is the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of the Heb. תַּנשֶׁמֶת, tinshe'meth, in Le 11:30, where, however, it probably signifies some species of the lizard tribe; but in Le 11:18; De 14:16, it is rendered "swan," where it evidently refers to some kind of bird. It thus appears to denote two very different kinds of animal, but in neither case the mole. SEE CHAMELEON; SEE SWAN. The mole is thought to be represented by the Heb. חֹלֶד, cho'led, rendered "weasel" in Le 11:29. This is an animal very abundant in Palestine. SEE WEASEL. The word elsewhere occurs only in the difficult expression, Isa 2:20, לִחפֹּר פֵּרוֹת, lachphor' peroth' (if regarded as two words, perhaps, to the hole of the rats or burrowers, Sept. τοῖς ματαίοις,Vulg. talpas, Auth. Vers. "to the moles"), which Gesenius (Comment. ad loc.) thinks should be pointed as one word, לִחֲפִרפֵּרוֹה, lachapharperoth', indicating an animal, חֲפִרפֵּרָה, chapharperah', so called from digging into the walls of houses, probably the rat, a creature common in every habitable part of the world.
Many scholars "consider the ἀσπάλαξ of the Greeks to be the creature intended by at least the first of the above Hebrew words. Whether this was what modern zoologists would call a mole is, however, rather doubtful Aristotle, in his history of the aspalax, evidently derived from personal and careful examination, describes it as absolutely blind. Now the eyes of our common mole (Talpa Europea), though they are very minute, and so imbedded in the fur as to be readily overlooked by a cursory examiner, are distinctly open, and could not escape the detection of so accurate a physiologist as Aristotle Hence it has been supposed that the aspalax could not have been a Talpa; and another animal has been found to inhabit the east of Europe and west of Asia, which, while possessing much of the form, and even the peculiar structure of the moles, together with their burrowing powers, is absolutely and totally void of sight, the eyes, which are rudimentary specks, being completely covered by the skin of the face, which is quite imperforate. For a while it seemed certain that this was the creature intended; and accordingly the genus was technically named Aspalax by Olivier, the species receiving the appellation of typhlus.. But still more recently a species of true mole, now called Talpa cceca, has been discovered inhabiting Greece, in which the eves are as minute, and as useless, because as completely covered by the skin, as in the aspalax. As the aspalax is larger and more conspicuous than the blind talpa, which, moreover, appears to be rare, on the assumption that the former is the tinshemeth we here devote a few words to its appearance and habits. It belongs to the family Muridce among the Rodents, and is in fact a rat under the guise of a mole. Hence it has been called the mole-rat. The animal is from eight inches to a foot in length, with a great round head, no external ears or eyes, the nostrils opening beneath, the limbs very short, with strong nails formed for digging; the body clothed with a short, thick, soft fur of an ashy hue, and the naked skin of the muzzle, white. It is particularly abundant in the south of Russia, excavating the surface of the vast steppes or level plains, and forming long burrows beneath the turf, with many lateral ramifications. The object of its pursuit is not earthworms or subterraneous larvae, which form. the prey of the true mole; for the mole- rat is exclusively a vegetable feeder, and it drives its runs solely for bulbs and roots, especially for the fleshy root of an umbelliferous plant, the chorophyllum. At frequent intervals the burrow comes to the surface of the soil, and here hillocks are cast up a couple of yards in circumference, and of proportionate height. Altogether its work closely imitates that of the mole, but on a somewhat larger scale. It is said to work energetically and rapidly, and on the approach of an enemy, of which it is warned probably by an acute sense of smell, it instantly turns downward and penetrates the earth perpendicularly. It is said to devour corn, and to gather large quantities, which it lays up in its deeper galleries for winter supply, in this respect agreeing with many other of the Muridce. Like the mole, it can proceed forward or backward in its burrow with equal celerity. During the early hours of the day a pair may often be seen near the entrance of a hole, basking in the sun, but instantly disappearing on alarm. The least noise excites it; though it cannot see, it lifts its head to listen, in a menacing attitude, and if its retreat is cut off, it becomes animated with rage and ferocity, snorting and gnashing its teeth, and biting severely, yet uttering no cry, even when wounded. The superstitious peasants of the Ukraine believe that miraculous healing powers are communicated to the hand which has suffocated one of these creatures. The specimens which have been brought from Syria are smaller, and may possibly possess specific distinctness. Hasselquist testifies to their abundance on the plains of Sharon. He had never seen any ground so cast up by moles as in the region between Ramah and Jaffa. The molehills were scarcely a yard apart (Trav., page 120).
"The other term, chaphorperoth, rendered 'moles' in Isa 2:20, is rather a descriptive periphrase than an appellative. It might be literally rendered 'the digholes.' The Sept. has adopted a different construction: 'his idols... which he had made for the purpose of bowing down to the vanities, to the bats.' Perhaps the words may be taken generically, of any creatures which burrow in ruined and desolate places. Travellers describe the ruins of Babylon 'as perforated throughout with cavities which are inhabited by doleful creatures.' Buckingham speaks of the 'dens of wild beasts,' the 'quantities of porcupine quills' in the cavities, and the numbers of bats and owls (Trav. 2:30). 'These souterrains,' observes Sir Robert Ker Porter, 'are now the refuge of jackals and other savage animals' (Trav. 2:342). 'The mound,' says major Keppel, 'was full of large holes... strewed with the carcasses and skeletons of animals recently killed' (Nar. 1:180). The total and final degradation of idols, and their removal out of sight and remembrance, we may understand by the phrases employed."