A Pleasant Surprise – II

BJU Bird Collection 2018

In A Pleasant Surprise At The BJU Homecoming the Waterman Bird Collection, in the Science building, was introduced. This post will start introducing you to these wonderfully preserved specimens of birds that lived over a hundred years ago.

BJU Waterman Bird Collection 2018

At first, it bothered me about the use of birds in this manner, even though many museums have displays of birds. Yet, when you look back 100 plus years, they didn’t have the technology, nor the modern color cameras or slow motion videos to capture images of them. John Audubon did excellent drawing, with detailed colors. He also studied live birds and specimens.

“John James Audubon’s Birds of America is a portal into the natural world. Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration.” Birds of America

When the Lord first created the birds, there were no specimens until sin entered. How must those first birds have appeared? Photos, movies, and even specimens would have given us quite a sight. Today, we have fossils, but they do not show the beautiful feathers and features that those original avian wonders must have been adorned with.

“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:21-23 NKJV)

Common Eider, Bufflehead, and Canada Goose

The birds in the right hand side of the display above is where we will begin. On the top shelf is an Eider, a Bufflehead and a Goose. It is nice to see them together to get a size perspective.

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) BJU Bird Collection 2018

The Common Eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima) is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph) Part of the Anatidae Family. Common Eider – Wikipedia and All About Birds

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) BJU Bird Collection 2018

The Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is a small sea duck of the genus Bucephala, the goldeneyes. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Anas albeola.

The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek boukephalos, “bullheaded”, from bous, “bull ” and kephale, “head“, a reference to the oddly bulbous head shape of the species. The species name albeola is from Latin albus, “white”. The English name is a combination of buffalo and head, again referring to the head shape. This is most noticeable when the male puffs out the feathers on the head, thus greatly increasing the apparent size of the head.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) BJU Bird Collection 2018

All of these three birds are in the Anatidae Family. The photo shows how much larger the Goose is than the Bufflehead.

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a large wild goose species with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water. Canada Goose Wikipedia and All About Birds

I trust you will enjoy meeting the various birds through this series. The links provided give much more information, and photos of these species.

“The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them.” (Psalms 111:2 NKJV)

 

Viking Pillows were Stuffed for Comfort: Thanks to Ducks, Geese, Eagle-Owls, Cormorants, Seagulls, and Crows!

Viking Pillows were Stuffed for Comfort: Thanks to Ducks, Geese, Eagle-Owls, Cormorants, Seagulls, and Crows!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And he [i.e., Jacob] lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. (Genesis 28:11)

Pillows, if they are good soft-yet-somewhat-firm head supports, facilitate restful sleeping – this is a fact repeatedly emphasized by MyPillow.com (manufacturer of really good pillows!). Besides serving as head-rests for sleeping upon, pillows can also be used as cushions on chairs or sofas, for soft-yet-somewhat-firm back support. Pillows can be used decoratively, too, to provide visual motifs or color coordination, so pillows can provide both physical comfort and visual décor. But, mostly, for centuries, pillows have been used to give comfortable head-rest.  Don’t you, like me, like to relax your weary head on a good pillow?

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Eider Down Nest (in Iceland) with Eggs / photo credit: Ice Ice Baby

For softness pillows are stuffed, with a variety of materials — feather, foam, down, etc.  During Viking times pillows were often stuffed with down and/or feathers of sea-ducks, such as eiders.  However, feathers (and/or down) from other birds were also used, often, such as form geese, seagulls, cormorants, owls (including the largest owl of Scandinavia, the Eagle-Owl), and even crows!  In other words, the Vikings stuffed their pillows with whatever was available!

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MyPillow.com / Mike Lindell

“When I invented MyPillow®, my dream was to help as many people get a good night’s sleep as possible. I personally guarantee MyPillow® will be the most comfortable pillow you’ll ever own.” [Mike Lindell, Inventor of MyPillow®]

In fact, pillows have been mentioned as having been involved in some very important events reported in the Holy Bible, with the first mention of the word “pillow” appearing in Genesis 29:11 (and soon thereafter in Genesis 28:18).

In Genesis 28:11, “pillow” is used to describe how the patriarch Jacob used a stone under his head, as a support for resting his head (like a supportive “pillar”) while sleeping, during a scary night when Jacob, in deadly danger, was fleeing north, from Beersheba (in southern Israel) toward Haran (in Turkey, near the Syrian border – in earlier times Haran, n/k/a Harran, was part of Syria/”Aram”).

And he [i.e., Jacob] lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.   And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. [NOTE: according to John 1:1:51, that vision of the heavenly ladder was a prophetic foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself is, as 1st Timothy 2:5 notes, the only Mediator between God and mankind.] And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;  And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful [i.e., scary-awesome] is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.  And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.   And he called the name of that place Bethel [i.e., “house of God”]; but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and [if God] will keep me in this way that I go, and [if God] will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on,  so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God;  and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.   (Genesis 29:11-22)

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Jacob using stone for pillow (In Touch Ministries image)

Interestingly, the Bible’s first use of the verb “anoint” (mâshach, the root verb of the Hebrew noun mâshîach = “Messiah”/“Christ”/“Anointed one”; see Psalm 2:2) occurs in Genesis 31:13 (where the English verb “anoint” translates for the Hebrew verb mâshach), recalling when Jacob poured oil on his stone “pillow”.   Specifically, Genesis 31:13 refers back to the events of Genesis chapter 28, especially Genesis 28:18, which reports that Jacob “poured oil” on the stone (or stones) that Jacob’s head used for a pillow during that scary-awesome night.

The next reference to a “pillow”, in Scripture, appears in 1st Samuel chapter 19, where Israel’s future king David, in deadly danger, put “a pillow of goats’ hair” (1st Samuel 19:13 & 19:16) in his bed, as a decoy, in order to fake that his body was in bed, sick or sleeping.  When Saul ordered that David be seized from his “sickbed” – so that Saul could kill David – Saul’s men discovered that David had duped them, having already fled (with Michal’s help) out of his room’s window.

The greatest moment for pillows, in world history, is reported in Mark 4:38, which records how the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, while in a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee,  used a “pillow” (proskephalaion = “for/before [the] head”) while sleeping through a furious storm that threatened the safety of the ship and its occupants.

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Rembrandt, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (public domain)

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He [i.e., the Lord Jesus]  was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow [proskephalaio]; and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?  And He arose, and He rebuked the wind, and He said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?   (Mark 4:37-41)

So pillows have sometimes provided rest during events of historic importance!

Mostly, however, pillows serve in less historic contexts. But to all of us when our weary heads need rest, a good pillow (or combination of pillows) is helpful for a night’s sleep – or just a nap.

And the same was true for Vikings – they used pillows stuffed with feathers.  Archaeologists have studied Viking pillows, and it seems that Vikings were characteristically resourceful; for stuffing pillows Vikings used whatever down or feathers were available, including feathers from Eagle-Owls (see photograph below), ducks, cormorants, sea gulls, geese, or even crows!

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Eider nests by Iceland coastline / Ice Ice Baby

For technical studies on Viking pillows, especially identification of feathers and down used therein, see Carla J. Dove & Stephen Wickler, “Identification of Bird Species Used to Make a Viking Feather Pillow”, ARCTIC, 69(1):29-36 (March 2016). Dove & Wickler report:

“Given the apparent exclusive use of bird feathers from sea-dwelling birds in the Øksnes pillow stuffing, a brief review of the important role played by these birds in the Iron Age is useful.  Gull and other seabird population densities are known to be among the largest in the world in Norway because of productive waters and adequate nesting sites (Barrett et al., 2006). Large-scale bird distributions are known to have been similar through recent historical times, so it is expected that bird densities were at least the same during the Viking Age as in modern times, making it fairly easy to obtain gull species for human use.  Given the vast population densities of gulls and other seabirds in northern Norway, it may not seem unusual that gull and Great Cormorant feathers were used in the making of this pillow; until now, however, these feathers have never been reported or documented as species used in Viking Age pillow making.  Thirteenth-century Norse sagas report the collecting of eider duck and goose down as a profitable trade item from Greenland and other North Atlantic regions.  The Norse “cultivated” down for clothing and duvets by constructing small bird-sized boxes with upright rock slabs. Eiders preferred these cozy shelters to wind-blown boulders and lined them with fluffy down plucked from their breasts, making it possible to reap several “harvests” from each nest during the laying season. Traditional exploitation of seabirds for food and feathers is well documented in the islands of the North Atlantic and coastal Norway (Shrubb, 2013). Feathers were traditionally regarded as more valuable than meat for some seabird species, such as puffins, fulmars, and gannets, in the North Atlantic (Shrubb, 2013).  The right to collect feathers, down, and eggs on so-called bird islands (fuglevær) in northern Norway has been taxed since the Iron Age, and feathers and down were commonly used for tax payments. The earliest known record of this practice is the AD 890 account to King Alfred of England by the northern Norwegian Viking chieftain Ohthere, who reported payment of taxes by the Sámi with feathers and down (Bately and Englert, 2007).  Seabirds were important in Viking life for both fresh and preserved food, and feathers and down were used for bedding and clothing.  . . .  The most frequently occurring species are European Shag, eiders, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Auk (now extinct), puffins, and guillemots. Cormorant species are particularly abundant in a number of the faunal assemblages.  In an Iron Age settlement mound not far from Øksnes, at Bleik on the island of Andøya, with occupation from ca. AD 200 to 900, birds represented 30% of the identifiable bone midden (Jørgensen, 1984). Sea-dwelling birds accounted for nearly all of the 25 bird species identified, with gulls and the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) being the most common.   Five of the eight gull species within the genus Larus that occur in northern Norway were represented (Jørgensen, 1984). . . . .   In contrast to the documented occurrence of feathers and down in high-status graves, the pillow with feather stuffing from Øksnes is more suggestive of an everyday item, potentially owned by the deceased, that had been used for some time before being placed in the grave. The use of a common, coarsely woven wool textile for a pillow cover, and pillow fill in which gull feathers were predominant, along with a lesser quantity of Great Cormorant and sea duck feathers, may be indicators of a mundane domestic context rather than the luxury goods typical of a high-status grave.”

Quoting from Carla J. Dove & Stephen Wickler, “Identification of Bird Species Used to Make a Viking Feather Pillow”, ARCTIC, 69(1):29-36 (March 2016).

[ See also Norwegian University of Science & Technology (institutionally co-authored), “What Vikings Really Put in Their Pillows”, PHYS-ORG (February 27, 2018), posted at https://phys.org/news/2018-02-vikings-pillows.html#jCp  —  as well as Birds of a Feather — A Story of Vikings and Pillows”, ZME Science Newsletter, 28 February AD2018, by Mihai Andrei, posted at https://www.zmescience.com/science/bird-viking-feathers-28022018/  ]

So, what’s in your pillow?


 

“E” is for Eagles and Eiders: “E” Birds”, Part 1

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

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Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)
Fair Use photo credit: Mike Haworth

The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD. (Obadiah 1:3-4)

E” is for Eagles, Eiders, Egrets, Emus, Earthcreepers, Eagle-owls, Euphonias, Elaenias, Eremomelas, Elepaios, and/or Emerald hummingbirds — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter E.

This present study (i.e., “‘E’ Birds, Part 1”) will focus on Eagles and Eiders.
But first, because this blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, we look at Psalm 119:33-40, — thereafter we review two categories of birds that start with the letter “E”, namely, Eagles and Eiders.

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Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)
Fair Use photo credit: Mike Haworth

THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH
Using alphabet letters, to order a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent, as is noted in the four earlier articles in this series of “alphabet birds” — i.e., A birds; B birds; and C birds; and D birds.

The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which psalm has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to the English alphabet, which has 26 alphabet letters, and/or to the Norwegian alphabet, which has 29 alphabet letters.) The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew letter: Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 with BETH, Verse 17-24 with GIMEL, and so forth.

he-5th-hebrew-letter-chart

Fair Use Image Credit:  4.bp.blogspot.com

In this serial study’s lesson, the fifth octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:33-40), each sentence starts with HÊ (pronounced “hay”, like what horses eat), the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English “H”.

The word based upon this letter is HÊ’, (also pronounced “hay”, like what horses eat), which is routinely translated as a “Behold!” (or “Lo!”) in the Old Testament (see YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, Index-Lexicon to the Old Testament, page 18, column 4), such as in Ezekiel 16:43 & Genesis 47:23.

Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things, behold! — therefore, I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations. (Ezekiel 16:43)

Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: Lo! — here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. (Genesis 47:23)

The Aramaic equivalent, HÂ’ (pronounced “Ha!”) appears in Daniel 3:25, when King Nebuchadnezzar was shocked to see what surprisingly happened in the fiery furnace, after Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were unjustly thrust therein.

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In King James English, one alerted others by exclaiming, “behold!” – meaning something like our modern expressions “Hey! Look!” and/or “Hey! Watch out!” In other words, ironically, the modern English exclamation “Hey!” means about the same thing as the ancient Hebrew exclamation “HÊ’!” – which is pronounced the same as is the English “Hey!”

Exclamations — like “Hey!” — alert us, to pay attention to something, to behold something, to watch out for something, that is very important. In the New Testament, the Greek equivalent is an imperative form of a verb meaning “look”, i.e., the New Testament’s equivalents (of “Behold!” or “Lo!”) likewise call someone to “Look!”

he-hebrew-letter-window

Fair Use image Credit: Pinterest

So, because HÊ’ is the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:33-40) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

33 Teach-me [hôrênî], O LORD, the way of Thy statutes; and I shall keep [a form of nâtsar] it unto the end.

34 Give-me-understanding [habînēnî], and I shall keep [a form of nâtsar] Thy law; yea, I shall observe [a form of shâmar] it with my whole heart.

35 Make-me-to-go [hadrîkēnî] in the path of Thy commandments; because therein do I delight [a form of ].

36 Incline [haṭ] my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

37 Turn-away [ha‘abēd] mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way.

38 Stablish [haqēm] Thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to Thy fear.

39 Turn-away [ha‘abēd] my reproach which I fear: for Thy judgments are good.

40 Behold [hinnēh] ! — I have longed after Thy precepts; quicken me in Thy righteousness.

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama). The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth that we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures (2nd Peter 1:16-21). Here, the octet of verses in Psalm 119:33-40 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using the terms “Thy statutes” (verse 33), “Thy law” (verse 34), “Thy commandments” (verse 35), “Thy testimonies” (verse 36), “Thy way” (verse 37), Thy Word” (verse 38), “Thy judgments” (verse 39), and “Thy precepts” (verse 40).

Notice how the “theme” of the Hebrew noun hê’ appears frequently in this section of Psalm 119 – because when you behold a “window” of valuable/relevant information, provided by God, you “watch out!” —  i.e., you look and see what is important for you to learn about, that helps you with your God-designed destiny.

Accordingly, the Hebrew letter HÊ’ alerts our attention to vitally important information – such as the sobering cause-and-effect logic of God’s punishment of wickedness (Ezekiel 16:43), or the providential opportunity to live and thrive in a well-provided-for situation (Genesis 47:23), or the astounding sight of a miracle happening inside a burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25).

But what about the running theme of alertness in Psalm 119:33-40? Behold!

In Psalm 119:33, the psalmist requests teaching from the LORD, in order that the psalmist “keep” God’s way completely. A person cannot practice God’s truth, in daily living, with first learning what God’s truth is — this is practical logic that Ezra exemplified in his life (Ezra 7:10).

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Israel’s armored cavalry “chariot” [Merkava 3], firing projectile (public domain)

Two Hebrew verbs appear in Verse 33, “teach” (a causative active imperative form of YÂRÂH, which refers to the action of projecting, i.e., casting a projectile such as an arrow or spear) and “keep” (a simple active imperfect form of NÂTSAR, which refers to guarding, preserving, conserving, protecting). The idea here is that the psalmist is alert to his need to vigorously dive into – like an arrow being forcibly shot into God’s assigned missions in life – which involve the spiritual pathway of God’s statutes, in order for the psalmist to guard those statutes (in daily living) “to the end”. This is not a relaxed scenario! If God’s Word was like a swimming pool, the psalmist is asking God to “throw him into the deep end”, so that the psalmist is confronted with challenges needful for “finishing strong” in his spiritual journey!

Psalm 119:34 is similar in meaning to Verse 33, because the psalmist again is seeking to “keep” (NÂTSAR) God’s Word, which this time is called God’s “law” (TÔRÂH), so that the psalmist can be careful in attending to (SHÂMAR) God’s law with his “whole heart”, like a watchman on a city wall. To do this, the psalmist asks God to give him “understanding” (a causative active imperative form of the Hebrew verb BÎN — literally exhorting God to cause the psalmist to understand what is needful, to achieve the goal of carefully living by God’s Word, with his “whole heart”. This too is no relaxed scenario – very serious understanding, discernment, judgment is needed. So this verse shows the psalmist being watchful, living life with “eyes open”, to know what is really going on in life.

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Fair Use Credit: JohnFanPhotography.com

 In Psalm 119:35, the psalmist requests God to “lead” [a causative active imperative form of DÂRAK] him in the proper pathway, namely, the pathway of proper living – this verse resembles a later verse, Psalm 119:105, that likens life’s spiritual journey as needing the enlightenment of God’s Word, “a lamp to my feet” and “a light unto my path”. Notice the psalmist’s purpose for this — he has “delighted” [a simple active perfect form of CHÂPHĒTS] in God’s commandments. The verb CHÂPHĒTS (which appears as “delighted” in Psalm 119:35) denotes the action of being delighted, favoring, enjoying, being pleased with – i.e., having a positive attitude toward someone or something. Remember the Westminster Confession? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

This reminds me of something my granddaughter Sydney said, when she was about 5 years old, when her mom told her that “we love God”. “Yeah”, Sydney agreed, “and we like God, too!” (Accordingly, we like and enjoy His Word, too!)

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Sydney (photo at about age 2), who loves God, and who likes Him too!

In Psalm 119:36, the psalmist asks God to “incline” his heart toward God’s “testimonies”. The word translated “incline” is a causative active imperative form of the Hebrew verb NÂṬÂH, which refers to the action of stretching or spreading out (e.g., spreading/stretching out a tent in Genesis 33:19 & Exodus 33:7, and arching a spear in Joshua 8:18 & 8:26), so the psalmist is beseeching God to stretch his heart toward God’s testimonies. This is no lackadaisical request! Of course, the testimonies of God’s witnesses were not of slight importance – the fate of families, communities, and even and nations would depend upon how such testimonies were received (or not received) — see, e.g., Deuteronomy 8:9 & 32:46; 2nd Kings 17:13-15; Nehemiah 9:26-34; Psalm 78:56; Isaiah 8:20; Amos 3:13; John 3:32 & 4:44; Acts 1:8; 1st Corinthians 15:15; Ephesians 4:17; 1st Thessalonians 4:6; Hebrews 12:1; 1st Peter 1:11; 1st John 4:14; Rev 22:16 & 22:20. In other words, watch out! — God’s testimony, provided by God’s witnesses, is never to be trifled with. The psalmist wants the opposite of shying away from God’s testimonies; the psalmist wants to stretch toward God’s testimonies.

In fact, the psalmist is actually pleading with God, asking God to make the psalmist to stretch him toward God’s testimonies, as opposed to the psalmist being inclined (i.e., “stretched”) toward seeking worldly “gain”. This cannot be a passive enterprise – in order for us to stretch toward God, and toward what honors God (i.e., what Colossians 3:2 calls “the things above”), we must affirmatively pull our hearts away from the worldly “treasures” that all-too-often compete with God, as our heart’s affection.

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Fair Use Credit: Felicia Starks

In Psalm 119:37, the psalmist asks God to turn the psalmist’s eyes from visons of vanities, as the psalmist recognizes that real life is experienced only in the ways of God. The verb translated “turn away” (in Psalm 119:37) is a causative active imperative form of the Hebrew verb ‘ÂBAR (literally, “to pass through”). Thus, the psalmist is imploring God to make the psalmist to “pass through” (or “pass over”) the lying sights of worldly temptation and folly. In other words, the psalmist does not expect divine deliverance, from worldly vanities, to come in the form of escape so much as to come in the form of a successful endurance (see 1st Corinthians 10:13). To achieve this result, the psalmist (and we) must pay alert attention to what is reliable and true — and (likewise) refuse to be distracted by what is ultimately illusory and false.

[Regarding the inherent distractiveness of deceit, seeStaying on Track, Despite Deceptive Distractions.

In Psalm 119:38, the psalmist asks God to make what He says to “arise” (using a causative active imperative form of the Hebrew verb QÛM) – i.e., whatever God’s promises He must establish. As mere mortals we cannot, by ourselves, establish God’s will on earth. God must make His own Word happen — and He is ready, willing, and able to do just that (see Isaiah 14:24 & 14:27)! Yet notice who the intended beneficiaries of God promises are: “those who fear Thee”, i.e., those with reverential awe of God, those who worshipfully fear His power and holiness – and that should describe us. Obviously this is not a lackadaisical matter – this is something we must pay close and sober attention to, especially if we hope to be on the “good side” of God’s promises.

In Psalm 119:39, the psalmist begins with the same Hebrew verb that Verse 37 began with, ‘ÂBAR (literally, “to pass through”), this time asking God to cause the psalmist’s self-dreaded “reproach” to pass through, i.e., the psalmist is fearful of his own fallibility and faultiness, and rightfully so – as we all should be. The psalmist’s prayer is a prayer of dependence — God needs to protect us form ourselves. The old saying is true: we are our own worst enemies. Accordingly, we need for God to take/pull us through our own shameful sinfulness, overruling our inherent sin-nature (which we inherited form Adam our first forefather), so that we can freely live for Him. But only God’s truth can free us from our sinful selves; only the Scriptures give us the truth that sets us free (see John 8:31-32). Thus, God’s Word is liberating. As the psalmist here says, God’s ordinances are “good” – they are the real daily nutrition that our lives must have, spiritually speaking (Matthew 4:4) — see Real Freedom Only Comes from Real Truth”, posted at  (from the April AD2013 issue of ACTS & FACTS).

In Psalm 119:40, the psalmist starts the verse with the exclamation “Behold!” (Hebrew: HĪNĒH), which repeats the tone of this octet of verses. The last word in this verse is an intensive active imperative form of the Hebrew verb CHAYAH (meaning “to live” or “to have life”). Thus, the psalmist is beseeching God to give him life “in Thy [i.e., God’s] righteousness”, because the psalmist “has longed for” (simple active perfect form of the verb TÂ’AB) a life that harmonizes with God’s ordinances/judgments. In other words, the psalmist connects real living to God’s gift of His own righteousness, that fits the worthy goal of living according to God’s judgments. This is no careless approach to daily living! This requires careful dependence upon God — only He can give us a good life.
In sum, Scripture-based living is not easy – it requires watchfulness, alertness, caution, sobriety, and complete dependence upon God’s Word-based guidance.

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of HÊ’ verses (Psalm 119:33-40), is that we need to be alert while living life on earth (i.e., “Watch out! Beware! Hey! Pay attention!”) — and that God’s Word is what equips us to be properly alerted to what is really happening in and around us.

After that lesson (from Psalm 119:33-40), about the value of careful attentiveness, it is appropriate to consider some EAGLES, those huge raptors that illustrate super-keen eyesight, telescopic eyes that they routinely use for the serious business of catching prey on land, in air, and even at the water’s surface.

stellersseaeagle-igorshpilenok

EAGLES

Regarding Eagles, see Lee Dusing’s Sunday Inspiration: Eagles, as well as her “Bible Birds: Eagles”.

The best known eagle, for Americans, is the USA’s national bird, the BALD EAGLE. Frequenting saltwater shorelines, these hawk-like fish-eating raptors are well-populated in coastal Alaska, as is reported in Alaska’s Bald Eagle, which is quoted below.

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                   Photo credit: SkagwayExcursion.com

BALD EAGLE pair (Alaska)

Bald eagles may enjoy abundant fishing opportunities, in Alaska and in other coastwater and riverine areas, but life has not been easy for these carnivores, due to the accumulation of poisons in food chains they depend upon.

Driven to near extinction due to DDT [via its byproduct DDE] poisoning and illegal killing. Now making a comeback in North America. Returns to same nest each year, adding more sticks, enlarging it to massive proportions, at times up to 1,000 pounds (450 kg). In the midair mating ritual, one eagle will flip upside down and lock talons with another. Both tumble, then break apart to continue flight. Thought to mate for life, but will switch mates if not successful reproducing. Juvenile attains the white head and tail at about 4-5 years of age.

[Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 81.]

goldeneagle-perching-wildechotours

GOLDEN EAGLE  (photo credit: WildEchoTours.com)

The other major variety of eagle, in North America, is the GOLDEN EAGLE, which lives off of prey it seizes from the ground, or from the air.

Large and powerful bird of prey that has no trouble taking larger prey such as jackrabbits. Hunts by perching or soaring and watching for movement [on the ground below]. Inhabits mountainous terrain, requiring large territories to provide large supply of food. Thought to mate for life, renewing pair bond late in winter with spectacular high-flying courtship displays. Usually nests on cliff faces, rarely in trees. Uses well-established nest that has been used for generations. Not uncommon for it to add thing to nest such as antlers, bones and barbed wire.

[Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 239.]

Golden Eagles are actually well distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, not just in North America, as the range map (below) indicates.

goldeneagle-rangemap-wikipedia

Golden Eagle Range Map (Wikipedia)

But would you expect there to be many more examples of “eagles” than just the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalos) and the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysactos)?

The varieties of Eagles – besides North America’s Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle – are many [see Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks, Eagle ], such as: Indian Black Eagle [found in tropical Africa], Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Chaco Eagle, Crested Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Gurney’s Eagle, Harpy Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Martial Eagle, Papuan Eagle, Philippine Eagle, Pygmy Eagle, Grey Sea Eagle [a/k/a Ørn and White-tailed Sea-Eagle], Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Steller’s Sea Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Andaman Serpent Eagle, Congo Serpent Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Madagascan Serpent Eagle, Mountain Serpent Eagle, Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle, Philippine Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Solitary Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Madagascan Fish Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Legge’s Hawk-Eagle, Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle, Javan Hawk-Eagle, Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle, Philippine Hawk-Eagle, Pinsker’s Hawk-Eagle, Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle [a/k/a African Black Eagle], Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, and Steppe Eagle!

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Grey Sea Eagle, a/k/a Ørn and White-tailed Sea-Eagle

Fair Use Credit: Sindri Skulason

 Consider the following information about eagles, a raptor often mentioned in Holy Scripture:

Eagles are such heavy birds that they don’t build their houses, called “nests”, near the ground. Eagles build their nests high up in trees or on top of rocky mountains or cliffs, so that they can jump out into the air and glide on rising warm air currents. Some air currents are made of warm rising air, so an eagle can jump into such warm air and “ride” it up like an elevator, then the eagle can glide from one air current to another , until it wants to fly down. These rising air currents are called “thermals”. The eagle that soars on a thermal is mostly at rest, because he is trusting the thermal to carry him along for a “ride” in the air. The eagle soaring on such a thermal air current is a reminder of how we should trust and depend upon God to carry us through life’s adventures, as we travel from one day to the next. By “riding” on upwardly spiraling thermal air currents eagles can save their energy, because too much wing-flapping can waste an eagle’s energy and cause it to get too tired to fly. Like eagles, we can waste a lot of energy if we fail to depend on God, because worrying and distrusting God wastes a lot of mental energy and emotions! (See Isaiah 40:31, quoted below.)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

By conserving (carefully using, not wasting) his energy, the bald eagle can flap his wings only when he needs to, and he can rise to very high places in the air, which also means that the eagles can reach high places on top of mountains or cliffs that other animals cannot reach. So an eagles’ nest (called an “eyrie”) can be far away from egg-eating animals that might bother parent eagles and try to eat their eggs before they have a chance to hatch into baby eaglets (the baby eaglets are called “hatchlings” when they first hatch). Bald eagles, like other kinds of eagles, often live in rocky places in high places, so it is not surprising that people (including Biblical authors) compare highness with flying and nesting behaviors of eagles.

One example of highness being compared to the nesting habits of eagles is found in the Bible, in the Book of Obadiah (at Obadiah 1:3-4), where the eagle is described as a creature that lives in high places, much closer to the stars than do most other animals (or people).

Another Old Testament book in the Bible, the Book of Job, refers (at Job 39:27) to the eagle as mounting up into the air by God’s command (because God programs eagles to fly up into the air the way that they do), and as nesting in high places (because God programs eagles to do this also).

“The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, ‘Who shall bring me down to the ground?’ Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.” (Obadiah 1:3-4)

“Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” (Job 39:27)

Eagles are good parents, training their sons and daughters to live like eagles (see Deuteronomy 32:11). Eagles can fly, like dive-bombing airplanes, at great speeds (see 2nd Samuel 1:23 and Lamentations 4:19). Their strength is renewed from time to time, as their feather-cover adjusts to their growing bodies (see Isaiah 40:31 and Psalms 103:5). Eagles are known for their gracefulness and dignity (see Proverbs 30:19). In fact, eagles fly very high in the air as a matter of habit – above most other birds (see Proverbs 23:5).

[Quoting from James J. S. Johnson, “Alaska’s Bald Eagle”].

ag of Mexico ©WikiC

Flag of MEXICO  (displaying Golden Eagle)

Eagles are favorite birds on national flags and in official coat-of-arms emblems. For a just a few examples, consider these “flagged” eagles:

Consider – for just a few representative examples – the eagles that appear on the flags – some present, some past — of these national and state/provincial flags: Albania; American Samoa; Austria (armorial flag); Brandenburg, Germany; Ecuador (armorial banner); Egypt; Geneva, Switzerland; Germany (armorial flag ); Iowa; Italian president’s flag (AD1880-AD1946); Jordan (armorial banner); Mexico; North Dakota; Oregon (front side of state flag); Pennsylvania; Poland (armorial flag); Prussia (armorial banner, AD1819-AD1850); (Moldova; Mount Athos (autonomous Greek protectorate); Russian Czar’s banner (18th century A.D.); Serbia (during AD1882-AD1918); Silesia (until absorption by Prussia in AD1742 – parts of Silesia now lay within Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic); United States Coast Guard and Marine Corps; Utah; Virgin Islands (of the USA); Zambia; etc.

[Quoting from James J. S. Johnson, “’Flag that Bird!’ (Part 1)

goldeneagle-swooping-down-netns-wildlifezone

Golden Eagle in flight
(Fair Use Credit: NETNS Wildlife Zone)

No wonder so many countries choose to include an eagle in their official coat-of-arms — these birds are truly regal!

Now for another category of “E” birds, the eiders.

stellerseider-wikipedia

Steller’s Eider in icy seawater (Wikipedia)

EIDERS

Eiders are large sea-ducks, the largest wild ducks in North America and Europe – with the exception of the Muscovy Duck (which, in parts of Texas and Florida, occurs in the wild). Examples of eiders include the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), King Eider (Someteria spectabilis), and Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri), and Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri), all four of which varieties are found in Alaskan waters. Eiders in the wild (including Steller’s Eider, misleadingly classified as a “different genus” of eider) are known to hybridize, so (obviously) all eiders descend from the same created kind.

Regarding downy-feather-famous Eiders, see, Lee Dusing’s “The Eider: The Cushion Makers (Nuggets Plus)”.  Eiders are true mariners, “sea ducks”, a term that includes mergansers, oldsquaw (a/k/a “long-tailed duck”), bufflehead, goldeneyes, and (of course) eiders.

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King Eider male near Barrow, Alaska (by Gregg Thompson)

Ornithologist Steve Madge describes eiders as cold-water ducks of the North. ”

Large sea-ducks of northern coastal waters. Adult males distinctive [in physical appearance], but other plumages similar; immatures take two or more years to reach maturity, males having confusing variety of piebald plumages [i.e., the usual colored feathering is modified by partial leucism, so that the usual black plumage is whitish, yet feathers of rainbow colors are not whitewashed]. Head-and-bill shape important [for identification], especially extent of feathering onto bill-base.

[Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL: AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 104.]

spectacled-eider-male-jimburns

Spectacled Eider male (photo by Jim Burns)

The Eider’s down feathers are especially well-designed for efficiently insulating the body heat of these North-dwelling ducks, so it is no surprise that eider feathers are prized as down for pillow-making. As, as the Nordic Store (Iceland) advises, “Eiderdown is the softest and lightest down in the world … extremely rare, in great demand and highly prized (accounting for its high price)”. [Quoting Nordic Store, with an (apparently) informative YouTube video, narrated in Icelandic, at Eiderdown Duvets and Pillows  — showing beautiful eiders at sea and on land, in colonial activities.]

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God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “E” birds – perhaps Egrets, Emus, and Earthcreepers!

Meanwhile, in accordance with Psalm 119:33-40, use God’s Word as you attentively and alertly live life, daily, with its opportunities to follow Christ. (Hey!) Carefully interpret whatever you see, by the wisdom of God’s Word, as you keep your eyes open, like the observant eagle!

><>  JJSJ profjjsj@verizon.net

e

The Eider – The Cushion Maker.. ~ Nuggets Plus

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) nest by Bob-Nan

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) nest by Bob-Nan

The Eider Duck – The cushion maker.. ~ by a j mithra
When constructing her nest,
a Female Eider Duck will line it
with soft down feathers
that she plucks from her own breast.
This gives the eggs
the best possible cushioning and insulation.

Nuggets Plus

Nuggets Plus

Jesus didn’t pluck His down feathers,
but, plucked Himself from heaven
and came down to give His whole life
to cushion and insulate our lives..
So that we may hatch to become
more like Him to do His will
in our lives on earth as it is in heaven..

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

Yours in YESHUA,
a j mithra

Please visit us at:

Crosstree

ajmithra21

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Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) by J Fenton M

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) by J Fenton M

Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, a j, for another very thoughtful article.

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