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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 11

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,

The Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron. These laws being addressed to both the civil and ecclesiastical rulers in Israel, may serve to indicate the twofold view that is to be taken of them. Undoubtedly the first and strongest reason for instituting a distinction among meats was to discourage the Israelites from spreading into other countries, and from general contact with the world-to prevent them acquiring familiarity with the inhabitants of the countries bordering on Caanan, so as to fall into their idolatries, or be contaminated with their vices; in short, to keep them a distinct and special people, by raising a broad and impassable wall of opposite customs.

To this purpose no difference of creed, no system of polity, no diversity of language or manners was so subservient as a distinction of meats, founded on religion; and hence, the Jews, who were taught by education to abhor many articles of food freely partaken of by other people, never, even at periods of great degeneracy, could amalgamate with the nations among which they were dispersed.

But although this was the principal foundation of these laws, dietetic reasons also had weight; because there is no doubt that the flesh of many of the animals here ranked as unclean is everywhere, but especially in warm climates, less wholesome and adapted for food than those which are allowed to be eaten-apt to stimulate gross and sensual passions, and to foster coarse tastes as well as degrading habits. These laws, therefore, being subservient to sanatory as well as religious ends, were addressed both to Moses and Aaron.

Verse 2

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 3-7

Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.

Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud. Ruminating animals, by the special structure of their stomachs, digest their food more fully than others. It is found that in the act of chewing the cud a large portion of the poisonous properties of noxious plants eaten by them passes off by the salivary glands. This power of secreting the poisonous effects of vegetables is said to be particularly remarkable in cows and goats, whose mouths are often sore, and sometimes bleed, in consequence. Their flesh is therefore in a better state for food, as it contains more of the nutritious juices, and is more easily digested in the human stomach, and is consequently more easily assimilates. Animals which do not chew the cud convert their food less perfectly: their flesh is therefore unwholesome, from the gross animal juices with which they abound, and is apt to produce scorbutic and scrofulous disorders.

But the animals that may be eaten are those which 'part the hoof as well as chew the cud;' and this is another means of freeing the flesh of the animal from noxious substances. 'In the case of animals with parted hoofs, when feeding in unfavourable situations, a prodigious amount of foetid matter is discharged, and passes off between the toes; while animals with undivided hoofs, feeding on the same ground, become severely affected in the legs, from the poisonous plants among the pasture' (Whitelaw's 'Code of Health'). All experience attests this, and accordingly the use of ruminating animals-that is, which both chew the cud and part the hoof-has always obtained in most countries, though it was observed most carefully by the people who were favoured with the promulgation of God's law.

Verse 4. The camel. It does to a certain extent divide the hoof, because the foot consists of two large parts, but the division is not complete-the toes rest upon an elastic pad, on which the animal goes. As a beast of burden, its flesh is tough; and an additional reason for its prohibition might be to keep the Israelites apart from the descendants of Ishmael.

Verse 5. The coney, [ hashaapaan (H8227); Septuagint, ton dasupoda, dasupous].-a hairy-footed animal; not the rabbit, because it is not found in Arabia or Palestine, but the Hyrax Syriacus of naturalists-a little animal of the size and general shape of the rabbit, but differing from it in several essential features: it has no tail, singular long hairs bristling like thorns or quills among the fur on its back; its feet are bare, its nails flat and round, except those on each inner toe of the hind feet, which are sharp, and project like an awl. It does not burrow in the ground, but frequents the clefts of rocks. Scientific naturalists affirm that the hyrax is neither a rodent, like the hare and the rabbit, nor a ruminant, but it is anomalous, and most nearly allied to the great pachyderms of systematic zoology (Dr. Ainsworth). Although some writers continue to maintain the opinion that the jerboa is the beast referred to, there is no doubt that the Hyrax Syriacus of naturalists (the daman of the modern Syrians, the nabr of the Arabs, the askoko of the Abyssinians) does correspond to the Scriptural description of the coney better than any other animal.

Verse 6. The hare, [ haa'arnebet (H768)]. Two species of hare must have been pointed at-the Sinai hare, the hare of the desert, small and generally brown; the other, the hare of Palestine and Syria, about the size and appearance of that known in our own country. Neither the hare nor the coney is really ruminant. They only appear to be so from working the jaws on the grasses they live on. 'In regard to both the shaphan and the hare, we should understand the original, rendered "chewing the cud," as implying merely a second mastication, more or less complete, and not necessarily that faculty of true ruminants which derives its name from a power to draw up aliment, after deglutition, when worked into a ball, from the first stomach into the mouth, and there to subject it to a grinding process. The act of "chewing the cud," and of "re-chewing," being considered identical by the Hebrews, the sacred lawgiver, not being occupied with the doctrines of science, no doubt used the expression in the popular sense in which it was then understood' (Ch. Hamilton Smith, Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia').

[The Vatican manuscript, published by Carafa in 1587, reads, 'the hare, because he does not chew the cud;' but in Cardinal Mai's 'Edition of the Vatican Codex,' 1857, the 'not' is omitted. Tischendorf's edition, published at Leipsic, 1850, of this Vatican Codex has in the text, hoti ouk anagei meerukismon touto, because it does not bring up this cud-chewing; and in his notes he gives, as a varied reading, hoti anagei, because it does bring up, etc. Moreover, the Septuagint uses, not lagos, the common word for hare, but a different one, koirogrullios, a little grunting pig, which some have taken to mean the hedgehog]. But the generality of Biblical writers understand arnebeth to be the hare. They are not cloven-footed; and, besides, it is said that, from the great quantity of down upon them, they are very much subject to vermin; that in order to expel these they eat poisonous plants, and if used as food while in that state, they are most deleterious (Whitelaw).

Verse 7. The swine. It is a filthy, foul-feeding animal, and it wants one of the natural provisions for purifying the system-`it cheweth not the cud.' In hot climates indulgence in swine's flesh is particularly liable to produce leprosy, scurvy, and various cutaneous eruptions. Nay, the progress of scientific observation and researches has made known other malignant disorders which result from the incautious use of swine's flesh.

Besides the tapeworm and the hydatid, two most destructive parasites which prey upon the human body, trichiniasis, a febrile disease is produced by the lodgment and migrations in the body of man of multitudes of a microscopic worm (trichina spiralis), which find their way into the economy through the eating of pork infested with this parasite, and pass in crowds from the intestines to the muscles, where they become encapsuled. In December, 1865, a fatal epidemic raged with great virulence in various parts of Germany, traceable to the infected persons having eaten of sausages (not thoroughly cooked) made of pork in which were trichinae. It is found that trichinae are not killed by salting or freezing the pork; nor is it settled whether smoking it kills them (Professor Owen, in 'Transactions of Zoological Society, London;' 'Lancet,' 1866; 'Popular Science Review,' Art. 'Diseased Pork and Microscopic Parasites in Man,' by Professor Gamgee). All these disorders are more frequent as well as more malignant in the warm countries of the East. Pork was therefore strictly avoided by the Israelites, and its prohibition was further necessary to prevent their adopting many of the grossest idolatries practiced by neighbouring nations.

Verse 8

Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.

These shall ye eat ... whatsoever hath fins and scales. 'The fins and scales are the means by which the excrescences of fish are carried off, the same as in animals by perspiration. I have never known an instance of disease produced by eating such fish; but those that have no fins and scales cause, in hot climates, the most malignant disorders when eaten: in many cases they prove a mortal poison' (Whitelaw).

Verses 10-11

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales ... Fins are pectoral, ventral, dorsal, anal, and caudal. True fish have all, or at least some, of these. They are instruments of locomotion. But pectoral fins are also in some way connected with breathing, and these are possessed by all the real piscatory tribe. Many aquatic animals, however, have different respiratory organs, and are not furnished with any fins.

With regard to scales, which are a protection to their soft and flexible skin, Kirby ('Bridgewater Treatise,' 2:,

p. 376) remarks, scarcely any species of fish is without them. In some fish, upon which, when living, scales are not discoverable under a microscope, when they are dead, and the skin is dry, scales are readily detected and detached. Others, however, are quite destitute of them. The language of the sacred historian must be considered as used in a popular way, and applied to scales which are easily discernible by the naked eye.

The possession or the want of fins and scales has an essential influence in affecting the flesh of fish as an article of human food. With respect to aquatic animals, some, as the great majority of marine fish, inhabit salt water only, while others live in rivers and fresh-water lakes. Some frequent salt water at one time, and fresh at another, as the salmon, sturgeon, etc., while some have their habitat in brackish waters, as several flat-fish and shellfish: and all these varieties seem to be comprehended by the words, "in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers." Under the rule prescribed by the sacred historian, the shark, the ray, and the sun-fish, the phoca (seal), and the walrus, frogs, eels, shellfish of all descriptions were included as unclean. Many of the latter (shellfish) enjoy a reputation they do not deserve, and have, when plentifully partaken of, produced effects which have led to a suspicion of their containing something of a poisonous nature.

Verses 13-19

And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,

These are they ... abomination among the fowls. All birds of prey are particularly ranked in the class unclean-all those which feed on flesh and carrion; no less than 20 species of birds-all probably then known-are mentioned under this category; and the inference follows, that all which are not mentioned were allowed-that is, fowls which subsist on vegetable substances. From our imperfect knowledge of the natural history of Palestine, Arabia, and the contiguous countries, it is not easy to determine exactly what some of the prohibited birds are; although they must have been all well known among the people to whom these laws were given.

The eagle, [ hanesher (H5404)] - the golden eagle, which is the chief species (Gesenius).

The ossifrage, [ haperec (H6538)] - bone-breaker; rendered in the Septuagint [grups], griffin; supposed to be the Gypoetos barbatus, the lammer geyer of the Swiss-a bird of the eagle or vulture species, inhabiting the highest mountain-ranges in Western Asia as well as Europe, and pursuing as its prey, the chamois, ibex, or marmot, among rugged cliffs, until it drives them over a precipice-thus obtaining the name of 'bone-breaker.'

The ospray, [ haa`aazniyaah (H5822); Septuagint, aliaistos] - the sea eagle; but according to Bochart ('Hieroz.,' 2:, 774) [who takes the word = 'azyaah, strong], the black eagle, among the smallest but swiftest and strongest of its kind.

Verse 14. The vulture, [ hadaa'aah (H1676)]. The word so rendered in our version means more probably 'the kite' or 'glede,' and describes a rapid and varying but majestic flight, exactly that of the kite, which now darts forward with the rapidity of an arrow, now rests motionless on its expanded wings in the air: it feeds on small birds, insects, and fish. [In Deuteronomy 14:13 it is called haaraa'aah (H7201), from its keen, penetrating sight; Septuagint, gups.]

The kite, [ haa'ayaah (H344)] - a clamorous bird of prey. Septuagint, iktinos, indifferently, kite or vulture; Bochart, falco aesalon, the merlin. In Egypt, and perhaps in the adjoining countries also, the kite and vulture are often seen together flying in company, or busily pursuing their foul but important office of devouring the carrion and relics of putrefying flesh, which might otherwise pollute the atmosphere.

After his kind - i:e., the prohibition against eating it extended to the whole species.

Verse 15. Every raven, [ `oreeb (H6158), from its black colour] - including the crow, the pie. Verse 16. The owl, [ bat (H1323) haya`ªnaah (H3284)] - daughter of the female ostrich; i:e., the female ostrich (Bochart, 'Hieroz,' 2:, 230).

The night hawk, [ hatachmaac (H8464)] - the male ostrich (cf. Job 30:29; Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 30:13; Isaiah 43:20; Micah 1:8, where those birds are described as inhabitants of the desert, and distinguished by doleful cries).

The cuckoo, [ hashaachap (H7828)]. Evidently some other bird is meant by the original term, from its being ranked among rapacious birds. Dr. Shaw thinks it is the saf-saf; but that being a graminivorous and gregarious bird, is equally objectionable. Others think that the sea mew, sea gull, or some of the small sea fowl, are intended (Bochart,` Hieroz.,' 2:, lib. 2:, ch. 18:)

The hawk, [ haneets (H5322); Septuagint, hierax]. The Hebrew word includes every variety of the falcon family, as the gos-hawk, the jer-hawk, the sparrow-hawk, etc. Several species of hawks are found in Western Asia and Egypt, where they find inexhaustible prey in the immense numbers of pigeons and turtle-doves that abound in those quarters. The hawk was held pre-eminently sacred among the Egyptians; and this, besides its rapacious disposition and gross habits, might have been a strong reason for its prohibition as an article of food to the Israelites.

The little owl, [ hakowc (H3563)]. Our translators have followed the Septuagint, which renders it nuktikorax, owl, 'the little owl;' as also do Theodotion, Aguila, and other interpreters; Michaelis, the horned owl; Bochart, the pelican or cormorant ('Hieroz.,' 2:, p. 281), from the pouch [ kowc (H3563), a cup], which serves as a repository for its food. (But see the note at Leviticus 11:18.)

Cormorant, [ hashaalaak (H7994); Septuagint, kataraktees] - the gannet, pelicanus bassanus, Linnoeus (Bochart, 'Hieroz.,' 2:, lib, 2:, p. 21).

The great owl, [ hayanshuwp (H3244); Septuagint, hibis] - a water or marsh fowl, namely, the Egyptian heron. Bochart, following the Chaldean and Syriac versions, renders it 'owl' ('Hieroz.,' 2:, p. 261). The ibis of the Egyptians was well known to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 14:16; Isaiah 34:11), According to Parkhurst, the bittern, but not determined.

Verse 18. The swan, [ hatinshemet (H8580); Bochart, 'Hieroz.,' 1:, p. 1083; the Septuagint, porfurioon] - the crested rumple heron; ardea purpurea, Linnaeus (quoted by Gesenius); Vulgate, cygnus, swan-found in great numbers in all the countries of the Levant, and frequents marshy places, the vicinity of rivers and lakes. It was held sacred by the Egyptians, and kept tame within the precincts of pagan temples. It was probably on this account chiefly its use as food was prohibited. Michaelis considers it the goose.

The pelican, [ haqaa'aat (H6893)] - the vomiter-so called from its vomiting the shells and other things which it has voraciously swallowed, after they have been opened by the heat of its belly, in order to pick out the fish, which form its staple food. [Septuagint, pelekan.] Cf. Deuteronomy 14:17; Psalms 102:6; Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14, in which it appears a bird of the desert; and if so, the kaath cannot be the pelican, whose large webbed feet; and capacious pouch, with the manner of catching its food with it, like a net, which can only be done in the water, show it to be a waterfowl, which, as Harmer remarks, must of necessity starve in the desert.

The gier eagle, [ haaraachaam (H7360)] - a small species of vulture, white, with black wings, feeding on dead bodies; vultur percnopterus, Linnoeus. The Hebrew name was given to it from its tenderness to its young; hence, some have thought that it is the bird now called rachami, a kind of Egyptian vulture, abundant in the streets of Cairo, and popularly called Pharaoh's fowl. It is white in colour, in size like a raven, and feeds on carrion; it is one of the foulest and filthiest birds in the world. But being here associated with aquatic birds, it has been questioned whether any species of eagle is referred to, and that, as the original name rachami, denotes tenderness, affection, the halcyon or king's fisher is intended.

Verse 19. The stork, [ hachaciydaah (H2624); Septuagint, eroodios] - a bird of benevolent temper, and held in the highest estimation in all Eastern countries. It was declared unclean, probably from its feeding on mice, lizards, and other reptiles, as well as rearing its young on the same food.

The heron, [ haa'anaapaah (H601); Septuagint, charadrios] - a bird which nestles in the clefts of rocks or in hollow banks. Bochart ('Hieroz.,' 2:, p. 335) follows the Jewish commentators in interpreting it 'angry bird.' The name only occurs in the prohibited list of food, and has been variously rendered, the crane, the plover, the woodcock, the parrot. In this great diversity of opinion nothing certain can be affirmed regarding it; and as, from the group with which it is classified, it must be an aquatic bird that is meant, it may as well be the heron as any other bird, the more especially as herons abound in Egypt and in the Hauran of Palestine.

The lapwing, [ haduwkiypat (H1744); Septuagint, epopa; Vulgate, upupa] -- or hoopoe, found in warm regions, a very pretty but filthy species of bird; and was considered unclean, probably from its feeding on insects, worms, and snails. According to the Targum, it signifies a species of large grouse, tetrao urogallus (Gesenius).

The bat, [ haa`ªTaleep (H5847); Septuagint, nukteros ] - the great or Ternat bat known in the East; noted for its voracity and filthiness, frequenting caverns and dark places; true vespertilionidoe, or insect-eating bats; but when they are designated as unclean, and it is prohibited to eat them, the fact shows that there were men or tribes who at the time ate animals classed with bats-a practice still in vogue in the great Australasian islands, where the frugiferous pteropi, of the harpy or goblin family, are caught and eaten (Dr. Ainsworth, 'Transactions, Biblical Institute,' 1859).

Verse 20

All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

All fowls that creep ... By "fowls" here are to be understood all creatures with wings; and by "going upon all four," not a restriction to animals which have exactly four feet, because many "creeping things" have more than that number. The prohibition is regarded generally as extending to insects, reptiles, and worms.

Verse 21

Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; Yet these may ye eat ... that goeth upon all four. The locusts, like all insects, have six feet; but the sacred historian notices the different direction of the two anterior from the four posterior legs of insects; for, as he speaks of them as going upon four legs, it is evident that he considered the two anterior as arms (Kirby and Spence, 'Introduction to Entomology,' 1:, p. 24). He also shows an acquaintance with the distinctions which separate the Gryllidoe into different genera. The locusts, which belong to the order Orthoptera, are subdivided into two large groups-the first, the cursoria, runners or creepers, were unclean, and of course interdicted food by the law; the second, the saltatoria, or leapers, which formed a large division, are herbivorous, and the principal genera of them are mentioned in this passage.

Legs above their feet, [ kªraa`ayim (H3767)] - the tibiae, the part of the legs from the knee to the ankle; so called as being bent under in kneeling or lying down (Gesenius); applied to the feet of the locust, which are adapted for leaping or skipping. The singular expression in our version - "having legs above their feet" - means, that the tibiae were placed in such a manner above the tarsi as to fit the creatures for leaping.

Verse 22

Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.

Locust after his kind - [ haa'arbeh (H697) - the common word for locust, and rendered by the Septuagint, akris (G200) (Exodus 10:4; Exodus 10:12-14; Exodus 10:19; Deuteronomy 28:38; Judges 6:5; Judges 7:12; 2 Chronicles 6:28; Job 39:20; Psalms 78:46; Psalms 105:34; Psalms 109:23; Proverbs 30:27; Jeremiah 46:23; Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25). Derived from raabaah (H7235), to be multiplied, it forms an appropriate name for this class of insects, which is distinguished for extraordinary fecundity; and it is used as a collective noun in connection with verbs both singular and plural, as is also the corresponding Greek term. In some passages it is associated with other appellatives of the locust tribe, as in Psalms 78:46; Joel 1:4, where, standing second in the enumeration, it evidently denotes a particular species-namely, (Gryllus gregarius, the common migratory locust-as it seems for the same reason to do in this passage. Here, however, 'arbeh (H697) is placed first, either on account of its vast numbers, or its rapacity and power of destructiveness. The Septuagint renders it brouchos, which is used elsewhere in that version (1 Kings 8:37; Nahum 3:15) to express the same ideas of immense multitude and desolating tendency.]

The bald locust after his kind, [ hacaal`aam (H5556); Septuagint, attakees]. We are unable to identify this with any particular species, though the circumstance of its baldness may be explained by what Tychsen says, on the authority of the Talmud, that this kind of locust 'has a smooth head.'

The beetle after his kind, [ hachargol (H2728)]. "The beetle" certainly is an improper translation, because the scaraboeus was not an article of food with the Jews, nor with any other people; and it does not at all answer the generic description of insect given in the preceding verse. The general belief is, that chargol refers to some species of locust; but no clue is afforded toward an identification of it by the corresponding name in the Septuagint [hofiomachees, a serpent-fighter] - a name which seems founded on the absurd fable related by Aristotle ('Hist. of Anim.;' 9:9, and Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 11:35), that there is a class of locusts which attacked and preyed upon serpents.

A learned writer-J.F. Denham ('Biblical Cyclopaedia') - has suggested that the name adopted by the Septuagint might have arisen from the striking resemblance of the chargol, in form and colour, to the Ichneumonidoe, and be applied to the genus is no evidence that the genus Truxalis is insectivorous, and the strong presumption is, that, like the rest of the locust family, they feed on the vegetable produce of the soil.

And the grasshopper after his kind, [ hechaagaab (H2284)]. This name, according to Gesenius, is derived from an Arabic root to veil, to hide-implying that the swarms of locusts 'cover the ground and obscure the sun' [Septuagint, akris (G200), and that version renders it in the same way in many other passages (Numbers 13:33; Isaiah 40:22; Ecclesiastes 12:5; 2 Chronicles 7:13)]. According to Tychsen, it is the Gryllus coronatus; but to Oedman it is a small species of locust. These, however, are mere conjectures.

Michaelis thought that the names here specified denoted the locust, first, in the larva, secondly, in the pupa state, and in the third and fourth progressive stages of its growth to maturity. But the circumstance of their being represented as winged (Leviticus 11:23), and described each "after his kind," is fatal to this theory; and the prevailing opinion is, that those named were different genre of the locust family, which, from their possessing the requisite properties, were declared edible by the Israelites; and they are eaten still by the common people in Oriental countries, who fry them in olive oil. When sprinkled with salt, dried, smoked, and roasted, they are said by some to taste not unlike red herrings; by Dr. Shaw they are compared to cray-fish, and by others to shrimps or prawns. They are much prized by all the nomad Arabs, except, strange to say by the Arabs about Sinai (Burckhardt).

Verses 23-25

But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 26

The carcases of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you: every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.

Every beast ... not cloven-footed. The prohibited animals under this description include not only the beasts which have a single hoof, as horses and donkeys, but those also which divided the foot into paws, as lions, tigers, etc.

Verses 27-28

And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even.

Whoso toucheth their carcass shall be unclean until the even. The continued enjoyment of their national privileges by the Israelites was contingent upon their adherence to the prescriptions of the law. Ceremonial defilement entailed, to a certain extent, the less of those privileges; but when the impurity had been removed, the individual was restored, on condition of intimating his restoration by submitting to the rite of an entire ablution.

Defilement might be contracted in various ways. Even an involuntary or accidental contact with the carcass of an unclean animal necessitated ecclesiastical exclusion for a time; and in the expiry of that specified term evidence had to be produced that the pollution was removed, by the purification of the contaminated clothes, ere the wearer was reinstated in his privileged condition.

Verse 29

These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,

These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth. The list comprises small quadrupeds as well as reptiles proper.

The weasel, [ hacholed (H2467)]. This term includes the species of Genetta, Herpestes, and other small carnivora, specimens of which have been recently brought from Palestine by Mr. Tristram, and have been deposited in the British Museum. [Septuagint, hee galee, or galeee, which signifies a weasel or a cat.] Several species of Mustelidoe, known to reside in and near Palestine, are supposed to be collectively designated by this term. They appear, both anciently and among ourselves, collected into a kind of group, under an impression that they belong to the feline family. Hence, we, like the ancients, still use the words tree-cat, pole-cat, etc.; and in reality, numbers of the species have retractile claws, the pupils of their eyes being contractile, and they even bear the same streaked liveries as cats (Ainsworth, 'Biblical Institute,' 1859).

The mouse, [ haa`akbaar (H5909)]. This may refer to the species of Arvicola (field-mouse), or Gerbillus, or Acomys, as well as Mustelidoe (Professor Owen's 'Report of the British Museum to the Government,'


The tortoise after his kind, [ hatsaab (H6632); Septuagint, hokrokodeilos ho chersaios, the land tortoise]. The forms to which reference is made by this term are exemplified by the specimens of Testudo Groeca, and of Emys Caspica, which Mr. Tristram has shown to range to the Holy Land (Professor Owen's 'Report of the British Museum to the Government,' 1865). Dr. Shaw considers the tzab identical with a lizard called by the Arabs dhab, corresponding in form and in the hard-pointed scales of the tail with the caudiverbera or shake-tail, (Bochart, 'Hieroz.,' lib. 4:, ch. 1:). This lizard Isaiah 18:0 inches long, and 3 or 4 inches broad across the back. It is poisonous; and if hunted, hides itself deep in the ground, which it penetrates with its nose (Jackson's 'Account of Morocco,' quoted by Dr. Harris, 'Natural History of the Bible').

Verse 30

And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.

The ferret, [ haa'anaaqaah (H604)]. Gesenius pronounces this to be 'a reptile, probably of the lizard genus, having its name from the moaning cry uttered by some species of lizards.' [The Septuagint renders it mugalee, mus araneus-a shrew mouse, a very small animal, said to be able to climb by a spider's thread, and whose bite is venomous.]

The chameleon, [ hakoach (H3581); Septuagint, chamaileoon, Chameleo Africanus] - a large green lizard, supposed by Bochart ('Hieroz.,' vol. 2:, p. 1069) and the generality of biblical scholars to be what is called by the Arabs the warral, which is found sometimes 30 inches in length. It is of a bright red colour, with dark spots (Shaw's 'Travels,' 2:, p. 328).

The lizard, [ halTaa'aah (H3911); Septuagint, chalabootees] - a particular species of Saura, abounding in various parts of Arabia and Egypt; Ptyodactylus gecko, the fan-foot lizard, reddish brown, with white spots. Bochart derives the Hebrew name from the Arab lataa, to adhere to the ground. It lives on insects and worms, which it swallows whole. It is said to exude poison from the toes.

Snail, [ hachomeT (H2546); Septuagint, saura] - a species of lizard; for undoubtedly this view of it is more in accordance with the context than the interpretation which our translators, following Jewish writers, have adopted. Bochart, founding on a doubtful etymology, derives the name from a word signifying sand, and supposes it to be a lizard of an azure colour, which lives in the sand, called by the Arabs chulca, or chulaca.

The mole, [ hatinshaamet (H8580); Septuagint, aspalax-which has been followed by our translators]. 'Tinsshemeth,' or "mole," says Professor Owen, in his 'Report of the British Museum,' 1865, 'may have referred to the species of Spalax in the present collection, in which there is no true Talpa.' But it is probable that a species of lizard is meant; and Bochart, deriving the name from a root signifying to breathe, concludes that the animal referred to was the chameleon, which, from its power of inflating its belly, is supposed, according to common belief, to live on air. It resembles the crocodile in shape, but is very dissimilar in size and in habits. Its flesh, according to Pliny, after being cooked and dried, was reduced to powder, and used medicinally as a specific in cases of fever and various diseases.

Verse 31

These are unclean to you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even. These are unclean to you among all that creep. The interdict against using the reptiles included in the preceding list implies that they were generally eaten by the adjoining tribes; and it is known that various species of lizards are made use of by the Arabs in the present day as common articles of food. But they were strictly forbidden to the Israelites; and the very touch of their carcass caused a defilement that had to be washed off.

Verse 32

And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed.

Upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, [ bªmotaam (H4194)] - in their dying-in articulo mortis. If, when weak and languid, in their moribund state, they should fall upon anything of personal or domestic use, the contact of their carcass would render that article unclean. Not that these eight comprehended all the sherets (H8318) that were unclean, or that they were noted for greater impurity than others of their order, but because they frequently crept into tents, houses, vessels, etc., and, from the smallness of their size, would be more annoying than reptiles of greater magnitude.

Whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack. From the furniture and utensils in the tents of the nomadic Arabs, to whose style of living that of the Israelites in the wilderness bore a close resemblance, some help may be obtained in explaining the articles alluded to in this passage: large wooden bowls or platters, baskets or trunks covered with skin, skins used as mats for bedding, goats' skins for bottles to hold water and milk, or churn butter, hair-cloth sacks for carrying goods when they remove to a new encampment-the vessel into which one of these creatures was found became unclean itself, with all its contents. Earthen vessels, on account of their being porous, and liable to retain the taint of poison or venom, were to be broken; and in this class also might be included vessels made of dried cows' dung. If, however, the vessels were of metal, they were required to be carefully scoured. Every article of food prepared with water taken from such a vessel, or liquid for drinking contained in it, would be polluted.

Verses 33-34

And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 35

And every thing whereupon any part of their carcase falleth shall be unclean; whether it be oven, or ranges for pots, they shall be broken down: for they are unclean, and shall be unclean unto you.

Whether it be oven (see the notes at Leviticus 2:4; Genesis 18:6) [ tanuwr (H8574); Septuagint, klibanos (G2823)] - a shallow vessel of a portable size, in which bread is baked, commonly earthen, but sometimes metallic, about three feet in height, which was heated internally with wood or dried grass. When the jar was properly heated, and the fire had burned down, the thin cakes were applied to its sides either without or within. Wilkinson describes such ovens as common in the houses of ancient Egypt (Vol. 2:, p. 385); and Niebuhr and others inform us that they are in use among the Bedouin Arabs.

Or ranges for pots, [ kiyrayim (H3600)]. The word is in the dual. The Septuagint renders it chutropodes, pots or kettles, with two or more feet. Keil and Delitzsch take it for a vessel consisting of two parts - i:e., a pot or pan with a lid; but vessels of this description are embraced by Leviticus 11:33, which commands them, when they have been polluted, to be "broken;" while the "ranges for pots" were, like altars or walls, to be "broken down."

The following account by Rauwolf ('Travels,' p. 192), of the apparatus used by the Arabs for boiling a pot, will serve to explain what is meant:-`They make a hole in the earthen floor of their dwellings about a foot and a half deep, in which they put their earthen pots, with the meat in them, closed up about the half above the middle-three-fourth parts they lay about with stones, and the fourth part is left open, through which they throw in their dried dung, and any other combustible substances they can procure, which burn immediately, and produce so great a heat that the pot becomes as hot as if it stood over a fire of coals.' The "ranges of pots" correspond to the little structure described by this traveler, 'three parts of which was laid or built about with stones.'

This little building the law required the Israelites to "break down," when it happened to have become ceremonially unclean. In fact, 'the ranges for pots,' or fire places, were similar to those rude and primitive erections which are still seen on the hearths of huts in the poor remote districts of Scotland, which are formed of a few bricks or stones piled edgeways. It would be very little trouble to put them up again after being dismantled, as the law required.

Verse 36

Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean.

Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean. The reason of this exception is obvious-namely, that the influx of fresh water would remove the impurity caused by the carcass; and this was a considerate as well as benevolent regulation; because in a region where water is scarce, it would have been a grievous hardship to interdict the whole water in the spring or tank as unclean.

Verses 37-38

And if any part of their carcase fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean.

If any part of their carcass fall upon any sowing seed ... it shall be clean - because the impurity of the contact would be absorbed by the earth. But the case was very different if the seed had been immersed in water contaminated by a carcass-for the grains, being moistened by the water, would imbibe the uncleanness, the taint of which would be transmitted to the future produce. These regulations must have often caused annoyance by suddenly requiring the exclusion of people from society as well as the ordinances of religion. Nevertheless they were extremely useful and salutary, especially as enforcing attention to cleanliness.

This is a matter of essential importance in the East, where venomous reptiles often creep into houses, and are found lurking in boxes, vessels, or holes in the wall; and the carcass of one of them, or a dead mouse, mole, lizard, or other unclean animal, might be inadvertently touched by the hand, or fall on clothes, skin bottles, or any article of common domestic use. By connecting, therefore, the touch of such creatures with ceremonial defilement, which required immediately to be removed, an effectual means was taken to prevent the bad effects of venom and all unclean or noxious matter.

Of the importance of these regulations, and their absolute necessity to prevent accidents from poisoning, Michaelis gives the following proofs: 'Of the poisoning of liquors by toads creeping into casks we often read; and Hasselquist relates an instance where the poison of a gecko in a cheese had nearly proved fatal. Mice and rats likewise sometimes poison meat that is uncovered, by means of the poison laid for themselves being vomited upon it. I remember the case of a brewing of beer which, to all the people of a town who had drank it, occasioned most violent agonies, and in regard to which, although it was most peremptorily denied by the magistrates and the brewers, there appeared perfectly good reason for believing that arsenic had in this manner gotten among the malt.'

Verses 39-40

And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.

If any beast of which ye may eat die. Every edible animal was to be prepared for food by being slaughtered-so that the flesh might be entirely emptied of the blood. But should such an animal-even an ox or a sheep-from disease or wounds, die a natural death, its carcass was unclean, and contact with it would occasion defilement for a brief period.

Verse 41

And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 42

Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination.

Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four. The first points to worms, snakes, serpents; and the second to small mammalia, as the mouse, etc. The statement is a repetition of the law as previously declared in regard to such animals, with a view probably to enforce a greater attention to it.

Or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things, [ kaal (H3605) marbeeh (H7235) raglayim (H7272)]. (Gesenius renders these words, 'having many feet.' The margin, however, has, 'whatsoever doth multiply feet,' and this translation, while it is closer to the Hebrew original, is preferable on another account, as being in accordance with the zoological fact, that such animals increase the number of their feet with their growth. (See the notes on this subject, Kirby's 'Bridgewater Treatise,' 2:, pp. 70-77; also 'Introduction to Entomology,' Lett, 22:, 23:)

Verses 43-46

Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 47

To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.

Make a difference between the unclean and the clean - i:e., between animals used and not used for food. It is probable that the laws contained in this chapter were not entirely new, but only gave the sanction of divine enactment to ancient usages. Some of the prohibited animals have, on physiological grounds, been everywhere rejected by the general sense or experience of mankind, while others may have been declared unclean from their unwholesomeness in warm countries, or from some reasons which are now imperfectly known, connected with contemporary idolatry.

The miscellaneous details of this chapter may be thus briefly summarized:

(1) "The clean," which were allowed to be eaten, were, among mammalia, the perfect ruminants - i:e., those which united the two-fold properties of chewing the cud and having a divided hoof (whence called fissipedes). Under this description were included the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the roebuck, the fallow deer, the wild goat, the pygarg, the wild ox, the chamois (see the note at Deuteronomy 14:5), with the exception of the camel, the shaphan (coney), the arnebeth (hare), and swine, which possess only one of these natural characteristics of the ruminantia. In the "unclean" or interdicted class of quadrupeds were placed the solipedes and the carnivora or predaceans, including all the canine and feline tribes, which are zoophagous animals, as well as canis hyaena, and the necrophorus (glutton), which are necrophagous beasts, devouring carcasses or any putrescent substances.

(2) The "clean" among fish are not specified (cf. Deuteronomy 14:9), because a definite rule is given by which it was easy to determine those which were allowable food. Besides, the Israelites had little or no opportunity of obtaining this kind of aliment, and their knowledge of the inhabitants of the waters was confined to what they recollected of the Nile fish, or what subsequent experience brought them acquainted with in the Jordan. Among the "unclean" were the raiadoe (skate family), the squalidae (sharks, etc.), the siluridoe, the apodes (footless, as eels and other serpentine fish).

(3) The "clean" among birds are not pointed out by a distinct and explicit rule, such as is given in the case of fish. But no less than 20 names of birds, the bat being included in the number, are specified as unclean. All fowls must be considered as having been permissive food, except those which are here particularized and this index expurgatorius of birds embraces the raptores, comprehending the orders aquila and falco, as well as the carrion-feeders, the vultur and corvidae, the hoopoe (lapwings, among the insessores (perchers);-the grallatores (waders, as ibis, bittern, heron, snipe, etc.), and natatores (swimmers, as the Pelecanus onocratulus).

(4) Reptiles generally were declared unclean. The ophidia, the smaller mammalia, which are reckoned among "creeping things," the saurians (or crocodiles, lizards), the chelonians (tortoise or turtle, mollusca, crustacea, annelidae-all were proscribed as "abominations," with the single exception, among insects, of the saltatoria orthoptera.

In examining this list, it is not difficult to discover, at least to a certain extent, the reasons why some animals were by the Mosaic law declared to be clean and others unclean. Michaelis maintains that the distinction is founded on the nature of the animals themselves, which, though not poisonous, but perfectly edible, are generally regarded with strong abhorrence, and rejected as disgusting materials for food. But this view, just and correct so far as it goes, does not fully meet the conditions of the case, nor is custom, transmitted from the earliest times and incorporated with the Mosaic law, sufficient to account for the origin of so special a phraseology. The classification of certain animals as unclean arose, it is probable, from another, and, in the minds of the Israelites, a more powerful reason-namely, the sanctity attached to blood as the seat of vitality in the animal frame. Most of those prohibited are predatory, and derive their subsistence either entirely or occasionally from devouring the flesh of others along with their blood, 'which is the life.'

Moreover, not only such as live on this kind of food were unclean, but also the carcasses of all, even of edible animals, which, having died a natural death, or being torn and killed by ravenous beasts, retained in their mangled bodies some portion of the vital fluid. Hence, it may be inferred that the uncleanness ascribed to most of the animals which the Israelites were taught to rank among abominable things, was owing to their animal vitality being derived, in a secondary degree, from an infusion of blood from their prey.

The theory is applicable, though in a modified form, to camels, horses, and donkeys, which, though neither carnivorous nor sanguinivorous, were regarded as unclean. It is evident that those animals being, from their strength, their capacity of endurance, and other qualities, used as beasts of burden, not only is their flesh become tough and fibrous, but, from the straining of their energies in the service of their master, 'they are frequently so overheated by exertion, their whole body is in an inflamed state, so that all their muscular tissues are bloodshot, and they cannot be properly bled, because the blood, having copiously penetrated into the finest portions of the vascular system, cannot be removed by bleeding alone. Such an inflammatory state hardly ever occurs in the clean quadrupeds-that is, in the ruminantia with cloven feet' (see Michaelis' Dissertation on clean and unclean animals, Commentary on Laws of Moses,' vol. 3:, p. 218; Bochart, 'Hieroz,' 2:, pp. 33, 353; Calmet, 'Fragments on Natural History,' No. 3:; 'Biblical Review,' 5:, p. 281; 'Quarterly Review,' July, 1863).

It has been alleged to be altogether derogatory to the majesty of God to represent Him stooping to enter into these minute details of the animals to be used or rejected as food by the chosen people. But it must be remembered, that Yahweh was the King as well as the God of Israel; and that many of the ancient rulers in Eastern countries deemed it necessary to legislate on dietetics as a most important sanatory measure for the welfare of their people. Colonel Rawlinson found some brick monograms in Assyria, one of which (a tablet) contained a list of Birds which might not be eaten; and the laws of Menu forbid the Hindus to eat the flesh of quadrupeds with uncloven hoofs; carnivorous birds which live in towns; all birds that strike with their beaks and wound with strong talons; web-footed birds, and such as dive to devour fish; all amphibious fish-eaters, and tame hogs. These are remarkable parallels to the precepts in the Medic law; and the existence of such laws in the warm regions of the East shows that there must have been some occasion for the enactment, with which we are imperfectly acquainted.

But though the institution of these laws may have been enacted by a regard to the public health in Israel as well as in other nations, it contemplated the advancement of much higher purposes; and it cannot be supposed that Jews even of ordinary intelligence and piety failed to perceive the further intent of these stringent regulations, or were unable to see that the law which seemed to 'stand' outwardly in meats and drinks had regard to ends even more important than those of bodily health and cleanliness. These ends, which are noticed at the beginning of this chapter, were in one respectfully attained by the complete separation of Jews from all Gentiles (Acts 10:14; Acts 10:28; Acts 11:9), and in another respect were realized by the pious portion of the people, who would understand that the injunction to abstain from the use of unclean meats was symbolical of the holiness and purity that became them as the people of God (Leviticus 11:44-45).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-11.html. 1871-8.
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