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kingdom it refers, because in more than one place it is mentioned as one of the unclean birds that might not be eaten (translated as swan in our version), whereas, in another place, it is emumerated among the unclean creeping things.
We may conjecture that the same word might be used to designate two distinct animals, though we have no clue to their identification. It is rather a strange coincidence, in corroboration of this theory, that our word Mole signifies three distinct objects—firstly, an animal ; secondly, a cutaneous growth; and thirdly, a bank of earth. Now, supposing English to be a dead
“These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth :. the
lizard, the snail, and the mole."--Lev. xi. 29, 30.
language, like the Hebrew, it may well be imagined that a transJator of an English book would feel extremely perplexed when he saw the word Mole used in such widely different senses.
The best Hebraists can do no more than offer a conjecture founded on the structure of the word Tinshemeth, which is thought by some to be the chameleon. Some think that it is the Mole, some the ibis, some the salamander, while others
consider it to be the centipede; and in neither case have any decisive arguments been adduced.
We will therefore leave the former of these two names, and proceed to the second, Chephor-peroth.
This word occurs in that passage of Isaiah which has already been quoted when treating of the bat. * In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one to himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats ; to go into the clefts of the rocks and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth."
It is highly probable that the animal in question is the Mole of Palestine, which is not the same as our European species, but is much larger in size, and belongs to a different order of mammalia. The true Mole is one of the insectivorous and carnivorous animals, and is allied to the shrews and the hedgehogs; whereas the Mole of Palestine (Spalax typhlus) is one of the rodents, and allied to the rabbits, mice, marmots, and jerboas. A better term for it is the Mole-rat, by which name it is familiar to zoologists. It is also known by the names of Slepez and Nenni.
In length it is about eight inches, and its colour is a pale slate. As is the case with the true Moles, the eyes are of very
minute dimensions, and are not visible through the thick soft fur with which the whole head and body are covered. Neither are there any visible external ears, although the ear is really very large, and extremely sensitive to sound. This apparent privation of both ears and eyes gives to the animal a most singular and featureless appearance, its head being hardly recognisable as such but for the mouth, and the enormous projecting teeth, which not only look formidable, but really are so. There is a curious superstition in the Ukraine, that if a man will dare to grasp a Mole-rat in his bare hand, allow it to bite him, and then squeeze it to death, the hand that did the deed will ever afterwards possess the virtue of healing goitre or scrofula.
This animal is spread over a very large tract of country, and is very common in Palestine. Mr. Tristram gives an interesting account of its discovery. “We had long tried in vain to capture the Mole of Palestine. Its mines and its mounds we had seen everywhere, and reproached ourselves with having omitted the mole-trap among the items of our outfit. From the size of the mounds and the shallowness of the subterranean passages, we felt satisfied it could not be the European species, and our hopes of solving the question were raised when we found that one of them had taken up its quarters close to our camp. After several vain attempts to trap it, an Arab one night brought a live Mole in a jar to the tent. It was no Mole properly so called, but the Mole-rat, which takes its place throughout Western Asia. The man, having observed our anxiety to possess a specimen, refused to part with it for less than a hundred piastres, and scornfully rejected the twenty piastres I offered. Ultimately, Dr. Chaplin purchased it for five piastres after our departure, and I kept it alive for some time in a box, feeding it on sliced onions."
The same gentleman afterwards caught many of the Mole-rats, and kept them in earthen vessels, as they soon gnawed their way through wood. They fed chiefly on bulbs, but also ate sopped bread. Like many other animals, they reposed during the day, and were active throughout the night.
The author then proceeds to remark on the peculiarly appropriate character of the prophecy that the idols should be cast to the Moles and the bats. Had the European Mole been the animal to which reference was made, there would have been comparatively little significance in the connexion of the two names, because, although both animals are lovers of darkness, they do not inhabit similar localities. But the Mole-rat is fond of frequenting deserted ruins and burial-places, so that the Moles and the bats are really companions, and as such are associated together in the sacred narrative. Here, as in many other instances, we find that closer study of the Scriptures united to more extended knowledge are by no means the enemies of religion, as some well-meaning, but narrow-minded persons
, think On the contrary, the Scriptures were never so well understood, and their truth and force so well recognised, as at the present day; and science has proved to be, not the destroyer of the Bible, but its interpreter. We shall soon cease to hear of
Science versus the Bible, and shall substitute Science and the Bible versus Ignorance and Prejudice."
The Mole-rat needs not to dig such deep tunnels as the true Moles, because its food does not lie so deep. The Moles live chiefly upon earthworms, and are obliged to procure them in the
varying depths to which they burrow. But the Mole-rat lives mostly upon roots, preferring those of a bulbous nature. Now bulbous roots are, as a rule, situated near the surface of the ground, and, therefore, any animal which feeds upon them must be careful not to burrow too deeply, lest it should pass beneath them. The shallowness of the burrows is thus accounted for. Gardens are often damaged by this animal, the root-crops, such as carrots and onions, affording plenty of food without needing much exertion.
The Mole-rat does not keep itself quite so jealously secluded as does our common Mole, but occasionally will come out of the burrow and lie on the ground, enjoying the warm sunshine. Still it is not easily to be approached; for though its eyes are almost useless, the ears are so sharp, and the animal is so wary, that at the sound of a footstep it instantly seeks the protection of its burrow, where it may bid defiance to its foes.
How it obtains its food is a mystery. There seems to be absolutely no method of guiding itself to the precise spot where a bulb may be growing. It is not difficult to conjecture the method by which the Mole discovers its prey. Its sensitive ears may direct it to the spot where a worm is driving its way through the earth, and should it come upon its prey, the very touch of the worm, writhing in terror at the approach of its enemy, would be sufficient to act as a guide.
I have kept several Moles, and always noticed that, though they would pass close to a worm without seeming to detect its presence, either by sight or scent, at the slightest touch they would spring round, dart on the worm, and in a moment seize it between their jaws. But with the Mole-rat the case is different. The root can utter no sound, and can make no movement, nor is it likely that the odour of the bulb should penetrate through the earth to a very great distance.
Conjectures as to the right translation of the Hebrew word Akbar - Signification
of the word – The Mice which marred the land-Miracles, and their economy of power—The Field-mouse-Its destructive habits and prolific nature—The insidious nature of its attacks, and its power of escaping observation—The Hamster, and its habits-Its custom of storing up provisions for the winter -Its fertility and unsociable nature—The Jerboa, its activity and destructiveness—Jerboas and Hamsters eaten by Arabs and Syrians—Various species of Dormice and Sand-rats.
That the Mouse mentioned in the Old Testament was some species of rodent animal is tolerably clear, though it is impossible to state any particular species as being signified by the Hebrew word Akbar. The probable derivation of this name is from two words which signify "destruction of corn,” and it is therefore evident that allusion is made to some animal which devours the produce of the fields, and which exists in sufficient numbers to make its voracity formidable.
Some commentators on the Old Testament translate the word Akbar as jerboa. Now, although the jerboa is common in Syria, it is not nearly so plentiful as other rodent animals, and would scarcely be selected as the means by which a terrible disaster is made to befall a whole country. The student of Scripture is well aware that, in those exceptional occurrences which are called miracles, a needless development of the wonder-working power is never employed. We are not to suppose, for example, that the clouds of locusts that devoured the harvests of the Egyptians were created for this express purpose, but that their already existing hosts were concentrated upon a limited area, instead of being spread over a large surface. Nor need we fancy that the frogs which rendered their habitations unclean, and contaminated their food, were brought into existence simply to inflict a severe punishment on the fastidious and superstitious Egyptians.