Yet these may you eat of every flying creeping thing that goes on all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap with on the earth;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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.
]Which have legs above their feet. The truth of this translation may seem evident, both from the following clause, to
leap withal, and especially from the next verse, where one of this kind is the locusts, which, as it is manifest, have two legs wherewith they leap, besides the four feet upon which they walk. The adverb lo is here put for the pronoun lo, as it is also 1 Chronicles 11:20, compared with 2 Samuel 23:18. Others take the words as they lie, and read them negatively, which have not legs upon their feet, and so the sense may be this, That they might eat the locusts, grasshoppers, &c. when they were very young, and therefore more wholesome for food; for they are born without legs, Plin. Nat. Hist. 11.29, or their legs at first are very small, and scarce to be discerned, and in effect none. And the canon of the Jews in this matter is this, Those which yet have not wings and legs may be eaten, though they be such as afterward would have them.
of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four; even though it is a creeping thing that flies and goes upon four feet, provided they be such:
which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; there is a double reading of this clause; the textual reading is, "which have not legs", and is followed by several interpreters and translators; and the marginal reading, which we follow, is, "which have legs"; and both are to be regarded as true, and written by Moses, as Ainsworth observes; for locusts are born without legs, and yet creep low, as Pliny asserts (z), and they have them afterwards; and it is a canon of the Jews, that what have not legs or wings now, or have not wings to cover the greatest part of them, but shall have after a time when grown up, these are as free (to eat) now, as when grown up (a). Dr. Shaw thinks (b) the words may bear this construction, "which have knees upon" or "above their hinder legs, to leap withal upon the earth"; and applying this to the locust afterwards, and only instanced in, he observes, that this has the two hindermost of its legs and feet much stronger, larger, and longer than any of the foremost. In them the knee, or the articulation of the leg and thigh, is distinguished by a remarkable bending or curvature, whereby it is able, whenever prepared, to jump, to spring, or raise itself up with great force and activity. And these Aristotle (c) calls the leaping parts; and though he attributes to the locust six feet, as does also Pliny (d), yet he takes the two leaping parts into the account; whereas Moses distinguishes those two from the four feet; and so Austin (e) observes, that Moses does not reckon among the feet the two hinder thighs with which locusts leap, which he calls clean, and thereby distinguishes them from such unclean flying creatures which do not leap with their thighs, such as beetles; and so the Jewish writers always describe a clean locust as having four feet, and two legs, thighs, or knees. Maimonides (f) gives three signs of them, which are these, whatsoever has four feet and four wings, which cover the greatest part of its body in length, and the greatest part of the compass of it, and has two thighs or knees to leap with, they are of the clean kind; and although its head is long, and it hath a tail, if its name is "chagob" (a locust) it is clean.
(z) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29. (a) Maimon. ib. c. 1. sect. 23. (b) Travels, p. 420. (c) De Part. Animal. l. 4. c. 6. (d) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 48. (e) Retract. l. 2. c. 15. (f) Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 22.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;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21–23. Four kinds of these swarming things which may be eaten are mentioned. The first and last of these occur frequently in the O.T., the second and third only here.
The first is ’arbeh, the general term for a locust, and from the passages in which it occurs (e.g. Exodus 10:4, of the plague of locusts, Jdg 6:5; Jdg 7:12, of invading troops) is clearly a highly destructive insect.
The fourth, ḥâgâb, is translated ‘grasshopper’ except in 2 Chronicles 7:13, where both R.V. and A.V. render ‘locust.’ From the words which follow, ‘to devour the land,’ it is clear the grasshopper is not meant, but one of the locust family. The rendering ‘beetle’ of A.V. for the third is certainly wrong. The Heb. word probably means a galloper, and the characteristic of the four kinds is that they ‘have legs … to leap withal.’
That they were actually eaten appears from Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.
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