The meaning of some of the Hebrew in this chapter is obscure. As a result, different and far-ranging translations and interpretations abound. Some reflect the idea that the chapter is consistently about leviathan. Others indicate that at least two of the verses are about Job. The Hebrew is often translated according to the respective interpretation. You may consider and decide for yourselves what may have been intended, as I will relate some of the alternative translations as I deem appropriate. To make matters more confusing, however, many bibles terminate Chapter 40 at v. 40:26 (one even on v. 40:24), so in the majority of bibles this chapter starts with what I have as v. 40 27. Therefore, in those bibles, this first verse, v. 41:1, is numbered v. 41:9.
הֵן־תֹּחַלְתּוֹ נִכְזָבָה הֲגַם אֶל־מַרְאָיו יֻטָל׃ 41:1
Job 41:1 “Behold his hope failed!
Should he not also cast off his visions?”
As I translate this verse, the Lord is still speaking and He is apparently speaking of Job. I understand this verse to follow from the final verse of Chapter 40, being about someone -- Job -- who could have placed his hand on the leviathan, only to find its battle with him overwhelming. His hope of subduing it would be smashed. But many bibles interpret this verse as about leviathan, as for example, “Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him.” Of course, this translation and others like it take numerous liberties with the Hebrew.
לֹא־אַכְזָר כִּי יְעוּרֶנּוּ וּמִי הוּא לְפָנַי יִתְיַצָּב׃ 41:2
Job 41:2 “He is not so fierce that he would rouse it.
Then is he who would present himself before Me?”
There is little variation among the various bible translations of this verse, but, because of minor deviations from the above translation, all assume the verse relates to the great sea beast. They start the verse with “None is so fierce that ....” But I understand this verse to be about Job. If Job would not face leviathan, how could he present himself before God?
מִי הִקְדִּימַנִי וַאֲשַׁלֵּם תַּחַת כָּל־הַשָּׁמַיִם לִי־הוּא׃ 41:3
Job 41:3 “Who has come in front of Me that I should restore?
Under all the heavens, he is Mine.”
How different the results of this verse, however! Once more, in all the bibles the assumption is that this verse continues the reference to leviathan, not to Job. They offer something like “Who has first given unto Me, that I should repay him? Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
לֹא) [לֹו]־אַחֲרִישׁ בַּדָּיו וּדְבַר־גְּבוּרֹות וְחִין עֶרְכֹּו׃ 41:4
Job 41:4 “Should I not remain deaf to his fictions
and talk of valorous deeds
and the fairness of his valuation?”
This verse offers what may be the greatest variation in both translation and interpretation. In my translation, which is in a very small minority (of two), God is continuing to speak about Job, apparently about his exaggerations and boasts. But let’s look at a couple of other translations: One bible has “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.” Another has “I do not keep silent concerning his parts, and the matter of might, and the grace of his arrangement.” These are obviously all about leviathan, but only because they offer incorrect translations of at least three or four words. As you can see, there is also an alleged error in the first word, the one before the left parenthesis. The word, translated as not by me (and everyone else, as a matter of fact), is corrected in the brackets to one meaning his or to him by replacing the aleph with a vav. I’m convinced that this is no error.
מִי־גִלָּה פְּנֵי לְבוּשׁוֹ בְּכֶפֶל רִסְנוֹ מִי יָבוֹא׃ 41:5
Job 41:5 “Who uncovers the front of its garment?
Who can come with its double bridle?”
Only minor variations inspired by this verse. It is pretty much interpreted to be about leviathan by everyone. Still, the meaning of the first line of the verse is a bit obscure, yet there are no comments about it. I imagine it is assumed to be a metaphor.
דַּלְתֵי פָנָיו מִי פִתֵּחַ סְבִיבוֹת שִׁנָּיו אֵימָה׃ 41:6
Job 41:6 “Who loosens the openings of its face?
From all sides, its teeth are a terror,
גַּאֲוָה אֲפִיקֵי מָגִנִּים סָגוּר חוֹתָם צָר׃ 41:7
Job 41:7 strengths of shields are a pride,
a seal closed tight.”
In this verse the word translated by me as shields is translated by many others as scales. That’s a stretch of the literal meaning, though, but it seems reasonable given the context. The next two verses provide support for this interpretation.
אֶחָד בְּאֶחָד יִגַּשׁוּ וְרוּחַ לֹא־יָבוֹא בֵינֵיהֶם׃ 41:8
Job 41:8 “They can be so close one with another
that no air can come between them.”
אִישׁ־בְּאָחִיהוּ יְדֻבָּקוּ יִתְלַכְּדוּ וְלֹא יִתְפָּרָדוּ׃ 41:9
Job 41:9 “They can be joined each to its neighbors;
they may be grasped, but they cannot be separated.”
עֲטִישֹׁתָיו תָּהֶל אוֹר וְעֵינָיו כְּעַפְעַפֵּי־שָׁחַר׃ 41:10
Job 41:10 “Its sneezing would shine light,
and its eyes are as the beginnings of the dawn.”
The leviathan’s sneeze is assumed by commentators to splash much water that appears to be lit up. And its eyes are assumed to be as the beginnings of dawn because they are the first thing seen as the creature rises from the deep. Now here’s my interpretation: The sound of leviathan’s sneeze is so loud it causes the hearer to see stars, and its eyes, which are red, can be like the very first glimmer of light rising from below the early morning horizon. Most of the rest of this chapter is non-controversial and few meaningful translational variations are found in bible literature.
מִפִּיו לַפִּידִים יַהֲלֹכוּ כִּידוֹדֵי אֵשׁ יִתְמַלָּטוּ׃ 41:11
Job 41:11 “Torches would proceed from its mouth,
sparks of fire would escape.”
מִנְּחִירָיו יֵצֵא עָשָׁן כְּדוּד נָפוּחַ וְאַגְמֹן׃ 41:12
Job 41:12 “Smoke would come forth from its nostrils,
as from a pot cooking, or a reed.”
נַפְשֹׁו גֶּחָלִים תְּלַהֵט וְלַהַב מִפִּיו יֵצֵא׃ 41:13
Job 41:13 “Its breath could kindle coals,
as the flame would come out of its mouth.”
בְּצַוָּארֹו יָלִין עֹז וּלְפָנָיו תָּדוּץ דְּאָבָה׃ 41:14
Job 41:14 “Strength would lodge in its neck,
and dismay would spring before him.”
מַפְּלֵי בְשָׂרוֹ דָבֵקוּ יָצוּק עָלָיו בַּל־יִמּוֹט׃ 41:15
Job 41:15 “The folds of its flesh are tight;
it would be firm on it,
it would not move.”
לִבֹּו יָצוּק כְּמֹו־אָבֶן וְיָצוּק כְּפֶלַח תַּחְתִּית׃ 41:16
Job 41:16 “Its heart would be as firm as stone,
and as hardened as the grinding part of a millstone.”
מִשֵּׂתֹו יָגוּרוּ אֵלִים מִשְּׁבָרִים יִתְחַטָּאוּ׃ 41:17
Job 41:17 “The mightiest ones would become afraid because of its rising up;
because of being crushed they would be willing to sin.”
מַשִּׂיגֵהוּ חֶרֶב בְּלִי תָקוּם חֲנִית מַסָּע וְשִׁרְיָה׃ 41:18
Job 41:18 “A sword overtaking it could not prevail,
a spear, a dart, or a javelin.”
יַחְשֹׁב לְתֶבֶן בַּרְזֶל לְעֵץ רִקָּבוֹן נְחוּשָׁה׃ 41:19
Job 41:19 “It would consider iron to be straw,
brass as rotted wood.”
לֹא־יַבְרִיחֶנּוּ בֶן־קָשֶׁת לְקַשׁ נֶהְפְּכוּ־לוֹ אַבְנֵי־קָלַע׃ 41:20
Job 41:20 “The arrow of a bow, it would not flee it;
slingstones are turned to chaff for it.”
כְּקַשׁ נֶחְשְׁבוּ תוֹתָח וְיִשְׂחַק לְרַעַשׁ כִּידוֹן׃ 41:21
Job 41:21 “Clubs are reckoned as stubble,
and it laughs at the rattling of a javelin.”
תַּחְתָּיו חַדּוּדֵי חָרֶשׂ יִרְפַּד חָרוּץ עֲלֵי־טִיט׃ 41:22
Job 41:22 “Sharp points of a potsherd are beneath it;
it can spread any too sharp on mud.”
יַרְתִּיחַ כַּסִּיר מְצוּלָה יָם יָשִׂים כַּמֶּרְקָחָה׃ 41:23
Job 41:23 “It can make the deep sea boil like a pot,
make the sea like a spicy mixture.”
I presume the spicy mixture is frothy, thereby resembling the sea.
אַחֲרָיו יָאִיר נָתִיב יַחְשֹׁב תְּהוֹם לְשֵׂיבָה׃ 41:24
Job 41:24 “It can make a path light up after itself;
one can imagine the depths to be of old age.”
I can imagine this verse to have been meant as a joke by the author. I see the path as apparently the wake of leviathan, and the remark about the sea appearing old relates to the foamy froth (white) in the wake.
אֵין־עַל־עָפָר מָשְׁלוֹ הֶעָשׂוּ לִבְלִי־חָת׃ 41:25
Job 41:25 “None on dry earth is of its likeness,
of its being fashioned to be without fear.”
אֵת־כָּל־גָּבֹהַּ יִרְאֶה הוּא מֶלֶךְ עַל־כָּל־בְּנֵי־שָׁחַץ׃ 41:26
Job 41:26 “It can perceive every high thing;
it is king over all the proud beasts.”
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