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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Proof of God from Kosher Animals Part 2

The main topic of this post is a continuation of  Part 1 and will provide the documentation for that prior post. It will also explore the argument against the Torah/Bible being divine. (The sources used for this post are listed at the end).

Origins of Torah Dietary Laws 

Eventually I want to explore the origins of the Torah Dietary laws but for now will just mention the following: 

1) Swine were taboo in Egypt - it was believed wicked souls migrate into the swine.  (See France’s book  in bibliography)

Swine were abhorred by Phoenicians .(Ferguson)

Recall Torah law forbids eating Chazir the swine.

{Update  2/9/2014 From Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005 Page 207 - Regarding Leviticus 11..Dietary laws of clean vs unclean are very close to ancient near east views.  The clean species - animals of domestic flocks and herds. The unclean- dogs and swine among the Hittites.}

2) The permissible Torah land mammals must cheweth the cud and have cloven  hoofs.  An hypothesis of mine to be researched is a link to the Totem or animals associated with the Deity.

Recall the golden calf Sinai incident, and the golden calves erected in Northern Israel by King Jeroboam. Exodus 32:4 and I Kings 12:28 say of them: This is / These are your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 

There is the Tallis and Tzitzit  hairy threaded cloaks reminiscent of haired ruminants and their tails. There is the CLOVEN hand signal of the Kohanim (adopted to be the Vulcan salute in Star Trek). The Kohanim (priests) salute their hands outwards as if to display their hoofs and also to cover and protect  the congregation with an emanation from the Deity. There are specific allowable sacrificial animals that  appeal to the smell of god. The cud chewing cloven hoofed bull was associated with El.  Patriarchal and tribal names can provide clues. Also see  Moshe getting horny; and the phylacteries. 

3) For Kuzari argument proponents:

A) It is difficult to convincingly account for the Israelites  ‘witnessing’ god at Sinai and then almost  immediately making a golden calf and claiming  this is your god.

B) How could the Northern Israelites accept the King’s affirmation ? Would not the Israelites say it is a false assertion and we have not heard such from our fathers ? 

C) Kuzari proponents argue for an unbroken oral tradition, yet so much of the Torah translation and Israelite tradition has been lost. The dietary laws a case in point.

Back to the main topic of this post.

Tenach Verses 

Recall the 4 listed animals with only one of the two features are the:

Gamal: Chews cud, no split hoof
Shafon (various English spellings that are irrelevant) Chews cud, no split hoof
Arnevus (various English spellings that are irrelevant): Chews cud, no split hoof
Chazir: Split hoof, does not chew cud.

The Shafon is mentioned only 4 times in the Tenach. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 which  mention the name in a list of non kosher animals with one of the two features. It is also mentioned in Proverbs and Psalms and these provide important clues to it’s Identity.

Proverbs 30:24-28
24 There are four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 The Shafonim (plural for Shafon) are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the crags;
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
28 The spider thou canst take with the hands, yet is she in kings' palaces.

Psalms104:18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the Shafonim [plural of Shafon] 

From the Tenach verses the Shafon is: Small, wise, make their  homes in the rocky cliffs, are associated with wild goats of the mountain and seek safety among the rocks. Surely  the verses are referring to local known animals otherwise  what would the readers think ?  Do not eat the Shafonim making their homes in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York ?

These characteristics match the hyrax exactly and the hyrax is and was widespread in Israel.

The Arnevus is mentioned only 2 times in the Tenach. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 only mention the name in the list of non kosher animals - chew’s it’s cud but is not cloven hoofed.  

The Torah Translations of 'ma'alat gerah'   Leviticus 11

 Cheweth the cud is the Mechon, Soncino, JPS  and NIV translation of the hebrew words 'ma'alat gerah'

But JPS adds it literally means brings up the cud.

Slifkin, Stone and Chabad  translates brings up the cud.  

Rashi on Leviticus 11:3 "It brings up and regurgitates the [ingested] food from its stomach, returning the food to its mouth, in order to thoroughly crush it and grind it thoroughly." 

{ETA 10/6/2015 The Rashbam commentary on Leviticus 11:3 states maalat gerah is about regurgitation of food into the foodpipe before finally digesting.}

Traditionally it meant a ruminant - See for example Jastrow under gerah (spelled with the hebrew letters gimmel -resh-heh). Jastrow says gerah relates to throat, larynx with windpipe, lungs and heart.  

Strong - gerah means the cud. Derived from the word spelled gimmel-resh-resh: to drag off roughly; by implication to bring up the cud (i.e. ruminants); by analogy to saw: catch,  chew

Hirsch - Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains as follows. Gerah derives from the word spelled ‘gimmel-resh-resh’ meaning “to saw”. Animals that chew the cud have 4 stomachs. The food is sawed at first then swallowed. It is brought up from the second stomach to the mouth and is called ‘heh-aiyon-lamed-tuf [spelled]’ gerah. He adds the Shafon and Arnevus  can not be the rabbit and hare unless both chew the cud which he says is difficult to claim.

Anecdotally, the ashkenzi litvak yeshivas I attended taught the kosher land mammals listed in the Torah chewed the cud.

We will see the overwhelming consensus of  bible-zoology scholars consider the Shafon a hyrax and it does not chew the cud. Arnevus is translated by virtually every bible-zoology scholar  as the hare and it does not chew the cud. Yet the Torah says the Shafon and Arnevus chew the cud.

Thus based on what seems solely that discrepancy some advocate novel meanings of what ‘brings up the cud’ can include and or novel interpretations of the animal identities. (Presworsky and Weinberger selection of animals for example).

For the remainder of the post the terms ‘chews the cud’ or anything similar,  ‘brings up the cud’ or anything similar are all used interchangeably.

Torah translations of Gamal, Shafon, Arnevus, Chazir

Chazir is translated as swine by some and others as pig. 

(The rock-badger and daman are hyraxes, and will be considered equivalent for this post.)

Gamal, Shafon, Arnevus are translated as camel, hyrax, hare respectively by:  Chabad, JPS, Mechon,Soncino, Stone, Slifkin, Freidman, Toperoff. 

NIV translates as camel, coney and it notes hyrax, hare.

Jastrow has camel, “cony,(rock-badger)",  hare 
Jastrow is not clear what he actually meant by the cony. The cony can be the pika of the rabbit family or it could be a hyrax. He has rock-badger parenthesized.

Shafon is the hyrax, according to Strong.

Arnevus is the hare per Hirsch, Jastrow, Strong.

Hirsch  has camel for Gamal.  

Also see the Hart, Wood, Pinney, Ferguson, France, Chrisensen who all translate Shafon and Arnevus as hyrax and hare. Short summaries are found at the end of this post.            

The Dissenters

Hirsch  has rabbit for Shafon. But see Rabbi’s Hirsch’s comment above. Also see Wood below why rabbit is an error.

Presworsky has: Gamal =  Arabian Camel,   Shafon =  Llama, Arnevus = Bactrian Camel 

Weinberger has Shafon = Mouse deer, Arnevus = Musk deer

Presworsky and Weinberger are discussed later.

Additional comments regarding the animal translations

Strong - Shafon means to conceal

 [The hyrax being defenseless is an expert in concealing itself when in danger and is hard to capture.]

Strong - Arnevus is the hare; uncertain derivation [of the root or word].

Rabbi Slifkin (the “Zoo Rabbi”):  the evidence is overwhelming Arnevus is the hare and the Shafon is the hyrax. The Shafon is not a rabbit, hare or jerboa which others have suggested. [Noteworthy: rabbit, hare or jerboa do not chew the cud]. Slifkin’s books (The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax and his new book The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom) 
makes a much more compelling and comprehensive case than I for the animal identifications.  He cites Midrash, Talmud, Rabbinic commentary, scientific literature and so much more to support his conclusion.  Nevertheless,  my work is completely independent of his, very probably capturing  information and sources not found in his books. I have only seen  short samples of his books. 

Slifkin says the gamal is unequivocally known as the camel.

Hart -  Gamal includes all types of camels. The word Shafon signifies hider and he links the word to southern arabic thofan. He links the arabic word fore hare ‘arneb’ to Arnebus. 

On Presworsky Gamal =  Arabian Camel,   Shafon =  Llama, Arnevus = Bactrian Camel 

The Arabian and Bactrian camel have virtually indistinguishable skeletons. They look very similar but for the number of humps. Why would the Torah mention both ? Also as previously written ,  Hart explains Gamal includes all species of Camels, and so why repeat a 2 hump camel as the Arnevus ? And how would Presworsky respond to the similarity of Arnevus to the arab word for hare ?

And as Hart mentions there is the special word beker for the one hump camel.

The Llama would  not fit the Shafan description in the verses from Psalms and Proverbs. There is the linguistic evidence from arabic for the hyrax. The Llama was almost certainly unknown to ancient Israelites and did not live amongst  Israel’s  rocks. It is not a small animal.

{Note - Presworsky is drawing a tight circle around the Gamal and a tight circle around the Arnevus, but a large one around the Chazir}

On Weinberger Shafon = Mouse deer, Arnevus = Musk deer

Contrary to Weinberger,  Rabbi Presworsky’s book on page 56 says the musk  deer , mouse deer, and Chinese water deer are kosher !

The mouse deer and musk deer are not indigenous to Israel or surrounding countries. The mouse deer is associated with forests not rocks or cliffs. (see wikipedia Chevrotain and musk deer.)

And there is the problem of linguistic evidence concerning the hyrax and the hare. 

(I have only read Weinberger’s abstract, not his entire paper so perhaps he can respond to these questions).

Rabbi Presworsky's and Weinberger’s  stated motivations for their novel animal translation was to reconcile the problem of the hyrax and hare each not chewing the cud. They are not motivated based on an objective evaluation of all the evidence. Their translations oppose the consensus of scholars. Even with their translations there is the issue of ‘only’ four animals as previously explained in 'Fourthly' of my prior post.

Other solutions to the “Error” of the Torah

Some confront the argument maintaining the Shafon and Arnevus are not the hyrax and hare but some unknown extinct animals. I have not seen evidence for this claim and also it conflicts with the majority of  scholars. Slifkin also refutes this claim in his book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax.

Some say ‘chew the cud’ could include merycism. The hyrax may possibly engage in such a practice, but this is still to be determined to the best of my knowledge.  Then there are  other animals which do merycism (for example some macropods).  If  the hyrax does occasionally engage in merycism, this could provide the  reason the Torah listed it and the Torah need not list every such animal.

Some advocate that the digestive structural anatomy of the hyrax may share some similarities with cattle (or perhaps the camel) and so be  considered as if it chews it's cud. We may suppose hyraxes were butchered and in the process revealed gut similarities to cattle or camels. In other words,  there would be least 3 mutually exclusive anatomical structures (for example the ox, camel, hyrax)  having some similarities to each other and thus  considered chewing the cud. But similar digestive structures alone  can not be said to be chewing the cud, unless the animal actually does chew the cud. 

Others say the hare coprophages and perhaps this can be considered chewing it's cud. (I have also read the hare does not re-chew the excreted pellets but swallows them whole and so this could not be considered chewing it’s cud- but this needs more research on my behalf ). This explanation distorts traditional understanding as explained  previously and also the Torah's very written words. The known Torah’s kosher animals that chew their cud all do it in a similar fashion and this is most likely what chewing the cud means. Arguing cheweth the cud includes coprophage is tantamount to trying to swallow a horse.

Some claim the hyrax and or hare engage in chewing motions / throat movements that suggest chewing its cud. However, the Torah says the Shafon and Arnevus chew the cud, not that they ‘appear’ to chew the cud.

A response offered is the Torah speaks in the language of men. But then why mislead us by singling out the hyrax and hare saying they bring up the cud, the very same terms used for listed kosher cattle in Deuteronomy 14:6 ?  It should say 'appears' to cheweth it' cud and avoid confusion 

Advocating the Torah speaks in the language of men also creates interpretations problems. When are we to know when the Torah is merely speaking in the language of men versus telling us facts ? And how are we today able to know what the language of men was when the Torah was written ? And the language of which generation of men and of which local ? Recall,  according to tradition the Torah discussed events beginning around 6000 years ago to about 1200 BC and covers a wide geographic region.


1) The proof 4 the divinity for the Torah based on the 4 animals ‘udderly’ fails. 

2) The overwhelming consensus and evidence is the Shafon is the hyrax and the Arnevus the  hare. The most likely explanation of what occurred is the hyrax has chewing motions and throat motions that may appear like  chewing the cud. The hare has chewing motions that may appear like chewing the cud. The Torah warns do not be mistaken since you need two signs.  This highly suggests the Torah author(s) were not aware of biological facts/were imprecise. In other words, something to be expected from human authors prior to 2000 years ago.

I highly recommend  Of Hare and Hyrax of Torah and Science with a different emphasis including a discussion of related Talmudic portions and Slifkin’s  book.


Chabad -  The Complete Jewish Bible - at

Friedman - Commentary on the Torah - Richard Friedman 2001

Hirsch - The Hirsch Chumash - Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Translated by Daniel Haberman 2010 edition

Jastrow - Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature by Marcus Jastrow (1926)

JPS - Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible 1999

Mechon - Mechon Mamre -A Hebrew - English Bible according to the Masoretic Text and the JPS 1917 Edition

NIV - The Niv Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament 1977

Presworsky - Animals of the Torah by Rabbi Presworsky 2001

Slifkin - The Camel the Hare and the Hyrax by Rabbi Natan Slifkin 2011, The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom by Rabbi Natan Slifkin. 

Soncino - 1950 edition of the Torah

Stone - Tenach Stone Edition 1996

Strong - Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible -James Strong 

Toperoff  - The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought by Shlomo Toperoff 1995



Mostly in his own words.

Gamal - (Arabic  gcmel).  Gamal -  The word includes every creature
of the kind, whatever the species, sex, age, or breed.

Another word  beker ( bet-cuf-resh)  or its feminine  bet-cuf-resh-hey 
occurs twice, and is translated ' dromedary' (Isa. Ix. 6,
Jer. ii. 23).

Shafon - The Hebrew word signifies ' the hidcr.'
The animal intended is no doubt the Hyrax  Syriacus,
which is said to be known in South Arabia by the name
thofun, of a similar signification with shafan. It has a habit of sitting on
a ledge of a rock and working its jaws in mastication,
as if it really did chew the cud, so that a careless observer
would readily mistake it for a ruminating animal.

Arnevus The hare has neither the teeth nor
the stomach which are characteristic of ruminants, and
enable them to return the partially digested food to
the mouth and masticate it afresh. There can however
be no doubt the hare is intended, since arneb is the
present Arabic name for this animal, which is common
in the Holy Land . There are several varieties of hare in Palestine, if we
include the Sinaitic confines.

 Chazir - Boar, Wild (Heb. chazir; Arab, chanzir).
Both the above terms are also applied to domesticated


WOOD'S Bible Animals.Rev. J: G: WOOD, M.A., F.L.S., Etc.,1875

Mainly in his own words.

Arnevus is the hare - To a non-scientific observer the Hare really does appear to
chew the cud thru its tooth motions, and may readily be mistaken for true rumination.

The Hebrew word which is rendered as Hare is
Arnebeth, and that it is rendered in the Septuagint as Dasypus,
or the Hare,—a rendering which the Jewish Bible adopts.
That the Arnebeth is really the Hare may also be conjectured
from the fact that the Arabic name for that animal is Arneb.
In consequence of the rather wide sense to which the Greek
word Dasypus (i.e. hairy-foot) is used, some commentators have
suggested that the rabbit may have been included in the same
title. This, however, is not at all likely, inasmuch as the Hare is very plentiful in Palestine, and the rabbit is believed not to
be indigenous to that part of the world. And, even if the two
animals had been classed under the same title, the physiological
difficulty would not be removed.

Shafon - is the Hyrax. That it was also familiar to the Jews is evident from other [Tenach]
references which are made to its habits. This animal is the
Shaphan of the Hebrew language, a word which has very
wrongly been translated in the Authorized Version as Coney,
i.e. Rabbit, the creature in question not being a rabbit, nor even
a rodent. No rabbit has ever been discovered in Palestine, and naturalists have agreed that the true Coney or Rabbit has never
inhabited the Holy Land. There is no doubt that the Shaphan
of the Hebrew Scripture, and the Coney of the Vulgate, was the
Hyrax Siriacus. This in common with the rodents, and other animals which have
similarly-shaped teeth, the Hyrax, when at rest, is continually
working its jaws from side to side, a movement which it instinctively
performs, in order that the chiselled edges of the upper
and lower teeth may be preserved sharp by continually rubbing
against each other, and that they may not be suffered to grow
too long, and so to deprive the animal of the means whereby it
gains its food. But for this peculiar movement, which looks
very like the action of ruminating, the teeth would grow far
beyond the mouth, as they rapidly deposit dental material in
their bases in order to supply the waste caused at their tips by
the continual friction of the edges against each other.

The Hyrax,
does not chew the cud, but that the peculiar and
constant movement of its jaws strongly resembles the act ot
rumination. The Jews, ignorant as they were of scientific
zoology, would naturally set down the Hyrax as a ruminant, and
would have been likely to eat it, as its flesh is very good.


Animals in the Bible (Roy Pinney 1964) Shafan and Arneves are  the hyrax and hare  - Hyrax are hard to catch, weak, lives in holes of rocks to hide since it is defenseless. Rabbits are not indigenous to Israel or it’s surrounding countries.

Living Animals of the Bible Walter Ferguson - Shafan and Arneves a re the hyrax and hare. Were  erroneously thought to be a ruminant because of the way it moves it’s jaws. Hyrax jumps rock to rock and hide in holes. 

Chazir was abhorred by Phoenicians.  Hare are common in Israel.

Encyclopedia of Bible Creatures - 1965 Chrisensen, Jorgensen, Heinecken 
Saphon - the consensus it is the Hyrax.  Arvenus is the Hare.

Encyclopedia  of Bible Animals - Peter France 1986 Shafan  means hider. Modern Translators agree it is the rock hyrax or syrian hyrax. Don’t chew cud but move their jaw often. Are wise and feeble. Arenvet - no argument about its identity as the hare. Don’t chew cud, but grind teeth giving the appearance they do. Swine  were Taboo in Egypt - it was believed wicked Souls  migrate into the swine.

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