Leviticus 11:20 MEANING

Leviticus 11:20
(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 Leviticus 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 (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 16:14; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 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 (1 Samuel 14:25), and which was the meat of John the Baptist (Matthew 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 Leviticus 2:11.)

Verses 20-23. - All fowls that creep should rather be rendered all winged creeping things, that is, all flying insects. None are allowed except the Saltatoria, or locust family. The word translated beetle signifies a sort of locust, like the other three words. That the locust was a regular article of food in Palestine is amply proved. "It is well known that locusts were eaten by many of the nations of antiquity, both in Asia and Africa, and even the ancient Greek thought the cicadas very agreeable in flavour (Arist. 'Hist. An.,' 5:30). In Arabia they are sold in the market, sometimes strung upon cords, sometimes by measure, and they are also dried and kept in bags for winter use.... They are generally cooked over hot coals, or on a plate, or in an oven, or stewed in butter, and eaten either with salt or with spice and vinegar, the head, wings, and feet being thrown away. They are also boiled in salt and water, and eaten with salt or butter. Another process is to dry them thoroughly, and then grind them into meal, and make cakes of them" (Keil). (Cf. Matthew 3:4.) The expression goeth upon all four, means groveling or going in a horizontal position, in contrast with two-legged birds, just spoken of.

11:1-47 What animals were clean and unclean. - These laws seem to have been intended, 1. As a test of the people's obedience, as Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge; and to teach them self-denial, and the government of their appetites. 2. To keep the Israelites distinct from other nations. Many also of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen. 3. The people were taught to make distinctions between the holy and unholy in their companions and intimate connexions. 4. The law forbad, not only the eating of the unclean beasts, but the touching of them. Those who would be kept from any sin, must be careful to avoid all temptations to it, or coming near it. The exceptions are very minute, and all were designed to call forth constant care and exactness in their obedience; and to teach us to obey. Whilst we enjoy our Christian liberty, and are free from such burdensome observances, we must be careful not to abuse our liberty. For the Lord hath redeemed and called his people, that they may be holy, even as he is holy. We must come out, and be separate from the world; we must leave the company of the ungodly, and all needless connexions with those who are dead in sin; we must be zealous of good works devoted followers of God, and companions of his people.
]All fowls that creep,.... Or rather "every creeping thing that flies"; for what are designed are not properly fowls, but, as the Jewish writers interpret them, flies, fleas, bees, wasps, hornets, locusts, &c. so the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Maimonides (y):

going upon all four; that is, upon their four feet, when they walk or creep:

these shall be an abomination to you; not used as food, but detested as such.

(y) Maacolot Asurot, c. 2. l. 5.

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