Birds of the Bible – Bitterns in Zephaniah

Cinnamon Bittern by Phil Kwong in Hong Kong

Cinnamon Bittern by Phil Kwong in Hong Kong

And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work. (Zephaniah 2:14 KJV)

This verse in Zephaniah is a bit confusing because some of the characteristics mentioned are not in line with a bittern’s normal behavior. So, let’s look into this verse a little deeper.

Pulling up my e-Sword program, I am heading to the “Compare” mode. Wow! This is going to be interesting. What a variation of birds and animals listed for that verse.

  • ACV, ASV, BBE, RV, Disciple’s, WEB – pelican and the porcupine
  • ABP, Brenton – chameleons; and hedgehogs
  • AKJV, KJV, IAV, JUB, UKJV, Webster – cormorant and the bittern
  • AMP, NAS77, NASB, YLT – pelican and the hedgehog
  • Bishops, Geneva – pellicanes and owles
  • CEV – all kinds of desert owls
  • CJB –  jackdaws and owls
  • Darby, ECB, HRB, LITV, JPS, MKJV, NKJV  – pelican and the bittern
  • DRB – bittern and the urchin
  • ERV – Owls and crows
  • ESV – owl and the hedgehog
  • GNB, MSG, NET – Owls
  • GW – pelicans and herons
  • HCSB, ISV, NIV, NRSV – desert owl and the screech owl
  • KJ2000 – vulture and the hedgehog
  • TRC – pelicans and storks

See what my mean?

Here are the Strong’s Definitions for those two word in order of occurance.

H6893
קאת
qâ’ath
kaw-ath’
From H6958; probably the pelican (from vomiting): – cormorant.

H7090
קפּד קפּוד
qippôd qippôd
kip-pode’, kip-pode’
From H7088; a species of bird, perhaps the bittern (from its contracted form): – bittern.

At least 14 versions use the “bittern” as one of the two birds. Now to look further in the verse, it mentions that they are lodged in the upper parts with their voice singing in the windows. That is where I am curious about it being a bittern. Have you heard a bittern “sing”? Here a few of their “songs” from xeno-canto.

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Dans Pix

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Dans Pix

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus) by Daves BirdingPix ©WikiC

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus) by Daves BirdingPix ©WikiC

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus)

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris) ©Drawing WikiC

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris) ©Drawing WikiC

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris)

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)  by Bob-Nan

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Bob-Nan

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

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I am not as concerned as to which birds were there as much as if you read the context, you realize that the birds and critters are there because the places are deserted. Like a “ghost town” you see in the movies, with creatures occupying the windows and rafters. Why? Because of the Lord’s judgement on the people. Verses 10-13 explain this:

This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. (Zephaniah 2:10-13 KJV)

Maybe we should heed the warnings and examples given throughout Scripture. We have a loving God and Lord who created everything and cares about it, but He is also a God of Judgment. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But if you continue reading, you see that there is also judgment.

(17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
(18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
(20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
(21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
John 3:17-21 KJV

I trust you know the Lord as your personal Savior.

See:

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Birds of the Bible – None

I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, The fish of the sea, And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” Says the LORD. (Zephaniah 1:3 NKJV)

Flame Robin by Birdway

Flame Robin by Birdway

That verse caught me off-guard when I read it. Would the LORD really destroy all the birds? I hadn’t noticed that verse before. So, I went in search of what was meant by it and here are some of my findings:

From Geneva Bible Translation Notes:
“The Argument – Seeing the great rebellion of the people, and that there was now no hope of amendment, he gives notice of the great judgment of God, which was at hand, showing that their country would be utterly destroyed, and they would be carried away captives by the Babylonians.” In response as to the beast, birds and fish being consumed – “Not that God was angry with these dumb creatures, but because man was so wicked for whose cause they were created, God makes them to take part of the punishments with him.” God had created the critters and fish for man, but because of man’s sin, they (critters) are included in the judgement.

Red-breasted Nuthatch by Birdway

Red-breasted Nuthatch by Birdway

From John Darby’s Synopsis:
“The prophet (Zephaniah) begins by declaring that the land should be reduced to complete desolation; afterwards, that Judah, Jerusalem, their false gods, and their priests, should be smitten by the hand of Jehovah. The idolaters, those who mingled the name of Jehovah with that of other gods, those who had turned back from Jehovah, those who had not sought Him, …” Some of the other commentaries also indicated this mix of God and other gods. The New Testament reveals this is not an acceptable way of life in “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13 NKJV)

The other commentaries seem to indicate the same, that because their sin was so bad, God was going to judge them. Have the birds and critters been caught in the judgment of man other times in the Bible? Yes! Here are some examples from Torrey’s Topical Textbook:

As you can see, each time, man’s sin caused or will cause them to suffer.

Tufted Coquette by Birdway

Tufted Coquette by Birdway

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV)

Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind. But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, “He will not see our final end.” (Jeremiah 12:1-4 NKJV)

so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’ (Ezekiel 38:20 NKJV)

Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore the land will mourn; And everyone who dwells there will waste away With the beasts of the field And the birds of the air; Even the fish of the sea will be taken away. (Hosea 4:1-3 NKJV)

Fire-tufted Barbet by Birdway

Fire-tufted Barbet by Birdway

God is going to judge the world and everyone in it. Here in America and around the world, the sinfulness of mankind just continues to increase. How long before we are judged and the critters caught in that judgment with us?