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Birds Of The Bible
by Wayne Blank
Nearly 400 different kinds of birds can be found in the region of Israel, of which about 25 are found only in Israel. Birds are mentioned widely throughout The Bible, with literal and metaphorical usage. Some of the most common -
Doves are harmless, peaceful birds which came to be used as a symbol of The Holy Spirit: "And when Jesus was baptized [see Baptism and John The Baptist], He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him" (Matthew 3:16 RSV)
A hen with her eggs was used as a metaphor for God's concern for His unrepentant people: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matthew 23:37 RSV)
Roosters are known for their crowing, which was said to have been so punctual that the Roman troops (see Roman Legions) used it to signal the change of the guard. Jesus Christ used the well-known sound of the cock crowing to predict that Peter would temporarily deny even knowing Him on The Fateful Night: "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times." (Mark 14:29-30 RSV)
The eagle was the largest bird in Israel, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. God used an eagle metaphorically for His bringing the Israelites out of slavery in the Exodus: "And Moses went up to God, and The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself." (Exodus 19:3-4 RSV)
The raven was the first bird that Noah sent out from the ark: "At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made, and sent forth a raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth." (Genesis 8:6-7 RSV) (see The Flood and How Big Was Noah's Ark?)
Solomon is believed to have imported peacocks from India and Sri Lanka for his palace.
Hawks are very fast-flying hunters, with sharp claws and beaks. "Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads his wings toward the south?" (Job 39:26 RSV)
Owls are swift and silent night-time hunters of rodents and small animals. The eerie sound of the owl's "hoot" was used as a metaphor for loneliness: "I am like a vulture of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake, I am like a lonely bird on the housetop." (Psalm 102:6-7 RSV)
Quail are ground-dwelling birds that were known to migrate in vast numbers: "And there went forth a wind from The Lord, and it brought quails from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth. And the people rose all that day, and all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quails; he who gathered least gathered ten homers; and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp." (Numbers 11:31-32 RSV)
Various Bible versions often translate the original Scriptures differently e.g. one version may use "kite," while another may use "falcon." All of these species are mentioned -
Fact Finder: How were birds designated as "clean" or "unclean"?
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. Which book of the Bible follows Joshua?
2. Which book of the Bible follows Ezra?
3. Which book of the Bible follows Isaiah?
4. Which book of the Bible follows Daniel?
5. Which book of the Bible follows Jonah?
6. Which book of the Bible follows Acts?
7. Which book of the Bible follows Galatians?
8. Which book of the Bible follows Titus?
9. Which book of the Bible follows Hebrews?
10. Which book of the Bible follows Jude?
For the answers to this May 9 2000 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page