Leviticus 11:5
And the coney, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you.
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(5) And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not . . . —Better, though he cheweth the cud, yet he divideth not. (See Leviticus 11:4.) The coney, which is the old English name for rabbit, is the meaning of the Hebrew expression shaphan, according to the definition of those who had to explain and administer this law at the time of Christ. As these interpreters lived in Palestine, where they saw the animals in question, the objection that the rabbit is not indigenous in Palestine falls to the ground. These shrewd Administrators of the law must also have noticed that it was the habit of the feeble conies to seek refuge and build in the fissures of the rocks, which not unfrequently are on a level with the ground. The rabbit, moreover, well suits the hare, by which it is immediately followed. Modern expositors, however, identify it with the Syrian hyrax, or rock-badger, which is about the size of a well-grown rabbit. It resembles the guinea-pig or the Alpine marmot, has long hair of a brownish grey or brownish-yellow colour on the back, but white on the belly, a very short tail, and short round ears. The action of its jaws when it is at rest resembles that of the ruminants.

Leviticus 11:5. The coney — Hebrews שׁפן, shapan. It is doubted whether we translate the word right; Bochart takes it to be a large species of rat, somewhat between a coney and a rat, which was common both in Egypt and Palestine. This animal, it appears, chews the cud, but divides not the hoof, and therefore answers to the description here given. It is also frequent in those countries, and dwells in rocky places, as the shapan is represented to do, <19A418>Psalm 104:18; Proverbs 30:26; but which the coney does not, but burrows in the ground. Nor does the coney appear to have been anciently known in Judea, but to have been peculiar to Spain.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 coney - The Old English name for a rabbit. The animal meant is the Hyrax Syriacus. It bears some resemblance to the guinea-pig or the marmot, and in its general appearance and habits Proverbs 30:26; Psalm 104:18, it might easily be taken for a rodent. But Cuvier discovered that it is, in its anatomy, a true pachyderm, allied to the rhinoceros and the tapir, inferior to them as it is in size.

He cheweth the cud - The Hyrax has the same habit as the hare, the rabbit, the guinea-pig, and some other rodents, of moving its jaws when it is at rest as if it were masticating. The rodents were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals, just as the bat was reckoned among birds because it flies (see Leviticus 11:19), and as whales and their congeners are spoken of as fish, when there is no occasion for scientific accuracy.

5. the coney—not the rabbit, for it is not found in Palestine or Arabia, but the hyrax, a little animal of the size and general shape of the rabbit, but differing from it in several essential features. It has no tail, singular, long hairs bristling like thorns among the fur on its back; its feet are bare, its nails flat and round, except those on each inner toe of the hind feet, which are sharp and project like an awl. It does not burrow in the ground but frequents the clefts of rocks. Some understand by the Hebrew word shaphan, a mountain mouse, which were of a much greater size than ordinary mice, and were used by the Arabians for food. But for the names of the following creatures, seeing the Jews themselves are uncertain and divided about them, I think it improper to trouble the unlearned reader with disputes about them, and for the learned, they may have recourse to my Latin Synopsis. I shall therefore take them according to our translation. And the coney,.... Or rabbit:

because he cheweth the cud; or "though he cheweth"; which yet, some observe, the coney or rabbit does not, it having upper teeth, and therefore they think some other creature is meant by Shaphan, the word here used; and Bochart (m) is of opinion, that the Aljarbuo of the Arabians, a sort of mountain mouse, is meant, which chews the cud and divides not the hoof, and resides in rocks, which agrees with the account of the Shaphan in Proverbs 30:26 but this is rejected by Dr. Shaw (n), who takes the creature here to be the Daman Israel, or Israel's lamb, an animal of Mount Lebanon, a harmless creature of the same size and quality with the rabbit, and with the like incurvating posture, and disposition or the fore teeth, but is of a browner colour, with smaller eyes, and a head more pointed, like the marmots; the fore feet likewise are short, and the hinder are nearly as long in proportion as those of the jerboa; and though this animal is known to burrow sometimes in the ground, yet its usual residence and refuge is in the holes and clifts of the rocks; but a learned man (o), and very inquisitive in the things of nature, tells us, that the "cuniculus", coney, or rabbit, this sort of animals do chew half an hour after eating:

but divideth not the hoof; which is well known of this creature:

he is unclean unto you; not fit or proper to be eaten of, but to be abstained from as an unclean animal; and may be an emblem of timorous persons, as these creatures by Aristotle (p) are observed to be, and it is well known they are; even of the fearful and unbelieving, reckoned among the impure, who will have their portion in the lake of fire, Revelation 21:8.

(m) Hierozoic par. 1. l. 3. c. 33. col. 1015, 1016. (n) Travels, p. 177, 348. Ed. 2.((o) Scheuchzer. ut supra, (Physic. Sacr. vol. 2.) p. 281. (p) Hist. Animal. l. 1. c. 1.

And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
5. the coney] The exact equivalent of the Heb. shâphân is given in R.V. mg. In Psalm 104:18; Proverbs 30:26 it is described as a weak and timid animal, taking refuge in the rocks, and Tristram (Land of Israel, p. 250) remarks that it is difficult to capture. ‘Coney,’ an old English term for ‘rabbit,’ is the rendering of A.V., which follows the traditional Jewish interpretation. As ‘coney’ is no longer in use, it has been retained in R.V., on the principle of avoiding all unnecessary alteration, but with the exact rendering in the margin. This is one of many instances where the rendering of R.V. mg. is essential for the full understanding of that version.

The coney (rock-badger) and hare move their jaws like beasts which chew the cud, but are not ruminating animals. Here, as in other passages of the Bible, the language is popular, rather than scientific.Verse 5. - The coney, Hebrew, shaphan; the Hyrax Syriacus, or wabr, still called in Southern Arabia tsofun, a little animal similar to but not identical with the rabbit. "They live in the natural caves and clefts of the rocks (Psalm 104:18), are very gregarious, being often seen seated in troops before the openings of their caves, and extremely timid, as they are quite defenseless (Proverbs 30:26). They are about the size of rabbits, of a brownish-gray or brownish-yellow color, but white under the belly; they have bright eyes, round ears, and no tail. The Arabs eat them, but do not place them before their guests" (Keil). Aaron excused his sons, however, by saying, "Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering, and this has happened to me," i.e., the calamity recorded in Leviticus 10:1. has befallen me (קרא equals קרה, as in Genesis 42:4); "and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing to Jehovah?" וגו ואכלתּי is a conditional clause, as in Genesis 33:13, cf. Ewald, 357. Moses rested satisfied with this answer. Aaron acknowledged that the flesh of the sin-offering ought to have been eaten by the priest in this instance (according to Leviticus 6:19), and simply adduced, as the reason why this had not been done, the calamity which had befallen his two eldest sons. And this might really be a sufficient reason, as regarded both himself and his remaining sons, why the eating of the sin-offering should be omitted. For the judgment in question was so solemn a warning, as to the sin which still adhered to them even after the presentation of their sin-offering, that they might properly feel "that they had not so strong and overpowering a holiness as was required for eating the general sin-offering" (M. Baumgarten). This is the correct view, though others find the reason in their grief at the death of their sons or brethren, which rendered it impossible to observe a joyous sacrificial meal. But this is not for a moment to be thought of, simply because the eating of the flesh of the sin-offering was not a joyous meal at all (see at Leviticus 6:19).

(Note: Upon this mistaken view of the excuse furnished by Aaron, Knobel has founded his assertion, that "this section did not emanate from the Elohist, because he could not have written in this way," an assertion which falls to the ground when the words are correctly explained.)

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