Leviticus 11:20
All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.
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(20) All the fowls that creep.—Better, all creeping things which have wings. The swarming animals or insects, which, as we have seen, constitute the fourth class of the Hebrew division of the animal kingdom, are now discussed in Leviticus 11:20-23. From the fact that in the following verse several kinds of locusts are exempted, it is evident that the phrase “creeping things which have wings” denotes insects.

Going upon all four.—That is, the insects in question not only fly but also creep. The phrase, however, “upon all four” does not refer to the exact number of feet, but, as in some modern languages, denotes walking with its body in a horizontal position, or near the ground, in contradistinction to the two-legged birds discussed in the foregoing verses. This is the sense which the administrators of the law in the time of Christ attached to the phrase. Hence the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan translates it, “And all creeping-things which have wings going upon all four, the flyspecies and the wasp or hornet species and the bee species.”

Shall be an abomination unto you.—As the bee species is included among “the creeping things which have wings,” some have supposed that bee-honey comes within the unclean things which are here said “shall be an abomination unto you.” Hence it is thought that the honey (dabesh) which is so frequently mentioned in the Bible as a special feature of the promised land (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 16:14; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24, etc.), and which formed an important article of food among the Hebrews, was not the natural product of the bee, but is either the grape-honey, the dibs, which is still prepared in many parts of Syria and Palestine, and is exported in great quantities into Egypt; or the vegetable – honey, the exudation of certain trees and shrubs found in the peninsula of Sinai. Hence, too, it is supposed that the wild honey which Jonathan ate in the wood (1Samuel 14:25), and which was the meat of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4), must refer to this vegetable-honey. But though it is true that the canon which obtained during the second Temple was “Whatsoever cometh from unclean creatures is unclean,” and that in accordance with this law the milk of unclean quadrupeds and the eggs of unclean birds and fishes were forbidden, yet the honey of bees was expressly permitted. The administrators of the law in the time of Christ accounted for this exemption that it is not the direct produce of the insect itself, but is a preparation from gathered juices of clean herbs. The Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan therefore adds, after “shall be an abomination unto you,” the words, nevertheless the honey of the bee ye may eat. John the Baptist therefore acted in perfect obedience to the Law when he ate the honey which the bees deposited in the crevices of the rocks and in the hollow of trees. The prohibition to use honey in meatofferings is not owing to its being unclean, but to its producing fermentation. (See Leviticus 2:11.)

Leviticus 11:20-21. All fowls that creep — The original word signifies any animal or moving creature, especially of the reptile or insect kind, (Genesis 1:20; Genesis 7:21,) and ought to be rendered every winged reptile, or, every flying, creeping thing that goeth upon four, as in Leviticus 11:21, upon four legs, or upon more than four, which is all one as to the present purpose. Which have legs above their feet to leap withal — This is a description of the locusts, which, besides four smaller feet, have two larger ones, by means whereof they leap about.

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.
]Rather, "All creeping things which have wings," etc. The word rendered creeping things may be regarded as coextensive with our word vermin. It is derived from a verb which signifies not only to creep, but to teem, or bring forth abundantly Genesis 1:21; Genesis 8:17; Exodus 8:3; Psalm 105:30, and so easily came to denote creatures which are apt to abound, to the annoyance of mankind. 20. All fowls that creep, &c.—By "fowls" here are to be understood all creatures with wings and "going upon all fours," not a restriction to animals which have exactly four feet, because many "creeping things" have more than that number. The prohibition is regarded generally as extending to insects, reptiles, and worms. All fowls that crawl or creep upon the earth, and so degenerate from their proper nature, which is to fly, and are of a mongrel kind; which may intimate that apostates and mongrels in religion are abominable in the sight of God, and in conversation with men.

Going upon all four, upon four legs, or upon more than four, as bees, flies, &c, which is all one to the present purpose, these pluralists for legs being here opposed to those that have but two.

All fowls that creep,.... Or rather "every creeping thing that flies"; for what are designed are not properly fowls, but, as the Jewish writers interpret them, flies, fleas, bees, wasps, hornets, locusts, &c. so the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Maimonides (y):

going upon all four; that is, upon their four feet, when they walk or creep:

these shall be an abomination to you; not used as food, but detested as such.

(y) Maacolot Asurot, c. 2. l. 5.

All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.
20. All winged swarming things] The same words as in Deuteronomy 14:19; swarming creatures which also fly, i.e. flying insects. A.V. obscures for the English reader the identity of expression by rendering here ‘all fowls that creep,’ and in Deuteronomy 14:19 ‘every creeping thing that flieth.’ In Deut. these things are all classed as unclean and not to be eaten. They are here further described as those ‘that go upon all four.’ All these swarming things have six feet, but the text describes their action as it appears to an ordinary observer, and, as in Leviticus 11:5-6, the language is popular, rather than scientific.

20–23. The connexion between these vv. and Leviticus 11:41 is very close, and Leviticus 11:24-30 are generally regarded as supplementary. See pp. 162 f.

Verses 20-23. - All fowls that creep should rather be rendered all winged creeping things, that is, all flying insects. None are allowed except the Saltatoria, or locust family. The word translated beetle signifies a sort of locust, like the other three words. That the locust was a regular article of food in Palestine is amply proved. "It is well known that locusts were eaten by many of the nations of antiquity, both in Asia and Africa, and even the ancient Greek thought the cicadas very agreeable in flavour (Arist. 'Hist. An.,' 5:30). In Arabia they are sold in the market, sometimes strung upon cords, sometimes by measure, and they are also dried and kept in bags for winter use.... They are generally cooked over hot coals, or on a plate, or in an oven, or stewed in butter, and eaten either with salt or with spice and vinegar, the head, wings, and feet being thrown away. They are also boiled in salt and water, and eaten with salt or butter. Another process is to dry them thoroughly, and then grind them into meal, and make cakes of them" (Keil). (Cf. Matthew 3:4.) The expression goeth upon all four, means groveling or going in a horizontal position, in contrast with two-legged birds, just spoken of. Leviticus 11:20(cf. Deuteronomy 14:19). To the birds there are appended flying animals of other kinds: "all swarms of fowl that go upon fours," i.e., the smaller winged animals with four feet, which are called sherez, "swarms," on account of their multitude. These were not to be eaten, as they were all abominations, with the exception of those "which have two shank-feet above their feet (i.e., springing feet) to leap with" (לא for לו as in Exodus 21:8). Locusts are the animals referred to, four varieties being mentioned with their different species ("after his kind"); but these cannot be identified with exactness, as there is still a dearth of information as to the natural history of the oriental locust. It is well known that locusts were eaten by many of the nations of antiquity both in Asia and Africa, and even the ancient Greeks thought the Cicades very agreeable in flavour (Arist. h. an. 5, 30). In Arabia they are sold in the market, sometimes strung upon cords, sometimes by measure; and they are also dried, and kept in bags for winter use. For the most part, however, it is only by the poorer classes that they are eaten, and many of the tribes of Arabia abhor them (Robinson, ii. p. 628); and those who use them as food do not eat all the species indiscriminately. They are generally cooked over hot coals, or on a plate, or in an oven, or stewed in butter, and eaten either with salt or with spice and vinegar, the head, wings, and feet being thrown away. They are also boiled in salt and water, and eaten with salt or butter. Another process is to dry them thoroughly, and then grind them into meal and make cakes of them. The Israelites were allowed to eat the arbeh, i.e., according to Exodus 10:13, Exodus 10:19; Nahum 3:17, etc., the flying migratory locust, gryllus migratorius, which still bears this name, according to Niebuhr, in Maskat and Bagdad, and is poetically designated in Psalm 78:46; Psalm 105:34, as חסיל, the devourer, and ילק, the eater-up; but Knobel is mistaken in supposing that these names are applied to certain species of the arbeh. סלעם, according to the Chaldee, deglutivit, absorpsit, is unquestionably a larger and peculiarly voracious species of locust. This is all that can be inferred from the rashon of the Targums and Talmud, whilst the ἀττάκης and attacus of the lxx and Vulg. are altogether unexplained. חרגּל: according to the Arabic, a galloping, i.e., a hopping, not a flying species of locust. This is supported by the Samaritan, also by the lxx and Vulg., ὀφιομάχης, ophiomachus. According to Hesychius and Suidas, it was a species of locust without wings, probably a very large kind; as it is stated in Mishnah, Shabb. vi. 10, that an egg of the chargol was sometimes suspended in the ear, as a remedy for earache. Among the different species of locusts in Mesopotamia, Niebuhr (Arab. p. 170) saw two of a very large size with springing feet, but without wings. חגב, a word of uncertain etymology, occurs in Numbers 13:33, where the spies are described as being like chagabim by the side of the inhabitants of the country, and in 2 Chronicles 7:13, where the chagab devours the land. From these passages we may infer that it was a species of locust without wings, small but very numerous, probably the ἀττέλαβος, which is often mentioned along with the ἀκρίς, but as a distinct species, locustarum minima sine pennis (Plin. h. n. 29, c. 4, s. 29), or parva locusta modicis pennis reptans potius quam volitans semperque subsiliens (Jerome (on Nahum 3:17).

(Note: In Deuteronomy 14:19 the edible kinds of locusts are passed over, because it was not the intention of Moses to repeat every particular of the earlier laws in these addresses. But when Knobel (on Lev. pp. 455 and 461) gives this explanation of the omission, that the eating of locusts is prohibited in Deuteronomy, and the Deuteronomist passes them over because in his more advanced age there was apparently no longer any necessity for the prohibition, this arbitrary interpretation is proved to be at variance with historical truth by the fact that locusts were eaten by John the Baptist, inasmuch as this proves at all events that a more advanced age had not given up the custom of eating locusts.)

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