When I started to tell people about my plans for my sabbatical many of them wondered about how many references there were to birds in the bible. In fact many people in my churches said that they did know birds were mentioned much and so I had to mention obvious references such as the one I have already talked in earlier posts.
So I thought I should find out exactly how many references there are to birds in the bible! The word Bird or Birds is mentioned in 129 verses, there are 93 reference to the plural form and 34 mentions of the singular just two verses mention both. We should also note that the vast majority of these verses are in the Old Testament. Just 18 verses refer to bird or birds in the New Testament. There are two mention of Bird’s and even then one of those verses also has a bird in it!
More importantly there are many mentions of individual species of or genus of birds. Eagles for example are mentioned 28 times, doves get 45 mentions and the humble sparrow appears on six occasions.
As always with the bible there is the issue of translation, for example the Hebrew word sometimes used in the bible for bird can actually mean any winged creature including bats and insects. I did see an article on the web the other day asking whether bats were clean or unclean! Also there is a more specific question of knowing what species of bird is being referred to. We all know what a sparrow is because we all are used to seeing them but actually there are a number of birds which belong to the sparrow family so when Jesus’ talked about sparrows did he mean tree sparrow or house sparrow or desert sparrow. (Does it matter?)
More pertinently we have to ask is it reasonable to assume that the birds in Palestine now are the same as those of the bible times. Given that the climate will have altered and possibly also the habit, has the avifauna of Israel changed? Is it safe therefore to look at the birds that are there now and say they were present in Jesus’ day?
One thing is clear to me and that is that there is plenty to think about when considering the birds of the bible