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Early Hebrew conception of the cosmos. The firmament, sheol and tehom are depicted.

Tehom (Hebrew: תְּהוֹם) was the mythological cosmic ocean of Biblical cosmology, covering the Earth until God created the firmament to divide it into upper and lower portions and reveal the dry land;[1] the world has been protected from the cosmic ocean ever since by the solid dome of the firmament.[2]


Tehom is a cognate of the Akkadian word tamtu and Ugaritic t-h-m which have similar meaning. As such it was equated with the earlier Sumerian Tiamat. In Modern Arabic, Tihamah refers to a coastal plain of the Red Sea.

Robert R. Stieglitz stated that Eblaitic texts demonstrate the equation of the goddess Berouth in the mythology of Sanchuniathon with Ugaritic thmt and Akkadian Tiâmat, via the name bʾrôt ("fountains").[3]

Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern writes in his comparative study of Babylonian and Hebrew creation myths:

According to both traditions before the creation all was water. The deep is personified as a terrible monster, which in the Babylonian version bears the name of "Tihamat," corresponding to the Hebrew "Tehom," used as the technical expression for the primæval ocean. The Hebrew word is employed without the article, like a proper name, thus indicating that in Israelite tradition also it stood originally for some mythological being.[4]


Tehom is mentioned in Genesis 1:2, where it is translated as "deep":

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The same word is used for the origin of Noah's flood in Genesis 7:11:

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.


Gnostics used this text[which?] to propose that the original creator god, called the "Pléroma" or "Bythós" (from the Greek, meaning "Deep") pre-existed Elohim, and gave rise to such later divinities and spirits by way of emanations, progressively more distant and removed from the original form.

In Mandaean cosmology, the Sea of Suf (or Sea of Sup) is a primordial sea in the World of Darkness.[5][6][7]


Tehom is also mentioned as the first of seven "Infernal Habitations" that correspond to the ten Qliphoth (literally "peels") of Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, often in place of Sheol.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ringgren 1990, pp. 91–92
  2. ^ Ryken et al 1998
  3. ^ Stieglitz, Robert R. (1990). "Ebla and the Gods of Canaan". In Cyrus Herzl Gordon; Gary Rendsburg (eds.). Eblaitica: essays on the Ebla archives and Eblaite language. Eisenbrauns. pp. 79–90 (p.88). ISBN 978-0-931464-49-2.
  4. ^ Heinrich Zimmern, The Ancient East, No. III: The Babylonian and Hebrew Genesis; translated by J. Hutchison; London: David Nutt, 57–59 Long Acre, 1901.
  5. ^ Aldihisi, Sabah (2008). The story of creation in the Mandaean holy book in the Ginza Rba (PhD). University College London.
  6. ^ Al-Saadi, Qais Mughashghash; Al-Saadi, Hamed Mughashghash (2012). Ginza Rabba: The Great Treasure. An equivalent translation of the Mandaean Holy Book. Drabsha.
  7. ^ Gelbert, Carlos (2011). Ginza Rba. Sydney: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034630.