Originally a mythical name designating the abyss or the sea; subsequently applied to Egypt. Job 9:13 and 26:12 indicate that it is an alternative for “Tiamat,” the Babylonian name of the dragon of darkness and chaos; Psalms 89:9 also indicates that “Rahab” is a name applied to the sea-monster, the dragon. According to a sentence preserved in the Talmud, “Rahab” is the name of the demon, the ruler of the sea (“Sar shel Yam”; B. B. 74b). It is used as a designation for Egypt in Psalms 87:4 and Isaiah 30:7. Similarly, in Isaiah 51:9, which alludes to the exodus from Egypt, the destruction of Pharaoh is described as a smiting of the great sea-monster Rahab or the dragon Tannin. The juxtaposition of “Rahab” and “Tannin” in this passageexplains why “Rahab” was used as a designation for Egypt, which was otherwise called “Tannin” (see Ezekiel 29:3, Hebr.). It must be noted that the Jewish exegetes deprived the word “Rahab” of its mythological character, and explained it as merely an equivalent for “arrogance,” “noise,” or “tumult”—applied both to the roaring of the sea and to the arrogant noisiness and proud boasting of the Egyptians (comp. Abraham ibn Ezra on Psalms 87:4 and 89:9).
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Author: Jewish Encyclopedia
Source: Isidore Singer (editor), The Jewish Encyclopedia (12 Volumes), (1906).
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