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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 11

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary




Rules for Sanctity of Life. Chapters 11-2.7 SECTION 1. LEGISLATIVE.

External Purity. Chaps. 11-15.


(1.) Health and Longevity of the Jews. The more we study the law of Moses in its relation to health, and in its various provisions which long ago anticipated the sanitary science of our day, in its system of dietetics, in its convocations and feasts, in its purifications and its varied restrictions which touch the social life at every point we shall be amazed at the wisdom manifested in that ancient law, as exhibited in its safeguards against vice, disorder, and disease.

From its initiatory rite, the seal of the covenant, which was in itself a protection against self-abuse and disease, down to the close of life, the Jewish law sedulously guarded the physical health of the people; and even the laws concerning the dead exhibit the same divine wisdom.

Dr. Gibbon, a health officer of London, reports that the life of the Jew in London is, on an average, twice as long as the life of the Gentile. The medical officer of one of their large schools has remarked that Jewish children do not die in any thing like the same ratio as the children of the Gentiles. In the district of Whitechapel, the medical officer in his report states that on the north side of High Street, which is occupied by Jews, the average death-rate is twenty-seven per thousand; while on the south side, occupied by English and Irish, the average death-rate is forty-three per thousand.

The church registers of Prussia, between the years 1823 and 1841, show that there died on an average, annually, one in thirty-four Gentiles, and only one in forty-six Jews. Of the children born among the Gentiles, forty-four and a half per cent. reached the age of fourteen, but among the Jews fifty per cent. reached that age. Among the Gentiles only twelve per cent. reached the age of seventy, while among the Jews twenty per cent. reached that age. These conclusions are carefully drawn from reliable statistics, and accord with the statements of Dr. Pressel, and show that the learned French physician, Dr. M. Levy, is abundantly justified in concluding that while the average term of life among the Gentiles is twenty-six years, among the Jews it is thirty-seven.

“Hence, while the beer-drinking, whiskey-loving, pork-eating Gentile dies, on an average, at the age of twenty-six, the Jew, giving heed to the teachings of Moses, adds nearly one-half to the length of his days, having an average of eleven years longer to enjoy life, attend to business, and acquire property. Is it any wonder that, as a rule, Jews excel the Gentiles in whatever they undertake?” H.L. Hastings.

Further, not only is the death rate less among the scattered nation, but the birth rate is greater fifty-five per one thousand, to thirty-eight of Gentile births; while the still-born Jews out of one hundred thousand were only eighty-nine to one hundred and forty-three still-born Gentiles. Carefully prepared statistics show that infant mortality is nearly twice as great among Gentiles as among the Jews, being in Frankfort, Germany, two hundred and forty-one to one hundred and twenty-nine per one thousand. Under the hygienic laws of Moses there are no Jewish paupers nor drunkards, and very few insane.

In Great Britain, where scepticism widely prevails, and “the mistakes of Moses” are discussed in club-rooms, beer-shops, and gin-palaces, one person in every eleven is said to be a lunatic, a criminal, a pauper, or a drunkard. Would not the teachings of Moses, in spite of all his alleged “mistakes,” go far to remedy the wreck and ruin which have been wrought there by intemperance, vice, and crime?

(2.) “The animals that are permitted and that are forbidden had hardly any existence in the wilderness in which the immediate life of Israel was then being spent. The people might have said, Why permit us to eat animals which are not at hand? Why forbid us to eat food which is not within our reach? Why, in a great desert, lay down rules and regulations about the fish in the sea? Here is the solemn lesson that we are to provide for all life, for all the possibilities of life, for all the yet unknown contingencies of life, as far as they can be forecast and ruled by inspired prudence.” Joseph Parker.

Verse 1


1 . ) The sacrifices have been instituted, the ritual of the altar has been ordained, the Aaronic priests have been consecrated, and under the supervision of Moses have performed their first official service. The nation, typically purged from sin, must be led along the path of holy living. To attain this end the people, unable through lack of intellectual and moral development to grasp broad principles and apply them to their own conduct, must be put into the school of manifold and minute rules of life. Fleshly ordinances were made, to a great extent, the channels of spiritual instruction, and for bringing perpetually into remembrance the grand distinctions of the law respecting good and evil. It was necessary that this should be spread out into a vast variety of forms, as the Mosaic dispensation admitted so very sparingly of direct instruction. The Israelite in the very food he ate must have something to remind him of the law of his God, and feel himself enclosed on every side with the signs and indications of that righteousness which it was his great duty, as a member of the covenant, to cherish and exemplify. Hence the nation in its childhood must be “under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father.” It must be thrust into “bondage to weak and beggarly elements” until the great Emancipator shall proclaim “the royal law of liberty.” As a man’s character is greatly affected by what he puts into his mouth, through the mysterious connexion between body and mind, the divine Lawgiver begins at the foundation and regulates the food of the chosen people. We cannot regard as wholly fanciful the suggestion of Wunderbar, that the animal element may only with great circumspection and discretion be taken up into the life of man, in order to avoid debasing that human life by assimilation to a brutal level, animalizing the affections and disqualifying the soul for drawing near to God. This should be regarded as a limitation to our Saviour’s announcement that “there is nothing from without a man that entering into him call defile him.” For the depression of the moral tone and the darkening of the spiritual intuitions by an improper treatment of the body are of the nature of a defilement.

Verse 2

CONCERNING BEASTS, Leviticus 11:1-8.

2. These are the beasts which ye shall eat See Genesis 7:2, note.

Verse 3

3. Whatsoever parteth the hoof There is here no limit to the number of divisions, but in Deuteronomy 14:6 we find the words “cleft into two claws.” Thus also the Seventy in this verse.

And cheweth the cud Literally, Causeth what has been chewed to come up. This describes the method of rumination. The ruminant is endowed with four stomachs. The first receives the vegetables coarsely bruised by a first mastication, which pass into the second, where they are moistened and formed into little pellets, which are brought up again to the mouth to be chewed again, then swallowed into the third stomach, from which they pass into the fourth, for final digestion. The qualities required in this verse exclude all carnivorous, but do not include all graminivorous, animals.

Verse 4

4. The camel Some think that this beast is not to be eaten because of his extraordinary usefulness as “the ship of the desert.” But Jehovah pronounces him unclean, and for this reason commands his people to abstain from his flesh, a food much esteemed by the Arabs. Many attempts have been made to explain the grounds of this interdict of camel flesh, none of which is satisfactory.

Divideth not the hoof He does not fully divide the hoof into two equal parts, the front part only being cleft; he was excluded by the very terms of the definition. Since the number of camels in the East is immense, and their flesh is very palatable according to Tristram’s taste less savoury than horse flesh their prohibition was a great privation. The Jews, no doubt, ate camels’ milk, which is excellent. Jacob presented Esau with thirty milch camels. Genesis 32:15.

Verse 5

5. The coney The shaphan, erroneously translated coney, is a gregarious, thick-skinned animal, living in caves and clefts of the rocks in Palestine. Its scientific name is hyrax Syriacus. Aside from this verse and its concordant, Deuteronomy 14:7, it is mentioned only in Psalms 104:18 and in Proverbs 30:26. It is scarcely of the size of the cat, timid, yet easily tamed, gray on the back, white on the belly, with long hair, a very short tail, and round ears. It resembles the Alpine marmot, and is not now very common in Palestine, though occasionally seen among the hills. It is singular in its structure and anatomy, being neither a ruminant nor a rodent, but is classed by naturalists between the hippopotamus and the rhinoceros. See Robinson, 3:387.

Because he cheweth the cud From the motion of their jaws both the hyrax and the hare were long supposed to ruminate, even by Linnaeus and other eminent naturalists. It is the opinion of modern scientists that they are only apparent, not real ruminants. The popular view is evidently given here. The mention of rumination is merely incidental, since it was not sufficient to classify them as clean. According to Revelation J.G. Wood the coney and the rabbit are rodents, and have to be working their chisel-like incisive teeth continually, to keep them sharp and from growing too long.

Verse 6

6. The hare This is probably the species lepus Sinaiticus, seen by modern travellers in the Sinaitic Peninsula and in Mount Lebanon. Hares are hunted in Syria with falcon and greyhound. Only the Arabs eat their flesh.

Verse 7

7. The swine The Jews are not alone in their abhorrence of swine’s flesh. It was forbidden to the Egyptian priests, disallowed by the Koran, and rejected by the Phenicians, Ethiopians and other Eastern nations. At the present day a hog is scarcely ever seen in Palestine. Native Christians abstain from pork out of a prudential regard for the scruples of their Moslem and Jewish neighbours. Besides being a non-ruminant it is probable that the swine was excluded from the diet of the Hebrew on hygienic grounds, as liable to induce cutaneous diseases, especially the leprosy. The intimate connexion between disorders of the skin and the eating of pork is found in the derivation of the word scrofula, from the Latin scrofa, a breeding-sow.

Verses 9-12

CONCERNING FISHES, Leviticus 11:9-12.

No species of fish are here mentioned; the possession of both fins and scales is the line of demarcation between the clean and the unclean. It excludes from the table of the Hebrew all the eel genera, or snake-like fishes, whose scales are very minute and slimy; all the genus silurus, the scaleless fishes found in the inland waters of Europe, all the amphibious saurians, like the alligators, being finless, and all shellfish, whether testaceous, as the oyster, or crustaceous, as the lobster, since they have neither scales nor fins. Numa forbade the Romans offering scaleless fishes in sacrifice. The modern Egyptians regard them as unwholesome.

Verse 13

13. The eagle The Hebrew nesher here denotes a particular species of the falconidae, namely, the griffon or great vulture, as distinguished from other raptorial birds of the same genus. Four kinds of eagles have been observed in Palestine the golden, the spotted, the imperial, and the ospray. The eagle is large, strong, swift, fierce, and rapacious. His cry is the terror of every wing. His eye is large, dark, and piercing; his sight keen and directly at the sun; his beak powerful and hooked; his wings are broad and powerful; and his claws long and sharp.

The ossifrage The English term signifies the bone-breaker, the Hebrew peres, the breaker. This bird is spoken of only here and in the parallel passage Deuteronomy 14:12.

His habits are indicated by his name, for not only does he push kids and lambs, and even men, off the rocks, but he takes the bones of animals denuded of their flesh by other birds of prey high up into the air, and lets them fall upon a stone to crack, and render more digestible for even his enormous powers of deglutition. “I have repeatedly watched a pair of Lammergeirs, which had an eyrie close to our camp, pass and repass in front of our tents for hours at a time, invariably dropping something upon a smooth ledge of rocks hard by. For several days we imagined that these were sticks they were carrying to their nest; for prompt as we were in endeavouring to reach the spot first, the birds swooped down like lightning and seized their quarry again. At length we caught a serpent writhing and dislocated, which we had taken for a stick, and found that our imagined stones were tortoises, which had to be dropped a dozen times before the shell was sufficiently shattered.” Tristram.

The ospray The Hebrew ozniyyah. It is difficult to identify this bird. Some think that the fish-eating haliaeetus is intended, others, the melanaeetus, or black eagle of Aristotle; while other writers identify the ospray with the hatiaeetus albicilla, or white tailed sea-eagle. Tristram suggests that it is the very abundant circaetos gallicus, which feeds upon reptiles.

Verses 13-19

CONCERNING FOWLS, Leviticus 11:13-19.

In the case of fowls no general principle of classification is laid down, but twenty unclean species are specified. From an inspection of the list we discover that it is composed almost exclusively of birds of prey, never eaten by civilized man. Thus Mosaism did but sanction by legislative enactment that which the instinct of cultivated man has, in all ages, approved. The passerine birds, game and poultry groups, the duck tribe, and most of the waders, except only the herons and storks, were clean. It will be found that in the Authorized Version many of them have been translated erroneously. This results from the fact that they are found only in the catalogue given in Leviticus and repeated in Deuteronomy. Thus practically many of them are cases of only once mentioned terms. In these cases the translator must resort to the meaning of the radical form from which the term was derived, to its cognate in the kindred languages, to the most ancient versions, and to the opinions of the wisest Jewish rabbins. After all his care he may fall into a mistake which advancing scholarship and research may expose. Since birds, insects, and the smaller animals are quite permanent in their habitat, the studies of modern ornithologists and entomologists throw much light upon this subject. Unclean birds and insects which are now abundant in Palestine and the Sinaitic Peninsula would naturally find a place in the catalogue, while those not now found in those regions would be omitted. Of the twenty names in this catalogue of unclean birds nine are found only in the catalogues and seven are improperly rendered in the Authorized Version. We can harmonize the twenty-one species named in Deuteronomy 14:12-18, “by assuming a slight error of transcription. The Hebrew daah and raah, vulture and glede, differ only in their initial letters ד and ר . On this hypothesis, if we drop the superfluous daah (omitted in the Samaritan, the Septuagint, and several MSS.) rendered vulture, the discrepancy vanishes.” Haley.

Verse 14

14. The vulture The Hebrew dayyah is found only here. Since the parallel word in Deuteronomy 14:13 is rayyah, milvius in the Vulgate, some Hebraists regard this as the black kite, but we are inclined to sustain the accuracy of the Authorized Version. The griffon vulture is universally distributed in all the mountainous and rocky districts of Palestine. Its favourite breeding places are between Jerusalem and Jericho and all around the Dead Sea. By a peculiar instinct it follows armies, vast numbers having congregated in the Crimea in the Russian war, although previously they had been rarely seen in that peninsula. Job 28:7, note.

The kite Hebrew ayyah, translated vulture in Job 28:7, and kite in the only other passage, Deuteronomy 14:13. Of all the birds of prey this has the keenest vision. See reference in Job. Its habitat is near to cities, and its food is moles, rats, mice, frogs, the young of game birds, offal, and dead birds. Pigeons associate with him without harm. This bird was common in London in the seventeenth century.

Verse 15

15. Every raven This bird derives his name in Hebrew from his blackness. It is allied to the crow, which is after his kind, only smaller. It abides in solitary valleys. Proverbs 30:17. Since it feeds on carrion it is very unclean.

Verse 16

16. The owl This is the ostrich, literally, the daughter of the howl, from its doleful cry. It is correctly translated in Lamentations 4:3. It is the largest of all known birds, and the swiftest of all cursorial animals. To capture one costs the lives of two horses. Its strength and voracity are enormous. From its habits of indiscriminately gulping down almost anything, even glass or stone, it is obviously unclean. Its cry by night, Tristram says, resembles the hoarse lowing of an ox in pain; others compare it to the roar of the lion.

The nighthawk The Hebrew tachmas, found only in Deuteronomy 14:15 and Isaiah 34:11, cannot with certainty be identified. The conjectures are, that it is the male ostrich, the swallow, and the owl. As the Seventy and the Vulgate agree in the last named bird, and since it is very common, with Tristram we adopt it as the true rendering.

The cuckoo There is no authority for this translation. The thachaph, leanness, is supposed to be a bird of the genus gull, probably the stormy petrel, commonly called Mother Carey’s chicken, which abounds in the Levant.

The hawk There are in Palestine several species of the falcon, most of which are summer visitors from the South. See Job 39:26. The smaller species are the kestrel and hobby. Of the larger kinds, the falco sacer is the most magnificent.

Verse 17

17. The little owl Hebrew cos. The Authorized Version is evidently correct, though Bochart argues that cos means pouch, and hence that the pelican is intended. But Psalms 102:6 decides that it is an owl of some kind. The little owl, to which species Tristram assigns cos, is by far the most abundant of all owls in Palestine. He is a grotesque and comical-looking little bird.

The cormorant Hebrew shalac. Since it occurs only here and in the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:17, it is difficult to identify. The Seventy render it by καταρακτης , the plunger, which Furst says is a species of pelican, which precipitates itself from high crags into the water after fish. The cormorant is, however, closely allied to the pelican, being of the same family group, so that our translators were not far astray. The common cormorant is very common on the coast, and comes up the Kishon, visiting also the Sea of Galilee.

The great owl Hebrew yansuph. Aside from the two catalogues of unclean birds, it is named but once, in Isaiah 34:11, in the prophetic desolation of Edom.

The Chaldee and Syriac are in favour of some kind of owl, but the Seventy and Vulgate have ιβις , Ibis religiosa, the sacred bird of Egypt. “But the passage in Isaiah plainly puts this interpretation out of the question, for the ibis is strictly a bird of the reedy marshes and mud flats, the very last to be thought of among the ruins of Petra.” It is doubtless the Egyptian eagle-owl, a large and noble-looking bird, that is signified in these passages, found in great numbers in the rock tombs of Petra. Tristram thinks that it is the Egyptian eagle owl.

Verse 18

18. The swan Hebrew tinshemeth. It is found only in the two catalogues. The Samaritan version sustains the Seventy in rendering it πορφυριων , Vulgate, porphyrio ibis, the purple water-hen. Tristram thinks that these versions are right. Furst insists that it is an owl, perhaps the screech-owl; Onkelos, the horn-owl; the Jerusalem Targum favours the owl; the Syriac, the night owl, which is followed by Rashi and Kimchi. The weight of authority is for the owl of some species. It is not probable that the swan was sufficiently known to the Israelites to obtain a place in this list, nor is it an unclean bird.

The pelican It derives its Hebrew name, kaath, from vomiting the shells and fish it has stored in its capacious pouch, to feed its young, or to enable it to fly when suddenly alarmed. It abides in the swamps of the desert and on the sea-shore.

The gier eagle Hebrew racham. It occurs only in the catalogues, and is identical in reality as it is in name with the racham of the Arabs, the Egyptian vulture, or Pharaoh’s hen, which, according to Tristram, is common in Palestine, and breeds prolifically in the valley of the Kedron. It is an efficient scavenger.

Verse 19

19. The stork Its Hebrew name, chasidah, signifies kindness, of which it has been in all ages the type. The white stork is one of the largest and most conspicuous of land birds, with jet black wings and bright red beak and legs. It devours all kinds of offal. Both white and black storks abound in Palestine, arriving in the latter part of March, and, year after year and generation after generation, occupying the old nest.

The heron Hebrew anaphah. It occurs only in the two catalogues, and hence it is quite uncertain what bird or genus is intended, since the words after her kind are subjoined. The Hebrew radical signifies “to snort in anger.” Hence Furst says it is the parrot. The Arabic version renders it a kind of eagle; the Seventy call it the sandpiper. The swallow has been suggested. The point on which Hebraists agree is, that it is not the heron. Tristram insists that it is the heron.

The lapwing Hebrew, dukiphath, mountain-cock. It is found only in the catalogues. The Sadducees believed it to be the common fowl, which they refused to eat. Commentators generally agree with the Seventy and Vulgate that the hoopoe is intended, called by AEschylus “the bird of the rocks,” which answers well to the Hebrew name. Its appearance is so remarkable that it cannot fail to attract notice wherever seen. The Arabs have a superstitious regard for it, and use it in their charms.

The bat The Hebrew atalleph indicates a night-bird. Although in modern natural history the bat is not a bird, but a true quadruped or mammal, in Hebrew oph, “fowls,” literally a wing, might be applied to any winged creature. Many travellers have noticed the immense number of bats that are found in the East, especially in caverns and dilapidated idol temples.

Verse 21


These, as a class, are all forbidden, with a few exceptions.

21. Legs above their feet These are a pair of hind legs to spring with, in addition to the four for walking. The word above indicates the upward projection of these distinct springing legs, as seen in the grasshopper at rest. The prohibition of every creeping thing that flieth, Deuteronomy 14:19, is thus harmonized with this verse by Keil: “The edible locusts are passed over because it was not the intention of Moses to repeat every particular of the earlier laws in these addresses.” Deuteronomy is synoptical.

Verse 22

22. The locust The Hebrew arbeh. All the Bedawin of Arabia but only the poorest beggars in Egypt and Nubia eat locusts. Scalded in boiling sea water, dried, and deprived of their heads and wings, they are sold by measure in Arabian towns. See Exodus 10:4, note.

The bald locust The Hebrew salam. It occurs only in the catalogues, hence all that can possibly be known of it is, that it is some kind of straight-winged, leaping insect, good for food. “From the statement of the peculiar characteristic of the head, the name may with some reason be assigned to the genus truxalis, very common in the Holy Land, and which has a long, narrow, smooth head, and straight sword-shaped antennae.” Tristram.

The beetle Hebrew chargol. It occurs only here. It certainly is not the beetle, which is not a leaping insect, nor is it fit to be eaten. Rosenmuller pronounces all attempts to identify the chargol merae conjecturae.” The Revised Version has cricket instead of beetle.

The grasshopper The Hebrew chagab is four times translated grasshopper and once locust. 2 Chronicles 7:13. It is utterly impossible to distinguish this species of locust from the arbeh, though according to the Talmud it contains eight hundred kinds. Tristram thinks that the chagab was a small species, and that grasshopper is as near a translation as could be given.

Verse 24

24. Unclean until the even The slighter degrees of uncleanness were merely “until even,” and were removed by bathing and washing the clothes at the end of it; meanwhile the person was excluded from certain religious privileges. See Leviticus 5:2, note.

Verses 26-28


This section contains a prohibition of all quadrupeds not dividing the hoof and chewing the cud, together with the penalty for touching their carcasses. It is a summary of Leviticus 11:1-8, with the prohibition of whatsoever goeth upon his paws.

Verse 29

29. The weasel The choledh is found only in this catalogue, and seems to include the weasel, ichneumon, and the mole. They are all remarkably abundant in Palestine, especially the last two.

The mouse The akbar field ravager comprehends any destructive rodent. Tristram found twenty-three species of this group in Palestine. Field mice sometimes become multitudinous in Syria, and cause great destruction to the grain lands. They were eaten by idolaters, and probably used in their sacrifices or incantations. They were regarded as a great delicacy by the Romans, and were carefully kept and fattened for food. See Isaiah 66:17.

The tortoise R.V. (“great lizard.”) The Hebrew tsafh occurs in Numbers 7:3, where it is translated covered, (wagons,) and in Isaiah 66:20, litters. As the name of an animal it occurs only here, and, from a similar word in Arabic, signifies a large kind of lizard, doubtless the land-waron or the land crocodile of Herodotus, (iv, 192.) “It sometimes attains the length of two feet. I kept one tame for some months, and it was very docile, coming at my call, and sleeping in the sun. It is eaten by the Bedouin.” Tristram.

Verses 29-47

CONCERNING CREEPERS, Leviticus 11:29-47.

This section includes not only reptiles, but some of the small mammals. Reptiles are not mentioned as a collective group in the Bible, but are divided into the moving creatures of the sea, (classed with the fishes, Genesis 1:20,) and the creeping things of the land mentioned with mammalian quadrupeds, but distinct from them.

Verse 30

30. The ferret Hebrew anakah. It is agreed on all sides that “the ferret” is not intended. The Septuagint translates it μυγαλη , “shrew-mouse,” common in Galilee. There is good reason for the rendering “lizard” or “gecko,” a species of lizard. It is supposed to be the wailing lizard.

Onkelos and the rabbins identify it with the hedgehog, abounding in all parts of Palestine, but certainly not to be classed with creeping things.

The chameleon Thus the Seventy and Jerome translate the Hebrew coach, literally signifying strength. Since it is used only here as the name of an animal it is impossible to tell its meaning. Bochart accepts the Arabic reading, “the monitor of the Nile,” a large, strong reptile common in Egypt and other parts of Africa. The land monitor is found in Southern Judea and in the Jordan valley, and is eaten by the natives.

The lizard This seems to be correctly translated, and, from the meaning of the Hebrew letaah, points to the adhesive or fanfoot lizard, which can run over the smoothest surfaces, even in an inverted position, like the house-fly on a ceiling. The number of species of lizard in Palestine is very great. There are land lizards and water lizards in abundance. The Revised Version has translated Leviticus 11:30 thus: “And the gecko, and the land crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand lizard, and the chameleon,” and adds in the margin, “words of uncertain meaning, but probably denoting four kinds of lizards.”

The snail The Hebrew chomet occurs only here. Hence we have no grounds for any opinion. The Seventy and Vulgate understand some kind of lizard. Two Arabic versions render it chameleon. The Veneto-Greek and the rabbins agree with the Authorized Version, and render it “snail.” Modern Jews, with all other Orientals, eat snails, not accounting them as unclean. Tristram argues that chomet is the sand-lizard of the Sinaitic Peninsula, the wilderness of Judea and the Jordan valley. “The snail” in Psalms 58:8 is from another Hebrew word.

The mole The Hebrew tinshemeth occurs in Leviticus 11:18 as an unclean bird. The chameleon, in the opinion of Bochart and Tristram, is intended here. The mole will be found in Leviticus 11:29. See note.

Verse 32

32. Vessel… must be put into water This explains the baptism of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, (Mark 7:4,) and “divers washings” mentioned in Hebrews 9:10, as characteristic of the Jews.

Verse 33

33. Earthen vessel… ye shall break This indicates not only that earthenware was in use in the wilderness, but also that it was abundant. We who are accustomed to strong stone-ware of considerable value can scarcely conceive how thin and brittle, how abundant and cheap, is the pottery of Palestine. For the reason for breaking the earthen vessel see Leviticus 15:12, note. That the Hebrews were potters in Egypt is evident from Psalms 81:6. The wall-paintings minutely describe the process, which agrees exactly with the descriptions found in the Old Testament. For the form of

the vessels see Numbers 5:17, note.

Ranges for pots The Hebrew kerayim is explained as a pot or pan with its cover. Furst defines it as a cooking furnace consisting of two ranges of stones so laid as to form an angle. The Talmud rendering is a trough for pressing olives. Jahn thinks that it is an oven consisting of a hole dug in the ground, its sides being coated with clay and the bottom with pebbles; but the dual number is an objection to this view.

Verse 36

36. A fountain… shall be clean Living water, the means of purity, must be incapable of defilement, or pollution may become universal.

Verse 37

37. Sowing seed Since this contained an inherent principle of life it is also incapable of pollution. “The seed is the word,” the instrument of sanctification, and the great antiseptic for the world’s corruption.

Verse 39

39. If any beast… die The prohibition of the flesh of clean animals which have died is founded on sanitary grounds. When the blood is not drawn from the veins the flesh becomes corrupt and poisonous.

Verse 43

43. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable Hebrew, your souls.

See Leviticus 4:2.

Verse 44

44. For I am the Lord your God All the obligations to purity are derived from the will of God, as written in nature and in revelation.

Sanctify yourselves Abstinence from every act which defileth is the human part of sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. To keep the evil tendencies of depraved nature from breaking out into open sin by the strenuous effort of the will, sustained by divine grace, is Old Testament sanctification. To kill and eradicate these depraved proclivities by the mighty inworking and abiding of the Sanctifier, applying the blood of Jesus Christ to the soul to cleanse it from all sin and keep it pure by the power of God through faith, is New Testament sanctification. In this sense we are to sanctify ourselves by availing ourselves of the office of the Sanctifier.

For I am holy The very character of God furnishes the motive and measure of holiness. Matthew 5:48. The revelation of Jehovah’s moral character is the proclamation of man’s duty to become assimilated thereto. All intelligent worship of the true God impresses his likeness upon the soul. Here is the secret of all enjoyment of God in time or in eternity. The misery of an unholy soul is as natural a consequence as the ache of a decayed tooth.

Verse 45

45. I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of… Egypt Providential kindness in emancipation from the yoke of Egypt presents an additional motive to holiness. So does deliverance from the bondage of sin constitute a reason why every justified soul should be cleansed from the pollution of sin, and become perfectly holy in heart and in life.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/leviticus-11.html. 1874-1909.
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