—Biblical Data:

The rearing of domestic fowl for various uses became a part of Palestinian husbandry only after the return from Babylon (see Cock; Hen); but from Isa. lx. 8 it appears that at the time when that passage was written the dove was to a certain degree domesticated (see Dove). The "fowls" ("ẓipporim") served on the table of Nehemiah (Neh. v. 18) probably included pigeons and other small birds. Besides there are mentioned as having been used for food the quail (Ex. xvi. 13 and parallels) and "fatted fowl" ("barburim abusim"; I Kings v. 3 [A. V. iv. 23]).

Fowling and Hunting.

As all birds not named in the catalogues of Lev. xi. and Deut. xiv. were clean, they and their eggs no doubt largely entered into the diet of the Hebrews from early times, and the requisite supply must have been obtained by fowling. The numerous terms for the instruments of fowling and hunting, and the various metaphors derived from them, testify, in fact, to the vogue of these practises in ancient Israel. There were the net ("reshet"; Prov. i. 17; Hos. vii. 12, etc.), and the trap and snare ("paḥ" and "moḳesh"; Amos iii. 5, etc.). Besides there are mentioned "ḥebel" (Ps. cxl. 6; properly "rope" or "cord"; A. V. "snare"; R. V. "noose"); "Ẓammim" (Job xviii. 8-10; A. V. "robbers"; R. V. "snare"); and "sebakah" (ib.; A. V. "snare"; R. V. "toils"). The bow and sling ("ḳela'") were possibly also employed to bring down birds. The use of a decoy is perhaps alluded to in Jer. v. 26 (comp. Ecclus. [Sirach] xi. 30; see Partridge). For modern methods of fowling in Palestine see Tristram, "Nat. Hist." p. 163.

The use of eggs is perhaps indicated in Isa. x. 14 and Job vi. 6 (comp. Jer. xvii. 11). The law of Deut. xxii. 6, in order to forestall blunting of the tender feelings as well as the extermination of certain species of birds, prohibits the taking of the mother and young from the nest at one and the same time (known in later rabbinical literature as the ordinance of "shilluaḥ ha-ḳan").

—In the Talmud:

The Talmud gives the number of unclean birds after the Pentateuch lists as twenty-four, and then adds: "the clean birds are without number" (Ḥul. 63b). The characteristics of the clean birds are given (ib. 65a) as follows: (1) they do not kill or eat other birds; (2) they have a super-numerary toe ("eẓba' yeterah"), which is interpreted to mean either an additional toe behind the others, or an elongation of the middle toe; (3) they are supplied with a crop; (4) their stomachs have two skins, which can be easily separated; (5) they catch food thrown to them in the air, but bring it to the ground, when they divide it with their bills before eating it, while the unclean birds devour it in the air, or press it with one foot to the ground and tear it with their bills. Many birds are declared to be doubtful (ib. 62a, b). A distinction is made (ib. 42a) between large fowl ("'of ha-gas," geese, hens) and small ("'of ha-daḳ," doves, sparrows). "Ẓippor," denoting in the Old Testament the sparrow and other small birds, occurs in the Talmud as a general name for any clean bird (ib. 139b).

Domesticated Fowl.

The fowl mentioned as domesticated are the dove, the goose, the hen (see the special articles thereon), and the duck ("bar aweza"; Beẓah 32b; B. Ḳ. 92b; Ḥul. 62b). The flesh of fowl was especially the food of the aged and feeble (Yer. Peah viii. 21a); otherwise it was considered inferior to the meat of cattle, so that after blood-letting the latter was preferred (Me'i. 20b). City residents, being wealthy, consumed much poultry (Bek. 10a). The art of fattening fowl is described in Shab. 155b. The rearing of poultry in Jerusalem, and by priests throughout Palestine, was forbidden on account of the possible pollution of holy things (B. Ḳ. 79b).

Fowling is often referred to in the Talmud (comp. Pes. 23a; Beẓah 24a), metaphorically in Ab. iii. 20. In addition to the weapons of the fowler (and hunter) mentioned in the Old Testament there are enumerated, in Kelim xxiii. 4, the "maddaf" (sloping board), "palẓur," "agon," "raṭub," and "kelub" (basket). The "nesheb" was especially used for catching pigeons (B. Ḳ. 89b). Birdlime ("debeḳ") and the rod ("shafshef") on which it was smeared are mentioned (Shab. 78b), and the art of falconry is referred to (ib. 94a). The ordinance of "shilluaḥ ha-ḳan" is confined by the Talmud to clean birds (Ḥul. 138b). See, also, Eggs.

  • Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 162;
  • Lewysohn, Z. T. pp. 4, 7, 11, 15, 45, 160.
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