תנים

(Psa 44:18)KJV Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;
(Psa 44:19) Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.

The word תנים tanim is translated "dragons" in the KJV translation above. However, modern translations use the meaning "jackals" instead of "dragons". Indeed, the word is a plural form that refers to animals that wailed (Mic 1:8) and lived in ruins of desolated cities (Is 13:22, Is 34:13, Jer 9:11 (9:10), Jer 10:22, Jer 49:33, Jer 51:37). That the animal was terrestrial can be seen also in Is 35:7 and Jer 14:6. The word is also mentioned in the context of land lacking water in Is 43:20. If the pointing symbols added by the Masoretes are considered, the first letter of תנים lacks the Daghesh Lene in Is 13:22, 34:13, 35:7. However, the meaning of the word does not seem to be different. Now, based on the plural form תנים, the root word תן can be inferred. Then, the plural form תנין tanin (not tanim) can be derived from תן based on the observation that the plural of masculine nouns ends sometimes with the Hebrew letter nun instead of mem, as noted in paragraph 87.e of the second English edition of Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. The form תנין tanin appears in the Kethib of Lam 4:3. In the context of Lam 4:3, it refers to female jackals.

The word תנים tanim is used with singular meaning in Eze 29:3 and Eze 32:2, where it refers to a large aquatic creature. The word תנינם taninim is the plural form of a class of aquatic creatures (Gen 1:21). The fact that it refers to a class of creatures and not to a specific animal could be inferred from Gen 1:21, which mentions התנינם הגדלים "the great taninim". Looking to Ex 7:10,12, it can be seen that the singular form of תנינם taninim is תנין tanin. This singular form appears in the context of the sea in Job 7:12 and Is 27:1. The plural form appears again in Ps 74:13 and Ps 148:7 in the context of waters, written however as תנינים instead of תנינם. Some of the תנינם taninim were not restricted to waters, for they are also mentioned in the context of the land in Ps 91:13 and Ex 7:9-12. Serpents would fit this description. However, the fact that other Hebrew words have been used with the meaning "serpent" could indicate that only some of the serpents might fit in the taninim category. Animals in the taninim category could swallow other animals (Ex 7:12, Jer 51:34) and could be harmful (De 32:33).

The word תנות tanot in Mal 1:3 has been associated with תנים "jackals". However, since there is no other passage indicating that the word תנות could mean "jackals" and the form תנות can be derived from the verb תנה tanah "to recount", it is natural to interpret the form תנות as coming from the verb תנה. In Mal 1:3, the form תנות appears in לתנות. We find again לתנות in Jdg 11:40, where תנות is parsed as the infinitive construct of the verb תנה "to recount". As for the verb תנה, the following remarks could be made. The form יתנו in Jdg 5:11 has been interpreted as a 3mp piel imperfect of תנה and has been translated "they shall recount", as in the NASB. While יתנו could also be parsed as a 3mp qal imperfect of נתן "to give", the meaning "to give" does not seem to fit well the context. (Indeed, note that in Jdg 5:11 we read יתנו צדקות יהוה and not יתנו צדקות ליהוה.) Moreover, a literal interpretation of Ps 8:1 (8:2) will imply that תנה is the verb used in אשר תנה הודך על השמים. Then, assuming a 3ms piel perfect form of the verb, אשר תנה הודך על השמים is translated "which recounteth thy glory above the heavens". The interpretation would be that the name of the Lord recounts the glory of the Lord, that is, all who consider his name are reminded of various aspects of the glory of the Lord. Moreover, "above the heavens" indicates that this statement refers to those who are above the heavens. In their ignorance, people on earth may not realize the glory of the Lord when they consider his name. However, as we can understand from Ps 8:1 (8:2), while God's name is so much better perceived above the heavens, it is majestic beyond words also in all the earth. Now, we find again the verb תנה in Jdg 11:40. If Jdg 11:40 were about a custom to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah, it could have included a phrase such as לתנות בת יפתח "to recount the daughter of Jephthah", just as in Ps 8:1 (8:2) we find תנה הודך and in Jdg 5:11 יתנו צדקות יהוה. However, what we find in Jdg 11:40 is not לתנות בת יפתח "to recount the daughter of Jephthah", but לתנות לבת יפתח "to recount to the daughter of Jephthah". Then, the verb תנה could refer to recounting various things to (that is, talking with) the daughter of Jephthah, who was probably confined most of the time or all the time to the location of the tabernacle, as she was offered to serve there (similarly to the manner Samuel was offered; about women ministering to the tabernacle, see Ex 38:8 and 1Sa 2:22). As for Mal 1:3, if לתנות is interpreted as involving the qal infinitive construct of the verb תנה, then the verse states that the dwelling places of Esau became a conversation topic. Their ruin, overthrow, and former condition became something to be recounted. Then, the ending of Mal 1:3 could be translated " ... and his inheritance for an opportunity to recount the history of the desert".


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