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Animals, birds, snakes, insects, and other creatures are mentioned very frequently in the Bible, especially in the poetic books of Job and Psalms, and in many of the prophets. This is to be expected, since the people of Israel lived in an environment that had not been modified to any great extent by man, and the hunters among them, hunting with their simple weapons, had not reduced animal populations significantly. A certain amount of woodland was cut down for human use or burnt to create grazing land, but this would not have been very extensive. For century after century the environment would have been left virtually in its natural state.
Translating the Hebrew and Greek names of the animals and birds of the Bible is very difficult. There is doubt about the meaning of many of the animal names. Even greater doubt exists about the meaning of most bird names, as can be seen from a comparison of Bible translations. It is rare indeed that they will agree or that the same bird name will be translated the same way each time.
In the light of this problem, the author of this Handbook has tried to apply a uniform methodology for each section of the book. First, there has been a study of archaeological and other evidence, and a careful attempt has been made to ascertain which animals, birds, and other creatures are most likely to have been found in Egypt and the land of Israel in biblical times. Then, on the basis of the biblical contexts in which the creature’s name occurs, and in the light of what is known about the meaning of the verb root from which the name is derived, an attempt has been made to match the most likely creature with the given contexts.
“Do you hunt prey for the lioness
Or satisfy the hunger of the lions
When they crouch in their hiding place
Or lie in wait in a thicket? . . .
Do you know when the ibex kids are born,
Or do you attend the deer when she is in labor? . . .
Who allows the wild horse to roam at will,
And who has given the wild ass its freedom? . . .
Do you have the skill to teach the hawk to fly,
And spread its wings toward the south?
Do you instruct the eagle how to soar
And build its nest on high? . . .”
Then Job answered the LORD:
“I am unworthy, how can I answer you?
I put my hand over my mouth . . .
I will say no more.” (Job 38, 39,40. Translation by Author)
Published 2005 Pages 279