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whale Summary and Overview

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whale in Easton's Bible Dictionary

The Hebrew word "tan" (plural, tannin) is so rendered in Job 7:12 (A.V.; but R.V., "sea-monster"). It is rendered by "dragons" in Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13; Jer. 51:34; Ps. 74:13 (marg., "whales;" and marg. of R.V., "sea-monsters"); Isa. 27:1; and "serpent" in Ex. 7:9 (R.V. 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" (Gen. 1:21; Lam. 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 Matt. 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.

whale in Smith's Bible Dictionary

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 #Mt 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.

whale in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

WHALE . In the Mosaic account of the creation, when we are told that on the fifth day God created great whales, sea-monsters in general are doubtless meant. Gen 1:21. The original of "whale" is often translated "dragon" or "leviathan," and, according to the derivation of the Hebrew, the word denotes a creature of great length, without being restricted to marine animals. Neither the O.T. nor the N.T., when correctly rendered, affirms that it was a whale which swallowed Jonah, but "a great fish." Jon 1:17; Matt 12:40. The creature referred to is very likely to have been the white shark, which is abundantly capable of such a feat. The whale is, however, occasionally found in the Mediterranean Sea. The skeleton of one was to be seen in Beyrout in 1877. See Jonah, Leviathan.

whale in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Hebrew tannin, Greek keetos. Genesis 1:21, translated "sea monsters." The crocodile in Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2; the "dragon" in Isaiah 27:1; tan means the crocodile; also Job 7:12. Jonah on the whale or sea monster in which he was miraculously preserved, type of Him over whose head for our sakes went all the waves and billows of God's wrath: Psalm 42:7; Psalm 69:2; Galatians 3:13). (See JONAH.)