Tannin (תַּנִּין)

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תַּנִּין (tannin, plural tanninim) means serpent, dragon, or sea monster.

and will kill Leviathan, the tannin (dragon) in the sea — but in the end the tanninim will praise him.

The "serpent at the bottom of the sea" in Amos 9:2-3 is a nahash, not a tannin.


Strong's Concordance "original word": תַּנִּין
Brown-Driver-Briggs: תַּנִּין (erroneous תַּנִּים)
Translated in OT as serpent(s), dragon, sea monster(s)

A modern writer's take: Serpents or Sea Monsters - The Tannin Mystery by Michael Jaron, Jerusalem Post opinion piece writer. (The illustration that is now missing at this link was a ferocious-looking reconstruction of Dunkleosteus terrelli, a species of Dunkelosteus.)


Tanninim תַּנִּינִ֖ם is the plural of tannin: dragons, sea monsters, or serpents.

  • The "great sea monsters" of Genesis 1:21 are tanninim (see below).
  • The miraculous serpents of Exodus 7 are tanninim.
Psalm 74:13
Psalm 148:7
Isaiah 51:9-10
Jeremiah 51:37

The Tanninim in Genesis 1:21

Of particular interest is the specific attention paid to the "great creatures of the sea" in verse 21. Here the author returns to the verb he has not used since verse 1, bara', and which will only be used again in this chapter in verse 27. This use raises the significance of these creatures. In the ancient world the cosmic seas were populated with creatures that operated against the ordered system. Whether antithesis or enemy, they were viewed as threats to order, as they inhabited the region that was itself outside of the ordered system. This is the very reason why the author of Genesis would single them out for comment. Since there is no cosmic warfare or conquest in Genesis as is sometimes part of the ancient Near East picture, the text indicates that these creatures are simply part of the ordered system, not enemies that had to be defeated and kept in check. In Genesis these creatures are fully under God's control.

John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, p.65
Comment by BP — True, "the writer returns to bara" but the tanninim are not the only objects of the verb.

The translation "whales" was referenced here (5.3.4) in our responses to the AACE discussion questions.

See Appropriation of ANE mythology.