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The Behemoth August 25, 2015

Posted by anagasto in art, poetry.
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Lots of thought has been given to the riddle of his real identity, since he cannot have been just a common crocodile or a hippopotamus. —

He seems to be the king of all nature, and no man could subdue him, can’t even get near him.

small Angus-Library-Hippo

All the animals come down from the surrounding hills to bring him food, and the trees on the riverside offer him their shade.

And as Behemoth was not always visible, he became a poet’s  symbol for hidden truth, especially if that truth were of a somber kind.

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It  says that his heart was as tough as the lower millstone.

In the past, to make flour from wheat, they used two stones, one on top of the other. The lower stone was stationary and is called the  bedstone, while the upper stone or runner was made to go round and round manually or with the help of a donkey.

It was a very slow and difficult way to get bread.

As the lower millstone had to take most of the wear, it had to be especially resistant, and that is Behemoth’s heart.

The millstone of the photo is from this American website on Appalachian technology. August 26 2015 not available

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The Behemoth appears  in the Book of Job where the Creator is speaking about his work:

Look at the Behemoth!
I made him along with you
and he feeds on grass like an ox.

For more than a thousand years these things were studied and known mainly in Latin,

Ecce behemoth quem feci tecum,
fœnum quasi bos comedet.

but long before that they existed in Hebrew or in some other language of the Middle East.

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The author´s name is not known but he was one of the greatest poets of all time.  He was not Jewish.

mesopotamia 2

The story is very old, 3000 years old or older, as maybe it can be traced back to Sumer.

The map is from Putzger, an old atlas of history at http://www.maproom.org/

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Another possibility is that the author lived in the Kingdom of Edom, the yellow patch on the map below:

Link to source text in English, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/poly/job040.htm

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The story  traveled around in Latin as part of the Bible for 1000 years or more, though later also in English and in all the other great languages. It is about the meaning of pain.

Byzantine2-Vatican

Job lost everything, his children, his possessions and his health and he asked God what the meaning of it was.

So it can’t be read like yesterday’s news.

the Bird

It is more like one of those old drawings on vases from the Middle East.

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lotus_flower224_sm

The Behemoth lived in the river and rested under the lotus flower.
Lotus has been legendary and sacred in many places, surely the world’s most storied flower.
It looks like a water lily, the white lily called Nenuphar.

The picture is from a collection of flower photos at http://www.edupic.net/flowers.htm

There are more pictures and a lucid interpretation at http://www.fpcep.org/multimedia-archive/book-of-job-the-monsters-and-the-critics-behemoth/

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Comments»

1. David - July 22, 2009

I like this post. I’m not much of a bible reader so the behemoth had completely escaped me until now. Thank you for enlightening me. Maybe it was some kind of stranded alien or survivor of the ark that lost its mate.

That it hides under the lotus is very deeply meaningful, isn’t it?

cantueso - July 22, 2009

I have not yet found out what the story of Lotus is. I used to think it was a drug and that it induces forgetfulness.
I don’t know about meanings. But did you know that Behemoth is God’s masterpiece? He says so himself.

David - July 24, 2009

The drug inducing forgetfulness would be the poppy, no? Try this link for lotus information.

How can you say you “don’t know about meanings” when the next sentence proclaims God’s masterpiece?

Just asking … :)

cantueso - July 25, 2009

Is being a masterpiece a meaning? — Just asking ….. :)

What is the meaning of a daisy? Or of a fox? A sparrow?

They do not in themselves carry meanings, but they give = impart meanings to other things and moments. Some poems and paintings do the same.

David - July 25, 2009

This is a comfortable old argument isn’t it? The meaning of meaning.

While I happily agree that meaning is more verb than noun, I also choose to think that things DO carry some ultimate meaning, purpose, or quality, though we may never know what it is. It’s an article of faith I suppose, or a belief, even though I said “choose to think”.

Regarding the lotus, I believe that its symmetric, many-petaled flower evokes a certain idealized view of knowledge as perfected wisdom. Not unlike a little sun or star.

cantueso - July 27, 2009

I do not think it is comfortable, but sticky.

You say that things may “carry a meaning”. Yes, but only for the recipient.

You’ll find out that most meanings are the result of past poetry and present history and so, on a small, local and personal scale, they are open to investigation.

David - January 9, 2011

We never finished this discussion, did we? I completely agree with you that any construed meaning is in the mind of the recipient.

That quality of symmetry to which I referred is definitely an artifact of arbitrary preference.

cantueso - January 10, 2011

Leaving out the sciences of nature, what is a “construed” meaning? Or could you give an example of a meaning that isn’t “construed”? Most are received from tradition, the family, religion, schools, but originally somebody or many and mostly little by little had to “construe” them.

2. septembersky - January 13, 2011

Look up Pavlov’s dog, ok?

cantueso - January 14, 2011

But Pavlov’s dog stands for learned reflexes!
That is analogous to “WOW!”. And that is the destruction of meaning, not its clarification.
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I know there are many posts here where references are missing, and I have started to fix that, but for about 3 weeks now my connection has been so bad that to get a single reference and put it in and update the post takes an average of 40 minutes.

septembersky - January 23, 2011

Well, strictly speaking, most reflexes are learned. And most speech follows given i.e. conventional patterns and would in that be similar to that WOW.

Do you really believe there is speech that is not governed by acquired habit?

cantueso - January 24, 2011

No. But speech habits depend on innumerable personal conditions that are nearly all beyond the reach of Pavlov’s experiment.


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