“And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you” (Leviticus 11:5,6).
The coney (From shaphanis which denotes the Syrian hyrax) is an old English name for rabbit. Some Bible critics say that Moses made a mistake when he said that the coney and the hare chew the cud when they don’t have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow). But rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. And science confirms that:
Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of ruminate as simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed.” Further, Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax (cony) as a ruminant. And that is precisely what these animals do. They chew its food a second time, which is characteristic of most ruminants. Also, Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, has classified the hare as a ruminant (Grzimek, Bernard, ed. 1975, pp. 421-422).
The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the classification systems of man. A whale in the Bible is sometimes called a “fish,” when it is not a fish but a mammal. The Bible language uses the common expression of the people at the time it was written. Today, we use the same types of expressions. For example, when we say that the sun “sets” no one sees the phrase as scientifically wrong, though, literally speaking, the sun does not “set.” Therefore, we should allow the Bible writers the same freedom of expression as we allow ourselves in our use of language today.
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,