Leviticus 11:19 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(19) And the stork.—Besides the parallel passage, Deu. 14:18, the word (chasidah) here rendered “stork” also occurs in Job. 39:13; Psa. 104:17; Jer. 8:7; Zec. 5:9, and is so translated, except Job. 39:13, where the Authorised Version has “wing” in the text and “stork” in the margin. Its name literally denotes in Hebrew “the pious,” “the kind,” and is so called because the ancients regarded it as a type of maternal and filial affection and tenderness. The mother has been known to prefer perishing with its offspring in the flames rather than desert them when its attempts to rescue them from a fire had failed. The white stork is one of the largest land birds. Its black and powerful wings strikingly contrast with the pure white of its plumage. Hence the remark “they had wings like the wings of the stork” (Zec. 5:9). The storks build on the loftiest towers and most conspicuous ruins, and also on the tops of high trees, where they may be seen to this day by the Sea of Galilee. It is to this that the Psalmist alludes: “as for the stork, the fir-trees are her home” (Psa. 104:17). To these nests they regularly return at the proper season, which marks them as the most punctual of migratory birds; and it is to this feature in their nature that the prophet refers: “the stork in heaven knoweth her appointed times” (Jer. 8:7). The stork feeds on fish, reptiles, and all kinds of offal and garbage, for which reason it is here placed in the list of unclean birds.

The heron.—Whilst the two preceding birds are named after their good qualities, viz., “the merciful” and “the pious,” this bird, which only occurs again in the parallel passage in Deu. 14:18, is termed (anaphah) “the angry,” “the cruel,” which aptly describes the heron. It is allied to the stork, and is of such a savage nature that it will defend itself with its beak against the dogs after it has had its legs shot and broken. It resides on the banks of rivers and in marshy places, and feeds on fish, frogs, lizards, snails, field-mice, and all sorts of insects, for which reason it is here included in the proscribed list of unclean birds. It exists in a variety of species. Hence the adjunct, “after her kind.”

And the lapwing.—Better, the hoopoe. This dirty bird, which only occurs again in the parallel list in Deu. 14:18, and which according to the ancients builds its nest of human dung, feeds upon offal and garbage. Its loathsome smell during brooding-time, and for weeks after, is perfectly insufferable. Though its flesh, which in the autumn tastes like quail’s, is eaten in some places, yet the Mohammedans regard it as proscribed. According to another ancient tradition the bird here meant is “the mountain cock.”

And the bat.—The list which opens with the eagle, the king of the birds, fitly concludes with the hybrid bat, the vilest creature, which is between a bird and a mouse, and is appropriately associated in the Bible with the mole as the type of darkness (comp. Isa. 2:20). From the fact that the air is its home; that like the swallow, which it resembles in mode of flight, it wheels through the air in every direction in search of the crepuscular and nocturnal insects on which it preys; and that it performs the most abrupt and skilful evolutions in its aerial course, the bat was classed among the birds. Bats abound in Syria in a great variety of species. They penetrate into the houses and make the rooms most offensive to live in. Those who have realised the sickening odour of these creatures in the East will readily understand why the loathsome bats are included in the list of unclean birds. Some of the ancient nations ate bats and regarded them as delicious food. Besides being the lowest, the bat is here placed last, because it forms the connecting link between the volatile bipeds and quadrupeds.

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:19 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 11:19 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:19 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:19 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 11:19 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 11:19 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:19 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:19 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:19 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:19 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Leviticus 11:19 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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