Job 39:27-30, a large and very powerful bird of prey, hence called the King of birds. There are several species of eagle described by naturalists, and it is probable that this word in the Bible comprehends more than one of these. The noble eastern species, called by Mr. Bruce "the golden eagle," measures eight feet four inches from wing to wing; and from the tip of his tail to the point of his beak, when dead, four feet seven inches. Of all known birds, the eagle flies not only the highest, Pr 23:5; Jer 49:16; Ob 1:4, but also with the greatest rapidity. To this circumstance there are several striking allusions in the sacred volume, 2Sa 1:23; Job 9:26; La 4:19. Among the evils threatened to the Israelites in case of their disobedience, the prophet names one in the following terms: "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth," De 28:49. The march of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, is predicted in similar terms: "Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles," Jer 4:13; 48:40; 49:22; Ho 8:1. This bird was a national emblem on Persian and Roman standards, as it now is on United States' coins.
The eagle, it is said, lives to a great age; and like other birds of prey, sheds his feathers in the beginning of spring, after which his old age assumes the appearance of youth. To this David alludes, when gratefully reviewing the mercies of Jehovah: "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like eagle's," Ps 103:5; Isa 40:31. The careful pains of the eagle in teaching its young to fly, beautifully illustrate God's providential care over Israel, Ex 19:4; De 32:11-12.
The eagle is remarkable for its keen sight and scent. Its flesh, like that of all birds of prey, was unclean to the Jews; and is never eaten by any body, unless in cases of necessity, Mt 24:28; Lu 17:37.
(Heb. nesher; properly the griffon vulture or great vulture, so called from its tearing its prey with its beak), referred to for its swiftness of flight (De 28:49; 2Sa 1:23), its mounting high in the air (Job 39:27), its strength (Ps 103:5), its setting its nest in high places (Jer 49:16), and its power of vision (Job 39:27-30).
Illustration: Griffon Vulture
This "ravenous bird" is a symbol of those nations whom God employs and sends forth to do a work of destruction, sweeping away whatever is decaying and putrescent (Mt 24:28; Isa 46:11; Eze 39:4; De 28:49; Jer 4:13; 48:40). It is said that the eagle sheds his feathers in the beginning of spring, and with fresh plumage assumes the appearance of youth. To this, allusion is made in Ps 103:5; Isa 40:31. God's care over his people is likened to that of the eagle in training its young to fly (Ex 19:4; De 32:11-12). An interesting illustration is thus recorded by Sir Humphry Davy:, "I once saw a very interesting sight above the crags of Ben Nevis. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of the mountain in the eye of the sun. It was about mid-day, and bright for the climate. They at first made small circles, and the young birds imitated them. They paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their flight, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising toward the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight so as to make a gradually ascending spiral. The young ones still and slowly followed, apparently flying better as they mounted; and they continued this sublime exercise, always rising till they became mere points in the air, and the young ones were lost, and afterwards their parents, to our aching sight." (See Isa 40:31.)
There have been observed in Palestine four distinct species of eagles, (1) the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); (2) the spotted eagle (Aquila naevia); (3) the common species, the imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca); and (4) the Circaetos gallicus, which preys on reptiles. The eagle was unclean by the Levitical law (Le 11:13; De 14:12).
Nesher. Le 11:13. The golden eagle (W. Drake). The griffon vulture; the Arab nisr is plainly the Hebrew nesher. In Mic 1:16, "make thee bald (shaving the head betokening mourning) ... enlarge thy baldness as the nesher," the griffon vulture must be meant; for it is "bald," which the eagle is not. "A majestic and royal bird, the largest and most powerful seen in Palestine, far surpassing the eagle in size and power" (Tristram). The Egyptians ranked it as first among birds. The da'ah (Le 11:14) is not "the vulture" but the black kite. The Hebrew qaarach is to make bald the back of the head, very applicable to the griffon vulture's head and neck, which are destitute of true feathers. The golden eagle; the spotted, common in the rocky regions; the imperial; and the Circaeros gallicus (short-toed eagle), living on reptiles only: Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, October, 1876), are all found in Palestine.
Its swift flight is alluded to, and rapacious cruelty, representing prophetically (Hab 1:8; Jer 4:13) the Chaldean, and ultimately, the Roman, invaders of Israel (De 28:49; Eze 17:3-7). Compare Josephus, B. J., 6. Its soaring high and making its nest in the inaccessible rock, also its wonderful far-sightedness and strength (Job 39:27-30). Ps 103:5 says: "thy youth is renewed like the eagle's"; not as if the eagle renewed its youth in old age, but by the Lord's goodness "thy youth is renewed" so as to be as vigorous as the eagle. The eagle's vigor and longevity are illustrated by the Greek proverb, "the eagle's old age is as good as the lark's youth." Its preying on decomposing carcass symbolizes the divine retributive principle that, where corruption is, there vengeance shall follow. "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together," quoted by our Lord from Job 39:30; Mt 24:28 - the vulture chiefly feeds on carcass.
The eagle's forcibly training its young to fly pictures the Lord's power, combined with parental tenderness, in training and tending His people (De 32:11; Ex 19:4). In the law the fostering mother is the eagle, God manifesting His power and sternness mingled with tenderness in bringing His people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; in the gospel the fostering mother is the hen (Mt 23:37), Christ coming in grace, humility, and obedience unto death (Bochart). Subsequently, Christ rescues His people "from the face of the serpent" by giving His church the "two wings of a great eagle" (Re 12:14).
The eagle "hovers over her young" in teaching them their first flight, ready in a moment to save them when in danger of falling on the rocks below. Compare Isa 31:5. God stirred up Israel from the foul nest of Egypt, which of their own accord they would have never left, so satisfied were they with its fleshpots in spite of its corruptions. The "stirring up the nest" spiritually corresponds to the first awakening of the soul; the "fluttering over her young" to the brooding of the Holy Spirit over the awakened soul; the "taking and bearing on her wings" to His continuous teaching and guardian care. The eagle assists the young one's first effort by flying under to sustain it for a moment and encourage its efforts.
So the Spirit cooperates with us, after He has first given us the good will (Php 2:12-13). The eagle rouses from the nest, the hen gathers to herself; so the law and the gospel respectively. The Persians under Cyrus had a golden eagle on a spear as their standard (Isa 46:11). The eagle is represented in Assyrian sculptures as accompanying their armies; Nisroch, their god, had an eagle's head. The Romans had the eagle standard, hence, the appropriateness of their being compared to an eagle (De 28:49).
(1) nesher, De 32:11 etc., Le 11:13 Revised Version margin 'great vulture.' (2) r
nesher, ?????. This is supposed to be the bird known as the Griffon Vulture or Great Vulture
(Heb. nesher, i.e. a tearer with the beak). At least four distinct kinds of eagles have been observed in Palestine, viz., the golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, the spotted eagle, Aquila naevia, the imperial eagle, Aquila heliaca, and the very common Circaetos gallicus. The Hebrew nesher may stand for any of these different species, though perhaps more particular reference to the golden and imperial eagles and the griffon vulture may be intended. The passage in Micah,
enlarge thy baldness as the eagle, may refer to the griffon vulture, Vultur fulvus, in which case the simile is peculiarly appropriate, for the whole head and neck of this bird are destitute of true feathers. The "eagles" of
Mt 24:28; Lu 17:37
may include the Vultur fulvus and Neophron percnopterus; though, as eagles frequently prey upon dead bodies, there is no necessity to restrict the Greek word to the Vulturidae. The figure of an eagle is now and has long been a favorite military ensign. The Persians so employed it; a fact which illustrates the passage in
The same bird was similarly employed by the Assyrians and the Romans.
EAGLE, ???, Ex 19:4; Le 11:13. The name is derived from a verb which signifies to lacerate, or tear in pieces. The eagle has always been considered as the king of birds, on account of its great strength, rapidity and elevation of flight, natural ferocity, and the terror it inspires into its fellows of the air. Its voracity is so great that a large extent of territory is requisite for the supply of proper sustenance; and Providence has therefore constituted it a solitary animal: two pair of eagles are never found in the same neighbourhood, though the genus is dispersed through every quarter of the world. Its sight is quick, strong, and piercing, to a proverb. In Job 39:27, the natural history of the eagle is finely drawn up: