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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Hyena

(ὕαινα , Sirach 13:18) does not occur in the A.V. of the canonical Scriptures, but is probably denoted by צָבוּע(tsabu'a, streaked or ravenous, only Jeremiah 12:9; so Sept. ὕαινα, but Vulg. avis discolor, and Auth. Vers. "speckled bird"), as the context and parallelism of the preceding verse require; an identification disputed by some, on the ground that the animal is not mentioned by ancient authors as occurring in Western Asia before the Macedonian conquest, and was scarcely known by name even in the time of Pliny; it has since been ascertained, however, that in Romaic or modern Greek the word krokalos and glanos have been substituted for the ancient term hyena, and that the animal is still known in those regions by names cognate with the Hebrew (see Ruppel, Abyss. 1, 227; Shaw, Tray. 154; Kimpfer, Anasen. 411 sq.; Russell's Alfppo, 2, 65 sq.; comp. Pliny, 8, 44; 11, 67). The only other instance in which it occurs is as a proper name, Zeboim (1 Samuel 13:18, "the valley of hyenas," Aquila; Nehemiah 11:34). (See ZEBOIM).

The Talmudical writers describe the hyena by no less than four names, of which tsabua is one (Lewysohn, Zool. § 119). Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 163 sq.) and Taylor (continuation of Calmet) have indicated what is probably the true meaning in the above passage in Jeremiah, of עִיַט צָבוּעִ, ait tsabua, the striped rusher, i.e. the hyena, turning round upon his lair-introduced after an allusion in the previous verse to the lion calling to the beasts of the field (other hyenas and jackals) to come and devour. This allusion, followed up as it is by a natural association of ideas with a description of the pastor, feeder, or rather consumer or devourer of the vineyard, treading down and destroying the vines, renders the natural and poetical picture complete; for the hyena seeks burrows and caverns for a lair; like the dog, it turns round to lie down; howls, and occasionally acts in concert; is loathsome, savage, insatiable in appetite, offensive in smell, and will, in the season, like canines, devour grapes. The hyena was common in ancient as in modern Egypt, and is constantly depicted on monuments (Wilkinson, 1, 213, 225); it must, therefore, have been well known to the Jews, as it is now very common in Palestine, where it is the last and most complete scavenger of carrion (Wood, Bible Animals, p. 62 sq.). Though cowardly in his nature, the hyena is very savage when once he attacks, and the strength of his jaws is such that he can crunch the thigh-bone of an ox (Livingstone's Travels, p 600).

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"Tsabua, therefore, we consider proved to be, generically, the hyena; more specifically, the Canis hyaena of Linn., the Hyena vulgaris of more recent naturalists, the food of Barbary, the dub, dubbah, dabah, zabah, and kaftaar of modern Shemitic nations; and, if the ancients understood anything by the word, it was also their trochus. The striped species is one of three or four-all, it seems, originally African, and, by following armies and caravans, gradually spread over Southern Asia to beyond the Ganges, though not as yet to the east of the Bramapootra. It is now not uncommon in Asia Minor, and has extended into Southern Tartar; but this progress is comparatively so recent that no other than Shemitic names are-well known to belong to it. The head and jaws of all the species are broad and strong. the muzzle truncated; the tongue like a rasp; the teeth robust, large, and eminently formed for biting, lacerating, and reducing the very bone; the neck stiff; the body short and compact; the limbs tall, with only four toes on each foot; the fur coarse, forming a kind of semi-erectile mane along the back; the tail rather short, with an imperfect brush, and with a fetid pouch beneath it. In stature the species varies from that of a large wolf to much less. Hyenas are not bold in comparison with wolves, or in proportion to their powers. They do not in general, act collectively; they prowl chiefly in the night; attack asses, dogs, and weaker animals; feed most willingly on corrupt animal offal, dead camels, etc.; and dig into human graves that are not well protected with stakes and brambles. The striped species is of a dirty ashy buff, with some oblique black streaks across the shoulders and body, and numerous cross-bars on the legs; the muzzle and throat are black, and the tip of the tail white." (See Pliny Cyclopedia, s.v.) (See JACKAL); (See WOLF); (See BEAR).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hyena'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/hyena.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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