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Owls

Owls are nocturnal (i.e. active at night, the reason for "nature" giving them relatively large eyes for greater night vision) birds of prey, related to nighthawks and whippoorwills. Owls are unique among birds of prey in that they are silent in flight, made possible by the velvet-like texture of their flight feathers - their prey seldom sees, or hears, the owl coming until it's too late. Owls nest widely, in buildings, hollow spaces in trees, and in the case of some varieties, in holes in the ground.

Owl Owls are classified among the "unclean" birds, and were not, as specified by God, intended to be eaten by the Israelites, or anyone else. As a general rule, meat or carrion-eating birds were not to be eaten, while grain-eating birds (e.g. chickens) were acceptable for food (see Clean and Unclean):

"And these you shall have in abomination among the birds, they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the kite, the falcon according to its kind, every raven according to its kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk according to its kind, the owl, the cormorant, the ibis, the water hen, the pelican, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron according to its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat." (Leviticus 11:13-19 RSV)

Due to their natural behavior, and their mournful and eerie-sounding midnight hoot or screech, owls were symbolic, and literal, inhabitants of desolate places:

"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)

"Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plummet of chaos over its nobles. They shall name it No Kingdom There, and all its princes shall be nothing. Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, an abode for ostriches. And wild beasts shall meet with hyenas, the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, there shall the night hag alight, and find for herself a resting place. There shall the owl nest and lay and hatch and gather her young in her shadow; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, each one with her mate. Seek and read from the book of The Lord: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of The Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them." (Isaiah 34:10-16 RSV)

Fact Finder: What other kinds of birds can be found in the Scriptures?
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This Week's Bible Quiz

1. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter E

2. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter A

3. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter D

4. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter G

5. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter H

6. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter L

7. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter M

8. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter N

9. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter R

10. Name 2 books of the Bible that begin with the letter Z

For the answers to this July 23 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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