|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.
Verse 6. - The hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof, There is little doubt that the same animal as our hare is meant. Neither the hare, however, nor the hyrax chews the cud in the strict sense of the words. But they have the appearance of doing so. The rule respecting chewing the cud was given to and by Moses as a legislator, not as an anatomist, to serve as a sign by which animals might be known to be clean for food. Phenomenal not scientific language is used here, as in Joshua 10:12, "as we might speak of whales and their congeners as fish, when there is no need of scientific accuracy" (Clark). "All these marks of distinction in the Levitical law are wisely and even necessarily made on the basis of popular observation and belief, not on that of anatomical exactness. Otherwise the people would have been continually liable to error. Scientifically, the camel would be said to divide the hoof, and the hare does not chew the cud. But laws for popular use must necessarily employ terms as they are popularly understood. These matters are often referred to as scientific errors; whereas they were simply descriptions, necessarily popular, for the understanding and enforcement of the law" (Gardiner).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the hare, because he cheweth the cud,.... Or, "though he chews" it:
but divideth not the hoof, he is unclean to you; and so not to be eaten; so Plutarch (q) says, that the Jews are said to abstain from the hare, disdaining it as a filthy and unclean animal, and yet was in the greatest esteem with the Romans of any four footed beast, as Martial says (r): Moses, as Bochart (s) and other learned men observe, is the only writer that speaks of the hare as chewing the cud; though they also observe, that Aristotle (t) makes mention of that in common with those that do chew the cud, namely a "coagulum" or "runnet" in its stomach; his words are,"all that have many bellies have what is called a coagulum or runnet, and of them that have but one belly, the hare;''only that: this creature being prone to lust, may be an emblem of lustful persons, who give up themselves to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness, Ephesians 4:19. (The "hare" is this verse may be an animal that is now is extinct but was alive at the time of Moses. It is only other mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:7. Editor.)
(q) Sympos. l. 9. c. 5. (r) L. 13. Epigr. 87. (s) Ut supra, (Hierozoic par. 1. l. 3.) c. 31. col. 977. (t) De Part. Animal. l. 3. c. 15. & Hist. Animal. l. 3. c. 21.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. the hare—Two species of hare must have been pointed at: the Sinai hare, the hare of the desert, small and generally brown; the other, the hare of Palestine and Syria, about the size and appearance of that known in our own country. Neither the hare nor the coney are really ruminating. They only appear to be so from working the jaws on the grasses they live on. They are not cloven-footed; and besides, it is said that from the great quantity of down upon them, they are very much subject to vermin—that in order to expel these, they eat poisonous plants, and if used as food while in that state, they are most deleterious [Whitlaw].
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