Behemoth: Elephant or Hippo?

Job 40:15

“Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.”

In Job 40, there is an account of a large animal called a behemoth. The word behemoth is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, which is a plural of the word behemah. Whereas behemah appears a lot in the Old Testament, behemoth appears only once, and, despite its plural form, appears to be referring to a singular example. It is likely, therefore, that the word is not being used simply as a plural of behemah, but being used to describe a similarly large animal. Behemah is usually translated as hippopotamus. Some Bible versions, therefore, footnote the word behemoth and comment that it is either a hippo or an elephant. So which is it? The answer is to read the description.

Behemoth is a large animal. It eats plants. This fits both animals so far. But the biggest clue is the description of the animal’s tail. This is described as being like a cedar tree. The trunk of a cedar tree is big. If you look at the rear end of a hippo (a rather unpleasant thing to do) we notice that its tail – which it moves rapidly in order to scatter… stuff – is pretty small. But so is an elephant’s tail. So behemoth is neither hippo nor elephant. The description sounds more like that of a sauropod dinosaur, made by God on Day Six, as He declares to Job that He made it “with thee”; that is, on the same day as God made people.