Eagle in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

e'-g'-l (nesher; aetos; Latin aquila): A bird of the genus aquila of the family falconidae. The Hebrew nesher, meaning "to tear with the beak," is almost invariably translated "eagle," throughout the Bible; yet many of the most important references compel the admission that the bird to which they applied was a vulture. There were many large birds and carrion eaters flocking over Israel, attracted by the offal from animals slaughtered for tribal feasts and continuous sacrifice. The eagle family could not be separated from the vultures by their habit of feeding, for they ate the offal from slaughter as well as the vultures. One distinction always holds good. Eagles never flock. They select the tallest trees of the forest, the topmost crag of the mountain, and pairs live in solitude, hunting and feeding singly, whenever possible carrying their prey to the nest so that the young may gain strength and experience by tearing at it and feeding themselves. The vultures are friendly, and collect and feed in flocks. So wherever it is recorded that a "flock came down on a carcass," there may have been an eagle or two in it, but the body of it were vultures. Because they came in such close contact with birds of prey, the natives came nearer dividing them into families than any birds. Of perhaps a half-dozen, they recognized three eagles, they knew three vultures, four or five falcons, and several kites; but almost every Biblical reference is translated "eagle," no matter how evident the text makes it that the bird was a vulture. For example, Mic 1:16: "Make thee bald, and cut off thy hair for the children of thy delight: enlarge thy baldness as the eagle (m "vulture"); for they are gone into captivity from thee." This is a reference to the custom of shaving the head when in mourning, but as Israel knew no bald eagle, the text could refer only to the bare head and neck of the griffon vulture. The eagles were, when hunger-driven, birds of prey; the vultures, carrion feeders only. There was a golden eagle (the osprey of the King James Version), not very common, distinguished by its tan-colored head; the imperial eagle, more numerous and easily identified by a dark head and white shoulders; a spotted eagle; a tawny eagle, much more common and readily distinguished by its plumage; and the short-toed eagle, most common of all...

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