A night bird of prey, unfit for food. Several species are found in Palestine, and are mentioned in the Bible; as in Le 11:17; De 14:16; Isa 14:23; 34:15; Zep 2:14. One of the words, however, translated "owl," probably means "OSTRICH," (which see;) and another, Le 11:17; De 14:16; Isa 34:11, the ibis or night heron.
(1.) Heb bath-haya'anah, "daughter of greediness" or of "shouting." In the list of unclean birds (Le 11:16; De 14:15); also mentioned in Job 30:29; Isa 13:21; 34:13; 43:20; Jer 50:39; Mic 1:8. In all these passages the Revised Version translates "ostrich" (q.v.), which is the correct rendering.
(2.) Heb yanshuph, rendered "great owl" in Le 11:17; De 14:16, and "owl" in Isa 34:11. This is supposed to be the Egyptian eagle-owl (Bubo ascalaphus), which takes the place of the eagle-owl (Bubo maximus, Illustration: Great Eagle Owl) found in Southern Europe. It is found frequenting the ruins of Egypt and also of the Holy Land. "Its cry is a loud, prolonged, and very powerful hoot. I know nothing which more vividly brought to my mind the sense of desolation and loneliness than the re-echoing hoot of two or three of these great owls as I stood at midnight among the ruined temples of Baalbek" (Tristram).
The LXX. and Vulgate render this word by "ibis", i.e., the Egyptian heron.
(3.) Heb kos, rendered "little owl" in Le 11:17; De 14:16, and "owl" in Ps 102:6. The Arabs call this bird "the mother of ruins." It is by far the most common of all the owls of Palestine. It is the Athene persica, the bird of Minerva, the symbol of ancient Athens.
(4.) Heb kippoz, the "great owl" (Isa 34:15); Revised Version, "arrow-snake;" LXX. and Vulgate, "hedgehog," reading in the text, kippod, instead of kippoz. There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the rendering of the Authorized Version. Tristram says: "The word [i.e., kippoz] is very possibly an imitation of the cry of the scops owl (Scops giu), which is very common among ruins, caves, and old walls of towns...It is a migrant, returning to Palestine in spring."
(5.) Heb lilith, "screech owl" (Isa 34:14, marg. and R.V., "night monster"). The Hebrew word is from a root signifying "night." Some species of the owl is obviously intended by this word. It may be the hooting or tawny owl (Syrnium aluco), which is common in Egypt and in many parts of Palestine. This verse in Isaiah is "descriptive of utter and perpetual desolation, of a land that should be full of ruins, and inhabited by the animals that usually make such ruins their abode."
Ostrich, the true rendering of bath hayanah. (See OSTRICH.) Yanshowph; Le 11:17, "the great owl." From a root, "twilight" (Bochart), or to puff the breath (Knobel). De 14:16; Isa 34:11. The horned owl, Bubo maximus, not as Septuagint the ibis, the sacred bird of Egypt. Maurer thinks the heron or crane, from nashaf "to blow," as it utters a sound like blowing a horn (Re 18:2). Chaldee and Syriac support "owl." Kos; Le 11:17, "the little owl." Athene meridionalis on coins of Athens: emblem of Minerva, common in Syria; grave, but not heavy. Ps 102:6, "I am like an owl in a ruin" (Syriac and Arabic versions), expressing his loneliness, surrounded by foes, with none to befriend. The Arabs call the owl "mother of ruins," um elcharab.
The Hebrew means a "cup", perhaps alluding to its concave face, the eye at the bottom, the feathers radiating on each side of the beak outward; this appears especially in the Otus vulgaris, the "long-cared owl". Kippoz. Isa 34:15, "the great owl." But Gesenius "the arrow snake," or "the darting tree serpent"; related to the Arabic kipphaz. The context favors "owl"; for "gather under her shadow" applies best to a mother bird fostering her young under her wings. The Septuagint, Chaldee, Arabic, Syriac, Vulgate read kippod, "hedgehog." The great eagle owl is one of the largest birds of prey; with dark plumage, and enormous head, from which glare out two great eyes. Lilith. Isa 34:14, "screech owl"; from layil "the night." Irby and Mangles state as to Petra of Edom "the screaming of hawks, eagles, and owls, soaring above our heads, annoyed at anyone approaching their lonely habitation, added much to the singularity of the scene." The Strix flammea, "the barn owl"; shrieking in the quietude of the night, it appalls the startled hearer with its unearthly sounds.
1. bath ya'
In the passages that speak of the unclean birds "the owl . . . . the little owl . . . . and the great owl," are enumerated. Le 11:16-17; De 14:15-16. The Hebrew for the first is bath yaanah. (See OSTRICH.) The second is kos: it occurs in the above two passages and in Ps 102:6; and doubtless refers to the owl. The third, yanshuph, occurs also in Isa 34:11. This in the LXX and Vulgate is the 'ibis,' and has been supposed by some to refer to the Ibis religiosa, a sacred bird of Egypt. There is also lilith in Isa 34:14 only, translated 'screech owl,' (margin and R.V. 'night-monster'): its reference is doubtful. Also qippoz in Isa 34:15 only, 'great owl,' (R.V. 'arrowsnake;' LXX and Vulgate 'hedgehog,' reading perhaps qippod with six Hebrew MSS.) There are several well-known species of the owl, but to which of them these various words refer cannot be specified with certainty. The Athene meridionalis is the owl most common in Palestine; the Strix flammea is the white owl.
A number of species of the owl are mentioned in the Bible,
and in several other places the same Hebrew word is used where it is translated ostrich.
Some of these species were common in Palestine, and, as is well known, were often found inhabiting ruins.
OWL. There are several varieties of this species, all too well known to need a particular description. They are nocturnal birds of prey, and have their eyes better adapted for discerning objects in the evening or twilight than in the glare of day.
1. ???], Le 11:17; De 14:16; Ps 102:6, is in our version rendered "the little owl." Aquila, Theodotion, Jerom, Kimchi, and most of the older interpreters, are quoted to justify this rendering. Michaelis, at some length, supports the opinion that it is the horned owl. Bochart, though with some hesitation, suspected it to be the onocrotalus, a kind of pelican, because the Hebrew name signifies cup, and the pelican is remarkable for a pouch or bag under the lower jaw; but there are good reasons for supposing that bird to be the ??? of the next verse. Dr. Geddes thinks this bird the cormorant; and as it begins the list of water fowl, and is mentioned always in the same contexts with ???, confessedly a water bird, his opinion may be adopted.
2. ??????, Le 11:17; De 14:16; Isa 34:11. In the two first places our translators render this "the great owl," which is strangely placed after the little owl, and among water birds. "Our translators," says the author of "Scripture Illustrated," "seem to have thought the owl a convenient bird, as we have three owls in two verses." Some critics think it means a species of night bird, because the word may be derived from ????, which signifies the twilight, the time when owls fly about. But this interpretation, says Parkhurst, seems very forced; and since it is mentioned among water fowls, and the LXX have, in the first and last of those texts, rendered it by ????, the ibis, we are disposed to adopt it here, and think the evidence strengthened by this, that in a Coptic version of Le 11:17, it is called ip or hip, which, with a Greek termination, would very easily make ????.
3. ????, which occurs only in Isa 34:15, is in our version rendered "the great owl."
4. ?????, Isa 34:14, in our version "the screech owl." The root signifies night; and as undoubtedly a bird frequenting dark places and ruins is referred to, we must admit some kind of owl.
A place of lonely desolation, where The screeching tribe and pelicans abide, And the dun ravens croak mid ruins drear, And moaning owls from man the farthest hide.