Leviticus 11:29

Leviticus 11:29

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 F4 that the blood of a creeping thing and its flesh are joined together: and Maimonides F5 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" 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 F6 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 F9; and which, Maimonides says, is a species of foxes like to weasels: Bochart F11 thinks the mole is intended; but the generality of interpreters understand it of the weasel; and so Jarchi and Kimchi, and Philip Aquinas F12, 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 F13 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 F14: so rats in the West Indies are brought to market and sold for food, as a learned author F15 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 F16 and other writers observe, and who, as Strabo F17 and Mela F18 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 F19, 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 F20: and Leo Africanus says F21, that many in Egypt eat the flesh of the crocodile, and affirm it to be of good savour; and so Benzon F23 says, its flesh is white and tender, and tastes like veal; though some among them, as Strabo F24 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 F25 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 F26.


FOOTNOTES:

F4 Misn. Meilah, c. 4. sect. 3.
F5 Pirush. in ib.
F6 Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4.
F7 Misn. Celaim, c. 8. sect. 5.
F8 T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 20. 2.
F9 Maimon. in Misn. ib.
F11 Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 95. col. 1022.
F12 Sepher Shorash. & Aquinas in rad. (dlx) .
F13 Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 2. p. 307.
F14 Varro de re Rustic. l. 3. c. 14. apud Sir Hans Sloane's History of Jamaica, vol. 1. Introduct. p. 24.
F15 Sir Hans Sloane, ib. p. 25.
F16 Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 10. & l. 32. c. 4.
F17 Geograph. l. 16. p. 532.
F18 De Situ Orbis, l. 3. c. 8.
F19 Travels, p. 178.
F20 Ut supra, (Hierozoic. par. 1.) l. 4. c. 1.
F21 Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 762.
F23 Nov. Orb. Hist. c. 3.
F24 Geograph. l. 17. p. 558, 560, 561, 563.
F25 Adv. Jovin. l. 2.
F26 Ut supra. (Travels, p. 178.)
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