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Leviticus 11:13 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(13) Ye shall have in abomination among the fowls.—The third of the four great divisions of the animal kingdom—viz., the birds of the air, in accordance with their proper sequence—is discussed in Lev. 11:13-19. It will be seen that, whilst in the case of the two preceding divisions of the animal kingdom certain signs are given by which to distinguish the clean from the unclean animals, in the division before us a list is simply given of the birds which are unclean and prohibited. This absence of all criteria is all the more remarkable, since after some of the birds mentioned it is added “after his kind,” or “after her kind” (see Lev. 11:14-16; Lev. 11:19), thus showing that kindred species were included in the prohibition, and that it was left to those who had to administer this law, to lay down some general signs by which the proscribed species are to be known. Hence the following rules obtained during the second Temple. Those birds are unclean (1) which snatch their food in the air, and devour it without first dropping it on the ground; (2) which strike with their talons and press down with their foot the prey to the ground, and then tear off pieces with their beak for consumption; (3) which “divide their feet” when standing on an extended rope or branch, placing two toes on the one side and two on the other, and not three in front and one behind; and (4) whose eggs are equally narrow or equally round at both ends, and have the white in the middle and the yolk around it.

The eagle.—As the king of the birds, the eagle stands first in the list. It denotes here all the species of the eagle proper. Arabian writers, scientific travellers, and the most distinguished naturalists, concur in their testimony that the eagle eats carrion when it is still fresh, thus harmonizing with the description in Job. 39:10; Pro. 30:17; Mat. 24:28, &c. The assertion, therefore, that the bird here meant is the Egyptian vulture, because the eagle disdains dead bodies and feeds only on what it kills itself, is erroneous. Besides the kindred dialects, all the ancient versions and the best Hebrew scholars place it beyond a doubt that Nesher here denotes eagle. Afterwards, however, the carrion-kite and the golden vulture were also reckoned among the different species of eagles. Hence the allusion in Mic. 1:16.

The ossifrage.—That is, the bone-breaker, or simply the breaker, is the literal translation of the expression here used in the original, which only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deu. 14:12. It is most probably the bearded griffin or lammergeier, which unites in itself the eagle and the vulture, and is therefore aptly called gypaëtus or vulture-eagle, and appropriately stands in the list here between the eagle and the vulture. The fitness of its name may be seen from its habits. It takes the bones of animals, which other birds of prey have denuded of the flesh, up into the air and then lets them fall upon a well-selected projecting rock. and thus literally breaks them in order to get at their marrow, or to render the fragments of the bones more digestible.

And the ospray, or sea-eagle. It is about the size of the golden-eagle, and preys principally upon fish, but also occasionally on birds and other animals, and when its extreme voracity is not satisfied, will devour the most putrid carrion. Hence its place in the catalogue of unclean birds. The word only occurs again in the parallel passage, Deu. 14:12.

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:13 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:13 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 11:13 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Leviticus 11:13 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:13 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:13 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 11:13 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Leviticus 11:13 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 11:13 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:13 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:13 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Leviticus 11:13 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:13 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:13 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Leviticus 11:13 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Leviticus 11:13 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Leviticus 11:13 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:13 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Leviticus 11:13 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)