Birds of the Bible – Hovering Birds

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) by Ian

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) by Ian

Like birds hovering, so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem;  he will protect and deliver it;he will spare and rescue it.” (Isaiah 31:5 ESV)

While searching for “bird” verses, I came across this verse and remembered the many birds that I have seen hovering. Go to the shore and feed Gulls and you will see them “hover over you” while they wait for another morsel to be tossed up to them. Many of the birds of prey (hawks, falcons, osprey, eagles, etc.) will “hover” while trying to catch a pray. Of course Hummingbirds will “hover” in front of flowers while sipping the nectar. We watched a Kingfisher “hover” out at Circle B, one of our favorite birding spots. Birds “hover” over their nest to protect their young. Genesis 1:2 is the only other verse using ‘hovering”, “moving”, or “fluttering.”

Using the “Compare” mode of e-Sword, here are some of the translations of this phrase:

As birds flying…he shall rescue and shall protect
As birds hovering…he will protect and deliver it, he will pass over and preserve it.
Just as birds fly over their nest to protect it…will defend Jerusalem. He will save her. He will “pass over” and save Jerusalem.
Like birds with outstretched wings…he will be a cover and salvation for it, going over it he will keep it from danger.
will protect like a mother bird circling over her nest
Like birds hovering overhead…he will shield and deliver it; and he will pass over and bring it to safety.

As you can see from these and the others not shown, this hovering or flying about is used in the protective mode, protecting their nest and their young. And of course, this verse is referring to the LORD of host defending and protecting Jerusalem. Hebrew H5774 עוּף – ‛ûph, pronounced “oof” is used for flying or hovering. “A primitive root; to cover (with wings or obscurity); hence (as denominative from H5775) to fly;…”

Copper-rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci) by Ian

Copper-rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci) by Ian

Here are what a few of the commentaries say about this passage. The bolding is mine.

BBC – 31:4-9 “God is like a lion which a multitude of shepherds (Assyria) tries to frighten away. Or, to change the figure, He is like a flock of birds, hovering over Jerusalem; He is ready to defend and deliver the city. When Israel turns back to the Lord, it will throw away its idols. The Assyrians will perish by a direct intervention of the Lord. The destruction of Sennacherib did not exhaust the meaning of these verses, so the prophecy has a future fulfillment as well, that is, in the Tribulation.”

MHCC – Isaiah 31:1-5 “God will oppose the help sought from workers of iniquity. Sinners may be convicted of folly by plain and self-evident truths, which they cannot deny, but will not believe. There is no escaping the judgments of God; and evil pursues sinners. The Lord of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will appear for the defence of his church. And as birds hovering over their young ones to protect them, with such compassion and affection will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. He will so defend it, as to secure its safety.”

Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) w chicks by Nikhil Devasar

Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) w chicks by Nikhil Devasar

Barnes – Isaiah 31:5 “As birds flying – This is another comparison indicating substantially the same thing as the former, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem. The idea here is, that He would do it in the same manner as birds defend their young by hovering over them, securing them under their wings, and leaping forward, if they are suddenly attacked, to defend them. Our Saviour has used a similar figure to indicate his readiness to have defended and saved the same city Mat_23:27, and it is possible that he may have had this passage in his eye. The phrase ‘birds flying,’ may denote the “rapidity” with which birds fly to defend their young, and hence, the rapidity with which God would come to defend Jerusalem; or it may refer to the fact that birds, when their young are attacked, fly, or flutter around them to defend them; they will not leave them.
And passing over – פסוח pâsoach. Lowth renders this, ‘Leaping forward.’ This word, which is usually applied in some of its forms to the Passover Exo_12:13, Exo_12:23, Exo_12:27; Num_9:4; Jos_5:11; 2Ch_30:18, properly means, as a verb, “to pass over,” and hence, to preserve or spare. The idea in the passage is, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem, as a bird defends its young.”

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) by Aesthetic Photos

Gill – Isaiah 31:5 “As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem,…. As the preceding metaphor expresses the mighty power of God, this his tenderness and affection, as well as his speed and swiftness in the deliverance of his people. As birds in the air, at a distance, especially the eagle, have their eye upon their nests, and their young ones in them, and when in danger fly to their assistance, and hover over them, and about them, to keep off those that would hurt them, or carry them away; so the Lord, on high, sees his people when in distress, and hastens to help them, and does surround, protect, and defend them: thus the Lord did, when Sennacherib with his army besieged Jerusalem; who boasted, with respect to other nations, that he had “found as a nest the riches of the people”, and that “there was none that moved the wing against him”, Isa_10:14 to which it is thought the allusion is here:”

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 KJV)

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