There are over 8,000 kinds of birds. Approximately 400 varieties live in Israel, and Scripture mentions about 40. Modern scientists classify animals on the basis of what they look like inside and out. However, the biblical writers generally classified animals according to where the animals lived. Thus, in the Bible, bats are listed with birds as creatures of the air (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18)(Visual Bible Alive).
The American English word “eagle” appears about 30 times (depending on the translation) in most English Bibles. The Hebrew word, “nešer,” appears 26 times in the Old Testament. It is described as a large, carnivorous bird of prey known for its long feathers, wings, speed, power in flight, and keen eyesight (2 Sam. 1:23; Ps. 103:5; Isa. 40:31)(Baker & Carpenter, 2003).
It has been described as a “great vulture” in Lev 11:13 and “vulture” in Prov 30:17 and Mic 1:16, RSV “vulture” in the text once only, for the Heb expression “sons of the eagle” (Prov 30:17). Many translators have been satisfied with the term “eagle” because of the finer traits of strength, swiftness, and care of the young are cited, but where the eating of carrion or “baldness” (see Mic 1:16) is involved, a lesser breed of bird seems to be in order. Actually, not only did the Semitic languages tend to lump the large soaring birds into one family but the Encyclopedia Britannica defines “eagle” as inclusive of several day-flying birds of prey comprising, along with hawks, harriers and old world vultures, the family Acciptridae (Fisher, 1999).
This idea of renewal and strength in eagles is especially popularized by Is. 40: 31: Yet those who 1wait for the LORD Will again new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
And Ps. 103:5: [God] satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
I have been really curious lately about Eagles in the Bible. I have always wondered if the Biblical authors actually saw birds similar to eagles that you and I are familiar with. Ultimately it is near impossible to prove one way or the other but many sources that I have been reading recently have made some good points.
1. There is a myth out there that says that supposes that this bird (eagle or not) was a bird that had some extreme renewal habits: -going off and plucking its feathers and not being able to fly for about five months. The image has even been added that the beak and claws are knocked off and then grow back during that time, giving them another 10 or so more years to their life. I have been trying to find proof of that, and am not finding it. Most Eagle authorities state that that would not happen, because the bird would die during that time with no flight feathers or beak or claws (Lee, 2009).
A second source along with the American Bald Eagle Organization also makes the point that Eagles do not undergo the process of rebirth described in the myth/legend commonly used as a biblical metaphor (Christensen, 2012). Although there are some alternatives that still make the Bible true: It is NOT an eagle but a different bird. Or it is an eagle (see below) that goes through a different kind of renewal than the one described in the myth (see: Lee, 2009).
2.A reasonable suggestion that it is not actually an eagle but an Old World Vulture: a Griffon Vulture(The Wonder of Birds).
(Photo from Cortijada Los Gazquez).
3. In any case the eagle is known for catching its young on its wings after pushing them out of the nest….this is a great strategy to teach the young ones how to fly. So this bird, eagle or not could have demonstrated a similar process.
Other interesting eagle/vulture related discussions from the Bible: The Bible mentions the eagle’s strength and invincibility often with reference to powerful nations attacking Israel. The prophet Ezekiel described Nebuchadnezzar as an eagle (Ezekiel 17:3). The eagle builds its nest on inaccessible mountain peaks or at the top of the tallest trees, a fact noted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:16; compare to Job 39:27-28; Obadiah 1:4). Eagles are devoted to their offspring and train them with great care in the art of flying. Some commentators interpret Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11 as evidence of the eagle’s practice of catching its young on its wings. Confronted by its impressive qualities, biblical authors observed the eagle with awe and wonder (Job 39:27-30; Proverbs 30:18-19). Since the vulture, like the eagle, was a symbol of sovereignty and domination in the ancient Near East, some gods were represented as vultures (Visual Bible Alive).
Here is a good site that mentions all of the verses where “Eagle” is used in the Bible: http://www.watchmanbiblestudy.com/biblestudies/Definitions/Eagles.htm
Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (760). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
Christensen, B. M., (2012). “Rebirth Of The Eagle Hoax.” From Hoax-Slayer. Accessed Sept. 8th 2012 from http://www.hoax-slayer.com/rebirth-of-the-eagle-hoax.shtml.
Cortijada Los Gazquez. http://www.losgazquez.com/blog/?p=37
Fisher, M. C. (1999). 1437 נֶשֶׁר. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (606–607). Chicago: Moody Press.
“History of The Griffon Vulture in the Bible.” The Wonder of Birds http://www.thewonderofbirds.com/griffon-vulture/nests.htm
Lee. (2009). “Birds of the Bible – Eagle’s Renewal” from Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus assessed on Sept. 8th 2012 from http://leesbird.com/2009/09/25/b-o-b-eagle-renewal/
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 103:5). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
“Birds.” Visual Bible Alive. Accessed on Sept. 8th 2012 from http://www.visualbiblealive.com/resources.php?encyc_id=19&img_id=58130&action=encyclopedia&frame=divEncyc