The Behemoth (Hebrew: בהמות, Behēmōth) is an animal that is described in the book of Job in the Bible, which may be a dinosaur. It was apparently an immense land animal that is believed by many creationists to be a Sauropod.
"Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron. He ranks first among the works of God, yet his Maker can approach him with his sword. The hills bring him their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby. Under the lotus plants he lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh. The lotuses conceal him in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround him. When the river rages, he is not alarmed; he is secure, though the Jordan should surge against his mouth. Can anyone capture him by the eyes, or trap him and pierce his nose?" - Job 40:15-24
By the 1800s several commentators had realized the description in Job didn't match an elephant. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (first published in 1863 - later expanded and revised) was an influential authority of the era it was published. Despite the Bible's description clearly not implying something small compared to a dinosaur like a hippopotamus, Smith knew of no other creature it could be. He confidently identified it as a hippo and his conclusion can be found under the headword "Behemoth", in which the entry states
|“||There can be little or no doubt that by this word (Job xl. 15-24) the hippopotamus is intended, since all the details descriptive of the behemoth accord entirely with the ascertained habits of that animal.||”|
James Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (first published in 1890) followed the line William Smith had taken. Strong translated Behemoth in his Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary as
|“||a water-ox, i.e. the hippopotamus or Nile-horse.||”|
Strong's definition influenced the translators of the Authorized Standard Version of the Bible in 1901 to change "behemoth" to "hippopotamus" in the biblical text. However the modern and in actuality the most scientific and substantive approach when rendering the original languages into English such as the New American Standard Bible or NASB are consistent with keeping the text as, "behemoth".
A careful interpretation of the references regarding size and feeding habits of the behemoth would logically lead to a consistent stance of it describing a dinosaur (probably a large sauropod). Critics, mostly evolutionists currently offer the hippo as an alternate, even obviously logically superior definition to ultimately demonstrate inconsistency of creationist thought upon the biblical approach towards the paleontology of dinosaurs.
The main inconsistencies with a hippo designation of the scriptural references are:
- A hippopotamus's tail is not like a cedar (Job 40:17 ). It is more like a piece of thick rope.
- Hippopotamuses don't go up to mountain fields to get their food (Job 40:20 ). They generally feed on water plants and vegetation near the shore or river bank.
- The hippopotamus on first sight does not instill a sense that the animal cannot be killed Job 40:19 .
- The hippopotamus is not the "chief of the ways of God" Job 40:19 , where the clear intent of the discourse is to instill within Job a sense of God's might and power Job 40:9 .
As stated before, many creationists have instead suggested that Behemoth may be a type of dinosaur. The creation interpretation of Earth history argues that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. This is supported by the most straightforward reading of the book of Genesis which states that all land animals and humans were created on the sixth day of creation. It is also stated that such animals were placed on board Noah's ark and saved from the flood, therefore living along with humans for some time afterwards. Almost all creationists today agree that Behemoth could not be a Hippopotamus or an Elephant because neither of these two animals has a tail like a cedar, nor "bones like tubes of bronze" or "limbs like rods of iron", nor are they "chief" of the ways of God, or are able to "drink the Jordan". The writer is attempting to convey something of awe-inspiring size.
- Could Behemoth have been a dinosaur? by Allan K. Steel. Journal of Creation 15(2):42–45, August 2001.