Does an Eagle Carry Its Young on Its Wings?

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) by Aesthetic Photos

Here is a great article from Answers in Genesis that tells about the Eagle and their young. We have used these passages here, but Troy Lacey has done quite a bit of research about this. It is definitely worth reading.

Deuteronomy 32:9-14 is an inspiring passage which speaks of God’s care for Israel. Written by Moses at the end of the wilderness wandering, just before the Israelites would cross the Jordan river into the land of Israel, it speaks of God’s past care for the Israelites. In the middle of this passage (verse 11), Moses speaks of an eagle’s care for its fledglings as an obvious analogy of God’s care for Israel during this time.

This verse has become a popular topic for sermons and a much-copied inspirational social media post. But has the verse been misunderstood, misapplied, or misused? There have even been charges that this verse is not accurate and thus is a “Bible error.”…

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) by Nikhil

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) by Nikhil

Does an Eagle Carry Its Young on Its Wings? To read the rest of the article.

“For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. “He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him. “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes.” (Deuteronomy 32:9-14 NKJV)

Not to take away from this article, but we know that birds have been known to catch a ride of the backs of eagles:

Crow on Eagle’s Back ©©

Answers in Genesis

Good News Tracts

2 thoughts on “Does an Eagle Carry Its Young on Its Wings?

  1. Thanks, Lee. The English Bible translations that I have read have not clearly matched he singulars to the plurals, and other literal aspects of the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 32:11. The literal Hebrew indicates that it is God Who carries on His wings, not the eagle parent. Months ago, when I researched this same topic for a friend, I tried to summarize my research (which follows here), concluding that the confusion is rooted to imprecise translations of the English text of Deut. 32:11, particularly where “her” is sometimes translated for “him”, as well as twice “them” for “him”. (Details follow.)
    Although the King James Version of the English Bible is usefully very literal (and precise), I have observed that Bible verses that describe wildlife are more likely to have imprecise/non-literal translations – and that is likely due to the historical life experiences (and priorities) of the King James translators (in the early A.D. 1600s, finishing in A.D.1611).
    In short, I do not believe that the text of Deut. 32:11 is suggesting that eagle parents “carry” eaglets “upon their wings”. Rather, I think the Biblical Hebrew text (of Deuteronomy 32:11, interpreted in context with verses 9-13), is anthropomorphically recalling how God historically “took” and “carried” Jacob (i.e., both “Jacob” the man, as well as the Jewish nation that is ethnically descended from Jacob, i.e., “Israel”). This is comparable to how the Lord Jesus Christ compared His willingness to protect Jews to the protectiveness of a mother hen, in Matthew 23:37 and also in Luke 13:34, shown by these 2 pictures.
    The most important key, in my opinion, to properly understanding that verse, is to recognize that the subject noun of most (if not all) of the contextual sentences, is God, not a bird — although you must look back to Deuteronomy 32:9 to see that Deut. 32:11’s subject noun is “the LORD” [Hebrew YHWH], i.e., God. (Notice also the action verbs in the Biblical context, which I have underlined below – most of these verbs refer to God only.)
    Also, the relevant bird (translated “eagle” in King James Version) is mentioned in a way that is best translated “like an eagle” (or “like a vulture”, depending on how you translate NESHER, which is Hebrew noun for the bird in question). Careful context reading is needed, to recognize how much of the verse applies to the simile phrase “like an eagle”, because not all of the activities that are part of Deuteronomy 32:9-13 correspond to eagle behavior comparison.
    Therefore, let us look at the overall context, i.e., Deuteronomy 32:9-13). Below I have inserted, using brackets, clarifying nouns (or pronouns), to match the verbs and pronouns.
    Also, keep in mind that “the LORD” [YHWH] is masculine, “Jacob” [Ya‘aqōb] is masculine, and “eagle” [nesher] is also masculine, so matching each pronoun to its proper noun requires some context-based interpretation. This is further complicated by a mistranslation in the English phrase “her nest” because the Hebrew literally says “his nest”, i.e., the Hebrew word for “nest” [qēn] has a masculine singular suffix.
    In other words, Deut. 32:11 is literally saying “his nest”. The same English mistranslation appears in the English phrase “her young” (which literally says “his young” in the Hebrew). Likewise, the same English mistranslation appears twice in the English phrase “her wings” (which twice literally says “his wings” in the Hebrew).
    Confusingly, the Hebrew-to-English translation plot thickens.
    In the English translation, of Deut. 32:11, the plural pronoun “them” appears twice where it should say “him”, because the Hebrew pronominal suffix is a 3rd person singular, not a 3rd person plural.
    This is, in my opinion, the most important clue, in conjunction with the plural noun “young”, for solving this puzzle, because the “taking” action – as well as the bearing action – has “him” as its (singular) direct object, yet the noun translated “young” is plural, so the taking and bearing action did not happen to young birds — rather, the taking and bearing action happened to “him”, which the overall context (of Deut. 32:9-13) indicates is “Jacob”.
    In other words, because a plurality of hatched birds would need a plural suffix, it is not the hatched young birds that were “taken” and “carried” in Deut. 32:11. Rather, God is providing these caring actions (“taking” and “bearing”) to Jacob/Israel, because “Jacob” is a 3rd person singular masculine person, so “Jacob” can be the direct object “him”.
    9 For the LORD’s portion is His [i.e., God’s] people; Jacob [whom God later re-named “Israel”, so this name refers to both the man Jacob and to his descendants who became the nation “Israel”] is the lot of His [i.e., God’s] inheritance.
    10 He [God – notice that God is the subject noun of this Hebrew sentence, which is a sentence that actually continues beyond verse 10] found him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He [i.e., God] led him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] about, He [i.e., God] instructed him [Jacob, a/k/a Israel], He [i.e., God] kept him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] as the apple of His [i.e., God’s] eye.
    11 As an eagle [some say this should be translated “hawk” or “vulture” – it means a large-winged carrion-eating bird], [“he” or “He”] stirs up her [actually the Hebrew says “his”, which might mean “His”] nest; [“he” or “He”] flutters over her [actually the Hebrew says “his”, which might mean “His”] young [i.e., “young ones”, since this noun is plural]; [“he” or “He”] spreads abroad her [actually the Hebrew says “his”] wings; [“he” or “He”] takes them [literally “him” — actually this is a 3rd person singular masculine suffix, functioning as a direct object of the action verb]; [“he” or “He”] bears them [literally “him” — actually this is a 3rd person singular masculine suffix, functioning as a direct object of the action verb] on her [actually the Hebrew says “his”] wings:
    12 So the LORD alone did lead him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel], and there was no strange god with him [this “him” seems to mean “Jacob”, though it more likely refers to God, because it is “the LORD alone” Who accomplished this shepherding care over Jacob].
    13 He [i.e., God] made him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] ride on the high places of the earth, that he [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] might eat the increase of the fields; and He [i.e., God] made him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.
    This is one of the most confusing translation problems that I’ve dealt with during A.D.2019, so I can easily appreciate how many readers of the Bible (in translation) have stumbled in trying to discern its literal meaning.
    Accordingly, I believe that the verse is talking about God’s providential care of His people, with only some of God’s actions being comparable to an eagle/hawk/vulture. However, some of the other caring actions listed (in Deut. 32:11) do not match bird behavior, regardless of whether the Hebrew noun nesher should be translated as “eagle”, or “hawk”, or “vulture”. So the complicated part (for interpreting Deut. 32:11’s text) is accurately distinguishing:
    (a) which phrases fit God only (even if those phrases are anthropomorphic, like Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34),
    (b) which phrases apply to the nesher bird only, and
    (c) which phrases apply to both God and the nesher bird.
    In sum, here is my pronoun-interpreting conclusion, of what I think the Hebrew text of Deut. 32:9-13 is saying:
    9 For the LORD’s portion is God’s people; Jacob/Israel is the lot of God’s inheritance.
    10 God found Jacob/Israel in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; God led Jacob/Israel about; God instructed him Jacob/Israel; God kept him Jacob/Israel as the apple of God’s eye.
    11 As an eagle, God stirs up God’s nest; God flutters over God’s young ones; God spreads abroad God’s wings; God takes/was taking Jacob/Israel; God bears/was bearing Jacob/Israel on God’s wings;
    12 So the LORD alone led Jacob/Israel, and there was no strange god with Him.
    13 God made-to-ride Jacob/Israel upon the high places of the earth, so that Jacob/Israel might eat the increase of the fields; and God caused-to-suck Jacob/Israel honey [from] out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.
    Maybe you disagree with my analysis or conclusions, but at least you know that I tried to answer your question. 
    > JJSJ
    P.S., various complicated aspects (that must be respected when translating the Hebrew of Deut. 32:11), are shown in a discussion, by Hans-Georg Wünch, that I have copy-pasted below, which is taken from Wünch’s larger discussion on eagles (posted at http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-94222016000300021 ), titled “Like an Eagle Carries its Young”. Dr. Wünch suggests that many interpreters have misidentified the subject noun of that verse, by stretching the comparative noun ( nesher = eagle/hawk/vulture) in a way that causes the bird to supplant God as the subject noun of the sentence. In other words, instead of the bird being comparable to some things that God does, many have interpreted the verse as if every action verb applies to the bird when actually that is not the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think your reply is longer than the original article. That ought to keep us all busy trying to understand all of this.
      Actually, thank you for adding to this interesting analysis.

      Like

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