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Horse-Leech

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(לֲוּקָה, alukah'; Sept. βδέλλα, Vulg. sanguisuga, A.V. some eds. as two words, "horse leech") occurs once only, viz. Proverbs 30:15, "The horseleech hath two daughters, crying, Give, give." Although the Hebrew word is translated leech in nearly all the versions, there has been much dispute whether that is its proper meaning. Against the received translation, it has been urged that, upon an examination of the context in which it occurs, the introduction of the leech seems strange; that it is impossible to understand what is meant by its "two daughters," or three, as the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions assign to it; and that, instead of the incessant craving apparently attributed to it, the leech drops off when filled. In order to evade these difficulties, it has been attempted, but in vain, to connect the passage either with the preceding or subsequent verse. It has also been attempted to give a different sense to the Hebrew word. But as it occurs nowhere besides in Scripture, and as the root from which it would seem to be derived is never used as a verb, no assistance can be obtained from the Scriptures themselves in this investigation. Recourse is therefore had to the Arabic. The following is the line of criticism pursued by the learned Bochart (Hierozoicon, ed. Rosenmü ller, 3, 785, etc.). The Arabic word for leech is alahkah, which is derived from a verb signifying to hang or to adhere to. But the Hebrew word, alukah, he would derive from another Arabic root, aluk, which means "fate, heavy misfortune, or impending calamity;" and hence he infers that allukah properly means destiny, and particularly the necessity of dying which attaches to every mall by the decree of God. He urges that it is not strange that offspring should be ascribed to this divine appointment, since, in Proverbs 27, offspring is attributed to time, a day" Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Now the Hebrews call events "the children of time." We also speak of "the womb of time." He cites Proverbs 27:20, as a parallel passage; "Hell (sheol) and the grave are never full." Hence he supposes that sheol and the grave are the two daughters of Alukah or Destiny; each cries "give" at the same moment the former asks for the soul, and the latter for the body of man in death; both are insatiable, for both involve all mankind in one common ruin. He further thinks that both these are called daughters, because each of the words is of the feminine or, at most, of the common gender; and in the 16th verse, the grave (sheol) is specified as one of the "things that are never satisfied." In further confirmation of this view, Bochart cites rabbinical writers, who state that by the word alukah, which occurs in the Chaldee paraphrase on the Psalms, they understand destiny to be signified; and also remark that it has two daughters Eden and Gehenna, Paradise and Hell the former of whom never has enough of the souls of the righteous, the latter of, the souls of the wicked. (See also Alb. Schultens, Comment. ad loc.).

In behalf of the received translation, it is urged that it is scarcely credible that all the ancient translators should have confounded alukah with alakah; that it is peculiarly unlikely that this should have been the case with the Septuagint translator of the book of Proverbs, because it is believed that "this ranks next to the translation of the Pentateuch for ability and fidelity of execution;" and that the author of it must have been well skilled in the two languages (Horne's Introduction, 2, 43 ed. 1828). It is further pleaded that the application of Arabic analogies to Hebrew words is not decisive; and finally, that the theory proposed by Bochart is not essential to the elucidation of the passage. In the preceding verse the writer (not Solomon see Proverbs 27:1) speaks of "a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw-teeth as knives to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men;" and then, after the abrupt and picturesque style of the East, especially in their proverbs, which is nowhere more vividly exemplified than in this whole chapter, the leech is introduced as an illustration of the covetousness of such persons, and of the two distinguishing vices of which it is the parent, avarice and cruelty. May not also the "two daughters of the leech, crying, Give, give," be a figurative description of the two lips of the creature (for these it has, and perfectly formed), which are a part of its very complicated mouth? It certainly is agreeable to the Hebrew style to call the offspring of inanimate things daughters, for so branches are called daughters of trees (Genesis 49:22, margin). A similar use of the word is found in Ecclesiastes 12:4, "All the daughters of music shall be brought low," meaning the lips, front teeth, and other parts of the mouth. It is well remarked by Prof. Paxton that "this figurative application of the entire genus is sufficient to justify the interpretation. The leech, as a symbol in use among rulers of every class and in all ages, for avarice, rapine, plunder, rapacity, and even assiduity, is too well known to need illustration" (see Plautus, Epidic. art. 2; Cicero, ad Attic.; Horace, Ars. Poet. 476; Theocritus, Pharmaceut.; etc.). In confirmation of this view, Prof. Stuart remarks (Comment. ad loc.), "The Arabians have the same word, and in the Camû s, their standard dictionary, it is defined by another Arabic word, viz. Ghouï. This latter the Camû s again defines as meaning, (1) Calamity, (2) Forestdevil, (3) Adaemon man-eating and insatiable. The Arabians, down to the present hour, maintain that it is often met with in the forests of Arabia, and they stand in great terror of it when entering a thick woods. (See Lane's Modern Egyptians, 1, 344.) The Syrians had a like superstition, but, like the Hebrews, they more generally named the sprite lilith. In Isaiah 35:14, this last word occurs (Auth. Version screech-owl), and it is amply and finely illustrated by Gesenius (Comment. ad loc.). In like manner, Western superstition is full of spokes, hobgoblins, elves, imps, and vampires; all. especially the last of which, are essentially insatiable, blood sucking specters." (See also Gesenius, Thesaur. Heb. p, 1038.) (See SPECTER).

There is, then, little doubt that alukah denotes some species of leech, or, rather, is the generic term for any blood-sucking annelid, such as Hirudo (the medicine leech), Haemopis (the horse-leech), Limnatis, Trochetia and Aulastoma, if all these genera are found in the marshes and pools of the Bible-lands. The leech of bloodsucker belongs to the genus vermes, order intestinata, Limn. It is viviparous, brings forth only one offspring at a time, and the genus contains many species "The horse-leech" is properly a species of leech discarded for medical purposes on account of the coarseness of its bite. There is no ground for the distinction of species made in the English Bible. The valuable use of the leech (Hirudo) in medicine, though undoubtedly known to Pliny and the later Roman writers, was in all probability unknown to the ancient Orientals; still they were doubtless acquainted with the fact that leeches of the above-named genus would attach themselves to the skin of persons going barefoot in ponds; and they also were probably cognizant of the propensity horse-leeches (Haemopis) have of entering the mouth and nostrils of cattle, as they drink from the waters frequented by these pests, which are common enough in Palestine and Syria. The use which, from its thirst for blood, we make of the leech, being unknown to the ancient Orientals, as it is unknown in the East at the present day, it is there spoken of with feelings of horror and aversion, particularly as it causes the destruction of valuable animals by fastening under their tongues when they come to drink. The lake called Birket er-Ram, the ancient Phiala, about three hours from Banias, is said to be so crowded with leeches that a man can gather 6000 or even 8000 in a day, while the fountain at Banias is not infested by a single leech.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Horse-Leech'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/horse-leech.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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