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PREY, BIRDS OF:

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While few clean birds are named in the Old Testament (see Poultry), there are given in Lev. xi. (13-19) and Deut. xiv. (12-21) two parallel lists of birds of prey, the former passage mentioning twenty, and the latter twenty-one. The generic name for raptorial birds is "'ayiṭ" (Gen. xv. 11; Isa. xviii. 6; Jer. xii. 9; Ezek. xxxix. 4; Job xxviii. 7; Isa. xlvi. 11 [a metaphor]). This large number of names, as also the frequent allusions in metaphors and proverbial expressions to the habits of birds, shows that, though forbidden as food, they were nevertheless objects of close observation and contemplation. They were also cherished, it seems, for the beauty of their plumage (I Kings x. 22) and as pets for children (Job xl. 29; comp. Baruch iii. 17). Appreciation of their cry is indicated in Ps. civ. 12, and Eccl. xii. 4.

The Talmud, noting that "le-mino" (after its kind) follows the names of four of the unclean birds in the Pentateuchal lists, and identifying "ayyah" with "dayyah," assumes twenty-four unclean birds are intended; and adds: "There are in the East a hundred unclean birds, all of the hawk species" ("min ayyah"; Ḥul. 63b). Some of the birds of prey were trained to the service of man, the hawk, e.g., to pursue other birds (Shab. 94a). The claws of the griffin, the wings of the osprey, and the eggs of the ostrich were made into vessels (Ḥul. 25b; Rashi ad loc.; Kelim xvii. 14). Eggshells were used as receptacles for lamp-oil (Shab. 29b).

Bibliography:
  • Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 168;
  • Lewysohn, Z. T. p. 159.
E. G. H. I. M. C.
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