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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Egg

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( בֵּיצָה, beytsah' so called from its whiteness, ὠόν ) occurs, in the plur., of eggs deserted (Isaiah 10:14), of the eggs of a bird (Deuteronomy 22:6), of the ostrich (Job 39:14), or the cockatrice (Isaiah 59:5). (See FOWL); (See OSTRICH); (See COCKATRICE). It is apparently in this last sense that an egg is contrasted with a scorpion in Luke 11:12, as a desirable article of food. The body of the scorpion is said to be very like an egg; the head can scarcely be distinguished, as it appears to be joined and continued to the breast. Bochart adduces authorities to prove that scorpions in Judea were about the size of an egg (Job 39:14; Isaiah 10:14; Isaiah 59:5). The passage in Deuteronomy 22:6, humanely prohibits the taking away of a brooding bird from a nest, and is similar in its nature to the provision respecting other animals and their young (Leviticus 22:28).

Eggs are usually considered a great delicacy in the East, and are served up with fish and honey at their entertainments. Among the ancient Egyptians poultry seems to have been bred in abundance, and the most remarkable thing connected with it is the manner in which the eggs were hatched by artificial means, and which, from the monuments, we have reason to infer, was known and practiced there at a very early period. At the present time there are as many as four hundred and fifty of these establishments, which, being heavily taxed, produce a large revenue to the government. The proprietors of these egg-ovens make the round of the villages in their vicinity, and collect eggs from the peasants, which are given in charge to the rearers, who, without any previous examination, place all they receive on mats strewed with bran, in a room eleven feet square, with a flat roof, and about four feet high, over which is a chamber of the same size, but with a vaulted roof, about nine feet high; a small aperture in the center of the vaulted roof admitting light during the warm weather, and another of larger diameter immediately below, communicating with the oven, through whose ceiling it is pierced. By this the man descends to observe the eggs; but in the cold season both openings are closed, and a lamp is kept burning instead, another entrance at the front part of the oven being then used for the same purpose, and shut immediately on his quitting it. In the upper room, the fire is disposed along the length of two troughs, based with earthern slabs, reaching from one side to the other against the front and back walls. In the oven the eggs are placed in a line corresponding to and immediately below the fire, where they remain half a day. They are then removed to a warmer place, and replaced by others, and so on, till all have taken their share of the warmest positions, to which each set returns, again and again, in regular succession, till the expiration of six days. They are then held up one by one towards a strong light, and if the egg appears clear, and of a uniform color, it is evident it has not succeeded; but if it shows an opaque substance within, or the appearance of different shades, the chicken is already formed; and these last are all returned to the oven for four days more, their positions being changed as before. At the expiration of the fourth day they are removed to another oven, over which, however, there are no fires, where they remain for five days in one heap, the aperture in the roof being closed with tow to exclude air; after which they are placed separately about one, two, or three inches apart, over the whole surface of the mats, which are sprinkled with a little bran. They are now continually turned and shifted from one part of the mats to another for six or seven days, all air being carefully excluded, and are constantly examined by one of the rearers, who applies each singly to his upper eyelid. Those which are cold prove the chickens to be dead; but warmth greater than that of the human skin is the favorable sign that the eggs have succeeded. The average temperature maintained is from 1000 to 1050. The manager, having been accustomed to his art from his youth, knows from experience the exact temperature required for the success of the operation, without having any instrument like our thermometer to guide him. Each ma'amal, or set of ovens, receives about one hundred and fifty thousand eggs during the annual period of its being brought into use, which is only during about two or three months in the spring. Of this number, generally one quarter, or a third, fail to be productive; so that when the peasants bring their eggs to be hatched, the proprietor of the ma'amal returns one chicken for every two eggs. The fowls produced in this way are inferior both in size and flavor to those of Europe (Wilkinson's Anc. Egyptians, 2:170, Am. ed.; Lane's Mod. Egyptians, 2:5).

The word חִלָּמוּת challamuth', in Job 6:6, which our translators have rendered "the white of an egg," is so rendered by the Hebrew interpreters, and the Targum, or rather, "the slime of the yolk of an egg." The Syriac interpretation gives "a tasteless herb," which is there proverbially used for something unsavory or insipid. (See PURSLAIN).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Egg'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/e/egg.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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