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Clean Shrimp?

Are Shrimp, Lobster, and Crawdad Clean?

9 These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers-- that you may eat.

10 But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.

11 They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.

12 Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales-- that shall be an abomination to you. (Leviticus 11:9-12; see also Deuteronomy 14:9-10)

I. Clean Shrimp?

Shrimp, lobsters, and crawdads clearly have a tail fin. Moreover, their pleopods1 might be considered fins as well, as one writer explains,

Under the abdomen, there are appendages resembling small fins. (

And, they do swim with these swimmerets (pleopods). Moreover, the word translated “fins” in Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14 is actually in the singular, סְנַפִּיר (senapiyr).2

The term “scales” is likewise in the singular, קַשְׂקֶשֶׂת (qasqeset). Can the back side of a shrimp, lobster, or crawdad be considered scales?

This same term is used elsewhere for Goliath's body armor.

Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. (1 Samuel 17:4-5 NAS)3

Goliath's armor was of the “scales” type. It's the same Hebrew word as in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 for “scales,” except in 1 Samuel 17 it is in the plural, קַשְׂקַשִּׂים (qasqassiym). In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, it is in the singular, קַשְׂקֶשֶׂת (qasqeset).

So, we have the same term used for Goliath's armor of scales.4 Can shrimp, lobster, or crawdad abdominal plates likewise be considered scale armor?

II. More Scales

Qasqeset (קַשְׂקֶשֶׂת) is also found in only one other verse in the Hebrew Bible, and that is Ezekiel 29:4.

But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales.5 (Ezekiel 29:4)

The context of this verse is comparing Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to a “great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers.”

Speak, and say, “Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said, “My River is my own; I have made it for myself.”' (Ezekiel 29:3)

This “monster” is a “dragon” in the KJV.6 But, the KJV translates this same term “whale” just a few chapters later.

Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers. (Ezekiel 32:2 KJV)

What the KJV translates in Ezekiel 29:3 as “dragon” and in Ezekiel 32:2 as “whale” is the same Hebrew term in both, תַּנִּים (tanniym). It is very close to a term for serpent,” תַּנִּין (tanniyn).7 Only the last letter is different. Some consider these terms to be speaking of the same animal,8 but that spelling in Ezekiel is only found in those two verses.

Leviathan, the dragon of Job 41, is called תַּנִּין (tanniyn), “the dragon9 that is in the sea” (KJV) in Isaiah 27:1, and he is said to have “scales.”

His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal (Job 41:15).

But these “scales” are a different Hebrew term than those in Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14. These scales are מָגִנִּים (mâginniym) which is a term used elsewhere for “shields” of war (e.g. 1 Kings 10:17 [2x]; 2 Chronicles 26:14).10

Is Leviathan11 clean? There is no record of him having a fin. Nonetheless, God fed him to people.

You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents12 in the waters. You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalm 74:13-14)

The context is when the Lord “divided the sea.” At that point (Exodus 14:21-22),13 the law had not yet been given, which would mean all creatures, even the unclean, were not yet forbidden. The instruction on food up until the law is found in Genesis 9.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. (Genesis 9:2-3)


1The appendages on the under side of their abdomen.

2Only found in Leviticus 11:9, 10, 12; Deuteronomy 14:9-10

3See also “scale armor” in NIV; HCS; NET; ISV; GWT “coat of armor scales”; Jubilee 2000 “coat of mail of scales”; Douay-Rheims “coat of mail with scales”; Darby “corselet of scales”; YLT “scaled coat of mail.”

4The word translated “armor,” שִׁרְיוֹן (shiryon), is also found in 1 Samuel 17:38; 1 Kings 22:34; 2 Chronicles 18:33; 26:14; Nehemiah 4:10; and Isaiah 59:17 for body armor.

5to your scales” in the Hebrew is בְּקַשְׂקְשֹׂתֶיךָ (beqasqesoteychâ), plural noun with a prepositional prefix and a pronominal suffix.

6See also “dragon” in ESV, Jubilee, Douay-Rheims, ERV, Webster's, YLT. For “monster” see NKJV, NAS, NIV, HCS, NET, Darby, WEB.

7Found also in Genesis 1:21 “sea creatures” (NKJV), “whales” (KJV), “sea monsters” (NAS); Exodus 7:9-10, 12 “serpent(s)”; Deuteronomy 32:33 “serpents” (NKJV; NAS), “dragons” (KJV); Job 7:12 “sea serpent” (NKJV, NAS), “whale” (KJV); Psalm 73:12 “sea serpents” (NKJV), “dragons” (KJV), “sea monsters” (NAS); Psalm 91:13 “serpent” (NKJV, NAS), “dragon” (KJV); Psalm 148:7 “sea creatures” (NKJV), “dragons” (KJV), “sea monsters” (NAS); Isaiah 27:1 “reptile” (NKJV), “dragon” (NAS); 51:9 “serpent” (NKJV), “dragon” (KJV, NAS); Jeremiah 51:34 “monster” (NKJV, NAS), “dragon” (KJV).

8The Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon p. 1072c marks the spelling as erroneous.

9NAS, NLT, ESV, ISV, Jubilee, ERV, Webster's, WEB, YLT “dragon”; NKJV “reptile”; Douay-Rheims “whale”; NIV, HCS, NET, Darby “monster”

10Found also for “shield” in Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29; Judges 5:8; 2 Samuel 1:21 (2x); 22:3, 31, 36; 1 Kings 14:26-27; 2 Kings 19:32; 1 Chronicles 5:18; 2 Chronicles 9:16 (2x); 12:9-10; 14:8; 17:17; 23:9; 32:5, 27; Nehemiah 4:10; Job 15:26; Psalm 3:3; 7:10 (NAS “shield”; KJV, NKJV “defence”); 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; 33:20; 35:2; 47:9; 59:11; 76:3; 84:9, 11; 89:18; 115:9-11; 119:114; 144:2; Proverbs 2:7; 30:5; Song of Solomon 4:4; Isaiah 21:5; 22:6; 37:33; Jeremiah 46:3, 9; Ezekiel 23:24; 27:10; 38:4-5; 39:9; Nahum 2:3. See also Proverbs 6:11; 24:34 “like an armed man כְּאִישׁ מָגֵן (ke'iysh mâgên) more literally, “like a man of shield.” See also Hosea 4:18 KJV, NKJV, NAS (etc.) “her rulers מָגִנֶּיהָ (mâginneyhâ) more literally, “her shields”; YLT “her protectors.”

11Note further the description of Leviathan in Job 41:30:

His undersides are like sharp potsherds; He spreads pointed marks in the mire. (Job 41:30 NKJ)

12NKJV “sea serpents” תַנִּינִים (tanniyniym); KJV “dragons”; NAS “sea monsters

13 And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea. (Exodus 15:8)

congealed קָפְאוּ (qâph'u) found also in Job 10:10 “curdle me like cheese”; Zephaniah 1:12 “settled”; Zechariah 14:6 “dense” YLT; “precious ones will be dense”, a more literal translation of יְקָרוֹת יִקְפְּאוּן (yeqârot yiqpe'un).

He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; and He made the waters stand up like a heap. (Psalm 78:13)

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