Copyright © 1978 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE MYTHOLOGICAL
ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB
THE book of Job, like a microcosm of the Old Testament
bears witness to the will and purpose of the God who created
Iand rules over nature and all creatures, especially his crowning
creature man. In Genesis 3 as a result of the work of the Temp-
ter God must put in effect the death penalty of Genesis 2:17.
But only the Tempter, the Serpent, is cursed. Man gets a some-
what suspended sentence as far as the death penalty goes but
with immediate punitive effects. The book of Job brings us a
step closer to the mystery of godliness by adding a new dimen-
sion to the concept of punitive suffering. The ancient Near
documents from Babylonia and
punitive aspect of suffering but are shallow in the way they deal
with the problem.l Man as a sinner must humble himself before
the gods who are often perverse or not interested or they are
incapacitated. But attention to both the continuities and discon-
tinuities between the worship of Yahweh and the paganisms of
the Old Testament world is an important feature of O.T.
H. W. Wolff in his chapter entitled "The Hermeneutics of
the Old Testament" in the series of essays on that subject edited
by Claus Westermann says:
The more distinctly the old Oriental religions are recon-
structed before our eyes, the more clearly we see that the O. T.
actively resists the attempt to understand it in analogy to the
cults of its environment. This is all the more surprising since
the connection of
general world view, of profane and sacral usage, of Cu1tic
institutions, yes even of prophetic phenomena, is constantly
becoming clearer" (p. 167).
1 Marvin H. Pope in the Anchor Bible 15 ( LVI-LXXIII) has a good
summary of the parallel literature.
To this may be added the observation that the mythological
elements in Job conform remarkably well with the religious
expressions from contemporary sources. But careful attention to
certain features in context will show that any special problem
these allusions may appear to pose for the monotheistic outlook
of the author of this book is superficial. Our present pur-
pose is to defend this last statement. Here we use the term myth
in its traditional sense -not as another way of expressing the
truth2 but as the way a polytheistic people understood deity.
In this sense, to see wide mythological commitment, as some
have been prone to do3, results in as much misinterpretation as
does the attempt to ignore mythological expression to protect the
scriptures from such "contamination."
ing into a piece of monotheistic literature because the language a
is infused with the idiom of a primitive substratum is poor meth-
odology. It is true that sometimes it is impossible to tell when
the terms are mere figures and when they represent the view of
the speaker.4 We must be guided by the thrust of the context.
The language of mythology is inherent in every language from
every age and is often used in religious contexts that are strongly
monotheistic.5 The Jews in Bablyon borrowed pagan festival
names for their religious calendar. Fanatically monotheistic Jews
embellished their synagogues with zodiacal mosaics borrowed
from Roman art depicting the sun god riding his chariot.6 Mat-
thew uses the pagan deity name Baalzebub (2 Kings 1 :3)
for Satan simply as an idiom without a thought given to its
origin. Isaiah and Ezekiel, both monotheists, were prone to using
mythological allusion as a vehicle through which they communi-
cated their messages.7
Nature is a theme which frequently evoked mythological lan-
guage: the storm, fire, the sea, the heavens and the earth and
2 John L. McKenzie in his article "Myth and the Old Testament" (CBQ
XXI, 265-282) following Cassirer defines myth in this way but it assumes
a unique set of presuppositions.
3 Pope seems to take this position. He takes issue with R. Gordis's
statement that Job takes monotheism for granted (AB 15, XXXIX).
4 See the quotation from T. H. Gaster below.
5 John Milton drew heavily on Greek mythology to enrich his poetic
imagery even in his picture of creation.
6 BASOR 228, 61 fl. i
7 Isaiah 14 and 27, Ezekiel 28.
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 215
creatures in both spheres. Job 3:8 begins with a reference to
an occult practice involving the celebrated Leviathan. Regarding
the day of his birth Job says:
May those who curse days curse that day,
those who are ready to arouse Leviathan (NIV).
Dhorme says "those who curse days" may refer to other suf-
ferers like Job who also cursed the day of their birth. But in light
of the parallelism the expression more likely refers to profes-
sional cursers like Balaam. Job appears to be making a play on
the similar sound of the words yam, "sea," and yom, "day," and
the parallel between Leviathan, the sea monster and the Yamm
as a deity in Canaanite mythology.
Job, in a cursing mood, employs the most vivid and forceful
proverbial language available to call for the obliteration of that
day.8 The figure then is of an awakened monster of chaos who
could ,swallow that day. According to some mythological notions
such swallowing of the sun and moon brought about an eclipse!
There is no way of knowing how valid Job considered the work
of such cursers but in his negative confession Job presents him-
self as a monotheist who rejected current mythological concep-
tions of the sun (31:26-28). Job s error, for which he can
scarcely be excused, was in damning the day of his birth, ques-
tioning the sovereign purpose of God. Job in his attempt to
understand his theology in the light of his immediate experi-
ence, while constrained to speak only the truth before God, came
perilously close to cursing God to his face as the Satan had pre-
dicted. His friends on the other hand uttered many perceptive
truths. Paul could quote Eliphaz in I Corinthians 3:19.9 What
they said, however, did not necessarily apply to Job. It becomes
increasingly clear that they had no concern for Job and as he
said were only mouthing words to curry God's favor. Their
original conciliatory attitudes quickly become harsh and vin-
dictive. The words of the dialogue then are not normative and
so we must consider the mythological allusions in that light.
8 Although NEB renders 8b. "those whose magic binds even the
monster. . . ," the same stem of the verb '
dead in Sheol in Isaiah 14:9.
9 Job .
Even so, it is difficult to tell when a speaker uses mythic terms
metaphorically. Demythologizing was a process that was prac-
ticed in Israel.10 But there are continuities as well as discon-
tinuities between the normative
rounding nations. Our procedure will be to examine some pas-
sages in which mythological. expression uniquely serves the pur-
pose of the book. In some cases this reverses the effect of poly-
theism and shows Job's God is Sovereign Lord over all creation.
Also mythopoeic language may provide a "sensus plenior" to the
Divine speeches which implies Yahweh's victory over the Satan.
This is more tenuous but if valid it helps us understand better
the enigmatic words of Yahweh which are so important as a key
to understanding the book.
Perhaps a distinction should be made between conscious de-
mythologizing and simple metaphor. For example, Psalm 121
appears to be a conscious demythologizing, a polemic against
the cosmic mountain motif and the notion of many patron deities.
Since the pagan deities are no-gods (Ps. 5: 4) where can one
turn for help? The psalmist says:
When I lift up my eyes to the mountains
where does my help come from?
My help comes from Yahweh,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
The psalmist conceives of Yahweh as the patron deity:
He will not let your foot slip. . . .
Yahweh watches over you. . .
Yahweh will keep you from all harm. . .
We think immediately of Eliphaz's taunt of Job in 5:1
"Call now, is there any who will answer you, and to which of
the Holy Ones will you turn ?"
These "holy ones" are the bene ha 'elohim of the prologue.
The divine council motif may be considered an ideological con-
tinuity but the authors of Job and Psalms 82 and 89 have intro-
duced a discontinuity in the way they handle the concept. The dis-
10 See Albright's development of this idea in Yahweh and the Gods of
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 217
continuity can be appreciated in terms of the Hebrew hierarchy of
'elohim. There is only one creator--all the qehal qedosim fear
him and none can be compared with him (89:7, 8). Men are
'elohim to the animals, rulers and judges are 'elohim to ordinary
men and the heavenly beings to men. In the mythology there
were lesser divine beings created by the cosmic gods to serve
them. They are sometimes available at patron deities or personal
intercessors and were general lackeys in the divine assembly.
In Job 33 Eliphaz speaks of such an intercessor calling him a
mal'ak11 (messenger) and a melis (interpreter). Both Job and
his friends believe that among such "holy ones" a man might
find a defender. Three times Job mentions such a one, feeling
the need for an arbiter (), a witness (-21) and a
vindicator (-27). This is certainly evocative and part of
the ideological preparation for the mediatorial work of the
Christ who could stand between God and man, sharing the nature
of each, as Job says in "that he might lay his hand upon
the two of us."
The book of Job is replete with vivid imagery based on the
mythic literature deeply engrained in the language and passed
on through generations. There are too many examples to do more
than sample a few themes. A widely used theme is the quelling
lof Chaos known in west Semitic literature as Yamm (Sea) and
called Rahab (the boisterous), Tannin (the dragon) and Levi-
athan (the serpent) also playa part.
In Job speaks out in anguish over his imagined harass-
ment by God and says:
Am I Yamm (Sea) or Tannin
that you set a guard over me?
The tales of the conquest of Yamm, Tannin, and Lotan by Baal
and Anat are well known. The Babylonian Tiamat is killed by
hero gods who then proceed to create the land and sea from the
pieces. The west Semitic literature provides no creation account
but stresses the control of the sea by the weather God, Baal
11 The same term is used in Ugaritic for the lackey gods. Cf. A. Herd-
ner, Corpus des tablettes en Cuneiformes alphabetiques, 1.3.17-21; 3.4.76-
(Ugaritic texts 68, 129, 137). Job and his friends knew well
the west Semitic myths. But were they committed to them as
part of their view of deity? The only way we can know is from
the total thrust of their words.
A look at the chaos terminology in the first part of chapter 9
will help us capture the thrust of Job's concept of deity. Accord-
ing to Job, El is indeed a God of profound wisdom and cosmic
force and as such is too much for mere man. In verses 5-13 he
moves mountains and shakes the earth off its foundations--the
earthquake. He speaks and the sun doesn't rise -the eclipse.
He seals up the stars from sight--movement of the stars and
planets. He stretched out the heavens and trampled on the back
of Yamm (bomote yam)--creation and overcoming of Chaos.
He made the Bear, Orion, Pleiades, and the southern chambers
and when angry even the cohorts of Rahab cower at his feet. Job
here describes a deity who is unique when compared with what
we know of any single contemporary god. The Ugaritic El is a
character variously represented. Sometimes he is a forceful lone
patriarch living in a tent, at other times a frightened deity who
is forced to give up the young Baal to the messengers of Yamm.
Baal can take things in his own hands and destroy Yamm with
the weapons supplied by Kothar wa-Hasis.12 But then Baal is
killed by Mot. The issue is always sovereignty. E1 and the divine
assembly are faced with the question of ascribing kingship to
Yamm. Baal asserts kingship not only by eliminating Yamm but
by demonstrating his power in the storm. This west semitic
story was imported to the east where Marduk, chosen as king by
the gods, asserts kingship by slaying Tiamat.13
The point is that Job's God asumes all the functions of the
gods whether Baal, El, or Yamm. Job's El is never subordinated
to any of the bene ha'elohim. In 9:8 he exercises his creative
power all by himself (lebaddo). The line is the same as in Isaiah
44:24. He is not only a deity who does not share his power and
12 See H. L. Ginsberg's translation of the Baal-Yamm Cycle in ANET,
13 Yahweh's lordship over Chaos is the theme of Psalm 29. There the
bene 'elim are called to honor and worship the one who controls and sits
enthroned forever over the flood (29:10).
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 219
authority but he performs his numberless wonders while being
invisible (verse 11).
When he passes me I can't see him.
When he goes by I can't perceive him.
The psalmist expresses a similar discontinuity in Psalm
The heavens praise your wonders, O Yahweh,
your faithfulness also, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with Yahweh?
Who is like Yahweh among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
O Yahweh, God of hosts, who is like you?
You are mighty, O Yahweh, and your faithfulness surrounds
As in Job and Isaiah this theme is linked to God as Creator for
it is precisely at this point the psalmist describes Yahweh as
Creator of the heavens and earth and the One who rules over
the surging sea, crushing Rahab and all his enemies. In his
creating and saving power he is unique and incomparable. The
psalmist's God also had that mysterious quality of invisibility.
Was it not this quality that disturbed his idolatrous contem-
poraries when they chided. "Where is your God?" (42:3, 10;
79. 10). Psalm 115.2 reads.
Why do the nations say,
'Where is their God?'
Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
B.D.B. notes that when 'ayyeh is so used, the answer
nowhere is expected. Even though ineffectiveness may be the
point of Psalm terminology invisibility is in mind in Job. Job is
asserting that his God is both invisible and all-powerful.
Turning now to another theme in Job 5:7 where the KJV
and RSV read:
But man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward,
it is better to translate:
Man is born to trouble
as sure as Resheph's sons soar aloft.
Who are "Resheph's sons"? Is this a metaphor for flames,
sparks or lightning? Resheph is equated with Nergal, the Meso-
potamian god of pestilence and the netherworld. In Deut 32:24
the word is parallel with qeteb (destruction) and in Hab 3:5
with deber (pestilence), and the plural is used of lightning in
Ps 78:48. In Ps 76:4, however, "the reshephs" (arrows) of the
bow are in apposition to the shield, the sword and the battle.
In Ugaritic Resheph is called "Lord of the arrow," either refer-
ing to his skillful use of lightning or his attendance upon arrows
in flight. Just as Death's firstborn (Job ) devours the
bodies of wicked men, so here the sons of Resheph are active
trouble makers. On Resheph T. M. Gaster observes:
When Resheph is said (Hab 3:5) to attend upon Yahweh, or
when the pangs of love are described as "fiery reshephs"
(Song of Songs 8:6), do the writers really have in mind the
figures of the Canaanite plague-god of that name, or is this
simply a case of metonymy? This is a problem which I will
not even attempt to resolve, but it must at least be mentioned.14
From my point of view Gaster is asking the wrong question.
It makes little difference whether the figure of the plague god
is in mind or not. Habakkuk is using a highly anthropomorphic
figure of Yahweh. The real question is, did Habakkuk believe
Yahweh existed in the form of a warrior and did Job and Habak-
kuk believe Resheph or Resheph's sons really existed as gods?
That must be answered in the light of other things these writers
Job 26 is replete with mythological allusions--the denizens
of Sheol, Zaphon othe cosmic mountain: Yamm and Rahab, all in
a cosmography with some rather sophisticated observations.
Verses 5-14 may be rendered:
The spirits of the dead writhe,
the Waters below and their denizens.
Sheol is naked in God’s presence,
Abaddon is uncovered.
14 Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament, p. xxxvi, as quoted
in W. Michel's Mythological Expressions in the Book of Job, p. 8.
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 221
He spreads out Zaphon over emptiness;
he hangs the earth on nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds;
yet the clouds do not burst under the weight.
He covers the face of the full moon
spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
for a boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of the heavens quake
stunned at his rebuke
By his power he churns up the sea,
by his skill he pierces Rahab.
By his breath the heavens become fair;
his hand pierces the gliding serpent.
And these are only the outer fringes of his power;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his might?
Buttenweiser in his famous comment on verse 7 said: "Our
author, though naturally ignorant of the law of gravitation, had
outgrown the naive view of his age about the universe, and con-
ceived of the earth as a heavenly body floating in space, like the
sun, moon, and stars. It is not surprising to meet with such a
view in the book of Job when one considers the advance astron-
of Samos, in his travels in
acquired the knowledge of the obliquity of the ecliptic and of
the earth's being a sphere freely poised in space. . . Job 38:6
bears out rat he: than contradicts the conclusion tha: the writer
of Job had attained a more advanced view of the universe, since
the question, 'Whereon were its foundations set?' shows that
he no longer shared the primitive notion that the earth was
resting on pillars erected In the sea.15
Both Buttenweiser and Dhorme contend "the north" (saphon)
is the celestial pole formed by the seven stars of Ursa Minor
from which the movement of the universe was believed to pro-
ceed. Two observations are needed. First--the cosmography is
not in itself the purpose of the passage. Again God's power is in
focus. Secondly--we cannot ignore what Ugaritic literature
15 M. Buttenweiser, The Book of Job, 1922, in loco
16 Actually Mons Casius due north of
The cosmic mountain concept is related to Sinai as the place
from which God reveals himself and
Psalm 48: 1 & 2 says:
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
It is beautiful in elevation,
the joy of the whole earth.
Like the utmost heights
of Zaphon is
the city of the Great King.
LORD's house is established at the head of the mountains with
all the nations flowing to it, where the LORD is enthroned and
rules over a world of universal peace (cf. Isaiah 24:23).
The passage which most closely approximates Job 26:7 is
Isaiah 14:13, 14. Here the King of Babylon desires to place
himself where the Most High dwells.
You said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven:
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly.
On the slopes of Zaphon
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
There is a difference in the way the two passages use Zaphon.
In the mouth of the pagan king it is used quite literally to mean
the mount of assembly which, indeed, reaches into the heavens
and is the divine abode. But in Job the choice of words points to
metonymy. I came to this conclusion before I noticed that Clif-
ford makes a similar observation in a footnote.
Zaphon's meaning seems to be practically "heavens." N6tek
elsewhere is used of "heavens" in the Old Testament and it
forms a reasonable merism with ‘eres in the passage from Job.
It is easy to imagine the development of the meaning of
his marvelous dwelling built. This explains why the Hebrew word
sapon means north. Compare
17 See The Cosmic Mountain in
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 223
Zaphon, under Israelite impulse, from "mountain (dwelling
of God)" to "heavens (dwelling of God)."18
It may also be that the heaven being like a dome-shaped
canopy which may be stretched out was associated with the
similarly shaped mountains as represented in the glyptic art.19
So the mountain of all mountains is the mountain which God
stretched out like a canopy which is his dwelling place -the
Even though mythopoeic language is used there is a hint that
the author is demythologizing. In contrast to 7:12 where he
said "Am I Yamm. that you set a guard over me" here in 26:12
the definite article is used with yam which shows the writer did
not consider it a proper name.
So I would not agree with Fohrer who over-literalizes the
cosmic picture and suggests pillars must be supporting the
heavens nor would I agree with Buttenweiser who moves in the
opposite direction. Buttenweiser may not be wrong in 38:5,
where Yahweh uses the figure of the earth as a building with
foundations and a cornerstone and asks Job "On what were its
footings set?"--an indication that this was considered a mystery.
The purpose of the writer is not to tell us how much he knew of
the cosmos but to tell how powerful God is. Job is saying El is
the God of the heavens and the God of the earth--the God of
nature. Stretching out the heavens over emptiness and hang-
ing up the earth on nothing are bold figures both derived from
actions common to man. The marvel is that he can do these
things with nothing for support. Other marvels of nature are
also attributed to his vast power and dominion. He fills the
clouds with water and they do not burst. He uses the clouds as
a drape over the face of the full moon.20 He marks out the
circle of the horizon as with cosmic calipers. By a mere word he
makes the mountains shake and by his power he controls the
raging sea and its monstrous creatures. And all this is only a
whisper of his power, only the fringe of his dominion.21
18Ibid., 162, fn. 85.
19 Ibid., 96, top.
20 In verse 9 kisse’ (throne) should be read kese' (full moon) on the
basis of Psalm 81: 4 and Proverbs 7:20.
21 As early as 1957 Dahood suggested derek sometimes means "power"
Understanding the mythological background sometimes ac-
complishes just the opposite of what is assumed. Rather than
show ideological commitment to the pagan way of handling the
mysteries of nature it throws the discontinuity into relief and
helps us appreciate how monotheistic the writer was. For ex-
ample: Sheol, the realm of Mot in Ugaritic where Baal enters
and is powerless, is open before God so that its denizens tremble
--a uniquely biblical concept that fits only monotheism.
Generally the mythology allots to the gods their separate
domains. There are the gods of the heavens and the gods of the
earth. With Baal dead Ashtar, the Rebel god, is permitted by
El to attempt to sit on Baal's throne but not having the stature
he does not succeed and must be content to reign on the earth.22
Each god is powerful in his own domain. As personifications of
nature they are often in conflict with each other. The hero Baal
faces a losing battle with Mot and has victory over Yamm. Un-
like the Ugaritic El who sires deities but cannot control them,
Job's "El" is the sovereign Lord over all natural forces -espe-
cially the domains of Mot. Yamm, and Baal.
This is what prompts Hans Wolff to write:
Following the signposts of the OT itself, we must seek to
understand it on the basis of the peculiar nature of Yahweh,
the God of
mythology in the sense that one could speak of him in the
manner of the myths of the neighboring lands, which chatter
so much of the "private life" of their gods and of their life
together in the pantheon. Yahweh is the one beside whom no
other is god, and before whom all others are shown to be no
Our final thesis is that mythopoeic language provides a sensus
plenior in the Yahweh speeches which serves well the purpose
of the book. But what is the purpose of the book? Is it not to
show that the righteous may suffer for no other reason than to
accomplish God's higher will? I summarize some of the thoughts
or "dominion" (Biblica 38, 306-320). In this he since has been generally
supported (AB 15, 186).
22 A Herdner, Corpus des tablettes en cuneiformes alphabetiques, 6.1.39-
65. Clifford mentions another place where Ashtar does exercise kingship
from Zaphon (The Cosmic Mountain, p. 168).
23 Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, ed. C. Westermann, 168.
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 225
of G. B. Gray24 on the relationship of the Yahweh speeches to
that purpose. He has noted that what the divine speeches do not
contain is as important as what they do. The speeches do not
reverse Yahweh's judgment in the Prologue about Job. The
Satan was wrong in impugning Job's inner reasons for being
righteous and the friends were wrong about Job's outward con-
duct as the reason for his suffering. God's rebuke of Job (38: 2,
40:2) was for what he said after the calamity happened not for
earlier sins which would have prove? the penal theory of suffer-
ing was correct. The friends by their theory Implied they knew
completely God's way. One of the purposes of the Yahweh
speeches is to show that neither they nor Job possessed such
complete knowledge. Indeed, the speeches show how very limited
man's knowledge is. On the surface it would appear that speeches
concentrate only on the natural world. But careful reading re-
veals something else. In the first speech (chapters 38 and 39)
God's works in the natural creation are in view. God introduces
this with the words (38:2):
Who is this that darkens my counsel
by words without knowledge?
Then follow two chapters of proof that Job knew very little
about God's world. Something modern man has learned much
more of only to discover how much more lies beyond him. Job
is humbled. He agrees that his words were based on ignorance:
"I put my hand to my mouth. ..I will say no more" (40:4, 5).
The second speech begins on an entirely different note:
Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God's,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath;
look on every proud one and bring him low;
look on every proud one and humble him;
crush the wicked wherever they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
24 I.C.C. Job, Introduction.
In keeping with this introduction the descriptions of Behemoth
and Leviathan follow. The purpose this time is not only to
humble Job by showing him that Yahweh is Creator and Sus-
tainer of the natural world but to convince him that Yahweh is
Lord of the moral order. And appropriately Job's response this
time is repentance (42:1-6). The concentration on these two
awesome creatures. placed as they are after this assertion of Yah-
weh's justice and moral order. lends weight to the contention
that they are symbolic.25 The figures may draw from the features
of the hippopotamus and crocodile. Both terms are used in other
O. T. contexts without symbolic significance (Pss. 8:8, 50:10,
78:22, 104:26; Joel , ; Hab. 2:17). But they also
symbolize evil political powers. The many headed Leviathan
of Psalm 74:12, 13 is a poetic handling of
Evil One in the eschaton.
The word behemot is an intensive plural of behemah (beast)
hence the beast par excellence: Behemoth in 40:19a is "the first
of the ways of God." Pope translates this "a primordial produc-
tion of God," but Dahood renders it "the finest manifestation of
God's power" (AB 15. p. 272). In Ugaritic the goddess Anat
conquered the seven-headed Leviathan along with a bovine crea-
ture called "the ferocious bullock." Leviathan has power over
which no human strength can prevail. For some reason the
Hebrew text begins a new chapter in the middle of this descrip-
tion (41:9 = 41:1 Heb.). We translate beginning in 41:18:
His sneezings flash forth lightning
His eyes are like the glow of dawn.
Flames stream from his mouth;
sparks of fire leap forth.
From his nostrils pours smoke,
as from a pot heated by burning brushwood.
His breath sets coals ablaze:
a flame pours from his mouth.
And verse 25:
When he rises the heavenly beings are afraid;
they are beside themselves because of the crashing.
25 It is impossible to tell where the description of Behemoth ends and
Leviathan begins. Some take 40:23 as the division. But it is possible they
are left this way because both figures describe one being.
MYTHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK OF JOB 227
Swords, javelins, arrows, clubs, slingstones are no good against
him according to verses 26-29. And in 33 we read:
Then even I will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you (40:8-14).
Upon earth there is not his equal;
he was made without fear.
He looks down on all that is lofty;
he is king over all proud beings.
Is this merely a crocodile or should it be understood in light of
Isaiah 27:1, etc. (d. the dragon symbol of Revelation 12).
By telling of his dominion over Behemoth and Leviathan,
(perhaps by means of a subtle double entendre, Yahweh is cele-
brating his triumph in the moral sphere. The Satan, the Accuser,
has been proved wrong though Job does not know it. The
author and the reader see the entire picture which Job and his
friends never knew. No totally rational theory of suffering is
substituted for the faulty one the friends proffered. The only
answer given is the same as in Genesis. God permits the Satan
to touch Job as part of the cosmic contest.
On this general subject Albright has said some cogent things
in his History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism. Remark-
ing how the Old Testament is a "masterpiece of empirical logic
not expressed in formal categories," Albright claims the Old
Testament has demythologized the poems on which some Hebrew
literature is based. "Old words are kept but with new meanings
divested of mythological connotations."
There may be partial demythologizing in some cases. On
38:7 F. I. Andersen says:
It is noteworthy that 11Qtg. Job has completed the demythol-
ogizing, making the stars shine instead of sing, and calling the
Is use of the plural in ‘elohim and ‘adonay demythologizing?
In Hebrew this appears to mean the totality of all the manifesta-
tions and attributes of deity which polytheism broke down into
single elements. In some Canaanite documents a single high
god is referred to with the plural ending, the so-called plural
of majesty (Amarna and Ugaritic). Nothing sounds more poly-
26 Tyndale O. T. Commentaries, Job p. 274.
theistic to some ears than the words used by that monotheist
the Chronicler: "for great is our God above all gods" (I Chron.
Albright observes "much of the onslaught on early Israelite
monotheism comes from scholars who represents certain theo-
logical points of view with reference to monotheism, i.e. who
deny that orthodox trinitarian Chnsuamty . . . or orthodox
Judaism or orthodox Islam are monotheistic. I do not need
to stress the fact that neither of the last two religions can be
called monotheistic by a theologian who insists that this term
applies only to unitarian Christianity or liberal Judaism. But
no dictionary definition of monotheism was ever intended to
exclude orthodox Christianity." (ibid, p. 155).
In conclusion let me say that the distinguishing mark of
mythology is not references to gods or the use of anthropo-
morphism and various metaphors which describe deity in con-
crete terminology but rather the narration of the interactions of
numerous gods including such characteristics as their pettiness,
their wild acts of violence and sexual exploits. The OT authors
do not show such concrete mythological commitment.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary,
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