Job 40 describes a mighty creature that was just as real as Job (vs. 15)—it was not a non-existent, figurative animal. Many scholars, mystified by what Behemoth was, and in many cases writing before many of the dinosaurs had even been discovered in the mid-to-late 1800s, or trained to believe dinosaurs and humans did not co-exist because of evolutionary presuppositions, quickly assume the Behemoth must have been a creature living today, like a hippopotamus or elephant. As we have shown elsewhere, however, the biblical description of Behemoth does not match the hippo or elephant. For example, Behemoth was “chief of the ways of God” (vs. 19, ASV)1 and, unlike hippos or elephants, had a tail2 comparable to a cedar tree (vs. 17),3 a tree known in the Bible for its size and strength. Other clues from the text, however, also preclude the hippo or elephant from being identified as Behemoth.
For example, the text says that Behemoth’s strength was in its hips or loins (vs. 16). The elephant’s strength, however, is in its head (namely, its trunk) and neck. It carries roughly 60% of its weight on its front legs, not hind legs.4 Interestingly, studies have been conducted that compared the weight distributions of elephants with sauropod dinosaurs.5 Scientists have discovered that sauropods, contrary to elephants, had the opposite weight distribution, with sauropods’ center of mass being closer to the rear and having much larger hind legs compared to their forelegs.6 Did God not know where the strength of Behemoth was actually located? Or is it possible that Behemoth was not an elephant?
According to the text, Behemoth’s “bones are like beams of bronze, his ribs like bars of iron” (Job 40:18). Concerning the term translated “beams,” commentator Albert Barnes explains that, while some translate the term as “tubes,” “the more common meaning of the word is ‘strong, mighty,’ and there is no impropriety in retaining that sense here; and then the meaning would be, that his bones were so firm that they seemed to be made of solid metal.”7 The bones of hippos have a marrow cavity that makes up “55% of the total thickness” of its femurs—less than most mammals—but still helping “the animal to walk on the bottom of rivers.”8 Elephant bones have cavities with “spongy bone” in them.9 Sauropod dinosaurs, however, were unique. Many had ribs, vertebrae, and limb bones that were not hollowed-out like most animals, but solid bone.10 Hippos and elephants simply do not fit the description as given in the text. Since we can know that the Earth is young,11 that dinosaurs have existed in the past according to the fossil record, that God would have created dinosaurs alongside man on Day 6 of Creation week (Genesis 1:24-28), that dinosaurs survived the Flood,12 and that post-Flood humans saw them centuries after the Flood,13 why would scholars so vehemently reject the possibility that Job, who likely lived relatively soon after the Flood, was shown dinosaurs by God? Which creature best fits the text?
I have always scratched my head in bewilderment at the mental gymnastics many scholars will engage in to (1) deny the striking similarities that Behemoth had to sauropod dinosaurs, and (2) force the hippo or elephant into the text where they simply do not fit (engaging in eisegesis, rather than exegesis). Why not just let the evidence speak for itself?
1 Dave Miller (2008), “The First of the Ways of God,” R&R Resources, 7:9-R, http://apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/28_3/0803.pdf.
2 Note that if Job lived towards the end of the Ice Age, which is probable, elephants as we know them may not have yet been on the scene. The elephant kind was apparently represented by woolly mammoths and mastodons at the time, which have a similar tail length and character as modern elephants (though with more hair).
3 Dave Miller (2011), “Behemoth: A Tail Like a Cedar?” Reason & Revelation, 31:122-131, http://apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/31_12/1112.pdf.
4 Donald M. Henderson (2006), “Burly Gaits: Centers of Mass, Stability, and the Trackways of Sauropod Dinosaurs,” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26:912, December; “Jobaria and the Elephant” (2020), Paul Sereno: Paleontologist, https://paulsereno.uchicago.edu/discoveries/jobaria_tiguidensis/jobaria_and_the_elephant/.
5 The large dinosaurs with the generally long necks, long tails, and small heads.
6 Henderson; “Jobaria….”
7 Albert Barnes (2010), Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, electronic database, Wordsearch Corp, emp. added.
8 J.G.M. Thewissen, Lisa Noelle Cooper, John C. George, and Sunil Bajpai (2009), “From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises,” Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2:272-288, https://evolution-outreach.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s12052-009-0135-2.
9 “Elephant” (2002), International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 6: DUG-FLO, third edition, p. 767.
10 “Dinosaur: Classification” (2020), Encyclopaedia Britanica on-line, Accessed September 23, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/animal/dinosaur/Classification; Patricia Barnes-Svarney and Thomas E. Svarney (2010), The Handy Dinosaur Answer Book (Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press), second edition, p. 64; “Sauropods” (n.d.), On-line Biology Library, Orange County Community College, http://bio.sunyorange.edu/updated2/pl%20new/36%20Sauropods.htm; Andreas Christian, Wolf-Dieter Heinrich, and Werner Golder (1999), “Posture and Mechanics of the Forelimbs of Brachiosaurus brancai (Dinosauria: Sauropoda),” Mitt. Mus. Nat.kd. Berl.,
Geowiss. Reihe, volume 2, https://fr.copernicus.org/articles/2/63/1999/fr-2-63-1999.pdf, p. 68; Samuel W. Williston (1898), The University Geological Survey of Kansas (Topeka: J.S. Parks, State Printer), volume 4: Paleontology, Part 1: Upper Cretaceous, p. 69; “Titanosauria” (2020), Wikipedia, Accessed September 23, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanosauria; Chris McGowan (2011), Dinosaur Discovery (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), p. 6; Mark Hallett and Mathew J. Wedel (2016), The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press), p. 72.
11 Jeff Miller (2019), “21 Reasons to Believe the Earth is Young,” Reason & Revelation, 39:2-11, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1287.
12 Jeff Miller (2019), “Was the Ark Large Enough for ALL of the Animals?,” Reason & Revelation, 39:82-83, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1299&article=2920.
13 Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).