be'-he-moth, be-he'-moth (behemoth: Job 40:15): Apparently the plural of behemah, "a beast," used of domestic or wild animals. The same form, behemoth, occurs in other passages, e.g. De 28:26; 32:24; Isa 18:6; Hab 2:17, where it is not rendered "behemoth" but "beasts." According to some, the word behemoth, occurring in Job 40:15, is not a Hebrew word, the plural of behemah, but a word of Egyptian origin signifying "water ox." This etymology is denied by Cheyne and others. The word has by various writers been understood to mean rhinoceros and elephant, but the description (Job 40:15-24) applies on the whole very well to the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus arnphibius) which inhabits the Nile and other rivers of Africa. Especially applicable are the references to its great size, its eating grass, the difficulty with which weapons penetrate its hide, and its frequenting of streams.
"He lieth under the lotus-trees,
In the covert of the reed, and the fen.
The lotus-trees cover him with their shade;
The willows of the brook compass him about."
The remains of a fossil hippopotamus of apparently the same species are found over most of Europe, so that it may have inhabited Palestine in early historical times, although we have no record of it. There is a smaller living species in west Africa, and there are several other fossil species in Europe and India. The remains of Hippopotamus minutus have been found in enormous quantities in caves in Malta and Sicily.
For an elaborate explanation of behemoth and leviathan (which see) as mythical creatures, see Cheyne,EB , under the word
Alfred Ely Day