This resource is based on God’s praise of the behemoth in Job (40:15-24) and is rephrased and adapted from the chapter “Can We Afford to Keep the Lord’s Behemoth? in Calvin DeWitts book “Caring for Creation” 1998, Baker Books.
greenFish used this as the basis for a presentation to students in grade 3 and 4 in a Catholic School in Melbourne – and they thought it was great. Bible references are for background reading, and not intended to be read out to the audience.
Please leave a comment below or email greenFish (see contact section) if you use this resource.
1) God made hippos in the same way, God made the rest of created things [Psalm 24:1]
Q What do you know about hippos?
!! 10 interesting facts about hippos: see below
!! Other interesting things about hippos – what else can you find out about hippos to share with your audience?
2) God loves and cares for hippos, even if they’re ugly or not useful to humans
In Job, God praises the unlovely and un-cuddled, not-very-cared-for creatures. God specifically talks about hippos. In the same way, God loves and upholds all created things [Colossians 1:15-20, Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31]
Q What animals do we find useful? (For example: chickens for their eggs, cows for their milk.)
Q What animals do we find easy to love and care for because they‘re cute or cuddly, or fun to play with? (For example: dogs and cats, koalas)
In Job God says, “Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox.”
God loves all creatures the same because He made them. Each is unique. God is proud of them all.
Each creature God made is like a musical instrument, the hippo could be the drum, and the honey-eater the flute. When each animal is doing being the best of that type it can be, it is praising God. Together, when each animal does its thing, it is like hearing a good piece of music, beautiful because of how all the instruments contribute into a beautiful harmony.
So, God loves all things, regardless of if they are “useful to God” or “useful” for humans [Genesis 9:9-17]
3) God celebrates hippos and delights in how it has been made, its features and characteristics like its strength and power
God says, “What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly!
God says of the hippo: “His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.”
This passage is saying: people may not want to admire the perfect design and wonder of the body parts of the hippo, but God, the Creator, is proud of these things He provides.
“Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron.”…This passage is saying: What a work of art, this beast has been made to be tough! Made with strong, powerful limbs to hold this massive creature up.
4) God reckons that this creature is pretty good
In Job it says that “It is the first of the great acts of God…” – that’s not to say that people aren’t important but God wants people to know and remember how important hippos are to God. God hopes we also think hippos are important.
So, God made and loves and celebrates hippos, even when they may not be “useful” to humans.
5) The text continues to say, “…only its Maker can approach it with the sword.”
Only God has the authority to kill this creature, even though God has no desire to do that! God doesn’t want us to wield or demonstrate our power over this animal by killing or harming it.
God loves all things, even though the world has been broken by sin.
Sin means that humans wield their power over other people and over creation.
Q What are some of the ways that human power can be damaging for the hippo?
6) God also wants people to celebrate and enjoy creation – it’s not all about work [1 Kings 4:29-34, Psalm 104, Job 38-41]!!
The text says, “The hills bring him their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby.”
This creature is in its proper place/habitat, finding food from the local area and relating to all the other animals around.
Together in their habitat, their home, all these creatures bring praise to God by being the best creature they can be.
The text says: “Under the lotus plants it lies, in the covert [under the cover] of the reeds and in the marsh. The lotus trees cover it for shade; the willows of the wadi [stream] surround it. Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.”
It may not be a habitat suited to people but it is perfect for the hippo and the hippo feels right at home living there.
Even though the hippo is so big and majestic, it is so at home in his surroundings that it can be invisible under the leaves of the water. The hippo fits into its home, the place God made for it, very well!
This passage says that God enjoys/celebrates creation. So why shouldn’t we?
And Jesus wants us to enjoy and celebrate creation, just like He does.
Q How can or do we enjoy hippos? (One way we can enjoy hippos is we can learn about them and better appreciate/value them.)
7) The text continues, “Can one take it [capture it] with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?”
This creature can’t be controlled or made to obey people, if we called out to it to come to us, it wouldn’t obey us. And even if we tried to capture and control it we would have a hard or impossible task.
8) This hippo is God’s creatures and praises God in its being.
Psalm 150 says: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”
God reckons this creature is good, and thinks the same about the whole of creation.
9) Humans are very special because we are created in the image of God, in God’s likeness [Genesis 1:27]
And, when we image God, when we try to be like God, when we copy God’s love for creation, that means these creatures should be beautiful to us too.
Like God, we should want to care for hippos.
Because we were made to be like God, we have a responsibility to rule over and care for creation.
And, Jesus wants us to partner with Him and care for what he has created in the same way God care for us. When Jesus was in the world, he was a humble servant, not a power-wielding ruler. So we also are to love the world through humble service.
The service and sacrifice of Jesus provides a good standard/example for us to follow [Philippians 2:7].
Through our actions, we can try to be like God – through our actions and relationships with creation and with other humans.
God asks us to take care of creation in the same way God takes care of us [Genesis 2:15, Numbers 6:24, Psalm 121:7].
So, God wants us to partner with God and enjoy, and care for the hippo and all of creation, even when things may not be useful to us.
11 Fascinating Facts about Hippos
1. Their skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance which is red-colored.
2. Hippos can choose to give birth under the water. This makes them one of only a few mammels able to do so.
3. Hippos can’t breath under the water. Adults have to come to the surface every three to five minutes and the young hippos, every two to three. It is very natural for them and even when sleeping will rise to the surface to breath, without waking up!
4. Even though they’re so big, hippos can run faster than people on land. They may be able to run as fast as 30 to 50 kilometres per hour. Hippos are good ‘sprinters’, they can only run really fast for a few hundred meters.
5. The main food of the hippo is grass. At dusk hippos will leave the river and graze on grass, for four to five hours and up to eight kilometers away from the river. They can eat up to 68 kilograms of food a night.
6. Are hippos good looking? Like other water-loving mammals, they have very little hair – they have some bristles around their mouth and on the tip of their tail. And, hippos have very thick skin, especially around their back and rump.
7. Hippos are one of the most aggressive creatures in the world, and are often seen as the most ferocious animal in Africa.
8. Their special gravity means that hippos can sink to the river floor and run along the bottom.
9. Hippopotamus comes from the Greek, “river horse” because they spend so much time in the river. But, the hippo has pigs as closer relations when compared with horses.
10. Of all the land mammels, only the white rhinoceros (1.5-3.5 tonnes) and the elephant (3-9 tonnes) are heavier than the hippo (1.5-3 tonnes). That is roughly the equivalent of one hippo to 26 people!
11. Hippos are between 2.8 and 4.8 meters long and the tallest are 1.66 meters tall. The height of the average woman in Australia is 1.64 meters: that’s 2 cm shorter than the height of a hippo (the average male is 1.78 meters tall).
There are lots of other things to learn about hippos – including the countries they live in, who their predators are (and why they are hunted), and why they get aggressive…why don’t you do more research yourself?
With a tape measure, measure out the size of a hippo at the front of the class. A big hippo and a small hippo. (See fact # 11)
In holding their breath, have the children put a hand in the air and keep it in the air until they have to take a new breath…Even the person who holds their breath for the longest will struggle to match a hippos breath! …of course take note of health and safety guidlines and common sense. (See fact #3)