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Leviticus 11:30 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

(30) And the ferret.—The ancient legal authorities explain this name (anâkâh), which only occurs here in the Hebrew Scriptures, by kipor or kipod, “an animal whose body is entirely covered with sharp prickles, and when touched the creature draws in its legs and rolls itself up in a ball.” Its skin in ancient days was tied round the udder of cows to prevent other reptiles sucking out their milk. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the administrators of the law took it to be the hedgehog. Some ancient versions, however, render it by shrew mouse, whilst some modern expositors make it the gecko.

And the chameleon.—The ancient versions agree that by this animal (khôach), which denotes “strength,” and which occurs nowhere else in the Bible as the name of a reptile, is meant the chameleon. Its power of enduring for a long time without food, which led the ancients to believe that it entirely subsisted upon air, may be the cause both of its Hebrew name (as specified above), and the name chameleon, i.e., “a lion on the ground,” a reptile with the strength of a lion, The belief that it lives upon the air had also given rise to its Aramaic name in the time of Christ (zekitha), which denotes the animal that fills itself with air. The perplexity which the administrators of the law experienced about its food, and the time of feeding this creature, may be gathered from the story in the Talmud attributed to one of the sons of Noah, of what happened in the Ark. Sem, the son of Noah, said, “We had much trouble with the chameleon, for whilst we fed the day animals by day and the night animals by night, we did not know what the chameleon fed on. One day, however, I broke open a pomegranate, and a worm fell out of it, which the creature immediately devoured. Afterwards I pounded together fruit, and when it bred maggots the chameleon ate them.” The common chameleon is found in Syria and Palestine, and some eastern tribes believe that its flesh when eaten boiled is a remedy for leanness, and if eaten dry cures fever. In Spain chameleons are kept in rooms to destroy troublesome flies.

And the lizard.—Though the ancient authorities agree that the creature here named (l’tââh) is lizard, yet the description which the administrators of the law give of it, does not enable us to define the species to which it belongs. The characteristics which they give of the lizard are as follows: It has a thick though soft and smooth skin, and lays eggs in which the yolk and the white are not separated. Its tail when cut off will move for some time afterwards, and the creature itself when apparently dead will sometimes revive by pouring cold water over it.

And the snail.—This meaning of the Hebrew name (chômet) is attested by the highest Jewish authorities of ancient times. It denotes the testaceous kinds, whilst the word (shabbel) in Psa. 58:8 describes the naked species. Snails abound in a great variety of species in the East, and some kinds were eaten by the ancients as a great luxury. It was believed that the slime which it constantly emits as it crawls along brings about its death by a process of dissolution. Hence the remark “and snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away” (Psa. 58:8).

And the mole.—The word (tinshemeth) here translated “mole” is the same which is used in Lev. 11:18 for an unclean bird. That the Authorised Version, however, gives the correct rendering of the word is not only attested by the ancient versions, but by the following description, which the administrators of the law in the time of Christ give of the reptile here intended. It has no eyes, and burrows into the earth, and destroys the roots. For this reason, as well as for its carrying quantities of corn to its nest, it was ordained during the second Temple that the creature may be killed on the middle days of the two pilgrim festivals, i.e., of the Feasts of Passover and of Tabernacles. In Isa. 2:20, however, which is the only other passage where the mole occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures, the name for it is cnâpar pêrah. We have already seen in the case of the snail that two different names for the same creature are used designedly to describe the different characteristics of the same animal.

Consult other comments:

Leviticus 11:30 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 11:30 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 11:30 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 11:30 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 11:30 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:30 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 11:30 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 11:30 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 11:30 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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