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Yahweh speaks to Moses and Aaron conjointly. (Compare Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 15:1.) The high priest, in regard to the legal purifications, is treated as co-ordinate with the legislator.
Rather, “These are the animals which ye may eat out of all the beasts;” that is, out of the larger creatures, the quadrupeds, as distinguished from birds and reptiles. See Genesis 1:24. Of quadrupeds, those only might be eaten which completely divided the hoof and chew the cud Leviticus 11:3-8.
Parteth ... - Rather, is clovenfooted and completely separates the hoofs.
Divideth not the hoof - The toes of the camel are divided above, but they are united below in a sort of cushion or pad resting upon the hard bottom of the foot, which is “like the sole of a shoe.” The Moslems eat the flesh of the camel, but it is said not to be wholesome.
The coney - The Old English name for a rabbit. The animal meant is the Hyrax Syriacus. It bears some resemblance to the guinea-pig or the marmot, and in its general appearance and habits Proverbs 30:26; Psalms 104:18, it might easily be taken for a rodent. But Cuvier discovered that it is, in its anatomy, a true pachyderm, allied to the rhinoceros and the tapir, inferior to them as it is in size.
He cheweth the cud - The Hyrax has the same habit as the hare, the rabbit, the guinea-pig, and some other rodents, of moving its jaws when it is at rest as if it were masticating. The rodents were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals, just as the bat was reckoned among birds because it flies (see Leviticus 11:19), and as whales and their congeners are spoken of as fish, when there is no occasion for scientific accuracy.
He divide the hoof ... - It is cloven-footed and completely, etc. See Leviticus 11:3 note. Of all the quadrupeds of which the Law forbids the flesh to be eaten, the pig seems to have been regarded as the most unclean. Compare the marginal references. Several other nations have agreed with the Hebrews in this respect: the reason being that its flesh is unwholesome, especially in warm climates.
Any fish, either from salt water or fresh, might be eaten if it had both scales and fins. but no other creature that lives in the waters. Shellfish of all kinds, whether mollusks or crustaceans, and cetaceous animals, were therefore prohibited, as well as fish which appear to have no scales, like the eel; probably because they were considered unwholesome, and (under certain circumstances) found to be so.
As far as they can be identified, the birds here mentioned are such as live upon animal food. They were those which the Israelites might have been tempted to eat, either from their being easy to obtain, or from the example of other nations, and which served as types of the entire range of prohibited kinds.
The eagle - Rather, the great vulture, which the Egyptians are known to have ranked as the first among birds. Compare 2 Samuel 1:23; Psalms 103:5; Proverbs 23:5, etc.
The Ossifrage, or bone-breaker, was the lammer-geyer, and the “ospray” (a corruption of ossifrage) the sea-eagle.
The vulture - Rather, the (black) kite Isaiah 34:15 : “the kite,” rather the red kite, remarkable for its piercing sight Job 28:7.
Every raven after his kind - i. e. the whole family of corvidae.
And the owl ... - Rather, “and the ostrich, and the owl, and the gull, and the hawk,” etc.
The swan - More probably the ibis, the sacred bird of the Egyptians. “The gier eagle” is most likely the Egyptian vulture, a bird of unprepossessing appearance and disgusting habits, but fostered by the Egyptians as a useful scavenger.
The heron ... the lapwing - Rather, the great plover the hoopoe, so called from its peculiar cry.
Rather, “All creeping things which have wings,” etc. The word rendered creeping things may be regarded as coextensive with our word vermin. It is derived from a verb which signifies not only to creep, but to teem, or bring forth abundantly Genesis 1:21; Genesis 8:17; Exodus 8:3; Psalms 105:30, and so easily came to denote creatures which are apt to abound, to the annoyance of mankind.
Legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth - The families of the Saltatoria, of which the common cricket, the common grasshopper, and the migratory locust, may be taken as types.
In the uncertainty of identifying these four creatures, it has been suggested that some of the names may belong to locusts in an imperfect state of development. Most modern versions have taken a safer course than our translators, by retaining the Hebrew names.
Unclean - If the due purification was omitted at the time, through negligence or forgetfulness, a sin-offering was required. See Leviticus 5:2.
The identification of “the creeping things” here named is not always certain. They are most likely those which were occasionally eaten. For the “Tortoise” read “the great lizard,” for the “ferret” the “gecko” (one of the lizard tribe), for the “chameleon” read the “frog” or the Nile lizard: by the word rendered “snail” is probably meant another kind of lizard, and by the “mole” the “chameleon.”
Earthen vessel - See the marginal references.
See Leviticus 2:4. The word rendered “ranges for pots” has been conjectured to mean either an excavated fireplace, fitted to receive a pair of ovens, or a support like a pair of andirons.
Whatsoever goeth upon the belly - i. e. all footless reptiles, and mollusks, snakes of all kinds, snails, slugs, and worms. “Whatsoever goeth upon all four;” i. e. “creeping things,” or vermin; such as the weasel, the mouse or the lizard. Whatsoever hath more feet; i. e. all insects, except the locust family (Leviticus 11:22 note), myriapods, spiders, and caterpillars.
These verses set forth the spiritual ground on which the distinction between clean and unclean is based. Compare the marginal references and Leviticus 10:10; Leviticus 20:25-26; 1 Peter 1:15-16.
The basis of the obligation to maintain the distinction was the call of the Hebrews to be the special people of Yahweh. It was to he something in their daily life to remind them of the covenant which distinguished them from the nations of the world. By Jesus Christ it was revealed Matthew 15:11 to the elect people that they were no longer to he tied by the letter of the Law in regard to their food, but were to be left to the exercise of a regenerated judgment. They were to learn that the kingdom of God is not eating, or abstaining from, meats and drinks; but righteousness, and truth, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17. Compare Acts 10:15; 1 Timothy 4:4).
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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