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Leviticus 11:16 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(16) And the owl.—Better, and the ostrich, as the Authorised Version rightly renders it in the margin in three out of the eight passages in which it occurs, viz., Job. 30:29, Isa. 34:13; Isa. 43:20; literally, the daughter or inhabitant of the desert. The ostrich, which is the largest bird and the swiftest of all cursorial animals, was associated by the Hebrews with the terrors of the wilderness, and was regarded by the ancients as an unnatural hybrid, as a kind of half bird and half quadruped. It dwells amongst desolated places (Isa. 13:21; Isa. 34:13; Jer. 50:39), fills the air with its doleful and hideous wails (Mic. 1:8) and cruelly neglects its eggs to be hatched by the sun or trodden down under foot (Lam. 4:3; Job. 39:17-18). Owing to its proverbial stupidity, this hybrid is selected with another monster to illustrate the abundant goodness of the Lord, by showing that even this creature will become sensible of gratitude and break forth into thanksgiving and praise (Isa. 43:20). The flesh of the ostrich was eaten by the ancient Ethiopians, Indians, and other nations. The Romans regarded ostrich brains as a great delicacy. The ostrich occasionally devours fowls and other small vertebrates like a bird of prey, and tradition assures us that ostriches consumed the body of Agag.

And the night hawk.—Of all the unclean birds constituting this list, the one here rendered night hawk is the most difficult to identify. The name in the original (tachmâs) simply describes the bird as “the violent” one, or the rapacious, or “the cruel,” and this designation would apply to any bird of prey not already specified in this catalogue. Hence it has alternately been taken for the owl, the night hawk, the male ostrich, the falcon, the seabird gannet, the cuckoo, and the swallow. It will, however, be seen that all the large birds of prey which are here hazarded, have either already been mentioned or are mentioned in the sequel of this list, whilst the small birds, viz., the cuckoo and the swallow, are too insignificant and too harmless to be placed between the large raptorial companions. In this uncertainty of opinion it is best to leave the Authorised Version alone. The name only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deu. 14:15.

And the cuckow.—Rather, and the sea-gull. Like the foregoing bird of prey, the shachaph here mentioned only occurs again in the duplicate list of unclean animals in Deu. 14:15. It literally means the thin, slender, or cadaverous bird, and is taken by the most ancient authorities to denote the sea-gull, which is “the raven of the sea.” It darts down with great velocity upon its victim, like a bird of prey. It not only eats fishes, insects, and smaller aquatic animals, but feeds upon carrion. The eggs of the gulls and the flesh of the young birds are to this day eaten both in the East and in some northern countries of Europe.

And the hawk.—Besides the parallel passage in Deu. 14:15, the hawk (netz) also occurs in Job. 39:26, where it is described as a migratory bird, since it migrates to a more southern climate on the approach of winter. It feeds upon mammals, birds, and amphibia, and attacks even its own parent, mate, and offspring. It abounds in a variety of species in all parts of Asia. Hence the remark “after his kind.” Some tribes regard the flesh of the hawk as very palatable.

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:16 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:16 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:16 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 11:16 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 11:16 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:16 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:16 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Leviticus 11:16 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Leviticus 11:16 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:16 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Leviticus 11:16 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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