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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2007

“He Moves His Tail Like a Cedar”

God once spoke to Job about an animal that ranked “first among the works of God” (Job 40:19), whose tail was so massive it swayed “like a cedar” (40:17). What kind of animal was it? It is called behemot in the Hebrew language, and simply “behemoth” in English. But what exactly was this behemoth?

Many people believe that the behemoth of Job’s day (roughly 4,000 years ago) was either a hippo or an elephant. Granted, these land animals are some of the largest on Earth today, and they do fit some of the description of behemoth. But neither the hippo nor the elephant “moves his tail like a cedar.” A hippo has a little 6-8 inch “twig,” not a stiff or large “cedar” tail like behemoth. And the elephant’s tail isn’t much more imposing than the hippo’s.

So what could behemoth have been? What creature did God make with a mighty tail that once inhabited the Earth with Job? What animal grew a tail many feet long that could weigh thousands of pounds?

God’s description of behemoth actually sounds more like one of the large plant-eating dinosaurs of the past (like Diplodocus or Argentinosaurus) than any other animal alive today. What other animal’s tail could be sensibly described as “moving,” “swaying,” or “stiffening” like a cedar?

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