Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wildlife in Leviticus 11:29-30

In Leviticus 11:29-30, a number of animals are listed as cerimonially unclean.

Here how this text is rendered in English by various versions:

(KJV) "..the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole."

(ESV) "..the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard of any kind, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon."

(NASB) "..the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. "

The differences here primarily lie in the difficulty in rendering some Hebrew words which can be very ambigious. All of these varying lists of creatures are quite interesting and are not animals we see mentioned often in the Bible. Each version's list contains 8 creatures. For the purposes of this study, I will refer to the Hebrew words used by the Hebrew text that underlines the KJV Old Testament.

The first creature mentioned is various called "weasel", "mole", and "mole rat". This animal is indicated by the Hebrew word "choled", indicating a gliding motion in and out of holes in the ground. General consenus states that the animal this names points to may be extinct. This is the only Biblical reference to this animal.

The second creature, "akbar" is unanimously (by the 3 translations I've refered to) called a "mouse". This animal is refered to several times in the Old Testament, mainly in the description of the golden depictions of mice on the ark of the Lord (I Sa 6:11)

The third creature, "tsab" is called a "great lizard", though the KJV calls it a "tortoise". This Hebrew word is quite ambigious, but the general thing we get from this name is that it is slow moving a possibly like a "covered wagon". Interestingly enouigh, this word is listed among the things that were part of an offering in Num 7:3.

The fourth creature, anaqah, is called a gecko, but the KJV curiously calls it a "ferret". This almost most certainly does refer to some sort of lizard (which a gecko is), but the Hebrew name seems to come from the groaning noise that this particular species of lizard. Is the KJV translation of this completely unfounded? Possibly not. The Septuagint (early translation of the OT is Greek) and also the Latin Vulgate translate this particular word as "shrew mouse", so perhaps there is a possibility that this is mammal rather than a reptile.

The fifth creature, koach, is probably the most differently translated among various Bible versions, translated as "chameleon", "monitor lizard", and "crocodile". This is a good example of how diverse Hebrew word meanings can be. It can refer to a reptile, but also to wealth and strength. For example, it used to describe Reuben's "might" in Gen 49:3. Some scholars say this is a small lizard, but the translators that picked "monitor lizard" or "crocodile" obviously didn't think so.

The sixth creature, letawaw, is generally termed "lizard" by translations and must have been some species of lizard.

The seventh creature is translated as "sand lizard", "sand reptile", and "snail" by the KJV. The general consensus is that this, also, is some species of lizard.

The eighth creature, tanshemeth, is translated as "chameleon" or "mole" in the KJV. This is an interesting word, because elsewhere it is translated "swan" by the KJV. I'm curious as to why the KJV translates this word so differently in this context.

I'm far too igorant of Hebrew to chime in with any sort of authority, but I find this interesting. Some may think these are insignifanct details, and in some senses they are right--the particular translation of these words may not matter much, practically speaking. But if the Bible mentions them, and we want to know the environment of Bible times, they do definately have some significance.

For those interested in exploring this further, the ISBE has an interesting entry on lizards in the Bible.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Some Interesting Random Quotes

"Our universities are so determined to impose tolerance that they'll expel you for saying what you think and never notice the irony" --John Perry Barlow

"I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I'd used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime." --Donald Knuth

"Sometimes I think the surest sign, that intelligent life exists else where in our universe is, is that none of it has tried to contact us." -- Calvin and Hobbes

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." --Benjamin Franklin

"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Vegetables are not food; vegetables are what food eats. Fruit are vegetables that fool you by tasting good. Fish are fast-moving vegetables. Mushrooms are what grows on vegetables when food's done with them." -- Meat Eater's Credo

"Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone" --Richard Stallman

"Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it." --Mark Twain

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Sovereign Hand

The Sovereign Hand, by Steve Camp from the Desiring God album..

The potter and the clay,
He does just as He pleases,
such is God and such are we,
subjects of His high decrees.

Before the world began,
He fashioned all my days,
I fear not any man,
rest alone in His perfect ways.

Oh, the Lord is in control,
He brings peace to our troubled soul,
nothing can shake His sovereign hand,
He's the beginning and He is the end.

May not the Lord on high give favour as He wills,
chose some to life while others die,
and yet be just and loving still?

Oh how foolish I've become,
thinking I control my destiny
questioning God in what He's done,
rather than trust His sovereignty.

But, the Lord is in control,
He brings peace to our troubled souls,
nothing can shake His sovereign hand,
He's the beginning and He is the end.

Dare I quarrel with my Lord, call His ways unjust,
the thunder of whose mighty Word
can crush a thousand worlds to dust?

Oh, the Lord is in control,
And He brings hope to our desperate soul,
because He lives we face tomorrow again,
He's the beginning and He's the end.

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