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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 11

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-8

Of Mammals

v. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, Aaron bring included as the high priest consecrated for the purpose of making an atonement for the sins of the people,

v. 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. From the animals in general the Lord distinguishes the domestic animals and those commonly used for food by the inhabitants of the countries round about.

v. 3. Whatsoever parteth the hoof and is cloven-footed, so that the hoof is not only partially, but completely divided into two parts, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, as a member of the true ruminants, that shall ye eat.

v. 4. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof; as, the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof, there being only a partial division of the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

v. 5. And the coney, a marmot-like animal of the size of a hare living in caves and clefts of the rocks, because he cheweth the cud, making the characteristic mouth-movements of the ruminants, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

v. 6. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. Though the two last-named animals have not the three or four stomachs of the real ruminants, the motion which they make with their mouths as they sit before their burrows is that of chewing the cud.

v. 7. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Since pigs were nothing but scavengers in Oriental lands, and since the eating of pork in those circumstances often resulted in diseases of the skin, many of the ancient peoples considered them unclean.

v. 8. of their flesh shall ye not eat, to slaughter these animals for food was strictly forbidden, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

Verses 9-12

Of Animals Living In Water

v. 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, all the animals that are fishes according to the common use of the word.

v. 10. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, all the smaller animals that throng the ocean, including also lobsters, crabs, oysters, and every other kind of marine animal, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you;

v. 11. they shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.

v. 12. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you, was utterly to be abhorred.

Verses 13-28

Of Animals of the Air

v. 13. 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 osprey, three varieties of eagles, the latter two being more exactly identified as the sea eagle and the black eagle, respectively,

v. 14. and the vulture, a ravenous bird which may have been similar to a hawk or falcon, and the kite after his kind, the class of hawks which includes the chicken-hawk,

v. 15. every raven after his kind, all the birds that belong to this family, including crows and blackbirds of every description,

v. 16. and the owl, literally, "the daughter of the desert," the ostrich, and the night-hawk, very likely the desert owl, and the cuckoo, either the desert hawk or the seagull, and the hawk after his kind, the entire family of falcons,

v. 17. and the little owl, often found in ruins, and the cormorant, or a kind of pelican found in Syria, and the great owl, also a frequenter of ruins in the desert,

v. 18. and the swan, probably an owl with a dismal cry, and the pelican, and the gier-eagle, or carrion vulture,

v. 19. and the stork, the heron after her kind, the entire tribe of swamp birds, and the lapwing, and the bat, which was at that time commonly enumerated with the birds.

v. 20. All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. As those that had been mentioned until now were chiefly such as lived on filth and carrion, they were unclean. They are here classed with the vermin of the earth, with the smaller animals equipped with wings for flight.

v. 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, whose strong hind legs are built for jumping;

v. 22. even these of them ye may eat: the locust after his kind, the migratory variety, and the bald locust after his kind, an exceptionally voracious variety, and the beetle after his kind, a very large, hopping variety of grasshopper, and the grasshopper after his kind, a variety with only rudimentary wings. The insects here named were very commonly used as food by the poorer classes of the Orient, either roasted or broiled in butter and eaten with spices and vinegar. Locusts are mentioned as the food of John the Baptist, Matthew 3:4.

v. 23. But all other flying, creeping things which have four feet, that walk, not in an upright, but in a horizontal position, "on all fours," shall be an abomination unto you.

v. 24. And For these ye shall be unclean; whosoever toucheth the carcass of them shall be unclean until the even; contact with their dead bodies should be avoided under penalty of being declared unclean for the day.

v. 25. And whosoever Beareth aught of the carcass of them, even in removing it from his land, shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the even.

v. 26. The carcasses of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not cloven-footed nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you; every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.

v. 27. And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, or, the bare soles of whose feet touch the ground, as in most beasts of prey, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you; whoso toucheth their carcass shall be unclean until the even.

v. 28. And he that beareth the carcass of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the even, being contaminated in even a higher degree than the one that merely touched the carcass; they are unclean unto you.

Verses 29-43

Of the Smaller Animals. General Precepts.

v. 29. These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth: the weasel, which often entered houses and defiled foods, and the mouse, that is, the field-mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, the great lizard of the Orient,

v. 30. and the ferret, or rather a lizard with a sharp cry, and the chameleon, a salamander-like lizard living in old walls, and the lizard, and the snail, either the true lizard or one similar to the blind-worm of Europe, and the mole, the word here used seeming to point definitely to the chameleon. Note that the equivalent of the Hebrew names can be given only approximately in the English language, since we have no means of knowing to which of the species now occurring in the Orient the various words apply, or whether perhaps certain species are not extinct.

v. 31. These are unclean to you among all that creep; whosoever doth touch them when they be dead shall be unclean until the even. The ordinance concerning them was so strict, not because these animals in themselves were unusually filthy, but because there was greater likelihood of their coming in contact with clothes and with vessels in the houses.

v. 32. And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean, for it might easily happen that one of them would fall out of a wall or from the open ceiling; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, garments of every kind, or skin, used for churning, for holding wine and other liquids, and for a variety of purposes, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, that is, put to any use in the household or shop, it must be put in to water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed.

v. 33. And every earthen vessel whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it, since the porous nature of it would cause it to absorb some of the filthiness.

v. 34. of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water cometh, which has been in contact with the carcass of such a creature, shall be unclean; and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean, it was defiled by the touch of the dead animal.

v. 35. And everything whereupon any part of their carcass falleth shall be unclean, whether it be oven, the larger bake-oven, or ranges for pots, small, portable ovens of earthenware, they shall be broken down; for they are unclean and shall be unclean unto you.

v. 36. Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, a spring or cistern with an abundance of fresh water or with the only water supply for an entire neighborhood, shall be clean; but that, or rather, he, which toucheth their carcass, in order to carry it away, shall be unclean.

v. 37. And if any part of their carcass fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean, the external filthiness on the dry grains being absorbed by the earth.

v. 38. But if any water be put upon the seed, and any part of their carcass fall thereon, it shall be unclean unto you, for in this case the uncleanness would be absorbed by the moisture in the kernels.

v. 39. And if any beast of which ye may eat, die, if an animal belonging to the category of clean animals die a natural death or be torn by wild beasts, he that toucheth the carcass thereof shall be unclean until the even.

v. 40. And he that eateth of the carcass of it shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the even; he also that beareth the carcass of it shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the even. In either case contact of the clothes with the dead animal was practically unavoidable.

v. 41. And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, all crawling and four-footed vermin, shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.

v. 42. Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, as serpents and worms, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, as mice, rats, weasels, moles, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, as centipedes, spiders, and other arthropods, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination.

v. 43. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable, literally, "ye shall not make your souls an abomination ," with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. The children of Israel, as the people of the Lord, must keep away from every form of defilement.

Verses 44-47

A Strong Concluding Argument

v. 44. For I am the Lord, your God; ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, consecrated, holy persons, set aside for the service of God; for I am holy; neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth up on the earth, either by using such animals for food or by handling them needlessly.

v. 45. For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, that was the mighty work in which He was then engaged, to be your God; ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

v. 46. This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth up on the earth;

v. 47. to make a difference, to observe the distinction, between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten. Thus the regulating principle was laid down by which the children of Israel were to be governed in their selection of animals for food. We Christians of the New Testament are no longer bound by this Ceremonial Lair: for God has taught us not to regard anything as common and unclean. Acts 10:15. In abstaining from using as food most of the animals mentioned in the list we are merely following the rules of hygiene, in the spirit of Christian liberty.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/leviticus-11.html. 1921-23.
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