This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Leviticus 11:20-47 - Insects, Other Animals, and Creeping Things

"20 All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. 21 Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; 22 Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. 23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. 24 And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even. 25 And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even. 26 The carcases of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you: every one that toucheth them shall be unclean. 27 And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even. 28 And he that beareth the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean unto you. 29 These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30 And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole. 31 These are unclean to you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even. 32 And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed. 33 And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it. 34 Of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water cometh shall be unclean: and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean. 35 And every thing whereupon any part of their carcase falleth shall be unclean; whether it be oven, or ranges for pots, they shall be broken down: for they are unclean, and shall be unclean unto you. 36 Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean. 37 And if any part of their carcase fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean. 38 But if any water be put upon the seed, and any part of their carcase fall thereon, it shall be unclean unto you. 39 And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even. 40 And he that eateth of the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that beareth the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even. 41 And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten. 42 Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination. 43 Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. 44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. 46 This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: 47 To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten. " — Leviticus 11:20-47 KJV.


These, as a class, are all forbidden, with a few exceptions.

21. Legs above their feet — These are a pair of hind legs to spring with, in addition to the four for walking. The word above indicates the upward projection of these distinct springing legs, as seen in the grasshopper at rest. The prohibition of every creeping thing that flieth, Deuteronomy 14:19, is thus harmonized with this verse by Keil: “The edible locusts are passed over because it was not the intention of Moses to repeat every particular of the earlier laws in these addresses.” Deuteronomy is synoptical.

22. The locust — The Hebrew אַרְבֶּ֣ה. All the Bedawin of Arabia — but only the poorest beggars in Egypt and Nubia — eat locusts. Scalded in boiling sea water, dried, and deprived of their heads and wings, they are sold by measure in Arabian towns. See Exodus 10:4, note. The bald locust — The Hebrew סָּלְעָ֖ם. It occurs only in the catalogues, hence all that can possibly be known of it is, that it is some kind of straight-winged, leaping insect, good for food. “From the statement of the peculiar characteristic of the head, the name may with some reason be assigned to the genus truxalis, very common in the Holy Land, and which has a long, narrow, smooth head, and straight sword-shaped antennae.” — Tristram. The beetle — Hebrew חַרְגֹּ֣ל. It occurs only here. It certainly is not the beetle, which is not a leaping insect, nor is it fit to be eaten. Rosenmuller pronounces all attempts to identify the חַרְגֹּ֣ל “merae conjecturae.” The Revised Version has cricket instead of beetle. The grasshopper — The Hebrew חָגָ֖ב is four times translated grasshopper and once locust. 2 Chronicles 7:13. It is utterly impossible to distinguish this species of locust from the אַרְבֶּ֣ה, though according to the Talmud it contains eight hundred kinds. Tristram thinks that the חַרְגֹּ֣ל was a small species, and that grasshopper is as near a translation as could be given.

24. Unclean until the even — The slighter degrees of uncleanness were merely “until even,” and were removed by bathing and washing the clothes at the end of it; meanwhile the person was excluded from certain religious privileges. See Leviticus 5:2, note.


This section contains a prohibition of all quadrupeds not dividing the hoof and chewing the cud, together with the penalty for touching their carcasses. It is a summary of verses 1-8, with the prohibition of whatsoever goeth upon his paws.


This section includes not only reptiles, but some of the small mammals. Reptiles are not mentioned as a collective group in the Bible, but are divided into the moving creatures of the sea, (classed with the fishes, Genesis 1:20,) and the creeping things of the land mentioned with mammalian quadrupeds, but distinct from them.

29. The weasel — The חֹ֥לֶד is found only in this catalogue, and seems to include the weasel, ichneumon, and the mole. They are all remarkably abundant in Palestine, especially the last two. The mouse — The עַכְבָּ֖ר — field ravager — comprehends any destructive rodent. Tristram found twenty-three species of this group in Palestine. Field mice sometimes become multitudinous in Syria, and cause great destruction to the grain lands. They were eaten by idolaters, and probably used in their sacrifices or incantations. They were regarded as a great delicacy by the Romans, and were carefully kept and fattened for food. See Isaiah 66:17. The tortoise — R.V. (“great lizard.”) The Hebrew צָּ֥ב occurs in Numbers 7:3, where it is translated covered, (wagons,) and in Isaiah 66:20, litters. As the name of an animal it occurs only here, and, from a similar word in Arabic, signifies a large kind of lizard, doubtless the land-waron or the land crocodile of Herodotus, (iv, 192.) “It sometimes attains the length of two feet. I kept one tame for some months, and it was very docile, coming at my call, and sleeping in the sun. It is eaten by the Bedouin.” — Tristram.

30. The ferret — Hebrew אֲנָקָ֥ה. It is agreed on all sides that “the ferret” is not intended. The Septuagint translates it μυγαλῆ, “shrew-mouse,” common in Galilee. There is good reason for the rendering “lizard” or “gecko,” a species of lizard. It is supposed to be the wailing lizard. Onkelos and the rabbins identify it with the hedgehog, abounding in all parts of Palestine, but certainly not to be classed with creeping things. The chameleon — Thus the Seventy and Jerome translate the Hebrew כֹּ֖חַ, literally signifying strength. Since it is used only here as the name of an animal it is impossible to tell its meaning. Bochart accepts the Arabic reading, “the monitor of the Nile,” a large, strong reptile common in Egypt and other parts of Africa. The land monitor is found in Southern Judea and in the Jordan valley, and is eaten by the natives.
The lizard — This seems to be correctly translated, and, from the meaning of the Hebrew לְּטָאָ֑ה, points to the adhesive or fanfoot lizard, which can run over the smoothest surfaces, even in an inverted position, like the house-fly on a ceiling. The number of species of lizard in Palestine is very great. There are land lizards and water lizards in abundance. The Revised Version has translated verse 30 thus: “And the gecko, and the land crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand lizard, and the chameleon,” and adds in the margin, “words of uncertain meaning, but probably denoting four kinds of lizards.” The snail — The Hebrew חֹ֖מֶט occurs only here. Hence we have no grounds for any opinion. The Seventy and Vulgate understand some kind of lizard. Two Arabic versions render it chameleon. The Veneto-Greek and the rabbins agree with the Authorized Version, and render it “snail.” Modern Jews, with all other Orientals, eat snails, not accounting them as unclean. Tristram argues that חֹ֖מֶט is the sand-lizard of the Sinaitic Peninsula, the wilderness of Judea and the Jordan valley. “The snail” in Psalm 58:8 is from another Hebrew word. The mole — The Hebrew תִּנְשָֽׁמֶת occurs in verse 18 as an unclean bird. The chameleon, in the opinion of Bochart and Tristram, is intended here. The mole will be found in verse 29. See note.

32. Vessel… must be put into water — This explains the baptism of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, (Mark 7:4,) and “divers washings” mentioned in Hebrews 9:10, as characteristic of the Jews.

33. Earthen vessel… ye shall break — This indicates not only that earthenware was in use in the wilderness, but also that it was abundant. We who are accustomed to strong stone-ware of considerable value can scarcely conceive how thin and brittle, how abundant and cheap, is the pottery of Palestine. For the reason for breaking the earthen vessel see 15:12, note. That the Hebrews were potters in Egypt is evident from Psalm 81:6. The wall-paintings minutely describe the process, which agrees exactly with the descriptions found in the Old Testament. For the form of the vessels see Numbers 5:17, note. Ranges for pots — The Hebrew kerayim is explained as a pot or pan with its cover. Furst defines it as a cooking furnace consisting of two ranges of stones so laid as to form an angle. The Talmud rendering is a trough for pressing olives. Jahn thinks that it is an oven consisting of a hole dug in the ground, its sides being coated with clay and the bottom with pebbles; but the dual number is an objection to this view.

36. A fountain… shall be clean — Living water, the means of purity, must be incapable of defilement, or pollution may become universal. 

 37. Sowing seed — Since this contained an inherent principle of life it is also incapable of pollution. “The seed is the word,” the instrument of sanctification, and the great antiseptic for the world’s corruption.

39. If any beast… die — The prohibition of the flesh of clean animals which have died is founded on sanitary grounds. When the blood is not drawn from the veins the flesh becomes corrupt and poisonous.

43. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable — Hebrew, your souls. See Leviticus 4:2.

44. For I am the Lord your God — All the obligations to purity are derived from the will of God, as written in nature and in revelation. Sanctify yourselves — Abstinence from every act which defileth is the human part of sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. To keep the evil tendencies of depraved nature from breaking out into open sin by the strenuous effort of the will, sustained by divine grace, is Old Testament sanctification. To kill and eradicate these depraved proclivities by the mighty inworking and abiding of the Sanctifier, applying the blood of Jesus Christ to the soul to cleanse it from all sin and keep it pure by the power of God through faith, is New Testament sanctification. In this sense we are to sanctify ourselves by availing ourselves of the office of the Sanctifier. For I am holy — The very character of God furnishes the motive and measure of holiness. Matthew 5:48. The revelation of Jehovah’s moral character is the proclamation of man’s duty to become assimilated thereto. All intelligent worship of the true God impresses his likeness upon the soul. Here is the secret of all enjoyment of God in time or in eternity. The misery of an unholy soul is as natural a consequence as the ache of a decayed tooth.

45. I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of… Egypt — Providential kindness in emancipation from the yoke of Egypt presents an additional motive to holiness. So does deliverance from the bondage of sin constitute a reason why every justified soul should be cleansed from the pollution of sin, and become perfectly holy in heart and in life.

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