CROCODILE (Heb. תַּנִּיך or תַּנִּים), the largest surviving reptile, with a length of as much as 23 feet (7 m.) or more. The tannim or tannin of the Bible refers to the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and also to gigantic mythological animals said to have rebelled at the time of the creation against their Creator and hence to have been punished with extinction (Isa. 51:9; Ps. 74:13–14; Job 7:12); similar myths are found also in Ugaritic epics. The reference may be to prehistoric reptiles, remains of whose bones have been uncovered in various places in the Middle East region and which may have stirred the imagination of the ancients and formed the basis of these legends. Footprints of a prehistoric reptile have been discovered at Bet Zayit in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Tannim also refers to another gigantic, non-reptilian animal, the whale (cf. Lam. 4:3), usually called leviathan , which word, however, also denotes a crocodile, as in Job 40:25–41:26, where the description, although poetical and mythical, applies to a crocodile. Thus, it is stated there that the leviathan has a tongue, a nose, enormous teeth, and shining eyes. Its head and neck are covered with protective scales impenetrable to spears. It is fearless and attacks every other animal. Mention is also made there of a bird that plays with it and of the covenant between them: this may refer to the crocodile plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) which pecks at the throat and teeth of the crocodile. This reptile was sacred to the Egyptians; hundreds of embalmed crocodiles have been found in cemeteries specially set aside for them. Plutarch relates that the Egyptians ascribed to them powers of prescience in that the female lays its eggs on the high water mark of the Nile. As it was a sacred animal, the Egyptians protected it, and it multiplied undisturbed in the country's waters. The sign performed by Aaron with his rod which became a tannin – a crocodile – (Ex. 7:9–10) may have been intended as a protest against its sanctity. Ezekiel calls Pharaoh king of Egypt "the great tannim that lieth in the midst of his rivers" (Ezek. 29:3; cf. Isa. 27:1), while Jeremiah (51:34) likens   the king of Babylonia to a crocodile that preys on human beings. No longer found in the Nile, the crocodile is at present indigenous only in Central Africa. At the end of the 19th century crocodiles were still found in Ereẓ Israel, and a river in the Sharon is called Naḥal ha-Tanninim. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lewysohn, Zool, 220 no. 271; F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 65; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 94–95. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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