Chapter 5 – Birds
Birds are mentioned numerous times in the Old and New Testaments. There are even specific references to particular birds such as the partridge, quail, pigeon, dove, rooster, cormorant, swallow or crane, eagle or vulture, ibis, osprey, ostrich, pelican, raven, stork, and swan. Some birds were clean, i.e. acceptable for eating or sacrifices, and some were unclean. Accordingly birds of prey and most of the water-fowl were considered unclean.
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.
Since there are many, many references to birds and their ways, habitants, purposes, etc., I’m going to feature only my favorites – the eagle and the dove.
The eagle is mentioned 30 times in the Old Testament and from reading those specific verses we get a picture of a bird that is extremely swift, powerful, regal, and exalted. In Ezekiel 10:14 a strange wheel is described:
And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Compare that to Revelation4:7 where four beasts are described:
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
There is an interesting study of the spiritual meaning of eagles here.
The Bible presents the dove as peaceful, having a mournful cry, attractive eyes, and beautiful wings. In Song of Songs “my dove” is a term of endearment and in Matthew and John it is recorded that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove”, giving the impression of a fluttery, gentle landing. The book of Luke alters the description only in saying that the Holy Ghost descended in “bodily shape like a dove”, confusing many people to think that it was actually a dove.
After Jesus was born Mary and Joseph went to the temple and made the appropriate sacrifice: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons (doves). A helpful discussion of the symbolism of doves in the Bible can be found here.