Birds of the Bible – Swift Eagles

Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) ©WikiC2

Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) ©WikiC2

Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. (2 Samuel 1:23 NKJV)

In my reading today of II Samuel 1, David was told of the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan. They were killed in battle with the Philistines in the last chapter (31) of I Samuel.

David takes up a lament starting in II Samuel 1:17. Even though Saul had tried to kill David on many occasions, David never desired to harm Saul, because he knew that the King was the Lord’s anointed one. Jonathan and David were the best of friends.

In verse 23, David refers to Saul and Jonathan, father and son, were together even in the battles and both were very skilled in battle. They were “stronger than lions” and won many victories. Being “swifter than eagles” could well refer to their ability to dodge the swords and arrows of battle and to come quickly to the place of the fight.

David’s use of the Eagle was because of his familiarity of them. As a shepherd, he must have watched them flying over with great speed and agility. The following Eagles are all seen in Israel and may well have been some of the ones that David was observed speeding through the sky on the way to catch a prey.

Gill – “they were swifter than eagles; in the quick dispatch of business, in hasting to the relief of the distressed, as Saul to the men of Jabeshgilead, and in the pursuit of their enemies, as of the Philistines, more than once:”

K & D  – “The light motion or swiftness of an eagle (cf. Hab_1:8), and the strength of a lion (vid., 2Sa_17:10), were the leading characteristics of the great heroes of antiquity.”

Poole – “Swifter than eagles; expeditious and nimble in pursuing their enemies, and executing their designs; which is a great commendation in a prince and in a soldier.

Stronger than lions, in regard of their bodily strength and the courage of their minds.”

Wesley – “2 Samuel 1:23

Lovely – Amiable, and obliging in their carriage and conversation, both towards one another, and towards their people: for, as for Saul’s fierce behaviour towards Jonathan, it was only a sudden passion, by which his ordinary temper was not to be measured; and for his carriage towards David, that was from that jealousy and reason of state which usually engageth even well – natured princes, to the same hostilities. But it is observable, that David speaks not a word here of his piety; but only commends him for those things which were truly in him…. Swifter, &c. – Expeditious in pursuing their enemies, and executing their designs; which is a great commendation in a prince, and in a soldier. Stronger, &c. – In regard of their bodily strength, and the courage of their mind.”

Here is a list of the Eagles seen in Israel:

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Birds of the Bible – Partridge II


Crested Partridge (Rollulus rouloul) at NA by Lee

Crested Partridge (Rollulus rouloul) at National Aviary by Lee

Since the first Birds of the Bible – Partridge was written two and a half years ago a few facts have changed.

1.  At that time there were 155 species in the Phasianidae family. Now they are counting 181 members in the family and we have the Birds of the World listed here. Also, the blog was only a month or so old. I am not so sure that new birds were found as much as to how they classify the birds. Some lists count them one way and another counts them differently. As for this site, we use the I.O.C. list of world birds. The 2.6 Version shows 181 and so do we.

2.  The verse:

Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains. (1 Samuel 26:20 KJV)

was not explained at all. I was still new to blogging and afraid to explain it. So now, let’s see what the verse is referring to with its reference to the partridge.

Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) by Ian

Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) by Ian

According to I Samuel 26, Saul, with his elite soldiers, was pursuing David to kill him. Saul and his army camped for the night and the Lord put them into a deep sleep. While asleep, David, sneaked in and took took the items, but would not kill Saul, even though he had the opportunity.

The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go. So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them. (1 Samuel 26:11-12 KJV)

Later, after awaking, the two talk to each other across a great distance. (V.14) Saul recognizes David’s voice (V.17), and then starting in verse 18, David is asking why the King is pursuing him. David is not his enemy, is blameless, and not trying to cause the problem.

When we get to the 20th verse, his reference is to a bird that is a harmless, non-aggressive, non-confrontational bird – the partridge.
“as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains”
When hunted, a partridge will try to walk away. If that doesn’t work, the bird will fly a short distance and land, again trying to avoid the captor. To catch the bird, some keep this up until they wear the partridge down and then walk up to them and bludgeon them.

Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara)©WikiC

Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara)©WikiC

Matthew Henry says, “a poor game for the king of Israel to pursue. He compares himself to a partridge, a vert innocent harmless bird, which, when attempts are made upon its life, flies if it can, but makes no resistance. And would Saul bring the flower of his army into the field only to hunt one poor partridge? What a disparagement was this to his honour! What a stain would it be on his memory to trample upon so weak and patient as well as so innocent an enemy! James 5:6, You have killed the just, and he doth not resist you.”

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, “as when one doth hunt a partridge — People in the East, in hunting the partridge and other game birds, pursue them, till observing them becoming languid and fatigued after they have been put up two or three times, they rush upon the birds stealthily and knock them down with bludgeons [Shaw, Travels]. It was exactly in this manner that Saul was pursuing David. He drove him from time to time from his hiding-place, hoping to render him weary of his life, or obtain an opportunity of accomplishing his destruction.”

David later said in the Psalms:

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield. (Psalms 5:11-12 KJV)

See also: