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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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So translated for "owl" (Leviticus 11:16), bath haya'anah "daughter of greediness" or "daughter of wailing." Isaiah 34:13 translated "a dwelling for ostriches," not "a court for owls" (Isaiah 43:20, margin). Feminine to express the species. Some Arabs eat the flesh. It will swallow almost any substance, iron, stone, etc., to assist the triturating action of the gizzard. The date stone, the hardest of vegetable substances, is its favourite food. Its cry resembles the lion's, so that Hottentots mistake it. Dr. Livingstone could only distinguish them by the fact that the ostrich roars by day, and the lion roars by night. Rosenmuller makes the derivation "daughter of the desert." (Micah 1:8), Job 30:29 - "I am a companion to ostriches" (not "owls"), living among solitudes. In Lamentations 4:3, yeenim , "cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness." renanim ; Job 39:13, "peacocks." Rather, "the ostrich hen," literally, "cries," referring to its dismal night cries, as in Job 30:29. Translated: "the wing of the ostrich hen vibrates joyously.

Is it like the quill and feathers of the pious bird (the stork)? (surely not.)" The quivering wing characterizes the ostrich in full course. Its white and black feathers in the wing and tail are like the stork's feathers; but, unlike that bird, the symbol of parental love, it deserts its young. If the "peacock"(which has a distinct name, tukiyim ) had been meant, the tail, its chief beauty, not the wings, would have been mentioned. Ostriches are polygamous. The hens lay their eggs promiscuously in one nest, a mere hole scratched in the sand, and they cover them with sand a foot deep. The parent birds incubate by turn during the night, but leave them by day to the sun's heat in tropical countries. Hence, arose the notion of her lack of parental love: "which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust." But in non-tropical countries the female incubates her eggs by day, the male takes his turn on the nest at night. There they watch the eggs so carefully that they will even kill jackals in their defense.

Moreover, she lays some of her eggs on the surface around the nest; these seem to be forsaken; "she forgeteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beasts may break them." They are actually for the nutriment of the young birds. It is a shy bird. The only stupidity in the ostrich which warrants the Arab designation "the stupid bird" at all is its swallowing at times of substances which prove fatal to it, for instance, hot bullets, according to Dr. Shaw (Travels, ii. 345); also its never swerves from the course it once adopts, so that hunters often kill it by taking a shortcut, to which it only runs faster. Livingstone calculates its stride at 12 ft. on an average, and 30 strides in every 10 seconds, i.e. 26 miles an hour. "She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers," i.e. to man she seems (Scripture uses phenomenal language, not thereby asserting the scientific accuracy of it) as if she neglected her young; but she is guided by a sure instinct from God, as much as animals whose instincts seem (at first sight) to be more provident. At a slight noise she forsakes her eggs, as if hardened toward her young; but it is actually a mark of young sagacity, since her capture might be the only result of returning.

"Her labour (in producing eggs) is in vain, (yet she is) without fear," unlike other birds who, if one and another egg be removed, will go on laying until the full number is restored. "Because God hath deprived her of wisdom," etc.: the argument is, her very seeming lack of wisdom is not without the wise design of God, just as in the saint's trials, which seem so unreasonable to Job, there lies hidden a wise design. Her excellencies, notwithstanding her seeming deficiencies, are enumerated next; "she (proudly) lifteth up herself on high (Gesenius, 'she lasheth herself' up to the course by flapping her wings), she scorneth the horse." The largest and swiftest of cursorial animals. Its strength is immense; the wings are not used for flying, but are spread "quivering" (see above) as sails before the wind, and serve also as oars. The long white plumes in the wing and tail come to us from Barbary; the general plumage is black, the head and neck is bare. Their height is more than eight feet. Zoologically, it approaches the mammalian type. Its habitat is the desert here and there, from the Sahara to the Cape of South Africa, and in the Euphratean plains (Isaiah 13:21, margin).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Ostrich'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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