Leviticus 11:17
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
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(17) And the little owl.—With the exception of the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:16, this bird only occurs once more, in Psalm 102:6, where it is properly rendered in the Authorised Version by “owl,” omitting the word “little,” and is described as inhabiting deserted ruins. It not only feeds upon insects and molluscs, hares, rabbits, ducks, geese, and birds of prey, but devours mice and rats, which are especially detested by the Jews. Its flesh is, however, regarded by some tribes as very savoury. The name kos which is translated “owl” in the three above-named passages, is the common Hebrew word for “cup,” and it is supposed that it has been given to this bird because the sitting owl especially widens towards the upper part, thus imparting to it a cup-like appearance.

And the cormorant.—Of all the web-footed birds which prey on fish, cormorants are the most voracious. They usually assemble in flocks on the rocks which overhang the sea, whence they drop down from the greatest height upon their victim, dive after it with the rapidity of a dart, and invariably gulp their prey head foremost. The cormorant is to be found in every climate, and is the destruction of all the finny tribe in any fresh-water river which he happens to occupy for a time. Hence he is called the feathered terror of the finny tribe. From the skill which he displays in casting himself down from a great height, and in plunging dart-like after his victim, he derives his Hebrew name, which denotes “darter.” The flesh of the cormorant, though rank, is eaten in some regions; whilst the skin, which is tough, is made into garments. The Hebrew name only occurs again in the duplicate catalogue of unclean animals in Deuteronomy 14:17. By comp. Leviticus 11:17-18 of the list before us with the parallel list in Deuteronomy 14:16-17, it will be seen that though the two catalogues respectively enumerate in these two verses the same six birds, yet the order is different. The cormorant, which is here second in Leviticus 11:17, is in Deuteronomy 14 sixth in Leviticus 11:17. There can, therefore, hardly be any doubt that the verse before us has been disturbed, and that by placing the cormorant here sixth, as it is in Deuteronomy, we obtain the two species of owls naturally following each other, as is the case in the parallel catalogue.

And the great owl.—Rather, the night owl, as the name in the original (yanshûph) denotes “night-bird.” Besides the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:16, this bird of prey only occurs again once more in Isaiah 34:11, where the Authorised Version translates simply “owl,” omitting the word “great,” and where it is associated with the raven and other dismal birds as fit occupants of deserted ruins. According to the description of it which prevailed in the time of Christ, its eyes are directed forward, it utters frightful shrieks in the night, and has a face like a cat, and cheeks like a human being. In consequence of its repulsive visage and human appearance it was considered a bad omen if one saw an owl in a dream. That the two kinds of owls are here mentioned is probably owing to their disgusting habit of ejecting pellets, each one of which contains sometimes from four to seven skeletons of mice. Hence, instead of saying “after his kind,” to include the other varieties, the lawgiver enumerates them separately.

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.17. the little owl—or horned owl, as some render it. The common barn owl, which is well known in the East. It is the only bird of its kind here referred to, although the word is thrice mentioned in our version.

cormorant—supposed to be the gull. [See on [39]De 14:17.]

the great owl—according to some, the Ibis of the Egyptians. It was well known to the Israelites, and so rendered by the Septuagint (De 14:16; Isa 34:11): according to Parkhurst, the bittern, but not determined.

No text from Poole on this verse.

And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl. Ainsworth translates the words just the reverse, and takes the first word to signify the great owl, and the last the little one; the great owl may intend the great horn owl, called sometimes the eagle owl, which is thus described; it is of the size of a goose, and has large wings, capable of extending to a surprising breadth: its head is much of the size and figure of that of a cat, and has clusters of black feathers over the ears, rising to three fingers' height; its eyes are very large, and the feathers of its rump long, and extremely soft; its eyes have yellow irises, and its beak black and crooked: it is all over mottled with white, reddish, and black spots; its legs are very strong, and are hairy down to the very ends of the toes, their covering being of a whitish brown (g): and as this is called the great horn owl, others, in comparison of it, may be called the little owl. Some reckon several species of owls--there are of three sizes; the large ones are as big as a capon, the middle sized are as big as a wood pigeon, the smaller sort about the size of an ordinary pigeon--the horned owl is of two kinds, a larger and a smaller--the great owl is also of two sorts, that is, of a larger and a smaller kind (h); it is a bird sacred to Minerva: but though it is pretty plain that the last of the words used signifies a bird that flies in the twilight of the evening, from whence it seems to have its name, as Aben Ezra, Ben Gersom, and other Jewish writers observe, and fitly agrees with the owl which is not seen in the day, but appears about that time; yet the first is thought by Bochart (i) to be the "onocrotalus" or "pelican", which has under its bill a bag or sack, which will hold a large quantity of anything; and the word here used has the signification of a cup or vessel, see Psalm 102:6. The word we render "cormorant", the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan paraphrase it, a drawer of fish out of the sea, so Baal Hatturim; and thus it is interpreted in the Talmud (k); and the gloss upon it says, this is the water raven, which is the same with the cormorant; for the cormorant is no other than "corvus aquaticus", or water raven; See Gill on Zephaniah 2:14. The Septuagint render it by "catarrhactes", which, according to the description of it (l), resides by rocks and shores that hang over water; and when it sees fishes swimming in it, it will fly on high, and contract its feathers, and flounce into the water, and fetch out the fish; and so is of the same nature, though not the same creature with the cormorant. Aben Ezra observes, that some say this is a bird which casts its young as soon as born; and this is said of the "catarrhactes", that it lets down its young into the sea, and draws them out again, and hereby inures them to this exercise (m).

(g) Ray's Ornithol. p. 63. apud Supplement to Chambers's Dictionary in the word "Bubo". (h) Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Owl". (i) Ut supra, (Apud Bochard. Heirozoic. par. 2. l. 2.) c. 20. col. 275. (k) Bab. Cholin, fol. 63. 1.((l) Gesner. apud Bochart. ut supra, (i)) c. 21. col. 278. (m) Ibid.

And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
17. the little owl] Heb. kôṣ in the two texts and in Psalm 102:7 only. A bird screeching by night is indicated by the LXX. and Vulg.

the cormorant] The position of this word in Deut. is more suitable than here. The Heb. word shâlâk implies plunging downwards with force and the Targ. translates it ‘a bird that catches fishes.’

the great owl] In the two texts and Isaiah 34:11 (‘owl,’ R. and A.V., ‘bittern’ R.V. mg.) the LXX. translate ‘ibis.’ Some species of owl is indicated.

Leviticus 11:17היּענה 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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