Read & Study the Bible Online - Bible Portal

Verses 13-18

Job 39:13-18. Goodly wings unto the peacocks Bochart seems to have proved, beyond all dispute, that the word rendered peacocks signifies ostriches; and the following description entirely agrees with that opinion. Mr. Heath renders the verse, The wing of the ostrich is triumphantly expanded, though the strong pinion be the portion of the stork and the falcon; Job 39:14 though she leaves her eggs, &c. Dr. Shaw renders the verse The wing of the ostrich is quivering or expanded, the very feathers and plumage of the stork; and he observes, that the warming of the eggs in the dust or sand, is by incubation; and that the beginning of the 14th verse might be more properly rendered, When she raiseth herself up to run away, namely, from her pursuers. In commenting on these verses, it may be observed, says the Doctor, that when the ostrich is full grown, the neck, particularly of the male, which before was almost naked, is now very beautifully covered with red feathers. The plumage likewise upon the shoulders, the back, and some parts of the wings, from being hitherto of a dark greyish colour, becomes now as black as jet, while the rest of the feathers retain an exquisite whiteness: They are, described at Job 39:13 the very feathers and plumage of the stork; i.e. they consist of such black and white feathers as the stork, called from thence πελαργος, is known to have. But the belly, the thighs, and the breast, do not partake of this covering, being usually naked, and when touched are found to be of the same warmth as the flesh of quadrupeds. Under the joint of the great pinion, and sometimes upon the lesser, there is a strong pointed excrescence like a cock's spur, with which it is said to prick and stimulate itself, and thereby acquire fresh strength and vigour when it is pursued. When these birds are surprized, by coming upon them while feeding in some valley, or behind some rocky or sandy eminence in the desarts, they will not stay to be curiously viewed and examined. Neither are the Arabs ever dexterous enough to overtake them, even when they are mounted upon their jinse, or horses. They, when they raise themselves up for flight, Job 39:18 laugh at the horse and his rider. They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance their extraordinary agility, and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was of ascribing to them, Job 39:13 an expanded quivering wing. Nothing certainly can be more beautiful and entertaining than such a sight! the wings, by their repeated, though unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue. The ostrich lays from thirty to fifty eggs. AElian mentions more than eighty; but I never heard of so large a number. The first egg is deposited in the centre; the rest are placed as conveniently as possible round about it. In this manner she is said to lay, deposit, or trust her eggs in the earth, and to warm them in the sand; Job 39:14 and forget (as they are not placed, like those of some other birds, upon trees, or in the clefts of rocks, &c.) that the foot of the traveller may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. Yet, notwithstanding the ample provision which is hereby made for a numerous offspring, scarcely one quarter of these eggs are ever supposed to be hatched; and of those which are, no small share of the young ones may perish with hunger, from being left too early by their dams to shift for themselves; for in these, the most barren and desolate recesses of the Sahara, where the ostrich chooses to make her nest, it would not be enough to lay eggs and hatch them, unless some proper food was near at hand, and already prepared for their nourishment; and accordingly we are not to consider this large collection of eggs as if they were all intended for a brood: they are the greatest part of them reserved for food, which the dam breaks and disposes of, according to the number and the cravings of her young ones. But for all this, a very little share of that στοργη, or natural affection, which so strongly exerts itself in most other creatures, is observable in the ostrich: for, upon the least distant 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 preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed: some of which are sweet and good; others are addle and corrupted; others, again, have their young ones of different growths, according to the time that it may be presumed they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, no bigger than well-grown pullets, half-starved, straggling and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans for their mother. And in this manner the ostrich may be said, Job 39:16 to be hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour, in hatching and attending them so far, being in vain, without fear, or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards. This want of affection is also recorded, Lamentations 4:3. The daughter of my people, says the prophet, is cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. Nor is this the only reproach that may be due to the ostrich; she is likewise inconsiderate and foolish in her private capacity; particularly in her choice of food, which is frequently highly detrimental and pernicious to her; for she swallows every thing greedily and indiscriminately, whether it be pieces of rags, leather, wood, stone, or iron. When I was at Oran, I saw one of these birds swallow, without any seeming uneasiness or inconveniency, several leaden bullets, as they were thrown upon the floor, scorching hot from the mold: the divine providence in these, as well as in other respects, having deprived them of wisdom, neither hath it imparted to them understanding. Those parts of the Sahara which these birds chiefly frequent are destitute of all manner of food and herbage, except it be some few turfs of coarse grass, or a few solitary plants of the laureola, apocynum, and some other kinds; each of which is equally destitute of nourishment, and in the Psalmist's phrase, (cxxix. 6.) even withereth before it is plucked up. Yet these herbs, notwithstanding this want of moisture in their temperature, will sometimes have both their leaves and stalks studded all over with land-snails, which may afford them some little refreshment. It is very probable likewise that they may sometimes seize upon lizards and serpents, together with insects and reptiles of various kinds. Yet still, considering the great voracity and size of this camel-bird, it is wonderful, not only how the little ones, after they are weaned from the provisions before mentioned, should be brought up, but even how those of fuller growth, and much better qualified to look out for themselves, are able to subsist. Their organs of digestion, and particularly the gizzards, which by their strong friction will wear away even iron itself, shew them indeed to be granivorous; but yet they have scarcely ever an opportunity to exercise them in this way, unless when they chance to stray towards those parts of the country that are sown and cultivated, which is very seldom. For these, as they are much frequented by the Arabs at the several seasons of grazing, plowing, and gathering in the harvest, are little visited by, as indeed they would be an improper abode for, this shy timorous bird, a (φιλερημος ) lover of the desarts. This last circumstance in the behaviour of the ostrich is frequently alluded to in the Holy Scriptures: particularly Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Isa 43:20 and Jeremiah 50:39. Where the word יענה iaanah, instead of being rendered the ostrich, as it is rightly put in the margin, is called the owl, a word used likewise instead of יענה iaanah, or the ostrich, Lev 11:16 and Deuteronomy 14:15. While I was abroad I had several opportunities of amusing myself with the actions of the ostrich. It was very diverting to observe with what dexterity and equipoise of body it would play and frisk about on all occasions. In the heat of the day particularly, it would strut along the sunny side of the house with great majesty, perpetually fanning and priding itself with its quivering expanded wings, and seeming, at every turn, to admire and be in love with its shadow. Even at other times, whether walking about or resting upon the ground, the wings would continue these fanning vibratory motions, as if designed to mitigate and assuage the extraordinary heat wherewith their bodies seem to be naturally affected. They are often very rude and fierce to strangers; and are apt to be very mischievous, by striking violently with their feet; for the inward claw, or rather the hoof as we should call it, of this avis bisulca, being exceedingly strong-pointed and angular, I once saw an unfortunate person who had his belly ripped up by one of these strokes. While they are engaged in such assaults, they sometimes make a fierce, angry, and hissing noise, with their throats inflated and their mouths open: at other times, when less resistance is made, they have a chucking or cackling voice, as in the poultry kind, and thereby seem to rejoice and laugh as it were at the timorousness of their adversary. But during the lonesome part of the night, (as if their organs of voice had then attained a quite different tone,) they often make a very doleful and hideous noise, which would sometimes be like the roaring of a lion; at other times it would bear a nearer resemblance to the hoarser voices of other quadrupeds, particularly the bull and the ox. I have often heard them groan as if they were in the greatest agonies; an action beautifully alluded to by the prophet Mic 1:8 where it is said, I will make a mourning like the יעמה iaanah, or ostrich. יענה iaanah therefore, and רננים renanim, the names by which the ostrich is known in the Holy Scriptures, may very properly be deduced from ענה anah, and רנן renen; words which the lexicographers explain by exclamare, or clamare fortiter, to cry out, or to cry strongly: for the noise made by the ostrich being loud and sonorous, exclamare, or clamare fortiter, may with propriety enough be attributed to it; especially as those words do not seem to denote any certain or determined mode of voice or sound peculiar to any particular species of animals, but such as may be applicable to them all; to birds as well as quadrupeds and other creatures. See Travels, p. 430, &c.

Be the first to react on this!

Scroll to Top

Group of Brands