Whatsoever goeth upon the belly…
is, "whatsoever goeth", as worms and beetles, and the like to them,
"upon the belly", this is the serpent; and to go upon the belly is the
curse denounced upon it, (Genesis 3:14) this and every such creature are
forbidden to be eaten; as there are others who either have no feet, or
what they have so short, that they seem to go upon their belly; and
yet, as horrible and detestable as the serpent is, it has been the food
of some, and accounted very delicious, as by a people mentioned by the
Arabic geographer F5. Mela F6 speaks of a people, who, from their
eating serpents, were called Ophiophagi, serpent eaters; and Pliny F7
says of the Troglodytes, that the flesh of serpents was their food. The
Spaniards, when they first found out the West Indies, going ashore on
the isle of Cuba, found certain spits of wood lying at the fire, having
fish on them, about one hundred pound weight, and two serpents of eight
feet long, differing nothing from the crocodiles in Egypt, but not so
big; there is nothing, says my author F8, among the delicate dishes
(of the natives of that place), they esteem so much as these serpents,
insomuch that it is no more lawful for the common people to eat of
them, than of peacocks and pheasants among us; the Spaniards at first
durst not venture to taste of them, because of their horrible deformity
and loathsomeness; but the brother of Columbus being allured by a
sister of one of the kings of the country to taste of them, found them
very delicious, on which he and his men fell to, and ate freely of
them, affirming them to be of more pleasant taste than either our
pheasants or partridges; and that there is no meat to be compared with
the eggs of these serpents F9. Diodorus Siculus F11 speaks of serpents
in the island of Taprobane of great size, harmless to men, and whose
flesh is eaten, and of a sweet savour:
and whatsoever goeth upon [all] four;
that is, whatsoever creeping
thing; for otherwise there are beasts that go upon all four that are
clean and fit to eat; but this is observed to distinguish this sort of
creeping things from those that go upon their belly, and from those
that have more feet, as in the next clause; Jarchi particularly
instances in the scorpion:
or whatsoever hath mere feet among all creeping things that creep
upon the earth;
such as caterpillars, and particularly the
Scolopendra, which the eastern people call Nedal; so Jarchi says, this
is Nedal, a reptile which hath feet from its head to its tail, called
Centipeda; and the Targum of Jonathan is,
``from the serpent, to the Nedal or Scolopendra, which has many
Some of then, have seventy two, thirty six on a side, and others eighty
four; some fewer, but all have many:
them ye shall not eat, for they [are] an abomination;
for food, and to be had in the utmost aversion.
F5 Clim. 1. par. 6.
F6 De Situ Orbis, l. 3. c. 8.
F7 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 8.
F8 Peter Martyr de Angleria, Decad. 1. l. 3.
F9 Ib. l. 5.
F11 Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 141.