The rendering of the Hebrew (zemer), both in the A. V. and in the R. V., probably on the authority of Bochart ("Hierozoicon," iii. ch. xxi.). It must, however, be discarded, for the reason that the chamois is exclusively a European animal. The zemer can not be identified with precision. The word occurs only once (Deut. xiv. 5); and it has no parallel in the cognate languages. The versions of the Bible are at variance as to its translation. The Septuagint and the Vulgate, followed by the Coptic, have "camelopard" or "giraffe"—apparently a mere guess, and not a happy one considering the remoteness of the home of that animal from Palestine. The Peshiṭta translates "zemer" by arna, a word which does not occur elsewhere in Syriac literature; Bar-Bahlul renders it "mountain-sheep," on the authority of Gregory of Nyssa and Bar-Serushway; while BarAli (ed. Hoffmann, gloss 1518) has althaital, "wild goat," or al-wa'il, "mountain-sheep." Both the thaital and the wa'il belong to the wild goats (steinböke, bouquetins; see Hommel, "Die Namen der Saügethiere," pp. 280, 286). The rendering "elk" (Luther) is to be rejected for the same reason as "camelopard" or "chamois."
Modern naturalists generally agree that the zemer must have been a kind of wild sheep, of the same type as the ammotragus, the aroui of the Arabs which is represented on the Egyptian monuments and is still common in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Atlas range.
- A. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible;
- J. G. Wood, Bible Animals;
- S. Bochart, Hierozoicon;
- F. Hommel, Die Namen der Säugethiere, Leipsic, 1879.