Does the hyrax chew cud? I know it is not a ruminant and it does not practice refection? J


I have already gotten this question. I am copying and pasting.

John Oakes


I was hoping you could give me a good answer why in Leviticus 11:6 the Lord told Moses that the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. Technically a rabbit does not chew the cud like a cow because it only has one stomach. On it says because a rabbit chews its food so much it looks as though it chews cud. Do you think that is a good explanation of that Scripture? This question has bothered me since I read the definition of chewing the cud in the dictionary after I read an review by an unbeliever of a Christian evidence book that pointed out this apparent inaccuracy.


Yes, I have heard of this one before. I would say that if this is the best example of a significant contradiction or "mistake" in the Bible, then that alone would be evidence that the Bible is an amazing book! The answer to the question is that the Hebrew word translated as "chew the cud" is not a technical term. The translation "chew the cud" is probably about the closest translation of the Hebrew word as we have in English. The fact is that rabbits do rechew their food, but not from an extra stomach. Rather than create the false impression that I am an expert about this question, I list below a link, as well as copying and pasting an answer to this question from the cited web site.

John Oakes Lev. 11:6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. (See also Deut. 14:7) This is one of the most popular objections in the skeptical book, and it’s basically this: Rabbits are not ruminants; they practice refection. Refection is a process in which rabbits eat their own dung mixed with undigested material. The Hebrew does not use the word for "dung". Therefore this passage is wrong (supposedly). (The objection is also registered against the verses mentioning the coney, or hyrax; however, the identification of this animal is uncertain — we will assume it to be an animal that refects as well.)

Two issues are at hand: the definition of "cud" and that of "chewing." Let’s take a close look at the Hebrew version of both. Here is the word for "cud" according to Strong’s: gerah, the cud (as scraping the throat):–cud. There are a few factors we need to keep in mind here. First, this word is used nowhere in the Old Testament besides these verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. We have only this context to help us decide what it means in terms of the Mosaic law. Second, refection is a process whereby rabbits pass pellets of partially digested food, which they chew on (along with the waste material) in order to give their stomachs another go at getting the nutrients out. It is not just "dung" that the rabbits are eating, which is probably why the Hebrew word for "dung" was not used here.

Contrast this with what cows and some other animals do, rumination, which is what we moderns call "chewing the cud." They regurgiate partially digested food in little clumps called cuds, and chew it a little more after while mixing it with saliva. So then: partially digested food is a common element here. We therefore suggest that the Hebrew word simply refers to any partially digested food — the process is not the issue, just the object.

"Yeah, right, Holding! So are you more of an expert in Hebrew than all those Bible scholars like Strong who decided that ‘cud’ was the best word to use here? Get real!!!" More of an expert in Hebrew, no — the problem is that those Hebrew experts aren’t experts in animal biology. It’s commonly noted, in a weaker defense of this verse, that rabbits look like they chew cud, such that even Linneaus was fooled by them and classified them as ruminants — and even many modern books on rabbits have no reference to it. Everyone sees rabbits chewing and might come to the same conclusion, but few know about refection — least of all experts in Hebrew who spend most of their days indoors out of the sight of rabbits.

"Just shot yourself in the foot, Holding! You admitted that few people know about refection. Tell us why! It’s because rabbits do it at night and underground. Isn’t it more likely that Moses made a big fat mistake like Linneaus, based on appearances?" Rabbits actually do this mostly at night and underground — not always; and the reason for this is that the behavior usually takes place 3-8 hours after eating. Now catch this: One reason so few people know about this behavior today is because we spend so much time indoors — and because when we are outdoors, we tend to stomp around and scare the jeebers out of timid creatures like rabbits. So little wonder we don’t see it much! And even rabbit owners don’t see it because they of course feed their bunnies on their schedules — so that refection happens while they are asleep! In contrast, the ancients lived mainly outdoors and many of them were pastoral sorts who spent hours in the field.

So — don’t think for a moment that this wasn’t something the average ancient wouldn’t have known about. They were a lot more observant than we are (because they needed to be to survive!) and spent a lot more time in places where they could see this behavior. (At the same time, it would be rather foolish — and an argument from silence — to make the point that refection is not mentioned in any other ancient documents. For this objection to have merit, one must produce a surviving ancient documentation that should have mentioned it, but didn’t — and that’s rather a hard row to hoe!)

"That’s only half the problem, Holding! You forgot the other half — the verse says ‘bring up’ the cud — sounds like regurgitation to me!" Our other key word here is ‘alah, and it is found in some grammatical form on literally every page of the OT. This is because it is a word that encompasses many concepts other than "bring up." It also can mean ascend up, carry up, cast up, fetch up, get up, recover, restore, take up, and much more. It is a catch-all verb form describing the moving of something to another place. (The literal rendering here is, "maketh the gerah to ‘alah.") Now in the verses in question, ‘alah is used as a participle. Let’s look at the other verses where it is used this way (NIV only implies some of these phrases; where in parentheses, the phrase is in the original, sometimes in the KJV): Josh. 24:17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt…. 1 Sam. 7:10 While Samuel was sacrificing (offering) the burnt offering… Nahum 3:3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords (lifted), and glittering spears! Isaiah 8:7 …therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River… 2 Chron. 24:14 When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money… Ps. 135:7 He makes clouds rise (up) from the ends of the earth… 2 Sam. 6:15 …while he and the entire house of Israel brought the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (Similar quote, 1 Chr. 15:28)

So: the Hebrew word is question is NOT specific to the process of regurgitation; it is a phrase of general movement. And related to the specific issue at hand, the rabbit is an animal that does "maketh" the previously digested material to "come" out of the body (though in a different way than a ruminant does) and does thereafter does chew "predigested material"! The mistake is in our applying of the scientific terms of rumination to something that does not require it.

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