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The meaning of Wild Beast in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

wild best: (1) ziz, only with sadhay, "field," in the expression, ziz sadhay, translated "wild beasts of the field" (Psalms 50:11; Psalms 80:13); compare Targum to Psalms 80:13, ziza', "worm" (BDB); Arabic ziz, "worm." (2) tsiyim (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39). (3) 'iyim (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39). (4) chay, "living thing," often translated "wild beast" in English Versions of the Bible (I Samuel 17:46, etc.). (5) In Apocrypha (Additions to Esther 16:24, etc.) and the New Testament (Mark 1:13), therion. (6) Acts 10:12 the King James Version; Acts 11:6, tetrapodon, the Revised Version (British and American) "four-rooted beast."

(1), (2) and (3) are of doubtful etymology, but the context makes it clear in each case that wild beasts of some sort are meant. The Targum ziza', "worm," is possible in Psalms 80:13, though not probable in view of the parallel "boar": "The boar out of the wood doth ravage it, and the wild beasts of the field feed on it," i.e. on the vine (figurative) brought out of Egypt. In Psalms 50:11, however, such an interpretation is out of the question. All the references from Psalms 50:8-13 are to large animals, bullocks, goats, cattle and birds. Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and the Septuagint have in Psalms 80:13 "wild beast" and in Psalms 50:11 "beauty of the field" (translated)!

Tsiyim, doubtfully referred to tsiydh, "drought," occurs in prophecies of the desolation of Babylon in Isaiah 13:21 ("wild beasts of the desert") and Jeremiah 50:39, of Edom in Isaiah 34:14, of Assyria in Isaiah 23:13 ("them that dwell in the wilderness"). It is associated in these passages with names of wild beasts and birds, some of them of very doubtful meaning, such as tannim, 'ochim, 'iyim, se'irim, benoth ya'anah. Wild beasts of some sort are clearly meant, though the kind can only be conjectured. The word occurs in Psalms 74:14 ("the people inhabiting the wilderness") where it is possible to understand "beasts" instead of people. It occurs also in Psalms 72:9 ("they that dwell in the wilderness"), where it seems necessary to understand "men." If the reading stands, it is not easy to reconcile this passage with the others.

'Iyim occurs in Isaiah 13:21 and Isaiah 34:14 and in Jeremiah 50:39, three of the passages cited for tsiyim. the King James Version referring to 'i, "island," renders "wild beasts of the islands" (Isaiah 13:22). the Revised Version (British and American) has "wolves," margin "howling creatures"; compare Arabic 'anwa', "to howl," and ibn-'awa' or wawi, "jackal."

See JACKAL.

Alfred Ely


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