Bible References to Ziz: Road or Mythical Monster?

Aside from being a fun word to pronounce for speakers of modern English, Ziz is an actual place that appears in the Bible. However, there is more to the story than Bible references to Ziz.

Ziz also appears as one of the mythical creatures in Jewish lore. Let’s look at Ziz as a place, high priestly breastplate, and giant griffin-like bird of Jewish mythology.

Ziz: An Ancient Road in the Bible

The Bible references to Ziz in the Old Testament: “Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel” (2 Chronicles 20:16). 

If you love serious bible study using maps, here’s your chance! Ziz is a mountain pass used during marauding expeditions by the Ammonites, a horde of Moabites, and Meunites. They used the actual ascent of Ziz to attack Jerusalem during the reign of King Jehoshaphat.

The context suggests that the pass was a strategic link between Jerusalem and En Gedi. The cliff of Ziz rises on the western shores of the Dead Sea in the wilderness of Judea (2 Chronicles 20:2). The end of the valley (or wadi) is associated with the ascent of Ziz. It lays east of the wilderness of Judah and the wilderness of Tekoa. 

In present day Israel, Ziz is specifically associated with a military road. It is located east of the wilderness of Jeruel constructed during the Israelite monarchic period. The present steep pass winds for more than a mile, covering less than half a mile “as the crow flies.” 


Ziz and the High Priest’s Breastplate

The second way that the Bible references to Ziz relates to the clergy. Biblical texts go into elaborate detail regarding the high priest’s required dress as he served God. Above all it differed from an ordinary priest’s dress in both content and level of elaborate ornament. 

The “ziz” was a golden plate fastened to the high priest’s “mitre.” The mitre (or headgear) was shaped like the inverted calyx of a flower. The ziz was attached by two ribbons of blue lace (symbolizing royalty). The ziz was two fingers wide and reached from temple to temple.

Interestingly, the word “ziz” also means flower. The golden plate called a “ziz” was fastened to the high priest’s headgear which was shaped like a flower. 


Ziz in Jewish Mythology

Like American folklore, Jewish oral traditions provide fascinating study. Primordial beasts are common in ancient writing. They provide great stories around a nighttime campfire! Early Christians likely heard these stories of Jewish mythology. 

Three great beasts are mentioned in the Bible and Jewish mythology. There are references to a beast of the sea, a beast of the land, and a beast of the air. Each primordial creature could fill fascinating bible stories. 

Ziz is allegedly the beast in the animal kingdom that ruled over creatures of the air. It appears under two interchangeable names in the Bible. Ziz is also known as Bar Yochnei. It is mentioned in the original Hebrew in Psalm 80:14 (though generally lost in the English translation)

It is unclear who or what is referenced as the “Ziz” in the Hebrew biblical text However, Jewish sages understood Ziz to be a giant bird. Ziz was so big that its wingspan could block out the sun. The Talmud tells the story of an egg of Ziz so big that its contents drowned sixty cities and broke 300 cedar trees. 

The most famous beast in the Old Testament is Leviathan (or twisting serpent of the water). Leviathan represents evil. It could be terrifying to a group of travelers on the sea. And it could shock a child of God with a limited understanding of the Bible, Leviathan represents evil. 


Bottom Line

There is no mention of Ziz in the Apocrypha books. Ziz does not appear in any teaching of Jesus, or in the history of the patriarchs. However, a quick bible search feature reveals that Ziz is mentioned in one verse in the original King James version of the Bible.

It’s fun to take a field trip outside of traditional Bible lessons to hear stories of giant mythical birds and a fleeing serpent. Perhaps one day you will visit Israel for a quick drive along the ascent of Ziz!

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About the Author

Donna is a sought-after speaker, multi-published author, and Bible teacher. Her path from unchurched to becoming passionate about sharing Jesus was difficult. Read about her God-breathed journey: “From Unchurched to Becoming a Multi-Published Author and Sought-After Speaker.” If you want to send Donna a quick message, visit her here.

Donna Snow in Israel

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