Abstract

Fabulous Creatures in Ancient Jewish Traditions

Meir Bar-Ilan

This paper will discuss a "group" of fabulous creatures and monsters known from Jewish tradition, from the Bible, the Talmud and medieval sources.

There are a few fabulous creature in the Bible, such as 'Leviatan - Nehash - Bariah' (Isa. 27:1), or 'Behemot' (Job 40:15-24). One may add the 'Cherubim' (Gen. 3:24) also or even the creature that Ezekiel saw (Ez. 10:14). Together with the beast which Daniel saw in his dream (Dan. 7:1-8) they seem to be hybrids of different animals. In the Bible one may find also 'Giants' (Deut. 3:11) and people with six fingers on each hand.

In the Pseudapocrypha the sphinx (3 Baruch 6:1-13) and other hybrids and giant animals (2 Enoch 6) are mentioned. The dragon (derived from the Septuagint) is known from the additions to Daniel.

In Talmudic literature there are a few more creatures: Ziz and Bar-Yohani (two giant birds), and there are legends of Biblical creatures. Giant sea-dragons left their impressions on the sages, a giant buffalo and Unicorn. A special hybrid was the 'Koy' (or: 'Kewi'), and the sages knew of Capricorn, Centaurs and other legendary creatures as can be seen in the reliefs on the walls of ancient synagogues. Sirens played an halakhic role (depending whether it was a human being or an animal).

These traditions as well as legends concerning fabulous creatures demonstrate Jewish concepts of zoology.

A bibliography for monsters and fabulous creatures is added.

The electronic address of this file is:
https://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/absmonst.html

last updated: June 22, 1996 - December 2002