The meaning of Antelope in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
an'-te-lop (RV; the King James Version "wild ox," te'o (Deuteronomy 14:5), and "wild bull," to (Isaiah 51:20); orux (The Septuagint in Codex Vaticanus has hos seutlion hemiephthon, literally, "like a half-cooked beet-root"): The dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is widely distributed in Syria, Palestine and Arabia. The recently discovered Merrill's gazelle (Gazella Merrilli) inhabits the hilly country near Jerusalem and is not commonly distinguished from the dorcas gazelle. Probably the only other antelope within this range is the Arabian oryx (Oryx beatrix). Tristram cites two African species (the bubaline antelope, Bubalis mauretanica, and the addax, Addax nasomaculatus) as existing in the Sinaitic peninsula, southern Palestine and Arabia, but he did not collect specimens of either and was probably misled by statements of the Arabs which in both cases really referred to the oryx. The only naturalist who has ever penetrated into Northwest Arabia is Mr. Douglas Carruthers, who went in 1909 on a collecting expedition for the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, his object being to obtain the oryx and any other large antelopes which might be found there. Through observation and repeated inquiry he became convinced that neither the addax nor the bubaline antelope is found in Arabia. Tristram says the addax is called maha' and the bubaline antelope baqar-ul-wachsh, both of which names are in fact used by the Arabs for the oryx, which is also according to Doughty called wadichah.
Tsebhi in the list of clean animals in Deuteronomy 14:5 (the King James Version "roebuck"; the Revised Version (British and American) "gazelle") is quite certainly gazelle, Arabic zabi (which see), so it is quite possible that te'o may be the oryx. It is noteworthy that it is rendered oryx (orux) in the Septuagint. It must be borne in mind that re'm or re'em, rendered "unicorn" (which see) in the King James Version and "wild ox" in the Revised Version (British and American), may perhaps also be the oryx. That the oryx should be called by two names in the Bible need not be considered strange, in view of the indefiniteness of Semitic ideas of natural history, which is directly evidenced by the three names now used for this animal by the Arabs.
The slightly different form [to'] (the King James Version "wild bull"; the Revised Version (British and American) "antelope") found in Isaiah 51:20 ("Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an antelope in a net") may quite as well refer to the oryx as to any other animal. According to Gesenius the word is derived from the verb ta'ah, "to outrun," which would be appropriate for this or any antelope.
The accompanying illustration is from a photograph of a well-grown female oryx in the zoological gardens at Cairo, which is 35 inches high at the shoulder and whose horns are 21 inches long. An adult male measures 40 inches at the shoulders, 59 inches from tip of nose to root of tail, and the longest horns known measure 27 1/4 inches. The color is pure white with dark brown or black markings. It is a powerful animal and its horns may inflict dangerous wounds. It inhabits the deserts of Arabia and its remarkably large hoofs seem well adapted to traversing the sands. It feeds upon grasses and upon certain succulent roots, and the Bedouin declare that never drinks. Under its name of maha' it is celebrated in Arabic poetry for the beauty of its eyes. Compare the Homeric "ox-eyed goddess Hera" (Boopis potnia Ere). Baqar-ul-wachsh, the name most commonly used by the Bedouin, means "wild cow" or "wild ox," which is identical with the translation of te'o in the King James Version.
Alfred Ely Day
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