Friday, June 03, 2005

The New Living Translation, 2nd ed., of Job translates ch. 40:15ff this way:
Now then, the hippopotamus -
I made him just like I made you,
He eats grass like an ox,
See the power in his thighs,
The strength in the muscles of his loins.
He stiffens his phallus like a cedar...
Other translations (e.g., NIV) render the verses thus:
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar…
One of the arguments against understanding "behemoth" as the hippopotamus and surmising, rather, that it must have been a primordial and mythical monster, is that the translations all say that he had a tail like a cedar tree, even a swaying cedar tree. Anyone who has been to a zoo knows that no hippo has a tail like a cedar tree. If the NLT is right in translating the Hebrew word for tail as phallus, we're on to something and possibly back to the hippo.

Why did the NLT translate the Hebrew word for tail with "phallus"? Interestingly, many languages speak in euphemisms when it comes to the more sensitive parts of the human anatomy. Unbeknown to most speakers of the English language, English uses a euphemism. The word most commonly used is a Latin word whose first meaning is "tail."

The author of Job was a very observant student of nature. Perhaps he had seen hippos mating. I think the NLT gives a very plausible and interesting translation of Job 40:17a.