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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Bat occurs in Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18; Isaiah 2:20; and Letter of Jeremiah 6:21. In Hebrew the word implies flying in the dark; which, taken in connection with the sentence 'moreover the othelaph and every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you; they shall not be eaten,' is so clear, that there cannot be a mistake respecting the order of animals meant. At first sight, animals so diminutive, lean, and repugnant to the senses, must appear scarcely to have required the legislator's attention; but the fact evidently shows that there were at the time men or tribes who ate animals classed with bats, a practice still in vogue in the great Australasian islands, where the frugivorous Pteropi of the harpi or goblin family, by our seamen denominated flying-dogs, and erroneously vampires, are caught and eaten; but where the insectivorous true bats, such as the genera common in Europe, are rejected. Some of the species of harpies are of the bulk of a rat, with from three to four feet of expanse between the tips of the wings; they have a fierce doglike head, and are nearly all marked with a space of rufous hair from the forehead over the neck and along part of the back. They reside in the most dense foliage of large trees, whence they fly out at night and do considerable damage to the plantations of fruit-trees. It was to one or more species of this section of Cheiroptera that the Mosaic prohibition was perhaps directed; and it is likewise to them that may be referred the foundation of the ancient legends concerning harpies, which, however much they may be distorted, have a basis of truth. Indeed, when we consider their voice, the faculty they have of feeding with their thumbs, their formidable teeth, their habit of flying in the day during dark weather, and their willingness, though they are frugivorous, to devour not only insects, but also the blood and flesh of small animals, we may admit that originally they were more daring in the presence of man; that their true characters are but moderately amplified by poetical fancy; and that the Mosaic injunction was strikingly appropriate.

In the text of Scripture where allusion is made to caverns and dark places, true Vespertilionidae, or insect-eating bats, similar to the European, are clearly designated.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Bat'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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