Birds of the Bible – Mother and Her Chicks

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest©USFWS

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest©USFWS

If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NKJV)

Also in the with the animals, the Bible says,

Whether it is a cow or ewe, do not kill both her and her young on the same day. (Leviticus 22:28 NKJV)

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) at Nest by Anthony747

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) at Nest by Anthony747

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were being given some rules of things to do or not do. This passage about the mother bird and her chicks or eggs is among those commands. Notice that if they did this, it would be well with them and help prolong their days. There are many good characteristics for us to learn from this command. Below are some of the thoughts from the commentators.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary was the longest, but much insight. “II. In taking a bird’s-nest, the dam must be let go, Deu_22:6, Deu_22:7. The Jews say, “This is the least of all the commandments of the law of Moses,” and yet the same promise is here made to the observance of it that is made to the keeping of the fifth commandment, which is one of the greatest, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days; for, as disobedience in a small matter shows a very great contempt of the law, so obedience in a small matter shows a very great regard to it. He that let go a bird out of his hand (which was worth two in the bush) purely because God bade him, in that made it to appear that he esteemed all God’s precepts concerning all things to be right, and that he could deny himself rather than sin against God. But doth God take care for birds? 1Co_9:9. Yes, certainly; and perhaps to this law our Saviour alludes. Luk_12:6, Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? This law, 1. Forbids us to be cruel to the brute-creatures, or to take a pleasure in destroying them. Though God has made us wiser than the fowls of heaven, and given us dominion over them, yet we must not abuse them nor rule them with rigour. Let go the dam to breed again; destroy it not, for a blessing is in it, Isa_65:8. 2. It teaches us compassion to those of our own kind, and to abhor the thought of every thing that looks barbarous, and cruel, and ill-natured, especially towards those of the weaker and tender sex, which always ought to be treated with the utmost respect, in consideration of the sorrows wherein they bring forth children… It further intimates that we must not take advantage against any, from their natural affection and the tenderness of their disposition, to do them an injury. The dam could not have been taken if her concern for her eggs or young (unlike to the ostrich) had not detained her upon the next when otherwise she could easily have secured herself by flight. Now, since it is a thousand pities that she should fare the worse for that which is her praise, the law takes care that she shall be let go. The remembrance of this may perhaps, some time or other, keep us from doing a hard or unkind thing to those whom we have at our mercy.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

Redwing Blackbird feeding young at Lake Hollingsworth

Redwing Blackbird feeding young at Lake Hollingsworth

“If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee — This is a beautiful instance of the humanizing spirit of the Mosaic law, in checking a tendency to wanton destructiveness and encouraging a spirit of kind and compassionate tenderness to the tiniest creatures. But there was wisdom as well as humanity in the precept; for, as birds are well known to serve important uses in the economy of nature, the extirpation of a species, whether of edible or ravenous birds, must in any country be productive of serious evils. But Palestine, in particular, was situated in a climate which produced poisonous snakes and scorpions; and the deserts and mountains would have been overrun with them as well as immense swarms of flies, locusts, mice, and vermin of various kinds if the birds which fed upon them were extirpated [Michaelis]. Accordingly, the counsel given in this passage was wise as well as humane, to leave the hen undisturbed for the propagation of the species, while the taking of the brood occasionally was permitted as a check to too rapid an increase.” (Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown Commentary)

If God detests cruelty done to little birds, how much more to man, made according to his image?” (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

Redwing Blackbird young at Lake Hollingsworth

Redwing Blackbird young at Lake Hollingsworth

“..this law was made partly to preserve the species of birds, and prevent the decrease of them; for a dam let go might breed again, and to this purpose are the verses ascribed to Phocylides (y), which contain the substance of this law, and this reason of it: and partly, as Maimonides observes (z), that the dam might not be afflicted at the sight of the spoil of her young; for this law does not prohibit the taking of her in any other place but in her nest, nor after her young are taken, but not together; and, as the same writer remarks, if the law would have such care taken of beasts and birds, that they might be freed from sorrow and distress, how much more of man? Wherefore the intention of this law is to teach humanity, compassion, and pity in men to one another, and to forbid cruelty, covetousness, and such like vices; as also to instruct in the doctrine of Providence, which has a respect to birds; and our Lord may be thought to have this law in view, Luke 12:6.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible)

“The affectionate relation of parents to their young, which God had established even in the animal world, was also to be kept just as sacred. If any one found a bird’s nest by the road upon a tree, or upon the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting upon them, he was not to take the mother with the young ones, but to let the mother fly, and only take the young. נִקְרָא for נִקְרָה, as in Exo_5:3. The command is related to the one in Lev_22:28 and Exo_23:19, and is placed upon a par with the commandment relating to parents, by the fact that obedience is urged upon the people by the same promise in both instances (vid., Deu_5:16; Exo_20:12).” (K & D Commentary on OT)

(Bolding is mine)


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