Leviticus 11:29
These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,
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(29) These also shall be unclean.—Better, And these shall be the most unclean. As Leviticus 11:24-28 have been occupied with the discussion of the defilement caused by the carcases of unclean quadrupeds, which, as we have seen, belong to the first class of the animal kingdom, the Lawgiver now enumerates those “creeping things” of the fourth class, which likewise cause defilement by touching them. The eight animals here adduced (Leviticus 11:29-30) are therefore a continuation of the things that go on their belly, mentioned in Leviticus 11:20-23. They only differ in this respect, that in Leviticus 11:20-23 the creeping things have also wings, whilst those described here are creeping things without wings. In a stricter sense, however, Leviticus 11:29, &c, is a resumption of Leviticus 11:20.

The weasel.—Though the Hebrew name (choled), which literally denotes “the gliding” or “slipping in” animal, does not occur again in the Bible, yet the ancient versions and the description given of it by the administrators of the law in the time of Christ place it beyond a doubt that it is meant for weasel. According to these authorities the animal in question lodges in the holes of walls and in ditches, is inordinately voracious, kills other animals of prey much bigger than itself, and carries them off in its mouth. It is especially obnoxious to poultry, for which reason the ventilating holes in hen roosts are made so small that it should not be able to get through them, it has pointed and crooked teeth, with which it pierces through the skull and brain of the hens; it attacks sleeping children and human corpses, and laps water from a vessel. It delights in pilfering bright objects, which it hides in holes. It will be seen that this description given by the administrators of the law during the second Temple, of the animal meant by choled can only apply to the weasel, and not to the mole. This is fully supported by the ancient versions, though the word denotes “mole” in Arabic, and is sometimes also used in this sense in the Talmud.

And the mouse.—Besides this passage, this word (achbar), which is taken to denote “the field,” or ‘corn-destroyer,” also occurs four times in Samuel (1Samuel 6:4-5; 1Samuel 6:11; 1Samuel 6:18), and once in Isaiah (Isaiah 66:17) and is uniformly translated “mouse.” That this is the true rendering is fully confirmed by the ancient versions and the administrators of the law during the second Temple. Their insatiable voracity and great fecundity make mice destroy the entire produce of a harvest in an incredibly short time. For this reason they became the symbol of destruction in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and obtained the appellation, “the scourge of the field” in the Bible (1Samuel 6:5). So great was the injury which they inflicted upon the fields in Palestine, that during the second Temple the administrators of the law permitted the Jews to destroy them by any means, even on the middle days of the two great pilgrimage festivals, the Feasts of Passover and of Tabernacles. The mischievous instinct which they have of gnawing at things which they cannot eat, and of penetrating into the sanctuary, and destroying the sacred food and scriptures, made mice peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, who gave them the appellation of “wicked mice,” a name with which they brand any malicious and wicked person to this day.

And the tortoise.—This creature (tzâb), which literally denotes “the swollen,” “the inflated” (see Numbers 5:27), occurs nowhere else in the Bible. That it is not the tortoise is perfectly certain, since this animal, according to the highest legal authority, was not unclean. Thus Maimonides tells us “only those animals mentioned in the Law (Leviticus 11:29-30) are defiling, but not the serpent, the frog, and the tortoise.” It is certain that the authorities in the time of Christ took it to denote the toad. This is evident from the discussion as to the condition of the man who has touched an animal, and cannot decide whether it is a frog, which is not defiling, or a tzâb, which is defiling. As it is the toad, and not the tortoise or lizard, which has such a misleading resemblance to the frog, there can hardly be any doubt that the administrators of the law understood the reptile here to denote the toad. This agrees with the meaning of the name, which, as we have seen, denotes the “swollen one,” and which is one of the peculiar characteristics distinguishing it from the frog, by its having a thick, squat, and more swollen body. The reason why the toad and not the frog is put into the defiling list of reptiles is probably owing to the fact that its shorter legs impart to it more the appearance of a creeping thing, and that it was believed that the limpid fluid which this reptile suddenly discharges when touched is poisonous. Some ancient versions, however, translate it “the land crocodile.”

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 identification of "the creeping things" here named is not always certain. They are most likely those which were occasionally eaten. For the "Tortoise" read "the great lizard," for the "ferret" the "gecko" (one of the lizard tribe), for the "chameleon" read the "frog" or the Nile lizard: by the word rendered "snail" is probably meant another kind of lizard, and by the "mole" the "chameleon." 29. the weasel—rather, the mole.

the mouse—From its diminutive size it is placed among the reptiles instead of the quadrupeds.

the tortoise—a lizard, resembling very nearly in shape, and in the hard pointed scales of the tail, the shaketail.

No text from Poole on this verse.

These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth,.... As distinguished from those creeping things that fly, these having no wings as they; and which were equally unclean, neither to be eaten nor touched, neither their blood, their skin, nor their flesh, as the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it: and the Misnic doctors say (d) that the blood of a creeping thing and its flesh are joined together: and Maimonides (e) observes, that this is a fundamental thing with them, that the blood of a creeping thing is like its flesh; which in Siphre (an ancient book of theirs) is gathered from what is said in Leviticus 11:29 "these shall be unclean", &c. hence the wise men say, the blood of a creeping thing pollutes as its flesh: the creeping things intended are as follow:

the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind; the first of these, "the weasel", a creature well known; there are two sorts of it, as Pliny (f) says, the field weasel, and the house weasel; the former are called by the Jewish writers the weasel of the bushes (g), and the latter the weasel that dwells in the foundations of houses (h); and of the former there was a doubt among some of them whether it was a species of the eight reptiles in Leviticus 11:29 or whether it was a species of animals (i); and which, Maimonides says, is a species of foxes like to weasels: Bochart (k) thinks the mole is intended; but the generality of interpreters understand it of the weasel; and so Jarchi and Kimchi, and Philip Aquinas (l), interpret it by "mustela", the weasel: however, all agree the second is rightly interpreted "the mouse"; which has its name in Hebrew from its being a waster and destroyer of fields; an instance of which we have in 1 Samuel 6:5; see Gill on 1 Samuel 6:5; so that this sort may be chiefly intended, though it includes all others, who are distinguished by their colours, the black, the red, and the white, which are all mentioned by Jonathan in his paraphrase of the text: this animal, as a learned physician (m) expresses it, eats almost everything, gnaws whatever it meets with, and, among other things, is a great lover of swine's flesh, which was an abomination to the Jews; nor does it abstain from dung, and therefore it is no wonder it should be reckoned among impure creatures; and yet we find they were eaten by some people, see Isaiah 66:17 especially the dormouse; for which the old Romans made conveniences to keep them in, and feed them, and breed them for the table (n): so rats in the West Indies are brought to market and sold for food, as a learned author (o) of undoubted credit assures us, who was an eyewitness of it: the last in this text, "the tortoise", means the land tortoise; it has its name from the shell with which it is covered, this word being sometimes used for a covered wagon, Numbers 7:3 there are various kinds of them, as Pliny (p) and other writers observe, and who, as Strabo (q) and Mela (r) also, speak of a people they call Chelonophagi, or tortoise eaters: a tortoise of the land kind is esteemed a very delicate dish: Dr. Shaw (s), speaking of the land and water tortoises in Barbary, says, the former, which hides itself during the winter months, is very palatable food, but the latter is very unwholesome: the Septuagint version renders it, the "land crocodile", which, is approved of by Bochart (t): and Leo Africanus says (u), that many in Egypt eat the flesh of the crocodile, and affirm it to be of good savour; and so Benzon (w) says, its flesh is white and tender, and tastes like veal; though some among them, as Strabo (x) asserts, have a great antipathy and hatred to them; and others worship them as gods, and neither can be supposed to eat them; the land crocodiles are eaten by the Syrians, as Jerom (y) affirms, for those feeding on the sweetest flowers, as is said, their entrails are highly valued for their agreeable odour: Jarchi says, it is a creature like a frog; he means a toad; so Philip Aquinas and many render the word: Dr. Shaw takes the creature designed to be the sharp-scaled tailed lizard (z).

(d) Misn. Meilah, c. 4. sect. 3.((e) Pirush. in ib. (f) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (g) Misn. Celaim, c. 8. sect. 5. (h) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 20. 2.((i) Maimon. in Misn. ib. (k) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 95. col. 1022. (l) Sepher Shorash. & Aquinas in rad. (m) Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 2. p. 307. (n) Varro de re Rustic. l. 3. c. 14. apud Sir Hans Sloane's History of Jamaica, vol. 1. Introduct. p. 24. (o) Sir Hans Sloane, ib. p. 25. (p) Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 10. & l. 32. c. 4. (q) Geograph. l. 16. p. 532. (r) De Situ Orbis, l. 3. c. 8. (s) Travels, p. 178. (t) Ut supra, (Hierozoic. par. 1.) l. 4. c. 1.((u) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 762. (w) Nov. Orb. Hist. c. 3.((x) Geograph. l. 17. p. 558, 560, 561, 563. (y) Adv. Jovin. l. 2.((z) Ut supra. Travels, p. 178

These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the {g} tortoise after his kind,

(g) The green frog that sits on the bushes.

29–38. Uncleanness caused by Creeping Things

29. the weasel†] According to early Versions, and the Mishna the Heb. word should be thus translated; but some prefer the rendering ‘mole.’

the great lizard†] tortoise A.V. The cognate words in Arab. and Syr. support the rendering of R.V.

Verses 29, 30. - The creeping things that creep upon the earth. This class contains things that go on their belly, but have not wings, like the previous class of creeping things (verses 20-23). By the words translated tortoise, ferret, chameleon, lizard, snail, mole, different varieties of the lizard are probably meant. The mouse is joined by Isaiah with "eating swine's flesh and the abomination" (Isaiah 66:17). Leviticus 11:29To these there are attached analogous instructions concerning defilement through contact with the smaller creeping animals (Sherez), which formed the fourth class of the animal kingdom; though the prohibition against eating these animals is not introduced till Leviticus 11:41, Leviticus 11:42, as none of these were usually eaten. Sherez, the swarm, refers to animals which swarm together in great numbers (see at Genesis 1:21), and is synonymous with remes (cf. Genesis 7:14 and Genesis 7:21), "the creeping;" it denotes the smaller land animals which move without feet, or with feet that are hardly perceptible (see at Genesis 1:24). Eight of the creeping animals are named, as defiling not only the men with whom they might come in contact, but any domestic utensils and food upon which they might fall; they were generally found in houses, therefore, or in the abodes of men. חלד is not the mole (according to Saad. Ar. Abys., etc.), although the Arabs still call this chuld, but the weasel (lxx, Onk., etc.), which is common in Syria and Palestine, and is frequently mentioned by the Talmudists in the feminine form חוּלדה, as an animal which caught birds (Mishn. Cholin iii. 4), which would run over the wave-loaves with a sherez in its mouth (Mishn. Tohor. iv. 2), and which could drink water out of a vessel (Mishn. Para ix. 3). עכבּר is the mouse (according to the ancient versions and the Talmud), and in 1 Samuel 6:5 the field-mouse, the scourge of the fields, not the jerboa, as Knobel supposes; for this animal lives in holes in the ground, is very shy, and does not frequent houses as is assumed to be the case with the animals mentioned here. צב is a kind of lizard, but whether the thav or dsabb, a harmless yellow lizard of 18 inches in length, which is described by Seetzen, iii. pp. 436ff., also by Hasselquist under the name of lacerta Aegyptia, or the waral, as Knobel supposes, a large land lizard reaching as much as four feet in length, which is also met with in Palestine (Robinson, ii. 160) and is called el worran by Seetzen, cannot be determined.
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