[b-hebrew] Iron Age Mice & Rats in the Levant

David Kimbrough (CLWA) dkimbrough at clwa.org
Thu Apr 29 13:01:13 EDT 2004


There are in excess of 30 species of rats and mice and are found world-wide,
there is no place (except Antarctica) where there are not at least one
species of these animals.  Both rats and mice were widely distributed in the
Levant during the Iron Age (although there may have changes in exactly which
species were present where, a detail only a trained taxonomist would note).

David Eugene Kimbrough

Modern Hebrew uses 'akhbar for mouse. The word is also used in the Mishnah
and other rabbinic sources. For "rat" there are two words. The first is
'akhbarosh - that is: 'akhbar + rosh - "head mouse" (even though the "rosh"
is spelled without the aleph). As far as I know, this is a modern invention.
The other word is xuldah (Huldah, as in the name of the prophetess). This is
the fem. of xoled, which appears (only!) in Lev. 11:29, along side the
'akhbar, as one of the creepy-crawly earth animals that are impure. It is
usually understood to be a weasle of a mole - modern Hebrew uses it for mole
(BTW, might it not be related to "xeled" - "earth", as in Ps. 49:2; an
"earth digger"?). The form "xuldah", as far as I know, does not appear in
any ancient source (except as the name of the prophetess - so her name
apparently meant "mole-lady" rather than "rat-lady". "Huldah", by the way,
was also the name of the southern gate of the Temple Mount in the Herodian
period).

So no, BH apparently does not have separate words for "mouse" and "rat". Our
next question should be - do other ANE languages, sich as Akkadian? WERE
there two different species in the Levant during the Iron Age? Does anyone
know?

Yigal


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