is the representative in the A.V. of two Hebrew words, which are certainly the names of very different animals.
1. Chomet (חֹמֶט; Sept. σαύρα; Vulg. lacerta) occurs only as the name of some unclean animal in Le 11:30. The Sept. and Vulg. understand some kind of lizard by the term; the Arabic versions of Erpenius and Saadias give the chameleon as the animal intended. The Veneto-Greek and the rabbins, with whom agrees the A.V., render the Heb. term by "snail." Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 500) has endeavored to show that a species of small sand lizard, called chulaca by the Arabs, is denoted; but his argument rests entirely upon some supposed etymological foundation. The word chomet in Chaldee is said to signify "to bow down," and therefore "suggests the Lacerta stellio, which is noted for bowing its head, insomuch that the followers of Mohammed kill it, because they say it mimics them in the mode of repeating their prayers. It is about a foot in length, and of an olive color shaded with black" (Kitto, Pict. Bib. ad loc.). The lizard referred to appears to be the skink (Scincus officinalis), which is very abundant throughout Northern Africa, Arabia, and Syria. MM. Dumeril and Bibron, in their elaborate work on reptiles, give us the following information of the species: "M. Lefebvre, who collected several of these animals during his excursion to the oasis of Barhriah, has communicated to us several observations on the habits of this species which we cannot omit. According to this zealous entomologist, the skink is found on hillocks of fine light sand, which the south wind accumulates at the bottom of hedges that border on cultivated grounds, and around the roots of tamarisk trees, which grow on the confines of the desert. It may be there seen basking in the rays of the sun, when the heat is intense, and, from time to time, giving chase to beetles and other insects which happen to pass near it. It runs with considerable rapidity, and when alarmed it buries itself in the sand with singular quickness, burrowing in a few moments a gallery of many feet in depth. When caught it struggles to escape, but neither attempts to bite nor to defend itself with its claws." Col.
H. Smith, without specifying his reasons, takes the chomet to be the true lizard (that is, we presume, the genus Lacerta) as restricted in modern herpetology "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." Of these lord Lindsay says, speaking of his approach to Sinai, "hundreds of little lizards, of the color of the sand, and called by the natives sarabandi, were darting about." In the present imperfect state of our acquaintance with the reptiles of Western Asia, it is perhaps impossible to determine with satisfaction the actual species intended by some of the ancient Hebrew names, That the chomet was some one or other of the commoner kinds there can be little doubt, and this is all we can venture to say. Lizards of many sorts abound in these lands; they delight in a burning sun, in a dry sandy soil, in stony deserts, in ruined edifices. Moore's picture of
"Gay lizards glitt'ring on the walls Of ruin'd fanes, busy and bright, As they were all alive with light,"
is intensely true, and highly characteristic of the sun-scorched East. All travelers are struck with this element of the scene. Major Skinner says of the Syrian desert, "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." Lord Lindsay describes the ruins at Jerash as "absolutely alive with lizards." Bruce says, "I am positive that I can say without exaggeration that the number I saw one day in the great court of the Temple of the Sun at Baalbec 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, in which they lay sleeping and basking." SEE LIZARD.
2. Shablul (שִׁבלוּל; Sept. κηρός; Aq. ἔντερον; Sym. χόριον; Vulg. cera) occurs only in Ps 58:9 (8, A.V.): "As a shablul which melteth let [the wicked] pass away." There are various opinions as to the meaning of this word, the most curious, perhaps, being that of Symmachus. The Sept. reads "melted wax," similarly the Vulg. The rendering of the A.V. ("snail") is supported by the authority of many of the Jewish doctors, and is probably correct. The Chaldee Paraphr. explains shablul by thiblala (תיבללא), i.e. "a snail or a slug," which was supposed by the Jews to consume away and die by reason of its constantly emitting slime as it crawls along. See Schol. ad Gem. Moed Katon, . fol. 6 B, as quoted by Bochart (Hieroz. 3, 560) and Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 212). Snails and slugs are not very common in countries so dry in summer as Palestine. Hence, perhaps, the fact that there is only one allusion to them in Scripture, where the figure seems to be more significant if understood of snails without shells, i.e. slugs, rather than shell snails, though true of both. The name itself, shablul, from a verb signifying "to smear" or "soil," has reference to the slime and moisture of this animal (like λείμαξ, from λείβω). Probably some species of slug (Limax) is intended which differs from the snails proper (Helix) in being unprotected by an external shell. The slugs delight in dampness, and hence dewy nights and rainy weather are the seasons of their activity. Over a dry surface they cannot crawl without pouring out that copious effusion of mucus which constitutes their shining trail; and every one must have seen some miserable slug which, roving over a stone pavement in the dewy night, has been overtaken by the morning sun. The absorbent surface rapidly becomes dry; in vain the wretched creature pours out its slimy secretion, the sun is drying up its moisture, which at every moment becomes less and less copious with the demands made upon it, and it "melts away as it goes." We possess no information respecting the pulmoniferous mollusca of Palestine. They do not present many attractions to general travelers, and doubtless are rarely seen. In so dry a country probably the species are few; and it is only in situations permanently humid, and during the night, that they would be likely to occur, at least in any abundance.