Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,From the laws concerning the priests, he now comes to those which belong to all the people.
Beasts clean and unclean, Leviticus 11:1-8. Of fishes, Leviticus 11:9-12. Of fowls and creeping things, Leviticus 11:13-23. In touching of a dead carcass, Leviticus 11:24-28. Other creatures unclean, Leviticus 11:29-43. They are exhorted to purity and holiness from the nature of God, and his goodness to them in taking them to be his people, Leviticus 11:44,45. The whole repeated, Leviticus 11:46,47.
The Lord spake to both Moses and Aaron, because the cognizance of the following matters belonged to both; the priest was to direct the people about the things forbidden or allowed where any doubt or difficulty arose, and the magistrate was to see the direction here given followed.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.Though every creature of God be good and pure in itself, as appears from Genesis 1:31 Matthew 15:11 Romans 14:14; yet it pleased God to make a difference between clean and unclean, and to restrain the use of them, which he did in general and in part before the flood, Genesis 7:2; but more fully and particularly here for many reasons, as,
1. To assert his own sovereignty over man, and over all the creatures, which men may not use but with God’s leave, and to inure that stiff-necked people to obedience.
2. To keep up the wall of partition between the Jews and other nations, which was very useful and necessary for many great and wise purposes.
3. That by bridling their appetite in things in themselves lawful, and some of them very desirable and delightful for food, they might be better prepared and enabled to deny themselves in things simply and grossly sinful.
4. For the preservation of their health, some of the creatures forbidden being, though used by the neigbbouring nations, of unwholesome nourishment, especially to the Jews, who were very obnoxious to leprosies, which some of these meats are apt to produce and foment.
5. For moral signification, to teach them to abhor that filthiness and all those ill qualities for which some of these creatures are noted.
Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.Cloven-footed, to wit, is divided into two parts only, as in the coney, swine, &c., whereas the horse, camel, &c. have their hoofs entire and undivided. This clause is added only to explain and limit the former, as appears from Leviticus 11:26; for the feet or hoofs of dogs, cats, &c. are parted or cloven into many parts. Cheweth the cud, Heb. and bringeth up the cud, i.e. the meat once chewed out of the stomach into the mouth again, that it may be chewed a second time for better concoction. And this branch is to be joined with the former, both properties being necessary for the allowed beasts. But the reason hereof must be resolved into the will of the lawgiver; though interpreters guess that God would hereby signify their duties by the first, that of dividing the word of God aright, and discerning between good and evil, between God’s institutions and men’s inventions; and by the latter, that duty of recalling God’s word to our minds, and serious meditation upon it.
Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.The camel was a usual food in Arabia, but yielding bad nourishment, as Galen notes.
Divideth not the hoof, to wit, so as to have his foot cloven in two, which being expressed Leviticus 11:3, is here to be understood; otherwise the camel’s hoof is divided, but it is but a small and imperfect division, as Aristotle and Pliny observe, and observation shows.
And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.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 hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.The Jews would not so much as name
the swine, but called it another or a strange thing, lest the naming of it should tempt them to eat this meat, which was so commonly used and so much esteemed by others.
Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.Ye shall not touch, to wit, in order to eating, as may be gathered by comparing this with Genesis 3:3 Colossians 2:21. For since the fat and the skins of some of the forbidden creatures were useful for medicinal and other good uses, and were used by good men; see Matthew 3:4; it is not probable that God would have them cast away. Thus God forbad the making of images, Exo 20, not absolutely and universally, but in order to the worshipping of them, as Christian interpreters agree. Or, they were here forbidden to touch them, to wit, unnecessarily; and if he that touched them for some necessary use were polluted by it, it was but a slight and transient pollution, ending at evening, as appears from Leviticus 11:24,25, &c.
These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.Whatsoever hath fins and scales, to wit, both of them; such fishes being both more cleanly and more wholesome food than others. The names of them are not particularly mentioned, partly because most of them wanted names, the fishes not being brought to Adam and named by him as other creatures were; and partly because the land of Canaan had not many rivers, nor great store of fishes
And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:i.e. Either of the smaller sort of fishes, or of the greater, which are called here living creatures or beasts, as some of them are called the beasts of the sea by other authors.
They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.An abomination unto you, to wit, for food. This clause is added to show that they were neither abominable in their own nature, nor for the food of other nations; and consequently when the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles was taken away, these distinctions of meats were to cease. See Ac 10.
Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,The true signification of these and the following Hebrew words is now lost, as the Jews at this day confess, which not falling out without God’s singular providence may intimate the cessation or abolition of this law, the exact observation whereof since Christ came is become impossible. In general, this may be observed, that the fowls forbidden in diet are all either ravenous and cruel, or such as delight in the night and darkness, or such as feed upon impure things; and so the signification and reason of these prohibitions is manifest, to teach men to abominate all cruelty or oppression, and all works of darkness and filthiness.
The ossifrage and the
ospray are two peculiar kinds of eagles, distinct from that which, being the chief of its kind, is called by the name of the whole kind, as it usually happens.
And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;No text from Poole on this verse.
Every raven after his kind;i.e. According to the several kinds of birds, known by this general name, which includes, besides ravens properly so called, crows, rooks, pies, &c.
And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,The owl, Heb. the daughter of the owl, which he mentions as the best of the kind both for sex and age, and therefore more desired for food than the elder or males. And it is hereby implied, that the very youngest and best of all the other kinds are forbidden, and much more the rest.
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,No text from Poole on this verse.
And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,No text from Poole on this verse.
And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.No text from Poole on this verse.
All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.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.
Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth;Which have legs above their feet. The truth of this translation may seem evident, both from the following clause, to
leap withal, and especially from the next verse, where one of this kind is the locusts, which, as it is manifest, have two legs wherewith they leap, besides the four feet upon which they walk. The adverb lo is here put for the pronoun lo, as it is also 1 Chronicles 11:20, compared with 2 Samuel 23:18. Others take the words as they lie, and read them negatively, which have not legs upon their feet, and so the sense may be this, That they might eat the locusts, grasshoppers, &c. when they were very young, and therefore more wholesome for food; for they are born without legs, Plin. Nat. Hist. 11.29, or their legs at first are very small, and scarce to be discerned, and in effect none. And the canon of the Jews in this matter is this, Those which yet have not wings and legs may be eaten, though they be such as afterward would have them.
Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.Locusts, though unusual in our food, were commonly eaten by the Ethiopians, Libyans, Parthians, and other eastern people bordering upon the Jews, which is expressly affirmed by Diodorus Siculus, Aristotle, Pllny, St. Hierom, and others, as well as Matthew 3:4. And it is certain that the eastern locusts were much larger than ours, so it is probable they were of different qualities, and yielded better nourishment; and the familiar use of them made them more agreeable to their bodies; for even poisons themselves have by frequent use been made not only harmless, but nourishing also to some persons.
But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.i.e. All such except those now mentioned; the word other being here understood out of the former verse, without which there might seem to be a contradiction between this and that verse. But the words may be, and by the vulgar Latin are, thus rendered, But all flying creeping things which have only four feet; which word only is to be gathered out of Leviticus 11:20,21; i.e. which have not those legs above and besides their feet mentioned Leviticus 11:21. And so all the verses agree well together.
And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.And such were excluded both from the courts of God’s house, and from free conversation with other men.
Until the even; which possibly might signify that even the smallest defilements could not be cleansed but by the death of Christ, who was to come and offer up himself in the evening, or end, or declining age of the world, as the prophets signify, and the apostle expresseth, Hebrews 9:26.
And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.Whosoever beareth, or, taketh away, out of the place where haply it may lie, by which others may be either offended or polluted.
The carcases of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you: every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.The word carcasses is easily to be understood out of Leviticus 11:24,25, where it is expressed.
And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even.Upon his paws, Heb. upon his hands, i.e. which hath feet divided into several]parts like fingers, as dogs, eats, apes, bears, &c.
And he that beareth the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
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,No text from Poole on this verse.
And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.No text from Poole on this verse.
These are unclean to you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even.No text from Poole on this verse.
And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed.No text from Poole on this verse.
And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water cometh shall be unclean: and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean.That on which such water cometh: the meaning is, that flesh or herbs, or other food which is dressed in water, to wit, in a vessel so polluted, shall be unclean; not so, if it be food which is eaten dry, as bread, fruits, &c., the reason of which difference seems to be this, that the water did sooner receive the pollution in itself, and convey it to the food so dressed.
And every thing whereupon any part of their carcase falleth shall be unclean; whether it be oven, or ranges for pots, they shall be broken down: for they are unclean, and shall be unclean unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean.Wherein there is plenty of water; of which no solid reason can be given, whilst such unclean things remain in them, but only the will of the Lawgiver, and his merciful condescension to men’s necessities, water being scarce in those countries; and for the same reason God would have the ceremonial law of sacrifices to be offered to God, give place to the moral law of mercy towards men.
And if any part of their carcase fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean.Partly because this was necessary provision for man; and partly because such seed would not be used for man’s food till it had received many alterations in the earth, whereby such pollution was taken away. See John 12:24 1 Corinthians 15:36.
But if any water be put upon the seed, and any part of their carcase fall thereon, it shall be unclean unto you.The reason of the difference is, partly because wet seed doth sooner receive and longer retain any pollution; and partly because such seed was not fit to be sown presently; and therefore that necessity which justified the use of the dry seed, which was speedily to be sown, could not be pretended in this case.
And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.If any beast die; either of itself, or being killed by some wild beast, in which cases the blood was not poured forth, as it was when they were killed by men either for food or sacrifice.
And he that eateth of the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that beareth the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.He that eateth, to wit, unwittingly; for if he did it knowingly, it was a presumptuous sin against an express law, Deu 14:21, and therefore punished with cutting off, Numbers 15:30.
And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.Except those before expressly excepted above Leviticus 11:21,22
Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination.Upon the belly, as worms and snakes.
Upon all four as toads and divers serpents.
More feet, to wit, more than four, as caterpillars, &c.
Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.No text from Poole on this verse.
For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.Ye shall be holy; by which he gives them to understand, that all these cautions and prohibitions about the eating or touching of these creatures was not for any real uncleanness in them, all being God’s good creatures, but only that by the diligent observation of these rules they might learn with greater care to avoid all moral pollutions, and to keep themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and particularly from all familiar and intimate converse with notorious sinners.
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.No text from Poole on this verse.
This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:No text from Poole on this verse.
To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.No text from Poole on this verse.