Leviticus 11:18
And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) And the swan.—The word here translated “swan,” which, besides the parallel list in Deut., also occurs in Leviticus 11:30, among the names of the lizards, denotes, according to tradition, another variety of the owl. Whatever difficulty there may be about the true import of the word, it is certainly not the swan. It has, however, also been translated “ibis,” “bat,” “purple water-hen,” “heron,” “pelican,” and “goose.”

And the pelican.—The pelican is one of the largest and most voracious of the web-footed birds. It fills its capacious pouch with fish almost to suffocation, which it disgorges either for its own future consumption, or for the nourishment of its young, by pressing the under mandible against the neck and breast to assist the vomiting up of the contents. Hence its Hebrew name, which denotes “the vomiter.” During this operation the red nail of the upper mandible comes in contact with the breast, thus imparting to it the appearance of blood, which is most probably the origin of the fable that it feeds its young with its own life-blood. The pelican often builds in deserted places as far as twenty miles from the shore. When it has filled its expansive pouch with prey, it retires to its lonely place of repose, where it remains with its head leaning against its breast almost motionless till impelled by hunger to fly to the water in search for a fresh store of victims. It is to this melancholy attitude of lonely desolation that the Psalmist refers when he says, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness” (Psalm 102:6), and it is to its habit of building in deserted places that the prophets allude when they describe the desolation of Edom and Nineveh by saying that “the pelican shall possess” them (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14). In the last two passages the Authorised Version, which wrongly translates it “cormorant” in the text, has rightly pelican in the margin.

And the gier eagle.—As the name of a bird, this word (racham), which is here in the masculine form, and denotes “the merciful,” only occurs again in the parallel passage, Deuteronomy 14:17, where, however, it is in the feminine (rachamah). The species here intended is most probably the Gyps, called alternately the sacred or Egyptian vulture and Pharaoh’s hen, which is often figured on the ancient Egyptian monuments. It was regarded with religious veneration in Egypt, both because it prevented epidemics by acting as scavenger, and because of its extreme devotion and tenderness to its young, since it was believed to watch over its offspring a hundred and twenty days every year, and to feed them, if necessary, with the blood of its thighs. Hence it was used to denote both “mother” and “merciful” in Egyptian, and hence, too, its name “merciful” in Hebrew. The ancients also believed that there were no male vultures, and that the females conceived through the wind. It was probably to counteract this superstitious belief that the lawgiver uses here the masculine form and the feminine form in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 14:17. The vulture is most loathsome in its habits, and feeds upon the foulest carrion, for which reason it is put in the list of unclean birds.

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.
]The swan - More probably the ibis, the sacred bird of the Egyptians. "The gier eagle" is most likely the Egyptian vulture, a bird of unprepossessing appearance and disgusting habits, but fostered by the Egyptians as a useful scavenger.18. the swan—found in great numbers in all the countries of the Levant. It frequents marshy places—the vicinity of rivers and lakes. It was held sacred by the Egyptians, and kept tame within the precincts of heathen temples. It was probably on this account chiefly that its use as food was prohibited. Michaelis considers it the goose.

the pelican—remarkable for the bag or pouch under its lower jaw which serves not only as a net to catch, but also as a receptacle of food. It is solitary in its habits and, like other large aquatic birds, often flies to a great distance from its favorite haunts.

the gier eagle—Being here associated with waterfowl, it has been questioned whether any species of eagle is referred to. Some think, as the original name racham denotes "tenderness," "affection," the halcyon or kingfisher is intended [Calmet]. Others think that it is the bird now called the rachami, a kind of Egyptian vulture, abundant in the streets of Cairo and popularly called "Pharaoh's fowl." It is white in color, in size like a raven, and feeds on carrion; it is one of the foulest and filthiest birds in the world. [See on [40]De 14:17.]

No text from Poole on this verse.

And the swan,.... This is a bird well known to us, but it is a question whether it is intended by the word here used; for though it is so rendered in the Vulgate Latin, it is differently rendered by many others: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it "otia", which seems to be the same with the "otus" of Aristotle (n), who says it is like an owl, having a tuft of feathers about its ears (from whence it has its name); and some call it "nycticorax", or the owl; and here, by Bochart (o), and others, the owl called "noctua" is thought to be meant; and with which agrees the account some Jewish writers give of it, as Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim, who say it is a bird, which every one that sees is astonished at it, as other birds are at the owl, are frightened at the sight of it, and stupefied. But as the same word is used Leviticus 11:30 among the creeping things, for a mole, what Jarchi observes is worthy of consideration, that this is "calve (chauve) souris" (the French word for a bat), and is like unto a mouse, and flies in the night; and that which is spoken of among the creeping things is like unto it, which hath no eyes, and they call it "talpa", a mole. The Septuagint version renders it by "porphyrion", the redshank; and so Ainsworth; and is thought to be called by the Hebrew name in the text, from the blowing of its breath in drinking; for it drinks biting, as Aristotle says (p):

and the pelican; which has its name in Hebrew from vomiting; being said by Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim to be a bird that vomits its food; and it is observed by several naturalists (q), of the pelican, that it swallows down shellfish, and after they have lain some time in its stomach, it vomits them up again; where having been heated, the shells open, and it picks out the meat:

and the gier eagle; or vulture eagle, the "gypoeetos" of Aristotle (r), and who says it is called also "oripelargos", or the mountain stork; and which Pliny (s) also makes to be an eagle of the vulture kind. Dr. Shaw says (t), that near Cairo there are several flocks of the "ach bobba" (white father, differing little from the stork but in its colour), the "percnopterus" or "oripelargos", which like the ravens about London feed upon carrion, and nastiness that is thrown without the city; this the Arabs call "rachama", the same with Leviticus 11:18 and in Deuteronomy 14:17 and whatever bird is here meant, it must be one that is tender toward its young, as its name signifies, as Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim observe; and though both the eagle and the vulture are rapacious birds, yet have a great regard to their young; of the eagle see Deuteronomy 32:11 and the vulture, with the Egyptians, was an "hieroglyphic" of a tender mother, or any merciful person; it being reported of it, that during the one hundred twenty days its young are under its care, it very rarely flies from them, being so solicitous of nourishing them; and that by making incisions in its thigh, it lets out a bloody flow of milk, when it has nothing else to support them (u). The Talmudists (w) say, that the bird "racham", as it is here called, is the same with "serakrak", and is by the Targum of Jonathan, and in the Syriac version, here rendered "serakraka", so called from which signifies to "squall"; and, according to Munster (x), is thought by some to be the "pica", magpie, or rather the jay; and Dr. Shaw (y) observes, that by a small transmutation of letters, that and the "shagarag" of the Arabs are the same; which he says is of the size and shape of a jay, though with a smaller bill, and shorter legs; the back is brownish; the head, neck, and belly, of a light green; and upon the wings and tail there are several spots or ringlets of a deep blue; it makes a "squalling" noise; and, he adds, it has no small affinity both in voice and plumage with the jay. The Septuagint version renders the word by the "swan"; which if not intended by the first word in this text, may by this, being kind to its young, though otherwise reckoned a cruel and unmerciful bird, as Bochart (z) observes; some think the woodpecker is meant, so called from its love to its parents (a).

(n) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 12. Vid. Plin. l. 10. c. 23. (o) Ut supra, (Apud Bochard Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2.) c. 23. (p) Ut supra, (Hist. Animal. l. 8.) c. 6. so Plin. l. 10. c. 46. (q) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 10. Aelian. de Animal. l. 3. c. 20, Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 40. (r) Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 32. (s) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.((t) Travels, p. 449. Ed. 2.((u) Horns Apollo & Pisidas apud Bochart. ut supra, (o)) c. 27. col. 388. (w) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 63. 1.((x) Dictionar. Chald. p. 4. 18. (y) Travels, p. 183. (z) Ut supra (o)), c. 25. col. 300. (a) Plin. l. 10. c. 33.

And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. the horned owl] (swan A.V. and R.V. mg.) another kind of owl. The Heb. root (also used in Leviticus 11:30 for the chameleon [mole A.V.]) suggests a bird that makes a snorting sound, or breathes hard. The LXX. trans. πορφυρίων. Tristram (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 249) and Driver (Deut. in loc.) ‘the water hen.’

the pelican] In the lists and Psalm 102:6 [Hebrews 7] (‘a pelican of the wilderness’); Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14 (cormorant A. V.) it is used of a bird inhabiting desolate places.

the vulture] (the gier-eagle A.V.) It is distinguished by zoologists as vultur percnopterus.

The cormorant follows in Deut. at the close of Leviticus 14:17.

Leviticus 11:18היּענה 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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