Birds of the Bible – Isaiah 34:11

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Lake John Rookery, Lakeland, FL By Dan

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Lake John Rookery, Lakeland, FL By Dan

But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. (Isaiah 34:11 KJV)

This may seem like a simple verse in the middle of a passage telling about the day of the LORD’S vengeance in Isaiah 34:8-17.

Wesley says: “For – This is the time which God hath fixed, to avenge the cause of his persecuted people.”

John Wesley says: “Isaiah 34:11  Dwell – It shall be entirely possessed by those creatures which delight in deserts and waste places…”

Believer’s Bible Commentary: “(34:8) It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance. “The word ‘vengeance’ is of crucial importance. It does not mean getting even with someone, as we use it. It refers to God’s action in carrying out the sentence which He as Judge has justly imposed
(34:9-17) This passage describes Edom’s fate—a blazing inferno, an uninhabited waste, taken over by mysterious birds and wild beasts. God will not stop until it is without form and void. There will be no kingdom, no king, no princes worthy of the name. Its ruins will be overgrown with thorns and it will be a sanctuary for strange creatures (which cannot be identified with certainty). Every weird creature will have a mate, and thus will reproduce, and God has given them the ruins of Edom to possess . . . from generation to generation. Forever in this chapter (vv. 10, 17) means from generation to generation.”

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) by Dan at Lake Morton

White Ibises at Lake Morton by Dan

That is the “simple” explanation of what the verses are about. It becomes interesting when you compare these verses, again using e-Sword, as to which birds are being referenced. I like the quote about the “mysterious birds” because the translators are not even for sure which birds they are that are going to be inhabiting the place. Let’s investigate the verses.

APB+ – “Birds, and hedgehogs, and ibises, and crows shall dwell in her”
ASV – “The pelican and the porcupine shall possess it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein”
BBE – “birds of the waste land will have their place there; it will be a heritage for the bittern and the raven”
Brenton – “and for a long time birds and hedgehogs, and ibises and ravens shall dwell in it:
CEV – “Owls, hawks, and wild animals will make it their home. God will leave it in ruins, merely a pile of rocks.”
Darby – “And the pelican and the bittern shall possess it, and the great owl and the raven shall dwell in it.”
DRB – “The bittern and ericius shall possess it: and the ibis and the raven shall dwell in it:”
ERV – “Birds and small animals will own that land. It will be a home for owls and ravens. God will leave that land in ruins. People will call it “the empty desert.”
ESV – “But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.”
GNB – “Owls and ravens will take over the land.”
GW – “Pelicans and herons will take possession of the land. Owls and crows will live there.”
ISV – “But hawks and hedgehogs will possess it; owls and ravens will nest in it.”
JPS – “But the pelican and the bittern shall possess it, and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein;”
KJV – “But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it:”
KJV-1611 – “The cormorant and the bitterne shall possesse it, the owle also and the rauen shall dwell in it,”
LITV – “But the owl and the hedgehog shall possess it; and the eared owl and the raven shall live in it.”
MKJV – “But the pelican and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also, and the raven, shall dwell in it.”
NASB – “But pelican and hedgehog will possess it, And owl and raven will dwell in it;”
NKJV – “But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.”
RV – “But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein:”
Webster – “But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it”
YLT – “And possess her do pelican and hedge-hog, And owl and raven dwell in her,”

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) at Lake Morton By Dan'sPix

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) at Lake Morton By Dan’sPix

What caught my interest in this verse was that the Crow came up in a search for possibly some different Birds of the Bible to write about. Not only did I find the Crow, but also Ibises, which we see plenty of in this area. I always find it amazing how much they differ, but yet if you look at the birds and their families, many are related or closely related.

Most of the second half of the quotes mention the “Owl and the Raven.” The Darby uses “Great Owl”, the LITV uses “Eared Owl” and some use “owls.” No problem there. Some though use “Ibis/Ibises or Bittern” (APB, BBE, Brenton, DRB) instead of the “Owl.” The word “yanshûph or yanshôph” H3244- “an unclean (aquatic) bird; probably the heron (perhaps from its blowing cry, or because the night heron is meant (compare H5399)): – (great) owl.” Apparently the word is unclear and could go either way. Also, the Ibis is in the  Threskiornithidae – Ibises, Spoonbills Family and the Bitterns and Herons (GW) are in the Ardeidae Family, both of which are in the same Pelecaniformes Order. So they are close relatives. Also the Pelican and the Cormorant are mentioned in the first part of the verses. It is easy to figure out which Order the Pelican belongs to and it is in the Pelecanidae – Pelicans Family. The Cormorant is in the next Order which leaves it nearly related. The Suliformes Order has the Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants, shags Family. As a note in passing, up until this year, the Cormorant was in the Pelecainformes Order. Not trying to be too detailed, but just showing that even though the translators used different birds, many are related and it doesn’t change my confidence in God’s Word. He promised to preserve it.

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Another point to consider, since I am again working on the newest update to the I.O.C. list of Bird Names (Ver. 2.9), names change and the names we use today, were probably already changed once or twice and the ones we use today will probably be changed down the line. I still say, Adam had it a lot easier than what these organizations do today to keep the names figured out. They are to be commended for all the hard work they do.

Back to our verse. The Crow and the Raven are interchanged in these translations. Again, they are in the same family, the Corvidae Family. In fact, if you scroll down to the Ravens (after clicking link), you will see the Little Crow, then the Australian Raven, then the Pied Crow, the Brown-necked Raven, and the back to a Somali Crow. Again, don’t let the two translations, raven or crow, be a bother.

The only other birds mentioned are the Hawks (CEV, ESV, ISV). They are birds of prey and would “delight in the waste places.” They belong to the  Accipitridae – Family (Kites, Hawks & Eagles).

Studying the Bible and “birdwatching” through it keeps one on the alert for neat things in His Word. It works both ways; sometimes looking for a bird will turn up great truths about God’s Promises, in this case, a judgment, other times looking for a fact or promise, you find a bird. No matter which way, you are in the Bible studying His Word.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)

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