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.(cf. Deuteronomy 14:9 and Deuteronomy 14:10). Of water animals, everything in the water, in seas and brooks, that had fins and scales was edible. Everything else that swarmed in the water was to be an abomination, its flesh was not to be eaten, and its carrion was to be avoided with abhorrence. Consequently, not only were all water animals other than fishes, such as crabs, salamanders, etc., forbidden as unclean; but also fishes without scales, such as eels for example. Numa laid down this law for the Romans: ut pisces qui sqamosi non essent ni pollicerent (sacrificed): Plin. h. n. 32, c. 2, s. 10. In Egypt fishes without scales are still regarded as unwholesome (Lane, Manners and Customs).
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