Leviticus 11:29 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(29) These also shall be unclean.—Better, And these shall be the most unclean. As Lev. 11:24-28 have been occupied with the discussion of the defilement caused by the carcases of unclean quadrupeds, which, as we have seen, belong to the first class of the animal kingdom, the Lawgiver now enumerates those “creeping things” of the fourth class, which likewise cause defilement by touching them. The eight animals here adduced (Lev. 11:29-30) are therefore a continuation of the things that go on their belly, mentioned in Lev. 11:20-23. They only differ in this respect, that in Lev. 11:20-23 the creeping things have also wings, whilst those described here are creeping things without wings. In a stricter sense, however, Lev. 11:29, &c, is a resumption of Lev. 11:20.

The weasel.—Though the Hebrew name (choled), which literally denotes “the gliding” or “slipping in” animal, does not occur again in the Bible, yet the ancient versions and the description given of it by the administrators of the law in the time of Christ place it beyond a doubt that it is meant for weasel. According to these authorities the animal in question lodges in the holes of walls and in ditches, is inordinately voracious, kills other animals of prey much bigger than itself, and carries them off in its mouth. It is especially obnoxious to poultry, for which reason the ventilating holes in hen roosts are made so small that it should not be able to get through them, it has pointed and crooked teeth, with which it pierces through the skull and brain of the hens; it attacks sleeping children and human corpses, and laps water from a vessel. It delights in pilfering bright objects, which it hides in holes. It will be seen that this description given by the administrators of the law during the second Temple, of the animal meant by choled can only apply to the weasel, and not to the mole. This is fully supported by the ancient versions, though the word denotes “mole” in Arabic, and is sometimes also used in this sense in the Talmud.

And the mouse.—Besides this passage, this word (achbar), which is taken to denote “the field,” or ‘corn-destroyer,” also occurs four times in Samuel (1Sa. 6:4-5; 1Sa. 6:11; 1Sa. 6:18), and once in Isaiah (Isa. 66:17) and is uniformly translated “mouse.” That this is the true rendering is fully confirmed by the ancient versions and the administrators of the law during the second Temple. Their insatiable voracity and great fecundity make mice destroy the entire produce of a harvest in an incredibly short time. For this reason they became the symbol of destruction in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and obtained the appellation, “the scourge of the field” in the Bible (1Sa. 6:5). So great was the injury which they inflicted upon the fields in Palestine, that during the second Temple the administrators of the law permitted the Jews to destroy them by any means, even on the middle days of the two great pilgrimage festivals, the Feasts of Passover and of Tabernacles. The mischievous instinct which they have of gnawing at things which they cannot eat, and of penetrating into the sanctuary, and destroying the sacred food and scriptures, made mice peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, who gave them the appellation of “wicked mice,” a name with which they brand any malicious and wicked person to this day.

And the tortoise.—This creature (tzâb), which literally denotes “the swollen,” “the inflated” (see Num. 5:27), occurs nowhere else in the Bible. That it is not the tortoise is perfectly certain, since this animal, according to the highest legal authority, was not unclean. Thus Maimonides tells us “only those animals mentioned in the Law (Lev. 11:29-30) are defiling, but not the serpent, the frog, and the tortoise.” It is certain that the authorities in the time of Christ took it to denote the toad. This is evident from the discussion as to the condition of the man who has touched an animal, and cannot decide whether it is a frog, which is not defiling, or a tzâb, which is defiling. As it is the toad, and not the tortoise or lizard, which has such a misleading resemblance to the frog, there can hardly be any doubt that the administrators of the law understood the reptile here to denote the toad. This agrees with the meaning of the name, which, as we have seen, denotes the “swollen one,” and which is one of the peculiar characteristics distinguishing it from the frog, by its having a thick, squat, and more swollen body. The reason why the toad and not the frog is put into the defiling list of reptiles is probably owing to the fact that its shorter legs impart to it more the appearance of a creeping thing, and that it was believed that the limpid fluid which this reptile suddenly discharges when touched is poisonous. Some ancient versions, however, translate it “the land crocodile.”

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:29 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:29 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:29 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:29 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 11:29 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 11:29 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:29 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:29 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Leviticus 11:29 - Geneva Bible Notes

Leviticus 11:29 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:29 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:29 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Leviticus 11:29 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Leviticus 11:29 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Leviticus 11:29 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:29 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Leviticus 11:29 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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