Saturday, February 09, 2013


Beth saw a headline on AOL this morning: Behemoth Storm Pummels Northeast. She asked what a behemoth is. It’s a large, powerful animal, but there is disagreement over precisely which one. A water buffalo would qualify, but so would a hippopotamus.

The word is used in the Book of Job, chapter 40, verses 15 to 24.

15]  Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
16]  Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
17]  He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
18]  His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.
19]  He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.
20]  Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play.
21]  He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens
22]  The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.
23]  Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.
24]  He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares.

Experts seem to think that it started as the Egyptian word p-ehe-mau, a water ox, which was then assimilated into Hebrew as b'hēmōth, a monstrous beast. By extension, it came to mean anything of great size or power. In 1593, Gabriel Harvey used it this way: “Will soone finde the huge Behemoth of Conceit, to be the sprat of a pickle herring.” [Pierces supererogation, or; A new prayse of the old asse]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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