Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 1

Translations from Talmudic and Zoharic Sources

A SEA MONSTERS AND BATTLES (BT Baba Batra 74b-75a)

'And God created the great sea-monsters (tanninim)' (Gen. 1: 21). Here (in Babylon) they translated: sea gazelles. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This refers to Leviathan the slant serpent and Leviathan the twisting serpent, as it says: 'On that day YHWH will punish with His harsh (and great and strong) sword (Leviathan the slant serpent and Leviathan the twisting serpent)' (Isa. 27: 1). (Mnemonic:) 'All', 'Time', 'Jordan'.

I Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rab: All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world He created male and female. Even Leviathan the slant serpent and Leviathan the twisting serpent He created male and female; and had they mated with one another they would have destroyed the whole world. (So) what did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He castrated the male and killed the female, preserving her in salt for the righteous in the world to come; as it is said: 'And he will slay the dragon (tannin) in the sea' (Isa. 27: 1). And also 'Behemoth on a thousand hills' (Ps. 50: 10) He created male and female; and had they mated with one another they would have destroyed the whole world. (So) what did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He castrated the male and cooled the female and preserved her for the righteous in the world to come; as it is said: 'Behold, his strength is in his loins' (Job 40: 16)—this refers to the male, 'and his force is in the muscles of his belly' (ibid.)—this refers to the female.

—There also (in the case of Leviathan), He should have castrated the male and cooled the female; (so why did he kill her)?—Fish are dissolute. Why then did He not do the opposite (and kill the male and preserve the female)?—If you want, say: Because it is written: 'There is Leviathan whom You have created to sport with' (Ps. 104: 26); and with a female this is not proper. Then here also (regarding Behemoth) He should have preserved the female in salt.—Salted fish is tasty; salted meat is not. 1

II And R. Yehudah said (further) in the name of Rab: When the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to create the world, He said to the Prince of (the) Sea (Yam): 2 'Open your mouth and swallow all the waters in the world'. He (Sea) said to Him (God): 'It is enough that I stay with my own. Thereupon, He kicked him with His foot and killed him; as it is said: 'with His power He stilled Sea (Yam), and with His skill He smote Rahab' (Job 26: 12).

—R. Yitzḥaq said: From this we infer that the name of the Prince of (the) Sea is Rahab, and had the waters not covered him no creature could have stood his (foul) odour; as it is said: 'They shall do neither harm nor hurt on all My holy mountain, etc., as the waters cover the sea' (Isa. 11: 9). Do not read 'cover the sea (la-yam)' but 'cover the Prince of (the) Sea' (Saro shel Yam).

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