A saurian or lacertilian reptile. About forty species and twenty-eight genera of lizards found in Palestine have been enumerated, the most common of which are the green lizard (Lacerta viridis) and its varieties, and the wall-lizard belonging to the genus Zootoca. It is therefore generally agreed that besides "leṭa'ah," traditionally rendered by "lizard," the following terms, enumerated among the "creeping things that creep upon the earth" (Lev. xi. 29 et seq.), also denote some kinds of lizard: "zab" (Arabic, "ḍabb"), identified with the Uromastix spinipes (A. V. "tortoise"; R. V. "great lizard"); "anaḳah" with the gecko, of which six species are found in Palestine (A. V. "ferret"; R. V. "gecko"; see Ferret); "koaḥ" (Vulgate and Ḳimḥi, "stellio") with the monitor (A. V. "chameleon"; R. V. "land-crocodile; see Chameleon); "ḥomeṭ" with the sand-lizard (A. V. "snail"; R. V. "sand-lizard"); "tinshemet," by reason of the etymology of the name (= "breathing," "blowing"), with the chameleon (A. V. "mole"; R. V. "chameleon"; see Chameleon); "semamit" (Prov. xxx. 28), the same word which the Targum Yerushalmi uses for "leṭa'ah," and the Samaritan version for "anaḳah," the meaning of the passage being that the lizard may be held in the hand with impunity (A. V. "spider"; R. V. "lizard").
In the Talmud "leṭa'ah" is the general term for the Lacertilia. It is described as having a thick but soft and separable skin (Shab. 107a, b; Ḥul. 122a), and its eggs have the white and yolk unseparated ('Ab. Zarah 40a [Rashi]). A case of resuscitation of an apparently dead lizard by pouring cold water on it is related in Pes. 88b. In Shab. 77b the semamit is mentioned as inspiring terror in the scorpion and also as serving as a cure for its bite, with which may be compared Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," xxix. 4, 29. In Sanh. 103b it is related that King Amon, after abolishing the Temple service, placed a semamit upon the altar. The chameleon is considered to be intended by "zeḳita" in Shab. 108b. This may be connected with "ziḳa" (= "wind"), meaning properly "the windy," the ancients believing the chameleon to live on air (comp. Pliny, l.c. viii. 33, 35).
- Tristram, Nat. Hist. pp. 266 et seq.;
- L. Lewysohn, Z. T. pp. 221 et seq.