Bat

BAT (עֲטַלֵּף, H6491; All Eng. VSS). This tr. is generally accepted. Some commentators consider that the bat is also referred to in Leviticus 11:20 from their manner of crawling, “All fowls that creep” (KJV). עוֹף, H6416, “insects” (RSV). Bat is first mentioned as forbidden food (Lev 11:19). Some twenty species of bat are recorded for Pal.; they live in all regions, being plentiful around the desert edge and in oases. Their powerful musky smell and their habit of building up large deposits of droppings at their roosts discourage their use as food, but they do much good by killing insects, and their guano is collected as manure. Though most eat insects, the Egyp. fruit bat feeds on fruits and can be a pest in orchards; this and other large bats are regularly eaten in some countries. Bats are active at night and sleep hanging upside down; their unusual habits and appearance make them the subject of strange legends, sometimes with evil association. Isaiah 2:20, “will cast forth their idols...to the bats.” Also Epistle of Jeremiah 22, describing the idols worshiped by the Israelites “upon their bodies and heads sit bats.” Few people other than experts distinguish between the many bats and one would not expect to find more than one Heb. word.

Bibliography

D. Harrison, Footsteps in the Sand (1959).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Bats are the most widely distributed of mammals, reaching even the oceanic islands, and modern science has revealed the existence of an astonishing number of species, nearly twenty being recorded from Palestine. These include both fruit-eating and insect-eating bats, the latter being the smaller. It has not always been realized that they are mammals, and so it is not surprising that they should be mentioned at the end of the list of unclean birds in Le 11:19 and De 14:18. It may, however, be significant that they are at the end of the list and not in the middle of it. The fruit bats are a pest to horticulturists and often strip apricot and other trees before the fruit has ripened enough to be picked. On this account the fruit is often enclosed in bags, or the whole tree may be surrounded with a great sheet or net. They commonly pick the fruit and eat it on some distant perch beneath which the seeds and the ordure of these animals are scattered. The insect bats, as in other countries, flit about at dusk and through the night catching mosquitoes and larger insects, and so are distinctly beneficial.

The reference in Isa 2:20, "cast .... idols .... to the moles and to the bats" refers of course to these animals as inhabitants of dark and deserted places. As in the case of many animal names the etymology of `aTaleph is doubtful. Various derivations have been proposed but none can be regarded as satisfactory. The Arabic name, waTwaT, throws no light on the question.

See also

  • Animals