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Hyena

HYENA

hi-e'-na (tsabhua` (Jeremiah 12:9); Septuagint huaine (Jeremiah 12:9; Ecclesiasticus 13:18); compare Arabic dab` or dabu`, "hyaena"; compare tsebho`im, Zeboim (1 Samuel 13:18; Nehemiah 11:34); also compare tsibh`on, Zibeon (Genesis 36:2,14,20; 1 Chronicles 1:38); but not tsebhoyim, Zeboiim (Genesis 10:19; 14:2, etc.)):

English Versions of the Bible does not contain the word "hyena," except in Ecclesiasticus 13:18, "What peace is there between the hyena and the dog? and what; peace between the rich man and the poor?" In Jeremiah 12:9, where the Hebrew has ha-`ayiT tsabhua` (the Revised Version (British and American) "a speckled bird of prey"), Septuagint has spelaion huaines, "a hyena's den," as if from a Hebrew original having me`arah, "cave," instead of ha-`ayiT, "bird." The root tsabha` may mean "to seize as prey" (compare Arabic seb`, "lion" or "rapacious animal"), or "to dip" or "to dye" (compare Arabic cabagh, "to dye"), hence, the two translations of tsabhua` as "hyena" and as "speckled" (Vulgate versicolor).

The hyena of Palestine is the striped hyena (Hyaena striata) which ranges from India to North Africa. The striped, the spotted, and the brown hyenas constitute a distinct family of the order of Carnivora, having certain peculiarities of dentition and having four toes on each foot, instead of four behind and five in front, as in most of the order. The hyena is a nocturnal animal, rarely seen though fairly abundant, powerful but cowardly, a feeder on carrion and addicted to grave-robbing. The last habit in particular has won it the abhorrence of the natives of the countries which it inhabits. In the passage cited in Ecclus, it is to be noted that it is to the hyena that the rich man is compared. The jaws and teeth of the hyena are exceedingly strong and fitted for crushing bones which have resisted the efforts of dogs and jackals. Its dens are in desolate places and are littered with fragments of skeletons. "Is my heritage unto me as a speckled bird of prey?" (Jeremiah 12:9) becomes a more striking passage if the Septuagint is followed, "Is my heritage unto me as a hyena's den?"

Shaqq-ud-Diba`, "Cleft of the hyenas," is the name of a valley north of Wadi-ul-Qelt, and Wadi-Abu-Diba` (of similar meaning) is the name of an affluent of Wadi-ul-Qelt. Either of these, or possibly Wadi-ul-Qelt itself, may be the valley of Zeboim (valley of hyenas) of 1 Samuel 13:18.

The name of Zibeon the Horite (Genesis 36:2, etc.) is more doubtfully connected with "hyena."

Alfred Ely Day


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'HYENA'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.