What is an Eagle?
(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.