tor'-tus, tor'-tis, tor'-tois. (the King James Version) (tsabh, the Revised Version (British and American) "great lizard"; compare the Arabic word, dabb, the thorny-tailed lizard):
The word tsabh occurs as the name of an animal only in Leviticus 11:29, being the third in the list of unclean "creeping things."
The same word is found in Isaiah 66:20, translated "litters," and in Numbers 7:3, where `eghloth tsabh is translated "covered wagons." Gesenius derives the word, in all senses, from the root cabhabh, "to move gently," "to flow"; compare Arabic dabba, "to flow." The Arabic noun dabb is Uromastix spinipes, the Arabian thorny-tailed lizard. This lizard is about 18 inches long, its relatively smooth body being terminated with a great tail armed with rings of spiny scales. The Arabs have a familiar proverb, 'a`kad min dhanab ud-dabb, "knottier than the tail of the dabb." The Septuagint has for tsabh in Leviticus 11:29 ho krokodeilos ho chersaios, the English equivalent of which, "land-crocodile," is used by the Revised Version (British and American) for the fifth in the list of unclean "creeping things," koach, the King James Version "chameleon."
The writer does not know what can have led the translators of the King James Version to use here the word "tortoise." Assuming that the thorny-tailed lizard is meant, the "great lizard" of the Revised Version (British and American) may be considered to be a fair translation.
Alfred Ely Day
These files are public domain.