Leviticus 11:18

18 and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the vulture,

Leviticus 11:18 Meaning and Commentary

Leviticus 11:18

And the swan
This is a bird well known to us, but it is a question whether it is intended by the word here used; for though it is so rendered in the Vulgate Latin, it is differently rendered by many others: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it "otia", which seems to be the same with the "otus" of Aristotle F14, who says it is like an owl, having a tuft of feathers about its ears (from whence it has its name); and some call it "nycticorax", or the owl; and here, by Bochart F15, and others, the owl called "noctua" is thought to be meant; and with which agrees the account some Jewish writers give of it, as Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim, who say it is a bird, which every one that sees is astonished at it, as other birds are at the owl, are frightened at the sight of it, and stupefied. But as the same word is used ( Leviticus 11:30 ) among the creeping things, for a mole, what Jarchi observes is worthy of consideration, that this is "calve (chauve) souris" (the French word for a bat), and is like unto a mouse, and flies in the night; and that which is spoken of among the creeping things is like unto it, which hath no eyes, and they call it "talpa", a mole. The Septuagint version renders it by "porphyrion", the redshank; and so Ainsworth; and is thought to be called by the Hebrew name in the text, from the blowing of its breath in drinking; for it drinks biting, as Aristotle says F16:

and the pelican;
which has its name in Hebrew from vomiting; being said by Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim to be a bird that vomits its food; and it is observed by several naturalists F17, of the pelican, that it swallows down shellfish, and after they have lain some time in its stomach, it vomits them up again; where having been heated, the shells open, and it picks out the meat:

and the gier eagle;
or vulture eagle, the "gypoeetos" of Aristotle {r}, and who says it is called also "oripelargos", or the mountain stork; and which Pliny F19 also makes to be an eagle of the vulture kind. Dr. Shaw says F20, that near Cairo there are several flocks of the "ach bobba" (white father, differing little from the stork but in its colour), the "percnopterus" or "oripelargos", which like the ravens about London feed upon carrion, and nastiness that is thrown without the city; this the Arabs call "rachama", the same with (Mxr) , ( Leviticus 11:18 ) and (hmxr) in ( Deuteronomy 14:17 ) and whatever bird is here meant, it must be one that is tender toward its young, as its name signifies, as Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim observe; and though both the eagle and the vulture are rapacious birds, yet have a great regard to their young; of the eagle see ( Deuteronomy 32:11 ) and the vulture, with the Egyptians, was an "hieroglyphic" of a tender mother, or any merciful person; it being reported of it, that during the one hundred twenty days its young are under its care, it very rarely flies from them, being so solicitous of nourishing them; and that by making incisions in its thigh, it lets out a bloody flow of milk, when it has nothing else to support them F21. The Talmudists F23 say, that the bird "racham", as it is here called, is the same with "serakrak", and is by the Targum of Jonathan, and in the Syriac version, here rendered "serakraka", so called from (qrv) , which signifies to "squall"; and, according to Munster F24, is thought by some to be the "pica", magpie, or rather the jay; and Dr. Shaw F25 observes, that by a small transmutation of letters, that and the "shagarag" of the Arabs are the same; which he says is of the size and shape of a jay, though with a smaller bill, and shorter legs; the back is brownish; the head, neck, and belly, of a light green; and upon the wings and tail there are several spots or ringlets of a deep blue; it makes a "squalling" noise; and, he adds, it has no small affinity both in voice and plumage with the jay. The Septuagint version renders the word by the "swan"; which if not intended by the first word in this text, may by this, being kind to its young, though otherwise reckoned a cruel and unmerciful bird, as Bochart F26 observes; some think the woodpecker is meant, so called from its love to its parents F1.


F14 Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 12. Vid. Plin. l. 10. c. 23.
F15 Ut supra, (Apud Bochard Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2.) c. 23.
F16 Ut supra, (Hist. Animal. l. 8.) c. 6. so Plin. l. 10. c. 46.
F17 Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 10. Aelian. de Animal. l. 3. c. 20, Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 40.
F18 Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 32.
F19 Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 3.
F20 Travels, p. 449. Ed. 2.
F21 Horns Apollo & Pisidas apud Bochart. ut supra, (F15) c. 27. col. 388.
F23 T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 63. 1.
F24 Dictionar. Chald. p. 4. 18.
F25 Travels, p. 183.
F26 Ut supra (F15), c. 25. col. 300.
F1 Plin. l. 10. c. 33.

Leviticus 11:18 In-Context

16 and the ostrich, and the night-hawk, and the seamew, and the hawk after its kind,
17 and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
18 and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the vulture,
19 and the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe, and the bat.
20 All winged creeping things that go upon all fours are an abomination unto you.
The American Standard Version is in the public domain.