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Leviticus 11:20 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(20) All the fowls that creep.—Better, all creeping things which have wings. The swarming animals or insects, which, as we have seen, constitute the fourth class of the Hebrew division of the animal kingdom, are now discussed in Lev. 11:20-23. From the fact that in the following verse several kinds of locusts are exempted, it is evident that the phrase “creeping things which have wings” denotes insects.

Going upon all four.—That is, the insects in question not only fly but also creep. The phrase, however, “upon all four” does not refer to the exact number of feet, but, as in some modern languages, denotes walking with its body in a horizontal position, or near the ground, in contradistinction to the two-legged birds discussed in the foregoing verses. This is the sense which the administrators of the law in the time of Christ attached to the phrase. Hence the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan translates it, “And all creeping-things which have wings going upon all four, the flyspecies and the wasp or hornet species and the bee species.”

Shall be an abomination unto you.—As the bee species is included among “the creeping things which have wings,” some have supposed that bee-honey comes within the unclean things which are here said “shall be an abomination unto you.” Hence it is thought that the honey (dabesh) which is so frequently mentioned in the Bible as a special feature of the promised land (Exo. 3:8; Exo. 3:17; Exo. 13:5; Exo. 16:14; Exo. 33:3; Lev. 20:24, etc.), and which formed an important article of food among the Hebrews, was not the natural product of the bee, but is either the grape-honey, the dibs, which is still prepared in many parts of Syria and Palestine, and is exported in great quantities into Egypt; or the vegetable – honey, the exudation of certain trees and shrubs found in the peninsula of Sinai. Hence, too, it is supposed that the wild honey which Jonathan ate in the wood (1Sa. 14:25), and which was the meat of John the Baptist (Mat. 3:4), must refer to this vegetable-honey. But though it is true that the canon which obtained during the second Temple was “Whatsoever cometh from unclean creatures is unclean,” and that in accordance with this law the milk of unclean quadrupeds and the eggs of unclean birds and fishes were forbidden, yet the honey of bees was expressly permitted. The administrators of the law in the time of Christ accounted for this exemption that it is not the direct produce of the insect itself, but is a preparation from gathered juices of clean herbs. The Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan therefore adds, after “shall be an abomination unto you,” the words, nevertheless the honey of the bee ye may eat. John the Baptist therefore acted in perfect obedience to the Law when he ate the honey which the bees deposited in the crevices of the rocks and in the hollow of trees. The prohibition to use honey in meatofferings is not owing to its being unclean, but to its producing fermentation. (See Lev. 2:11.)

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:20 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:20 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 11:20 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:20 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:20 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 11:20 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Leviticus 11:20 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:20 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:20 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Leviticus 11:20 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:20 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Leviticus 11:20 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:20 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Leviticus 11:20 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Leviticus 11:20 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:20 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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