Animal Parables in the Bible (I): Bird Migration

April 2020. All people in the world are locked in their homes. But nature does not cease. This is the season of vast bird migration over Israel.

“Even the stork in the heavens

Knows her appointed times;

And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow

Observe the time of their coming.

But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord.”

Jeremiah 8:7

Jeremiah the prophet lived in the time of the last kings of Judah. Like everyone in his time, he was connected to the nature surrounding him.

In his prophecies, animals are used to make a point.

He used bird migration, as a manifestation of the law of nature created by God. And inasmuch as we can trust that every spring we will see the birds coming, we know we cannot trust people.

The mystery of birds migration

Storks migration over Galilee mountains, Israel. Photo: Amir Silberman

One great phenomenon that have always amazed humanity, is the migration of birds. Many types of birds migrate very long distances in very dangerous paths.

Until today, scientist do not really understand, how come those birds know, always, in the exact same time of year, to navigate their way to the the exact same places. And more than that: How do they know that they need to start migrating, and why not just stay where they are?

Certainly, Jeremiah was fascinated by this. He made this comparison between birds that have known the times, and the people of Israel and Judah, who could not see the judgment and its consequences that would befall on them.

Four types of birds

What are the four birds in Jeremiah 8:7?

First one is a Stork, This is a sure identification.

Second bird is the dove. In Song of Solomon, the voice of the turtledove is a sign for the spring:

“The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land.”

Song of Solomon 2:12
Collared Dove, Central Israel. Photo: Amir Silberman

And indeed, even today, when spring comes, you can hear the voice of the turtledove everywhere in Israel.

The identification of the next two birds is disputable.

The third one is translated to “swift” – a bird that does not stop flying for a second. It can be seen during spring in the Western wall where they nest in the gaps between the stones.

Last one is pronounced “Agur”. In modern Hebrew we use this name for “Crane” another migrant bird in Israel

Demoiselle crane, Hula Valley, Israel. Photo: Amir Silberman

Author: Ran Silberman

I am a tour guide in Israel with a passion for the Bible. For many years I work in the software industry as a software consultant. I blog in http://ransilberman.blog

3 thoughts on “Animal Parables in the Bible (I): Bird Migration”

      1. They do look like doves. We saw them when we went to be baptized at the Jordan. Thanks.

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