Issue No. 12 22 - 28 Mar 2010
Thinking Points Mickey Chiang

The hugely awesome behemoth

God told Job, “Look at the behemoth” (Job 40:15), and while Job clearly knew what a behemoth looked like, do we? Have you seen one lately? In the zoo, perhaps, and hopefully not in your favourite shopping mall?

The respected Concise Oxford Dictionary says a “behemoth” is an “Enormous creature. [Middle Eastern, from Hebrew behemot, intensive plural of behemah beast, perhaps from Egyptian p-ehe-mau, water ox.]” The elbow companion of Bible college students, the New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (BDBG) says categorically that the behemoth is the hippopotamus. I dived into The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible hoping to find a picture of this mysterious behemoth, but all I found in its five thick volumes was confirmation that the behemoth is a hippopotamus.

All this is very interesting because we see in Job 40:17 that the behemoth had a tail that “sways like a cedar”. Think about that, a tail that sways like a cedar tree! The cedar grows to well over thirty metres in height, and a hippo’s tail is how long? A short and stumpy thirty centimetres only? Why, that’s a hundred times shorter than a cedar! So, even by stretching our imagination, we can’t call a hippo a behemoth, can we?

So what was this behemoth that had a long and thick tail? What other clues did God leave for us? Well, it “feeds on grass like an ox” (Job 40:15; the word “like” rules out the ox being the behemoth), and it “ranks first among the works of God.” (Job 40:19). “First among the works of God” can’t mean the first animal God made, for Genesis 1 tells us the first animals were aquatic beings and birds. So it probably means the largest or heaviest grass-eating animal.

The zoologists tell us that the largest grass eaters with a huge tail that sways is like a cedar are the sauropods, a class of dinosaur. Some of these vegetation eaters grew to estimated lengths of over forty metres. Well, we can’t say for sure that the behemoth was a sauropod, but it certainly was not a hippopotamus or a water buffalo. The lesson from this is that we should not blindly accept any translation of a word in the Bible when the translation does not fulfill all the descriptions or given facts associated with that word, no matter what a translated version of the Bible says, and no matter who says it is right. The Bible is infallible; man is not.

If we need to learn this lesson again, the next chapter of Job, Chapter 41, provides a reminder. It talks about a “leviathan”. A footnote in the New International Version and the Today’s NIV tell us it was “Possibly the crocodile”. The New American Standard Bible’s footnote reads, “Or the crocodile”. The BDBG agrees it is a “sea monster = crocodile”. They all agree the leviathan is a crocodile. Did they think God didn’t know the word “crocodile”?

Do crocodiles live in the sea? The large Estuarine Crocodile which lives in brackish water sometimes swims out into the sea to enter other river mouths, but can we classify it as a sea creature? For God says the leviathan lives in “the depths” and “stirs up the sea” (41:31).

The NIV Study Bible sees the references to “doors of its mouth … fearsome teeth … back has rows of shields” as indicative of the leviathan being the crocodile. However, we have learnt that it is not whether several conditions are met that fulfils a definition, but whether all the given descriptions and facts are fulfilled. And God says many things about the leviathan, which do not fit the crocodile:

  Fulfilled in the crocodile?
  1. Traders will not barter for it nor divide it up among the merchants (v.6)
  2. There is no hope of subduing it (v.9)
  3. Its appearance is overpowering (v.9)
  4. It has a strong and graceful form (v.12)
  5. It has an outer coat (v.13)
  6. Its snorting throws up flashes of light (v.18)
  7. Firebrands stream from its mouth, sparks of fire shoot out (v.19)
  8. Smoke pours out from its nostrils (v.20)
  9. Its breath sets coals ablaze (v.21)
  10. Its chest is hard as rock (v.24)
  11. Its undersides are jagged potsherds (v.30)
  12. Its trail in the mud is like a threshing sledge (v.30)
  13. It makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron (v.31)
  14. It leaves a glistening wake in the deep like white hair (v.32)

No. The leather is prized
Yes & No.

So what do you think? Was the leviathan a crocodile? If not, what animal comes to mind when you read the list of 14 aspects of the leviathan that God mentioned?
Weekly Updates

Our Chapel Speaker on 31st March is Mr John Chong Ser Choon . Chapel begins at 12pm every Wednesday. You are welcome to join us.

Courses commencing in Term 4, 2009-2010

Biblical Studies OT & NT
How on Earth did Jesus become a God? The Historical Approach to Early Christology (NT356, 1.5cr);
Apr 9, 16, 23, 30 (Fri 7.15-10.15pm)
Lecturer: Dr Aquila Lee

Understanding the Book of Job (OT359, 1.5cr);
Mar 29, Apr 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17 (Mon 7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Faith of Our Fathers: Genesis 12-50 (OT371, 1.5cr);
Apr 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27 (new starting date)(Thu 7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Dr Augustine Pagolu

*Counselling Skills: Working with Adolescents (ECF516/CO236, 3cr);
Mar 24, 31, Apr 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12 (Wed 7.15-10.15pm)
Lecturer: Rev Song Cheng Hock

Marketplace Ministries
Business & Mission (MM256/ME501, 1.5cr);
Apr 7, 14, 21, May 4 (new starting date) (Wed 7.15-10.15pm)
Lecturer: Mr Ben Pwee

Theological Studies
Communion with Triune God: The Trinitarian Theology of John Owen (TS284, 3cr);
Apr 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27 (new starting date)(Thu 7.15-10.15pm)
Lecturer: Dr Edwin Tay

Jesus on the Silver Screen: Portrayals of Jesus & Christ figures in Film (TS282/MM280, 1.5cr);
Apr  8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27 new starting date)(Thu 7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Mr Quek Tze-Ming

The Christian Spirit (TS251, 3cr); (Group Tutorial)
Apr 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18, 25, Jun 1, 8; (new starting date)(Tue 7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Prof James Houston
Tutor: Mr John Chong Ser Choon [Required for MDiv]

Intensive courses by Prof James Beverley
The Gospel & Religions (ME360, 3cr);
May 6, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 (weekdays); 7.15-10.15pm, May 8 (Saturday); 9am -12pm & 1-4pm

Confidence with the Bible (HE301, 1.5cr);
May 7, 11 (weekdays); 7.15-10.15pm, May 15 (Saturday) 9am -12pm & 1-4pm

Tent Module
Biblical Basis for Tentmaking Mission
May 20, 27; (7.20-10pm)
Lecturer: Mr Andre De Winne


* Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis.

Inter-College Games Day 2010 – “To Be One”

studentsThis year, BGST has the privilege of being involved in this annual event held at Highpoint Community Services. It started many years back as a friendly game between Trinity Theological College and Singapore Bible College, and has in recent years included East Asia School of Theology and Baptist Theological Seminary. In a Students and Alumni Network (SANE) committee meeting, we were wondering if we might have the chance to interact with other colleges in like fashion. Thus, we decided to get in touch with respective colleges, and our committee was then invited to join in this year to see what it is like.

On 5 Mar 2010, the weather was pleasant, and after the opening address by the Principals of TTC and SBC, we had a time of worship before commencing with the faculty games. It was fun, with various teachers ‘competing’ with one another.

captain ballThen followed the group games where students from all colleges were mixed up and our five BGST students were designated as team leaders. It was interesting to manage different personality types in a group of twenty or so, and there was much laughter amidst kind jabs when water was spilt or a human chain was broken.

Each college then had their captain’s ball and soccer matches, with each cheering loudly for their respective schools. It was quite a sight looking at all the people gathered together. This year’s theme is appropriately named “To Be One”. It is hoped that more camaraderie, fellowship and networking be fostered amongst the students of the schools represented, rather than the more competitive edge discerned in past gatherings. As such, SANE also hopes that both internally and externally of BGST, fellowship might be fostered on a deeper level than experienced before.

Look out for our very own Family Day scheduled for 4 Sep 2010! We might have something exciting lined up for graduands and their guests this May at our convocation as well. We also have our second conference for those in the marketplace come July and not to forget, our regular public lectures and church-based training programmes. See you around at these events!
Serving you, SANE Committee

News Bits

Easter sale

Tyndale Commentaries CD-ROM

Bribery and Corruption:
Biblical Reflections and Case Studies for the Marketplace in Asia

Forum and Book Launch

jointly organized by
Biblical Graduate School of Theology
& Graceworks Pte Ltd

Date: 6 April 2010 (Tuesday)
Time: 7:30pm to 9.00pm
Venue: Fairfield Methodist Church, Fairfield Hall,
1 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088437 (Location Map)

Please contact us at bgst@pacific.net.sg
if you have any questions.

 Calling to all potential graduands!

Our 19th Convocation & Thanksgiving Service will be held on 29 May 2010. If you intend to graduate this year, please kindly submit the Application to Graduate Form before 31 March 2010, even if you have not yet completed all the courses needed to graduate. The form is available online at our website as well as from the Admin office. In order to graduate you need to hand in all your outstanding assignments latest by 30 April 2010.

For any queries, please feel free to contact Dr Aquila Lee (Registrar) at leea@bgst.edu.sg

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454.
Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816  Email : bgst@pacific.net.sg
To access previous issues of BTW click here | To access BGST website click here.
To subscribe click here |  To unsubscribe click here.