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ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE The Bible shows a vital interest in every aspect of nature. However, it tends to look upon nature more in terms of how mankind experiences it than in terms of scientific interest. Furthermore, the Bible frequently draws spiritual lessons from its observations. God created all things; He is also concerned for His creation. Not even a common sparrow falls to the ground without His notice (Matt. 10#29). Scores of specific animals are named in the Bible. But many of these names are simply the educated guesses of translators. In some cases, the meaning is obvious to translators, and in others the passage gives helpful clues. But other passages offer no clue at all to which specific animals are intended. In those cases, the meaning of animal names has been lost. This problem is complicated by the fact that the animal life of Palestine has changed over the centuries. One naturalist claimed that it was impossible that certain passages of Scripture could really mean lion; no lions lived in the Holy Land with which he was familiar. But, as is true in many areas of the world, some animals of the biblical world have since become extinct. To make matters even more complicated, over the centuries the words used to describe certain animals have changed. Scholars who have done much work in the language of the Bible and have studied the evidence from archaeology are not always clear or final in their conclusions. When a single term has as many as ten possible meanings, it is no wonder that different names are given for the same animals in different translations of the Bible. The Bible classifies animals quite broadly. Sometimes its terms are unfamiliar to modern ears. For instance, (Genesis 1#28) divides animal life into fish fowl, and living things. The words flesh and beast often imply animal life in general. Beast also refers to wildlife, in contrast to cattle, which means the domesticated animals (sheep, goats, asses, and pigs, as well as cows and oxen). Fowl means all bird life, not just domesticated fowl. Since (Genesis 1#20) obviously refers to fish, whales probably indicates larger sea creatures. Creeping things (swarming things) includes reptiles, amphibians, insects, and small animals that scamper around, such as mice. The most basic division of animal life-- clean and unclean-- was in effect very early in Israel's history. Clean animals, the Jews believed, were acceptable to God for sacrifices and were thus permitted as food. All others were considered unclean, or unacceptable for sacrificing or eating. Distinguishing between clean and unclean animals was the responsibility of the priest (Lev. 11#47). Guidelines for this procedure were given in detail in (Leviticus 11). Of the larger mammals, God said, "Whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud-- that you may eat" (Lev. 11#3). Birds were an important source of food; so the few unclean ones were listed. These were mostly scavenger birds that ate flesh. Though neighboring peoples ate lizards, snakes, and turtles, Jews considered all reptiles unclean. Fish with scales and fins were clean; but shellfish, eels, and sharks were unclean. Most insects were unclean with the exception of locusts, grasshoppers, and some beetles, which could be eaten. Early Christians inherited this historic concern of the Hebrew people with clean and unclean animals. The Christians' concern was whether meat bought in the marketplace might have come from Roman sacrifices. Paul counseled them that nothing was "unclean of itself" (Rom. 14#14). Peter, a devout Jew who would not think of eating an unclean animal, was instructed to do so in a vision (Acts 10). He interpreted the angel's message, "What God has cleansed you must not call common," as a call to carry the message of the gospel to non-jewish nations. Almost since the Fall of man, people sacrificed animals to God. The first biblical mention of this practice is Abel's offering of a lamb (Gen. 4#4). Animal sacrifice was an essential part of Jewish worship until the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A. D. 70. Forced to abandon the practice, Jews replaced it with the study of the Law and fellowship and worship in synagogues. Moses spelled out strict rules for animal sacrifice. Many of these guidelines are found in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. Only clean animals were acceptable, and they had to be at least eight days old, with no blemishes or flaws. A bullock, kid, or lamb was the usual offering. In some cases, older animals, doves, or pigeons were brought. A very poor man, who could not afford even a bird, might offer a measure of fine flour in its place. Although they practiced animal sacrifice, the Jewish people believed in humane treatment of their animals. The Old Testament contains many warnings against mistreating livestock. The Law itself provided that animals should receive a day of rest during the week, along with their masters. Israel also had a distinctive attitude toward animals. Unlike their neighbors, they did not worship animals. Egypt, for instance, considered the bull and cat sacred, and Greece worshiped the serpent. It was common for a nation of the ancient world to be represented by an animal on its coins. But the prohibition against making graven images prevented this practice in the nation of Israel. Many Old Testament writers were students of nature, quick to draw parallels between animal and human behavior. In the creation and the creatures that filled it, they saw evidence of the power of God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. The following animals are mentioned or implied in the Bible. This list is keyed to the New King James Version, with cross references from five additional popular translations-- KJV, NASB, NEB, NIV, and RSV. Animals in this listing include mammals, insects, and reptiles. Addax (see Antelope). Adder (see Snake). Ant. Approximately 100 species of ants live in the Holy Land. Harvester ants are the ones meant in (Proverbs 6#6-8) and (30#25). These tiny insects settle near grain fields, carrying seed after seed into their private storehouses. In cold weather these ants cluster together and hibernate. When winter comes, they have food stored up until the next harvest. God has provided ants with such amazing instincts that they appear to reason and plan ahead. If stored grain gets wet, they haul it out into the sun to dry. Their hard work was considered a worthy example for human beings by the writer of Proverbs (Prov. 6#6-8; 30#25). Antelope. Antelope are cud-chewing, hollow horned animals related to goats. Early European Bible translators were not acquainted with antelope, which roam the grassy plains and forests of Asia and Africa; so they called the antelope deer instead. Antelope are listed among clean wild game (Deut. 14#5), and among King Solomon's table provisions (1 Kin. 4#23). When threatened, antelope flee in breathtaking leaps. So speedy were they that hunters in Bible times sometimes needed nets to catch them (Is. 51#20). Sometimes a grazing herd of antelope is joined by other animals that profit from their ability to spot an enemy or smell water at a great distance. Various Bible translations mention three types of antelopes. The addax is a large, light-colored antelope with spiral horns. The oryx is a large African antelope, whose long horns are nearly straight. Most familiar to Bible writers was the gazelle, which stands less than a yard (approximately one meter) high at the shoulders. The word gazelle is Arabic for "affectionate." Young gazelles were taken as pets. Poets made much of their dark, liquid eyes and delicate beauty. King David's soldier, Asahel, gifted with both speed and endurance, was "as fleet of foot as a wild gazelle" (2 Sam. 2#18). The woman of good works whom Peter raised to life was called Tabitha (Hebrew for gazelle), or Dorcas (Acts 9#36). The dorcas gazelle, once common, almost became extinct. Protected by the modern nation of Israel, it is now an agricultural nuisance. Ape. King Solomon brought apes from tropical and semi-tropical regions of the ancient world to Israel. Solomon's zoo probably contained a variety of apes, monkeys, and baboons (1 Kin. 10#22; 2 Chr. 9#21). Some commentators suggest that Isaiah's reference to the "satyrs" who "dance" and "cry to [their] fellow [s]" (Is. 13#21; 34#14), (KJV) would fit the dog-faced baboon honored by the Egyptians. Also see Monkey. Asp (see Snake). Ass (see Donkey). Baboon (see Ape). Badger. Only the skin of badgers is mentioned in the Bible and even this is questionable. (Exodus 26#14) and (Numbers 4#6-25) speak of the coverings for the tent of the tabernacle. The Hebrew word tachash is translated "badger skins." However, no one really knows what the Hebrews meant by this word. Other translators render it as "goatskins" (RSV), "porpoise-hides" (NEB), or "hides of sea cows" (NIV). Possibly this word did mean badgers. Coarse badger hair would certainly be a protective cushion between the fine fabrics in which the articles of worship were wrapped for travel. The KJV translates the word as "badgers" skins" in (Ezekiel 16#10), which refers to a foot covering. The RSV translates "leather." Bat. Bats are flying mammals. They are included on the list of unclean fowl (Lev. 11#19). About 15 species of bats live in the Holy Land. Most feed on insects or fruit. Bats hunt their food at night. An amazing built-in sonar system enables them to fly safely in total darkness. They sleep hanging upside down, often with their wings wrapped around them. Some species gather in caves. (Isaiah 2#20) pictures discarded idols being cast "to the moles and bats," as if to say that is where such abominations belong. Bear. In Old Testament times, bears were a threat to man and beast. They ate honey, fruit, and livestock; so they harmed both crops and herds. Bears are easily angered, and the Asian black bear is exceptionally fierce. This bear is prone to attack man, with or without provocation, as did the two female bears that mauled the boys who taunted the prophet Elisha (2 Kin. 2#24). It was a mark of David's courage that he killed a bear that stole from his flock (1 Sam. 17#34-37). A bear "robbed of her cubs" (2 Sam. 17#8) was legendary because of her fierceness. Since bears are rather clumsy, they sometimes lie in ambush, waiting for prey to come to them (Lam. 3#10). The era of peace shall arrive when, as (Isaiah 11#7) predicts, "the cow and the bear shall graze" side by side. Bee. Bees are not mentioned often in the Bible, but honey is. Honey was the major sweetening substance for primitive peoples. Beekeeping was practiced in Canaan. Indeed, the Jews spoke of the Promised Land as a region flowing with milk and honey. Honey was among the gifts Jacob sent to Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 43#11). (Ezekiel 27#17) notes that Israel marketed honey in Tyre. Bees may remind us of honey, but biblical writers saw angry bees as a picture of God's wrath (Ps. 118#12). These insects can be ferocious when disturbed or threatened. Wild bees of Palestine often choose strange hives. They may hide their honeycombs in the crannies of high rocks (Deut. 32#13). One swarm even settled in the carcass of a lion (Judg. 14#8). Beetle. Beetles fly, but they do not leap (Lev. 11#21). Crickets, which are related to locusts, both fly and leap. Some scholars contend that katydid, or locusts, are more likely the correct translations of this one biblical reference to beetles or crickets. Behemoth. Behemoth could mean elephant, crocodile, hippopotamus, water buffalo, or mythological monster. The word appears in (Job 40#15), where God humbles Job by praising two of His creations, behemoth and Leviathan. Hippopotamus is the best choice for the precise meaning of behemoth. Hippos submerge themselves in rivers and bask in cool marshes. Yet they can climb up riverbanks and hillsides, devouring vegetation. An angered hippo can bite a man in half or crush a canoe with his enormous jaws. Bittern. This bird is similar to the heron. The KJV uses "bittern" in (Isaiah 14#23; 34#11); and (Zephaniah 2#14), referring to a creature that dwells in ruined places-- a symbol of abandonment. The bittern can be found in marshes all over the world. His loud cry, hollow and drum-like, booms through the darkness while he hunts his prey. The bittern was considered an omen of desolation and a prophecy of evil. Bitterns are large birds, about two feet long, with a gift of camouflage. A bittern may freeze with his long beak tilted skyward and be overlooked among reeds swaying gently in the wind. Bitterns eat frogs, snails, worms, and small fish. Other translations of the Hebrew word for bittern are hedgehog (Is. 14#23; Zeph 2#14), (RSV) and porcupine (Is. 14#23), (NKJV; (Is. 34#11), RSV, NKJV). Black Vulture (see Osprey). Boar (see Swine). Buck (see Deer). Buffalo (see Cattle). Bull, Bullock (see Cattle). Bustard (see Porcupine). Buzzard (see Vulture). Calf (see Cattle). Camel. Although it is an ugly beast, the camel is prized in desert countries. From the time of Abraham, the Bible mentions camels frequently, mostly in lists of possessions. Large herds of camels were a sign of wealth. Jeremiah spoke of the "swift dromedary" (Jer. 2#23), a camel raised for riding and racing. Jesus talked of "blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matt. 23#24), and predicted, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matt. 19#24). Camels are bad-tempered, prone to spit and grumble when they take on a load. But they are well suited for harsh desert life. With a heavy coat as insulation, this animal perspires little; and his well-balanced system does not require much liquid. He can go for weeks or even months without water. When he does drink, he takes only enough to replace lost moisture. Each one of his three stomachs can hold 23 liters (5 gallons) of water. In the hump on his back the camel stores fat for times when food is scarce. Then the hump shrinks when his body draws on that reserve. The camel stands 20 meters (6 feet) or higher at the shoulder. He is trained to kneel on his leathery knees to take on a load. He holds his head high with what seems to be a haughty air, but he is merely peering out from under bushy eyebrows. Like his tightly closing lips and nostrils, his eyebrows protect him against desert sand storms. His tough feet are ideal for walking through sharp rocks and hot sands. The Hebrew people used camels primarily as pack animals. They were indispensable for traveling the desert routes, carrying several hundred pounds on their backs. The Jews also rode camels and milked them, although they considered camels unclean and did not eat them (Lev. 11#4). The Arabs, however, let no part of a camel go to waste. They ate camel meat and wove the soft fur into warm, durable cloth. John the Baptist was clothed in a garment of camel's hair (Matt. 3#4). The tough hide made good leather for sandals and water bags, and camel-dung chips served as fuel. Even the dried bones of camels were carved like ivory. Desert tribes rode camels to war (Judg. 7#12), and camels were seized as spoils of war. Cankerworm (see Worm). Cat. Cats were common throughout the ancient world, but they are mentioned only in the APOCRYPHA (Epistle of (Jeremiah 21)). The Hebrews may have avoided cats since the Egyptians worshiped them. The Romans made cats a symbol of liberty. Cats and mongooses were probably used to control rats and mice in places where grain was stored. Caterpillar (see Moth, Worm). Cattle. If we think of cattle as a group of cows, we must adjust our thinking when we read the Bible. The word cattle is usually a general reference to livestock (Gen. 30#32; 31#10). What we think of as cattle, the Bible calls oxen. A wild ox-- a massive, untamable beast-- is also mentioned (Job 39#9-10). The KJV calls it a unicorn. The Bible also uses many specific terms to refer to cattle: kine, for instance, the plural of cow, and beeves, the plural of beef. But then as now, a male was a bull, a female was a cow, and their offspring was a calf. Until she bore a calf, a young female was known as a heifer; the young male was a bullock. Some oxen were raised for sacrifice or prime quality meat. Rather than running with the herd, they were fed in a small enclosure. Fatling, fatted calf, fed beasts, stalled ox, fattened cattle and yearling described such well-cared-for animals. One translation even refers to buffalo (2 Sam. 6#13), (NEB), when fatling seems to be the obvious reference. A similar term, firstling, refers to the first offspring of any livestock. All firstborn males belonged to the Lord (Gen. 4#4; Ex. 13#12). Oxen were hollow-horned, divided-hoof, cud-chewing animals considered "clean" by the Jews. They needed considerable food and space because of their large size, so a person who kept many cattle was rich indeed. The pastures and grain country of Bashan, located east of the Jordan River and south of Damascus, were ideal places to raise oxen. Scripture speaks of oxen as a measure of wealth (Job 42#12), beasts of burden (1 Chr. 12#40), draft animals (Deut. 22#10), meat (Gen. 18#7), and sacrificial offerings (2 Sam. 6#13). Bulls (as opposed to work oxen) were allowed a large measure of freedom. Strong, fearsome beasts, they were often used as symbols. The BRONZE SEA in the Temple rested on the backs of 12 brass oxen-perhaps to show that Israel's strength was dedicated to the Lord (1 Kin. 7#23). Anyone who has trembled at a bully can identify with King David's frustration with his enemies, whom he compared to the "strong bulls of Bashan" (Ps. 22#12). The Old Testament showed concern for the humane treatment of oxen (Deut. 22#4) and provided legal recourse for a person wounded by an ox (Ex. 21#28-36). While in Egypt, the Hebrews were surrounded by bull worshipers. After the Exodus, they began to despair of Moses and his invisible God. So Aaron melted down their jewelry to make a visible idol, a golden calf. The people were punished severely for this idolatry, but some of their descendants fell into the same sin (Exodus 32; 1 Kin. 12#18). Chameleon (see Lizard). Chamois. The KJV has "chamois" for the goat or antelope of (Deuteronomy 14#5). The chamois ("goat antelope") of Europe never lived in Palestine. Since the Hebrews were allowed to eat this animal, it must have been very familiar in their country. It may have been a wild goat (ibex?) or a type of wild mountain sheep. Also see Sheep. Chicken (see Fowl). Cobra (see Snake). Cock (see Fowl). Cockatrice (see Snake). Colt (see Donkey; Horse). Coney (see Rock Badger). Cormorant. Both the prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah linked the cormorant or "the pelican" (NKJV) with the bittern to describe the ruin God brings in judgment upon man's proud cities (Is. 34#11; Zeph. 2#14). The cormorant (or "the fisher owl," NKJV) was listed among the few birds the Israelites were not to eat (Lev. 11#17; Deut. 14#17). Cormorants are large fish-eating birds, related to pelicans, with hooked beaks and webbed feet. They dive into the water to catch fish; they swim well; and they can stay under water for a long time. The cormorant found in Israel has a black head, yellow-circled eyes, and green highlights in its black plumage. As the prophets suggested (Is. 34#11; Zeph. 2#14), the cormorant would be an unsettling sight in the swampy pools of a ruined city. Cow (see Cattle). Crane. Cranes are the largest of several migratory birds that fly over Palestine (Jer. 8#7) in noisy flocks of thousands. Hezekiah, king of Judah, thinking he was dying, chattered and clamored "like a crane" (Is. 38#14); (swift, NIV). This must have been quite a noise. With a windpipe coiled like a french horn, cranes produce one of the loudest bird calls in the world. Cricket (see Beetle). Crocodile. The land crocodile appears as an unclean beast in the RSV rendering of (Leviticus 11#30). Many scholars assume that the crocodile is the mysterious "Leviathan" (whale, NEB) praised by Job (Job 41#1-34) and mentioned in (Psalm 74#14; 104#26); and (Isaiah 27#1). Crocodiles used to live in rivers in the Holy Land, including the Jordan, but they have now disappeared from this region. A long, heavy animal, the crocodile has a tough hide covered with overlapping scales. His eyes and nostrils are high on his head; so he can float almost totally submerged. Crocodiles are extremely dangerous, with strong jaws and sharp teeth. They ordinarily eat small animals, birds, and fish, but occasionally will attack larger animals or man. Crow (see Raven). Cuckoo. Cuckoos are insect-eating migratory birds that appear in Israel during the summer. Scholars feel that the Hebrew word was incorrectly rendered cuckow in the KJV. There is no obvious reason why the cuckoo would be considered an unclean bird (Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15). The NKJV translates "seagull." Cuckow (see Cuckoo). Deer. From early times, deer were game animals. Isaac's son Esau was "a skillful hunter" (Gen. 25#27). And it was Isaac's craving for deer meat that enabled Jacob to steal his dying father's blessing (Gen. 27). Deer were still plentiful in Palestine in Solomon's day and were served at his table (1 Kin. 4#23). Jews could eat deer because this animal "chews the cud" and "divides the hoof." (A deer track perfectly illustrates a "divided hoof.") The Bible contains many references to deer. The animal was admired for its agility and grace, its ability to sense danger quickly, and its swiftness. Biblical writers also noted the doe's gentle care of her young. A young deer is called a fawn (Song 4#5; 7#3). The psalmist thought of the long journey for water that a deer faces in dry seasons and exclaimed: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God" (Ps. 42#1). Isaiah wrote of the feelings of joy and elation when he wrote, "the lame shall leap like a deer" (35#6). Scholars are not sure of the precise species or kind of deer Esau hunted or Solomon served. The terms stag or buck (male), hart (male), and hind (female) are used of the red deer common in Europe, which has never lived in Palestine. Likely candidates are the fallow deer (Deut. 14#5), (KJV), which was common in Mesopotamia, and the roe deer, often called by its male name, roe buck (Deut. 14#5), (RSV). Bible translators often interchanged terms for various kinds of deer, and for gazelle as well; so readers must settle for informed guesses about the exact species intended. Also see Antelope, Gazelle. Dog. In ancient Israel, the dog was not "man's best friend." In fact, calling someone a dog was one of the most offensive ways of insulting that person. The Bible mentions dogs frequently; most of the references are derogatory. Even in New Testament times, Jews called Gentiles "dogs" (Matt. 15#26). The term "dog" also referred to a male prostitute (Deut. 23#18). Unbelievers who were shut out of the New Jerusalem were also termed "dogs" (Rev. 22#15)-- probably a reference to their sexual immorality. Moslems later applied the insult to Christians. The dog may have been the first animal in the ancient world to be tamed. Ancient Egyptians raced greyhounds, mentioned by Solomon in his Proverbs (Prov. 30#31), (NKJV), and the Greeks raised mastiffs. But dogs in Palestine were more wild than tame. They often banded together in packs and lived off the refuse and food supplies of a village. Some dogs were useful as watchdogs or guardians of sheep, but even they were not altogether reliable (Is. 56#10). Donkey. One of the first animals tamed by man, the donkey was a necessity in Bible times. It is mentioned frequently in the Bible. Wild donkeys (referred to as the onager in (Job 39#5), NKJV) also roamed the land. "Like a wild donkey" (Hos. 8#9) described a headstrong, untamed nature. But the domesticated donkey was an obedient servant. Donkeys stand about 1.3 meters (4 feet) high. They are usually gray, reddish-brown, or white. The long-suffering donkey often won the affection of the household and was decorated with beads and bright ribbons. But his true role was to serve as a work animal. He trampled seed, turned the millstone to grind grain, and pulled the plow. Donkey caravans were the freight trains and transport trucks of ancient times. These animals could carry great weight in spite of their small size. Since they required only a fraction as much fodder as a horse, they were more economical to own. The donkey was also a safe and comfortable animal to ride. They were ridden by rich and poor alike. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he signaled his peaceful intentions by riding a young donkey rather than a prancing war-horse. The offspring of a male donkey (jack) and female horse (mare) was a mule. The mule had the surefootedness and endurance of the donkey, coupled with the greater size and strength of the horse. Crossbreeding like this was outlawed among the Jewish people (Lev. 19#19), but from David's time mules were imported and increasingly used by the Israelites (2 Sam. 18#9; 1 Kin. 1#33; 18#5). (Ezra 2#66) records that the Israelites brought 245 mules with them when they returned from captivity in Babylon. Dove. Doves and pigeons belong to the same family. They are often mentioned in the Bible as if they are the same animal. The rock dove found in Palestine is the wild ancestor of our common street pigeon. Turtledoves are migrants. They spend the months of April to October in the Holy Land, filling the air with soft cooing when they arrive each Spring (Song 2#11-12). Doves come in several colors, from pure white to the chestnut-colored palm turtledove. Even the plain gray pigeon has a silver sheen. Solomon waxed poetic over doves' eyes. David longed for "wings like a dove" (Ps. 55#6), so he could fly away from his enemies. Pigeons were probably the first domesticated bird. When people realized doves could travel long distances and always find their way home, they used them to carry messages. Homing pigeons have keen eyes with which they spot landmarks to help them stay on the right route. Hebrews ate pigeons and, from Abraham's time, used them in sacrifice. Even a poor man could provide a pigeon or two for worship, as Joseph and Mary did at Jesus' circumcision (Luke 2#21-24; Lev. 12#8). Doves appear to express affection, stroking each other, and "billing and cooing." They mate for life, sharing nesting and parenting duties. They are gentle birds that never resist attack or retaliate against their enemies. Even when her young are attacked, a dove will give only a pitiful call of distress. Because of its innocence and gentle nature, the dove is a common religious symbol. The Holy Spirit took the form of a dove at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3#16; Mark 1#10; Luke 3#22). The dove also symbolizes peace, love, forgiveness, and the church. Dragon. Dragons are imaginary beasts with a long history in the folklore of many cultures. Usually the dragon is a crafty creature that represents evil. The word dragon, as used in some translations of the Bible, is often confusing. Occasionally this word is used when the intended meaning was probably jackal (Lam. 4#3), (RSV), sea serpent or serpent (Ps. 91#13), (RSV), or even crocodile (Ezek. 29#3-4). This huge, fire-breathing monster with terrifying wings and claws is a symbol of Satan (Rev. 12#3-17; 16#13; 20#2). In the church of early Christian history, dragons represented sin. Christian art often depicts a dragon at the feet of Jesus-- to show His triumph over sin. Dromedary (see Camel). (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers) ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE (E TO M) Eagle. Eagles are included among the unclean birds mentioned in the Bible (Lev. 11#13), (NKJV), but they were admired as majestic birds. The golden eagle, which is really dark brown with sprinkles of gold, has a 26-meter (8-feet) wingspread. It nests in high places that are inaccessible (Jer. 49#16). There, in a nest which the eagle makes larger each year, the eagle hatches two eggs. Usually only one eaglet survives to adulthood. An eagle has keen eyesight. He can spot his prey while soaring hundreds of feet in the air. Like a lightning bolt, he drops to seize it, killing it quickly with his powerful claws. Then he swoops back to his nest to rip the meat apart and share it with his young. A mother eagle carries her eaglet on her back until it masters the art of flying. Moses used this familiar picture from nature to describe God's care for His people. God stirred up Jacob (the nation of Israel), and carried His people on His wings (Deut. 32#11-12) as He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Solomon marveled at "the way of an eagle in the air" (Prov. 30#19). An eagle can stay aloft for hours, rarely moving his wings and riding wind currents. But many passages in the Bible also speak of the swiftness of the eagle's flight (Deut. 28#49). The belief that an eagle renews its strength and youthful appearance after shedding its feathers gave rise to (Psalm 103#5) and (Isaiah 40#31). Eagles do have a long life-span, living 20 to 30 years in the wild, and longer in captivity. In the Old Testament, prophets spoke of the eagle as a symbol of God's judgment (Jer. 48#40; Ezek. 17#3,7). In (Revelation 12#14), "two wings of a great eagle" portray God's intervention to deliver His people from persecution. Eagle Owl (see Owl). Elephant. No elephants lived in Palestine. But they were native to the neighboring continents of Africa and Asia. Wealthy Jews sometimes imported the ivory which came from their great tusks. King Solomon "made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold" (1 Kin. 10#18). And King Ahab built an "ivory house" (1 Kin. 22#39). Ewe (see Sheep). Falcon. In some translations of the Bible the falcon appears in the lists of unclean birds (Lev. 11#14; Deut. 14#13), (NKJV). As a bird of prey, it is often grouped with hawks. But a falcon is not a true hawk. The sport of hunting with trained falcons originated in ancient Persia. Great numbers of falcons are still seen in Palestine, as they surely were in Bible times (Job 28#7). Fallow Deer (see Deer). Fawn (see Deer). Ferret (see Lizard). Fish. According to one authority, 45 species of fish are found in the inland waters of Palestine. Many more live in the Mediterranean Sea. But the Bible gives no details on any specific species of fish. Fish, just like other animals, were divided into clean and unclean categories. Fish with fins and scales were considered clean, and they made a popular Sabbath meal. Unclean fish included catfish, eels, and probably sharks and lampreys, as well as shellfish. The Hebrews also considered whales and porpoises as fish, since they lived in the sea. Fishing was a major industry among the Jewish people. Jerusalem had a Fish Gate, and presumably a fish market. Fish were caught with nets (Hab. 1#15), hooks (Is. 19#8; Matt. 17#27), and harpoons and spears (Job 41#7). The catch was preserved by salting and drying or storing in salt water. The Bible contains many references to fish and fishing. (Habakkuk 1#14-17) compares captive Israel to helpless fish gathered into a dragnet by her enemies. Jesus, on the other hand, called his disciples to become "fishers of men" (Matt. 4#19; Mark 1#17). Since the time of the early church, the fish has been a symbol of Christianity. The Greek word for fish-- ichthus-- is an acrostic for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." Fisher Owl (see Cormorant). Flea. Fleas flourished in the sand and dust of the Holy Land. Classified as parasites, these tiny insects attach themselves to a body and suck blood from their host. Fleas have no wings, but they do have strong legs and can jump several inches at one leap. The flea that lives on man is tiny, but it can be very irritating. David described himself as a mere flea being pursued by a king (1 Sam. 24#14; 26#20). He may have seemed insignificant, but he irritated King Saul. Fly. The "flies" of the Bible included the common housefly, as well as other two-winged insects. Many of these were biting insects. This explains the "devouring" flies of (Psalm 78#45). The flies visited as a plague upon the Egyptians probably included the housefly and the stinging sand fly, as well as gnats and mosquitoes. The prophet Isaiah's reference to the "fly that is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt" (7#18) may have been a symbol of swarms of Egyptian soldiers. Or, he could have had in mind the dreaded tsetse fly of Africa, which spreads sleeping sickness. Still another possibility is the olive fly, which could ruin a crop of ripe olives. Solomon's "fly in the ointment" (Eccl. 10#1) has become a proverb. So also has Jesus' "straining out a gnat"-- which referred to the custom of straining wine to take out the impurities before it was served (Matt. 23#24). Fowl. Most people assume that hens and roosters (cocks) were common in Palestine, but they are rarely mentioned in the Bible. Domestic chickens probably descended from the red jungle fowl of Asia. Cocks were bred for the ancient sport of cock-fighting before hens were raised for meat and eggs. The crowing of cocks served the ancient world as an alarm clock. Cocks crowed about midnight and again about 3 A. M. Soldiers often rotated their guard duty at this regular signal. Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed (Matt. 26#34; Mark 14#30; Luke 22#34; John 13#38). Wild or tame, chickens gather in flocks. Jesus must have been familiar with this flocking instinct. He spoke of a mother hen that tucks a whole brood of chicks under her wings for safety (Matt. 23#37; Luke 13#34). The "fatted fowl" provided for King Solomon (1 Kin. 4#23) may have been geese. Ancient carvings from Megiddo show peasant women carrying fat geese. Geese also appear in Egyptian tomb paintings. Fox. Foxes were common predators in Bible times. Since they fed on small rodents like rats and mice, they helped to protect the grain crops. But their fondness for grapes caused farmers much grief. Sometimes they even tunneled under protective walls to feast on grapevines (Song 2#15). Foxes also settle in holes and burrows, often those abandoned by other animals. Jesus pointed out that foxes have holes, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Matt. 8#20). Foxes have a keen sense of sight, smell, and hearing. They are also clever enough to lie in wait for prey. They may even play dead to attract a bird within striking range. When hunted, they are cunning and devious, misleading their pursuers. Jesus compared Herod, the Roman tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, to a fox, because of his crafty, devious nature (Luke 13#32). "The land of Shual" (1 Sam. 13#17) may have been fox country, for shual means "fox" or "jackal." Also see Jackal. Frog. Frogs are mentioned several times in the Bible (Ex. 8#2-13; Ps. 105#30; Rev. 16#13). All but the passage in Revelation refer to the plague of frogs in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians connected frogs with fertility and the life cycle, so they considered frogs sacred. What dismay it must have caused when the frogs multiplied uncontrollably and then died and the Egyptians had to gather these sacred animals into stinking heaps. (Revelation 16#13) speaks of frogs as the symbol of unclean spirits. Gazelle (see Antelope). Gecko (see Lizard). Gier Eagle (see Vulture). Glede (see Hawk). Gnat (see Fly). Goat. In Bible times, Hebrew shepherds treasured the goat because it was such a useful animal. They wove its hair into a type of rough cloth. They drank the goat's milk which is sweet and more nutritious than cow's milk-- ideal for making cheese. They even used goatskin bottles to transport water and wine. When the hide of these containers wore thin, they leaked and had to be patched (Josh. 9#4; Matt. 9#17). Goats often grazed with sheep in mixed flocks. Unlike their gentle and helpless cousins, goats were independent, willful, and curious. Bible writers sometimes used goats to symbolize irresponsible leadership (Jer. 50#8; Zech. 10#3). In Jesus' parable of the Great Judgment (Matt. 25#32-33), the goats represented the unrighteous who could not enter His kingdom. Goats were often sacrificed in the worship system of ancient Israel. In an early ritual, the Hebrews used two goats. They sacrificed one, sprinkling its blood upon the back of the other. This scapegoat was then sent into the wilderness, symbolically bearing the sins of the people (Lev. 16#10). Young goats are referred to as kids in the Bible (Gen. 27#9,16; Num. 7#87). The wild goat of Palestine is known as the ibex (Deut. 14#5), (RSV, NIV; mountain goat, NKJV; pygarg, KJV; satyr, KJV, RSV). Goose (see Fowl). Grasshopper. Numerous references to grasshoppers and locusts in the Bible show what an impact these insects had in the hot, dry lands of the ancient world. Some of these references are literal (Ex. 10#4-19) while others are symbolic (Num. 13#33). The terms grasshopper and locust are often used interchangeably. A locust is one kind of grasshopper. Another term used rarely for these insects is katydid (Lev. 11#22), (NIV). It has a brown-colored body two to three inches long. Airborne, with two sets of wings, the locust was dreaded because of its destructive power as a foliage-eating insect in the ancient world. The eighth plague that God sent upon the Egyptians was an invasion of locusts. Millions of these insects may be included in one of these swarms, which usually occur in the spring. Locusts in such numbers speedily eat every plant in sight, totally destroying the crops. A locust plague is practically unstoppable. Water does not work; for when enough locusts drown, the survivors use their bodies as a bridge. They have also been known to smother fires that had been set to destroy them. Even modern farmers wrestle with this problem, often resorting to poisoning the adults and harrowing fields in the fall to destroy the eggs before they can hatch in the spring. (Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation) presents a nightmarish prospect: locusts with special powers will be unleashed upon mankind for five months. Locusts do not always appear in swarms. Hot weather normally brings a few solitary grasshoppers and locusts to the Holy Land. But scientists have learned that under certain conditions of climate and food scarcity, chemical changes take place in the female locust. These cause more eggs to hatch, sending millions of locusts into the air at the same time in search of food. Many people, including the Jews, eat locusts (Lev. 11#22). These insects may be boiled, fried, or dried. Locusts were part of the wilderness diet of John the Baptist (Matt. 3#4). Great Lizard (see Lizard). Great Owl (see Owl). Greyhound (see Dog). Griffon (see Vulture). Grub (see Worm). Hare. Hares were plentiful in Palestine, but they are mentioned in the Bible only as forbidden food (Lev. 11#6); (rabbit, NIV, NASB). They look like large rabbits with longer ears and legs. The common jackrabbit is actually a hare. Unlike rabbits, hares are born furry and able to see. Hares were mistakenly thought to chew the cud, but they were considered unclean because they did not have divided hoofs (Lev. 11#6; Deut. 14#7). Perhaps they were forbidden because they are rodents, but the Hebrews' Arab neighbors did not hesitate to hunt them for food. Hart (see Deer). Hawk. Hawks are the fierce little brothers in the eagle and vulture family. Adult hawks vary from one to two feet in length. They are known for their exceptional eyesight, which is about eight times as keen as man's. Solomon remarked, "Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" (Prov. 1#17). The farsighted hawk not only detects nets from a distance, but he can also see mice, insects, and birds. He strikes with devastating swiftness, his powerful claws crushing his prey, which he eats whole. Some 18 species of hawk exist in Palestine, among them the small sparrow hawk. This hawk, which Egyptians considered sacred, nests in a hollow tree, amid old ruins, or upon a rock. As winter approaches, it migrates to a warmer climate. Harrier hawks are found in the valleys and low-lying plains. They glide nearer the ground and "harry" other birds by forcing them to land. Kites (gledes) are a larger breed of hawk, with long narrow wings (Deut. 14#13). Red kites, black kites, and Egyptian kites are found in Palestine. Kites in Syria hide their nests by draping them with cloth scraps or animal skins. Just as they abstained from eating other birds of prey, Israelites did not eat hawks (Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15). Hedgehog (see Porcupine). Heifer (see Cattle). Hen (see Fowl). Heron. The Bible mentions herons only in the lists of unclean birds (Lev. 11#19; Deut. 14#18). Several species of herons and egrets made their home in Palestine. Egyptian carvings picture herons and their nests among the reeds of marshes and lakes. A tall, graceful bird, the heron flies with its neck curled and its long legs stretched out behind. The heron eats fish, frogs, and small reptiles, which it spears swiftly with a long, sharp beak. Hind (see Deer). Hippopotamus (see Behemoth). Hoopoe. The hoopoe is a beautiful bird with a disgusting habit: it probes foul places for insects with its sharp, slender beak. Its wing feathers bear a zebra stripe, and its head sports a lovely crown of feathers. When frightened, the hoopoe may flutter his crest or drop to the ground and play dead. The offensive odor picked up from its feeding grounds is enough to drive away most of its enemies. Called lapwing in the KJV, the hoopoe is on the list of unclean birds (Lev. 11#19; Deut. 14#18). It is frequently seen throughout the Holy Land today. Horned Owl (see Owl). Hornet (see Wasp). Horse. Horses are mentioned often in the Bible. But they were of little importance to the average Hebrew, who found it more practical to keep a donkey to ride or an ox to pull the plow. Horses were traded for food when money failed during a famine in Egypt (Gen. 47#17). Some kings used swift horses rather than camels to carry messages (Esth. 8#10,14). But for the most part, Hebrews thought of horses in terms of war. Pharaoh's horses and chariots pursued when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 14#9). Their Canaanite enemies met them with many horses and chariots, but they still fell before the Israelites (Josh. 11#4-9). Repeatedly God warned the Hebrews not to place their faith in the strength and speed of horses (Ps. 20#7) or to "multiply" horses (Deut. 17#16). In spite of these warnings, David and Solomon did multiply horses, even importing them from other countries. Solomon had a sizeable cavalry as well as horses to draw war chariots. The prophet Jeremiah used the word stallion in speaking of horses (Jer. 8#16; 47#3; 50#11), (RSV). He warned the nation of Judah that it would fall to a conquering army that would be riding prancing stallions. He also used the symbol of a "well-fed, lusty stallion" (Jer. 5#8), (NKJV) to describe the idolatry and unfaithfulness of God's people. The New Testament tells of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," who ride out to ravage the earth in the end times (Rev. 6#1-8). But even more dramatic than this is the entrance of a white horse bearing the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19#11-16). Horseleach (see Leech). Hound (see Dog). Hyena. Hyenas were plentiful in Bible times. "Doleful creatures" (KJV) and "beasts of the field" (Is. 13#21; Jer. 12#9) may refer to hyenas. The place name Zeboim (1 Sam. 13#18; Neh. 11#34) means "hyena." A member of the dog family, hyenas have square snouts and powerful jaws. They run down prey and may even attack human beings. The Israelites hated hyenas and considered them unclean because they are scavengers. Sometimes they would even dig up and devour dead bodies. Hyenas hunt at night. Their eerie howls sound like demented laughter. A reference by the prophet Isaiah to the hyena is also translated as jackal (Is. 13#22), (RSV). Also see Jackal. Ibex (see Goat). Jackal. The prophet Isaiah spoke of jackals-- wild dogs that make their dens in desolate places (Is. 34#13). As scavengers, jackals also fed on garbage in towns and villages in Bible times. Jackals have an unpleasant smell, and they make a yapping and howling noise at night. They are also agricultural pests. Palestinian farmers put up shelters for watchmen, who guarded their cucumber fields against jackals. Some farmers heaped up whitewashed stones to frighten the jackals, just as scarecrows are used in other places. Bible references to jackals are confusing, since jackal, fox, dragon, and wolf may be used interchangeably, depending on the translation. The "foxes" to whose tails Samson tied torches were probably jackals which, unlike foxes, travel in packs (Judg. 15#4). Also see Fox. Jackdaw (see Pelican). Jerboa (see Mouse). Katydid (see Grasshopper). Kid (see Goat). Kine (see Cattle). Kite (see Hawk). Lamb (see Sheep). Lapwing (see Hoopoe). Leech. A leech may be described as a type of worm with suckers at each end of its body. One end also contains a mouth. Some species of this animal even have tiny teeth. Parasitic leeches attach themselves to a person or an animal, from which it sucks blood for nourishment. A leech of this type secretes chemicals which keep the blood flowing freely. In primitive times, physicians used leeches to "bleed" a patient and purge his body of what was thought to be contaminated blood. But an untended leech could cause pain and damage. In his Proverbs, Solomon may have had the blood-sucking nature of this animal in mind when he spoke of the leech's "two daughters" who cry "Give! Give!" (Prov. 30#15). Leopard. The huge cats known as leopards were familiar in Palestine, and the Hebrews had good reason to fear them. Smaller and lighter than lions, leopards are better hunters. They are swift, wary, and intelligent; and they can climb trees as easily as a domestic cat. A leopard is also strong enough to drag his prey to a tree branch, where he can devour it out of reach of lions or hyenas. Although leopards do not usually attack human beings, Jeremiah portrayed them symbolically as an instrument of God's judgment: "A leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces" (Jer. 5#6). The books of Daniel and Revelation use the leopard as a symbol of swiftness in cruelty (Dan. 7#6; Rev. 13#2). Isaiah suggested that a day of peace would come when the savage leopard would not harm a young goat (11#6). Leviathan (see Crocodile). Lice. Lice thrive in dry, dusty climates where sanitation is poor. These tiny insects are parasites with flat, colorless bodies. They cling to animals, humans, or plants, sucking blood or sap. The Egyptian nobles and priests shaved their heads and beards so lice could find no hiding place on their bodies. An infestation of lice, the third plague of the Exodus, must have been particularly bothersome to them (Ex. 8#16-18), (gnats, RSV, NIV, NASB; maggots, NEB). Lion. The lion was the most awesome and dangerous wild beast in Palestine. His tawny hide blended into the golden fields and sandy wastes. Lions hid in forests and sometimes pounced from the thickets near the Jordan River (Jer. 49#19). The Bible contains many references to lions. Daniel miraculously survived a night in a lions' den (Daniel 6). Samson and David killed lions singlehandedly (Judg. 14#5-6; 1 Sam. 17#34-37). Kings hunted lions for sport. According to (Ezekiel 19#1-9), lions were also captured with pits and nets. The lion's majestic appearance and fearsome roar prompted many comparisons. The prophet Joel declared, "The Lord also will roar from Zion" (Joel 3#16). The apostle Peter wrote: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion." The prophet Hosea foretold that God would be like a protective lion for the nation of Israel (Hos. 5#14); (panther, NEB). Largest and grandest of cats, the lion is filled with power. A swat of his paw can kill. His massive body forces him to rely on strength instead of speed in his hunting. A lion looks and sounds so imposing that he symbolizes royalty and courage. The highest compliment which biblical writers could give was to indicate that a person had the face or heart of a lion. Ari, the most common term for lion, means "the strong one." In (Isaiah 29#1) Jerusalem is called "Ariel," implying that the capital of the Jewish nation is "the strong [lion-like] city of God." In some translations of the Bible, a young lion is called a cub (Gen. 49#9), (NIV), while other translations use the word whelp (Gen. 49#9). The Israelite tribes of Judah, Dan, and Gad-- and also the nation of Babylon-- adopted the lion as their symbol. Jesus is called "the lion of Judah" (Rev. 5#5). Isaiah the prophet foretold that at the end of time, the Prince of Peace would tame even the fierce heart of the lion (Is. 9#6-7; 11#1-9). Little Owl (see Owl). Lizard. Lizards receive little attention in the Bible, although they are common in Palestine. They appeared on the list of unclean animals (Lev. 11#30) and were thus forbidden as food to the Israelites. The lizard comes in many species. Some of the small lizards often pass for snakes, while larger versions of this animal resemble the crocodile. All lizards are cold-blooded reptiles. Since their body temperature depends on their surroundings, they thrive in the tropics and in deserts. But when the sun gets too hot even for them, they lie in the shade or burrow into the sand. One species is even called a sand lizard (Lev. 11#30); (skink, NIV). Lizards are ingenious in the different ways they move. Some unfurl skin-like sails and soar from tree to tree. Monitor lizards (probably the Bible's great lizard, (Lev. 11#29), RSV, NIV) swim well. They can also climb trees. Many lizards scamper rapidly across the ground. Others have poorly developed legs or no legs at all. But the little gecko (translated ferret in KJV, (Lev. 11#30)) can walk across a plaster ceiling upside down or cling to a pane of glass. His toes end in a pad made of hundreds of tiny hooks, capped with a hidden claw. This enables him to get a foothold on smooth surfaces. Geckos are abundant in Palestine. Most lizards eat insects. Larger species of this reptile also eat small animals or plants. The chameleon's sticky tongue, nearly as long as his body, whips out to catch insects. Chameleons are also common in Palestine. They are so narrow they look as if they have been squashed, and their bulging eyes can see in opposite directions. They have a long tail that can grasp a branch or coil into a spiral when at rest. Chameleons move at a slow, deliberate pace. The chameleon is known for its ability to change its color to match its surroundings. Actually, this is a common protective trait for most species of lizards. Another defensive tactic is the use of tricks or bluffs. The glass snake, a type of lizard, escapes capture by shedding its wiggling tail. Other lizards hiss, puff up, or use their tails as whips. Locust (see Grasshopper). Maggot (see Lice; Worm). Mare (see Horse). Mole. Palestine has no true moles. The few Bible references to moles probably mean a burrowing rat that resembles a mole. "Mole rats" live underground and feed on roots and bulbs, to the distress of farmers. Their tiny ears and eyes are nearly hidden in their thick coats of fur. Because these mole rats live in darkness, the prophet Isaiah referred to them as symbols of the spiritually blind. The NEB translates "dung-beetles" (Is. 2#20). Also see Weasel. Mole Rat (see Weasel). Monitor Lizard (see Lizard). Monkey. Monkeys are not native to Palestine. So King Solomon apparently had them imported from other nations, along with apes and other exotic goods such as ivory, silver, and gold. They may have come from India, Africa, or even parts of Lower Egypt. The NKJV has "monkeys" in (1 Kings 10#22) and (2 Chronicles 9#21). Other versions translate as "peacocks." Also see Ape. Moth. Moths are mentioned several times in the Bible as a symbol of destructiveness and the perishable nature of all earthly goods. In (Hosea 5#12), God says, "I will be to Ephraim like a moth." Just as the damage caused by moths takes place slowly and undetected, so God would quietly, but inevitably, bring judgment upon His backsliding people. The female moth lays her eggs upon garments. When the eggs hatch into caterpillars, they feed on the fibers, eventually leaving the garment full of holes. Jesus warned against placing too much confidence and hope in worldly possessions that could be wiped out so easily by moths (Matt. 6#19; Luke 12#33) Mountain Sheep (see Sheep). Mouse. About 40 kinds of mice are found in the Holy Land. These include house and field mice, moles, small rats, jerboas, and even hamsters. Arabs ate hamsters, but the Hebrew people considered all rodents unclean (Lev. 11#29; Is. 66#17). In spite of its small size, the mouse is one of the most destructive animals in the world. Swarms of mice threatened grain crops in ancient times. When the Philistines stole the ARK OF THE COVENANT, God punished them by sending a swarm of mice which infected them with a disease (1 Sam. 6#4-5, 11,18); (rats, NKJV). Mule (see Donkey). Night Creature (see Owl). Nighthawk. This is another bird mentioned in the Bible only on the list of unclean birds (Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15). No specific characteristics are given which might help to identify the bird. Nighthawks, also called nightjars, are found in the Holy Land, but they are not predators. There is no obvious reason why nighthawks would be considered unclean by the Israelites. Other translations render the Hebrew word for nighthawk as owl (NASB) or screech owl (NIV). After sunset, nighthawks fly high into the air to hunt for insects. They build nests near the ground in thickets or hedges. Onager (see Donkey). Oryx (see Antelope). Osprey. Sometimes called fish hawk or fishing eagle, the osprey is a member of the hawk family. With a six-foot wingspan, it is one of the larger birds of prey. The osprey appears on the list of "unclean birds" (Lev. 11#13; Deut. 14#12). Some scholars think the term refers to the black vulture. Also see Vulture. Ossifrage (see Vulture). Ostrich. Several Scripture passages that refer to owls in the KJV are rendered ostrich in the RSV. This strange bird was a common sight in the deserts of Israel and Sinai in Bible times. Earth's largest living bird, the ostrich may stand about 2.5 meters (eight feet) tall. While it cannot fly, this unusual animal with its long steps, which can cover 15 feet per stride at top speed, can outrun a horse. Sometimes an ostrich will use its wings as a sail to achieve even greater speed. An adult ostrich fears only man and lions, and it may live as long as 70 years. The popular belief that ostriches hide their heads in the sand is not true. However, when a young ostrich senses danger, it will crouch near the ground and stretch out its long neck to lessen the possibility of being seen. This enormous bird has only a walnut-sized brain. But God has given it certain helpful instincts, along with its great physical stamina. Like a camel, the ostrich is fitted for desert life. It eats coarse food and can go for a long time without water. Its head, neck, and powerful legs have no feathers. This helps to keep the bird cool in the hot desert climate. Its huge eyes enable it to spot danger from a great distance, and its long eyelashes protect its eyes from dust and sand. The male ostrich has a cry that is similar to a lion's roar. Unlike most other birds, the ostrich does not build a nest to protect its young. The female ostrich deposits her eggs on the desert floor and covers them with sand. These eggs are generally left unattended during the day, since the desert sun serves as a natural incubator. Job compared these habits unfavorably with the more traditional nesting instincts of the stork (Job 39#13-18). Owl. The owl is mentioned several times in the Bible (Lev. 11#16-17; Ps. 102#6; Jer. 50#39; Mic. 1#8). The largest species native to Palestine is the great owl, sometimes called an eagle owl. Several varieties of smaller owls are also common. Among them are screech owls, whose calls and whistles bring an eerie feeling in the night. Other varieties of owls mentioned by different translations of the Bible include the short-eared owl (Lev. 11#16), (NKJV, NEB); long-eared owl (Lev. 11#16), (NEB); horned owl (Lev. 11#16), (NIV); little owl (Lev. 11#17), (KJV, NIV, NASB); tawny owl (Lev. 11#17), (NEB); fisher owl (Lev. 11#17), (NKJV); desert owl (Lev. 11#18), (NIV); and white owl (Lev. 11#18), (NKJV, NIV, NASB). The owl is no wiser than any other bird, but his facial features give him a thoughtful and solemn look. Owls have round faces with a circle of feathers around their heads, framing and highlighting their large eyes. These feathers also serve as a sound collector for the ears. An owl's fluffy feathers make him appear larger than he actually is. They also enable him to fly silently, since the edges of the feathers pierce the air with little wind resistance. Owls have good night vision, which enables them to stalk their prey at night. Unlike other birds, whose eyes are set on opposite sides of their head, the owl looks directly ahead. He navigates in the dark mostly by sound. Alerted by a noise, he plunges in toward his prey with his claws spread for the kill. Owls serve a useful agricultural purpose, since they feed on rats, mice, and other rodents. But the Hebrew people considered the owl an unclean bird and often associated it with scenes of desolation. The scops owl may be the satyr of such verses as (Isaiah 13#21) and (34#14) (night creature, NKJV). It has a horned look and does a hop-like dance much like a goat. Ox, Oxen (see Cattle). Palmerworm (see Worm). Panther (see Lion). Partridge. From early times, the partridge has been a game bird. They were among the birds which could be eaten as clean food by the Jewish people. Two species, the sand partridge (Is. 34#15), (NEB) and the chukar, are common in Palestine. Partridges live in fields, feeding on grain and insects. They usually travel in coveys of 12 to 30 birds. Their meat is tasty, and the bird is clever enough to give the hunter a fine chase. It takes sharp eyes to spot the mottled feathers of a partridge. When alarmed, the bird will hide in a hole, crouch among loose stones, or fly from tree to tree with loudly whirring wings. David compared himself to a partridge when he was fleeing from Saul (1 Sam. 26#20). The prophet Jeremiah compared the person who gathered riches by unrighteous means to a partridge that gathers a brood of young birds which she has not hatched (Jer. 17#11). Peacock. According to the KJV, Solomon imported peacocks from other nations for his royal courts in Israel (1 Kin. 10#22; 2 Chr. 9#21). A peacock, the male of the species, is about the size of a turkey, with feathers of brilliant blue, green, and purple. He parades in front of the female, spreading his train of gorgeous long plumes behind him like a huge fan. Some versions of the Bible translate this term as monkeys, peacocks, or baboons. Pelican. The pelican is one of the largest webfooted birds, often reaching 2 meters (6 feet) in length with a 3 meter (lo-foot) wingspread. But in spite of its great size, the pelican swims and flies well. Pelicans live in colonies, and they are known as experts at catching fish for food. Their long bills have an elastic pouch on the bottom half. With this pouch a pelican scoops up several quarts of water along with his prey. The pouch serves also as a dinner bowl for baby pelicans, who dip into it for a partially digested treat. Beautiful in flight, the pelican is a haunting, solitary figure when at rest. Perhaps this was the image in David's mind when he declared, "I am like a pelican of the wilderness" (Ps. 102#6). Other translations render the word as vulture, desert-owl, or jackdaw. Pig (see Swine). Pigeon (see Dove). Porcupine. The prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah mention a wild creature that lived in desolate ruined places (Is. 14#23; 34#11; Zeph. 2#14). The KJV calls it a bittern, but the RSV translates the animal as hedgehog or porcupine (bustard, NEB). Palestine does have porcupines, even today. They are small animals with sharp needles all over their backs. When in danger, the porcupine rolls up into a prickly ball. Porpoise (see Badger). Pygarg. The Hebrew term translated pygarg in (Deuteronomy 14#5) means "leaper." The RSV translates ibex and the NKJV has mountain goat or addax (margin). This animal probably was the white-rumped antelope. Also see Antelope, Goat. Quail. In Palestine, the quail is a migrating bird that arrives in droves along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. With their strong flying muscles, these birds can fly rapidly for a short time. When migrating, however, they stretch their wings and allow the wind to bear them along. Sometimes they reach land so exhausted after their long flight that they can be caught by hand. Most of the time quail remain on the ground, scratching for food and helping farmers by eating insects. Their brown-speckled bodies are inconspicuous, but they often give away their presence by a shrill whistle. The Hebrew people probably ate dried, salted quail while they were enslaved by the Egyptians. When they longed for meat in the Sinai desert, God promised He would provide enough meat for a month. Then He directed thousands of quail to their camp, where the birds dropped in exhaustion (Num. 11#31-34; Ex. 16#13; Ps. 105#40). Rabbit (see Hare). Ram (see Sheep). Rat (see Mouse). Raven. In the Bible, raven is a catch-all term for crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, and jays. All were considered unclean by the Jewish people (Lev. 11#15). With a wingspread of about 1 meter (three feet), the raven is the largest member of this family. Ravens are scavenger birds that will eat almost anything. Their harsh cry has probably contributed to their reputation as birds of ill omen. Since they have keen eyes and strong wings, this may explain why the first bird Noah sent from the ark was a raven (Gen. 8#7). These birds were also known for their practice of pecking out the eyes of a body-- a quick way to determine whether their meal was actually dead! (Prov. 30#17). The Bible indicates that God feeds even young ravens (Job 38#41). Jesus used a similar example to illustrate God's care (Luke 12#24). Because God sent ravens to feed the prophet Elijah, ravens are also associated with God's protective care (1 Kin. 17#4,6). Solomon brought the expression, "black as a raven," into common use (Song 5#11). Rock Badger. The rock badger or rock hyrax is a rabbit-sized furry animal. With short ears, sharp teeth, and black-button eyes, it resembles an overgrown guinea pig (Lev. 11#5); (coney, KJV, NIV). "The rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags," says (Proverbs 30#26), holding them up as little things that are "exceedingly wise." Feeble, or defenseless they may be, but they find safety in steep, rocky terrain. Their feet have a suction-like grip that enables them to scamper among rocky outcroppings. Their enemies easily overlook a rock badger stretched out motionless on a sun-warmed rock. Rock Goat (see Sheep). Rock Hyrax (see Rock Badger). Roe Buck (see Deer). Sand Fly (see Fly). Sand Lizard (see Lizard). Sand Partridge (see Partridge). Sand Viper (see Snake). Satyr (see Goat; Owl). Scorpion. The scorpion is a small crawling animal that looks like a flat lobster. A member of the spider family, it has eight legs, two sets of pincers, and a tail with a poisonous stinger. A scorpion feeds on spiders and insects, which it rips apart with its claws. It uses its poisonous sting only when threatened or when it attacks large prey. This sting is seldom fatal, but it can be very painful (Rev. 9#5). During the day, scorpions escape the desert heat by hiding under rocks. They come out at night to hunt and eat. Inhabitants of Bible lands feared scorpions. These animals were an ever-present danger when Moses led the children of Israel through the hot, rocky wilderness (Deut. 8#15). Jesus' words in (Luke 11#12) about giving a person a scorpion instead of an egg may refer to a light-colored scorpion, which could be mistaken for an egg when in a coiled position. The prophet Ezekiel was told by God not to be afraid of his enemies, who were referred to symbolically as scorpions (Ezek. 2#6). King Rehoboam's threat did not mean he would use scorpions as whips (1 Kin. 12#14). In those days a barbed whip or scourge was called a "scorpion." Screech Owl (see Owl). Sea Cow (see Badger). Sea Gull. Sea gulls are birds about the size of pigeons. They have long wings, which they use to swoop and soar gracefully on air currents. Gulls gather in flocks near bodies of water. They are scavengers who eat garbage as well as fish and insects. Sea gulls are mentioned only in some translations of the Bible. Others translate the Hebrew term as cuckoo, sea mew, or owl (Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15). Sea Mew (see Sea Gull). Sea Monster. Several terms are used in the Bible to describe large sea creatures: sea monsters or serpents, dragons, great fish, whales, and Leviathan. All of these do not refer to one animal, but it is impossible to match the terms with specific marine life. For instance, many animals have been mistaken for sea serpents-- large eels, sharks, and giant squid. The Mediterranean and Red Seas contain whales and enough other such "monsters" to provide plenty of material for sea-related scare tales. Dragons are mythical creatures that appear in many ancient cultures. The prophet Ezekiel saw images of dragons on the city gates when he was exiled in Babylon. The book of Revelation refers to Satan as "a great, fiery red dragon" (12#3). However, Ezekiel and the writer of the Psalms also used the word dragon as a synonym for whale. Whales, of course, were real creatures that may have been a common sight in the Mediterranean Sea during Bible times. The NEB refers to them in (Psalm 148#7) as water-spouts, a possible reference to the sperm whale. Serpent (see Snake). Sheep. Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other animal in the Bible-- about 750 times. This is only natural since the Hebrew people were known early in their history as a race of wandering herdsmen. Even in the days of the kings, the simple shepherd's life seemed the ideal calling. The Bible makes many comparisons between the ways of sheep and human beings. In the New Testament the church is often compared to a sheepfold. Well-suited for Palestine's dry plains, sheep fed on grass, woods, and shrubs. They could get along for long periods without water. Sheep in clusters are easily led, so a single shepherd could watch over a large flock. Sheep today are bred for white wool. But the sheep of Bible times were probably brown or a mixture of black and white. Modern farmers clip off the tails of sheep for sanitary reasons, but fat tails were prized on biblical sheep. The Hebrews called this "the whole fat tail." When they offered this prized part of the sheep as a burnt offering to God, they burned the "entire fat-tail cut off close by the spine" (Lev. 3#9), (NEB). Sheep were also valuable because they provided meat for the Hebrew diet. Mutton was a nutritious food, and it could be packed away and preserved for winter. And before man learned to spin and weave wool, shepherds wore warm sheepskin jackets. By nature, sheep are helpless creatures. They depend on shepherds to lead them to water and pasture, to fight off wild beasts, and to anoint their faces with oil when a snake nips them from the grass. Sheep are social animals that gather in flocks, but they tend to wander off and fall into a crevice or get caught in a thorn bush. Then the shepherd must leave the rest of his flock to search for the stray. Jesus used this familiar picture when He described a shepherd who left 99 sheep in the fold to search for one that had wandered off. The God of the Hebrews revealed His nurturing nature by speaking of himself as a shepherd (Psalm 23). Jesus also described Himself as the Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep (John 10#1-18). A unique relationship existed between shepherd and sheep. He knew them by name, and they in turn recognized his voice. Sheep were models of submissiveness. Because he demonstrated purity and trustful obedience to the Father, Jesus was also called "the Lamb of God" (John 1#29,36). Wild sheep, high-spirited and independent, lived among the tall peaks of Palestine's mountains. Like their domesticated cousins, they flocked together, but their disposition more nearly resembled goats. They are referred to as mountain sheep (Deut. 14#5), (NKJV, RSV, NIV, NASB), chamois (KJV), and rock goat (NEB). Wild or domestic, the male sheep is called a ram; the female is called a ewe. Skink (See Lizard). Snail. Snails are small, slow-crawling animals with a soft body protected by a coiled shell. They move with wave-like motions of their single foot, secreting a slime as they go to make their travel easier. The psalmist may have had this peculiar motion in mind when he spoke of the snail "which melts away as it goes" (Ps. 58#8). The snail in (Leviticus 11#30) (KJV) is probably a skink, a type of sand lizard. Snake. A snake is the Bible's first-- and final-- animal villain (Genesis 3; Rev. 20#2). Throughout the Old and New Testaments, several different words for snake or serpent appear some 20 times. Scholars can only make educated guesses as to which of Palestine's many species of snakes are meant in most verses. The asp and adder are both common in the Holy Land. The asp is a type of cobra with its familiar hood, although its hood is not as pronounced as the Indian cobra's. There is also a desert cobra, which has no hood at all. Adder and viper are two different words for the same deadly snake. A horned viper and sawscale, or carpet viper, are native to Israel. Another species mentioned in the Bible is the sand viper (Is. 30#6), (NEB). In the wilderness, the Israelites were plagued by fiery serpents (Num. 21#6). "Fiery" may indicate the burning fever caused by their bite. Or it may refer to the puff adder, which has yellow, flame-like markings. The cockatrice of the KJV was a mythological monster. It had the wings and head of a cock and the tail of a dragon. According to the superstitious legend about this animal, its look could kill. Most snakes in Palestine were non-poisonous, but the Jewish people feared and hated all snakes. In the Bible the serpent is often referred to as the symbol of evil and wrongdoing (Ps. 140#3; Jer. 8#17). In spite of this attitude among the Jews, some of Israel's neighbors associated serpents with health, life, and immortality. The kingdom of Lower Egypt took the cobra as its official symbol. Even Moses once lifted up a BRONZE SERPENT before the Israelites at God's command to save the people from the fiery serpents in the wilderness (Num. 21#9). Some continued to worship that bronze serpent until King Hezekiah destroyed it generations later (2 Kin. 18#4). Snakes are fascinating creatures. Scales on their undersides provide traction. Their forked tongues flick rapidly in and out to collect sensations of touch and smell. (Psalm 58#4) is correct in speaking of the "deaf cobra," since snakes have no ears to receive sound waves. Like deaf persons, they rely on physical vibrations to pick up sounds. Thus cobras are not charmed by music, but by movement. A snake's spine may contain as many as 300 tiny vertebrae. This gives them their amazing flexibility to coil and curve. Their mouths are hinged to permit them to swallow and eat creatures much larger than themselves. Their eyes are protected by transparent lids which are always open, causing scientists to wonder if snakes ever sleep. Sow (see Swine). Sparrow. Sparrow is the name given to several different species of birds in the Bible. They ate grain and insects and gathered in noisy flocks. The psalmist wrote, "I... am like a sparrow alone on the housetop" (Ps. 102#7). These tiny birds were such social creatures that a lone sparrow was the symbol of deep loneliness. Sparrows build their untidy nests in the eaves of houses. Sparrows were not driven away when they built their nests in the Temple (Ps. 84#3). In Jesus' time sparrows sold for a very low price-- two for a copper coin, five for two copper coins (Matt. 10#29; Luke 12#6). Perhaps this was the Temple price, for they were considered a poor man's sacrifice. Those who could not afford to sacrifice a sheep or a goat might bring a sparrow. Moses once directed healed lepers to bring two sparrows to the Temple for a cleansing ceremony (Lev. 14#1-7). Sometimes it seems that only God cares for sparrows. Cats, hawks, and naughty boys prey upon them. People complain about how they multiply, considering them pests. Yet, Jesus declared, "Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will" (Matt. 10#29). We may not esteem the little sparrow, but the Son of God used it to illustrate our Heavenly Father's watchful care: "You are of more value than many sparrows" (Matt. 10#31; Luke 12#7). Spider. Hundreds of different species of spiders are found in the Holy Land. A spider's skill at spinning threads into a web is one of nature's miracles. The fragile web of a spider is used to demonstrate the folly of placing confidence in something other than the stable, dependable God (Job 8#14). Spiders trap their victims in their webs and dissolve them with pre-digestive juices so they can be eaten. Oil on the spider's body keeps it from being entangled in its own web. Sponge. The sponge is a plant-like animal that lives on the ocean floor. It absorbs nourishment from water passing through its body. When a sponge is removed from water, the cells die, leaving a skeleton. The skeletons of some sponges are flexible and porous. These have been used for centuries as cleaning and water-absorbing tools. Such a sponge, dipped in sour wine, was offered to Christ on the cross (Matt. 27#48; Mark 15#36; John 19#29). Stag (see Deer). Stork. This goose-sized bird looks ungainly in flight, with its legs dangling and its wings slowly flapping. But people in Palestine were always glad to see the storks on their yearly migration from Europe to Africa. Storks had the reputation of bringing good luck. If they were numerous, surely crops would be good. Farmers welcomed storks because they helped their crops by eating insects. Both black and white storks were often seen in Palestine. White storks nest as high as possible-- often on chimneys. But since houses in the Holy Land had low, flat roofs, they nested instead in the fir trees (Ps. 104#17). In spite of their commendable features, storks were considered unclean (Lev. 11#19; Deut. 14#18). Swallow. The swallow is a migratory bird quite familiar to residents of the Holy Land. Frequently on the move to warmer climates, swallows gather in huge flocks to travel thousands of miles. A chattering flock can make quite a racket (Is. 38#14). The psalmist makes an interesting distinction between the sparrow, who finds a home, and the swallow, who gets a nest (Ps. 84#3). Only a permanent resident needs a home. Some translations render the Hebrew word for swallow as thrush (Jer. 8#7), (NIV, NASB) or wryneck (Jer. 8#7), (NEB). Swallows spend most of their time in the air, catching insects on the wing. They are beautiful birds, brightly colored, with forked tails. Swan. Swans are seen occasionally in Palestine. As vegetarians, they are related to ducks and geese. Alternate translations of the Hebrew term for swan include ibis, stork, white owl, and water hen. These are better translations, since there seems to be no reason why swans would have been considered unclean (Lev. 11#18), (KJV). Swift. The swift is a small migratory bird often confused with the swallow. Although they are similar, the two birds come from different families. Swifts are strong fliers that can travel short distances at over 100 m. p. h. They spend much of their time feeding on airborne insects. The prophet Jeremiah must have known the migrating habits of the swift. He spoke of this bird and others that "observe the time of their coming." Unlike these birds, he observed, the rebellious people of the nation of Judah "do not know the judgment of the Lord" (Jer. 8#7). Swine. The Jewish people had nothing to do with pigs, but these animals still received much attention in the Bible. In (Psalm 80#13), Israel's enemies were likened to a "boar out of the woods." Vicious wild pigs (boars) ranged throughout Palestine. Owners of vineyards hated them, because they devoured grapes and trampled their vines. Dogs and men alike feared their razor-sharp tusks. In modern times, the boar is the largest game animal in Israel. Domesticated pigs (swine) were also raised in Palestine-- by Gentiles or unorthodox Jews. Pigs were ceremonially unclean, supposedly because they did not "chew the cud." The symbol of greed and filth, pigs symbolized a person's unredeemed nature (2 Pet. 2#22). Jesus told a story of a prodigal son who really hit bottom when he had to take care of hogs and even eat food intended for them (Luke 15#15-16). Tawny Owl (see Owl). Thrush (see Swift). Tortoise (see Turtle). Turtle. Both turtles and tortoises (a type often found in Palestine) and their eggs and meat were eaten. In (Numbers 6#10) and (Jeremiah 8#7) (KJV), turtle is simply an abbreviation of turtledove. The context clearly indicates that a bird is meant, not the silent, slow-moving turtle. Turtledove (see Dove). Unicorn. A unicorn is a mythical creature, similar to a horse, with a single spiral horn growing out of its forehead. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn appeared in paintings as a symbol of purity. Many people believed an animal like this really lived. In the Bible, most verses that refer to the unicorn emphasize its great strength (Num. 23#22; 24#8; Deut. 33#17). The biblical writer may have had the aurochs in mind. This horned wild ox was so large and powerful that no one could control or tame it (Job 39#9-10; Ps. 22#21; 92#10; Is. 34#7). Viper (see Snake). Vulture. Vultures are large, loathsome members of the hawk family. The largest species have a wingspread of about 32 meters (9 to 10 feet). Most vultures have bare heads and necks. However, the lammergeier (bearded vulture) has dirty-white neck feathers and a tassel of dark feathers hanging from its beak. The Egyptian vulture likewise has neck feathers. A griffon's long neck is covered with fine white down. The lammergeier is also called the ossifrage (see (Lev. 11#13; Deut. 14#12)) or the gier eagle (Lev. 11#18; Deut. 14#17). Vultures feed on dead bodies. For this reason they were considered UNCLEAN animals by the Jewish people (Lev. 11#13; Deut. 14#12-13). Other versions of the Bible translate the word as buzzard, falcon, and bustard. Wasp. These overgrown relatives of bees are known for their painful sting. Wasps are common throughout the Holy Land. Hornets are a large species of wasp. So savage were these insects when disturbed that Egyptian soldiers used hornets as a symbol of their military might. When the people of Israel were marching toward the Promised Land, God promised He would send hornets before them to drive the Canaanites out of the land (Ex. 23#28). Ancient writers claim that entire tribes were sometimes driven out of a country by wasps or hornets. Weasel. These animals live in almost every country, including Palestine. They are small and furry, with thin, long bodies and short legs. Weasels eat small animals and have a reputation for stealing eggs. The Bible mentions them only in (Leviticus 11#29), in the list of unclean animals. Some modern sources believe the mole (NASB) or mole-rat (NEB) was meant in this verse. Whale (see Crocodile; Sea Monster). Wild Boar (see Swine). Wild Donkey (see Donkey). Wild Goat (see Goat). Wild Ox (see Cattle; Unicorn). Wolf. Wolves were a menace to the sheep farmers of Palestine. Man's first dogs were probably tamed wolf pups. Perhaps this kinship enabled wolves to lurk near sheepfolds and gain their reputation for treachery. Of his youngest son, the patriarch Jacob said: "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf" (Gen. 49#27). The Hebrew word translated ravenous means "to rip and tear," indicating the bloodthirsty nature of the wolf. Wolves seem particularly cruel because they seek out the weak, old, and defenseless as victims. The flow of blood incites them to rip and tear even more with their powerful jaws. In many Bible references, wolves represent ruthless enemies. Jesus warned of false prophets "who come... in sheep's clothing, but inwardly... are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7#15). Worm. Worms have no backbone, legs, or eyes, although their bodies are sensitive to light and temperature. But they do play a useful role. They improve the soil by working decaying vegetation into the earth and aerating it with their tunnels. The Bible speaks both literally and figuratively of worms. The word worm also refers to a worm-like creature, such as insect larva. For instance, the palmerworm, cankerworm, and caterpillar of (Joel 1#4) are all caterpillars, which is the larval stage of various moths. (The NKJV, however, translates these as various kinds of locusts.) Grub is another word used for worm in various translations (Is. 51#8), (NEB, NASB). (Job 7#5) and other passages, which refer to infestation of worms, probably mean maggots, the larvae of flies. Decaying matter often teems with tiny worm-like maggots. Some worms, such as tapeworms and pinworms, are parasites which invade the human body. Thus Herod could be described as "eaten by worms" (Acts 12#23). The common earthworm also appears in the Bible. (Micah 7#17) refers to worms (snakes, NKJV) coming out of their holes. Perhaps it was an earthworm also that God appointed to strike at the root of Jonah's shade (Jon. 4#7). The psalmist lamented: "I am a worm... and despised" (Ps. 22#6). Job claimed kinship with the lowly worm (Job 17#14). (Isaiah 41#14) uses "you worm Jacob" as a metaphor of weakness. The Jews associated worms and fire with the place reserved for the ungodly dead Isa. 66#24; Mark 9#44,48. Wryneck (see Swallow).
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