MOUSE (עַכְבָּר, H6572, mouse all Eng. VSS). There is general agreement about the correctness of this tr., but the Heb. word had an even wider application than in current Eng. where it is applied, with qualifying adjectives, to a wide range of small rodents. In parts of Africa today “mouse” includes all uniformly colored rats and mice up to the size of a brown rat. This was prob. so in Bible times, so the prohibition of Leviticus 11:29 would refer to the whole group, even though in many parts of the world it is usual, and safe, to eat many small rodents. The real object of the ban was to exclude black rats, carriers of dangerous diseases. Isaiah 66:17 speaks of those who deliberately defile themselves by eating mice and other forbidden meat. The word appears in only one other passage (1 Sam 6:4, 5, 11, 18) and this took on a new significance early this cent. when the relationship between rats, plague and man was discovered. Although rats (mice, Eng. VSS) are not specifically blamed for the epidemic that affected both Philistines and Israelites, the causal relationship between the tumors and the rats was clearly recognized by the priests of Dagon when they sent gifts of golden mice and tumors with the Ark back to Israel. Bubonic plague began in the E and for many centuries has caused numerous deaths in many countries; the Plague of London was one such outbreak, with 70,000 deaths in London alone. Plague is, in fact, primarily a disease of rats, transmitted by several species of flea, which seek other hosts, including man, when the rat dies. One of the classic symptoms is the tumor or bubo that forms in the groin and elsewhere. Black rats have now spread all over the world and are the main ship rat. In addition Pal. has many species of small rodents, some of which become serious pests in the intensive agriculture now practiced.
A R. Short, The Bible and Modern Medicine (1953).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)