QUESTION: Where do dinosaurs fit in? I have yet to read the entire Bible. My husband says it mentions behemoths. I know they are not very important to the true message, just my curiosity.
ANSWER: Sometimes those questions that may not seem that important really are. This is such a question. Your husband is correct when he says that the Bible mentions behemoths. He is referring to Job 40, which says:
Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit. Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron. It ranks first among the works of God, yet its Maker can approach it with his sword. The hills bring it their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby. Under the lotus plants it lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh. The lotuses conceal it in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround it. A raging river does not alarm it; it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth. Can anyone capture it by the eyes, or trap it and pierce its nose? (Job 40:15–24)
This is a picture-perfect description of a large, plant-eating dinosaur. The sauropods were the grouping of the largest dinosaurs, with lengths over 100 feet and weights over 100 tons. They are said to have lived on all the continents, including Antarctica.
Job said this creature “ranks first among the works of God,” thereby identifying it as the largest land creature known to man. Job also said, “Its tail sways like a cedar,” clarifying that it is a large reptile. Mammals have tails very different from cedar trees.
The word “behemoth” comes from the Hebrew and means “very large plant-eating creature.” The word “dinosaur,” however, is quite recent and was coined in 1842 by Sir Richard Owen.
Ancient peoples living in the Mideast were very much aware of dinosaurs, as evidenced by their numerous artworks that clearly picture dinosaurs.
In the context of Job 40, God is comparing Job to the largest of His created animals in order to give Job a lesson in humility. When you are compared with a 100-ton dinosaur, it is easy to feel pretty small.
Part of this context involves the next creature described in Job, the “leviathan” in Job 41, a carnivorous animal described in verse 33 with the words: “Nothing on earth is his equal.” Until recently, it was impossible to identify what this creature might have been. However, in 1997 the skeletal remains of Sarcosuchus imperator (SuperCroc) were unearthed in the Sahara Desert. The description in Job 41 is a perfect fit for SuperCroc, a crocodilian like today’s crocodiles, but 10 times bigger—weighing in at 10 tons. SuperCroc was almost twice as big as Tyrannosaurus rex and had a full complement of body armor besides.
All of this not only made Job look small, it also underscores the integrity of the Book of Job, an integrity that ultimately points to the truth of its overarching message, so powerfully stated in chapter 19: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25–26).
And we pray, come Lord Jesus.
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL