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The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary


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This very extraordinary bird is so spoken of in the Scripture, that it would be wrong in a work of this kind not to notice it, especially as the Lord himself, from the whirlwind, condescended to call the attention of the man of Uz to it. (Job 39:13, etc.) "Gavest thou (saith the Lord) the goodly wings unto the peacocks, or wings and feathers unto the ostrich, which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them? She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom; neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider."

Such a relation concerning the ostrich, and given by the Lord himself in his blessed word, certainly merits our attention. But we must be indebted to the account of travellers who have visited the countries where the ostriches are, in order to enter into the beauties which are contained in the Lord's description of this wonderful bird.

Dr. Shaw, in his travels into Arabia, had opportunity of making many curious observations concerning the ostrich, and he hath very largely described the properties of the ostrich in the Supplement to his book of Travels, folio edition, page 66, etc. The doctor's account of the ostrich becomes very explanatory of the several circumstances related concerning this bird in the book of Job The wings and feathers of the ostrich are so formed, as to be expanded at ease, that they form a kind of sail, not only from motion, but from the air, to hasten the flight; so that at any time if when feeding in the valley, or behind some rocky or sandy eminence in the deserts they are surprised, they stay not to be curiously viewed or examined, neither are the Arabs ever dexterous enough to overtake them, though mounted upon their jinse, or horses. As the Lord hath described the ostrich, so it is found, "what time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.'Nothing certainly (saith this writer) can be more beautiful and entertaining than the sight. The wings of the ostrich, by their repeated though unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars, whilst their feet no less assist them when conveying them out of sight, and no less insensible of fatigue." The circumstance of "leaving her eggs in the earth, and being hardened against her young," forms another remarkable feature in the nature and character of the ostrich. This bird lays very many eggs, from thirty to fifty, and sometimes more in number; probably so appointed by the Great Author of nature, to make suitable provision for those very circumstances: not, as it appears for the brood only, but for food for herself and young. For here is another singularity in the ostrich,—she is exceedingly fond of her own eggs: in which the wisdom of the ostrich's Creator becomes striking. For those parts of the Sahara which these birds chiefly frequent, are destitute of all manner of food and herbage, except some few tufts of coarse grass, so that by this means there is always a supply of food to answer the demands of hunger.

Her want of feeling to her young is so great that there seems to be no instance of natural affection in the ostrich, nothing of that storge which marks the tenderness of the hen, and others of the winged race. She forsakes her nest upon the most trifling occasion, and never returns to it again. The Arabs will sometimes meet with whole nests of the ostrich eggs undisturbed, and sometimes young ostriches straggling and moaning about half starved, like so many distressed orphans, bewailing the loss of their mother. What a beautiful light this throws upon that passage in the prophet, "The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness?" (Lamentations 4:3)

And so senseless is this bird in respect to caution in food, that she swallows indiscriminately every thing that comes in her way, whether it be rags, leather, wood, stone, or iron. "I saw (saith Dr. Shaw) one of these birds at Oran that swallowed, without any seeming inconvenience, several leaden bullets, as they were thrown upon the floor scorching hot from the mold."

But such are the powers of digestion in the ostrich, as, by their strong friction, to wear even iron itself, that evidently no injury is induced by this inattention. It should seem indeed as if their organs of smell or taste were totally different from all other creatures; for the ostrich is fond of her own dung, and will greedily eat it as soon as voided. All which particularities serve to illustrate what is said concerning her, "because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding."

I would only add under this article, that in Scripture sometimes the owl is put for the ostrich, but corrected in the margin. Jaanah and Rinonem are the names by which, in the Scripture, the ostrich is known; the latter name from Onah and Ronah, meaning noise: for by night their cry is hideous. Dr. Shaw saith, "I have often heard them groan, as if in the greatest agonies." The prophet beautifully makes allusion to it when he saith, "I will make a wailing like the dragon, and mourning as the ostrich." (Micah 1:8. See Isaiah 13:21, in the margin; and Isaiah 34:13, in the margin; and Isaiah 42:20, in the margin.)

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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Ostrich'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. London. 1828.

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