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JACKAL. (שׁוּעָל, H8785, jackal ASV, RSV, dragon KJV, see Dragon for discussion). Modern authorities seem agreed that ASV and RSV tr. is correct. In addition, RSV twice tr. “jackal” where KJV tr. “fox” (Ps 63:10; Lam 5:18). It is notable that all references to jackals are obviously fig., whereas foxes are several times mentioned literally. Jackals are related to foxes and even more closely to domestic dogs, for with them they belong to the genus Canis. The Pal. species is the oriental jackal (Canis aureus), with head and body between twenty-four and thirty inches in length, and a tail of up to twelve inches; its color is a dirty yellow mixed with reds and blacks. Jackals usually go about in packs of up to a dozen, feeding mostly at night, and it is interesting that in all cases the Heb. word is pl. The jackal is basically a scavenger, living rather as a hyena in game country, where it can clean up after the larger carnivores have killed. In contrast, the fox is more solitary, feeding on a wide range of vegetable matter and small animals, and taking less refuse than the jackal. Several times it is prophesied that lands, like Babylon and Edom, shall become the haunt of jackals, and in the RSV the jackal is almost a symbol of desolation. More than half of the passages (twelve out of eighteen) have this theme. To the casual observer foxes and jackals look similar, and it is possible that they were often given the same name. See Fox.


J. G. Wood, Bible Animals (1869).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(2) ’iyim, "wolves," the King James Version "wild beasts of the islands"; compare ’i, plural iyim, "island"; also ’ayyah, "a cry," ’awah, "to cry," "to howl"; Arabic `auwa’, "to bark" (of dogs, wolves, or jackals); ’ibn ’awa’, colloquially wawi, "jackal."

(3) tsiyim, "wild beasts of the desert."

(4) ’ochim, "doleful creatures."

The jackal (from Persian shaghal), Canis aureus, is found about the Mediterranean except in Western Europe. It ranges southward to Abyssinia, and eastward, in Southern Asia, to farther India. It is smaller than a large dog, has a moderately bushy tail, and is reddish brown with dark shadings above. It is cowardly and nocturnal. Like the fox, it is destructive to poultry, grapes, and vegetables, but is less fastidious, and readily devours the remains of others’ feasts. Jackals generally go about in small companies. Their peculiar howl may frequently be heard in the evening and at any time in the night. It begins with a high-pitched, long-drawn-out cry. This is repeated two or three times, each time in a higher key than before. Finally there are several short, loud, yelping barks. Often when one raises the cry others join in. Jackals are not infrequently confounded with foxes. They breed freely with dogs.

While tannim is the only word translated "jackal" in English Versions of the Bible, the words ’iyim, tsiyim, and ’ochim deserve attention. They, as well as tannim, evidently refer to wild creatures inhabiting desert places, but it is difficult to say for what animal each of the words stands. All four (together with benoth ya`anah and se`irim) are found in Isa 13:21,22: "But wild beasts of the desert (tsiyim) shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures (’ochim); and ostriches (benoth ya`anah) shall dwell there, and wild goats (se`irim) shall dance there. And wolves (’iyim) shall cry in their castles, and jackals (tannim) in the pleasant palaces."

In the King James Version ’iyim (Isa 13:22; 34:14; Jer 50:39) is translated "wild beasts of the islands" (compare ’iyim, "islands"). the King James Version margin has merely the transliteration iim, the Revised Version (British and American) "wolves," the Revised Version margin "howling creatures." Gesenius suggests the jackal, which is certainly a howler. While the wolf has a blood-curdling howl, it is much more rarely heard than the jackal.

’Ochim, "doleful creatures," perhaps onomatopoetic, occurs only in Isa 13:21. The translation "owls" has been suggested, and is not unsuitable to the context.

It is not impossible that tannim and ’iyim may be different names of the jackals. ’Iyim, tsiyim, and tannim occur together also in Isa 34:13,14, and ’iyim and tsiyim in Jer 50:39. Their similarity in sound may have much to do with their collocation. The recognized word for "wolf," ze’ebh (compare Arabic dhi’b), occurs 7 times in the Old Testament.

See Dragon; Wolf; ZOOLOGY.

See also

  • Animals