“An Ancient Riddle”


"Adam God made out of dust, But thought it best to make me fust...." "My body God did make complete But without arms or legs or feet...." "Now when these lines you slowly read, Go search your Bible with all speed, For that my name's recorded there."


Huntington's version of this riddle is ten stanzas long, although nearly all the useful information is quoted in the description above. (The one other useful fact is that "to fallen men I give great light," referring to the light given by burning oil.) The rest is theological discussion. The answer is a whale or whales.

Ironically, whales are not really mentioned in the Bible. The King James version uses the word "whale" three times in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:21, Job 7:12, Ezek. 32:2), but the modern versions translate this more correctly as "sea monster."

Thus the only correct instance of the word "whale" in the English Bible is in Matthew 12:40. The Greek word does refer to a whale, but it is an allusion to the Greek version of the Book of Jonah, which incorrectly translates the Hebrew word for "fish" as "whale" (Jonah 2:1, 2, 11; the same word is used in the Greek of Gen. 1:21, Job 3:8, 9:13, 26:12, Sirach 43:25, Daniel 3:79, 3 Macc. 6:8). And even this word means "sea monster" as well as "whale." - RBW


  1. Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 282-285, "An Ancient Riddle" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #2079
  3. BI, SWMS282


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1853 (Journal from the Smyrna)
Keywords: riddle nonballad whale
Found in: US(Ap)