Leviticus 11:13

13 And these ye shall have in abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the gier-eagle, and the ospray,

Leviticus 11:13 Meaning and Commentary

Leviticus 11:13

And these [are they which] ye shall have in abomination
among the fowls
No description or sign is given of fowls, as of beasts and fishes, only the names of those not to be eaten; which, according to Maimonides, are twenty four; so that all the rest but these are clean fowls, and might be eaten; wherefore the same writer observes F24, that,

``whoever was expert in these kinds, and in their names, might eat of every fowl which was not of them, and there was no need of an inquiry:''

but what creatures are intended by these is not now easy to know; very different are the sentiments both of the Jews and Christians concerning them; and indeed it does not much concern us Christians to know what are meant by them, but as curiosity may lead us to such an inquiry, not thinking ourselves bound by these laws; but it is of moment with the Jews to know them, who think they are; wherefore, to supply this deficiency, they venture to give some signs by which clean and unclean fowls may be known, and they are three; such are clean who have a superfluous claw, and also a craw, and a crop that is uncovered by the hand F25; and on the contrary they are unclean, and not to be eaten, as says the Targum of Jonathan, which have no superfluous talon, or no craw, or a crop not uncovered:

they shall not be eaten, they [are] an abomination;
and they are those that follow:

the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray;
about the first of these there is no difficulty, all agree the eagle is intended; which has its name either from the nature of its sight, or from the casting of its feathers, or from its tearing with its bill: it is a bird of prey, a very rapacious creature, and sometimes called the bird of Jupiter, and sacred to the gods; and these may be the reasons why forbid to be eaten, as well as because its flesh is hard, and not fit for food, and unwholesome; "the ossifrage" or "bone breaker" has its name from its tearing its prey and breaking its bones for the marrow, as the word "peres" here used signifies, ( Micah 3:3 ) it is said to dig up bodies in burying places to eat what it finds in the bones F26: this is thought to be of the eagle kind, as it is reckoned by Pliny F1, though Aristotle F2 speaks of it as very different from the eagle, as larger than that, and of an ash colour; and is so kind to the eagle's young, that when they are cast out by that, it takes them and brings them up: the "ospray" is the "halioeetus", or sea eagle, as the Septuagint version and several others render it; which Aristotle F3 describes as having a large and thick neck, crooked wings, and a broad tail, and resides about the sea and shores: Pliny F4 speaks of it as having a very clear sight, and, poising itself on high, having sight of a fish in the sea, will rush down at once and fetch it out of the water; and he also reports that she will take her young before they are fledged, and oblige them to look directly against the rays of the sun, and if any of them wink, or their eyes water, she casts them out of her nest as a spurious brood. Aristotle F5, who relates the same, says she kills them. The name of this creature, in the Hebrew text, seems to be taken from its strength; wherefore Bochart F6 is of opinion, that the "melanoeetos", or black eagle, which, though the least of eagles as to its size, exceeds all others in strength, as both Aristotle F7 and Pliny F8 say; and therefore, as the latter observes, is called by the Romans "valeria", from its strength. Maimonides F9 says of these two last fowls, which we render the ossifrage and the ospray, that they are not to be found on the continent, but in the desert places of the isles of the sea very far off, even those which are at the end of the habitable world.


F24 Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 14, 15.
F25 T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 75. 1. Maimon. ib. sect. 15.
F26 Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Ossifraga".
F1 Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.
F2 Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 6. l. 8. c. 3. & l. 9. c. 34.
F3 Ib. l. 9. c. 32.
F4 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.)
F5 Ib. c. 34.
F6 Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 6. col. 188.
F7 Ut supra, (Hist. Animal. l. 9.) c. 32.
F8 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.)
F9 Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 17.

Leviticus 11:13 In-Context

11 and they shall be an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses ye shall have in abomination.
12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that is an abomination unto you.
13 And these ye shall have in abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the gier-eagle, and the ospray,
14 and the kite, and the falcon after its kind,
15 every raven after its kind,
The American Standard Version is in the public domain.