Where are the dinosaurs?
Eqyptian Temple Kom Ombo, crocodile head
The Genesis account is the only of the ancient creation stories to comply with modern cosmology, and the scientific understanding of the sequential appearance of life on the planet Earth. Yet in my many discussions and debates regarding the Bible, some who question the veracity and divine inspiration of that Book, have said to me that the Scriptures know nothing of the dinosaurs. In the whole creation account, they claim, there is not a hint of the existence of those giant prehistoric beasts, which most certainly did exist at one time. But is it a fact that the Bible does not mention the dinosaurs? The original Hebrew may prove otherwise.
When Moses was upon the mount of God, standing before the burning bush, he lay his staff down before the Lord and it turned into a snake (Hebrew: nahash). Later, when Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh, Aaron lay his rod down and what did it become? Most would reply, “also a snake.” Even the great CB DeMille made that mistake in his depiction of the event in his epoch film The Ten Commandments. But in Exodus 7:8-12 there is a different Hebrew word than nahash used there, which is tannin, being crocodile. YHVH said that his purpose was, “I will Judge all the gods of Egypt,” and the god of Egypt’s lifeblood- the Nile River- was the crocodile god, Sobek. Thus Aaron’s rod became a crocodile and consumed all the crocodiles that Pharaoh’s magicians produced. The very next plague that would befall Egypt was the turning of the Nile’s water to blood, by the staff of Moses that had been turned into a snake (nahash) before the burning bush.
There is no word in ancient biblical Hebrew for reptile, but both the snake and the crocodile are reptiles. When we look at the first of the creatures that YHVH formed in the oceans in Genesis 1:21, we find in the English translation, “and God created the great sea monsters” (translated from the Greek dráko̱n– thus we find so often dragons depicted in unknown seas of ancient maps). But the Hebrew word there is taninim, the plural of tannin, which is crocodiles, or reptiles. But unlike any other of the later animals created, they are described as taninim gadolim- the great crocodiles, or great reptiles- like the ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, early aquatic reptiles. The first of the animal creation in the seas noted in Genesis on day 5 were the fish and the great reptiles- could that be indeed the earliest dinosaurs- the missing link, before the appearance of the Adam? Returning to the original Hebrew, there is a high probably and likelihood that it is.
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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.