The Hebrew word tan (plural, tannin) is so rendered in Job 7:12 (A.V.; but RSV, "sea-monster"). It is rendered by "dragons" in Deuteronomy 32:33 ; Psalms 91:13 ; Jeremiah 51:34 ; Psalms 74:13 (marg., "whales;" and marg. of RSV, "sea-monsters"); Isaiah 27:1 ; and "serpent" in Exodus 7:9 (RSV marg., "any large reptile," and so in ver. 10,12). The words of ( Job 7:12 ), uttered in bitter irony, where he asks, "Am I a sea or a whale?" simply mean, "Have I a wild, untamable nature, like the waves of the sea, which must be confined and held within bounds, that they cannot pass?" "The serpent of the sea, which was but the wild, stormy sea itself, wound itself around the land, and threatened to swallow it up...Job inquires if he must be watched and plagued like this monster, lest he throw the world into disorder" (Davidson's Job).
The whale tribe are included under the general Hebrew name tannin ( Genesis 1:21 ; Lamentations 4:3 ). "Even the sea-monsters [tanninim] draw out the breast." The whale brings forth its young alive, and suckles them.
It is to be noticed of the story of Jonah's being "three days and three nights in the whale's belly," as recorded in Matthew 12:40 , that here the Gr. ketos means properly any kind of sea-monster of the shark or the whale tribe, and that in the book of ( Jonah 1:17 ) it is only said that "a great fish" was prepared to swallow Jonah. This fish may have been, therefore, some great shark. The white shark is known to frequent the Mediterranean Sea, and is sometimes found 30 feet in length.
As to the signification of the Hebrew terms tan and tannin , variously rendered in the Authorized Version by "dragon," "whale," "serpent," "sea-monster" see DRAGON. It remains for us in this article to consider the transaction recorded in the book of Jonah, of that prophet having been swallowed up by some great fish" which in ( Matthew 12:40 ) is called cetos (ketos ), rendered in our version by "whale." In the first glace, it is necessary to observe that the Greek word cetos , used by St. Matthew is not restricted in its meaning to "a whale," or any Cetacean ; like the Latin cete or cetus , it may denote any sea-monster, either "a whale," Or "a shark," or "a seal," or "a tunny of enormous size." Although two or three species of whale are found in the Mediterranean Sea, yet the "great fish" that swallowed the prophet cannot properly be identified with any Cetacean , for, although the sperm whale has a gullet sufficiently large to admit the body of a man, yet, it can hardly be the fish intended, as the natural food of Cetaceans consists of small animals,such as medusae and crustacea. The only fish, then, capable of swallowing a man would be a large specimen of the white shark (Carcharias vulgaris ), that dreaded enemy of sailors, and the most voracious of the family of Squalidae . This shark, which sometimes attains the length of thirty feet, is quite able to swallow a man whole. The whole body of a man in armor has been found in the stomach of a white shark: and Captain King, in his survey of Australia, says he had caught one which could have swallowed a man with the greatest ease. Blumenbach mentions that a whole horse has been found in a shark, and Captain Basil Hall reports the taking of one in which, besides other things, he found the whole skin of a buffalo which a short time before had been thrown overboard from his ship (p. 27). The white shark is not uncommon in the Mediterranean.
(1) ketos (Sirach 43:25 (the Revised Version (British and American) "sea-monster"); The So of Three Children verse 57 (the Revised Version (British and American) "whale"); Matthew 12:40 (the Revised Version (British and American) "whale," margin "sea-monster"; the King James Version "whale" throughout)).
(3) tannim (Ezekiel 32:2), "monster," the English Revised Version "dragon" the King James Version "whale" the King James Version margin "dragon."
It will be seen from the above references that the word "whale" does not occur in the Revised Version (British and American) except in The So of Three Children verse 57 and Matthew 12:40. Ketos, the original word in these passages, is, according to Liddell and Scott, used by Aristotle for "whale," Aristotle using also the adjective ketodes, "cetacean"; Homer and Herodotus used ketos for any large fish or sea-monster or for a seal. It is used in Euripides of the monster to which Andromeda was exposed. In the Hebrew, in the Book of Jonah, we find dagh or daghah, the ordinary word for "fish":
"And Yahweh prepared great fish to swallow up Jonah" (Jonah 1:17). Whales are found in the Mediterranean and are sometimes cast up on the shore of Palestine, but it is not likely that the ancient Greeks or Hebrews were very familiar with them, and it is by no means certain that whale is referred to, either in the original Jonah story or in the New Testament reference to it. If any particular animal is meant, it is more likely a shark. Sharks are much more familiar objects in the Mediterranean than whales, and some of them are of large size.
"Am I a sea, or a sea-monster (the King James Version "whale"),
That thou settest a watch over me?"
The Hebrew has tannin, which word occurs 14 times in the Old Testament and in the American Standard Revised Version is translated "monster," "sea-monster," or "serpent," and, exceptionally, in Lamentations 4:3, "jackals." the King James Version renders in several passages "dragon" (compare Ezekiel 29:3 the English Revised Version).
Tannim in Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2 is believed to stand for tannin. the American Standard Revised Version has "monster," the English Revised Version "dragon," the King James Version "whale," the King James Version margin "dragon," in Ezekiel 32:2, and "dragon" in 29:3. Tannim occurs in 11 other passages, where it is considered to be the plural of tan, and in the Revised Version (British and American) is translated "jackals," in the King James Version "dragons" (Job 30:29; Psalms 44:19; Isaiah 13:22; 34:13; 35:7; 43:20; Jeremiah 9:11; 10:22; 14:6; 49:33; 51:37). In Malachi 1:3 we find the feminine plural tannoth.
See DRAGON; JACKAL.
Alfred Ely Day
These files are public domain.