Whether this leviathan be a whale or a crocodile is a great dispute among the learned, which I will not undertake to determine; some of the particulars agree more easily to the one, others to the other; both are very strong and fierce, and the power of the Creator appears in them. The ingenious Sir Richard Blackmore, though he admits the more received opinion concerning the behemoth, that it must be meant of the elephant, yet agrees with the learned Bochart’s notion of the leviathan, that it is the crocodile, which was so well known in the river of Egypt. I confess that that which inclines me rather to understand it of the whale is not only because it is much larger and a nobler animal, but because, in the history of the Creation, there is such an express notice taken of it as is not of any other species of animals whatsoever (Gen. 1:21; God created great whales), by which it appears, not only that whales were well known in those parts in the time of Moses, who lived a little after Job, but that the creation of whales was generally looked upon as a most illustrious proof of the eternal power and godhead of the Creator; and we may conjecture that this was the reason (for otherwise it seems unaccountable) why Moses there so particularly mentions the creation of the whales, because God had so lately insisted upon the bulk and strength of that creature than of any other, as the proof of his power; and the leviathan is here spoken of as an inhabitant of the sea (Job 41:31), which the crocodile is not; and Ps. 104:25, 26, there in the great and wide sea, is that leviathan. Here in these verses,
I. He shows how unable Job was to master the leviathan. 1. That he could not catch him, as a little fish, with angling, Job 41:1, 2. He had no bait wherewith to deceive him, no hook wherewith to catch him, no fish-line wherewith to draw him out of the water, nor a thorn to run through his gills, on which to carry him home. 2. That he could not make him his prisoner, nor force him to cry for quarter, or surrender himself at discretion, Job 41:3, 4. “He knows his own strength too well to make many supplications to thee, and to make a covenant with thee to be thy servant on condition thou wilt save his life.” 3. That he could not entice him into a cage, and keep him there as a bird for the children to play with, Job 41:5. There are creatures so little, so weak, as to be easily restrained thus, and triumphed over; but the leviathan is not one of these: he is made to be the terror, not the sport and diversion, of mankind. 4. That he could not have him served up to his table; he and his companions could not make a banquet of him; his flesh is too strong to be fit for food, and, if it were not, he is not easily caught. 5. That they could not enrich themselves with the spoil of him: Shall they part him among the merchants, the bones to one, the oil to another? If they can catch him, they will; but it is probable that the art of fishing for whales was not brought to perfection then, as it has been since. 6. That they could not destroy him, could not fill his head with fish-spears, Job 41:7. He kept out of the reach of their instruments of slaughter, or, if they touched him, they could not touch him to the quick. 7. That it was to no purpose to attempt it: The hope of taking him is in vain, Job 41:9. If men go about to seize him, so formidable is he that the very sight of him will appal them, and make a stout man ready to faint away: Shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? and will not that deter the pursuers from their attempt? Job is told, at his peril, to lay his hand upon him, Job 41:8. “Touch him if thou dare; remember the battle, how unable thou art to encounter such a force, and what is therefore likely to be the issue of the battle, and do no more, but desist from the attempt.” It is good to remember the battle before we engage in a war, and put off the harness in time if we foresee it will be to no purpose to gird it on. Job is hereby admonished not to proceed in his controversy with God, but to make his peace with him, remembering what the battle will certainly end in if he come to an engagement. See Isa. 27:4, 5.
II. Thence he infers how unable he was to contend with the Almighty. None is so fierce, none so fool-hardy, that he dares to stir up the leviathan (Job 41:10), it being known that he will certainly be too hard for them; and who then is able to stand before God, either to impeach and arraign his proceedings or to out-face the power of his wrath? If the inferior creatures that are put under the feet of man, and over whom he has dominion, keep us in awe thus, how terrible must the majesty of our great Lord be, who has a sovereign dominion over us and against whom man has been so long in rebellion! Who can stand before him when once he is angry?