|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the owl,.... The great and little owls being after mentioned, it seems best, by the word here used, to understand the "ostrich" with the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, the Oriental versions, and the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan: the account which Pliny (p) gives of the African and Ethiopic ostriches is this; that they are the largest of birds, and almost of the kind of beasts; that they exceed the height of a horseman on horseback, and are swifter than the horses; that their wings are given them to help them in their running, otherwise they are not flying fowls, nor are they lifted up from the earth. Their hoofs are like to those of harts, with which they fight, and are cloven, and serve to gather up stones, which in their flight they throw with their feet against them that follow them; they have a wonderful concoction, digesting whatever is swallowed down; and, according to Galen (q), all the parts of them, their flesh and their eggs, are hard and difficult of digestion, and excermentitious: Aben Ezra says (r), their flesh is as dry as a stick, and it is not usual to eat it, for there is no moisture in it; and therefore nothing can be eaten of the whole species, but the daughter or young one, for that being a female and little, there is some moisture in it; but not so the male when little; wherefore as the flesh of this creature is always reckoned by the Jews as unlawful to be eaten, it may the rather be supposed to be intended here, since if not here, it cannot be thought to be any where observed; and yet we find that both the eggs and the flesh of this creature have been eaten by some people: their eggs with the Indians were reckoned delicate eating, as Aelianus (s) reports; and near the Arabians and Ethiopians were a people, as both Diodorus Siculus (t) and Strabo (u) relate, who were called Struthophagi, from their living on ostriches; and they eat them in Peru, where they are common (w); and in several parts of Africa, as Nubia, Numidia, and Lybia, as Leo Africanus (x) relates:
and the night hawk; which, according to Pliny (y), is sometimes called "cymindis", and is seldom to be found in woods, sees not so well in the day time, and wages a deadly war with the eagle, and they are often found joined together: Bochart (z) who thinks that the female ostrich is meant by the preceding bird, is of opinion that the male ostrich is meant here, there being no general name in the Hebrew language to comprehend both sexes:
and the cuckoo; a bird well known by its voice at least: some have thought it to be the same with the hawk, changing its figure and voice; but this has been refuted by naturalists (a): but though it is here forbidden to be eaten, yet its young, when fat, are said to be of a grateful savour by Aristotle: and Pliny (b) says, no bird is to be compared to it for the sweetness of its flesh, though perhaps it may not be here intended: the word is by the Septuagint rendered a "sea gull", and so it is by Ainsworth, and which is approved of by Bochart (c):
and the hawk after his kind; a well known bird, of which, according to Aristotle (d), there are not less than ten sorts: Pliny (e) says sixteen; it has its name in Hebrew from flying, it being a bird that flies very swiftly; see Job 39:26 the hawk was a symbol of deity with the Egyptians, and was reverenced and worshipped by them (f).
(p) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 1. Vid. Aristot. de Part. Animal. l. 4. c. 14. (q) Apud Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 14. col. 226. (r) Pirush in Exodus 23.19. (s) De Animal. l. 14. c. 13. (t) Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 162. (u) Geograph. l. 16. p. 531. (w) Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Ostrich". (x) Descriptio Africae, l. 6. p. 601, 605, 613. l. 9. p. 766. (y) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 8. (z) Ut supra, (Apud Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2.) c. 15. col. 235. (a) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 7. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 9. (b) Ibid. (c) Ut supra, (Apud Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 15.) Colossians 26. (d) Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 36. (e) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 8. (f) Plutarch. de Iside & Osyr. Strabo. Geograph. l. 17. p. 559, 562. Diodor. Sicul. l. 1. p. 78. Clement. Alex. Stromat. l. 5. p. 566.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. the owl—It is generally supposed the ostrich is denoted by the original word.
the nighthawk—a very small bird, with which, from its nocturnal habits, many superstitious ideas were associated.
the cuckoo—Evidently some other bird is meant by the original term, from its being ranged among rapacious birds. Dr. Shaw thinks it is the safsaf; but that, being a graminivorous and gregarious bird, is equally objectionable. Others think that the sea mew, or some of the small sea fowl, is intended.
the hawk—The Hebrew word includes every variety of the falcon family—as the goshawk, the jerhawk, the sparrow hawk, &c. Several species of hawks are found in Western Asia and Egypt, where they find inexhaustible prey in the immense numbers of pigeons and turtledoves that abound in those quarters. The hawk was held pre-eminently sacred among the Egyptians; and this, besides its rapacious disposition and gross habits, might have been a strong reason for its prohibition as an article of food to the Israelites.
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