And the ferret…
Whatever creature is here meant, it
has its name in Hebrew from the cry it makes; and so the ferret has but
one note in its voice, which is a shrill, but small, whining cry: it is
used to drive rabbits out of their holes: the Septuagint and Vulgate
Latin versions render the word by "mygale", the weasel mouse, or "mus
areneus" of the Latins, the shrew or shrew mouse: it has something of
the mouse and weasel, from whence it has its name in Greek, being of
the size of the one, and the colour of the other: but Bochart F2 is of
opinion, that a sort of lizard called "stellio", an evet or newt, is
meant; one sort of which, according to Pliny F3, makes a bitter noise
and [the] chameleon;
this is a little creature like a lizard, but
with a larger and longer head; it has four feet, and on each foot three
claws; its tail is long; with this, as well as with its feet, it
fastens itself to the branches of trees; its tail is flat, its nose
long, and made in an obtuse point; its back is sharp, its skin plaited
and jagged like a saw, from the neck to the last joint of the tail, and
upon its head it hath something like a comb; in other respects it is
made like a fish; that is to say, it has no neck F4; what is said of
its living on air, and changing colour according to what it is applied,
are now reckoned vulgar mistakes: but whatever creature is here meant,
it seems to have its name in Hebrew from its strength, wherefore
Bochart F5 takes the "guaril" or "alwarlo" of the Arabs to be meant;
which is the stoutest and strongest sort of lizard, and is superior in
strength to serpents, and the land tortoise, with which it often
and the lizard;
so Jarchi interprets the word by a "lizard"; it has
a larger letter than usual in it, that this creature might be taken
notice of, and guarded against as very pernicious, and yet with some
people it is eaten: Calmet says F6, there are several sorts of
lizards, which are well known: there are some in Arabia of a cubit
long, but in the Indies there are some, they say, of twenty four feet
in length: in America, where they are very good, they eat them: one
lizard is enough to satisfy four men: and so in the West Indies, says
Sir Hans Sloane F7, I was somewhat surprised to see serpents, rats,
and lizards sold for food, and that to understanding people, and of a
very good and nice palate; and elsewhere F8, he says, all nations
inhabiting these parts of the world (the West Indies) do the same:
"Guanes" or "lizards" are very common in Jamaica, and eaten there, and
were of great use when the English first took this island, being, as I
was assured, says he, commonly sold by the first planters for half a
crown apiece: Dr. Shaw F9 says, that he was informed that more than
40,000 persons in Cairo, and in the neighbourhood, live upon no other
food than lizards and serpents, though he thinks F11, because the
chameleon is called by the Arabs "taitah", which differs little in name
from (hajl) , "letaah", here; that therefore that, which is indeed a
species of the lizard, might, with more propriety, be substituted for
and the snail;
so the word is rendered by Jarchi, on the place, and
by Kimchi, and Philip Aquinas, and David de Pomis, in their lexicons;
and these creatures, though forbid to the Jews, yet are not only used
for medicine, but also for food by many: snails of several kinds, we
are told, are eaten with much satisfaction in Italy and France: in
Silesia they make places for the breeding of them at this day, where
they are fed with turnip tops… and carefully preserved for the
market; and the Romans took care of them in the same manner F12:
Bochart F13 thinks a kind of lizard is meant, which lies in sand,
called by the Arabs "chulaca", or "luchaca", because the word here used
signifies, in the Talmudic F14 language, sandy ground:
and the mole;
and so it is interpreted by Onkelos and Jarchi here,
and by David de Pomis, and Philip Aquinas, in their lexicons: the same
word is used for a certain sort of fowl, which we translate the "swan";
(Leviticus 11:18) but here of a creeping thing: whatever is intended by it,
it seems to have its name from its breath; either in a contrary
signification, if understood of the mole, which either holds its
breath, or breathes not while under ground; or from its breathing more
freely, wherefore Bochart F15 takes it to be the "chameleon"; which, as
Pliny F16 says, is always gaping with its mouth for air; and it has
been a vulgar notion, though a wrong one, that it lives upon it: the
Targum of Jonathan interprets it by the "salamander"; now whoever ate
any of the above eight creeping things, according to the Jewish canons,
was to be beaten F17.
F2 Ut supra, (Hierozoic. par. 1.) l. 4. c. 2.
F3 Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4.
F4 Calmet, in the word "Chameleon".
F5 Ut supra, (Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 4.) c. 3.
F6 Dictionary, in the word "Lizard", Vid. Hieron. adv. Jovinian. l. 2.
F7 Natural History of Jamaica, vol. 1. Introduct. p. 25.
F8 Ibid. vol. 2. p. 333.
F9 Travels, p. 412.
F11 Ibid. p. 178.
F12 Sir Hans Sloane's Nat. Hist. ib. p. 23, 24.
F13 Ut supra, (F5) c. 5.
F14 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 31. 1. Gloss. in fol. 54. 1.
F15 Ut supra, (Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 4.) c. 6.
F16 Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 33.
F17 Maimon. Maacolot Asurot, c. 2. sect. 7.