The largest known inhabitant of the sea, Job 7:12, put by our translators for a Hebrew word including all the huge marine monsters, as in Ge 1:21. In Eze 32:2, referring to Egypt and the Nile, it doubtless means the crocodile; as also in Ps 74:13; Isa 27:1; 51:9; Eze 29:3, where it is translated "dragon." The "great fish" that swallowed Jonah cannot be named with certainty. The Greek word in Mt 12:40 being also indeterminate. Whales, however, were anciently found in the Mediterranean, and sharks of the largest size.
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 De 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. Ex 7:10,12). The words of Job (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).
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 Mt 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 (Jon 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.
Hebrew tannin, Greek keetos. Ge 1:21, translated "sea monsters." The crocodile in Eze 29:3; 32:2; the "dragon" in Isa 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: Ps 42:7; 69:2; Ga 3:13). (See JONAH.)
The word tannin, Ge 1:21; Job 7:12; Eze 32:2; and ????? Mt 12:40; refer to any sea monsters, without defining any particular one. In the case of Jonah the Hebrew word is dag, or dagah, a fish; it may not have been a whale: sharks have been known to swallow men entire, and whatever fish it was that swallowed him, it was a miracle that preserved him alive, and caused him to be safely landed on shore again. It is only by denying the miracle that any difficulty arises. The Hebrew word tannin is also translated in the A.V. 'dragon,' 'sea monster,' and 'serpent.'
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
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, ?? and ????, Ge 1:21; Job 7:12; Eze 32:2; ?????, Mt 12:40; the largest of all the inhabitants of the water. A late author, in a dissertation expressly for the purpose, has proved that the crocodile, and not the whale, is spoken of in Ge 1:21. The word in Job 7:12, must also be taken for the crocodile. It must mean some terrible animal, which, but for the watchful care of Divine Providence, would be very destructive. Our translators render it by dragon in Isa 27:1, where the prophet gives this name to the king of Egypt: "He shall slay the dragon, that is in the sea." "The sea there is the river Nile, and the dragon the crocodile, Eze 32:2. On this passage Bochart remarks, "The ???? is not a whale, as people imagine; for a whale has neither feet nor scales, neither is it to be found in the rivers of Egypt; neither does it ascend therefrom upon the land; neither is it taken in the meshes of a net; all of which properties are ascribed by Ezekiel to the ???? of Egypt. Whence it is plain that it is not a whale that is here spoken of, but the crocodile. Merrick supposes David, in Ps 74:13, to speak of the tunnie, a kind of whale, with which he was probably acquainted; and Bochart thinks it has its Greek name thannos from the Hebrew thanot. The last mentioned fish is undoubtedly that spoken of in Ps 104:26. We are told, that, in order to preserve the Prophet Jonah when he was thrown overboard by the mariners, "the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow him up." What kind of fish it was, is not specified; but the Greek translators take the liberty to give us the word ?????, whale; and though St. Mt 12:40, makes use of the same word, we may probably conclude that he did so in a general sense; and that we are not to understand it as an appropriated term, to point out the particular species of fish. It is notorious that sharks are common in the Mediterranean.