Birds of the Bible – Gifts From Birds

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) at Lake Morton By Dan'sPix

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) at Lake Morton By Dan’sPix

Birds of the Bible articles have been written about Raven’s before. James J S Johnson sent a link to a news story in the BBC News Magazine about Crows that is similar to the Ravens in the Bible.

First the story. A young girl, Gabi Mann, feeds Crows and they bring her “gifts.” (nutshell version). See The girl who gets gifts from birds.

It started when she got out of the car and dropped food from her lap. The Crows grabbed it and each time she came home, they watched for her. It went from that to Gabi and her mother feeding them on a regular basis. Then, the crows started leaving various items, that could fit in their mouths, as “gifts.” Here are some of those items.

Things brought by the crows

Things brought by the crows

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Things brought by the crows

Things brought by the crows

Does the story bring to mind a similar situation, but with Ravens bringing something to someone?

In I Kings 17, we read about the prophet Elijah who was told by the LORD to get away and hide by the Brook Cherith.

And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:4-6 NKJV)

Ravens and Crows are both in the same family, Corvidae – Crows, Jays, Ravens, which has 130 species presently. “They are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals” (Corvidae-Wikipedia).

In the Bible, our passage in I Kings says that the ravens brought him food. Checking the different translations, all the translations, except two, call them Ravens. Those two call them Crows. The ABP+ uses G2876, which Strong says:

G2876

κόραξ
korax
kor’-ax
Perhaps from G2880; a crow (from its voracity): – raven.
Total KJV occurrences: 1

The other, ISV, says, “Crows would bring him bread and meat both in the morning and in the evening, and he would drink from the brook.”

Either way, the point is, the LORD used birds from a very intelligent avian family, that He Created, to feed his prophet. Critics like to find everything they can to disprove the Bible. Yet, the Lord gives us all kinds of reasons to believe his Word, if we just open our eyes.

Those birds could have brought bits of food as well as “trinkets.”

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:19-20 KJV)

Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) ©WikiC

Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) ©WikiC

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The girl who gets gifts from birds.

Corvidae – Crows, Jays, Ravens

Birds of the Bible – Ravens

Raven – Wikipedia

Corvidae – Wikipedia

Wordless Birds

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) ©WikiC

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) ©WikiC

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas. (I took a few liberties with the photos)

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth. (Proverbs 17:8 KJV)

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14 KJV)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (12 Days of Christmas) 

Music From The Twelve Days of Christmas Website

12 Days of Christmas – Manheim Steamroller arrangement

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Faverolles - French Hen and Cock - ©WikiC

Faverolles - French Hen and Cock - ©WikiC

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) Endangered Juvenile ©BirdPhotos.com

Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) Endangered Juvenile ©BirdPhotos.com

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four (Culley) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest ©USFWS

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest ©USFWS

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Swans at BokTower

Swans at Bok Tower by Dan

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - One Greater Flamingo-chick in Zoo Basel is fed on crop milk.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - chick in Zoo Basel is fed on crop milk.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) ©GNU

Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) ©GNU

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Lord Derby's Parakeet (Psittacula derbiana) by Wilhelma Zoo Stuttgart ©WikiC

Lord Derby's Parakeet (Psittacula derbiana) by Wilhelma Zoo Stuttgart ©WikiC

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) by Ray

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) by Ray

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

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Below is some of the information about how the song came about and some of the different interpretations of it. I especially like the idea that the 12 days represent different aspects of Christianity. The fact that it was a code is not verifiable, does not diminish its relationship to twelve things.  I took a few liberties with the photos, but was trying to use birds for the days. Pushed a few of them, but trust you enjoy my efforts.

“Meaning

The lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas may have no meaning at all. Its meaning, if it has any, has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, “Suggestions have been made that the gifts have significance, as representing the food or sport for each month of the year. Importance [certainly has] long been attached to the Twelve Days, when, for instance, the weather on each day was carefully observed to see what it would be in the corresponding month of the coming year. Nevertheless, whatever the ultimate origin of the chant, it seems probable [that] the lines that survive today both in England and France are merely an irreligious travesty.”

A bit of modern folklore claims that the song’s lyrics were written as a “catechism song” to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalized in England (1558 until 1829). There is no primary evidence supporting this claim, and no evidence that the claim is historical, or “anything but a fanciful modern day speculation.” The theory is of relatively recent origin. It was first suggested by Canadian English teacher and hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar in a short article, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas,” published in 1979. In a later article published in the music journal The Hymn, he reiterates that the associations are his. The idea was further popularized by a Catholic priest, Fr. Hal Stockert, in an article he wrote in 1982 and posted online in 1995.

Variations in lyrics provide further evidence against the “catechism song” origin. For example, the four Gospels are often described as the “four calling birds,” when in fact the phrase “calling birds” is a modern (probably 20th century) phonetic misunderstanding of “colly birds” (blackbirds).

Regardless of the origin of this idea, a number of Christians give the following meanings to the gifts:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a Catechism Song
Gift Interpretation
A partridge in a pear tree Jesus
Two turtle doves The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens The three kings bearing gifts
Four calling [sic] birds The four Gospels
Five gold rings The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming The twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed


(From The Twelve Days of Christmas – Wikipedia)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)

See Also:
Twelve Days of Christmas – Notes on  the Festival and the Carol for quite a bit of history on the song and other versions.

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