🔼The name Thahash in the Bible
Thahash (or Tahash) is the name of one of four sons of Abraham's brother Nahor with his concubine Reumah (Genesis 22:24). It is also a designation for a creature, the hides of which were to cover the tabernacle. The question is: what creature is it?
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Thahash
The Arabic cognate of our word is tuhas and means dolphin. NIV translates sea cow. NAS reads porpoise. KJV21 reads badger.
The word occurs 14 times in Scriptures: Exodus 25:5, 26:14, 35:7; 35:23, 36:19, 39:34; Numbers 4:6, 4:8, 4:10, 4:11, 4:12, 4:14 4:25, and Ezekiel 16:10. All occurrences, except for the last one mentioned, speak of the hides of the thahash that were to cover the tabernacle, and in the Ezekiel verse, the sandals of a woman are made from these hides. In that chapter, God sings the praises of Israel and compares her to a woman whom He made beautiful. It stands to reason that the sandals with which He dressed her, are related to the outer covering of the tabernacle, which would make perfect sense if we take these findings to Ephesians 6:15, "And having shod your feet with the preparation [in Greek: hetoimasia, meaning base/foundation] of the gospel of peace". The tabernacle, after all, is exactly that: the base of the gospel.
Which leaves the pressing question: what on earth is a thahash? HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament takes a practical approach and reminds the reader of a dolphin's waterproofness. But since the tabernacle is one big festival of symbols (and the tahash hides the outer and most visible one), it would probably be more interesting what association any common Hebrew passer-by would have had while whispering the word thahash.
The outer covering of the tabernacle consisted of an inner layer made from ram skins and an outer layer of thahash skins, and the tabernacle was only entered by the priests. Later, the tabernacle evolved into the temple, and later still into the Body of Christ, and the outer court of the tabernacle complex came to encompass the whole world. The connection to the ram skins is obvious in all the various translocated suffering scenes (Genesis 22:13, Leviticus 5:15 to Isaiah 53:7 and Revelation 5:12); the thahash skins must denote something that follows the suffering of the Christ, and has to do with the resurrection and the formation of Ecclesia. That is curious, because the first time that a covering with animal skins occurred, was at the expulsion from Eden: Adam, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam a life giving spirit". (1 Corinthians 15:45 — see for an extensive treatment of this event our commentary on Genesis 2:7).
Perhaps there was a poetic connection between marine animals and birds to the Hebrews. Both seem weightless in their realm and both are quick and out of reach. In Hebrew symbolism, angels, which are spirit-beings, are equipped with bird-like wings. Perhaps (and this is bold conjecture) marine creatures were seen as adjacent to birds (they were, after all, created on the same day: day five). Perhaps the outer thahash membrane reminded the Hebrews of their imminent fate: to be a collective spiritual being.
The letter taw, with which our word begins, occurs often in front of roots to amplify it (or mathematically spoken, it sometimes functions as an integral-symbol). The word that this letter is amplifying in our word is then hash, which may be related to חוש (hush), meaning to hurry:
It seems likely that the thahash was a dolphin, to the Hebrews known as a Hurrier.
The prophet Isaiah paints the glory of the New Creation, which Jesus establishes, and of which the tabernacle was the initial symbol, "Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified. The smallest one will become a clan, and the least one a mighty nation. I, the Lord, will hasten — חוש (hush) — it in its time". (Isaiah 60:21-22).
An additional note: The eastern direction was also known as the past in a temporal sense. The Mediterranean Sea, the western barrier of Israel, may have reminded the Hebrews of the fluidity of the future, and any creature living in it as prophetic.