use by the Israelites. This would be most unlikely inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean according to the Mosaic law and also might be expected to tear or rend the victim, making it unfit for eating.—Lev. 11:3, 13-16; 17:15.
A provision of the Mosaic law required that the mother bird could not be taken along with her eggs or offspring, and this doubtless served as a conservation measure for certain varieties of birds.—Deut. 22:6, 7.
Man, unable to foresee the future and limited in his ability to cope with calamity, is likened to “birds that are being taken in a trap [Heb., pahh], . . . ensnared at a calamitous time, when it falls upon them suddenly.” (Eccl. 9:12) The righteous are confronted with subtle snares, hidden traps, attractive lures and bait placed in their path to draw them into the domain of the wicked who seek to bring them to moral and spiritual ruin. (Ps. 119:110; 142:3; Hos. 9:8) False prophetesses are condemned for “hunting down . . . souls as though they were flying things.” (Ezek. 13:17-23) However, because Jehovah proves to be with his faithful servants, their “soul is like a bird that is escaped from the trap of baiters. The trap is broken, and we ourselves have escaped.” (Ps. 124:1, 7, 8) The psalmist prayed: “Keep me from the clutches of the trap [pahh] that they have laid for me and from the snares [moq·shohthʹ, feminine plural form of moh·qeshʹ] of those practicing what is hurtful. The wicked will fall into their own nets all together, while I, for my part, pass by.”—Ps. 141:9, 10.
Birds are warm-blooded feathered vertebrates and are oviparous, that is, egg-laying. There are some three hundred references to birds in the Bible, with about thirty different varieties being specifically named. Reference is made to their flight, often in escaping their enemies (Ps. 11:1; Prov. 26:2; 27:8; Isa. 31:5; Hos. 9:11); their roosting in trees (Ps. 104:12; Matt. 13:32); nesting (Ps. 84:3; Ezek. 31:6); their uses, particularly male pigeons and turtledoves, in sacrifice (Lev. 1:14; 14:4-7, 49-53), as food (Neh. 5:18), including their eggs (Isa. 10:14; Luke 11:11, 12); and God’s provision and care for them.—Matt. 6:26; 10:29; compare Deuteronomy 22:6, 7.
Of the general terms used in the Bible that apply to birds, the Hebrew word ʽohph is the most frequent. Basically it means any winged flying creature (Gen. 1:21), and thus may include not only birds but also winged insects. (Compare Leviticus 11:13, 21-23.) G. Driver suggests that ʽohph is onomatopoeic, imitating the sound made by the bird’s wings as they beat the air.
The Hebrew tsip·pohrʹ also occurs in a large number of texts and is a generic term applying to birds in general. (Gen. 7:14) Tsip·pohrʹ literally means “twitterer” or “chiper” and hence the name imitates the “tsip” sound so characteristic of many small birds, especially the sparrow.
A third Hebrew term, ʽaʹyit, is applied solely to the birds of prey. ʽAʹyit is understood to mean “the screamer” (compare the use of the verb at 1 Samuel 25:14), and fittingly described many of the carnivorous birds with their piercing shrieks.—Jer. 12:9.
At Acts 17:18 Athenian philosophers referred to the apostle Paul as a “chatterer.” The Greek word here (sper·mo·loʹgos) literally means a crow that picks up seeds, while figuratively it was used of a person who picks up scraps by begging or stealing, or, as in the case cited, one who repeats scraps of knowledge; an idle babbler.
Birds were among the earliest conscious living things on earth, coming into existence on the fifth creative “day” along with the marine creatures. (Gen. 1:20-23) The “flying creatures” then created included not only small birds but also very large flying creatures, and also many insect forms of life.
A thoughtful study of birds gives convincing proof of the Biblical teaching that they are of divine creation. The theory advanced by evolutionists that birds evolved from reptiles is clearly fictional and could be given credence only by the most imaginative of minds. While birds and reptiles are both oviparous, reptiles are cold-blooded, often sluggish, whereas birds are warm-blooded and among the most active of all earth’s creatures, with an unusually rapid heartbeat. The evolutionary view that reptilian scales and fins eventually developed into feathered wings (as a result of air pressure against the scales caused by billions of years of leaping and hopping by certain reptiles) is both fanciful and foundationless. The fossils of birds called by scientists Archaeopteryx (or, ancient one with wings) and Archaeornis (or, ancient bird), though showing teeth and a long vertebrated tail, also show that they were completely feathered, had feet equipped for perching, and had fully developed wings. Thus, no “intermediate” specimens, exhibiting scales developing into feathers or front legs into wings, exist to give any semblance of support to the evolution theory. As expressed by the apostle Paul, birds are of a distinct “flesh” from others of earth’s creatures.—1 Cor. 15:39.
The psalmist called upon the “winged birds” to praise Jehovah (Ps. 148:1, 10), and birds do this by their very structure and their complex design. A single bird may have as many as 2,000 to over 6,000 feathers. Yet each feather is composed of a shaft from which branch out hundreds of barbs forming an inner web, each barb containing several hundred pairs of smaller barbules and each barbule having still more minute divisions known as barbicels. A single six-inch wing feather of a pigeon is thus estimated to contain some 990,000 barbules and literally millions of barbicels. The aerodynamic principles built into birds’ wings and body design surpass in complexity and efficiency that of modern-day aircraft. A bird’s hollow bones contribute to its lightness and thus the skeleton of a frigate bird with a seven-foot (2.1-meter) wingspan may weigh only four ounces (114.4 grams). Certain wing bones of large soaring birds even have trusslike supports within the hollow portions like the struts inside airplane wings
At the time of the flood, Noah introduced into the ark for preservation pairs of birds “according to their kinds.” (Gen. 6:7, 20; 7:3, 23) There is no certain way of knowing how many different “kinds” of birds then existed, some types of birds having become extinct even in recent times. However, it is of interest to note that the listing of birds according to present-day scientific classification presented in The Encyclopœdia Britannica (1959 ed., Vol. 16, pp. 930-932) gives a total of only 204 bird “families,” including some that are now extinct or known only in fossil form. There are, of course, thousands of varieties included within these “families.”—See ARK No. 1.
Following the global flood Noah offered up “clean flying creatures” along with animals as a sacrifice. (Gen. 8:18-20) Birds were thereafter made allowable by God for inclusion in man’s diet, as long as the blood was not eaten. (Gen. 9:1-4; compare Leviticus 7:26; 17:13.) The ‘cleanness’ of certain birds at that time therefore evidently relates to some divine indication of acceptableness for sacrifice; the Biblical record shows that, as regards their being used as food, none of the birds were designated as “unclean” until the introduction of the Mosaic law. (Lev 11:13-19, 46, 47; 20:25; Deut. 14:11-20) The factors determining which birds were designated ceremonially “unclean” are not expressly stated in the Bible. Thus, while most of those so designated were birds of prey or scavengers, not all of them were. (See HOOPOE.) This prohibition was lifted following the establishment of the new covenant, as God made evident to Peter by a vision.—Acts 10:9-15.