Tannin (monster)

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Tannin (Hebrew: תנין‎‎) or Tunannu (Ugaritic: Tnn) was a sea monster in Canaanite, Phoenician, and Hebrew mythology used as a symbol of chaos and evil.[1]


The name may derive from a root meaning "howling" or from coiling in a manner like smoke.[2]

Canaanite mythology[edit]

Tannin appears in the Baal Cycle as one of the servants of Yammu (lit. "Sea") defeated by Baʿal (lit. "Lord")[3] or bound by his sister ʿAnat.[4] He is usually depicted as serpentine, possibly with a double tail.[4]

Hebrew mythology[edit]

The tanninim (תַּנִּינִים) also appear in the Hebrew Scriptures' books of Genesis,[5] Exodus,[6] Deuteronomy,[7] Psalms,[9] Job,[10] Ezekiel,[11] Isaiah,[12] and Jeremiah.[13] They are explicitly listed among the creatures created by (the) Elohim on the fifth day of the Genesis creation narrative,[5] translated in the King James Version as "great whales".[14] The tannin is listed in the Apocalypse of Isaiah as among the sea beasts to be slain by Yahweh at the End of Days,[15] translated in the King James Version as "the dragon".[16][n 1] In Jewish mythology, Tannin is sometimes conflated with the related sea monsters Leviathan and Rahab.[19] Along with Rahab, "Tannin" was a name applied to Egypt after the Israelite's Exodus to Canaan.[1]

In modern scholarship, Tannin is sometimes associated with Tiamat and, in modern Hebrew, the name tannin is used as the word for crocodiles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This passage in Isaiah directly parallels another from the earlier Baal Cycle. The Hebrew passage describing the tannin takes the place of a Ugaritic one describing "the encircler"[17] or "the mighty one with seven heads" (šlyṭ d.šbʿt rašm).[18] In both the Ugaritic and Hebrew texts, it is debatable whether three figures are being described or whether the others are epithets of Litan or Leviathan.



  1. ^ a b Heider (1999), p. 836.
  2. ^ Tabick, Roni (18 July 2013), "From the Deep—Leviathan in Jewish Tradition—Genesis 1", Mythic Writing .
  3. ^ Herrmann (1999), p. 135.
  4. ^ a b Heider (1999), p. 135.
  5. ^ a b Gen. 1:21.
  6. ^ Exod. 7:9–10:12.
  7. ^ Deut. 32:33.
  8. ^ Heider (1999), p. 135–136.
  9. ^ Ps. 74:13, 91:13, 148:7, and possibly 44:20.[8]
  10. ^ Job 7:12.
  11. ^ Ezek. 29:3 & 32:2.
  12. ^ Isa. 27:1 & 51:9.
  13. ^ Jer. 51:34.
  14. ^ Gen. 1:21 (KJV).
  15. ^ Isa. 27:1.
  16. ^ Isa. 27:1 (KJV).
  17. ^ Barker (2014), p. 152.
  18. ^ Uehlinger (1999), p. 512.
  19. ^ Heider (1999), pp. 835–836.