eagle Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
eagle in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(Herb. nesher; properly the griffon vulture or great vulture, so
called from its tearing its prey with its beak), referred to for
its swiftness of flight (Deut. 28:49; 2 Sam. 1:23), its mounting
high in the air (Job 39:27), its strength (Ps. 103:5), its
setting its nest in high places (Jer. 49:16), and its power of
vision (Job 39:27-30).
This "ravenous bird" is a symbol of those nations whom God
employs and sends forth to do a work of destruction, sweeping
away whatever is decaying and putrescent (Matt. 24:28; Isa.
46:11; Ezek. 39:4; Deut. 28:49; Jer. 4:13; 48:40). It is said
that the eagle sheds his feathers in the beginning of spring,
and with fresh plumage assumes the appearance of youth. To this,
allusion is made in Ps. 103:5 and Isa. 40:31. God's care over
his people is likened to that of the eagle in training its young
to fly (Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11, 12). An interesting illustration
is thus recorded by Sir Humphry Davy:, "I once saw a very
interesting sight above the crags of Ben Nevis. Two parent
eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the
maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of the
mountain in the eye of the sun. It was about mid-day, and bright
for the climate. They at first made small circles, and the young
birds imitated them. They paused on their wings, waiting till
they had made their flight, and then took a second and larger
gyration, always rising toward the sun, and enlarging their
circle of flight so as to make a gradually ascending spiral. The
young ones still and slowly followed, apparently flying better
as they mounted; and they continued this sublime exercise,
always rising till they became mere points in the air, and the
young ones were lost, and afterwards their parents, to our
aching sight." (See Isa. 40:31.)
There have been observed in Israel four distinct species of
eagles, (1) the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); (2) the
spotted eagle (Aquila naevia); (3) the common species, the
imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca); and (4) the Circaetos gallicus,
which preys on reptiles. The eagle was unclean by the Levitical
law (Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12).
eagle in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(Heb. nesher, i.e. a tearer with the beak). At least four distinct kinds of eagles have been observed in Israel, viz., the golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, the spotted eagle, Aquila naevia, the imperial eagle, Aquila heliaca, and the very common Circaetos gallicus. The Hebrew nesher may stand for any of these different species, though perhaps more particular reference to the golden and imperial eagles and the griffon vulture may be intended. The passage in Micah, #Mic 1:16| "enlarge thy baldness as the eagle," may refer to the griffon vulture, Vultur fulvus, in which case the simile is peculiarly appropriate, for the whole head and neck of this bird are destitute of true feathers. The "eagles" of #Mt 24:28; Lu 17:37| may include the Vultur fulvus and Neophron percnopterus; though, as eagles frequently prey upon dead bodies, there is no necessity to restrict the Greek word to the Vulturidae. The figure of an eagle is now and has long been a favorite military ensign. The Persians so employed it; a fact which illustrates the passage in #Isa 46:11| The same bird was similarly employed by the Assyrians and the Romans.
eagle in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
EA'GLE (Hebrew nesher; i.e. a tearer with the beak). There can be little question that the eagle of Scripture is the griffon (Gyps fulvus), or great vulture, a bird very abundant in Palestine and adjacent countries. In spite Griffon Vulture, the Eagle of Scripture. (Gyps fuivus. After Tristram.) of its name, it is a much nobler bird than a common vulture, and is little more a carrion-feeder than are all eagles. Indeed, the griffon is used by the Orientals as the type of the lordly and the great. This well-known bird of prey was unclean by the Levitical law. Lev 11:13; Deut 14:12. The habits of the eagle are described in Num 24:21; Job 9:26; Job 39:27-30; Prov 23:5; Prov 30:17, Acts 1:19; Jer 49:16; Eze 17:3; Ob 4; Hab 1:8; Gal 2:9; Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37. In these last passages the Jewish nation is compared to a decaying body exposed in the open field, and inviting the Roman army, whose standard was an eagle, to come together and devour it. The eagle was also on the Persian standard. The tenderness of the eagle toward its young is characteristic, and is beautifully and accurately described in Ex 19:4; Deut 32:11. The rapidity of the eagle's flight is alluded to in Deut 28:49; 2 Sam 1:23; Jer 4:13; Jer 48:40; Lam 4:19; its destructive power in Isa 46:11; Hos 8:1; and its great age, and the popular opinion that it renews its plumage in advanced life, are intimated in Ps 103:5 and Isa 40:31. Many Scripture references are much more clear and forcible if by "eagle" we understand the griffon. The head and neck of this bird are bald. Mic 1:16. Although eagles are attracted by carcasses, it is the griffons which, from their great numbers and superior strength, are pre-eminently the scavengers of the East. Matt 24:28. Of all rapacious birds, these select the loftiest and most inaccessible cliffs. Jer 49:16. "The griffon is found in all the warmer parts of the Old World, from the Himalaya to Spain and Morocco, and throughout Africa to the Cape of Good Hope. It measures about 4 feet 8 inches in length, and 8 feet in expanse of wing. The nest is sometimes large, but frequently scanty, formed of sticks and turf, and it lays one egg in February or March. Its plumage is a uniform brown, with a fine ruff of whitish down round the lower part of its neck, at the termination of the bare portion. Its beak is hooked and of great power, but its claws and feet are much weaker than those of the eagle, and are not adapted for killing prey." -- Tristram. The pains which such birds take in teaching their young to fly, as well as such passages as Isa 40:31, are illustrated by the following narrative: "I once saw a very interesting sight above the crags of Ben Nevis. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the manoeuvres of flight. They began by rising from the top of the mountain in the eye of the sun. It was about midday, and bright for the climate. They at first made small circles, and the young birds imitated them. They paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their flight, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising toward the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight so as to make a gradually-ascending spiral. The young ones still and slowly followed, apparently flying better as they mounted; and they continued this sublime exercise, always rising, till they became mere points in the air, and the young ones were lost, and afterward their parents, to our aching sight." -- Sir Humphry Davy. EARNING is an old English word for ploughing. Gen 45:6; Ex 34:21; Deut 21:4; 1 Sam 8:12.
eagle in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Nesher. Leviticus 11:13. The golden eagle (W. Drake). The griffon vulture; the Arab nisr is plainly the Hebrew nesher. In Micah 1:16, "make thee bald (shaving the head betokening mourning) ... enlarge thy baldness as the nesher," the griffon vulture must be meant; for it is "bald," which the eagle is not. "A majestic and royal bird, the largest and most powerful seen in Israel, far surpassing the eagle in size and power" (Tristram). The Egyptians ranked it as first among birds. The da'ah (Leviticus 11:14) is not "the vulture" but the black kite. The Hebrew qaarach is to make bald the back of the head, very applicable to the griffon vulture's head and neck, which are destitute of true feathers. The golden eagle; the spotted, common in the rocky regions; the imperial; and the Circaeros gallicus (short-toed eagle), living on reptiles only: Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, October, 1876), are all found in Israel.
Its swift flight is alluded to, and rapacious cruelty, representing prophetically (Habakkuk 1:8; Jeremiah 4:13) the Chaldean, and ultimately, the Roman, invaders of Israel (Deuteronomy 28:49; Ezekiel 17:3-7). Compare Josephus, B. J., 6. Its soaring high and making its nest in the inaccessible rock, also its wonderful far-sightedness and strength (Job 39:27-30). Psalm 103:5 says: "thy youth is renewed like the eagle's"; not as if the eagle renewed its youth in old age, but by the Lord's goodness "thy youth is renewed" so as to be as vigorous as the eagle. The eagle's vigor and longevity are illustrated by the Greek proverb, "the eagle's old age is as good as the lark's youth." Its preying on decomposing carcass symbolizes the divine retributive principle that, where corruption is, there vengeance shall follow. "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together," quoted by our Lord from Job 39:30; Matthew 24:28 -the vulture chiefly feeds on carcass.
The eagle's forcibly training its young to fly pictures the Lord's power, combined with parental tenderness, in training and tending His people (Deuteronomy 32:11; Exodus 19:4). In the law the fostering mother is the eagle, God manifesting His power and sternness mingled with tenderness in bringing His people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; in the gospel the fostering mother is the hen (Matthew 23:37), Christ coming in grace, humility, and obedience unto death (Bochart). Subsequently, Christ rescues His people "from the face of the serpent" by giving His church the "two wings of a great eagle" (Revelation 12:14).
The eagle "hovers over her young" in teaching them their first flight, ready in a moment to save them when in danger of falling on the rocks below. Compare Isaiah 31:5. God stirred up Israel from the foul nest of Egypt, which of their own accord they would have never left, so satisfied were they with its fleshpots in spite of its corruptions. The "stirring up the nest" spiritually corresponds to the first awakening of the soul; the "fluttering over her young" to the brooding of the Holy Spirit over the awakened soul; the "taking and bearing on her wings" to His continuous teaching and guardian care. The eagle assists the young one's first effort by flying under to sustain it for a moment and encourage its efforts.
So the Spirit cooperates with us, after He has first given us the good will (Philemon 2:12-13). The eagle rouses from the nest, the hen gathers to herself; so the law and the gospel respectively. The Persians under Cyrus had a golden eagle on a spear as their standard (Isaiah 46:11). The eagle is represented in Assyrian sculptures as accompanying their armies; Nisroch, their god, had an eagle's head. The Romans had the eagle standard, hence, the appropriateness of their being compared to an eagle (Deuteronomy 28:49).