Leviticus 11:13
And these are they which you shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
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(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.

Leviticus 11:13. All such fowls and birds as are rapacious, and live upon prey, as the eagle, and its several kinds, hawks, kites, vultures, ravens, &c., are forbidden, and probably on a moral as well as a natural account, their flesh not only being not so good in itself as that of others, but not so fit to be used by a people that was consecrated to God, and professed greater innocency, justice, and purity, than the rest of the world. For, being all either ravenous and cruel, or such as delight in the night and darkness, or such as feed upon impure things, it seems evident that the prohibition of them was intended to teach men to abominate all cruelty and oppression, and all works of darkness and filthiness. The eagle — Whose flesh is hard, and whose nature is very rapacious. The ossifrage — From the Latin, ossifragus, a kind of eagle, so called from breaking the bones of its prey, which it does by carrying them up on high, and then letting them fall upon a rock. The ospray — Another kind of eagle, probably the paliætus, or sea eagle, as it is here rendered by the Seventy. Bochart, however, thinks it rather means the melanætus, or black eagle, which Homer mentions (Iliad, 21:252,) as the strongest and swiftest of birds.11:1-47 What animals were clean and unclean. - These laws seem to have been intended, 1. As a test of the people's obedience, as Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge; and to teach them self-denial, and the government of their appetites. 2. To keep the Israelites distinct from other nations. Many also of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen. 3. The people were taught to make distinctions between the holy and unholy in their companions and intimate connexions. 4. The law forbad, not only the eating of the unclean beasts, but the touching of them. Those who would be kept from any sin, must be careful to avoid all temptations to it, or coming near it. The exceptions are very minute, and all were designed to call forth constant care and exactness in their obedience; and to teach us to obey. Whilst we enjoy our Christian liberty, and are free from such burdensome observances, we must be careful not to abuse our liberty. For the Lord hath redeemed and called his people, that they may be holy, even as he is holy. We must come out, and be separate from the world; we must leave the company of the ungodly, and all needless connexions with those who are dead in sin; we must be zealous of good works devoted followers of God, and companions of his people.
]As far as they can be identified, the birds here mentioned are such as live upon animal food. They were those which the Israelites might have been tempted to eat, either from their being easy to obtain, or from the example of other nations, and which served as types of the entire range of prohibited kinds.

Leviticus 11:13

The eagle - Rather, the great vulture, which the Egyptians are known to have ranked as the first among birds. Compare 2 Samuel 1:23; Psalm 103:5; Proverbs 23:5, etc.

The Ossifrage, or bone-breaker, was the lammer-geyer, and the "ospray" (a corruption of ossifrage) the sea-eagle.

13-19. these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls—All birds of prey are particularly ranked in the class unclean; all those which feed on flesh and carrion. No less than twenty species of birds, all probably then known, are mentioned under this category, and the inference follows that all which are not mentioned were allowed; that is, fowls which subsist on vegetable substances. From our imperfect knowledge of the natural history of Palestine, Arabia, and the contiguous countries at that time, it is not easy to determine exactly what some of the prohibited birds were; although they must have been all well known among the people to whom these laws were given.

the ossifrage—Hebrew, "bone-breaker," rendered in the Septuagint "griffon," supposed to be the Gypœtos barbatus, the Lammer Geyer of the Swiss—a bird of the eagle or vulture species, inhabiting the highest mountain ranges in Western Asia as well as Europe. It pursues as its prey the chamois, ibex, or marmot, among rugged cliffs, till it drives them over a precipice—thus obtaining the name of "bone-breaker."

the ospray—the black eagle, among the smallest, but swiftest and strongest of its kind.

The true signification of these and the following Hebrew words is now lost, as the Jews at this day confess, which not falling out without God’s singular providence may intimate the cessation or abolition of this law, the exact observation whereof since Christ came is become impossible. In general, this may be observed, that the fowls forbidden in diet are all either ravenous and cruel, or such as delight in the night and darkness, or such as feed upon impure things; and so the signification and reason of these prohibitions is manifest, to teach men to abominate all cruelty or oppression, and all works of darkness and filthiness.

The ossifrage and the

ospray are two peculiar kinds of eagles, distinct from that which, being the chief of its kind, is called by the name of the whole kind, as it usually happens. And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls,.... No description or sign is given of fowls, as of beasts and fishes, only the names of those not to be eaten; which, according to Maimonides, are twenty four; so that all the rest but these are clean fowls, and might be eaten; wherefore the same writer observes (x), that,"whoever was expert in these kinds, and in their names, might eat of every fowl which was not of them, and there was no need of an inquiry:''but what creatures are intended by these is not now easy to know; very different are the sentiments both of the Jews and Christians concerning them; and indeed it does not much concern us Christians to know what are meant by them, but as curiosity may lead us to such an inquiry, not thinking ourselves bound by these laws; but it is of moment with the Jews to know them, who think they are; wherefore, to supply this deficiency, they venture to give some signs by which clean and unclean fowls may be known, and they are three; such are clean who have a superfluous claw, and also a craw, and a crop that is uncovered by the hand (y); and on the contrary they are unclean, and not to be eaten, as says the Targum of Jonathan, which have no superfluous talon, or no craw, or a crop not uncovered:

they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination; and they are those that follow:

the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray; about the first of these there is no difficulty, all agree the eagle is intended; which has its name either from the nature of its sight, or from the casting of its feathers, or from its tearing with its bill: it is a bird of prey, a very rapacious creature, and sometimes called the bird of Jupiter, and sacred to the gods; and these may be the reasons why forbid to be eaten, as well as because its flesh is hard, and not fit for food, and unwholesome; "the ossifrage" or "bone breaker" has its name from its tearing its prey and breaking its bones for the marrow, as the word "peres" here used signifies, Micah 3:3 it is said to dig up bodies in burying places to eat what it finds in the bones (z): this is thought to be of the eagle kind, as it is reckoned by Pliny (a), though Aristotle (b) speaks of it as very different from the eagle, as larger than that, and of an ash colour; and is so kind to the eagle's young, that when they are cast out by that, it takes them and brings them up: the "ospray" is the "halioeetus", or sea eagle, as the Septuagint version and several others render it; which Aristotle (c) describes as having a large and thick neck, crooked wings, and a broad tail, and resides about the sea and shores: Pliny (d) speaks of it as having a very clear sight, and, poising itself on high, having sight of a fish in the sea, will rush down at once and fetch it out of the water; and he also reports that she will take her young before they are fledged, and oblige them to look directly against the rays of the sun, and if any of them wink, or their eyes water, she casts them out of her nest as a spurious brood. Aristotle (e), who relates the same, says she kills them. The name of this creature, in the Hebrew text, seems to be taken from its strength; wherefore Bochart (f) is of opinion, that the "melanoeetos", or black eagle, which, though the least of eagles as to its size, exceeds all others in strength, as both Aristotle (g) and Pliny (h) say; and therefore, as the latter observes, is called by the Romans "valeria", from its strength. Maimonides (i) says of these two last fowls, which we render the ossifrage and the ospray, that they are not to be found on the continent, but in the desert places of the isles of the sea very far off, even those which are at the end of the habitable world.

(x) Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 14, 15. (y) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 75. 1. Maimon. ib. sect. 15. (z) Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Ossifraga". (a) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.((b) Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 6. l. 8. c. 3. & l. 9. c. 34. (c) Ib. l. 9. c. 32. (d) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.) (e) Ib. c. 34. (f) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 6. col. 188. (g) Ut supra, (Hist. Animal. l. 9.) c. 32. (h) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.) (i) Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 17.

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. the eagle] Heb. nésher, great vulture R.V. mg. The nésher is described (Micah 1:16) as bald, as spying for prey on the peaks of the rocks, and as swooping down upon the slain (Habakkuk 1:8; Job 39:27-30). The griffon, of the vulture family, is denoted by this Heb. word. The eagle cannot be described as bald, having feathers on the head and neck, but the griffon has only down.

the gier eagle] Heb. péreṣ, the ‘breaker’ or ‘cleaver’: the bearded vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, which breaks the bones of animals in order to obtain the marrow. Hence the name ‘ossifrage’ (bone breaker) in A.V. Geire (cp. the German Geier) was an old English word for vulture.

the ospray] The fishing hawk or another species of eagle. There are seven different kinds of eagle in Palestine.Verses 13-19. - The unclean birds are those which are gross feeders, devourers of flesh or offal, and therefore offensive to the taste, beginning with the eagle and vulture tribe. It is probable that the words translated owl (verse 16), night hawk (verse 16), cuckow (verse 16) should be rendered, ostrich, owl, gull, and perhaps for swan (verse 18), heron (verse 19), lapwing (verse 19), should be substituted ibis, great plover, hoopoe. In the case of the bat, we have again phenomenal language used. Being generally regarded as a bird, it is classed with birds. The swine has cloven hoofs, but does not ruminate; and many of the tribes of antiquity abstained from eating it, partly on account of its uncleanliness, and partly from fear of skin-diseases.
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