Sunday, December 20, 2015

About clean/unclean birds

I've been trying to do a more careful analysis of the birds listed as unclean in Lev 11 and Dt 14.  Of course, most of the words used for the birds are only used in those passages and do not provide any clues elsewhere in the TNK as to what type of bird they are.  Even some of the ones that provide clues are unclear.  I've checked some of the modern Hebrew usages out of curiosity, and some of them are used for bird names in modern Hebrew, but some are not.  I intend to check for some clues in the LXX, and also look at the SP for differences.  My current theory is that the "according to its kind" is indicative of a grouping (i.e., eagles & hawks and the like are prohibited, predatory sea birds and the like are prohibited, ravens and the like are prohibited, etc).  

I tried to translate them idiomatically (see my Pentateuch), but it is all very unclear.

I think "according to its kind" means either Class or Order, maybe even Family of these birds. Same goes for unclean animals, and in fact most creatures mentioned in the Torah.
Only a specialist in a specific area (in this case- Ornithologist) can identify these birds. For example (from my link above), in Lev 11:13 the word נשר (nasher) is translated as Vulture (CLV), Eagle (YLT) and Eagle in AV. I've translated this word idiomatically as "lacerating". This means that it is some kind of a bird that has "lacerating" qualities or can be described as such. So the clues are in the words themselves. 

Of course, cross-referencing the verses and the meanings throughout the Torah is also important.

So by cross-referencing it with, say, Lev 1:14, we can infer that it was a clean bird that could fly. So a Quail? Or something similar. A dove?

Its possible that Gen 8:8 talks about a Goose. Makes sense to me if I were Noah. Its a water bird so it would be safe to release for him to check for dry land.... But can a goose be a bird for sacrifices???

The etymology of the words for the species (lacerating, violent, loving, seeing, etc), the groupings of the birds, and the words' uses elsewhere in the TNK in general.  I have an LXX and I was going to use that for a reference as well but have not gotten around to it yet.  I've also checked modern Hebrew for some of them, but I am not entirely certain regarding the validity of that, simply because it's a reconstructed language.  

Doves and pigeons were the birds sacrificed regularly according to the tabernacle prescriptions.  I'm unaware of which bird in the Lev 11 or Dt 14 list would be the dove and pigeon, and what birds would be the ones sacrificed regularly if not those.  Of regularly flying fowl, I am under the impression that doves and pigeons are the easiest to actually possess and keep, because they can have their wings clipped and can be re-homed to one’s location.  That way they will fly out and then come back to your aviary to nest, and they tend to be very productive in terms of fast-growing young because of their crop-milk.  Since the sacrifices of the Torah seem to be focused on domesticated and owned animals rather than wild and hunted animals, I would think this would be a viable choice for sacrifice (if it is clean, which I would think it is).  Chickens, guineas, jungle fowl, turkeys, ducks, etc, could be kept, of course, but I don't think that would match the description of "yonah" in Jeremiah 48:28, for example, which poetically references them making nests in cliff ledges (which would match doves, but would not match quail from my understanding).  Furthermore, common quail seemingly can be migratory, which would be prohibitive.

Any clean bird can be sacrificed in regard to the instance in Lev 14 ("two clean birds").  However, I would think those two types specified in regard to other sacrifices would be the only ones allowed, since they are specified.

LXX is a solid source. But I consider it is a secondary source as it is a translation. Very good one but still a translation. I would also recommend to check out other important translations Onkelos/Jonathan( But again, it is just a translation. 
By the way, after comparing the texts, LXX was copied from a manuscript that had both features of SP and MT. I.e. KJV includes variant readings from SP...

Also, I would advise against relying upon modern (Israeli) Hebrew. It is a different language pretty much and has nothing to do with the language of the Torah. 

In say, Lev 14:30 it says "from whichever his hand can afford.". So this "yonah" has to be cheap and easily obtainable, edible bird. A dove? I don't know.... It gotta be staple food basically…

There is definitely historic precedent of doves being kept for food production, even on very large scales. It certainly shows that a large effort was put into their cultivation at ancient time.  It easily could have been a staple, and there is much more evidence from my understanding for keeping of doves than for keeping of chickens, for example.  I'm unaware of any other birds that were kept or would be easily kept.

I've checked the verses and I guess a dove (assuming its an edible one) would be the most appropriate translation. 

Some people stated that they thought chicken was unclean, and this elicited a more careful study of what is being discussed in Lev 11, etc. I still haven't come to a definitive conclusion, although my inclination is against the idea of them being prohibited.  I have never raised chickens but they seem very similar to quail, which is one thing in favor of it.  

My current thought is still that the "according to its kind" relates to groups of species on some level, such as:

hawks/eagles (v13-14)
ravens/crows (v15)
[uncertain] (v16)
[uncertain, maybe owls/vultures/water predators] (v17-19)
specifically, hoopoes, bats (v19b)

I kind of doubt some of the identifications made by Strong's and by modern translations, but I'm still trying to figure out what I can.  Still more resources to check.

Can chicken be that other word in, say, Lev 1:14 - תרים (torim)? Chicken is gotta be one of these. And chicken is definitely clean, IMHO. But I don't think the identification is clear.  Strong's seems to take the view of an etymology relating to "string", so it presumes Barbary Dove or Ring-necked Dove.

I might add that one of those birds nested in my parents' backyard and they are definitely a gentle species and would be easy to catch (as well as prolific).

I don't think Strong's identification is definitive, and an alternate etymology of "meandering" could easily be applied to a bird species named as such.  That might even be supportive of a chicken theory, although I would not personally guess that.  No obvious clues seem to be in the TNK otherwise, at least that I noticed.

Possibly in slight support of it being distinct from the dove in general would be how the sacrificial rules refer to "children of yonah" and do not use that same phrasing with the other.  This, of course, is speculation.

It it seems that such a common bird (Galliformes) would be mentioned in the Torah. Quails are mentioned directly so should be the chicken... But like I said it is still just my guess.

I think that Torah prohibits mostly scavengers and some water fowl but everything else is considered clean (i think). So chicken, even though an omnivore, is clean and can be used for both ritual and food. 

Strong's translation is just a  guess. I.e. "meandering" can indeed be applied to both chickens and doves... 

There is also Song of Songs 2:12 where it says that "voice of the turtledove is heard in our land". Can it perhaps refer to the roosters calls?

Or, SS 1:10 where it makes reference to a neck. Perhaps this is where Strong got his idea.

Other definitions of this word seems to be "explore" or "spy out". I.e. Nu 10:33…

Perhaps the permission on quail does extend to other similar birds like chickens and turkeys.  This has been my opinion in the past.

I think predators (not insectivores), waterfowl, and scavengers are predominantly what are prohibited.  Then there's the hoopoe and the bat I suppose.

I think duck is clean. It's not a predator or a scavenger. But I am not 100% sure. Descriptions in Lev 11 do not appear to be indicative of a duck or a similar bird…


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