Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,XI.
(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron.—Lest the rebuke which Moses publicly administered to the priests (see Leviticus 10:16) should diminish their influence with the people, whom they had to teach the laws of clean and unclean things (see Leviticus 10:10-11) laid down in the following chapters, the Lord here honours Aaron, as well as Moses, by making this communication to them conjointly. Besides, Aaron as minister was as much concerned in these laws as Moses the legislator. Hence, when a question of defilement had afterwards to be decided, it was brought for judgment before Moses and Aaron conjointly. (See Numbers 9:6.)
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.(2) These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all . . . —Better, These are the animals which ye may eat of all . . . . The dietary laws, which stand first in the general precepts about clean and unclean things, begin with the quadrupeds, or land animals, both domesticated and wild. This is in accordance with the Hebrew division of the animal kingdom into four principal classes :—(1) the land animals, (2) the water animals, (3) the birds of the air, and (4) the swarming animals. – Though not specified here by name, yet the parallel regulations in Deuteronomy 14:4-5 enumerate the following ten animals :—the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the roebuck, the fallow deer, the wild goat, the pygang, the wild ox, and the chamois, with their various kindred species, which are not mentioned. From the expression, “These are the animals,” the opinion obtained during the second Temple that God actually caused specimens of every animal to pass before Moses and Aaron, in order to show them the veritable creatures which are clean and unclean, just as the Lord caused every species to come to Noah into the ark.
Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.(3) Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted.—Better, Whatsoever is clovenfooted, and entirely separateth the hoofs. The first rule laid down by which the clean quadruped is to be distinguished is that the hoofs must be completely cloven or divided above as well as below, or, as the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:6 has it, “and cleaveth the cleft into two claws.” Such is the case in the foot of the ox, the sheep, and the goat, where the hoof is wholly divided below as much as above. The foot of the dog, the cat, and the lion, though exhibiting a division into several distinct toes or claws, is contrary to the regulation here laid down, inasmuch as the division is simply on the upper side, the lower side being united by a membrane, and hence the hoof is not “entirely separated.”
And cheweth the cud.—In addition to the foot being perfectly cloven, the quadruped to be clean is to be ruminating. The canon which obtained during the second Temple is thus formulated: “Every quadruped which has no upper teeth is known to be ruminant, and when it is also clovenfooted is clean.” According to the law of Manu the highest Hindoo castes were also forbidden to eat the flesh or drink the milk of quadrupeds with uncloven hoof. The same was the case with the Egyptian priests: they abstained from eating the flesh of any animal which had uncloven hoofs or many claws.
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; he is unclean unto you.(4) Nevertheless these shall ye not eat.—As there are some quadrupeds which comply with only one of the two above-named conditions—i.e., which ruminate but have not their hoofs perfectly parted in two, or, vice versâ, are bisulcous and not ruminant—it is here declared that such animals must not be eaten.
As the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not . . . —Better, though he cheweth the cud, yet he divideth not, as the same phrase is properly rendered in the Authorised Version in Leviticus 11:7. The first animal adduced to illustrate this fact is the indispensable camel, or “the ship of the desert,” as it is aptly called. Though cloven-footed above, the toes of the camel are united below in a large elastic pad on which the camel treads, and which is like the sole of a shoe. Hence it does not come within the category of those animals which are thoroughly bisulcate. The Egyptians, the Zebii, and the Hindus, too, did not eat camel’s flesh, because they supposed it to be heating, and to engender cruelty and revenge; whilst the Persians, the ancient Arabians, and the Moslems feasted upon its milk and flesh.
And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.(5) And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not . . . —Better, though he cheweth the cud, yet he divideth not. (See Leviticus 11:4.) The coney, which is the old English name for rabbit, is the meaning of the Hebrew expression shaphan, according to the definition of those who had to explain and administer this law at the time of Christ. As these interpreters lived in Palestine, where they saw the animals in question, the objection that the rabbit is not indigenous in Palestine falls to the ground. These shrewd Administrators of the law must also have noticed that it was the habit of the feeble conies to seek refuge and build in the fissures of the rocks, which not unfrequently are on a level with the ground. The rabbit, moreover, well suits the hare, by which it is immediately followed. Modern expositors, however, identify it with the Syrian hyrax, or rock-badger, which is about the size of a well-grown rabbit. It resembles the guinea-pig or the Alpine marmot, has long hair of a brownish grey or brownish-yellow colour on the back, but white on the belly, a very short tail, and short round ears. The action of its jaws when it is at rest resembles that of the ruminants.
And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.(6) And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but.—Better, though he cheweth the cud, yet. Other nations, too, shunned the flesh of hares. The Parsees considered the hare as the most unclean of all animals, and the ancient Britons abstained from eating it because of the loathsome disorders to which the hare is subject. Like the rabbit, or the hyrax, the hare has not the peculiar stomach of the true ruminant; but, like the rabbit, the hare, when sitting at rest, so moves its jaws that it appears to masticate. As the object of the legislator was to furnish the people with marks by which they were to distinguish the clean from the unclean animals, he necessarily adopted those which were in common vogue, and which alone were intelligible in those days.
And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.(7) And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted.—Better, And the swine, though he is clovenfooted, and entirely separateth the hoofs. (See Leviticus 11:3.) Having given these illustrations of animals which comply with the first condition only—i.e., which are ruminant but not bisulcous—and hence must not be eaten, the lawgiver now concludes the list of prohibited quadrupeds with an illustration of a contrary nature—viz., the swine, which comply with the second condition only, but not with the first. Here, too, the description is according to appearance. The feet of the pig tribe generally have four toes enclosed in separate hoofs. The two middle hoofs, however, are much larger, and are divided by a deep cleft, and hence to all appearances the swine is bisulcous. Though the law before us simply describes the swine as wanting in one of the two criteria, like the camel, the coney, and the hare, yet the abhorrence which the Jews, as a nation, have always had of this animal, and the impurity which they have ascribed to it infinitely surpass their repulsion of any other unclean beast. For this reason it became the symbol of defilement and the badge of insult (Psalm 65:4; Psalm 66:3; Psalm 66:17; Proverbs 11:22). The eating of pork was regarded as renouncing the Law, and as a sign of apostasy. Hence Antiochus Epiphanes adopted it as a test that those Jews who ate it had forsaken their religion and submitted to his rule. Hence we read that when swine’s flesh was forced into the mouth of Eleazar, the aged scribe, he “spit it forth, choosing rather to die gloriously than to live stained with such an abomination” (2 Maccabees 6:18-19). During the time of the commonwealth there were no swine in Judea. Hence it was in a “far country” that the prodigal son was sent into the field to feed the swine (Luke 15:13-15). The swine in Galilee in our Lord’s time (Matthew 8:30) were undoubtedly kept by Gentiles for the Roman legion. The very name of swine (chazir) was discarded, and the animal was designated by the euphemistic expression, “the other thing.” This “brutish of all animals” was, moreover, regarded as propagating cutaneous and many other disorders. The Talmud declares that “ten measures of pestilential diseases were spread over the earth, and nine of them fell to the share of pigs.” On the other hand, many of the Pagan nations regarded the swine as an emblem of the productive power of nature. Hence they sacrificed them to those deities to whom they ascribed the fertility of the soil, and the fruitfulness of cattle. Thus, the Egyptians offered them in honour of Isis and Osiris once a year at the festival of the full moon. The Athenians, too, offered the swine in their mysteries; so did the Boetians and the early Romans.
Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.(8) Of their flesh ye shall not eat.—During the second Temple the prohibition was defined to extend to the smallest quantity. If any one ate a piece of flesh less even than the size of an olive he was chastised with stripes.
And their carcase shall ye not touch.—As contact with a human dead body, which was regarded as the most defiling of all, was only forbidden to the priests (see Leviticus 21:1-3), hence the prohibition here addressed to the whole nation was interpreted during the second Temple to apply simply to the occasions when the Israelites came to Jerusalem on the pilgrimage festivals. Contact with a carcase of an unclean animal on these visits precluded the worshipper from entering the sanctuary, from touching sacred things, and from partaking of the sacrificial meats.
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.(9) These shall ye eat.—The water animals, which, as we have seen, constitute the second division of the animal kingdom, now follow the land animals. They are discussed in Leviticus 11:9-12. Like the clean quadrupeds, the salt-water and the fresh-water fish must comply with two conditions to bring them within the class of clean. They must have both scales and fins. It will be seen that in the case of the quadrupeds, not only are two criteria given by which the clean animals may be distinguished from the unclean, but that the law is illustrated by adducing ten land animals of the former kind (see Leviticus 11:2), and four of the latter (see Leviticus 11:4-7). In the case before us, however, not a single typical fish is given by name, and the law itself is expressed in the briefest and most generic manner possible. It was evidently left to those upon whom the administration of the law devolved to define it more minutely in order that it may be observed in practical life. Hence the following expanded definitions obtained during the second Temple:—(1) All fishes with scales have invariably also fins, but fishes which have fins have not always scales. Any fish, therefore, or even a piece of one exposed by itself for sale in the market, which exhibits scales may be eaten, for it is to be taken for granted that it had fins, or that the fins cannot be seen because of their extraordinary smallness. But, on the other hand, a fish with fins may exist without scales, and hence is unclean; (2) Clean fishes have a complete vertebral column, but the unclean have simply single joints, united by a gelatinous cord. To the former class belong, (a) “the soft fins,” or the salmon and trout, the capellan and grayling, the herring, the anchovy and the sardine, the pike and carp families, the cod, the hake and the haddock, the sole, the turbot, and the plaice; (b) “the spiny fins,” as the perch, the mackerel, and the tunny. To the latter class belong the shark tribe, the sturgeons with their caviare, the lamprey, and the nine-eyed eel; (3) The head of clean fishes is more or less broad, whilst that of the unclean kinds is more or less pointed at the end, as the eel, the mammalian species, &c.; (4) The swimming bladder of clean fishes is rounded at one end, and pointed at the other, whilst that of the unclean fishes is either rounded or pointed at both extremities alike. It is in allusion to this law that we are told in the parable of the fisherman, which is taken from Jewish life, that when they drew to shore the net with every kind of fishes, the fishermen sat down (i.e., to examine the clean and the unclean), and gathered the good (i.e., the clean), into the vessels, but cast the bad (i.e., the unclean) away (Matthew 13:48). The orthodox Jews to this day strictly observe these regulations, and abhor eating those fishes which are enumerated under the four above-named criteria of not clean. It is moreover to be remarked that fishes without scales are also still regarded in Egypt as unwholesome, and that the Romans would not permit them to be offered in sacrifice.
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:(10) Of all that move in the waters.—That is, apart from the fishes exhibiting the above-named signs, all other inhabitants of the water are forbidden. Hence all shell-fish, whether molluscs or crustaceans, and cetaceous animals, are unclean.
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,(13) Ye shall have in abomination among the fowls.—The third of the four great divisions of the animal kingdom—viz., the birds of the air, in accordance with their proper sequence—is discussed in Leviticus 11:13-19. It will be seen that, whilst in the case of the two preceding divisions of the animal kingdom certain signs are given by which to distinguish the clean from the unclean animals, in the division before us a list is simply given of the birds which are unclean and prohibited. This absence of all criteria is all the more remarkable, since after some of the birds mentioned it is added “after his kind,” or “after her kind” (see Leviticus 11:14-16; Leviticus 11:19), thus showing that kindred species were included in the prohibition, and that it was left to those who had to administer this law, to lay down some general signs by which the proscribed species are to be known. Hence the following rules obtained during the second Temple. Those birds are unclean (1) which snatch their food in the air, and devour it without first dropping it on the ground; (2) which strike with their talons and press down with their foot the prey to the ground, and then tear off pieces with their beak for consumption; (3) which “divide their feet” when standing on an extended rope or branch, placing two toes on the one side and two on the other, and not three in front and one behind; and (4) whose eggs are equally narrow or equally round at both ends, and have the white in the middle and the yolk around it.
The eagle.—As the king of the birds, the eagle stands first in the list. It denotes here all the species of the eagle proper. Arabian writers, scientific travellers, and the most distinguished naturalists, concur in their testimony that the eagle eats carrion when it is still fresh, thus harmonizing with the description in Job 39:10; Proverbs 30:17; Matthew 24:28, &c. The assertion, therefore, that the bird here meant is the Egyptian vulture, because the eagle disdains dead bodies and feeds only on what it kills itself, is erroneous. Besides the kindred dialects, all the ancient versions and the best Hebrew scholars place it beyond a doubt that Nesher here denotes eagle. Afterwards, however, the carrion-kite and the golden vulture were also reckoned among the different species of eagles. Hence the allusion in Micah 1:16.
The ossifrage.—That is, the bone-breaker, or simply the breaker, is the literal translation of the expression here used in the original, which only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:12. It is most probably the bearded griffin or lammergeier, which unites in itself the eagle and the vulture, and is therefore aptly called gypaëtus or vulture-eagle, and appropriately stands in the list here between the eagle and the vulture. The fitness of its name may be seen from its habits. It takes the bones of animals, which other birds of prey have denuded of the flesh, up into the air and then lets them fall upon a well-selected projecting rock. and thus literally breaks them in order to get at their marrow, or to render the fragments of the bones more digestible.
And the ospray, or sea-eagle. It is about the size of the golden-eagle, and preys principally upon fish, but also occasionally on birds and other animals, and when its extreme voracity is not satisfied, will devour the most putrid carrion. Hence its place in the catalogue of unclean birds. The word only occurs again in the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:12.
And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;(14) And the vulture.—Rather, the kite. Its name in the original (dââh), which literally denotes the swift, majestic and gliding flier, appropriately describes this bird, which sails with its expanded wings through the air, where it often pauses as if suspended, watching for its prey. Kites are very plentiful in Syria, and are frequently seen hovering over the plains, the villages, and the outskirts of towns, and looking out for garbage and offal, and hence are often seen in company with the vulture at their useful task of devouring the carrion. Their gregarious habits are referred to by Isaiah (Isaiah 34:15), where they are mentioned in company with other raptatores as suitable inhabitants of devastated Edom. The kite is used by different Eastern tribes as food.
And the kite.—Rather, the falcon. “The greedy one” (ayah), as it is called in the original, fitly describes this most sagacious, sanguinary, and rapacious robber. Its piercing sight is referred to by Job (28:7), where it is translated vulture in the Authorised Version, though in the passage before us and in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:13, it is rendered kite. It exists in Syria in a great variety of species, for which reason the text adds “after his kind.” The falcon is eaten in the Levant, and is considered rather delicate.
Every raven after his kind;(15) And every raven.—The raven or the black bird (Song of Solomon 5:11), the bird of the night, as its name denotes in Heb., like the eagle, occurs frequently in the Bible. It preys upon putrid corpses (Proverbs 30:17), and is especially eager to pick out the eyes of the dead, and sometimes even attacks the eyes of the living. So great is its gluttony that it fills the air with its wild shrieks when searching for food (Psalm 147:9; Job 38:41). Its rapacity makes the raven expel its own offspring from their nest and from the surrounding places as soon as they are able to fly, and before they are quite able to procure their own food. Indeed, the ancients believed that it forsook its young immediately after they were hatched. It was in consequence of their excessive greed and known aversion to part with anything, even for their own offspring, that the ravens were chosen to carry food to the prophet (1Kings 17:4; 1Kings 17:6), thus to make the miracle all the more striking. The phrase, “every raven after his kind,” clearly shows that the whole genus of ravens is intended, with all the raven-like birds, such as the rook, the crow, the jackdaw, the jay, &c, which abound in Syria and Palestine.
And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,(16) And the owl.—Better, and the ostrich, as the Authorised Version rightly renders it in the margin in three out of the eight passages in which it occurs, viz., Job 30:29, Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; literally, the daughter or inhabitant of the desert. The ostrich, which is the largest bird and the swiftest of all cursorial animals, was associated by the Hebrews with the terrors of the wilderness, and was regarded by the ancients as an unnatural hybrid, as a kind of half bird and half quadruped. It dwells amongst desolated places (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Jeremiah 50:39), fills the air with its doleful and hideous wails (Micah 1:8) and cruelly neglects its eggs to be hatched by the sun or trodden down under foot (Lamentations 4:3; Job 39:17-18). Owing to its proverbial stupidity, this hybrid is selected with another monster to illustrate the abundant goodness of the Lord, by showing that even this creature will become sensible of gratitude and break forth into thanksgiving and praise (Isaiah 43:20). The flesh of the ostrich was eaten by the ancient Ethiopians, Indians, and other nations. The Romans regarded ostrich brains as a great delicacy. The ostrich occasionally devours fowls and other small vertebrates like a bird of prey, and tradition assures us that ostriches consumed the body of Agag.
And the night hawk.—Of all the unclean birds constituting this list, the one here rendered night hawk is the most difficult to identify. The name in the original (tachmâs) simply describes the bird as “the violent” one, or the rapacious, or “the cruel,” and this designation would apply to any bird of prey not already specified in this catalogue. Hence it has alternately been taken for the owl, the night hawk, the male ostrich, the falcon, the seabird gannet, the cuckoo, and the swallow. It will, however, be seen that all the large birds of prey which are here hazarded, have either already been mentioned or are mentioned in the sequel of this list, whilst the small birds, viz., the cuckoo and the swallow, are too insignificant and too harmless to be placed between the large raptorial companions. In this uncertainty of opinion it is best to leave the Authorised Version alone. The name only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:15.
And the cuckow.—Rather, and the sea-gull. Like the foregoing bird of prey, the shachaph here mentioned only occurs again in the duplicate list of unclean animals in Deuteronomy 14:15. It literally means the thin, slender, or cadaverous bird, and is taken by the most ancient authorities to denote the sea-gull, which is “the raven of the sea.” It darts down with great velocity upon its victim, like a bird of prey. It not only eats fishes, insects, and smaller aquatic animals, but feeds upon carrion. The eggs of the gulls and the flesh of the young birds are to this day eaten both in the East and in some northern countries of Europe.
And the hawk.—Besides the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:15, the hawk (netz) also occurs in Job 39:26, where it is described as a migratory bird, since it migrates to a more southern climate on the approach of winter. It feeds upon mammals, birds, and amphibia, and attacks even its own parent, mate, and offspring. It abounds in a variety of species in all parts of Asia. Hence the remark “after his kind.” Some tribes regard the flesh of the hawk as very palatable.
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,(17) And the little owl.—With the exception of the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:16, this bird only occurs once more, in Psalm 102:6, where it is properly rendered in the Authorised Version by “owl,” omitting the word “little,” and is described as inhabiting deserted ruins. It not only feeds upon insects and molluscs, hares, rabbits, ducks, geese, and birds of prey, but devours mice and rats, which are especially detested by the Jews. Its flesh is, however, regarded by some tribes as very savoury. The name kos which is translated “owl” in the three above-named passages, is the common Hebrew word for “cup,” and it is supposed that it has been given to this bird because the sitting owl especially widens towards the upper part, thus imparting to it a cup-like appearance.
And the cormorant.—Of all the web-footed birds which prey on fish, cormorants are the most voracious. They usually assemble in flocks on the rocks which overhang the sea, whence they drop down from the greatest height upon their victim, dive after it with the rapidity of a dart, and invariably gulp their prey head foremost. The cormorant is to be found in every climate, and is the destruction of all the finny tribe in any fresh-water river which he happens to occupy for a time. Hence he is called the feathered terror of the finny tribe. From the skill which he displays in casting himself down from a great height, and in plunging dart-like after his victim, he derives his Hebrew name, which denotes “darter.” The flesh of the cormorant, though rank, is eaten in some regions; whilst the skin, which is tough, is made into garments. The Hebrew name only occurs again in the duplicate catalogue of unclean animals in Deuteronomy 14:17. By comp. Leviticus 11:17-18 of the list before us with the parallel list in Deuteronomy 14:16-17, it will be seen that though the two catalogues respectively enumerate in these two verses the same six birds, yet the order is different. The cormorant, which is here second in Leviticus 11:17, is in Deuteronomy 14 sixth in Leviticus 11:17. There can, therefore, hardly be any doubt that the verse before us has been disturbed, and that by placing the cormorant here sixth, as it is in Deuteronomy, we obtain the two species of owls naturally following each other, as is the case in the parallel catalogue.
And the great owl.—Rather, the night owl, as the name in the original (yanshûph) denotes “night-bird.” Besides the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:16, this bird of prey only occurs again once more in Isaiah 34:11, where the Authorised Version translates simply “owl,” omitting the word “great,” and where it is associated with the raven and other dismal birds as fit occupants of deserted ruins. According to the description of it which prevailed in the time of Christ, its eyes are directed forward, it utters frightful shrieks in the night, and has a face like a cat, and cheeks like a human being. In consequence of its repulsive visage and human appearance it was considered a bad omen if one saw an owl in a dream. That the two kinds of owls are here mentioned is probably owing to their disgusting habit of ejecting pellets, each one of which contains sometimes from four to seven skeletons of mice. Hence, instead of saying “after his kind,” to include the other varieties, the lawgiver enumerates them separately.
And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,(18) And the swan.—The word here translated “swan,” which, besides the parallel list in Deut., also occurs in Leviticus 11:30, among the names of the lizards, denotes, according to tradition, another variety of the owl. Whatever difficulty there may be about the true import of the word, it is certainly not the swan. It has, however, also been translated “ibis,” “bat,” “purple water-hen,” “heron,” “pelican,” and “goose.”
And the pelican.—The pelican is one of the largest and most voracious of the web-footed birds. It fills its capacious pouch with fish almost to suffocation, which it disgorges either for its own future consumption, or for the nourishment of its young, by pressing the under mandible against the neck and breast to assist the vomiting up of the contents. Hence its Hebrew name, which denotes “the vomiter.” During this operation the red nail of the upper mandible comes in contact with the breast, thus imparting to it the appearance of blood, which is most probably the origin of the fable that it feeds its young with its own life-blood. The pelican often builds in deserted places as far as twenty miles from the shore. When it has filled its expansive pouch with prey, it retires to its lonely place of repose, where it remains with its head leaning against its breast almost motionless till impelled by hunger to fly to the water in search for a fresh store of victims. It is to this melancholy attitude of lonely desolation that the Psalmist refers when he says, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness” (Psalm 102:6), and it is to its habit of building in deserted places that the prophets allude when they describe the desolation of Edom and Nineveh by saying that “the pelican shall possess” them (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14). In the last two passages the Authorised Version, which wrongly translates it “cormorant” in the text, has rightly pelican in the margin.
And the gier eagle.—As the name of a bird, this word (racham), which is here in the masculine form, and denotes “the merciful,” only occurs again in the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:17, where, however, it is in the feminine (rachamah). The species here intended is most probably the Gyps, called alternately the sacred or Egyptian vulture and Pharaoh’s hen, which is often figured on the ancient Egyptian monuments. It was regarded with religious veneration in Egypt, both because it prevented epidemics by acting as scavenger, and because of its extreme devotion and tenderness to its young, since it was believed to watch over its offspring a hundred and twenty days every year, and to feed them, if necessary, with the blood of its thighs. Hence it was used to denote both “mother” and “merciful” in Egyptian, and hence, too, its name “merciful” in Hebrew. The ancients also believed that there were no male vultures, and that the females conceived through the wind. It was probably to counteract this superstitious belief that the lawgiver uses here the masculine form and the feminine form in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:17. The vulture is most loathsome in its habits, and feeds upon the foulest carrion, for which reason it is put in the list of unclean birds.
And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.(19) And the stork.—Besides the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:18, the word (chasidah) here rendered “stork” also occurs in Job 39:13; Psalm 104:17; Jeremiah 8:7; Zechariah 5:9, and is so translated, except Job 39:13, where the Authorised Version has “wing” in the text and “stork” in the margin. Its name literally denotes in Hebrew “the pious,” “the kind,” and is so called because the ancients regarded it as a type of maternal and filial affection and tenderness. The mother has been known to prefer perishing with its offspring in the flames rather than desert them when its attempts to rescue them from a fire had failed. The white stork is one of the largest land birds. Its black and powerful wings strikingly contrast with the pure white of its plumage. Hence the remark “they had wings like the wings of the stork” (Zechariah 5:9). The storks build on the loftiest towers and most conspicuous ruins, and also on the tops of high trees, where they may be seen to this day by the Sea of Galilee. It is to this that the Psalmist alludes: “as for the stork, the fir-trees are her home” (Psalm 104:17). To these nests they regularly return at the proper season, which marks them as the most punctual of migratory birds; and it is to this feature in their nature that the prophet refers: “the stork in heaven knoweth her appointed times” (Jeremiah 8:7). The stork feeds on fish, reptiles, and all kinds of offal and garbage, for which reason it is here placed in the list of unclean birds.
The heron.—Whilst the two preceding birds are named after their good qualities, viz., “the merciful” and “the pious,” this bird, which only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:18, is termed (anaphah) “the angry,” “the cruel,” which aptly describes the heron. It is allied to the stork, and is of such a savage nature that it will defend itself with its beak against the dogs after it has had its legs shot and broken. It resides on the banks of rivers and in marshy places, and feeds on fish, frogs, lizards, snails, field-mice, and all sorts of insects, for which reason it is here included in the proscribed list of unclean birds. It exists in a variety of species. Hence the adjunct, “after her kind.”
And the lapwing.—Better, the hoopoe. This dirty bird, which only occurs again in the parallel list in Deuteronomy 14:18, and which according to the ancients builds its nest of human dung, feeds upon offal and garbage. Its loathsome smell during brooding-time, and for weeks after, is perfectly insufferable. Though its flesh, which in the autumn tastes like quail’s, is eaten in some places, yet the Mohammedans regard it as proscribed. According to another ancient tradition the bird here meant is “the mountain cock.”
And the bat.—The list which opens with the eagle, the king of the birds, fitly concludes with the hybrid bat, the vilest creature, which is between a bird and a mouse, and is appropriately associated in the Bible with the mole as the type of darkness (comp. Isaiah 2:20). From the fact that the air is its home; that like the swallow, which it resembles in mode of flight, it wheels through the air in every direction in search of the crepuscular and nocturnal insects on which it preys; and that it performs the most abrupt and skilful evolutions in its aerial course, the bat was classed among the birds. Bats abound in Syria in a great variety of species. They penetrate into the houses and make the rooms most offensive to live in. Those who have realised the sickening odour of these creatures in the East will readily understand why the loathsome bats are included in the list of unclean birds. Some of the ancient nations ate bats and regarded them as delicious food. Besides being the lowest, the bat is here placed last, because it forms the connecting link between the volatile bipeds and quadrupeds.
All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.(20) All the fowls that creep.—Better, all creeping things which have wings. The swarming animals or insects, which, as we have seen, constitute the fourth class of the Hebrew division of the animal kingdom, are now discussed in Leviticus 11:20-23. From the fact that in the following verse several kinds of locusts are exempted, it is evident that the phrase “creeping things which have wings” denotes insects.
Going upon all four.—That is, the insects in question not only fly but also creep. The phrase, however, “upon all four” does not refer to the exact number of feet, but, as in some modern languages, denotes walking with its body in a horizontal position, or near the ground, in contradistinction to the two-legged birds discussed in the foregoing verses. This is the sense which the administrators of the law in the time of Christ attached to the phrase. Hence the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan translates it, “And all creeping-things which have wings going upon all four, the flyspecies and the wasp or hornet species and the bee species.”
Shall be an abomination unto you.—As the bee species is included among “the creeping things which have wings,” some have supposed that bee-honey comes within the unclean things which are here said “shall be an abomination unto you.” Hence it is thought that the honey (dabesh) which is so frequently mentioned in the Bible as a special feature of the promised land (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 16:14; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24, etc.), and which formed an important article of food among the Hebrews, was not the natural product of the bee, but is either the grape-honey, the dibs, which is still prepared in many parts of Syria and Palestine, and is exported in great quantities into Egypt; or the vegetable – honey, the exudation of certain trees and shrubs found in the peninsula of Sinai. Hence, too, it is supposed that the wild honey which Jonathan ate in the wood (1Samuel 14:25), and which was the meat of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4), must refer to this vegetable-honey. But though it is true that the canon which obtained during the second Temple was “Whatsoever cometh from unclean creatures is unclean,” and that in accordance with this law the milk of unclean quadrupeds and the eggs of unclean birds and fishes were forbidden, yet the honey of bees was expressly permitted. The administrators of the law in the time of Christ accounted for this exemption that it is not the direct produce of the insect itself, but is a preparation from gathered juices of clean herbs. The Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan therefore adds, after “shall be an abomination unto you,” the words, nevertheless the honey of the bee ye may eat. John the Baptist therefore acted in perfect obedience to the Law when he ate the honey which the bees deposited in the crevices of the rocks and in the hollow of trees. The prohibition to use honey in meatofferings is not owing to its being unclean, but to its producing fermentation. (See Leviticus 2:11.)
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;(21) Of every flying creeping thing.—Rather, of all winged creeping things. Having laid down the general rule that those creatures which creep along upon their feet in the manner of quadrupeds, and which have also wings, must not be eaten, the Lawgiver now mentions those which form an exception.
Which have legs above their feet.—Better, which have knees above their hinder legs, that is, those which have the third or hindmost pair of legs much longer and stronger than ordinary insects. Those insects, therefore, in whose hindermost legs the second joint is much larger and stronger, whereby they are enabled to leap or raise themselves up with great force and leap a great distance upon the earth, are excepted. These are the locusts. The canonical law which obtained during the second Temple defines more minutely the characteristics of clean locusts. A clean locust we are told has (1) four front feet, (2) four wings, (3) two springing feet, and (4) the wings so long and broad that they cover the greater portion of the back body of the insect. If it possesses these four characteristics it is clean, whether it is with a tail or without it, and whether it has an oblong or round head.
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.(22) The locust after his kind.—Of the four species of locusts here specified as permitted to be eaten, this one called arbe is the most frequently mentioned in the Bible. It occurs no less than twenty-four times, and is in four instances wrongly rendered in the Authorised Version by “grasshopper” (Judges 6:5; Judges 7:12; Job 39:20; Jeremiah 46:23). It is the locust which constituted the eighth plague of Egypt (Exodus 10:4-19); which is described as committing the terrible ravages (Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25; Nahum 3:7); and which swarmed in such innumerable quantities that it became a proverb in the Bible, “like the locusts in multitude” (Judges 7:12; Jeremiah 46:23). From these characteristics the arbe is supposed to be the flying migratory locust. The administrators of the law in the time of Christ described the arbe by the name gubai, which is the species most commonly eaten, and ordained the following benediction to be recited before eating it: “Blessed be He by whose word everything was created.” The locusts which are still eaten by the Jews and other Eastern nations are prepared in different ways. Generally they are thrown alive into a pot of boiling water mixed with salt, and taken out after a few minutes, when the heads, feet, and wings are plucked off, and the trunks are dried in an oven or in the sun on the roofs of houses, and are kept in bags for winter use. They are also broiled or stewed, or fried in butter; or they are mixed with butter and spread on thin cakes of bread. In taste they resemble shrimps or prawns. There are shops in some Eastern towns where they only sell locusts, strung upon cords or by measure. The locusts thus form an antidote to the famine they create by the devastation which they commit. They formed, along with “wild honey,” the food of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4).
And the bald locust.—This is the only place where salam, which is the name in the original, occurs as one of the edible kinds of leaping insects. Any attempt to identify the species is simply conjecture, since all which tradition tells us about it is that this kind of locust “has no tail but has a hump.”
The beetle.—Rather, the hopping locust. Though it is difficult to identify the exact species, as the name (chargol) does not occur again in the Bible, yet it is perfectly certain that a sort of locust is here intended, since the context clearly shows that four different kinds of the same insect are enumerated. This is moreover confirmed by the administrators of the law in the time of Christ, who assure us the chargol is a species of locust having both a hump and a tail, the eggs of which Jewish women suspended in the ear as a remedy against ear-ache. This shows that it must have been a very large kind, and as the name denotes the galloping or hopping one, it is evidently designed to describe an unwinged species.
The grasshopper.—Rather, the small locust. This name (chagab) occurs four times more in the Bible (Numbers 13:33; 2Chronicles 7:13; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Isaiah 40:22), and is only in one place rightly rendered by locust (2Chronicles 7:13) in the Authorised Version. From the fact that it is described as laying waste the fields (2Chronicles 7:13), and that its insignificant appearance is contrasted with giant men (Numbers 13:33) and with the great God of heaven (Isaiah 40:22), it is justly inferred that it denotes a small devastating locust which swarms in great quantities. According to the authorities in the time of Christ, it is a species which has a tail, but no hump. It was so common that the name (chagab) became a generic term for many of the locust tribe. Some kinds bearing this name were beautifully marked, and were eagerly caught by Jewish children as playthings, just as butterflies and cockchafers are sought after by children in the present day. Others again were caught in large numbers, sprinkled over with wine, and then sold. Hence the following two rules obtained during the second Temple: (1) No Israelite was allowed to buy them after the dealer had prepared them in this manner; and (2) he that vowed to abstain from flesh is not allowed to eat the flesh of fish and of (chagabim) locusts. Because the edible kinds of locusts are passed over in the parallel dietary laws in Deuteronomy, some have concluded that the eating of these insects was prohibited at the more advanced time when Deuteronomy was written. The fact, however, that John the Baptist ate locusts, and that a benediction was ordered during the second Temple to be recited at eating them, plainly shows the futility of the assertion. The Lawgiver never intended to repeat in Deuteronomy every particular point of legislation.
But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.(23) But all other flying creeping things.—Better, but all other winged creeping things. Besides the above-named four species and their kindreds, all other locusts, as well as insects of any kind, are to be abhorred as food.
And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.(24) And for these ye shall be unclean.—Rather, and by these ye shall be defiled, that is, the beasts and animals specified in Leviticus 11:26-27.
Shall be unclean until the even.—For coming in contact with the dead body of the animals contracts defilement for the rest of the day, and till the beginning of a new day, which took place after sunset (comp. Leviticus 23:32). During these hours of legal uncleanness he was not allowed to enter the sanctuary, touch any sacred thing, or have intercourse with those who were legally clean, since contact with one who has contracted legal defilement imparted defilement to both persons and things.
And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.(25) And whosoever beareth.—But he who removed the carcase out of the camp or city, or from one place to another, not only contracted defilement for the rest of the day, but had to wash the clothes which he had on, since the pollution by carrying is greater than that by touching. During the time of the second Temple, the administrators of the law declared that wherever the Law enjoins that a man should “wash his clothes” because of the legal defilement which he contracted, it included the command of bathing the body, and that it was only omitted here and in Leviticus 11:28; Leviticus 11:40 for the sake of brevity. The Samaritan text and some Hebrew manuscripts have actually the whole phrase “and wash his clothes and bathe himself in water,” as in Leviticus 17:15 and Numbers 19:19. In allusion to this we are told that those who contracted pollution, and have come out of the great tribulation, “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
Ought of the carcase.—The uncleanness was contracted by not only carrying away the whole carcase, but by removing any portion of it. (See Leviticus 11:32.) The expression ought is represented in the original, and is rightly printed in the ordinary type of the text in the Authorised Version of 1611. The printing it in italics is an unauthorised innovation, though it is followed in the Speaker’s Commentary, which professes to give the text of 1611.
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.(26) The carcases of every beast.—The construction of this text constituted one of the differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees during the second Temple. According to the Pharisees, or the National Church in the time of Christ, the phrase “that toucheth them” in the last part of this verse refers to “the carcases” of the unclean animals spoken of in the preceding verse. It was only when an unclean animal was dead, whether death was owing to natural causes, design, or accident, that contact with its body defiled (see Leviticus 11:8; Leviticus 11:31); but when alive, unclean animals were freely used. Hence camels, asses, horses, &c, were employed in daily life, though unclean (1Chronicles 12:40; Zechariah 14:15; Matthew 21:2; Luke 13:15, &c.). The Authorised Version rightly expresses this sense by inserting “the carcases” in italics at the beginning of the verse, thus showing that “them” in the latter part of the verse refers to the bodies of unclean animals when dead. Indeed some MSS. have actually “that toucheth their carcases,” instead of “that toucheth them.” The Sadducees, however, took the expression “them” to refer to the living unclean animals, and hence maintained that touching the body of any animal described in this dietary list as unclean defiled. The difference which this interpretation of the text produced in the domestic life and social intercourse of the Jews can hardly be described, since, according to the doctrine of the Sadducees, it was exceedingly difficult to remain undefiled as soon as one of them stepped outside their dwellings.
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.(27) And whatsoever goeth upon his paws.—Rather, and whatsoever goeth upon his palms, that is, those animals whose feet are not divided into two parts, but which have feet with fingers like a hand, such as the lion, the bear, the ape, the wolf, the cat, &c.
And he that beareth the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean unto you.(28) And he that beareth.—This is simply a resumption of Leviticus 11:25.
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,(29) These also shall be unclean.—Better, And these shall be the most unclean. As Leviticus 11:24-28 have been occupied with the discussion of the defilement caused by the carcases of unclean quadrupeds, which, as we have seen, belong to the first class of the animal kingdom, the Lawgiver now enumerates those “creeping things” of the fourth class, which likewise cause defilement by touching them. The eight animals here adduced (Leviticus 11:29-30) are therefore a continuation of the things that go on their belly, mentioned in Leviticus 11:20-23. They only differ in this respect, that in Leviticus 11:20-23 the creeping things have also wings, whilst those described here are creeping things without wings. In a stricter sense, however, Leviticus 11:29, &c, is a resumption of Leviticus 11:20.
The weasel.—Though the Hebrew name (choled), which literally denotes “the gliding” or “slipping in” animal, does not occur again in the Bible, yet the ancient versions and the description given of it by the administrators of the law in the time of Christ place it beyond a doubt that it is meant for weasel. According to these authorities the animal in question lodges in the holes of walls and in ditches, is inordinately voracious, kills other animals of prey much bigger than itself, and carries them off in its mouth. It is especially obnoxious to poultry, for which reason the ventilating holes in hen roosts are made so small that it should not be able to get through them, it has pointed and crooked teeth, with which it pierces through the skull and brain of the hens; it attacks sleeping children and human corpses, and laps water from a vessel. It delights in pilfering bright objects, which it hides in holes. It will be seen that this description given by the administrators of the law during the second Temple, of the animal meant by choled can only apply to the weasel, and not to the mole. This is fully supported by the ancient versions, though the word denotes “mole” in Arabic, and is sometimes also used in this sense in the Talmud.
And the mouse.—Besides this passage, this word (achbar), which is taken to denote “the field,” or ‘corn-destroyer,” also occurs four times in Samuel (1Samuel 6:4-5; 1Samuel 6:11; 1Samuel 6:18), and once in Isaiah (Isaiah 66:17) and is uniformly translated “mouse.” That this is the true rendering is fully confirmed by the ancient versions and the administrators of the law during the second Temple. Their insatiable voracity and great fecundity make mice destroy the entire produce of a harvest in an incredibly short time. For this reason they became the symbol of destruction in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and obtained the appellation, “the scourge of the field” in the Bible (1Samuel 6:5). So great was the injury which they inflicted upon the fields in Palestine, that during the second Temple the administrators of the law permitted the Jews to destroy them by any means, even on the middle days of the two great pilgrimage festivals, the Feasts of Passover and of Tabernacles. The mischievous instinct which they have of gnawing at things which they cannot eat, and of penetrating into the sanctuary, and destroying the sacred food and scriptures, made mice peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, who gave them the appellation of “wicked mice,” a name with which they brand any malicious and wicked person to this day.
And the tortoise.—This creature (tzâb), which literally denotes “the swollen,” “the inflated” (see Numbers 5:27), occurs nowhere else in the Bible. That it is not the tortoise is perfectly certain, since this animal, according to the highest legal authority, was not unclean. Thus Maimonides tells us “only those animals mentioned in the Law (Leviticus 11:29-30) are defiling, but not the serpent, the frog, and the tortoise.” It is certain that the authorities in the time of Christ took it to denote the toad. This is evident from the discussion as to the condition of the man who has touched an animal, and cannot decide whether it is a frog, which is not defiling, or a tzâb, which is defiling. As it is the toad, and not the tortoise or lizard, which has such a misleading resemblance to the frog, there can hardly be any doubt that the administrators of the law understood the reptile here to denote the toad. This agrees with the meaning of the name, which, as we have seen, denotes the “swollen one,” and which is one of the peculiar characteristics distinguishing it from the frog, by its having a thick, squat, and more swollen body. The reason why the toad and not the frog is put into the defiling list of reptiles is probably owing to the fact that its shorter legs impart to it more the appearance of a creeping thing, and that it was believed that the limpid fluid which this reptile suddenly discharges when touched is poisonous. Some ancient versions, however, translate it “the land crocodile.”
And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.(30) And the ferret.—The ancient legal authorities explain this name (anâkâh), which only occurs here in the Hebrew Scriptures, by kipor or kipod, “an animal whose body is entirely covered with sharp prickles, and when touched the creature draws in its legs and rolls itself up in a ball.” Its skin in ancient days was tied round the udder of cows to prevent other reptiles sucking out their milk. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the administrators of the law took it to be the hedgehog. Some ancient versions, however, render it by shrew mouse, whilst some modern expositors make it the gecko.
And the chameleon.—The ancient versions agree that by this animal (khôach), which denotes “strength,” and which occurs nowhere else in the Bible as the name of a reptile, is meant the chameleon. Its power of enduring for a long time without food, which led the ancients to believe that it entirely subsisted upon air, may be the cause both of its Hebrew name (as specified above), and the name chameleon, i.e., “a lion on the ground,” a reptile with the strength of a lion, The belief that it lives upon the air had also given rise to its Aramaic name in the time of Christ (zekitha), which denotes the animal that fills itself with air. The perplexity which the administrators of the law experienced about its food, and the time of feeding this creature, may be gathered from the story in the Talmud attributed to one of the sons of Noah, of what happened in the Ark. Sem, the son of Noah, said, “We had much trouble with the chameleon, for whilst we fed the day animals by day and the night animals by night, we did not know what the chameleon fed on. One day, however, I broke open a pomegranate, and a worm fell out of it, which the creature immediately devoured. Afterwards I pounded together fruit, and when it bred maggots the chameleon ate them.” The common chameleon is found in Syria and Palestine, and some eastern tribes believe that its flesh when eaten boiled is a remedy for leanness, and if eaten dry cures fever. In Spain chameleons are kept in rooms to destroy troublesome flies.
And the lizard.—Though the ancient authorities agree that the creature here named (l’tââh) is lizard, yet the description which the administrators of the law give of it, does not enable us to define the species to which it belongs. The characteristics which they give of the lizard are as follows: It has a thick though soft and smooth skin, and lays eggs in which the yolk and the white are not separated. Its tail when cut off will move for some time afterwards, and the creature itself when apparently dead will sometimes revive by pouring cold water over it.
And the snail.—This meaning of the Hebrew name (chômet) is attested by the highest Jewish authorities of ancient times. It denotes the testaceous kinds, whilst the word (shabbel) in Psalm 58:8 describes the naked species. Snails abound in a great variety of species in the East, and some kinds were eaten by the ancients as a great luxury. It was believed that the slime which it constantly emits as it crawls along brings about its death by a process of dissolution. Hence the remark “and snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away” (Psalm 58:8).
And the mole.—The word (tinshemeth) here translated “mole” is the same which is used in Leviticus 11:18 for an unclean bird. That the Authorised Version, however, gives the correct rendering of the word is not only attested by the ancient versions, but by the following description, which the administrators of the law in the time of Christ give of the reptile here intended. It has no eyes, and burrows into the earth, and destroys the roots. For this reason, as well as for its carrying quantities of corn to its nest, it was ordained during the second Temple that the creature may be killed on the middle days of the two pilgrim festivals, i.e., of the Feasts of Passover and of Tabernacles. In Isaiah 2:20, however, which is the only other passage where the mole occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures, the name for it is cnâpar pêrah. We have already seen in the case of the snail that two different names for the same creature are used designedly to describe the different characteristics of the same animal.
These are unclean to you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even.(31) These are unclean.—Better, these are the most unclean, as Leviticus 11:29. That is, the eight animals thus enumerated are pre-eminently unclean of all the creeping things.
When they be dead.—The phrase, “whosoever doth touch them when they be dead,” is simply another expression for “whosoever toucheth the carcase of them,” which is used in Leviticus 11:24. Defilement is only contracted when their dead bodies are touched, but not if touched when alive. According to the canon which obtained during the second Temple, “there is no kind of living creature that becomes defiled while it is alive, or defiles when it is alive, save man only.”
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.(32) And upon whatsoever any of them.—Better, and upon whatsoever aught of them, that is, not only if the whole carcase fell upon any of the specified vessels were the vessels in question defiled, but if a portion of the carcase came in contact with the utensils it made them unclean. (See Leviticus 11:25.) According to the law which obtained during the second Temple it was only when the portion of the carcase of an unclean animal had flesh on it that it defiled, but not otherwise. Hence the skins, hair, bones, horns, hoofs, sinews, &c. of all unclean creatures were exempted. These were made into different domestic utensils and implements. The use thus made of the parts in question also constituted one of the differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the time of Christ. The Sadducees regarded every portion of every unclean animal in whatever state as defiling, and hence prohibited its being made up into any vessel.
Vessel of wood.—That is, vessels made of bulrushes (Isaiah 18:2), reeds, wicker, shells of nuts, barks of trees, or of anything which grew out of the earth like wood.
Or raiment.—That is, any garment made of a woven material, such as wool, flax, hemp, or anything which grows on the dry land. Hence cloth made of a material which grows in the sea was not defiled, according to the canons which obtained during the second Temple.
Or skin.—This also, according to the same authorities, only applied to the skins of land animals; skins of aquatic creatures received no defilement.
Or sack.—From the parallel passage in Numbers 31:20, we see that by this expression here is meant garments made of stuffs of goats’ hair, in contradistinction to the textures of which the garments were made, denoted by the expression beged, “raiment.” (See also Isaiah 20:2.) Skins which were not made into garments or vessels, or which exhibited unfinished vessels, received no pollution.
And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it.(33) And every earthen vessel.—The case, however, is different with regard to vessels made of clay and burned in the kiln.
Whereinto any of them falleth.—Better, where into aught of them falleth, that is, into which any of the aforesaid portion of a defiling carcase falls (see Leviticus 11:32). Whilst defiled vessels of other materials were made clean by water, earthen vessels, when they became defiled, had to be destroyed (see Leviticus 6:28), and their contents were rendered polluted.
Of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water cometh shall be unclean: and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean.(34) That on which such water cometh.—Better, upon which water cometh, that is, all food which is prepared with water for eating becomes defiled when the carcase of such an unclean reptile falls on it. The same is the case with any beverage which is drank from any kind of vessel; if the said carcase falls into it, it is rendered unclean. According, however, to the canons which obtained during the second Temple, the import of the first part of this verse is that things which constitute man’s meat, only then become defiled by the carcase in question when any water whatsoever has been poured upon them, though these articles of food have afterwards become dry; but when they have not been moistened they do not become defiled. By water these authorities understand any of the following seven liquids :—water, dew, oil, wine, milk, blood, and honey.
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.(35) And every thing.—That is, not only the above named garments and utensils become defiled by the said carcases, or any portion of them, falling on them, but also everything else is subject to the same pollution.
Oven, as the context shows, is an earthen vessel or baking-pot for making thin unleavened cakes, which, according to the ancient description of it, was wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, so formed to keep the heat in longer. (See Leviticus 2:4.)
Or ranges for pots.—According to the same ancient authorities this kind of oven was oblong, and was so made that two pots should be placed upon it, and that the fire should burn under both of them. Hence the rendering of the Authorised Version, “Ranges for pots.” This name, however, does not occur again in the Hebrew Scriptures.
They shall be broken down.—Because earthen vessels could not be made clean by washing. (See Leviticus 6:28.)
Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean.(36) Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water.—Better, But wells and cisterns being gatherings together of water. But if the unclean carcase, or any portion of it, happens to fall or to be thrown into wells or cisterns, they are to be treated as large collections of water, such as pools, ponds, and lakes, and hence are exempt from contracting pollution. The constant change of water which takes place in these reservoirs counteracts the effects of the polluting carcase. When it is borne in mind how few are the wells and cisterns in the East, and how scarce water is, the merciful provision of this law will be apparent. According to the canon which obtained during the second Temple, this immunity was only applicable to receptacles of water actually in the ground, but not to collections of water in vessels.
But that which toucheth.—Better, but he who toucheth. But though the water into which the carcase has fallen is mercifully exempted, he who comes in contact with the carcase in the water and removes it from the water is unclean, because the carcase itself remains a source of defilement.
And if any part of their carcase fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean.(37) And if any part of their carcase.—The principle which underlies the immunity from pollution of living water is also at the basis of the exception of living plants. Hence if the carcase or a portion of a dead reptile is found among grain destined for sowing, the quantity of wheat in which it is discovered does not become defiled, since the growing plant constantly derives new elements from below and fresh moisture from above, thus undergoing as many changes in its way as spring water. The law therefore which obtained during the second Temple was as follows :—“Whatever is fixed in the ground does not contract defilement. Plants are not defiled till they are gathered.” Hence the ancient Chaldee version of Jonathan renders this verse: “If any part of their carcase falleth upon any seed that is sown in the manner in which it is commonly sown—that is, in its dry state—it is clean.”
But if any water be put upon the seed, and any part of their carcase fall thereon, it shall be unclean unto you.(38) But if any water be put upon the seed.—The case, however, is different when the grain is moistened, because the fluid softens the corn, and thus enables the defilement of the carcase to penetrate into its very fibres. The wet corn therefore is regarded in the same light as porous clay vessels which become saturated with defilement, and must be broken. (Comp. Leviticus 6:28.) By water, according to the rule which obtained during the second Temple, the seven liquids mentioned in Leviticus 11:34 are meant.
And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.(39) And if any beast.—That is, a clean animal, which is both bisulcous and ruminant, but which has not been properly slaughtered, having died from any disease or accident. During the second Temple, the law here enacted was restricted to quadrupeds, domestic or wild, but was not applicable to birds and fishes.
He that toucheth the carcase.—The carcase, in this case, is to be regarded as the dead body of an unclean animal (see Leviticus 11:24-28), and defiles by contact. (See also Leviticus 17:15.) This, however, only applies to the flesh of the quadruped. The skin, the bones, the sinews, the horns, and the claws are clean, the sacred Scriptures even being written on the prepared skins; and the horns used for the trumpets or horns of the sanctuary, according to the canons of the Pharisees, whilst the Samaritans and the Sadducees regarded them as polluting.
And he that eateth of the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that beareth the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.(40) And he that eateth.—That is, ignorantly, since for wilful transgression the transgressor incurred the penalty of excision. (See Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 14:21.)
He also that beareth the carcase.—Removing the carcase of a clean quadruped which died, defiled the person who carried it quite as much as removing the carcase of an unclean beast. Hence the law of purification for the defilement arising in either case is the same. (See Leviticus 11:25.)
And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.(41) And every creeping thing.—Besides the eight reptiles which defile by touching their carcase, and which are enumerated in Leviticus 11:29-30, all other creeping things upon the earth, with the exception of those specified in Leviticus 11:21-22, are to be treated as an abomination, and must not be eaten, though their carcases do not defile by coming in contact with them. From the fact that the creeping things here proscribed are expressly described as “creeping upon the earth,” the administrators of the law during the second Temple concluded that the small worms which do not creep upon the earth do not come within the operation of this prohibition. Hence worms bred in vegetables, fruit, and certain kinds of food are permitted. Thus the worms in figs, dates, and berries, the mites in peas, beans, and lentils, the maggots in cheese, the insects found in the flesh and under the skin of fishes, are not proscribed, and only when they quit the object wherein they have been generated, and creep about upon the ground, are they forbidden. Hence the Chaldee Version of Jonathan renders the passage “and every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you” (Deuteronomy 14:19) by “and all bees and wasps, and all worms of vegetables and of pulse which leave the objects of food and fly like birds, are unclean unto you.”
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.(42) Whatsoever goeth upon the belly.—In explanation of the general statement made in the preceding verse, three classes of creeping things are here adduced. (1) Those which move by the aid of the under part of the stomach, here described as “going upon the belly,” as serpents (see Genesis 3:14) and serpentine worms.
And whatsoever goeth upon all four.—Those (2) which have four legs and yet move like reptiles, as scorpions, beetles, &c.
Or whatsoever hath more feet.—Better, whatsoever hath many feet, that is (3), those which have a number of such short feet that they cannot easily be discerned by the naked eye, and appear to crawl about upon their stomachs, as caterpillars, centipedes, millipedes, &c.
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.(43) Ye shall not make your selves abominable.—By eating the unclean creatures which are constantly characterised in this book as “abominable” (see Leviticus 7:21; Leviticus 11:10-13; Leviticus 11:20; Leviticus 11:23; Leviticus 11:41-42)—a term which only occurs twice more in the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 66:17; Ezekiel 8:10)—those who do so render themselves abominable and repulsive; hence the admonition. The phrase only occurs once more, viz., Leviticus 20:25, where it is translated in the Authorised Version, “Ye shall not make your souls abominable.” This is the reason why “soul” is put here in the margin on the word “selves.”
Neither shall ye make yourselves unclean.—But not only is it disgusting to eat these abominable creatures, but their carcases defile and debar him who comes in contact with them from entering into the sanctuary and from partaking of the sacrificial meal.
For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.(44) For I am the Lord your God.—As the Lord who is their God is Himself holy, His people, in order to enjoy perfect communion with Him, must also be holy. Hence they must abstain from all these objects of defilement which mar that holy communion. Appealing to this declaration, the Apostle Paul uses the same admonition: “As he which hath called you is holy so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1Peter 1:15-16).
Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy.—Better, Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, as the Authorised Version renders exactly the same phrase in Leviticus 20:6.
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.(45) That bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt.—Having in a marvellous way delivered them from the land of bondage to be their God in a peculiar sense (comp. 2Samuel 7:23), the Holy One of Israel had a special claim upon His redeemed people that they should obey His laws and keep themselves holy as their Redeemer. This signal act of redemption is repeatedly appealed to in the Scriptures, both to show the obligations which the Israelites are under to obey God’s commandments and to expose their ingratitude (Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 24:17; Judges 2:12, &c.).
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 upon the earth:(46) This is the law of the beasts.—This is a recapitulation of the different classes of animals proscribed in the dietary laws. It will, however, be seen that in this summary they are not enumerated in the same order in which they are discussed in the chapter before us. In the dietary law the order of the four classes is as follows :—(1) the land animals, (2) the water animals, (3) the birds of the air, and (4) the swarming animals; whilst the order of the summary is:—(1) the land animals, (2) the birds of the air, (3) the water animals, and (4) the swarming animals. Exactly the same is the case in the summary of the sacrificial law. (See Leviticus 7:37-38.)
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.(47) To make a difference.—Better, that ye may put difference, as the Authorised Version renders the same word in Leviticus 10:10. That is, the design of the dietary law is to enable both the administrators of the law and the people to distinguish, by the characteristics and criteria specified above, between what is clean and unclean.
And between the beast that may be eaten.—From the fact that the same word, “beast,” is used in both clauses with regard to the animal which may be eaten and the one which may not be eaten without the qualifying adjunct “clean” and “unclean,” the administrators of the law during the second Temple concluded that the same clean animal is meant in both instances, under different conditions. The clean animal may be eaten when it is in a healthy state, but the same animal may not be eaten when it has organic defects, or is diseased. Hence they enacted the following canon: an animal is perfectly sound when it is capable of conceiving and bringing forth young. This is the reason why the LXX. renders the word beast here by viviparous.