Eagles, Ravens and Unclean birds

Eagles, ravens and unclean birds are found throughout the Bible.  If you read my recent post on Birds of the Bible, I focused on sparrows in doves, but birds are used throughout Scripture to teach us about many Bible truths.  Today, let’s turn our focus to eagles, ravens and unclean birds.

Eagles:

The image of God as an eagle is found throughout the Bible, but we see it most in the Old Testament. It is a sign of strength and able to bear and carry much weight, as Moses wrote, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex 19:4). This is further symbolized when Moses said of God “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions” (Duet 32:11). The eagle can carry it’s young on its outer wings (pinions)  This is  what God did when He brought Israel out of captivity from Egypt and continued to bear her and her people up in her wanderings in the wilderness.

The eagle signifies strength and we get our strength from God Most High. The psalmist often referred to God in the imagery or as having the attributes of an eagle and especially when he wrote that it was God “who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5). Isaiah also saw the symbolic strength of God as depicted in an eagle when he wrote “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

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The Eagle also symbolizes protection. God refers to Himself as an eagle in many ways, but I love that He uses the eagle to signify His protective nature.  In Psalm 91:1-4 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. ” Eagles represent sovereignty and supremacy and God is the ruler over all kings and presidents.  (Dan. 2:20-21/5:18-21, Prov. 8:15-16, Rom. 13:1-2) but also, when storms approach, eagles can fly far above the storms, indicating that God is never affected by conditions of weather or circumstance.  He is sovereign over nature and everything of this world.

 

eagles, ravens and unclean birds of the Bible

Ravens:

Smith’s Bible Dictionary explains that “the Hebrew oreb is applied to the several species of the crow family, a number of which are found in Israel. The raven belongs to the order Insessores, family Corvidae. (It resembles the crow, but is larger weighing three pounds; its black color is more iridescent, and it is gifted with greater sagacity. “There is something weird and shrewd in the expression of the raven’s countenance, a union of cunning and malignity which may have contributed to give it among widely-revered nations a reputation for preternatural knowledge.”

The raven is mentioned throughout Scripture to illustrate several important truths:

  1. The ravens brought Elijah bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.
  2. According to Job 38:40-41, God feeds the ravens and their young.
  3. Echoing this sentiment, Psalm 147:9 says that God gives the young ravens food when they call.

All of these point to that God provides for all of our needs.  He knows what we need – even when we don’t – and He will always provide for us.

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I love reading that it was the raven that God used to bring food to Elijah. These are voracious, un­clean birds that seem always to be hungry; and yet they kept the prophet alive during a famine while he was hiding from the wrath of Ahab. Unlovely or not, the ra­vens are under God’s care. He provides for them and their young (Job 38:41), and used them miraculously to provide for one of His servants.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex 19-4).

 

It is interesting to note that, as mentioned above, ravens are among the birds that are unclean for the Jews. “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: Every raven after his kind.” (Lev 11:13, 15; also Deut 14:12, 14) Some Bible scholars have suggested that they are considered unclean because they are scavengers and carrion eaters. However, other birds on the list, such as the eagle or the owl, eat live prey. Another suggestion is that they are meat eaters. Although all the forbidden birds are carnivores not all insect eating birds are on the list. In fact, chickens are omnivores, eating grubs as readily as grain, and they are obviously not on the prohibited list, not being found in the Bible at all. (Source: Minutes with Messiah)

Other unclean birds, forbidden for the Jews to eat are crows, great owl, hawk, heron, Osprey, Pelican, stork and vulture.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are no longer bound by Old Testament rules on clean and unclean meat, but, personally, I find this concept fascinating and plan to go deeper to study why these fowl (and other animals) were considered unclean.

Eagles, ravens and unclean birds are found throughout Scripture.  What is your favorite verse about eagles, ravens and unclean birds?

How has God shown or given you strength? How has he provided for you?  I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!

Because of Him,

Sue

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