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BADGER (תַּ֫חַשׁ, H9391, badgers’ skin KJV, sealskin ASV, goatskin RSV). This word is found in two connections only. 1. As a material used for covering the Tabernacle when erected (Exod 25:5 ff.) and the Ark of the Covenant when on the march (Num 4:6ff.). 2. For making sandals (Ezek 16:10) “I...shod you with leather” RSV (“badgers’ skins” KJV). The following facts are relevant: 1. It is generally agreed that these instructions were given near the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, which is desert. 2. The skins were of large size. The net area of the larger cover was approximately thirteen by forty-four ft., or 572 square ft.; here skins (pl.) are used, but the Ark (four by two and one half ft.) was to be covered for the journey by a skin (sing.). The use of sing. and pl. is consistent and therefore prob. significant. Few wild animals easily obtainable in the desert would provide big enough skins. 3. Ezekiel 16:10 infers that the material was valuable, for the context is embroidered cloth, fine linen, etc., but also that it was strong and used for leather, rather than only for ornament.

The third point above makes goatskin (RSV) most unlikely, while no suitable desert mammal can be suggested, so the most probable solution is a marine species. Various authorities have put forward the following: 1. Seal. The nearest is the monk seal of the Mediterranean. 2. Small whale. Several dolphins live in the Red Sea; their skin is unsuitable for making into leather and they are usually caught only by chance. 3. Dugong. This is the only truly marine species of the order Sirenia alive today. It was once plentiful in the Gulf of Aqaba and until early in the last cent. its skin was the standard material for making sandals in the E Sinai peninsula. An adult dugong is ten ft. long and one skin would easily cover the Ark. For the larger cover perhaps between twenty and thirty would be needed. On the evidence available dugong seems the most probable tr. It is entirely vegetarian, eating brown seaweeds, grasses, etc. The forelimbs have become paddles and the hind limbs have disappeared, so it is quite unable to leave the water. Dugongs are not truly sociable but go about in groups of up to six. Once found in warm coastal waters from the Red Sea to Australia, they are now much reduced in numbers because they have been hunted for food and, in some areas, are in danger of extinction.


F. S. Bodenheimer, Animals and Man in Bible Lands (1960) 52.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A seal, Monachus albiventer (Arabic fukmeh), the porpoise, Phocoena comrnunis, and the common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, are all found in the Mediterranean. The dugong, Halicore dugong, inhabits the Indian Ocean and adjoining waters from the Red Sea to Australia. The Arabic tukhas or dukhas is near to tachash and is applied to the dolphin, which is also called delfin. It may be used also for the porpoise or even the seal, and is said by Tristram and others to be applied to the dugong. The statement of Gesenius (Boston, 1850, under the word "tachash") that the Arabs of Sinai wear sandals of dugong skin is confirmed by recent travelers, and is of interest with reference to Eze 16:10, ".... shod thee with badgers’ skin" (King James Version). The dugong is a marine animal from 5 to 9 ft. in length, frequenting the shore and feeding upon seaweed. It belongs to the order Sirenia. While outwardly resembling Cetacea (whales and porpoises), the Sirenia are really more allied to the Ungulata, or hoofed animals. The dugong of the Indian Ocean and the manatee of the Atlantic and of certain rivers of Africa and South America, are the only living representatives of the Sirenia. A third species, the sea-cow of Behring Sea, became extinct in the 18th century. The seal and porpoise of the Revised Version (British and American), the dolphin, and the dugong are all of about the same size and all inhabit the seas bordering on Egypt and Sinai, so that all are possible candidates for identification with the tachash. Of the four, recent opinion seems most to favor the dugong.

Mr. S. M. Perlmann has suggested (Zoologist, set. 4, XII, 256, 1908) that the okapi is the animal indicated by tachash.

Gesenius (Leipzig, 1905) cites Bondi (Aegyptiaca, i. ff) who adduces the Egyptian root t-ch-s and makes the expression `or tachash mean "soft-dressed skin." This suits the context in every passage and is very promising explanation.

Alfred Ely-Day

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