« ForrigeFortsett »
Of course, had such an exercise of creative power been needed, it would have been used, but we can all see that a needless miracle is never worked. He who would not suffer even a crumb of the miraculously multiplied bread to be wasted, is not likely to waste that power by which the miracle was wrought.
If we refer to the early history of the Israelitish nation, as told in 1 Sam. iv.-.vi., we shall find that the Israelites made an unwarrantable use of the ark, by taking it into battle, and that it was captured and carried off into the country of the Philistines. Then various signs were sent to warn the captors to send the ark back to its rightful possessors. Dagon, the great fish-god, was prostrated before it, painful diseases attacked them, so that many died, and scarcely any seem to have escaped, while their
, harvests were ravaged by numbers of “mice that marred the land."
The question is now simple enough. If the ordinary translation is accepted, and the word Akbar rendered as Mouse, would the necessary conditions be fulfilled, i.e. would the creature be destructive, and would it exist in very great numbers ? Now we shall find that both these conditions are fulfilled by the common Field-mouse (Arvicola arvalis).
This little creature is, in proportion to its size, one of the most destructive animals in the world. Let its numbers be increased from any cause whatever, and it will most effectually “mar the land." It will devour every cereal that is sown, and kill
” almost any sapling that is planted. It does not even wait for the corn to spring up, but will burrow beneath the surface, and dig out the seed before it has had time to sprout. In the early part of the year, it will eat the green blade as soon as it springs out of the ground, and is an adept at climbing the stalks of corn, and plundering the ripe ears in the autumn.
When stacked or laid up in barns, the harvest is by no means safe, for the Mice will penetrate into any ordinary barn, and find their way into any carelessly-built stack, from which they can scarcely be ejected. The rat itself is not so dire a foe to the farmer, as the less obtrusive, but equally mischievous Fieldmouse. The ferret will drive the rats out of their holes, and if they have taken possession of a wheat-stack they can be ejected by depriving them of access to water. But the burrows of the Field-mouse are so small that a ferret cannot make its way
through them, and the nightly dew that falls on the stack affords an ample supply of water.
When the Field-mouse is deprived of the food which it loves best, it finds a subsistence among the trees. Whenever mice can discover a newly-planted sapling, they hold great revel upon it, eating away the tender young bark as high as they can reach, and consequently destroying the tree as effectually as if it were
Wherefore ye shall make images of your mice that mor the land.”—1 Sam. vi, 5.
cut down. Even when the young trees fail them, and no tender bark is to be had, the Field-mice can still exert their destructive powers. They will then betake themselves to the earth, burrow beneath its surface, and devour the young rootlets of the forest trees. All botanists know that a healthy tree is continually pushing forward fresh roots below the ground, in order to gain sufficient nourishment to supply the increasing growth above. If, therefore, these young roots are destroyed, the least harm
that can happen to the tree is that its further growth is arrested; while, in many cases, the tree, which cannot repair the injuries it has received, droops gradually, and finally dies. Even in this country, the Field-mouse has proved itself a terrible enemy to the agriculturist, and has devastated considerable tracts of land.
So much for the destructive powers of the Field-mouse, and the next point to be considered is its abundance.
Nearly all the rats and mice are singularly prolific animals, producing a considerable number at a brood, and having several broods in a season.
The Field-mouse is by no means an exception to the general rule, but produces as many young in a season as any of the Mice.
Not only is it formidable from its numbers, but from the insidious nature of its attacks. Any one can see a rabbit, a hare, or even a rat; but to see a Field-mouse is not easy, even when the little creatures are present in thousands. A Field-mouse never shows itself except froin necessity, its instinct teaching it to escape the observation of its many furred and feathered enemies. Short-legged and soft-furred, it threads its noiseless way among the herbage with such gentle suppleness that scarcely a grassblade is stirred, while, if it should be forced to pass over a spot of bare ground, the red-brown hue of its fur prevents it from being detected by an inexperienced eye. Generally the Fieldmouse is safe from human foes, and has only to dread the piercing eye and swift wings of the hawk, or the silent flight and sharp talons of the owl.
Although there can be no doubt that the Field-mouse is one of the animals to which the name of Akbar is given, it is probable that many species were grouped under this one name. Small rodents of various kinds are very plentiful in Palestine, and there are several species closely allied to the Field-mouse itself.
Among them is the Hamster (Cricetus frumentarius), so widely known for the ravages which it makes among the crops. This terribly destructive animal not only steals the crops for immediate subsistence, but lays up a large stock of provisions for the winter, seeming to be actuated by a sort of miserly passion for collecting and storing away. There seems to be no bounds to the quantity of food which a Hamster will carry into its subterranean store-house, from seventy to one hundred pounds' weight being sometimes taken out of the burrow of a single animal. The fact of the existence of these large stores shows that the animal must need them, and accordingly we find that the Hamster is only a partial hibernator, as it is awake during a considerable portion of the winter months, and is consequently obliged to live on the stores which it has collected.
It is an exceedingly prolific animal, each pair producing on an average twenty-five young in the course of a year. The families are unsociable, and, as soon as they are strong enough to feed themselves, the young Hamsters leave their home, and make separate burrows for themselves. Thus we see that the Hamster, as well as the Field-mouse, fulfils the conditions which are needed in order to class it under the general title of Akbar.
I have already stated that some translators of the Bible use the word Jerboa as a rendering of the Hebrew Akbar. As the Jerboa certainly is found in Palestine, there is some foundation for this idea, and we may safely conjecture that it also is one of the smaller rodents which are grouped together under the appellation of Mouse.
The Common Jerboa (Dipus Ægyptiacus) is plentiful in Palestine, and several other species inhabit the same country, known at once by their long and slender legs, which give them so curious a resemblance to the kangaroos of Australia. The Jerboas pass over the ground with astonishing rapidity. Instead of creeping stealthily among the grass-blades, like the short-limbed field-mouse, the Jerboa flies along with a succession of wonderful leaps, darting here and there with such rapidity that the eye can scarcely follow its wayward movements. When quiet and undisturbed, it hops along gently enough, but as soon as it takes alarm, it darts off in its peculiar manner, which is to the ordinary walk of quadrupeds what the devious course of a frightened snipe is to the steady flight of birds in general.
It prefers hot and dry situations, its feet being defended by a thick coating of stiff hairs, which serve the double purpose of protecting it from the heat, and giving it a firm hold on the ground. It is rather a destructive animal, its sharp and powerful teeth enabling it to bite its way through obstacles which would effectually stop an ordinary Mouse. That the Jerboa may be one of the Akbarim is rendered likely by the prohibition in Lev. xi. 29, forbidding the Mouse to be eaten.. · It would be scarcely probable that such a command need have been issued against eating the common Mouse, whereas the Jerboa, a much larger and palatable animal, is always eaten by the Arabs. The Hamster is at the present day eaten in Northern Syria.
Beside these creatures there are the Dormice, several species of which animal inhabit Palestine at the present day. There are also the Sand-rats, one species of which is larger than our ordi
The Sand-rats live more in the deserts than the cultivated lands, making their burrows at the foot of hills, and among the roots of bushes.
The prohibitions of the Mosaic law—The chewing of the cud, and division of the
oof—Identity of the Hare of Scripture-Ru tion described - The Hare a rodent and not a ruminant-Cowper and his Hares—Structure of the rodent tooth – The Mosaic law accommodated to its recipients—The Hares of Palestine and their habits.
Among the many provisions of the Mosaic law are several which refer to the diet of the Israelites, and which prohibit certain kinds of food. Special stress is laid upon the flesh of animals, and the list of those which may be lawfully eaten is a singularly restricted one, all being excluded except those which “divide the hoof and chew the cud.” And, lest there should be any mistake about the matter, examples are given both of those animals which may and those which may not be eaten.
The ox, sheep, goat, and antelopes generally are permitted as lawful food, because they fulfil both conditions ; whereas there is a special prohibition of the swine, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, and of the camel, coney, and hare because they chew the cud, but do not divide the hoof. Our business at present is with the last of these animals.
Considerable discussion has been raised concerning this animal, because, as is well known to naturalists, the Hare is not