For me the Book of Job is one of the most controversial books in the Bible yet. In chapters 38-41 we see the Lord's unnecessary boasting in front of his slave. Job 41:5 is an example of a cynicism:

Can you make a pet of it like a bird or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?

Here the Lord talks about Leviathan but I'm confused with "the young women in your house". They were killed. All of Job's daughters were killed with the consent of the Lord. Why does he mention it? Is he mocking Job?


3 Answers 3


The context at hand is not concerning the maidens, but concerning the ferocious creature of the sea, Leviathan. This is the key to understanding the context. There is no cynicism, but in fact grave awe.

The word Leviathan (לִוְיָתָן) is only mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible, and refers to either a ferocious creature of the sea, or to an angelic monster.

For example, in Isaiah 27:1 the word is mentioned twice, and has no reference to the sea creature but to the angel, who is "the serpent." (That Hebrew word for serpent is the same Hebrew word for the serpent that deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.) Also of interest is Job 3:8 which is the only other mention of לִוְיָתָן in the Book of Job. It is very interesting that Job correlates לִוְיָתָן with an imprecation of cursing, where the the morning star is blighted and the stars darkened, which has ties to Lucifer back in Isaiah (Is 14:12-13). In this passage, Job had wished that לִוְיָתָן would have altered the zodiac, and therefore the stars would have blighted, and thus the day of his birth would have been cursed.

If the Lord (who is speaking in the context of this passage in Job) is using "Leviathan" therefore in double-entendre, then there is secondary reference here to Satan, who was the one that had originally "incited" the Lord to test Job in this narrative (Job 2:3).

So when the Lord is talking about "binding Leviathan for your maidens" in Job 41:5, he is not mocking Job because his daughters were in fact dead, but was saying that Leviathan (the angel) was not a toy bird that Job had the power to bind or to cage. If there is a reference to the dead daughters of Job in this passage, then this angel was not bound or caged in Sheol, where the dead daughters of Job lay.

In other words, we go back to Isaiah 14:15, where this same angel is "thrust down" to Sheol "to the recesses of the pit." However, this monster is not yet bound with the great chain that will cage him in the abyss (Rev 20:1-2), which is still yet predictive prophecy for the future. Again, in Revelation 20:2, we see the Greek word dragon (δράκων), which interestingly enough is the same word used in the Greek LXX to translate four of the five instances that the Hebrew word לִוְיָתָן appears in the Hebrew Bible (the exception being Job 3:8).

This perspective removes any cynicism, and leaves one in awe that "Leviathan" is a great monster of death. Job's response to the Lord was that these were "...things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3).

  • 1
    Good answer. The maidens may not be a reference to Job's daughters. Some believe he was an Edomite king (Jobab), in which case these would be servants in his court. biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/130
    – Mike Bull
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 0:56

The genre of Job

The book of Job falls clearly in the category of wisdom literature:

Wisdom literature is a genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue. The key principle of wisdom literature is that while techniques of traditional story-telling are used, books also presume to offer insight and wisdom about nature and reality.—Wikipedia

So the core of the genre is sayings that have a larger meaning than what lies on the surface. We still use these sorts of sayings:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

One sees the greater truth of the saying even if you aren't a bird hunter. Testing the accuracy of the proverb MythBusters-style misses the entire point. In wisdom literature, the image painted by the words is designed to be vivid in order to aid memory. Therefore the details of the sayings need not relate to any present reality; when God mentions "the young women in your house", He isn't thinking of Job's daughters, but of generic "young women". Certainly the saying works on an abstract level even for people who don't have daughters.

The prose frame

While the bulk of Job consists of speeches filled with proverbial sayings, the first two chapters and the short epilogue are written in prose and bear similarities to the narrative style of other books such as Ruth, Esther, and much of Genesis (particularly the Joseph story). There is strong evidence that the prose portions of Job were added later in order to frame the speeches. If so, the details of the sayings were settled before the details of the narrative were.

Alternatively, the narrative frame could introduce Job as a parable. In this scenario, Job was never intended to be a historical figure, but to pose a meta-physical question: Are righteousness and suffering antithetical states of being? The parable asserts that Job embodies both states at once. The speeches conclude with God asserting His mastery over creation and, I believe, evil itself.

God tames evil

Now what is the point of the proverbial saying? As you mention, the context is Leviathan, which was a symbol of chaos. God asks a rhetorical question of Job: "Can you tame chaos?" The answer is clearly no given the context of the framing narrative. It's especially poignant when you compare this proverb to what Job actually did to prevent evil:

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.—Job 1:4-5 (ESV)

He preemptively sacrificed in order to atone for sin that may never have occurred! Even a man as righteous as Job cannot reign in the effects of disorder in the creation. As hard as it might be, it could be that God chose His words carefully in order to remind Job of his ineffectual sacrifices. Frankly, the book of Job is what we sometimes call a hard word. Other parts of the Bible (such as Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation) soften that word by revealing a future in which God binds up evil, puts away suffering, and defeats death.


The Lord never boasts "unnecessarily."

Job speaks of caring for orphans and the poor (Job 29:12)--that they reside in his home. The maidens in question could be these orphans.

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