by peacefulpete 13 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    I'll not pretend to be as thorough as Leolaia in discussing ancient mythology, but I felt it might be of interest to some to learn more about the monster Behemoth from Job 40. Recently Leolaia did a bang-up job providing a mythological background for the Leviathan imagery in Job and a number of other places. The partner of Leviathan is Behemoth. First it must recognized that no literal creature is being described there. This beast was claimed invincible to men, more powerful than the Euphrates, and having a tail like a cedar tree. Various Bible literaists have suggested actual animals like the hippo or wild bull, however this is just silly. Men have hunted oxen an hippos for millenia. An certainly neither have a tail like a cedar! Given the mythological imagery of the Leviathan in the imediate context we must assume that the writer was likewise now referrring to mthological imagery when describing the Behemoth.

    The word behemoth is used in other contexts of the OT and refers to cattle or oxen, and this reflects a generic Hebrew usage meaning "animal". How ever the origin of the word may be much more interesting. It is suggested that the name is derived from an Egyptian compound 'pehemu' meaning "ox of the water".

    It is sugested by scholars that Behemoth and Leviathan are none other than the primeval seas, Apsu and Timiat of the Babylonian Creation Epic. The connection of the OT levithan with Timiat is straitforward enough, but what about Behemoth? can he be associated with the sea/chaos myth as well?

    Do we find in neighboring mythologies a giant ox or bull? Yes. In Ugaritic myth Anat conquers a giant bovine moster called glil'tz (possibly, 'ferocious bull of El')in much the same way as that of Levithan.

    Summerian/Akkadian myth likewise depicts the "bull of heaven" being slain by the heros Gilgaesh and Enkidu in reuse of the chaos motif. Interstingly the story has Enkidu being struck with the "thick of his tail", suggesting this is it's primary weapon.

    Jewish literature amplifies this ancient mytholgy in an interesting way. According to 1Enoch 60:7-9 and 4 Ezra 6:49-52 (cf.2 Baruch 29:4) Behemoth and Levithan were partners in the sea, male and female. In these legends it was because of space and a desire to prevent reproduction that Behemoth was separated from Levithan and relocated to the marsh/land/desert. The best evidence that the Jews never interpreted these names as literal is that these legends continue to say that at the end of times Michael will attempt to kill Levithan but be eaten by him, noone can rescue him, so YHWH sends Behemoth to fight him. They kill each other, Leviathan using his fin while Behemoth his TAIL. Then the world is fed their carcasses in a great banquet.

    As I've said before good myths die hard.

  • DanTheMan
    This beast was claimed invincible to men, more powerful than the Euphrates, and having a tail like a cedar tree. Various Bible literaists have suggested actual animals like the hippo or wild bull

    I saw one guy on the local access cable channel quote Job as proof that dinosaurs co-existed with man before the flood.

    Of course in the mid to late 90's the WTBS made sure to tell us about 25 times over the course of a couple of years that "clearly" these scriptures refer to the crocodile and the hippo.

  • Leolaia

    My article on Leviathan and Rahab is found here:

    I mostly concur with peacefulpete. Hebrew bhmh "beast" and especially the plural form bhmwt closely resemble the Egyptian compound p3-iH-mw "water-ox", but this is only a hypothetical form and corresponds to no actual Egyptian term for the hippopotamus or other creature. It is the plural form (with the ending -t) that occurs in Job 40:15-24, which is an important sign that a supernatural creature is meant. In the singular, it usually denotes beasts of burden like cattle and oxen, and in the plural refers to plural beasts (cf. Psalm 8:8, 50:10; Joel 1:20, 2:22; Habakkuk 2:17), but in Job it refers to a singular, but super-majestic creature. One intriguing text that has bhmwt that directly alludes to the mythological conflict myth is Isaiah 30:6-7 which is designated as an "oracle on the bhmwt of the Negeb" and refers to such mythological beasts as the "flying serpent" and "Rahab the vanquished one". What is remarkable about the creature described in Job 40:15-24 is that the text alludes not only to characteristics of the beast but also a conflict myth between Behemoth and his creator:

    "He is the masterpiece of God's work, but his Maker threatened him with the sword, forbidding him the mountain regions where all the wild beasts have their playground. So he lies beneath the lotus, and hides among the reeds of the swamps" (Job 40:19-21).

    Just as the Sea is banished from the land, so is Behemoth banished from the "mountain regions". Even more to the point is v. 23 which says that "the Jordan could pour down his throat without his caring". Now, in the Baal Epic, the sea-monster Yamm (analogous to Lotan/Leviathan) is paired with Judge Nahar, that is Judge River and both were vanquished by Baal. We can certainly envision here a creature very much like Judge River, a monster living in the mountains of Hermon through whose mouth pours the Jordan River. But an allusion to a personification of the sea/deep is probable since Psalm 104 shows that the domain of the deep was also originally the mountains:

    "You fixed the earth on its foundations, unshakeable forever and ever; you wrapped it with the deep (thm) as with a robe, the waters overtopping the mountains. At your reproof the waters took to flight , they fled at the sound of your thunder, cascading over the mountains, into the valleys, down to the reservoir you made for them; you imposed the limits they must never cross again, or they would once more flood the land . You set springs gushing in ravines, running down between mountains, supplying water for wild animals, attracting the thirsty wild donkeys... from your abode you water the uplands." (Psalm 104:5-11, 13)

    A related but different "banishment" myth occurs in 1 Enoch 60:7-9 which pairs Behemoth with Leviathan as consort and directly refers to both as connected with the primeval watery abyss. This is a great example of the primeval conflict myth living on in post-exilic Jewish tradition:

    "Two monsters will be parted -- one monster, a female named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; and the other, a male called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert whose name is Dundayin, east of the garden of Eden, wherein the elect and the righteous ones dwell.....Then I asked the second angel in order that he may show me how strong these monsters are, how they were separated on this day and were cast, the one into the abysses of the ocean, and the other into the dry desert" (1 Enoch 60:7-9)

    This tradition is clearly distinct from Job since Behemoth is banished to the desert instead of the swamp, but the allusion to the desert clearly recalls Isaiah's oracle to the "Behemoth of the Negeb," and as my recent post on Tartarus shows, the desert of Dundayin is derived from the mythological Twin Breast mountains of Mashu that Gilgamesh seeks in the Epic of Gilgamesh -- might this be a link to the mountainous abode of Behemoth in Job? In either event, we here have a legend that is closer to the Tiamat-Apsu myth of the Enuma Elish in some respects than the material discussed in my Rahab/Leviathan thread. A cognate variant of the same myth appears in 4 Ezra:

    "During that time [i.e. during creation, discussed in v. 38-48], you kept in existence two living creatures; the name of one you called Behemoth and the name of the other Leviathan. And you separated one from the other, for the seventh part where the water had been gathered together could not hold them both. And you have Behemoth one of the parts which had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; but to Leviathan you have the seventh part, the watery part; and you have kept them to be eaten by whom you wish, and when you wish" (4 Ezra 6:49-52)

    This remarkable text comes very close to describing the parting of Leviathan and Behemoth as cosmology, which echos the separation of the body of Tiamat in the Enuma Elish. The unity of Leviathan and Behemoth is associated with the hegemony of the deep over the earth, and it when land is created by restraining the primeval waters that Leviathan and Behemoth must also be separated. There is also a link here between the desert abode of 1 Enoch and the mountainous abode of Job; here 4 Ezra designates the abode as "dry land" where there are also "a thousand mountains". As for the consumption motif, this also occurs in the millennial prophecy in 2 Baruch 29:4 and the Leviathan conflict myth in Psalm 74:12-15.

    The Sumerian "Bull of Heaven" in the Gilgamesh Epic is a plausible precursor of the biblical Behemoth, particularly bearing in mind that bhmh often refers to beasts of burden, and there may be a Canaanite analogue as well in the texts from Ras Shamra. The goddess Anat declares her former victories:

    "Surely I smote the Beloved of El, Yamm? Surely I exterminated Nahar, the mighty god? Surely I lifted up the dragon, I overpowered him? I smote the twisting serpent, the close-coiling one with seven heads. I smote the Beloved of El, Arsh, and I finished off El's calf Atik. I smote El's bitch Fire, and I exterminated El's daughter Flame" (KTU 1.3 iii 39-45).

    It is thought that the "dragon" and "twisting serpent" refer to Lotan but the identity of Arsh and Atik remain obscure. Arsh is similar to Yamm in bearing the epithet "Beloved of El," and this character appears with a dragon in KTU 1.6 vi 51 as an enemy of Shapsh during her nightly subterranean journey, driven away by Kothar:

    "Shapsh you rule the chthonian gods. Your company are the gods; lo, mortals are your company. Kothar is your associate and Hasis is your companion. In the sea are Arsh and the dragon. Kothar-and-Hasis, drive them away! Banish them, Kothar-and-Hasis" (KTU 1.6 vi 51)

    Here we find a close parallel to the pairing of Behemoth and Leviathan in 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra. The dragon (= Leviathan) is paired with Arsh as residing "in the sea" and a god is delegated with the task of "driving them away" and "banishing" them. The broader myth is exactly that in Egyptian mythology of Seth driving the dragon Apepi (or Apophis, related to Akkadian abubu "storm flood"?) in his nightly threat to Ra's subterranean bark. Arsh is not described but Margalit suggests an etymological meaning of "Sprayer" and suggests that Arsh may have been a whale. The "whale" possibility also evokes an important text in the Baal Epic where Mot declares that "my appetite is the appetite of the lion of the wasteland (thw), as the desire of the whale (anchr) in the sea" (KTU 1.5 i 15-16). The pairing between creatures of the "wasteland" and the "sea" is shared not only with 1 Enoch, but also with Isaiah 30:6-7 which under the rubric of the "Behemoth of the Negeb [desert]" mentions both the lion and the Rahab monster of the sea. And since thw is very close to thm, there is a possibility that the desert/wasteland motif in the Behemoth myths originally derived from allusions to the Deep (thwm).

    Atik, on the other hand, is explicitly described as bovine. Here we find a creature possibly answering to Job's description and the Sumerian "Bull of Heaven". The "Prayer to Rapiu" in the Ugaritic corpus also makes reference to Atik: "May Anat fly, may the kite soar in the high heavens, (who) ate the calf of El, drinking ? from the horn. And may the god Rapiu drink, the god who subdued the calf of El. And the god ? Shad, may the King of Eternity hunt" (KTU 1.108 R 9-12). Compare with the Bull of Heaven from the Gilgamesh Epic:

    "Holy Inanna brought the Bull of Heaven out. At Uruk, the Bull devoured the pasture, and drank the water of the river in great slurps. With each slurp it used up one mile of the river, but its thirst was not satisfied. It devoured the pasture and stripped the land bare. It broke up the palm trees of Uruk, as it bent them to fit them into its mouth. When it was standing, the Bull submerged Uruk. .... When Enkidu had spoken thus to Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh himself smote its skull with his axe weighing seven talents. The Bull reared up so high, so high that it overbalanced. It spattered like rain, it spread itself out like the harvested crop. The king took his knife in his hand, just as if he were a master chef. .... As he spoke, he consigned its hide to the streets, he consigned its intestines to the broad square, and the widows' sons of his city each took their share of its meat in baskets. He consigned its carcass to the knacker's, and turned its two horns into flasks for pouring fine oil to Inanna in E-anna" (Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven, Nippur MSS. Seg. A-D)

    Here we have the same consumption motif from the Ugaritic myth and 4 Ezra, the river-swallowing motif from Job, and the horn-drinking motif from the Ugaritic myth. King Rapiu the "hunter" thus stands as a parallel to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk. The calf Atik may thus have contributed to the Behemoth myth in Job and in extracanonical sources. As for the other figures in the Anat boast, El's bitch (klbt 'l) named "Fire" appears to be related to the male Kerberos, the three-headed guardian of the netherworld in Greek mythology and the name "Kerberos" may be etymologically derived from klb 'l "El's dog". "Fire" and "Flame" may also be linked to the Lamashtu demonesses in Akkadian mythology.

  • Quotes

    What are you talking about?

    Everyone *KNOWS* that Behemoth is to be interpreted as a Railway Locomotive (q.v.

    Tsk, tsk. You are not keeping in step with the spiritual food provided!!! Tsk Tsk ;)

  • peacefulpete

    Thanks for the additional connections Leolaia. BTW I did say the Egyptian etymology was a "suggestion". Not finding any other proposals it seemed a reasonable detail to include. The Is.30 passage is just too cryptic for me to understand. Are we to see behemoth there as meant literal (generic beasts of burden) or mythical, I can't make a conclusion. Are you using some text other than the Masoretic? I find no reference to Rahab in Is 30.

  • Mulan
    I saw one guy on the local access cable channel quote Job as proof that dinosaurs co-existed with man before the flood.

    Now, that's interesting, isn't it? Hmmm.

  • peacefulpete

    A little late but I found the Rahab in Is 30:7. Interesting that the NWT used it but the others I checked say"strength" or "arrogance", "insolence". These alternates seem to complicate the following description of ( desisting, cessing, laying still). Using killed and therefore impotent Rahab as the symbol of Egypt would be consistant with 2nd Is at 51:9. The chart I'm using has Is 30 rather broken up, 6a (behemoth)is attributed to an undatable interpolation along with 7b (Rahab), while the words between are 3rd Is. How this was concluded I can only guess but the division as such supports the idea that the interpolator was using the mythical motif of mythical mosters in immitation of 2nd Is at chapt. 51. It would however make the flying serpent mention even more cryptic as a result. Perhaps it was this very mention that inspired the interpolator to bring to the text his mythical references.

  • Leolaia

    PP....You seemed to have taken care of the Isaiah reference, so in answer to your question on Job, the translation I was using was the Jerusalem Bible.

  • peacefulpete

    edited to save face

  • peacefulpete


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