The “First of the Ways of God”
The past existence of dinosaurs on Earth is an established historical and scientific fact. Unfortunately, evolutionists have long used dinosaurs in an attempt to bolster their concocted theory that these creatures lived and went extinct millions of years ago—long before humans allegedly “evolved.” But the facts show that, like the other land animals, dinosaurs were created by God on the same day on which He created humans (Genesis 1:24-27). Hence, dinosaurs lived concurrently with humans before going extinct (Lyons, 2007a, 27:65-71).
Those who believe the Bible have sometimes raised the question: “Why doesn’t the Bible say anything about the dinosaurs?” (see Lyons, 2007b). The answer to that question is: “It does.” However, keep in mind that the very nature and purpose of the Bible means that it was not intended to allude to every facet or feature of the created order from amoebas and bacteria to exotic plant species. Indeed, to achieve that objective, “I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). No one has the right to impose unrealistic expectations on the Bible, and then pronounce it illegitimate or uninspired when it fails to live up to those unfair impositions.
Nevertheless, the Bible does, in fact, describe reptile and dinosaur-like creatures (Lyons, 2001). One such instance is in Job 40:15, where a Hebrew term is transliterated into English as “behemoth.” The ensuing description contains details that precisely match present knowledge pertaining to the larger species of dinosaurs like Apatosaurus and Argentinosaurus. One of God’s particularly intriguing declarations about behemoth is the fact that, “he is the first of the ways of God; only He who made him can bring near His sword” (Job 40:19). What did God mean when He said that behemoth was “the first” of His ways?
The Hebrew term that underlies the English translation “first” in Job 40:15 (re’sit—pronounced ray-shees; see Biblia..., 1967/77, p. 1271) is a derivative of the root term rosh meaning “head” (see Rattray and Milgrom, 2004, 13:269). It is used 51 times in the Old Testament—three times in the book of Job (Wigram, 1890, p. 1147). As extensions of the term “head,” the word has a variety of meanings including “beginning” (as in the beginning of something), “firstfruits” (as in the first-processed part of harvest), and “best” (as in the finest oil, or strongest weapon, or greatest nation) (see Rattray and Milgrom, 13:269-271). The 28th edition of Bagster’s Hebrew-English Lexicon lists three meanings for the term: (1) first, former, in state or time; (2) firstfruits, firstborn; and (3) first of way, beginning (n.d.). In 1848, lexicographer Benjamin Davidson cited two meanings for the term: (1) a beginning; former time, former state; and (2) “the first of its kind, in respect to time, rank and worth, hence firstling” (p. 672, italics in orig.). Biblical languages specialist William White says the term has as its primary meaning “first” or “beginning,” and includes the idea of “the choicest or best of a group or class of things” (see Harris, et al., 1980, 2:826). Brown, Driver, and Briggs give two meanings for the term: “beginning, chief,” but place Job 40:19 under the definition “beginning” (rather than “chief”) and include in parentheses “of hippopotamus” (p. 912). Basing his analysis on the classic lexical work of Koehler-Baumgartner, William Holladay offers the following four meanings for re’sit: (1) what is first, beginning; (2) beginning, starting-point; (3) first, best; (4) first-fruits (1971, p. 330). William Mounce pinpoints three meanings for the adjectival form of the term: first in a series, first in time, and first in rank, citing as an instance of the latter term the list of princes in Esther 1:14 who are designated “highest in the kingdom” (2006, p. 254).
An examination of all 51 occurrences of re’sit in the Old Testament yields the following observations. First, the term occurs a majority of times (22) in reference to the first of the crops (firstfruits) or food. The second most common meaning is “beginning” as it relates to time—including the beginning of the year, the starting point or initial concern for some aspect of a person’s life, or a man’s firstborn child. The term is so used 21 times. Twice the word refers to a foremost nation (Numbers 24:20; Amos 6:1), once to the leading men of a nation (Daniel 11:41), once to the finest oils or lotions (Amos 6:6), twice to the choice parts or best of the animals (1 Samuel 2:29; 15:21), and once to the central force or mainstay behind a nation’s might (Jeremiah 49:35).
Synthesizing the linguistic data in an effort to ascertain the meaning intended by God in Job 40:19, what may we conclude? One possibility is that “first” indicates that behemoth was created first. But the Genesis Creation account excludes that notion, since the land animals were created on day six. Another possibility is that behemoth is first in worth. But there is no scriptural indication that one animal is more valuable to God or “better” than any other—none of which are more valuable than humans (see Matthew 6:26; 12:12; Luke 12:24). Could God have meant that behemoth is more complex? Many creatures of God are complex in their anatomies and functioning. One animal may possess an anatomical attribute that is more sophisticated when compared to that same feature in another animal—but the latter possess another attribute that surpasses the former in sophistication. Perhaps God meant that behemoth possessed symmetry or beauty superior to that of other animals. But such would not seem to be the case, since many creatures of God are notable for their spectacular colors, amazing designs, and stunning forms.
We are forced to conclude that when God referred to behemoth as the “first” or “chief” of His ways, He was referring primarily, if not exclusively, to its size and strength. God was challenging Job with his inability to tame, subdue, or control this massive creature (even as the next animal with which God confronts Job, leviathan, is noted for its ferocity [Job 41]). Of the other 50 occurrences of re’sit, Jeremiah 49:35 comes closest to the sense intended in Job 40:19. Various translations render the term “mainstay of their might” (NIV), “foremost of their might” (NKJV), “chief of their might” (KJV, ASV), and “finest of their might” (NASB)—all referring to strength, power, and force.
This conclusion is supported contextually in Job by the fact that the line of reasoning God uses in chapters 38-41 is that Job is incapable of understanding, controlling, directing, or regulating the various aspects of the created order that God placed before him—from the 19 inanimate wonders of the Universe and Earth in 38:1-38, to the nine animals in 38:39-39:30, building to the grand and climactic final two creatures, behemoth and leviathan, in 40:15-41:34. The attributes of sequence of creation, worth, complexity, and symmetry would hardly impress Job, especially since the creation, worth, complexity, and symmetry of humans exceeds all creatures.
This conclusion is further supported by behemoth’s specific features that God brings to Job’s attention—features that inherently imply size, mass, weight, bulk, and strength: “his strength is in his hips” (vs. 16), “his power is in his stomach muscles” (vs. 16), “he moves his tail like a cedar” (vs. 17), “his bones are like beams of bronze” (vs. 18), “his ribs like bars of iron” (vs. 18). The context lends further support to “first” referring to size, due to the parallel clause that follows. Compare the following renderings to recognize the import:
He is the first of the ways of God;
Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
He is the chief of the ways of God:
He (only) that made him giveth him his sword.
The point of this passage is obvious: the gargantuan behemoth is of such stature and strength that only the Creator can control it. He is “the chief of the ways of God.”
In order for God’s argument to make sense or carry any weight with Job, behemoth must be of such imposing, even ominous enormity, and of such immense, powerful proportions that, without hesitation, Job would acknowledge his own helpless, fragile, measly condition before God. Neither a hippo nor an elephant would evoke such an admission. A dinosaur would.
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1967/77), (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung).
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles B. Briggs (1906), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004 reprint).
Davidson, Benjamin (1848), The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970 reprint).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Hebrew-English Lexicon (no date), (London: Samuel Bagster).
Holladay, William (1971), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Was the ‘Behemoth’ a Dinosaur?” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/1643.
Lyons, Eric (2007a), “Historical Support for the Coexistence of Dinosaurs and Humans [Parts I&II],” Reason & Revelation, 27:65-71,73-78, September-October, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/3449.
Lyons, Eric (2007b), “Why Are Dinosaurs Not Mentioned in the Bible?” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/3350.
Mounce, William D. (2006), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Rattray, S. and J. Milgrom (2004), re’sit, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Wigram, George W. (1890), The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).