Lizard appears in the Auth. Vers. in but one passage (Le 11:30) as the rendering of לטָאָה, letaah'; but different species of the animal seem to be designated by several Hebrew terms, variously rendered in the English translation. In the East numerous varieties of these reptiles are met with in great abundance, several of which are regarded as venomous (Hasselquist, Trav. pages 241, 344 sq.). Others, again, are used by the modern Arabs for food (comp. also Arrian, Matr. Eryth. page 17, ed. Hudson), whereas the Mosaic law (Leviticus 11) classes them among unclean animals.
(1.) KO´ÄCH (כֹּח, strength, Le 11:30; Sept. χαμαιλέων, Auth. Vers. "chameleon"), prob. the Lacerta stellio, an olive-brown lizard, with black and white spots, and a tail about a span long, while the body itself is scarcely of this length (Hasselquist, Trav. page 352; figure in Ruppel, Atlas, tab. 2). Bochart (Hieroz. 2:493 sq.) understands this term to refer to the species called El-w-aral, which exhibits its great strength (hence its name) in combat with the crocodile and serpents, is disgusting in appearance. and said to be poisonous (Leon. Afric. Descript. Afric. 9:53). But Michaelis (Suppl. 2221) and Rosenmüller have long since remarked that the derivation of the name koach is perhaps from a different root. According to the Arabic interpreters, it is the land crocodile, or a species of it, perhaps the Waran el-hard or skink (Lacerta scincus), which sometimes attains a length of six feet or more. SEE CHAMELEON.
(2.) LETAAH´ (לטָאָה, perh. so called from its hiding; Le 11:30; Sept. χαλαβώτης, Vulg. stellio, Auth. Vers. "lizard"), perhaps the species called in Egypt Shechalit, described by Forskal (Descr. page 13) as a delicate little animal, about a span in length and of the thickness of the thumb, found in the neighborhood of houses. Bochart (Hieroz. 2:497 sq.) maintains that it is the wagrat of the Arabs, a kind of lizard that clings close to the ground (hence his derivation from an Arabic root, signifying to stick to the earth), to which also the Sept. alludes (comp. Oken, Naturgesch. III, 2:203). Geddes regards it as identical with the Lacerta gecko.
(3.) CHO´MET (חֹמֶט, so called from lying close to the ground; Le 11:30; Sept. σαύρα, Auth.Vers. "snail") has been supposed by Bochart (2:500 sq.) to mean the Galkan, a species of lizard that burrows in the sand (on the precarious interpretation of the Talmud). The interpretation snail rests on no better foundation. Both the Arabic interpreters understand the chameleon. The I species intended is uncertain. (See Fuller, Miscell. 6:9.)
(4.) ANAKAH' (אֲנָקָה, a shriek; Le 11:30; Sept. and Vulg. shrewmouse, Auth.Vers. "ferret") is regarded by the Arab. Erpen. as the Waral, considered by some as identical with the Lacerta Nilotica (Hasselquist, Trav. p. 361 sq.), but which last Forskal (Descrit. Animal. page 13) calls Waranz (comp. Robinson, 2:253). The Waral is described by those who have personally seen it (see Leo Afric. Descr. 9:51) as having a length of three or four feet, a scaly, very strong, grayish-yellow skin, and is regarded as poisonous in every part. (See Rosenmüller, Alterth. IV, 2:256 sq.; Gesen. Thesaur. page 128.)
(5.) TSAB (צָב, prob. from its sluggishness; Le 11:29; Sept. and Vulg. the crocodile, Auth.Vers. "tortoise") is doubtless the species of lizard still called by the Arabs Dhab (see Bochart, Hieroz. 2:463 sq.), a stupid creature tenanting rocky waters. According to Leo Afric. (9:52), it is about a yard long, without poisonous qualities, and incapable of drinking. They are caught and eaten in the desert. Forskal (Descript. Aninmal. page 13) and Hasselquist (Trasv. page 353 sq.) appear to have described it under the name of Lacertat, Egyptiaca (comp. Paulus, Samml. 2:263). According to Burckhardt (2:863 sq.), it has a scaly skin of a yellow color, and sometimes attains a length of eighteen inches.
(6.) TINSHE´METH (תַּנשֶׁמֶת, the hard breather; Sept., Vulgate, and Auth. Vers. mole; Le 11:30; being the same Heb. word used in Le 11:18; De 14:16, to describe a bird, rendered "swan") is (according to Saadias) a species of lizard, probably the Gecko (Hasselquist, Trav. page 356 sq.), a kind described as having a round tail of moderate length, and tufted feet, lamellated lengthwise on the bottom, said to be peculiar for exuding poison from the divisions of its toes, eagerly seeking spots imbued with salt, which it leaves infected with a virus that engenders leprosy (see also Forskal, page 13). Bochart (2:503 sq.) understands the chameleon, deriving the etymology from the ancient belief that this creature lived upon the air (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 8:33, 51), a notion probably derived from its long endurance of hunger. (See Hasselquist, Trav. page 348 sq.; Sonnini, Trav. 1:87; Oken, Naturgesch. III, 2:306 sq.; Russel, Aleppo, 2:128 sq.) SEE CHAMELEON.
(7.) SEMAMITH´ (שׂמָמַית, prob. as being held poisonous; Pr 30:28; Sept. καλαβώτης,Vulg. stellio, Auth. Vers. "spider") is mentioned as a small creature of active instincts; prob. the Arabic saum, a poisonous lizard with leopard-like spots (Bochart, Hieroz. 2:1084). Comp. Rosenmüller, Alterth. IV, 2:268. SEE SPIDER.
(8.) TANNIN' (תִּנַּין) or TANNIM' (תִּנַּים), otherwise TAN (תָּן), seems occasionally to signify a huge land serpent or saurian. SEE DRAGON.
(9.) LIVYATHAN' (לַייָתָן) sometimes stands for the largest of the lizard tribe, the crocodile. SEE LEIVIATHAN.
Under the denomination of lizard the modern zoologist places all the cold- blooded animals that have the conformation of serpents with the addition of four feet. Thus viewed as one great family, they constitute the Saurians, Lacertinae, and Lacertinae and Lacertidae of authors, embracing numerous generical divisions, which commence with the largest, that is, the crocodile group, and pass through sundry others, a variety of species, formidable, disgusting, or pleasing in appearance — some equally frequenting the land and water, others absolutely confined to the earth and to the most and deserts; and, though in general harmless, there are a few with disputed properties, some being held to poison or corrode by means of the exudation of an ichor, and others extolled as aphrodisiacs, or of medical use in pharmacy; but these properties in most, if not in all, are undetermined or illusory. One of the best known of these is the common chameleon (Chamaeleo vulgaris). SEE CHAMELEON. When it is considered that the regions of Syria, Arabia, and Egypt are overrun with animals of this family, there is every reason to expect allusion to more than one genus in the Scriptures, where so many observations and similes are derived from the natural objects which were familiar to the various writers. Among the names enumerated above, Bochart refers צָב, tsub (Le 11:29), to one of the group of Monitors or Varanus, the Nilotic lizard, Lacerta Nilotica, Varanus Niloticus, or Waran of the Arabs.
Like the others of this form, it is possessed of a tail double the length of the body, but is not so well known in Palestine, where there is only one real river (Jordan), and that not tenanted by this species. It appears that the true crocodile frequented the shores and marshes of the coast down to a comparatively late period, and therefore it may well have had a more specific name than leviathan — a word apparently best suited to the dignified and lofty diction of the prophets, and clearly of more general signification than the more colloquial designation. Jerome was of this opinion; and it is thus likely that tsab was applied to both, as Waran is now considered only a variety of, or a young, crocodile. There is a second of the same group, Lacerta scincus of Merrem (Vatranus arenarius), Waran el-hard, also reaching to six feet in length; and a third, not as yet clearly described, which appears to be larger than either, growing to nine feet, and covered with bright cupreous scales. This last prefers rocky and stony situations. One of the last mentioned pursues its prey on land with a rapid bounding action, feeds on the larger insects, and is said to attack game in a body, sometimes destroying even sheep. The Arabs, in agreement with the ancients, assert that this species will do fierce and victorious battle with serpents. Considerations like these induce us to assign the Hebrew name כֹּח, koach (a designation of strength) to the species of the desert; and if the Nilotic watranz be the tsab, then the Arabian dhab, as Bruce asserts, will be Varanus arenarius, or watran el-hard of the present familiar language, and chardaun the larger copper-colored species above noticed. But it is evident from the Arabic authorities quoted by Bochart, and from his own conclusions, that there is not only confusion among the species of lizard, but that the ichneumon of Egypt (Horpestes Pharaonis) is mixed up with the history of these saurians.
We come next to the group of lizards more properly so called, which Hebrew commentators take to be the לטָאָה, letaah, a name having some allusion to poison and adhesiveness. The word occurs only once (Le 11:30), where saurians alone appear to be indicated. If the Heb. root were to guide the decision, letaah would be another name for the gecko or anakah, for there is but one species which can be deemed venomous; and with regard to the quality of adhesiveness, though the geckos possess it most, numerous common lizards run up and down perpendicular walls with great facility. We therefore take חוֹמֶט, chomet, or the sand lizard of Bochart, to be the true lizard, several (probably many) species existing in myriads on the rocks in sandy places, and in ruins in every part of Palestine and the adjacent countries. There is one species particularly abundant and small, well known in Arabia by the name of Sarabandi. We now come to the Stelliones, which have been confounded with the noxious geckos and others from the time of Aldrovandus, and thence have been a source of inextricable trouble to commentators. They are best known by the bundles of starlike spines on the body. Among these Lacerta stellio, Stellio Orientalis, the κροκόδειλος of the Greeks, and hardun of the Arabs, is abundant in the East, and a great frequenter of ruinous walls. The genus Uromastix offers Stellio spinipes of Daudin or Urspinipes, two or three feet long, of a fine green, and is the species which is believed to strike with the tail; hence formerly denominated Caudae verbera. It is frequent in the deserts around Egypt, and is probably the Guamril of the Arabs. Another subgenus, named Trapelus by Cuvier, is exemplified in the Tr. AEgyptiacus of Geoff., with a spinous swelled body, but remarkable for the faculty of changing color more rapidly than the chameleon. Next we place the Geckotians, among which comes אֲנָקָה, anakath, in our versions denominated ferret, but which is with more propriety transferred to the noisy and venomous abu-burs of the Arabs. There is no reason for admitting the verb אָנִק, anak, to groan, to cry out, as radical for the name of the ferret, an animal totally unconnected with the preceding and succeeding species in Le 11:29-30, and originally found, so far as we know, only in Western Africa, and thence conveyed to Spain, prowling noiselessly, and beaten to death without a groan, though capable of a feeble, short scream when at play, or when suddenly wounded. Taking the interpretation "to cry out," so little applicable to ferrets, in conjunction with the whole verse, we find the gecko, like all the species of this group of lizards, remarkable for the loud grating noise which it is apt to utter in the roofs and walls of houses all the night through; one, indeed, is sufficient to dispel the sleep of a whole family. The particular species most probably meant is the Lacerta gecko of Hasselquist, the Gecko lobatus of Geoffroy, distinguished by having the soles of the feet dilated and striated like open fans, from which a poisonous ichor is said to exude, inflaming the human skin, and infecting food that may have been trod upon by the animal. SEE FERRET. Hence the Arabic name of abusbirs, or "father of leprosy," at Cairo. The species extends northwards in Syria, but it may be doubted whether the Gecko fascicularuis, or tarentola of South- eastern Europe, be not also an inhabitant of Palestine; and in that case the שׂמָמַית, semamith of Bochart, would find an appropriate location. To these we add the Chameleons proper; and then follows the Scincus (in antiquity the name of Varanus arenarius), among which Lacerta scincus, Linn., or Scincus officinalis, is the El-adda of the Arabs, figured by Bruce, and well known in the old pharmacy of Europe. S. Cyprius, or Lacerta Cyprius scincoides, a large greenish species, marked with a pale line on each flank, occurs also; and a third, Scincus variegatus or ocillatus, often noticed on account of its round black spots, each marked with a pale streak, and commonly having likewise a stripe on each flank, of a pale color. Of the species of Seps, that is, viviparous serpent-lizards, having the body of snakes, with four weak limbs, a species with only three toes on each foot, the Lacerta chalcides of Linn, appears to extend to Syria. See further details in the Penny Cyclopaedia, s.v. Varanidae; Wood, Bible Animals, page 534 sq.
From this examination, it appears probable that the generic name for the lizard among the Hebrews (being the only one thus rendered in the Auth. Version) is the לטָאָה, letaah, which, although an unclean animal, does not usually designate a poisonous species. Among the various kinds with which the East abounds, the Lacerta stellio, or starry lizard, may be selected as probably affording the best type of the scriptural terms, or at least of letaah in general, as it is the most common in Egypt and Palestine. It is covered with tubercles, and is of a gray color. It lives in the holes of walls, and under stones, and covers itself with dirt. Belon states that it sometimes attains the size of a weasel. This is said to be the lizard which infests the Pyramids, and in other countries where it is found, harbors in the crevices and between the stones of old walls, feeding on flies and other winged insects. This may be the species intended by Bruce when he says, "The number I saw one day, in the great court of the Temple of the Sun at Baalbek, amounted to many thousands; the ground, the walls, the stones of the ruined buildings, were covered with them; and the various colors of which they consisted made a very extraordinary appearance, glittering under the sun, sin which they lay sleeping and basking." Lord Lindsay also describes the ruins at Jerash (the ancient Gerasa) as "absolutely alive with lizards." Near Suez, he speaks of "a species of gray lizard;" and on the ascent towards Mount Sinai, "hundreds of little lizards of the color of the sand, and called by the natives sarabandi, were darting about." In the Syrian desert, Major Skinner says, "The ground is teeming with lizards; the sun seems to draw them from the earth, for sometimes, when I have fixed my eye upon one spot, I have fancied that the sands were getting into life, so many of these creatures at once crept from their holes." Wilkinson says, "In Egypt, of the lizard tribe, none but the crocodile seems to have been sacred. Those which occur in the hieroglyphics are not emblematical of the gods, nor connected with religion." SEE SNAIL.