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Verse 16

She is hardened against her young ones - The obvious meaning of this passage, which is a fair translation of the Hebrew, is, that the ostrich is destitute of natural affection for her young; or that she treats them as if she had not the usual natural affection manifested in the animal creation. This sentiment also occurs in Lamentations 4:3, “The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” This opinion is controverted by Buffon, but seems fully sustained by those who have most attentively observed the habits of the ostrich. Dr. Shaw, as quoted by Paxton, and in Robinson’s Calmet, says, “On the least noise or trivial occasion she forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others.” “Agreeable to this account,” says Paxton, “the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed, some of which are sweet and good, and others addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growths, according to the time it may be presumed they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, not bigger than well-grown pullets, half-starved, straggling and moaning about like so many distressed orphans for their mothers.”

Her labour is in vain without fear - Herder renders this,” In vain is her travail, but she regards it not.” The idea in the passage seems to be this; that the ostrich has not that apprehension or provident care for her young which others birds have. It does not mean that she is an animal remarkably bold and courageous, for the contrary is the fact, and she is, according to the Arabian writers, timid to a proverb; but that she has none of the anxious solicitude for her young which others seem to have - the dread that they may be in want, or in danger, which leads them, often at the peril of their own lives, to provide for and defend them.

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