This word occurs often in both Old and New Testaments and denotes generally a mammal (though sometimes a reptile) in distinction to a man, a bird, or a fish. In this distinction the English is fairly in accord with the Hebrew and Greek originals. The commonest Hebrew words behemah and chai have their counterpart in the Arabic as do three others less often used, be`ir (Genesis 45:17; Exodus 22:5; Numbers 20:8 the King James Version), nephesh (Leviticus 24:18), and Tebhach (Proverbs 9:2). Behemah and A rabic bahimah are from a root signifying vagueness or dumbness and so denote primarily a dumb beast. Chai and Arabic chaiwan are from the root chayah (Arabic chaya), "to live," and denote primarily living creatures. Be`ir, "cattle," and its root-verb, ba`ar, "to graze," are identical with the Arabic ba`ir and ba`ara, but with a curious difference in meaning. Ba`ir is a common word for camel among the Bedouin and the root-verb, ba`ara, means "to drop dung," ba`rah being a common word for the dung of camels, goats, and sheep. Nephesh corresponds in every way with the Arabic nephs, "breath," "soul" or "self" Tebhach from Tabhach, "to slaughter," is equivalent to the Arabic dhibch from dhabacha, with the same meaning. Both therion ("wild beast"), and zoon ("living thing"), occur often in the Apocalypse. They are found also in a few other places, as mammals (Hebrews 13:11) or figuratively (Titus 1:12). Therion is used also of the viper which fastened on Paul's hand, and this has parallels in classic al Greek. Beasts of burden and beasts used for food were and are an important form of property, hence, ktenos ("possession"), the word used for the good Samaritan's beast (Luke 10:34) and for the beasts with which Lysias provided Paul for his journey to Caesarea (Acts 23:24).
For "swift beast," kirkaroth, "dromedary" (Isaiah 66:20 the King James Version), see CAMEL. For "swift beast," rekhesh, see HORSE (Micah 1:13 the King James Version; 1 Kings 4:28 the King James Version, margin; compare Esther 8:10,14).
See also WILD BEAST.
Alfred Ely Day