Posted in natural history, theology

Look at the birds of the air

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s fall here in north Georgia. Many of the migrating birds of the north are returning and the trees in my yard are more alive than ever with birdsong. And now that the temperatures don’t require air conditioning, my windows are open to hear them.

Birdsong is such a happy sound. I really enjoy hearing and seeing the various birds swooping, singing, nesting, and flying in the yard. I’m so glad the Lord made birds.

When we go outside and look at a majestic tree or see a flowering bush, a well manicured green lawn, a vivid sunset, the moon shining down,…it is a beautiful reminder to us that the LORD made it all. In my classroom reading group when I do a study on an animal or insect, as we did this week with bees, I’m always overcome with the thought that He made all the vegetation and all the beasts of the sea, land, and air in just 3 days; days 3, 5, and 6. (Genesis 1:11-13; 20-25).

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20).

Birds are a favorite creature of mine. I love when the Bible mentions them, though the verses themselves are not always happy. The Great Supper of the Dead will occur after Armageddon where an angel standing on the sun summons

all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19:17)

As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. (Ezekiel 39:17).

This future event is known as the Great Supper of God, not to be confused with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where His children sup with Jesus in heaven. One event is designed for the damned and the other is designed for the blessed.

On a happier note, the Bible compares Jesus to a hen gathering His chicks-

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)

In Job 39:27-29 God describes His creation of the eagle. The eagle IS a majestic bird, isn’t it. It’s amazing in its capabilities. It is such a majestic bird that several nations feature it on their coat of arms, like Germany, Mexico, Egypt, Poland and Austria. The US has made the eagle its national bird.

Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is its stronghold. From there it looks for food; its eyes detect it from afar. (Job 39:27-29).

Yet the smaller birds are also lauded in the Bible.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:29)

In that verse we understand that the smallest of birds are taken care of by God and so if He knows every small, insignificant bird, He will surely take care of His children. Here is Barnes’ Notes on the verse and the bird itself,

Are not two sparrows … – He encourages them not to fear by two striking considerations: first, that God takes care of sparrows, the smallest and least valuable of birds; and, secondly, by the fact that God numbers even the hairs of the head. The argument is, that if He takes care of birds of the least value, if He regards so small a thing as the hair of the head, and numbers it, He will certainly protect and provide for you. You need not, therefore, fear what man can do to you.

Sparrows – The sparrows are well-known birds in Syria. They are small; they are found in great numbers; they are tame, intrusive, and nestle everywhere. “They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in Psalm 84:1-12, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests. Concerning himself, he says, I watch, and am as a sparrow upon the housetop, Psalm 102:7.

When one of them has lost its mate – a matter of everyday occurrence – he will sit on the housetop alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. These birds are snared and caught in great numbers, but, as they are small, and not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for two farthings; and when we see their countless numbers, and the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can better appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who are of more value than many sparrows.” – “The Land and the Book” (Thomson), vol. i. pp. 52, 53

Did you know that there are almost 300 verses in the Bible that mention birds? One third of these mentions are general, mentioning just birds or fowl. The species isn’t named. Of the species that are named, we read of doves, for example,  a favorite bird at that time in Palestine. It was a bird that mated for life, was gentle, abundant, and beautiful.

The rougher scavenger birds are frequently mentioned, such as vultures, eagles, kites, falcons, buzzards, ravens, rooks, owls, hawks, ospreys, storks, herons, and cormorants.

Of course we remember the quail that God caused to rain down on the wandering Hebrews in the Exodus. They tired of manna, complained and grumbled, so God sent so many quail He said they would have them coming out their nostrils till the ungrateful grumblers were well and truly sick of it. (Numbers 11:20).

From the great birds like the eagle to the smallest of birds seemingly worth nothing, God has created them and they exist for His purposes. They are useful vehicles to consume the dead, metaphors expressing His care, to be bought by the poorest of the people for offerings, or just to admire their glorious majesty. The more we understand about the natural word as it existed in Bible times the more we can understand these allusions and metaphors.

Do you have a favorite bird? A favorite bird Bible verse?

hawk on hay.jpg
Hawk on hay in rural county. Photo by EPrata


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.