, as Vatablus, Drusius, Grotils (Crit. Sac. Annotationis ad Job. 40), Pfeiffer (Dubia vexata S. S., p. 594, Dresden, 1679), Castell (Lex. Hept. p. 292), A. Schultens (Comment. in Job. 40), Michaelis (Suppl. ad Lex. Heb. No. 208), have understood the elephant; while others, again, amongst whom is Lee (Comment. on Job. 40:and Lex. Heb. s.v.בּהֵמוֹת), consider the Hebrew term as a plural noun for "cattle" in general; it being left to the reader to apply to the scriptural allusions the particular animal, which may be, according to Lee, "either the horse, or wild ass, or wild bull"(!). Compare also Reiske, Conjecture in Job. p. 167. Dr. Mason Good (Book of Job literally translated, p. 473, Lond. 1712) has hazarded a conjecture that the behemoth denotes some extinct pachyderm like the mammoth, with a view to combine the characteristics of the hippopotamus and elephant, and so to fulfill all the scriptural demands. Compare with this Michaelis (Sup. ad Lex. Heb. No. 208), and Hasaeus (in Dissertat. Syllog.
No. 7, § 37, and § 38, p. 506), who rejects with some scorn the notion of the identity of behemoth and mammoth. Dr. Kitto (Pict. Bib. Job 40) and Colonel Hamilton Smith (Kitto's Cycl. Bib. Lit. art. Behemoth). from being unable to make all the scriptural details correspond with any one particular animal, are of opinion that behemoth is a plural term, and is to be taken as a poetical personification of the great pachydermata generally, wherein the idea of hippopotamus is predominant. The term behemoth would thus be the counterpart of leviathan, the animal mentioned next in the book of Job; which word, although its signification in that passage is restricted to the crocodile, does yet stand in Scripture for a python, or a whale, or some other huge monster of the deep. SEE LEVIATHAN. According to the Talmud, behemoth is some huge land-animal which daily consumes the grass off a thousand hills; he is to have, at some future period, a battle with leviathan. On account of his grazing on the mountains, he is called "the bull of the high mountains." (See Lewysohn, Zool. des Talmuds, p. 355). "The 'fathers,' for the most part," says Cary (Job, p. 402), "surrounded the subject with an awe equally dreadful, and in the behemoth here, and in the leviathan of the next chapter, saw nothing but mystical representations of the devil: others, again, have here pictured to themselves some hieroglyphic monster that has no real existence; but these wild imaginations are surpassed by that of Bolducius, who in the behemoth actually beholds Christ!" The following reasons seem clearly to identify it with the hippopotamus. 1. The meaning of the original word itself. Gesenius (Thesaurus, p. 183), with whom also Furst agrees (Heb. Lex. s.v.), holds it not to be a Heb. plural, but the Coptic behemoth, "the water-ox" (see Jablonsky, Opusc. 1, 52), equivalent to the ἵππος ὁ ποτάμοις,tocor river-horse of the ancients (Herod. 2, 71; Aristot. Anim. 2, 12 ; Diod. Sic. 1, 35; Pliny, 8:39; Ammian. Marcell. 22:15; Abdollatif, Denker. p. 146 sq.; Prosper Alpinus, Res AEg. 4, 12; Ludolph, Hist. _Eth. 1, 11, and Comment. p. 155 sq.; Hasselquist, Tray. p. 280 sq.; Sparrmann, Reise druch siidl. Africa, p. 562 sq.; Ruppell, Arab. Petr. p. 55 sq.; comp. Schneider,.Hist. hippo. vett. crit. in his edit. of Artedi Synon pisc. p. 247 sq., 316 sq.; Bochart, Hieroz. 3, 705 sq.; Oken, Zool. 2, 718 sq.). Rosenmüller's objection to the Coptic origin of the word is worthy of observation-that, if this were the case, the Sept. interpreters would not have given θηρία as its representative. Michaelis translates בּהֵמוֹת by jumenta, and thinks the name of the elephant has dropped out ("Mihi videtur nomen elephantis forte פילexcidisse"). Many critics, Rosenmüller amongst the number, believe the word is the plural majestatis of בּהֵמָה. But in that case it would hardly be employed with a verb or adj. in the singular, and that masc., as it is.
2. A careful examination of the text shows that all the details descriptive of the behemoth accord entirely with the ascertained habits of that animal. Gesenius and Rosenmüller have remarked that, since in the first part of Jehovah's discourse (Job 38; Job 39) land animals and birds are mentioned, it suits the general purpose of that discourse better to suppose that aquatic or amphibious creatures are spoken of in the last half of it; and that since the leviathan, by almost universal consent, denotes the crocodile, the behemoth seems clearly to point to the hippopotamus, his associate in the Nile. Harmer (Observations, 2, 319) says, "There is a great deal of beauty in arranging the descriptions of the behemoth and the leviathan, for in the Mosaic pavement the people of an Egyptian bark are represented as darting spears or some such weapons at one of the river-horses, as another of them is pictured with two sticking near his shoulders… It was then a customary thing with the old Egyptians thus to attack these animals (see also Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3. 71); if so, how beautiful is the arrangement: there is a most happy gradation; after a grand but just representation of the terribleness of the river-horse, the All mighty is represented as going on with his expostulations something after this manner: "But dreadful as this animal is, barbed irons and spears have sometimes prevailed against him; but what wilt thou do with the crocodile? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons?" — etc. In the Lithostrotun Praenestinum, to which Mr. Harmer refers, there are two crocodiles, associates of three river-horses, which are represented without spears sticking in them. though they seem to be within shot. Behemoth "eateth grass as an ox" (Job 40:15) — a circumstance which is noticed as peculiar in an animal of aquatic habits; this is strictly true of the hippopotamus, which leaves the water by night, and feeds on vegetables and green crops. Its strength is enormous, ver. 16, 18, and the notice of the power of the muscles of the belly, "his force is in the navel of his belly," appears to be strictly correct. The tail, however, is short, and it must be conceded that the first part of verse 17, "he moveth his tail like a cedar," seems not altogether applicable. His mode of attack is with his mouth, which is armed with a formidable array of teeth, projecting incisors, and enormous curved canines; thus "his Creator offers him a sword," for so the words in ver. 19 may be rendered. But the use of his sword is mainly for pacific purposes, "the beasts of the field playing" about him as he feeds; the hippopotamus being a remarkably inoffensive animal. "With these apparently combined teeth the hippopotamus can cut the grass as neatly as if it were mown with the scythe, and is able to sever, as if with shears, a tolerably thick and stout stem" (Wood's Nat. Hist. 1, 762). חֶרֶב. is perhaps the Greek ἃρπη. See Bochart (3, 722), who cites Nicander (Theriac. 566) as comparing the tooth of this animal to a scythe. The next verse explains the purpose and use of the "scythe" with which God has provided his creature, viz., in order that he may eat the grass of the hills. His retreat is among the lotuses (tzelin; A.V. "shady trees"), which abounded about the Nile, and amid the reeds of the river. Thoroughly at home in the water, "if the river riseth, he doth not take to flight; and he cares not if a Jordan (here an appellative for a 'stream') press on his mouth." Ordinary means of capture were ineffectual against the great strength of this animal. "Will any take him before his eyes?" (i.e. openly, and without cunning); "will any bore his nose with a gin?" as was usual with large animals. Though now no longer found in the lower Nile, it was formerly common there (Wilkinson, 1, 239). The method of killing it in Egypt was with a spear, the animal being in the first instance secured by a lasso, and repeatedly struck until it became exhausted (Wilkinson, 1, 240); the very same method is pursued by the natives of South Africa at the present day (Livingstone, p. 73; instances of its great strength are noticed by the same writer, p. 231, 232, 497). The skin of the hippopotamus is cut into whips by the Dutch colonists of South Africa, and the monuments of Egypt testify that a similar use was made of the skin by the ancient Egyptians (Anc. Egypt. 3, 73). The inhabitants of South Africa hold the flesh of the hippopotamus in high esteem; it is said to be not unlike pork.
⇒Bible concordance for HIPPOPOTAMUS.
It has been said that some parts of the description in — Job cannot apply to the hippopotamus:
(1.) The 20th verse, for instance, where it is said "the mountains bring him forth food." This passage, many writers say, suits the elephant well, but cannot be applied to the hippopotamus, which is never seen on mountains. In answer to this objection, it has been stated, with great reason, that the word hàrim (הָרַים) is not necessarily to be restricted to what we understand commonly by the expression "mountains." In the Palestine pavement alluded to above there are to be seen here and there, as Mr. Harmer has observed, "hillocks rising above the water." In Eze 43:15 (margin), the altar of God, only ten cubits high and fourteen square, is called "the mountain of God." "The eminences of Egypt, which appear as the inundation of the Nile decreases, may undoubtedly be called mountains in the poetical language of Job." But we think there is no occasion for so restricted an explanation. The hippopotamus, as is well known, frequently leaves the water and the river's bank as night approaches, and makes inland excursions for the sake of the pasturage, when he commits sad work among the growing crops (Hasselquist, Trav. p. 188). No doubt he might often be observed on the hillsides near the spots frequented by him. Again, it must be remembered that the "mountains" are mentioned by way of contrast with the natural habits of aquatic animals generally, which never go far from the water and the banks of the river; but the behemoth, though passing much of his time in the water and in "the covert of the reed and fens," eateth grass like cattle, and feedeth on the hill-sides in company with the beasts of the field. According to a recent traveler in Egypt, the Rev. J. L. Errington, "the valley of the Nile in Upper Egypt and Nubia is in parts so very narrow, that the mountains approach within a few hundred yards, and even less, to the river's bank; the hippopotamus, therefore, might well be said to get its food from the mountains, on the sides of which it would grow." There is much beauty in the passages which contrast the habits of the hippopotamus, an amphibious animal, with those of herbivorous land- quadrupeds; but if the elephant is to be understood, the whole description is, comparatively speaking, tame.
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
(2.) Again, the 24th verse — "his nose pierceth through snares" — seems to be spoken of the trunk of the elephant, "with its extraordinary delicacy of scent and touch, rather than to the obtuse perceptions of the river- horse." With respect to this objection, there is little doubt that the marginal reading is nearer the Hebrew than that of the text. "Will any take him in his sight, or bore his nose with a gin?" Perhaps this: refers to leading him about alive with a ring in his nose, as, says Rosenmüller, "the Arabs are accustomed to lead camels," and we may add the English to lead bulls, "with a ring passed through the nostrils."
(3.) The expression in verse 17, "he bendeth his tail like a cedar," has given occasion to much discussion; some of the advocates for the elephant maintaining that the word zânâb (זָנָב) may denote either extremity, and that here the elephant's trunk is intended. The parallelism, however, clearly requires the posterior appendage to be signified by the term. The expression seems to allude to the stiff, unbending nature of the animal's tail, which in this respect is compared to the trunk — of a strong cedar, which the wind scarcely moves.
(4.) The description of the animal's lying under "the shady trees," amongst the "reeds" and willows, is peculiarly applicable to the hippopotamus. It has been argued that such a description is equally applicable to the elephant; but this is hardly the case; for, though the elephant is fond of frequent ablutions, and is frequently seen near water, yet the constant habit of the hippopotamus, as implied in verses 21, 22, seems to be especially made the subject to which the attention is directed. "At every turn there occurred deep, still pools, and occasional sandy islands densely clad with lofty reeds. Above and beyond these reeds stood trees of immense age, beneath which grew a rank kind of grass on which the sea-cow delights to pasture" (G. Cumming, p. 297). SEE BEHEMOTH.