Table of Contents
Catalogue of Titles
Logos Virtual Library
Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson
Now, wherefore did Moses say, “Thou shalt not eat the swine, nor the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the raven, nor any fish which is not possessed of scales?” He embraced three doctrines in his mind [in doing so]. Moreover, the Lord saith to them in Deuteronomy, “And I will establish my ordinances among this people.” Is there then not a command of God they should not eat [these things]? There is, but Moses spoke with a spiritual reference. For this reason he named the swine, as much as to say, “Thou shalt not join thyself to men who resemble swine.” For when they live in pleasure, they forget their Lord; but when they come to want, they acknowledge the Lord. And [in like manner] the swine, when it has eaten, does not recognize its master; but when hungry it cries out, and on receiving food is quiet again. “Neither shalt thou eat,” says he “the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the kite, nor the raven.” “Thou shalt not join thyself,” he means, “to such men as know not how to procure food for themselves by labour and sweat, but seize on that of others in their iniquity, and although wearing an aspect of simplicity, are on the watch to plunder others.” So these birds, while they sit idle, inquire how they may devour the flesh of others, proving themselves pests [to all] by their wickedness. “And thou shalt not eat,” he says, “the lamprey, or the polypus, or the cuttlefish.” He means, “Thou shalt not join thyself or be like to such men as are ungodly to the end, and are condemned to death.” In like manner as those fishes, above accursed, float in the deep, not swimming [on the surface] like the rest, but make their abode in the mud which lies at the bottom. Moreover, “Thou shall not,” he says, “eat the hare.” Wherefore? “Thou shall not be a corrupter of boys, nor like unto such.” Because the hare multiplies, year by year, the places of its conception; for as many years as it lives so many it has. Moreover, “Thou shall not eat the hyena.” He means, “Thou shall not be an adulterer, nor a corrupter, nor be like to them that are such.” Wherefore? Because that animal annually changes its sex, and is at one time male, and at another female. Moreover, he has rightly detested the weasel. For he means, “Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth, on account of their uncleanness; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth. For this animal conceives by the mouth.” Moses then issued three doctrines concerning meats with a spiritual significance; but they received them according to fleshly desire, as if he had merely spoken of [literal] meats. David, however, comprehends the knowledge of the three doctrines, and speaks in like manner: “Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly,” even as the fishes [referred to] go in darkness to the depths [of the sea]; “and hath not stood in the way of sinners,” even as those who profess to fear the Lord, but go astray like swine; “and hath not sat in the seat of scorners,” even as those birds that lie in wait for prey. Take a full and firm grasp of this spiritual knowledge. But Moses says still further, “Ye shall eat every animal that is cloven-footed and ruminant.” What does he mean? [The ruminant animal denotes him] who, on receiving food, recognizes Him that nourishes him, and being satisfied by Him, is visibly made glad. Well spake [Moses], having respect to the commandment. What, then, does he mean? That we ought to join ourselves to those that fear the Lord, those who meditate in their heart on the commandment which they have received, those who both utter the judgments of the Lord and observe them, those who know that meditation is a work of gladness, and who ruminate upon the word of the Lord. But what means the cloven-footed? That the righteous man also walks in this world, yet looks forward to the holy state [to come]. Behold how well Moses legislated. But how was it possible for them to understand or comprehend these things? We then, rightly understanding his commandments, explain them as the Lord intended. For this purpose He circumcised our ears and our hearts, that we might understand these things.