Tannin (monster)

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The Tannin (Dragon), by al-Qazwini (1203–1283).

Tannin (Hebrew: תַּנִּין‎; Syriac: ܬܢܝܢܐtannīnā plural: tannīnē; Arabic: التنينTinnīn) or Tunnanu (Ugaritic: 𐎚𐎐𐎐 tnn, vocalized tu-un-na-nu[1]) was a sea monster in Canaanite and Hebrew mythology used as a symbol of chaos and evil.[2]

Canaanite mythology[edit]

Tannin appears in the Baal Cycle as one of the servants of Yam (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 Bible's Book 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 God 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 "on that day",[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 ancient Egypt after the Exodus to Canaan.[2]

The word Tannin is used in the Hebrew Bible fourteen times. Aaron's staff becomes Tannin in the Book of Exodus (Ex 7:9-12), it is used in the meaning "snake" in the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut 32:33) and Psalms (Ps 91:13). It represents Nebuchadnezzar I (the king of Babylon) in Jeremiah (Jer 51:34) and Pharaoh in Ezekiel (Ezek 29:3, 32:2). In the Book of Job (Job 7:12) the protagonist questions God "Am I the sea or the sea dragon that you have set a guard over me?"[20]

In modern scholarship, Tannin is sometimes associated with Tiamat.[citation needed] The name has subsequently been given to three submarines in the Israeli Navy: the first, an S-class submarine formerly known as HMS Springer, was in commission from 1958 until 1972. The second, a Gal-class submarine, was in commission from 1977 until 2002. The third INS Tanin is a Dolphin-class submarine in commission since 2014.

Modern Hebrew[edit]

In modern Hebrew usage the word tanin (תנין) means crocodile.[citation needed]

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 Lotan or Leviathan.



  1. ^ Day (1985), p. 5.
  2. ^ a b Heider (1999), p. 836.
  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.
  20. ^ Dictionary of the Old Testament. Intervarsity Press. p. 46. Retrieved 25 August 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)