The Hebrew term for this bird occurring most frequently in the Bible is "bat ha-ya 'anah"; the plural form "ye'enim" occurs in Lam. iv. 3, and "renanim" in Job xxxix. 13 (A. V. "peacocks"). The Authorized Version renders also "ḥasidah" (ib.) by "ostrich" (see Stork).
The ostrich is an unclean bird (Lev. xi. 16; Deut. xiv. 15). Allusions are made to its living in deserted and lonely places (Isa. xiii. 21, xxxiv. 13, xliii. 20; Jer. l. 39; Job xxx. 29), to its melancholy cry (Micah i. 8), and to its speed in running (Job xxxix. 18). The idea of its being pitiless toward its young (Job xxxix. 16; Lam. iv. 3) has, as Tristram says, some foundation in fact, because "when surprised by man with the young before they are able to run, the parent bird scuds off alone and leaves its offspring to their fate." So also with regard to its stupidity (Job xxxix. 17): "When surprised it will often take the very course that insures its capture." These two characteristics are ascribed to it by the Arabs also. On the other hand, the belief that the ostrich leaves its eggs to be hatched by the sand (ib. 14 et seq.) may have arisen from its habit of scattering some unincubated eggs around its nest to serve as food for the young when hatched.
In the Mishnah "na'amit," in the Talmud "na'amita," is used besides "bat ha-ya'anah" for the ostrich (Shab. 110b; M. Ḳ. 26a). The voraciousness of the bird is illustrated by its devouring a pair of phylacteries (Yer. M. Ḳ. 83b), and it is also related (Yer. Yoma iv. 4) that an ostrich swallowed gold pieces of the size of an olive and ejected them in a polished condition. It does not even disdain broken glass as food (Shab. 128a). Yalḳ. Shim'oni ii. 17a makes the ostrich consume the flesh of the slain Agag. In Kelim xvii. 14 is mentioned a vessel made of a glazed ostrich-eggshell, having a capacity of twenty-four hen eggs. The egg of the ostrich was used for medicinal purposes (Shab. 110b).
- Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 233;
- Lewysohn, Z. T. p. 188.