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Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [1]

This very extraordinary bird is so spoken of in the Scripture, that it would be wrong in a work of this kind not to notice it, especially as the Lord himself, from the whirlwind, condescended to call the attention of the man of Uz to it. ( Job 39:13, etc.) "Gavest thou (saith the Lord) the goodly wings unto the peacocks, or wings and feathers unto the ostrich, which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them? She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom; neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider."

Such a relation concerning the ostrich, and given by the Lord himself in his blessed word, certainly merits our attention. But we must be indebted to the account of travellers who have visited the countries where the ostriches are, in order to enter into the beauties which are contained in the Lord's description of this wonderful bird.

Dr. Shaw, in his travels into Arabia, had opportunity of making many curious observations concerning the ostrich, and he hath very largely described the properties of the ostrich in the Supplement to his book of Travels, folio edition, page 66, etc. The doctor's account of the ostrich becomes very explanatory of the several circumstances related concerning this bird in the book of Job The wings and feathers of the ostrich are so formed, as to be expanded at ease, that they form a kind of sail, not only from motion, but from the air, to hasten the flight; so that at any time if when feeding in the valley, or behind some rocky or sandy eminence in the deserts they are surprised, they stay not to be curiously viewed or examined, neither are the Arabs ever dexterous enough to overtake them, though mounted upon their jinse, or horses. As the Lord hath described the ostrich, so it is found, "what time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.'Nothing certainly (saith this writer) can be more beautiful and entertaining than the sight. The wings of the ostrich, by their repeated though unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars, whilst their feet no less assist them when conveying them out of sight, and no less insensible of fatigue." The circumstance of "leaving her eggs in the earth, and being hardened against her young," forms another remarkable feature in the nature and character of the ostrich. This bird lays very many eggs, from thirty to fifty, and sometimes more in number; probably so appointed by the Great Author of nature, to make suitable provision for those very circumstances: not, as it appears for the brood only, but for food for herself and young. For here is another singularity in the ostrich,—she is exceedingly fond of her own eggs: in which the wisdom of the ostrich's Creator becomes striking. For those parts of the Sahara which these birds chiefly frequent, are destitute of all manner of food and herbage, except some few tufts of coarse grass, so that by this means there is always a supply of food to answer the demands of hunger.

Her want of feeling to her young is so great that there seems to be no instance of natural affection in the ostrich, nothing of that storge which marks the tenderness of the hen, and others of the winged race. She forsakes her nest upon the most trifling occasion, and never returns to it again. The Arabs will sometimes meet with whole nests of the ostrich eggs undisturbed, and sometimes young ostriches straggling and moaning about half starved, like so many distressed orphans, bewailing the loss of their mother. What a beautiful light this throws upon that passage in the prophet, "The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness?" ( Lamentations 4:3)

And so senseless is this bird in respect to caution in food, that she swallows indiscriminately every thing that comes in her way, whether it be rags, leather, wood, stone, or iron. "I saw (saith Dr. Shaw) one of these birds at Oran that swallowed, without any seeming inconvenience, several leaden bullets, as they were thrown upon the floor scorching hot from the mold."

But such are the powers of digestion in the ostrich, as, by their strong friction, to wear even iron itself, that evidently no injury is induced by this inattention. It should seem indeed as if their organs of smell or taste were totally different from all other creatures; for the ostrich is fond of her own dung, and will greedily eat it as soon as voided. All which particularities serve to illustrate what is said concerning her, "because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding."

I would only add under this article, that in Scripture sometimes the owl is put for the ostrich, but corrected in the margin. Jaanah and Rinonem are the names by which, in the Scripture, the ostrich is known; the latter name from Onah and Ronah, meaning noise: for by night their cry is hideous. Dr. Shaw saith, "I have often heard them groan, as if in the greatest agonies." The prophet beautifully makes allusion to it when he saith, "I will make a wailing like the dragon, and mourning as the ostrich." ( Micah 1:8. See  Isaiah 13:21, in the margin; and  Isaiah 34:13, in the margin; and  Isaiah 42:20, in the margin.)

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

יענח ; in Arabic neamah; in Greek στρουθοκαμηλος , the camel bird; and still in the east, says Niebuhr, it is called thar edsjammel, "the camel bird,"  Leviticus 11:16;  Deuteronomy 14:15;  Job 30:29;  Isaiah 13:21;  Isaiah 34:13;  Isaiah 43:20;  Jeremiah 50:39;  Lamentations 4:3;  Micah 1:8; רננים ,  Job 39:13 . The first name in the places above quoted is, by our own translators, generally rendered "owls." "Now it should be recollected," says the author of "Scripture Illustrated," "that the owl is not a desert bird, but rather resides in places not far from habitations, and that it is not the companion of serpents; whereas, in several of these passages, the joneh is associated with deserts, dry, extensive, thirsty deserts, and with serpents, which are their natural inhabitants. Our ignorance of the natural history of the countries which the ostrich inhabits has undoubtedly perverted the import of the above passages; but let any one peruse them afresh, and exchange the owl for the ostrich, and he will immediately discover a vigour of description, and an imagery much beyond what he had formerly perceived." The Hebrew phrase בת היענה , means "the daughter of vociferation," and is understood to be the female ostrich, probably so called from the noise which this bird makes. It is affirmed by travellers of good credit, that ostriches make a fearful, screeching, lamentable noise.

Ostriches are inhabitants of the deserts of Arabia, where they live chiefly upon vegetables; lead a social and inoffensive life, the male assorting with the female with connubial fidelity. Their eggs are very large, some of them measuring above five inches in diameter, and weighing twelve or fifteen pounds. These birds are very prolific, laying forty or fifty eggs at a clutch. They will devour leather, grass, hair, stones, metals, or any thing that is given to them; but those substances which the coats of the stomach cannot act upon pass whole. It is so unclean an animal as to eat its own ordure as soon as it voids it. This is a sufficient reason, were others wanting, why such a fowl should be reputed unclean, and its use as an article of diet prohibited. "The ostrich," says M. Buffon, "was known in the remotest ages, and mentioned in the most ancient books. How indeed could an animal so remarkably large, and so wonderfully prolific, and peculiarly suited to the climate as is the ostrich, remain unknown in Africa, and part of Asia, countries peopled from the earliest ages, full of deserts indeed, but where there is not a spot which has not been traversed by the foot of man? The family of the ostrich, therefore, is of great antiquity. Nor in the course of ages has it varied or degenerated from its native purity. It has always remained on its paternal estate; and its lustre has been transmitted unsullied by foreign intercourse. In short, it is among the birds what the elephant is among the quadrupeds, a distinct race, widely separated from all the others by characters as striking as they are invariable." "On the least noise," says Dr. Shaw, "or trivial occasion, she forsakes her eggs, or her young ones; to which perhaps she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed: some of them are sweet and good, others are addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growth, according to the time, it may be presumed, they have been forsaken of the dam. The Arabs often meet with a few of the little ones no bigger than well grown pullets, half starved, straggling and moaning about like so many distressed orphans for their mother. In this manner the ostrich may be said to be hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers; her labour, in hatching and attending them so far, being vain, without fear, or the least concern of what becomes of them afterward. This want of affection is also recorded,  Lamentations 4:3 , ‘the daughter of my people is become cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness;' that is, by apparently deserting their own, and receiving others in return." Natural affection and sagacious instinct are the grand instruments by which providence continues the race of other animals: but no limits can be set to the wisdom and power of God. He preserveth the breed of the ostrich without those means, and even in a penury of all the necessaries of life. Notwithstanding the stupidity of this animal, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety, by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. They, when they raise themselves up for flight, "laugh at the horse and his rider." They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded quivering wing. Nothing certainly can be more entertaining than such a sight, the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, seem to be insensible of fatigue.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

So translated for "owl" ( Leviticus 11:16), Bath Haya'Anah "daughter of greediness" or "daughter of wailing."  Isaiah 34:13 translated "a dwelling for ostriches," not "a court for owls" ( Isaiah 43:20, margin). Feminine to express the species. Some Arabs eat the flesh. It will swallow almost any substance, iron, stone, etc., to assist the triturating action of the gizzard. The date stone, the hardest of vegetable substances, is its favourite food. Its cry resembles the lion's, so that Hottentots mistake it. Dr. Livingstone could only distinguish them by the fact that the ostrich roars by day, and the lion roars by night. Rosenmuller makes the derivation "daughter of the desert." ( Micah 1:8),  Job 30:29 - "I am a companion to ostriches" (not "owls"), living among solitudes. In  Lamentations 4:3, Yeenim , "cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness." Renanim ;  Job 39:13, "peacocks." Rather, "the ostrich hen," literally, "cries," referring to its dismal night cries, as in  Job 30:29. Translated: "the wing of the ostrich hen vibrates joyously.

Is it like the quill and feathers of the pious bird (the stork)? (surely not.)" The quivering wing characterizes the ostrich in full course. Its white and black feathers in the wing and tail are like the stork's feathers; but, unlike that bird, the symbol of parental love, it deserts its young. If the "peacock" (Which Has A Distinct Name, Tukiyim ) had been meant, the tail, its chief beauty, not the wings, would have been mentioned. Ostriches are polygamous. The hens lay their eggs promiscuously in one nest, a mere hole scratched in the sand, and they cover them with sand a foot deep. The parent birds incubate by turn during the night, but leave them by day to the sun's heat in tropical countries. Hence, arose the notion of her lack of parental love: "which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust." But in non-tropical countries the female incubates her eggs by day, the male takes his turn on the nest at night. There they watch the eggs so carefully that they will even kill jackals in their defense.

Moreover, she lays some of her eggs on the surface around the nest; these seem to be forsaken; "she forgeteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beasts may break them." They are actually for the nutriment of the young birds. It is a shy bird. The only stupidity in the ostrich which warrants the Arab designation "the stupid bird" at all is its swallowing at times of substances which prove fatal to it, for instance, hot bullets, according to Dr. Shaw (Travels, ii. 345); also its never swerves from the course it once adopts, so that hunters often kill it by taking a shortcut, to which it only runs faster. Livingstone calculates its stride at 12 ft. on an average, and 30 strides in every 10 seconds, i.e. 26 miles an hour. "She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers," i.e. to man she seems (Scripture Uses Phenomenal Language, Not Thereby Asserting The Scientific Accuracy Of It) as if she neglected her young; but she is guided by a sure instinct from God, as much as animals whose instincts seem (at first sight) to be more provident. At a slight noise she forsakes her eggs, as if hardened toward her young; but it is actually a mark of young sagacity, since her capture might be the only result of returning.

"Her labour (in producing eggs) is in vain, (yet she is) without fear," unlike other birds who, if one and another egg be removed, will go on laying until the full number is restored. "Because God hath deprived her of wisdom," etc.: the argument is, her very seeming lack of wisdom is not without the wise design of God, just as in the saint's trials, which seem so unreasonable to Job, there lies hidden a wise design. Her excellencies, notwithstanding her seeming deficiencies, are enumerated next; "she (proudly) lifteth up herself on high (Gesenius, 'She Lasheth Herself' Up To The Course By Flapping Her Wings) , she scorneth the horse." The largest and swiftest of cursorial animals. Its strength is immense; the wings are not used for flying, but are spread "quivering" (see above) as sails before the wind, and serve also as oars. The long white plumes in the wing and tail come to us from Barbary; the general plumage is black, the head and neck is bare. Their height is more than eight feet. Zoologically, it approaches the mammalian type. Its habitat is the desert here and there, from the Sahara to the Cape of South Africa, and in the Euphratean plains ( Isaiah 13:21, margin).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

The largest of birds, and a sort of connecting link between fowls and quadrupeds, termed by the Persians, Arabs, and by Greeks, the "camel-bird." It is a native of the dry and torrid regions of Africa and western Asia. The gray ostrich is seven feet high and its neck three feet long; it weighs nearly eighty pounds, and is strong enough to carry two men. The other species, with glossy black wings and white tail, is sometimes ten feet high. The beautiful plumes so highly valued are found on the wings, about twenty on each, those of the tail being usually broken and worn. There are no feathers on the thighs, or under the wings; and the neck is but scantily clothed with thin whitish hairs. The weight of the body and the size and structure of the wings show that the animal is formed for running rather than flying.

The ostrich is described in  Job 39:13-18; and in various places where our translation calls it the "owl,"  Job 30:29   Jeremiah 50:39; or "daughter of the owl,"  Isaiah 13:21   34:13   43:20   Micah 1:8 . In these and other passages it figures as a bird of the desert. Shy and timorous, it is occasionally driven by hunger to visit and ravage cultivated fields; but is usually found only in the heart of the desert, in troops, or small groups, or mingling familiarly with the herds of wild asses, gnus, and quaggas. Its food is often scarce and poor, plants of the desert "withered before they are grown up;" also snails, insects, and various reptiles; for it has a voracious and indiscrimination appetite, swallowing the vilest and the hardest substances. Job speaks particularly of the speed of the ostrich," She scorneth the horse and his rider." So Xenophon, the biographer of Cyrus, says of the ostriches of Arabia, that none could overtake them, the baffled horsemen soon returning from the chase; and the writer of a voyage to Senegal says, "The ostrich sets off at a hard gallop; but after being excited a little, she expands her wings as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground. I am persuaded she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser."

She scoops out for herself a circular nest in the sand, and lays a large number of eggs; some of which are placed without the nest, as though intended for the nourishment of the young brood. The mother bird, with the help of the sun in the tropics, and of her mate in the cool nights, performs the process of incubation; but her timidity is such that she flies from her nest at the approach of danger, and as Dr. Shaw remarks, "forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which, perhaps, she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of them are sweet and good, others are addled and corrupted. They often meet with a few of the little ones no bigger than well-grown pullets, half starved, straggling and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans for their mother. In this manner the ostrich may be said to be hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labor,' in hatching and attending them so far, being vain, without fear,' or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards. This want of affection is also recorded in  Lamentations 4:3 , The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness;' that is, apparently by deserting her own children, and receiving others in return."

When the ostrich is provoked, she sometimes makes a fierce, angry, and hissing noise, with her throat inflated, and her mouth open; at other times she has a moaning and plaintive cry; and in the night the male repels prowling enemies by a short roar which is sometimes taken for that of a lion,  Micah 1:8 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

This name occurs but twice in the A.V.

1. yaen,  Lamentations 4:3 , where its cruelty is referred to. A kindred Hebrew word (preceded by bath, signifying the female), bath yaanah, 'daughter of howling,' is eight times translated 'owl.'   Leviticus 11:16;  Deuteronomy 14:15;  Job 30:29;  Isaiah 13:21;  Isaiah 34:13;  Isaiah 43:20;  Jeremiah 50:39;  Micah 1:8 . It is classed among the unclean birds, and is characterised by dwelling in waste places, and also by its wailing cry, which well agree with the habits of the ostrich. Though some passages may seem to point to the owl, doubtless the ostrich is referred to in all the above passages.

2. notsah, signifying 'plumage,' is translated ostrich in  Job 39:13-18; the ostrich, however, is referred to in  Job 39:13 by the word renanim, pl., which signifies, 'a crying or wailing,' but in the A.V. is translated 'peacocks.' The passage is obscure, but  Job 39:13 may be better translated thus: "The wing of the ostrich beats joyously: but is it the stork's pinion and plumage?" The passage then speaks of the ostrich leaving its eggs unprotected, and being hardened against its young. The ostrich leaves its eggs inthe sand, well covered up. The sun keeps them warm by day, and the parent sits upon them at night. Other eggs are left unprotected near by for the young birds when hatched to eat, and these may be trampled on. As to the indifference of the parents to their young, it is asserted that when a hunter approaches they will leave their nests and then often they cannot find the place again in the wide desert; but dead jackals have been found near the nests, which have been killed by the parent birds. Some suppose that  Job 39:16 refers to other birds laying eggs in the ostrich's nest, from which are hatched birds that are 'not hers.'   Job 39:18 refers to the speed of the bird, which has often exceeded that of the best horses. The ostrich is of the family Struthionidae, order Cursores.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]


1 . bath ya‘ănâh ,   Leviticus 11:15 ,   Deuteronomy 14:15 ,   Job 30:29 ,   Isaiah 13:21;   Isaiah 34:13;   Isaiah 43:26 ,   Jeremiah 50:39 , and   Micah 1:8 . In all these references AV [Note: Authorized Version.] has ‘owl,’ but RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ostrich.’ Lit. tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of Heb. is ‘daughter of greed.’

2 . yÄ•‘çnîm , ‘ostriches,’   Lamentations 4:3 .

3 . yÄ•nânîm ,   Job 39:13 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘peacocks,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ostrich.’ (In same verse chăs îdâh ‘kindly’ is in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] mistranslated ‘ostrich.’)

The ostrich ( Struthio camelus ) still exists in the deserts to E. and S.E. of Syria; a live specimen was brought into Jerusalem a few years ago, and their eggs are from time to time offered for sale by the Bedouln.

The popular view of the ostrich’s neglect of her eggs appears in  Job 39:14-15 , but the following is her real habit. The ostrich is polygamous, and a group of three or four hens, jealously guarded by a cock, lay some thirty or forty eggs in a common nest in the ground, covering them over with sand. During the day the heat of the sun is a sufficient incubator, but at night the birds take turns in keeping the eggs warm. A few scattered eggs, said to be used for food for the young chicks, are laid after the nest is closed, and these have given rise to the popular view. The feathers (  Job 39:13 ), the swift pace (  Job 39:18 ), and the mournful cry (  Micah 1:8 ) of the ostrich are all referred to in Scripture, and in   Job 30:28 its cry is associated with that other melancholy night-cry the ‘wailing’ of the jackals.

E. W. G. Masterman.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Ostrich. A large bird, native of African and Arabia, nearly ten feet high, having a long neck and short wings. It seeks retired places,  Job 30:29;  Lamentations 4:13, and has a peculiar, mournful cry, that is sometimes mistaken by the Arabs, for that of the lion.  Micah 1:8. In  Job 39:13-18, will be found a description of the bird's habits. Ostriches are polygamous; the hens lay their eggs promiscuously in one nest, which is merely a hole scratched in the sand; the eggs are then covered over to the depth of about a foot, and are, in the case of those birds which are found within the tropics, generally left for the greater part of the day to the heat of the sun, the parent-birds taking their turns at incubation during the night.

The habit of the ostrich leaving its eggs to be matured by the sun's heat is usually appealed to in order to confirm the scriptural account, "she leaveth her eggs to the earth;" but this is probably the case only with the tropical birds. We believe that the true explanation of this passage is that some of the eggs are left exposed around the nest for the nourishment of the young birds.

It is a general belief, among the Arabs, that the ostrich is a very stupid bird; indeed, they have a proverb, "stupid as an ostrich." As is well known, the ostrich will swallow almost any substance, iron, stones, and even has been known to swallow , "several leaden bullets scorching hot from the mould." But, in many other respects, the ostrich is not as stupid as this would indicate, and is very hard to capture. It is the largest of all known birds, and perhaps, the swiftest of all cursorial animals. - The feathers so much prized are the long white plumes of the wings. The best are brought from Barbary, and the west coast of Africa.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Ostrich.  Job 30:29;  Isaiah 13:21;  Isaiah 34:13;  Jeremiah 50:39;  Micah 1:8;  Lamentations 4:3. The largest of the feathered tribe, exceedingly swift, employing its wings which are useless for flight to aid it in running. It is voracious, and will swallow any hard substance, as stones or metal; but these are to assist the action of the gizzard. Sometimes, however, it is said that its indiscriminating appetite proves fatal to it. Several female ostriches lay their eggs in a single nest, a mere shallow hole in the sand, and then carefully cover them. In very hot climates the sun's heat on them is sufficient in the daytime without incubation by the parent birds; but in less sultry regions both male and female are said to sit upon the eggs. There are also other eggs scattered near which are apparently neglected, but are really designed for the food of the young birds when hatched. These habits are the result of the instinct with which the Deity has endowed the ostrich; but some of them are so strange as to have given rise to an Arabian proverb, "As foolish as an ostrich." And this is sufficient to justify the statement in the book of Job. Scripture must, of course, be composed in popular language; and the meaning here is evidently not that the bird is through stupidity unfaithful to its instinct, but that that instinct is of a kind which seems to imply want of forethought and natural care.

King James Dictionary [9]

OS'TRICH, n. L. struthio-camelus Gr. a sparrow, and an ostrich. The meaning of the name is not obvious. Eng. strut, L. struthio, Gr., L. avis. The primary sense of struz, struthio, &c. is to reach, stretch, extend or erect but whether this name was given to the fowl from its stately walk or appearance, or from some part of its plumage, let the reader judge.

A fowl now considered as constituting a distinct genus, the Struthio. This is the largest of all fowls, being four feet high from the ground to the top of the back and seven, eight, and it is said even ten to the top of the head, when standing erect. Its thighs and the sides of the body are naked, and the wings are so short as to be unfit for flying. The plumage is elegant, and much used in ornamental and showy dress. The speed of this fowl in running exceeds that of the fleetest horse.

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(n.) A large bird of the genus Struthio, of which Struthio camelus of Africa is the best known species. It has long and very strong legs, adapted for rapid running; only two toes; a long neck, nearly bare of feathers; and short wings incapable of flight. The adult male is about eight feet high.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Lamentations 4:3 Job 39:13

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Fig. 283—Ostrich

The ostrich is frequently mentioned in the Bible in terms of great beauty and precision; which commentators, perhaps more conversant with the exploded misstatements of the ancients than with the true physiological history of the bird in question, have not been happy in explaining, sometimes referring it to wrong species, such as the peacock, or mistaking it for the stork, the eagle, or the bustard (;;;;;;;;; ). In several of these passages 'owls' has been used in our version for ostriches, which the original word there employed really means.

There are two varieties, if not two species, of the ostrich; one never attaining seven feet in height, and covered chiefly with gray and dingy feathers; the other sometimes growing to more than ten feet, and of a glossy black plumage; the males in both having the great feathers of the wings and tail white, but the females the tail only of that color. Their dimensions render them both the largest animals of the feathered creation now existing. They appear promiscuously in Asia and Africa, but the troops or coveys of each are always separate; the gray is more common in the south, while the black, which grows largest in Caffraria, predominates to the north of the equator. The common-sized ostrich weighs about eighty pounds.

Ostriches are gregarious—from families consisting of a male with one or several female birds, and perhaps a brood or two of young, up to troops of near a hundred. They keep aloof from the presence of water in the wild and arid desert, mixing without hesitation among herds of gnu, wild asses, quaggas, and other striped Equidæ, and the larger species of Antilopidæ. From the nature of their food, which consists of seeds and vegetables, although seldom or never in want of drink, it is evident that they must often approach more productive regions, which, by means of the great rapidity of motion they possess, is easily accomplished; and they are consequently known to be very destructive to cultivated fields. As the organ of taste is very obtuse in these birds, they swallow with little or no discrimination all kinds of substances, and among others stones; it is also probable that, like poultry, they devour lizards, snakes, and the young of birds that fall in their way. It is not yet finally decided whether the two species are polygamous, though concurrent testimony seems to leave no doubt of the fact: there is, however, no uncertainty respecting the nest, which is merely a circular basin scraped out of the soil, with a slight elevation at the border, and sufficiently large to contain a great number of eggs; for from twelve to about sixty have been found in them, exclusive of a certain number, always observed to be outlying, or placed beyond the raised border of the nest, and amounting apparently to nearly one-third of the whole. These are supposed to feed the young brood when first hatched, either in their fresh state, or in a corrupted form, when the substance in them has produced worms. These eggs are of different periods of laying, like those within, and the birds hatched form only a part of the contents of a nest, until the breeding season closes. The eggs are of different sizes, some attaining to seven inches in their longer diameter, and others less, having a dirty white shell, finely speckled with rust color; and their weight borders on three pounds. Within the tropics they are kept sufficiently warm in the daytime not to require incubation, but beyond these one or more females sit constantly, and the male bird takes that duty himself after the sun is set. It is then that the short roar maybe heard during darkness; and at other times different sounds are uttered, likened to the cooing of pigeons, the cry of a hoarse child, and the hissing of a goose; no doubt expressive of different emotions.

Although possessed of strength sufficient to carry with velocity two adult human beings, and although readily tamed, even when taken in a state of maturity, nay easily rendered familiar and docile, and although they are by no means the stupid creatures they have been believed, still their voracity, leading to the destruction of young poultry, and the impracticability of guiding their powers, will ever render them unsafe and unprofitable domestics. Though at first sight useless, we may be assured that Providence has not appointed their abode in the desert in vain; and they still continue to exist, not only in Africa, but in the region of Arabia, east and south of Palestine beyond the Euphrates; but it may be a question whether they extend so far to the eastward as Goa, although that limit is assigned them by late French ornithologists.

The flesh of a young ostrich is said to be not unpalatable; but its being declared unclean in the Mosaic legislation may be ascribed to a twofold cause. The first is sufficiently obvious from its indiscriminate voracity already mentioned, and the other may have been an intention to lay a restriction upon the Israelites in order to wean them from the love of a nomade life, which hunting in the desert would have fostered; for ostriches must be sought on the barren plains, where they are not accessible on foot, except by stratagem. When pursued, they cast stones and gravel behind them with great force; and though it requires long endurance and skill, their natural mode of fleeing in a circular form enables well-mounted Arabs to overtake and slay them.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

os´trich ( יענה , ya‛ănāh  ; στρουθός , strouthós  ; Latin Struthio camelus ): The largest bird now living. The Hebrew words ya‛ănāh , which means "greediness," and bath ha - ya‛ănāh , "daughter of greediness," are made to refer to the indiscriminate diet of the ostrich, to which bird they apply; and again to the owl, with no applicability. The owl at times has a struggle to swallow whole prey it has taken, but the mere fact that it is a night hunter forever shuts it from the class of greedy and promiscuous feeders. The bodies of owls are proverbially lean like eagles. Neither did the owl frequent several places where older versions of Jer and Isa place it; so the translations are now correctly rendered "ostrich." These birds came into the Bible because of their desert life, the companions they lived among there, and because of their night cries that were guttural, terrifying groans, like the roaring of lions. The birds were brought into many pictures of desolation, because people dreaded their fearful voices. They horned on the trackless deserts that were dreaded by travelers, and when they came feeding on the fringe of the wilderness, they fell into company with vulture, eagle, lion, jackal and adder, and joined their voices with the night hawks and owls. For these reasons no birds were more suitable for drawing strong comparisons from.

1. Physical Peculiarities:

They attained a height ranging from 6 to 8 ft., and weighed from 200 to 300 lbs. The head was small with large eyes having powerful vision, and protected by lashes. The neck was long, covered with down, and the windpipe showed, while large bites could be seen to slide down the gullet. The legs were bare, long, and the muscles like steel from the long distances covered in desert travel. The foot was much like the cloven hoof of a beast. The inner toe was 7 inches long, with a clawlike hoof, the outer, smaller with no claw. With its length and strength of leg and the weight of foot it could strike a blow that saved it from attack by beasts smaller than a leopard. The wings were small, the muscles soft and flabby. They would not bear the weight of the bird, but the habit of lifting and beating them proved that this assisted in attaining speed in running (compare Xen. Anab. i. 5,2, 3). The body was covered with soft flexible feathers, the wings and tail growing long plumes, for which the bird has been pursued since the beginning of time. These exquisite feathers were first used to decorate the headdress and shields of desert chieftains, then as decorations for royalty, and later for hat and hair ornaments. The badge of the Prince of Wales is three white ostrich plumes. The females are smaller, the colors gray and white, the males a glossy black, the wing and tail plumes white. The ostrich has three physical peculiarities that stagger scientists. It has eyelashes, developed no doubt to protect the eyes from the dust and sand of desert life. On the wings are two plumeless shafts like large porcupine quills. These may be used in resisting attack. It also has a bladder like a mammal, that collects uric acid, the rarest organ ever developed in a feathered creature.

2. Eggs and Care of Young:

These birds homed on the deserts of Arabia and at the lower end of the great Salt Sea. Here the ostrich left her eggs on the earth and warmed them in the sand. That they were not hard baked was due to the fact that they were covered for protection during the day and brooded through the cooler nights. The eggs average 3 lbs. weight. They have been used for food in the haunts of the ostrich since the records of history began, and their stout shells for drinking-vessels. It is the custom of natives on finding a nest to take a long stick and draw out an egg. If incubation has advanced enough to spoil the eggs for use, the nest is carefully covered and left; if fresh, they are eaten, one egg being sufficient for a small family. No doubt these were the eggs to which Job referred as being tasteless without salt ( Job 6:6 ). The number of eggs in the nest was due to the fact that the birds were polygamous, one male leading from 2 to 7 females, all of which deposited their eggs in a common nest. When several females wanted to use the nest at the same time, the first one to reach it deposited her egg in it, and the others on the sand close beside. This accounts for the careless habits of the ostrich as to her young. In this communal nest, containing from 2 to 3 dozen eggs, it is impossible for the mother bird to know which of the young is hers. So all of them united in laying the eggs and allowing the father to look after the nest and the young. The bird first appears among the abominations in  Leviticus 11:16 the Revised Version (British and American) the King James Version "owl";   Deuteronomy 14:16 , the Revised Version (British and American) "little owl," the King James Version "owl." This must have referred to the toughness of grown specimens, since there was nothing offensive in the bird's diet to taint its flesh and the young tender ones were delicious meat. In his agony, Job felt so much an outcast that he cried: "I am a brother to jackals, And a companion to ostriches" ( Job 30:29 ).

Again he records that the Almighty discoursed to him about the ostrich in the following manner: "The wings of the ostrich wave proudly; But are they the pinions and plumage of love?" etc. ( Job 39:13-18 ).

3. Old Testament References:

The ostrich history previously given explains all this passage save the last two verses, the first of which is a reference to the fact that the Arabs thought that the ostrich was a stupid bird, because, when it had traveled to the point of exhaustion, it hid its head and thought its body safe, and because some of its eggs were found outside the nest. The second was due to a well-known fact that, given a straight course, the ostrich could outrun a horse. The birds could attain and keep up a speed of 60 miles an hour for the greater part of half a day and even longer, hence, it was possible to capture them only by a system of relay riders (Xenophon, op. cit.) When Isaiah predicted the fall of Babylon, he used these words: "But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there" ( Isaiah 13:21 ). Because this was to be the destruction of a great city, located on the Euphrates River and built by the fertility and prosperity of the country surrounding it, and the ruins those of homes, the bird indicated by every natural condition would be the owl. The wild goats clambering over the ruins would be natural companions and the sneaking wolves - but not the big bird of daytime travel, desert habitation, accustomed to constant pursuit for its plumage. Exactly the same argument applies to the next reference by the same writer ( Isaiah 34:13 ). "And the wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wolves, and the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; yea, the night monster shall settle there, and shall find her a place of rest" ( Isaiah 34:14 ). "The beasts of the field shall honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen" ( Isaiah 43:20 ). Here we find the ostrich in its natural location, surrounded by creatures that were its daily companions. The next reference also places the bird at home and in customary company: "Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wolves shall dwelI there, and the ostriches (the King James Version "owls") shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation" ( Jeremiah 50:39 ). "Even the jackals draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness" ( Lamentations 4:3 ).

This reference is made to the supposed cruelty of the ostrich in not raising its young.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ostrich'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/o/ostrich.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.