Jonah’s dag gadol, a Sea-Monster Associated with the Primeval Sea?


  • Allan Dyssel University of South Africa



big fish (dag gadol), sea-monster, mythical, deus ex machina, cosmology


The quest for the identity of the fish in the story of Jonah has been extraordinary. Many attempts have been made to identify known sea animals, with bodies and mouths large enough to swallow and harbour a human being. The whale seems to have been crowned the general best-fit solution. A few interpretations have veered to the mythological, with the fish being associated with creatures such as sea-monsters. None of these viewpoints convincingly identified the Jonah fish as a sea-monster associated with the primeval waters. The probability that dag gadol was a primeval sea-monster is investigated. How mythical creatures thrived in the milieu of the Jonah narrative and why these mythological creatures are absent from modern Bible translations is explored, as well as the dissonance of translators and interpreters not to endorse a foreign creature in the Old Testament. This article hopes to shed new light on the probable identity of Jonah’s fish.


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Author Biography

Allan Dyssel, University of South Africa

Completed doctorate - Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies. UNISA



How to Cite

Dyssel, Allan. 2019. “Jonah’s Dag Gadol, a Sea-Monster Associated With the Primeval Sea?”. Journal for Semitics 28 (2):18 pages.



Received 2018-07-31
Accepted 2019-07-24
Published 2019-12-02