Leviticus 11:16
And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
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(16) And the owl.—Better, and the ostrich, as the Authorised Version rightly renders it in the margin in three out of the eight passages in which it occurs, viz., Job 30:29, Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; literally, the daughter or inhabitant of the desert. The ostrich, which is the largest bird and the swiftest of all cursorial animals, was associated by the Hebrews with the terrors of the wilderness, and was regarded by the ancients as an unnatural hybrid, as a kind of half bird and half quadruped. It dwells amongst desolated places (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Jeremiah 50:39), fills the air with its doleful and hideous wails (Micah 1:8) and cruelly neglects its eggs to be hatched by the sun or trodden down under foot (Lamentations 4:3; Job 39:17-18). Owing to its proverbial stupidity, this hybrid is selected with another monster to illustrate the abundant goodness of the Lord, by showing that even this creature will become sensible of gratitude and break forth into thanksgiving and praise (Isaiah 43:20). The flesh of the ostrich was eaten by the ancient Ethiopians, Indians, and other nations. The Romans regarded ostrich brains as a great delicacy. The ostrich occasionally devours fowls and other small vertebrates like a bird of prey, and tradition assures us that ostriches consumed the body of Agag.

And the night hawk.—Of all the unclean birds constituting this list, the one here rendered night hawk is the most difficult to identify. The name in the original (tachmâs) simply describes the bird as “the violent” one, or the rapacious, or “the cruel,” and this designation would apply to any bird of prey not already specified in this catalogue. Hence it has alternately been taken for the owl, the night hawk, the male ostrich, the falcon, the seabird gannet, the cuckoo, and the swallow. It will, however, be seen that all the large birds of prey which are here hazarded, have either already been mentioned or are mentioned in the sequel of this list, whilst the small birds, viz., the cuckoo and the swallow, are too insignificant and too harmless to be placed between the large raptorial companions. In this uncertainty of opinion it is best to leave the Authorised Version alone. The name only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:15.

And the cuckow.—Rather, and the sea-gull. Like the foregoing bird of prey, the shachaph here mentioned only occurs again in the duplicate list of unclean animals in Deuteronomy 14:15. It literally means the thin, slender, or cadaverous bird, and is taken by the most ancient authorities to denote the sea-gull, which is “the raven of the sea.” It darts down with great velocity upon its victim, like a bird of prey. It not only eats fishes, insects, and smaller aquatic animals, but feeds upon carrion. The eggs of the gulls and the flesh of the young birds are to this day eaten both in the East and in some northern countries of Europe.

And the hawk.—Besides the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:15, the hawk (netz) also occurs in Job 39:26, where it is described as a migratory bird, since it migrates to a more southern climate on the approach of winter. It feeds upon mammals, birds, and amphibia, and attacks even its own parent, mate, and offspring. It abounds in a variety of species in all parts of Asia. Hence the remark “after his kind.” Some tribes regard the flesh of the hawk as very palatable.

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.
]And the owl ... - Rather, "and the ostrich, and the owl, and the gull, and the hawk," etc.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.

The owl, Heb. the daughter of the owl, which he mentions as the best of the kind both for sex and age, and therefore more desired for food than the elder or males. And it is hereby implied, that the very youngest and best of all the other kinds are forbidden, and much more the rest.

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.

And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind,
16. ostrich] Here and in Deuteronomy 14:15; Job 30:29; Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 50:39; Micah 1:8 the rendering ‘owl’ of A.V. should be corrected to ‘ostrich.’

the night hawk] The meaning of the Heb. taḥmâṣ is very uncertain. The root seems to indicate a bird of aggressive and violent character.

the seamew] cuckow A.V. So LXX. and Vulg.

the hawk after its kind] Many varieties of the hawk are indicated. The Heb. word nçẓ occurs here, in Deuteronomy 14:15 and Job 39:26 only.

Leviticus 11:16היּענה בּת, i.e., either daughter of screaming (Bochart), or daughter of greediness (Gesenius, etc.), is used according to all the ancient versions for the ostrich, which is more frequently described as the dweller in the desert (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13, etc.), or as the mournful screamer (Micah 1:8; Job 30:29), and is to be understood, not as denoting the female ostrich only, but as a noun of common gender denoting the ostrich generally. It does not devour carrion indeed, but it eats vegetable matter of the most various kinds, and swallows greedily stones, metals, and even glass. It is found in Arabia, and sometimes in Hauran and Belka (Seetzen and Burckhardt), and has been used as food not only by the Struthiophagi of Ethiopia (Diod. Sic. 3, 27; Strabo, xvi. 772) and Numidia (Leo Afric. p. 766), but by some of the Arabs also (Seetzen, iii. p. 20; Burckhardt, p. 178), whilst others only eat the eggs, and make use of the fat in the preparation of food. תּחמס, according to Bochart, Gesenius, and others, is the male ostrich; but this is very improbable. According to the lxx, Vulg., and others, it is the owl (Oedmann, iii. pp. 45ff.); but this is mentioned later under another name. According to Saad. Ar. Erp. it is the swallow; but this is called סיס in Jeremiah 8:7. Knobel supposes it to be the cuckoo, which is met with in Palestine (Seetzen, 1, p. 78), and derives the name from חמס, violenter egit, supposing it to be so called from the violence with which it is said to turn out or devour the eggs and young of other birds, for the purpose of laying its own eggs in the nest (Aristot. hist. an. 6, 7; 9, 29; Ael. nat. an. 6, 7). שׁחף is the λάρος, or slender gull, according to the lxx and Vulg. Knobel follows the Arabic, however, and supposes it to be a species of hawk, which is trained in Syria for hunting gazelles, hares, etc.; but this is certainly included in the genus נץ. נץ, from נצץ to fly, is the hawk, which soars very high, and spreads its wings towards the south (Job 39:26). It stands in fact, as למינהוּ shows, for the hawk-tribe generally, probably the ἱέραξ, accipiter, of which the ancients enumerate many different species. כּוס, which is mentioned in Psalm 102:7 as dwelling in ruins, is an owl according to the ancient versions, although they differ as to the kind. In Knobel's opinion it is either the screech-owl, which inhabits ruined buildings, walls, and clefts in the rock, and the flesh of which is said to be very agreeable, or the little screech-owl, which also lives in old buildings and walls, and raises a mournful cry at night, and the flesh of which is said to be savoury. שׁלך, according to the ancient versions an aquatic bird, and therefore more in place by the side of the heron, where it stands in Deuteronomy, is called by the lxx καταῤῥάκτης; in the Targ. and Syr. נוּנא שׁלי, extrahens pisces. It is not the gull, however (larus catarractes), which plunges with violence, for according to Oken this is only seen in the northern seas, but a species of pelican, to be found on the banks of the Nile and in the islands of the Red Sea, which swims well, and also dives, frequently dropping perpendicularly upon fishes in the water. The flesh has an oily taste, but it is eaten for all that.

ינשׁוּף: from נשׁף to snort, according to Isaiah 34:11, dwelling in ruins, no doubt a species of owl; according to the Chaldee and Syriac, the uhu, which dwells in old ruined towers and castles upon the mountains, and cries uhupuhu. תּנשׁמת, which occurs again in Leviticus 11:30 among the names of the lizards, is, according to Damiri, a bird resembling the uhu, but smaller. Jonathan calls it uthya equals ὠτός, a night-owl. The primary meaning of the word נשׁם is essentially the same as that of נשׁף, to breathe or blow, so called because many of the owls have a mournful cry, and blow and snort in addition; though it cannot be decided whether the strix otus is intended, a bird by no means rare in Egypt, which utters a whistling blast, and rolls itself into a ball and then spreads itself out again, or the strix flammea, a native of Syria, which sometimes utters a mournful cry, and at other times snores like a sleeping man, and the flesh of which is said to be by no means unpleasant, or the hissing owl (strix stridula), which inhabits the ruins in Egypt and Syria, and is sometimes called massusu, at other times bane, a very voracious bird, which is said to fly in at open windows in the evening and kill children that are left unguarded, and which is very much dreaded in consequence. קאת, which also lived in desolate places (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14), or in the desert itself (Psalm 102:7), was not the kat, a species of partridge or heath-cock, which is found in Syria (Robinson, ii. p. 620), as this bird always flies in large flocks, and this is not in harmony with Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14, but the pelican (πελεκάν, lxx), as all the ancient versions render it, which Ephraem (on Numbers 14:17) describes as a marsh-bird, very fond of its young, inhabiting desolate places, and uttering an incessant cry. It is the true pelican of the ancients (pelecanus graculus), the Hebrew name of which seems to have been derived from קוא to spit, from its habit of spitting out the fishes it has caught, and which is found in Palestine and the reedy marshes of Egypt (Robinson, Palestine). רחם, in Deut. רחמה, is κυκνός, the swan, according to the Septuagint; porphyrio, the fish-heron, according to the Vulgate; a marsh-bird therefore, possibly vultur percnopterus (Saad. Ar. Erp.), which is very common in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, and was classed by the ancients among the different species of eagles (Plin. h. n. 10, 3), but which is said to resemble the vulture, and was also called ὀρειπέλαργος, the mountain-stork (Arist. h. an. 9, 32). It is a stinking and disgusting bird, of the raven kind, with black pinions; but with this exception it is quite white. It is also bald-headed, and feeds on carrion and filth. But it is eaten notwithstanding by many of the Arabs (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 1046). It received its name of "tenderly loving" from the tenderness with which it watches over its young (Bochart, iii. pp. 56, 57). In this respect it resembles the stork, חסידה, avis pia, a bird of passage according to Jeremiah 8:7, which builds its nest upon the cypresses (Psalm 104:17, cf. Bochart, iii. pp. 85ff.). In the East the stork builds its nest not only upon high towers and the roofs of houses, but according to Kazwini and others mentioned by Bochart (iii. p. 60), upon lofty trees as well.

(Note: Oedmann (v. 58ff.), Knobel, and others follow the Greek translation of Leviticus and the Psalms, and the Vulgate rendering of Leviticus, the Psalms, and Job, and suppose the reference to be to the ἐρωδιός, herodius, the heron: but the name chasidah points decidedly to the stork, which was generally regarded by the ancients as pietatis cultrix (Petron. 55, 6), whereas, with the exception of the somewhat indefinite passage in Aelian (Nat. an. 3, 23), καὶ τοὺς ἐρωδιοὺς ἀκούω ποιεῖν ταὐτόν (i.e., feed their young by spitting out their food) καὶ τοὺς πελεκᾶνας μέντοι, nothing is said about the parental affection of the heron. And the testimony of Bellonius, "Ciconiae quae aetate in Europa sunt, magna hyemis parte ut in Aegypto sic etiam circa Antiochiam et juxta Amanum montem degunt," is a sufficient answer to Knobel's assertion, that according to Seetzen there are not storks in Mount Lebanon.)

אנפה, according to the lxx and Vulgate χαραδριός, a marsh-bird of the snipe kind, of which there are several species in Egypt (Hasselquist, p. 308). This is quite in accordance with the expression "after her kind," which points to a numerous genus. The omission of ואת before האנפה, whereas it is found before the name of every other animal, is very striking; but as the name is preceded by the copulative vav in Deuteronomy, and stands for a particular bird, it may be accounted for either from a want of precision on the part of the author, or from an error of the copyist like the omission of the ו before את in Leviticus 11:15.

(Note: On account of the omission of ואת Knobel would connect האנפה as an adjective with החסידה, and explain אנף as derived from ענף frons, ענף frondens, and signifying bushy. The herons were called "the bushy chasidah," he supposes, because they have a tuft of feathers at the back of their head, or long feathers hanging down from their neck, which are wanting in the other marsh-birds, such as the flamingo, crane, and ibis. But there is this important objection to the explanation, that the change of א for ע in such a word as ענף frons, which occurs as early as Leviticus 23:40, and has retained its ע even in the Aramaean dialects, is destitute of all probability. In addition to this, there is the improbability of the chasidah being restricted by anaphah to the different species of heron, with three of which the ancients were acquainted (Aristot. h. an. 9, 2; Plin. h. n. 10, 60). If chasidah denoted the heron generally, or the white heron, the epithet anaphah would be superfluous. It would be necessary to assume, therefore, that chasidah denotes the whole tribe of marsh-birds, and that Moses simply intended to prohibit the heron or bushy marsh-bird. But either of these is very improbable: the former, because in every other passage of the Old Testament chasidah stands for one particular kind of bird; the latter, because Moses could hardly have excluded storks, ibises, and other marsh-birds that live on worms, from his prohibition. All that remains, therefore, is to separate ha-anaphah from the preceding word, as in Deuteronomy, and to understand it as denoting the plover (?) or heron, as there were several species of both. Which is intended, it is impossible to decide, as there is nothing certain to be gathered from either the ancient versions or the etymology. Bochart's reference of the word to a fierce bird, viz., a species of eagle, which the Arabs call Tammaj, is not raised into a probability by a comparison with the similarly sounding ἀνοπαῖα of Od. 1, 320, by which Aristarchus understands a kind of eagle.)

דּוּכיפת: according to the lxx, Vulg., and others, the lapwing, which is found in Syria, Arabia, and still more commonly in Egypt (Forsk, Russel, Sonnini), and is eaten in some places, as its flesh is said to be fat and savoury in autumn (Sonn. 1, 204). But it has a disagreeable smell, as it frequents marshy districts seeking worms and insects for food, and according to a common belief among the ancients, builds its nest of human dung. Lastly, העטלּף is the bat (Isaiah 2:20), which the Arabs also classified among the birds.

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