|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.
Verses 9-12. - Whatsoever hath fins and scales. The absence of fins and scales, or their apparent absence - for phenomenal language is used, as before - gives to fish a repulsive look, on which is grounded the prohibition to eat them. Eels and shell-fish are thus forbidden, though a long course of experience has now taken away the feeling of repulsion with which they were once looked upon. The flesh of the beasts for, bidden to be eaten is only described as unclean, but that of the prohibited fish, birds, insects, and vermin, is designated as an abomination unto you.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters,.... In the waters of the sea, or in rivers, pools, and ponds; meaning fishes; for though some persons abstain from eating them entirely, as the Egyptian priests, as Herodotus (m) relates; and it was a part of religion and holiness, not with the Egyptians only, but with the Syrians and Greeks, to forbear eating them (n); and Julian (o) gives two reasons why men should abstain from fishes; the one because what is not sacrificed to the gods ought not to be used for food; and the other is, because these being immersed in the deep waters, look not up to heaven; but God gave the people of Israel liberty of eating them, under certain limitations:
whatsoever hath fins and scales, in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat; some render it disjunctively, "fins or scales" (p); but as Maimonides (q) observes, whatsoever has scales has fins; and who also says, if a fish has but one fin and one scale, it was lawful to eat: fins to fishes are like wings to birds, and oars to boats, with which they swim and move swiftly from place to place; and scales are a covering and a protection of them; and such fishes being much in motion, and so well covered, are less humid and more solid and substantial, and more wholesome: in a spiritual sense, fins may denote the exercise of grace, in which there is a motion of the soul, Godward, Christward, and heavenward; and scales may signify good works, which adorn believers, and protect them from the reproaches and calumnies of men.
(m) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 37. (n) Plutarch. Sympos. p. 730. (o) Orat. 5. p. 330. (p) So Bootius. (q) Hilchot Maacolot Asurot, l. 1. sect. 24.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. These shall ye eat … whatsoever hath fins and scales—"The fins and scales are the means by which the excrescences of fish are carried off, the same as in animals by perspiration. I have never known an instance of disease produced by eating such fish; but those that have no fins and scales cause, in hot climates, the most malignant disorders when eaten; in many cases they prove a mortal poison" [Whitlaw].
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