“Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” (Isaiah 60:8 KJV)
While working on one of my on-line courses, Birds in Biblical Perspective, I just watched an amazing DVD – Flight: The Genius of Birds. One of the segments mentioned the murmurations of Starlings. I have watched videos of these before and we have mentioned murmurations on this site twice before: Sunday Inspiration – Starlings, Mynas and Rhabdornis by me and Choreographed Choir on the Wing: Birds of a Feather Flock Together by James J. S. Johnson.
While looking for some verses for my assignment, I found the verse quoted above from Isaiah. I have used that verse in reference to the “doves,” but did you notice the first part of the verse? Had I not just watched that video, it would have been missed again. “Who are these that fly as a cloud” Should I add a new Bird of the Bible, the Starlings?
Who gave those birds the knowledge to fly like that? Are Starlings the only birds that fly in murmurations like that? How do they keep from running into each other? Questions, questions, questions. Let’s see what we can find out about this phenomenon.
“Surprising as it may be, flocks of birds are never led by a single individual. Even in the case of flocks of geese, which appear to have a leader, the movement of the flock is actually governed collectively by all of the flock members. But the remarkable thing about starling flocks is their fluidity of motion. As the researchers put it, “the group respond[s] as one” and “cannot be divided into independent subparts.” (How Do Starling Flocks Create Those Mesmerizing Murmurations?-All About Birds)
Another quote from this article tells of a recent study, “on starling flocks appeared in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The researchers, led by George Young at Princeton, did their own analysis of murmuration images to see how the birds adjust to their flockmates. They determined that starlings in large flocks consistently coordinate their movements with their seven nearest neighbors. They also found that the shape of the flock, rather than the size, has the largest effect on this number; seven seems optimal for the tightly connected flocks that starlings are known for.”
“Recent studies of starling flocks have shown that each bird modifies its position, relative to the six or seven animals directly surrounding it, no matter how close or how far away those animals are.” (Wikipedia, emphasis mine)
Some of the Commentators had this to say about the verse:
Notes of Dr. Constable – “Isaiah 60:8 The prophet further saw people coming from the west as thick as clouds into the Promised Land. They reminded him of doves flying to their dovecotes. Who are these, he asked?”
CBNotes – “Who are these . . . ? Referring probably to the ships whose sails are compared to wings, developed in next verse.”
Geneva Bible Translation Notes – “Isaiah 60:8 Who [are] these (i) [that] fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows? (i) Showing what great number will come to the Church, and with what great diligence and zeal.”
John Gill – “Isaiah 60:8 Who are these that fly as a cloud,…. Referring to the vast number of converts before mentioned, who are compared to a “cloud” for the number of them, covering Judea as the clouds do the heavens; and for their elevation and situation, being raised from an earthly to a heavenly state; called with a high calling, and made partakers of an heavenly one; and for their being filled with the grace of God, as clouds with water; and for their unanimity, their coming together in a body, making as it were one cloud, and that openly and publicly, professing Christ, and joining themselves to his church, in the face of the world; and so the Targum,”
“who are these that come publicly as the swift clouds?”
and chiefly are they compared to a cloud for their swiftness in motion to Christ and his church; sinners; sensible of danger from the avenging justice of God, from his law, and from his wrath and displeasure, and eternal death, and being apprized of salvation and safety in Christ, make haste and flee to him as swiftly as a cloud driven by the winds;”
Guzik – “a. Your sons shall come from afar: Through this passage, one of the great themes is regathering. We may suppose that in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus, every Jewish person remaining on the earth will be gathered into the land of Israel from every nation on earth. The present day regathering of Israel is a precious preview of this ultimate and complete regathering.”
Hawker – “Isaiah 60:8-9 – Reader! pause, I pray you over these sweet verses. Can there be a more delightful thought, than that of souls flying to Christ, as doves, who by instinct take shelter in their houses? Mark what Jesus said, Joh_12:32; and do not overlook how the glory of Jehovah in covenant, as God, is folded up in the blessed relation. Yes! Christ’s glory is his Father’s honour; and it is the most blessed of all thoughts that God the Father is glorified in his dear Son, in the instance of every individual soul redeemed; Joh_13:31-32.”
Oh, that all Christians would blend that well together. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
Haydock – Isaiah 60:8 – “Clouds. They are thy children, accompanied by strangers.”
Matthew Henry – “2. What multitudes shall come to the church. Great numbers shall come, Gentiles (or nations) of those that are saved, as it is expressed with allusion to this, Rev_21:24. Nations shall be discipled (Mat_28:19), and even kings, men of figure, power, and influence, shall be added to the church. They come from all parts (Isa_60:4): Lift up thy eyes round about, and see them coming, devout men out of every nation under heaven, Act_2:5. See how white the fields are already to the harvest, Joh_4:35. See them coming in a body, as one man, and with one consent: They gather themselves together, that they may strengthen one another’s hands, and encourage one another. Come, and let us go, Isa_2:3. “They come from the remotest parts: They come to thee from far, having heard the report of thee, as the queen of Sheba, or seen thy star in the east, as the wise men, and they will not be discouraged by the length of the journey from coming to thee. There shall come some of both sexes. Sons and daughters shall come in the most dutiful manner, as thy sons and thy daughters, resolved to be of thy family, to submit to the laws of thy family and put themselves under the tuition of it. They shall come to be nursed at thy side, to have their education with thee from their cradle.” The church’s children must be nursed at her side, not sent out to be nursed among strangers; there, where alone the unadulterated milk of the word is to be had, must the church’s new-born babes be nursed, that they may grow thereby, 1Pe_2:1, 1Pe_2:2. Those that would enjoy the dignities and privileges of Christ’s family must submit to the discipline of it.”
MHCC – It predicts the purity and enlargement of the church. The conversion of souls is here described. They fly to Christ, to the church, to the word and ordinances, as doves to their own home; thither they fly for refuge and shelter, thither they fly for rest. What a pleasant sight to see poor souls hastening to Christ!
Amazing to watch these. What a beautiful show of our Creators love and concern for the avian wonders as they settle in for the night. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalms 4:8 KJV)
JFB – “Isaiah 60:8 The prophet, seeing in vision new hosts approaching quickly like a cloud of doves,”
Pulpit – “Who are these, etc.? The prophet beholds the waters of the Mediterranean Sea covered with numerous ships, whose sails remind him of white clouds moving across the blue expanse of heaven, and again of doves wending their way homewards to their accustomed dove-cotes. The “windows” of the dove-cotes are the openings through which the birds pass into the towers where they breed.”
Wesley – “Isaiah 60:8 A cloud – These metaphors import the number as well as speed, of those that should be begotten by the apostles doctrine.”
Defender’s Study Bible – “fly as a cloud. In context, the peoples of the world are seen coming from all parts of the world, by various means. In Isaiah’s vision, he apparently sees some even coming by air.”
Young’s Analytical Concordance has this to say about Isaiah 60:8: “A thickness, thick cloud, עָב ‛âb” Strongs adds this to the definition – “awb Masculine and feminine; from H5743; properly an envelope, that is, darkness (or density, 2Ch_4:17); specifically a (scud) cloud; also a copse: – clay, (thick) cloud, X thick, thicket. Compare H5672” It appears that both of these concordances agree that the word used is for a cloud, and a dark or thick one.
These are just some of the comments. As you can tell, their ideas are all over the place as to what this cloud is. Yet, most of them seem to agree that it is also a future prophesy of when the gathering of believers at the end time. They will be coming from afar, yet they will all blend together as one. Just like these starlings gather together and move as a unit.
In the future, if the Lord allows me the privilege of seeing one of these Starling Murmurations, it will definitely bring Isaiah 60:8 to remembrance. To me, they will be one of the Birds of the Bible, if it only by a visual picture of what a flying cloud would look like. For now, I am not going to add the Starlings to the list of Birds of the Bible, even though it would have almost been possible.
One more video to enjoy. After watching this one, there is a good possibility that there could be a Murmurations Chapter II.
“Who are these that fly as a cloud” (Isaiah 60:8a KJV)
Choreographed Choir on the Wing: Birds of a Feather Flock Together by James J. S. Johnson