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Laws Relating to Clean and Unclean Animals - Leviticus 11
The regulation of the sacrifices and institution of the priesthood, by which Jehovah opened up to His people the way of access to His grace and the way to sanctification of life in fellowship with Him, were followed by instructions concerning the various things which hindered and disturbed this living fellowship with God the Holy One, as being manifestations and results of sin, and by certain rules for avoiding and removing these obstructions. For example, although sin has its origin and proper seat in the soul, it pervades the whole body as the organ of the soul, and shatters the life of the body, even to its complete dissolution in death and decomposition; whilst its effects have spread from man to the whole of the earthly creation, inasmuch as not only did man draw nature with him into the service of sin, in consequence of the dominion over it which was given him by God, but God Himself, according to a holy law of His wise and equitable government, made the irrational creature subject to “vanity” and “corruption” on account of the sin of man (Romans 8:20-21), so that not only did the field bring forth thorns and thistles, and the earth produce injurious and poisonous plants (see at Genesis 3:18), but the animal kingdom in many of its forms and creatures bears the image of sin and death, and is constantly reminding man of the evil fruit of his fall from God. It is in this penetration of sin into the material creation that we may find the explanation of the fact, that from the very earliest times men have neither used every kind of herb nor every kind of animal as food; but that, whilst they have, as it were, instinctively avoided certain plants as injurious to health or destructive to life, they have also had a horror naturalis , i.e., an inexplicable disgust, at many of the animals, and have avoided their flesh as unclean. A similar horror must have been produced upon man from the very first, before his heart was altogether hardened, by death as the wages of sin, or rather by the effects of death, viz., the decomposition of the body; and different diseases and states of the body, that were connected with symptoms of corruption and decomposition, may also have been regarded as rendering unclean. Hence in all the nations and all the religions of antiquity we find that contrast between clean and unclean, which was developed in a dualistic form, it is true, in many of the religious systems, but had its primary root in the corruption that had entered the world through sin. This contrast was limited in the Mosaic law to the animal food of the Israelites, to contact with dead animals and human corpses, and to certain bodily conditions and diseases that are associated with the decomposition, pointing out most minutely the unclean objects and various defilements within these spheres, and prescribing the means for avoiding or removing them.
The instructions in the chapter before us, concerning the clean and unclean animals, are introduced in the first place as laws of food (Leviticus 11:2); but they pass beyond these bounds by prohibiting at the same time all contact with animal carrion (Leviticus 11:8, Leviticus 11:11, Leviticus 11:24.), and show thereby that they are connected in principle and object with the subsequent laws of purification (ch. 12-15), to which they are to be regarded as a preparatory introduction.
The laws which follow were given to Moses and Aaron (Leviticus 11:1; Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 15:1), as Aaron had been sanctified through the anointing to expiate the sins and uncleannesses of the children of Israel.
(cf. Deuteronomy 14:4-8). Of the larger quadrupeds, which are divided in Genesis 1:24-25 into beasts of the earth (living wild) and tame cattle, only the cattle (behemah) are mentioned here, as denoting the larger land animals, some of which were reared by man as domesticated animals, and others used as food. Of these the Israelites might eat “ whatsoever parteth the hoof and is cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud among the cattle.” פּרסת שׁסע שׁסעת , literally “tearing (having) a rent in the hoofs,” according to Deuteronomy 14:5 into “two claws,” i.e., with a hoof completely severed in two. גּרה , rumination, μηρυκισμός (lxx), from גּרר (cf. יגּר Leviticus 11:7), to draw (Habakkuk 1:15), to draw to and fro; hence to bring up the food again, to ruminate. גּרה מעלת is connected with the preceding words with vav cop. to indicate the close connection of the two regulations, viz., that there was to be the perfectly cloven foot as well as the rumination (cf. Leviticus 11:4.). These marks are combined in the oxen, sheep, and goats, and also in the stag and gazelle. The latter are expressly mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:4-5, where - in addition to the common stag ( איּל ) and gazelle ( צבי , δορκάς , lxx), or dorcas-antelope, which is most frequently met with in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia, of the size of a roebuck, with a reddish brown back and white body, horns sixteen inches long, and fine dark eyes, and the flesh of which, according to Avicenna, is the best of all the wild game-the following five are also selected, viz.: (1) יחמוּר , not βούβαλος , the buffalo (lxx, and Luther), but Damhirsch, a stag which is still much more common in Asia than in Europe and Palestine (see v. Schubert, R. iii. p. 118); (2) אקּו , probably, according to the Chaldee, Syriac, etc., the capricorn ( Steinbock), which is very common in Palestine, not τραγέλαφος (lxx, Vulg.), the buck-stag ( Bockhirsch), an animal lately discovered in Nubia (cf. Leyrer in Herzog's Cycl. vi. p. 143); (3) דּישׁן , according to the lxx and Vulg. πύραργος , a kind of antelope resembling the stag, which is met with in Africa (Herod. 4, 192), - according to the Chaldee and Syriac, the buffalo-antelope, - according to the Samar. and Arabic, the mountain-stag; (4) תּאו , according to the Chaldee the wild ox, which is also met with in Egypt and Arabia, probably the oryx (lxx, Vulg.), a species of antelope as large as a stag; and (5) זמר , according to the lxx and most of the ancient versions, the giraffe, but this is only found in the deserts of Africa, and would hardly be met with even in Egypt-it is more probably capreae sylvestris species, according to the Chaldee.
Any animal which was wanting in either of these marks was to be unclean, or not to be eaten. This is the case with the camel, whose flesh is eaten by the Arabs; it ruminates, but it has not cloven hoofs. Its foot is severed, it is true, but not thoroughly cloven, as there is a ball behind, upon which it treads. The hare and hyrax ( Klippdachs) were also unclean, because, although they ruminate, they have not cloven hoofs. It is true that modern naturalists affirm that the two latter do not ruminate at all, as they have not the four stomachs that are common to ruminant animals; but they move the jaw sometimes in a manner which looks like ruminating, so that even Linnaeus affirmed that the hare chewed the cud, and Moses followed the popular opinion. According to Bochart, Oedmann, and others, the shaphan is the jerboa, and according to the Rabbins and Luther, the rabbit or coney. But the more correct view is, that it is the wabr of the Arabs, which is still called tsofun in Southern Arabia ( hyrax Syriacus ), an animal which feeds on plants, a native of the countries of the Lebanon and Jordan, also of Arabia and Africa. They live in the natural caves and clefts of the rocks (Psalms 104:18), are very gregarious, being often seen seated in troops before the openings to their caves, and extremely timid as they are quite defenceless (Proverbs 30:26). They are about the size of rabbits, of a brownish grey or brownish yellow colour, but white under the belly; they have bright eyes, round ears, and no tail. The Arabs eat them, but do not place them before their guests.
(Note: See Shaw, iii. p. 301; Seetzen, ii. p. 228; Robinson 's Biblical Researches, p. 387; and Roediger on Gesenius thesaurus, p. 1467.)
The swine has cloven hoofs, but does not ruminate; and many of the tribes of antiquity abstained from eating it, partly on account of its uncleanliness, and partly from fear of skin-diseases.
“ Of their flesh shall ye not eat (i.e., not slay these animals as food), and their carcase (animals that had died) shall ye not touch.” The latter applied to the clean or edible animals also, when they had died a natural death (Leviticus 11:39).
(cf. Deuteronomy 14:9 and Deuteronomy 14:10). Of water animals, everything in the water, in seas and brooks, that had fins and scales was edible. Everything else that swarmed in the water was to be an abomination, its flesh was not to be eaten, and its carrion was to be avoided with abhorrence. Consequently, not only were all water animals other than fishes, such as crabs, salamanders, etc., forbidden as unclean; but also fishes without scales, such as eels for example. Numa laid down this law for the Romans: ut pisces qui sqamosi non essent ni pollicerent (sacrificed): Plin. h. n. 32, c. 2, s. 10. In Egypt fishes without scales are still regarded as unwholesome ( Lane, Manners and Customs).
(cf. Deuteronomy 14:11-18). Of birds, twenty varieties are prohibited, including the bat, but without any common mark being given; though they consist almost exclusively of birds which live upon flesh or carrion, and are most of them natives of Western Asia.
(Note: The list is “hardly intended to be exhaustive, but simply mentions those which were eaten by others, and in relation to which, therefore, it was necessary that the Israelites should receive a special prohibition against eating them” ( Knobel). Hence in Deuteronomy Moses added the ראה and enumerated twenty-one varieties; and on doubt, under other circumstances, he could have made the list still longer. In Deuteronomy 14:11 צפּור is used, as synonymous with עוף in Deuteronomy 14:20.)
The list commences with the eagle, as the king of the birds. Nesher embraces all the species of eagles proper. The idea that the eagle will not touch carrion is erroneous. According to the testimony of Arabian writers ( Damiri in Bochart, ii. p. 577), and several naturalists who have travelled (e.g., Forskal. l.c. p. 12, and Seetzen, 1, p. 379), they will eat carrion if it is still fresh and not decomposed; so that the eating of carrion could very properly be attributed to them in such passages as Job 39:30; Proverbs 30:17, and Matthew 24:28. But the bald-headedness mentioned in Micah 1:16 applies, not to the true eagle, but to the carrion-kite, which is reckoned, however, among the different species of eagles, as well as the bearded or golden vulture. The next in the list is peres , from paras = parash to break, ossifragus , i.e., wither the bearded or golden vulture, gypaetos barbatus, or more probably, as Schultz supposes, the sea-eagle, which may have been the species intended in the γρύψ = γρυπαίετος of the lxx and gryphus of the Vulgate, and to which the ancients seem sometimes to have applied the name ossifraga ( Lucret. v. 1079). By the next, עזניּה , we are very probably to understand the bearded or golden vulture. For this word is no doubt connected with the Arabic word for beard, and therefore points to the golden vulture, which has a tuft of hair or feathers on the lower beak, and which might very well be associated with the eagles so far as the size is concerned, having wings that measure 10 feet from tip to tip. As it really belongs to the family of cultures, it forms a very fitting link of transition to the other species of vulture and falcon (Leviticus 11:14). דּאה ( Deut. דּיּה , according to a change which is by no means rare when the aleph stands between two vowels: cf. דּואג in 1 Samuel 21:8; 1 Samuel 22:9, and דּויג in 1 Samuel 22:18, 1 Samuel 22:22), from דּאה to fly, is either the kite, or the glede, which is very common in Palestine ( v. Schubert, Reise iii. p. 120), and lives on carrion. It is a gregarious bird (cf. Isaiah 34:15), which other birds of prey are not, and is used by many different tribes as food ( Oedmann, iii. p. 120). The conjecture that the black glede-kite is meant, - a bird which is particularly common in the East, - and that the name is derived from דּאה to be dark, is overthrown by the use of the word למינהּ in Deuteronomy, which shows that דאה is intended to denote the whole genus. איּה , which is referred to in Job 28:7 as sharp-sighted, is either the falcon, several species of which are natives of Syria and Arabia, and which is noted for its keen sight and the rapidity of its flight, or according to the Vulgate, Schultz, etc., vultur , the true vulture (the lxx have Ἰκτίν , the kite, here, and γρύψ , the griffin, in Deut. and Job), of which there are three species in Palestine ( Lynch, p. 229). In Deuteronomy 14:13 הראה is also mentioned, from ראה to see. Judging from the name, it was a keen-sighted bird, either a falcon or another species of vulture ( Vulg. ixion ).
“ Every raven after his kind, ” i.e., the whole genus of ravens, with the rest of the raven-like birds, such as crows, jackdaws, and jays, which are all of them natives of Syria and Palestine. The omission of ו before את , which is found in several MSS and editions, is probably to be regarded as the true reading, as it is not wanting before any of the other names.
היּענה בּת , i.e., either daughter of screaming ( Bochart), or daughter of greediness ( Gesenius, etc.), is used according to all the ancient versions for the ostrich, which is more frequently described as the dweller in the desert (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13, etc.), or as the mournful screamer (Micah 1:8; Job 30:29), and is to be understood, not as denoting the female ostrich only, but as a noun of common gender denoting the ostrich generally. It does not devour carrion indeed, but it eats vegetable matter of the most various kinds, and swallows greedily stones, metals, and even glass. It is found in Arabia, and sometimes in Hauran and Belka ( Seetzen and Burckhardt), and has been used as food not only by the Struthiophagi of Ethiopia ( Diod. Sic. 3, 27; Strabo, xvi. 772) and Numidia ( Leo Afric. p. 766), but by some of the Arabs also ( Seetzen, iii. p. 20; Burckhardt, p. 178), whilst others only eat the eggs, and make use of the fat in the preparation of food. תּחמס , according to Bochart, Gesenius, and others, is the male ostrich; but this is very improbable. According to the lxx, Vulg., and others, it is the owl ( Oedmann, iii. pp. 45ff.); but this is mentioned later under another name. According to Saad. Ar. Erp. it is the swallow; but this is called סיס in Jeremiah 8:7. Knobel supposes it to be the cuckoo, which is met with in Palestine ( Seetzen, 1, p. 78), and derives the name from חמס , violenter egit , supposing it to be so called from the violence with which it is said to turn out or devour the eggs and young of other birds, for the purpose of laying its own eggs in the nest ( Aristot. hist. an. 6, 7; 9, 29; Ael. nat. an. 6, 7). שׁחף is the λάρος , or slender gull, according to the lxx and Vulg. Knobel follows the Arabic, however, and supposes it to be a species of hawk, which is trained in Syria for hunting gazelles, hares, etc.; but this is certainly included in the genus נץ . נץ , from נצץ to fly, is the hawk, which soars very high, and spreads its wings towards the south (Job 39:26). It stands in fact, as למינהוּ shows, for the hawk-tribe generally, probably the ἱέραξ , accipiter , of which the ancients enumerate many different species. כּוס , which is mentioned in Psalms 102:7 as dwelling in ruins, is an owl according to the ancient versions, although they differ as to the kind. In Knobel's opinion it is either the screech-owl, which inhabits ruined buildings, walls, and clefts in the rock, and the flesh of which is said to be very agreeable, or the little screech-owl, which also lives in old buildings and walls, and raises a mournful cry at night, and the flesh of which is said to be savoury. שׁלך , according to the ancient versions an aquatic bird, and therefore more in place by the side of the heron, where it stands in Deuteronomy, is called by the lxx καταῤῥάκτης ; in the Targ. and Syr. נוּנא שׁלי , extrahens pisces . It is not the gull, however ( larus catarractes ), which plunges with violence, for according to Oken this is only seen in the northern seas, but a species of pelican, to be found on the banks of the Nile and in the islands of the Red Sea, which swims well, and also dives, frequently dropping perpendicularly upon fishes in the water. The flesh has an oily taste, but it is eaten for all that.
ינשׁוּף : from נשׁף to snort, according to Isaiah 34:11, dwelling in ruins, no doubt a species of owl; according to the Chaldee and Syriac, the uhu, which dwells in old ruined towers and castles upon the mountains, and cries uhupuhu. תּנשׁמת , which occurs again in Leviticus 11:30 among the names of the lizards, is, according to Damiri, a bird resembling the uhu, but smaller. Jonathan calls it uthya = ὠτός , a night-owl. The primary meaning of the word נשׁם is essentially the same as that of נשׁף , to breathe or blow, so called because many of the owls have a mournful cry, and blow and snort in addition; though it cannot be decided whether the strix otus is intended, a bird by no means rare in Egypt, which utters a whistling blast, and rolls itself into a ball and then spreads itself out again, or the strix flammea , a native of Syria, which sometimes utters a mournful cry, and at other times snores like a sleeping man, and the flesh of which is said to be by no means unpleasant, or the hissing owl ( strix stridula ), which inhabits the ruins in Egypt and Syria, and is sometimes called massusu, at other times bane, a very voracious bird, which is said to fly in at open windows in the evening and kill children that are left unguarded, and which is very much dreaded in consequence. קאת , which also lived in desolate places (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14), or in the desert itself (Psalms 102:7), was not the katà, a species of partridge or heath-cock, which is found in Syria (Robinson, ii. p. 620), as this bird always flies in large flocks, and this is not in harmony with Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14, but the pelican ( πελεκάν , lxx), as all the ancient versions render it, which Ephraem (on Numbers 14:17) describes as a marsh-bird, very fond of its young, inhabiting desolate places, and uttering an incessant cry. It is the true pelican of the ancients ( pelecanus graculus ), the Hebrew name of which seems to have been derived from קוא to spit, from its habit of spitting out the fishes it has caught, and which is found in Palestine and the reedy marshes of Egypt (Robinson, Palestine). רחם , in Deut. רחמה , is κυκνός , the swan, according to the Septuagint; porphyrio , the fish-heron, according to the Vulgate; a marsh-bird therefore, possibly vultur percnopterus ( Saad. Ar. Erp.), which is very common in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, and was classed by the ancients among the different species of eagles ( Plin. h. n. 10, 3), but which is said to resemble the vulture, and was also called ὀρειπέλαργος , the mountain-stork ( Arist. h. an. 9, 32). It is a stinking and disgusting bird, of the raven kind, with black pinions; but with this exception it is quite white. It is also bald-headed, and feeds on carrion and filth. But it is eaten notwithstanding by many of the Arabs ( Burckhardt, Syr. p. 1046). It received its name of “ tenderly loving ” from the tenderness with which it watches over its young ( Bochart, iii. pp. 56, 57). In this respect it resembles the stork, חסידה , avis pia , a bird of passage according to Jeremiah 8:7, which builds its nest upon the cypresses (Psalms 104:17, cf. Bochart, iii. pp. 85ff.). In the East the stork builds its nest not only upon high towers and the roofs of houses, but according to Kazwini and others mentioned by Bochart (iii. p. 60), upon lofty trees as well.
(Note: Oedmann (v. 58ff.), Knobel, and others follow the Greek translation of Leviticus and the Psalms, and the Vulgate rendering of Leviticus, the Psalms, and Job, and suppose the reference to be to the ἐρωδιός , herodius , the heron: but the name chasidah points decidedly to the stork, which was generally regarded by the ancients as pietatis cultrix ( Petron. 55, 6), whereas, with the exception of the somewhat indefinite passage in Aelian ( Nat. an. 3, 23), καὶ τοὺς ἐρωδιοὺς ἀκούω ποιεῖν ταὐτόν (i.e., feed their young by spitting out their food) καὶ τοὺς πελεκᾶνας μέντοι , nothing is said about the parental affection of the heron. And the testimony of Bellonius, “ Ciconiae quae aetate in Europa sunt, magna hyemis parte ut in Aegypto sic etiam circa Antiochiam et juxta Amanum montem degunt ,” is a sufficient answer to Knobel's assertion, that according to Seetzen there are not storks in Mount Lebanon.)
אנפה , according to the lxx and Vulgate χαραδριός , a marsh-bird of the snipe kind, of which there are several species in Egypt ( Hasselquist, p. 308). This is quite in accordance with the expression “after her kind,” which points to a numerous genus. The omission of ואת before האנפה , whereas it is found before the name of every other animal, is very striking; but as the name is preceded by the copulative vav in Deuteronomy, and stands for a particular bird, it may be accounted for either from a want of precision on the part of the author, or from an error of the copyist like the omission of the ו before את in Leviticus 11:15.
(Note: On account of the omission of ואת Knobel would connect האנפה as an adjective with החסידה , and explain אנף as derived from ענף frons, ענף frondens, and signifying bushy. The herons were called “the bushy chasidah ,” he supposes, because they have a tuft of feathers at the back of their head, or long feathers hanging down from their neck, which are wanting in the other marsh-birds, such as the flamingo, crane, and ibis. But there is this important objection to the explanation, that the change of א for ע in such a word as ענף frons, which occurs as early as Leviticus 23:40, and has retained its ע even in the Aramaean dialects, is destitute of all probability. In addition to this, there is the improbability of the chasidah being restricted by anaphah to the different species of heron, with three of which the ancients were acquainted ( Aristot. h. an. 9, 2; Plin. h. n. 10, 60). If chasidah denoted the heron generally, or the white heron, the epithet anaphah would be superfluous. It would be necessary to assume, therefore, that chasidah denotes the whole tribe of marsh-birds, and that Moses simply intended to prohibit the heron or bushy marsh-bird. But either of these is very improbable: the former, because in every other passage of the Old Testament chasidah stands for one particular kind of bird; the latter, because Moses could hardly have excluded storks, ibises, and other marsh-birds that live on worms, from his prohibition. All that remains, therefore, is to separate ha - anaphah from the preceding word, as in Deuteronomy, and to understand it as denoting the plover (?) or heron, as there were several species of both. Which is intended, it is impossible to decide, as there is nothing certain to be gathered from either the ancient versions or the etymology. Bochart's reference of the word to a fierce bird, viz., a species of eagle, which the Arabs call Tammaj, is not raised into a probability by a comparison with the similarly sounding ἀνοπαῖα of Od. 1, 320, by which Aristarchus understands a kind of eagle.)
דּוּכיפת : according to the lxx, Vulg., and others, the lapwing, which is found in Syria, Arabia, and still more commonly in Egypt ( Forsk, Russel, Sonnini), and is eaten in some places, as its flesh is said to be fat and savoury in autumn ( Sonn. 1, 204). But it has a disagreeable smell, as it frequents marshy districts seeking worms and insects for food, and according to a common belief among the ancients, builds its nest of human dung. Lastly, העטלּף is the bat (Isaiah 2:20), which the Arabs also classified among the birds.
(cf. Deuteronomy 14:19). To the birds there are appended flying animals of other kinds: “ all swarms of fowl that go upon fours, ” i.e., the smaller winged animals with four feet, which are called sherez , “swarms,” on account of their multitude. These were not to be eaten, as they were all abominations, with the exception of those “ which have two shank-feet above their feet (i.e., springing feet) to leap with ” ( לא for לו as in Exodus 21:8). Locusts are the animals referred to, four varieties being mentioned with their different species (“ after his kind ”); but these cannot be identified with exactness, as there is still a dearth of information as to the natural history of the oriental locust. It is well known that locusts were eaten by many of the nations of antiquity both in Asia and Africa, and even the ancient Greeks thought the Cicades very agreeable in flavour ( Arist. h. an. 5, 30). In Arabia they are sold in the market, sometimes strung upon cords, sometimes by measure; and they are also dried, and kept in bags for winter use. For the most part, however, it is only by the poorer classes that they are eaten, and many of the tribes of Arabia abhor them (Robinson, ii. p. 628); and those who use them as food do not eat all the species indiscriminately. They are generally cooked over hot coals, or on a plate, or in an oven, or stewed in butter, and eaten either with salt or with spice and vinegar, the head, wings, and feet being thrown away. They are also boiled in salt and water, and eaten with salt or butter. Another process is to dry them thoroughly, and then grind them into meal and make cakes of them. The Israelites were allowed to eat the arbeh , i.e., according to Exodus 10:13, Exodus 10:19; Nahum 3:17, etc., the flying migratory locust, gryllus migratorius , which still bears this name, according to Niebuhr, in Maskat and Bagdad, and is poetically designated in Psalms 78:46; Psalms 105:34, as חסיל , the devourer, and ילק , the eater-up; but Knobel is mistaken in supposing that these names are applied to certain species of the arbeh . סלעם , according to the Chaldee, deglutivit, absorpsit, is unquestionably a larger and peculiarly voracious species of locust. This is all that can be inferred from the rashon of the Targums and Talmud, whilst the ἀττάκης and attacus of the lxx and Vulg. are altogether unexplained. חרגּל : according to the Arabic, a galloping, i.e., a hopping, not a flying species of locust. This is supported by the Samaritan, also by the lxx and Vulg., ὀφιομάχης , ophiomachus . According to Hesychius and Suidas, it was a species of locust without wings, probably a very large kind; as it is stated in Mishnah , Shabb. vi. 10, that an egg of the chargol was sometimes suspended in the ear, as a remedy for earache. Among the different species of locusts in Mesopotamia, Niebuhr (Arab. p. 170) saw two of a very large size with springing feet, but without wings. חגב , a word of uncertain etymology, occurs in Numbers 13:33, where the spies are described as being like chagabim by the side of the inhabitants of the country, and in 2 Chronicles 7:13, where the chagab devours the land. From these passages we may infer that it was a species of locust without wings, small but very numerous, probably the ἀττέλαβος , which is often mentioned along with the ἀκρίς , but as a distinct species, locustarum minima sine pennis ( Plin. h. n. 29, c. 4, s. 29), or parva locusta modicis pennis reptans potius quam volitans semperque subsiliens ( Jerome (on Nahum 3:17).
(Note: In Deuteronomy 14:19 the edible kinds of locusts are passed over, because it was not the intention of Moses to repeat every particular of the earlier laws in these addresses. But when Knobel (on Lev. pp. 455 and 461) gives this explanation of the omission, that the eating of locusts is prohibited in Deuteronomy, and the Deuteronomist passes them over because in his more advanced age there was apparently no longer any necessity for the prohibition, this arbitrary interpretation is proved to be at variance with historical truth by the fact that locusts were eaten by John the Baptist, inasmuch as this proves at all events that a more advanced age had not given up the custom of eating locusts.)
In Leviticus 11:24-28 there follow still further and more precise instructions, concerning defilement through contact with the carcases (i.e., the carrion) of the animals already mentioned. These instructions relate first of all (Leviticus 11:24 and Leviticus 11:25) to aquatic and winged animals, which were not to be eaten because they were unclean (the expression “ for these ” in Leviticus 11:24 relates to them); and then (Leviticus 11:26-28) to quadrupeds, both cattle that have not the hoof thoroughly divided and do not ruminate (Leviticus 11:26), and animals that go upon their hands, i.e., upon paws, and have no hoofs, such as cats, dogs, bears, etc.
The same rule was applicable to all these animals: “ whoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even, ” i.e., for the rest of the day; he was then of course to wash himself. Whoever carried their carrion, viz., to take it away, was also unclean till the evening, and being still more deeply affected by the defilement, he was to wash his clothes as well.
To these there are attached analogous instructions concerning defilement through contact with the smaller creeping animals ( Sherez ), which formed the fourth class of the animal kingdom; though the prohibition against eating these animals is not introduced till Leviticus 11:41, Leviticus 11:42, as none of these were usually eaten. Sherez , the swarm, refers to animals which swarm together in great numbers (see at Genesis 1:21), and is synonymous with remes (cf. Genesis 7:14 and Genesis 7:21), “the creeping;” it denotes the smaller land animals which move without feet, or with feet that are hardly perceptible (see at Genesis 1:24). Eight of the creeping animals are named, as defiling not only the men with whom they might come in contact, but any domestic utensils and food upon which they might fall; they were generally found in houses, therefore, or in the abodes of men. חלד is not the mole (according to Saad. Ar. Abys., etc.), although the Arabs still call this chuld, but the weasel (lxx, Onk., etc.), which is common in Syria and Palestine, and is frequently mentioned by the Talmudists in the feminine form חוּלדה , as an animal which caught birds ( Mishn. Cholin iii. 4), which would run over the wave-loaves with a sherez in its mouth ( Mishn. Tohor. iv. 2), and which could drink water out of a vessel ( Mishn. Para ix. 3). עכבּר is the mouse (according to the ancient versions and the Talmud), and in 1 Samuel 6:5 the field-mouse, the scourge of the fields, not the jerboa, as Knobel supposes; for this animal lives in holes in the ground, is very shy, and does not frequent houses as is assumed to be the case with the animals mentioned here. צב is a kind of lizard, but whether the thav or dsabb , a harmless yellow lizard of 18 inches in length, which is described by Seetzen, iii. pp. 436ff., also by Hasselquist under the name of lacerta Aegyptia , or the waral, as Knobel supposes, a large land lizard reaching as much as four feet in length, which is also met with in Palestine (Robinson, ii. 160) and is called el worran by Seetzen, cannot be determined.
The early translators tell us nothing certain as to the three following names, and it is still undecided how they should be rendered. אנקה is translated μυγάλη by the lxx, i.e., shrew-mouse; but the oriental versions render it by various names for a lizard. Bochart supposes it to be a species of lizard with a sharp groaning voice, because אנק signifies to breathe deeply, or groan. Rosenmüller refers it to the lacerta Gecko , which is common in Egypt, and utters a peculiar cry resembling the croaking of frogs, especially in the night. Leyrer imagines it to denote the whole family of monitores; and Knobel, the large and powerful river lizard, the water-waral of the Arabs, called lacerta Nilotica in Hasselquist, pp. 361ff., though he has failed to observe, that Moses could hardly have supposed it possible that an animal four feet long, resembling a crocodile, could drop down dead into either pots or dishes. כּוח is not the chameleon (lxx), for this is called tinshemeth , but the chardaun ( Arab.), a lizard which is found in old walls in Natolia, Syria, and Palestine, lacerta stellio , or lacerta coslordilos ( Hasselquist, pp. 351-2). Knobel supposes it to be the frog, because coach seems to point to the crying or croaking of frogs, to which the Arabs apply the term kuk , the Greeks κοάξ , the Romans coaxare . But this is very improbable, and the frog would be quite out of place in the midst of simple lizards. לטאה , according to the ancient versions, is also a lizard. Leyrer supposes it to be the nocturnal, salamander-like family of beckons; Knobel, on the contrary, imagines it to be the tortoise, which creeps upon the earth ( terrae adhaeret ), because the Arabic verb signifies terrae adhaesit. This is very improbable, however. חמט (lxx), σαῦρα , Vulg. lacerta , probably the true lizard, or, as Leyrer conjectures, the anguis ( Luth. Blindschleiche, blind-worm), or zygnis, which forms the link between lizards and snakes. The rendering “snail” ( Sam. Rashi, etc.) is not so probable, as this is called שׁבלוּל in Psalms 58:9; although the purple snail and all the marine species are eaten in Egypt and Palestine. Lastly, תּנשׁמת , the self-inflating animal (see at Leviticus 11:18), is no doubt the chameleon, which frequently inflates its belly, for example, when enraged, and remains in this state for several hours, when it gradually empties itself and becomes quite thin again. Its flesh was either cooked, or dried and reduced to powder, and used as a specific for corpulence, or a cure for fevers, or as a general medicine for sick children ( Plin. h. n. 28, 29). The flesh of many of the lizards is also eaten by the Arabs ( Leyrer, pp. 603, 604).
The words, “ these are unclean to you among all swarming creatures, ” are neither to be understood as meaning, that the eight species mentioned were the only swarming animals that were unclean and not allowed to be eaten, nor that they possessed and communicated a larger amount of uncleanness; but when taken in connection with the instructions which follow, they can only mean, that such animals would even defile domestic utensils, clothes, etc., if they fell down dead upon them. Not that they were more unclean than others, since all the unclean animals would defile not only persons, but even the clothes of those who carried their dead bodies (Leviticus 11:25, Leviticus 11:28); but there was more fear in their case than in that of others, of their falling dead upon objects in common use, and therefore domestic utensils, clothes, and so forth, could be much more easily defiled by them than by the larger quadrupeds, by water animals, or by birds. “ When they be dead, ” lit., “ in their dying; ” i.e., not only if they were already dead, but if they died at the time when they fell upon any object.
In either case, anything upon which one of these animals fell became unclean, “ whether a vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin.” Every vessel ( כּלי in the widest sense, as in Exodus 22:6), “ wherein any work is done, ” i.e., that was an article of common use, was to be unclean till the evening, and then placed in water, that it might become clean again.
Every earthen vessel, into which (lit., into the midst of which) one of them fell, became unclean, together with the whole of its contents, and was to be broken, i.e., destroyed, because the uncleanness as absorbed by the vessel, and could not be entirely removed by washing (see at Leviticus 6:21). Of course the contents of such a vessel, supposing there were any, were not to be used.
“ Every edible food ( מן before כּל partitive, as in Leviticus 4:2) upon which water comes, ” - that is to say, which was prepared with water, - and “ every drink that is drunk...becomes unclean in every vessel, ” sc., if such an animal should fall dead upon the food, or into the drink. The traditional rendering of Leviticus 11:34, “ every food upon which water out of such a vessel comes, ” is untenable; because מים without an article cannot mean such water, or this water.
Every vessel also became unclean, upon which the body of such an animal fell: such as תּנּוּר , the earthen baking-pot (see Leviticus 2:4), and כּירים , the covered pan or pot. כּיר , a boiling or roasting vessel (1 Samuel 2:14), can only signify, when used in the dual, a vessel consisting of two parts, i.e., a pan or pot with a lid.
Springs and wells were not defiled, because the uncleanness would be removed at once by the fresh supply of water. But whoever touched the body of the animal, to remove it, became unclean.
All seed-corn that was intended to be sown remained clean, namely, because the uncleanness attaching to it externally would be absorbed by the earth. But if water had been put upon the seed, i.e., if the grain had been softened by water, it was to be unclean, because in that case the uncleanness would penetrate the softened grains and defile the substance of the seed, which would therefore produce uncleanness in the fruit.
Lastly, contact with edible animals, if they had not been slaughtered, but had died a natural death, and had become carrion in consequence, is also said to defile (cf. Leviticus 11:39, Leviticus 11:40 with Leviticus 11:24-28). This was the case, too, with the eating of the swarming land animals, whether they went upon the belly,
(Note: The large ו in גּחון (Leviticus 11:42) shows that this vav is the middle letter of the Pentateuch.)
as snakes and worms, or upon four feet, as rats, mice, weasels, etc., or upon many feet, like the insects (Leviticus 11:41-43). Lastly (Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 11:45), the whole law is enforced by an appeal to the calling of the Israelites, as a holy nation, to be holy as Jehovah their God, who had brought them out of Egypt to be a God to them, was holy (Exodus 6:7; Exodus 29:45-46).
Leviticus 11:46, Leviticus 11:47 contain the concluding formula to the whole of this law. If we take a survey, in closing, of the animals that are enumerated as unclean and not suitable for food, we shall find that among the larger land animals they were chiefly beasts of prey, that seize upon other living creatures and devour them in their blood; among the water animals, all snake-like fishes and slimy shell-fish; among birds, the birds of prey, which watch for the life of other animals and kill them, the marsh-birds, which live on worms, carrion, and all kinds of impurities, and such mongrel creatures as the ostrich, which lives in the desert, and the bat, which flies about in the dark; and lastly, all the smaller animals, with the exception of a few graminivorous locusts, but more especially the snake-like lizards, - partly because they called to mind the old serpent, partly because they crawled in the dust, seeking their food in mire and filth, and suggested the thought of corruption by the slimy nature of their bodies. They comprised, in fact, all such animals as exhibited more or less the darker type of sin, death, and corruption; and it was on this ethical ground alone, and not for all kinds of sanitary reasons, or even from political motives, that the nation of Israel, which was called to sanctification, was forbidden to eat them. It is true there are several animals mentioned as unclean, e.g., the ass, the camel, and others, in which we can no longer recognise this type. But we must bear in mind, that the distinction between clean animals and unclean goes back to the very earliest times (Genesis 7:2-3), and that in relation to the large land animals, as well as to the fishes, the Mosaic law followed the marks laid down by tradition, which took its rise in the primeval age, whose childlike mind, acute perception, and deep intuitive insight into nature generally, discerned more truly and essentially the real nature of the animal creation than we shall ever be able to do, with thoughts and perceptions disturbed as ours are by the influences of unnatural and ungodly culture.
(Note: “In its direct and deep insight into the entire nexus of the physical, psychical, and spiritual world, into the secret correspondences of the cosmos and nomos, this sense for nature anticipated discoveries which we shall never make with our ways of thinking, but which a purified humanity, when looking back from the new earth, will fully understand, and will no longer only 'see through a glass darkly.'” - Leyrer, Herzog's Cycl.)
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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