Psalm 104:17
Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
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(17) Stork.—The LXX. give “heron,” but Dr. Tristram has shown that there is no need to prefer “heron” here, on account of “the nesting in fir trees,” since if near its feeding-grounds the stork readily selects a fir as the tallest and most convenient tree for its nest (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 244).

“The eagle and the stork

On cliffs and cedar-tops their eyries build.”—MILTON.

Psalm 104:17. Where the birds make their nests — Taught by the wisdom and understanding imparted to them by the great Creator, which is indeed most wonderful, enabling them “to distinguish times and seasons, choose the most proper places, construct their nests with an art and exactness unattainable by man, and secure and provide for their young.” “What master” (inquires Mr. Wesley in the fore-mentioned work, pp. 312 and 313) “has taught birds that they have need of nests? Who has warned them to prepare them in time, and not to suffer themselves to be prevented by necessity? Who hath shown them how to build? What mathematician has given the figure of them? What architect has taught them to choose a firm place, and to lay a solid foundation? What tender mother has advised them to cover the bottom with a soft and delicate substance, such as cotton or down; and when these fail, who has suggested to them that ingenious charity, to pluck off as many feathers from their own breasts as will prepare a soft cradle for their young? And what wisdom has pointed out to each kind a peculiar manner of building? Is it for the birds, O Lord, who have no knowledge thereof, that thou hast joined together so many miracles? Is it for the men, who give no attention to them? Is it for those who admire them, without thinking of thee? Rather, is it not thy design, by all these wonders, to call us to thyself? To make us sensible of thy wisdom, and fill us with confidence in thy bounty, who watchest so carefully over those inconsiderable creatures, two of which are sold for one farthing?”

104:10-18 When we reflect upon the provision made for all creatures, we should also notice the natural worship they render to God. Yet man, forgetful ungrateful man, enjoys the largest measure of his Creator's kindness. the earth, varying in different lands. Nor let us forget spiritual blessings; the fruitfulness of the church through grace, the bread of everlasting life, the cup of salvation, and the oil of gladness. Does God provide for the inferior creatures, and will he not be a refuge to his people?Where the birds make their nests - Furnishing a home for the birds where they may breed their young. In Psalm 104:12, the birds are introduced as singing among the foliage of trees and shrubs by the water-courses; here they are introduced as having their home in the lofty cedars in places which God had made for them. The word rendered "birds" here is the word which in Psalm 84:3 is translated "sparrow," and which is commonly used to denote "small birds." Compare Leviticus 14:4 (margin), and Leviticus 14:5-7, Leviticus 14:49-53. It is used, however, to denote birds of any kind. See Genesis 7:14; Psalm 8:8; Psalm 11:1; Psalm 148:10.

As for the stork - See the notes at Job 39:13.

The fir trees are her house - Her retreat; her abode. The stork here is used to represent the larger class of birds. The meaning is, that they build their nests among the fir-trees or cypresses. See the notes at Isaiah 14:8; notes at Isaiah 41:19. So Milton says:

"The eagle and the stork

On cliffs and cedar-tops their eyries build."

They build their nests, however, not only on fir and pine trees, but on houses and castles. Dr. Thomson ("Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 504), says of them, "These singular birds do not breed in Syria, but pass over it to Asia Minor, and into Northwestern Europe, where they not only build in fir and pine trees upon the mountains, but also enter cities and villages, and make their nests on houses, castles, and minarets."

16-19. God's care of even wild animals and uncultivated parts of the earth. The stork; which make their nests not only in the tops of houses, but also in the field and in high trees, as Varro and others have noted.

The fir trees; which also are trees of great height and bigness; and which, being here said to afford the storks a house, are thereby supposed to be preserved and nourished by the rain water.

Where the birds make their nests,.... As they do in large, tall, spreading trees: not any particular "birds", as the sparrow, to which the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, and Apollinarius, restrain it: but birds in general are intended; and especially such as build in large trees, as before and after mentioned. Jarchi applies it to the Israelites dwelling among the trees in the garden of Eden: and it may be much better applied to the saints dwelling in the churches, among the trees of righteousness, under the shadow of Gospel ordinances; see Ezekiel 17:23.

As for the stork, the fir trees are her house; where she makes her nest, and brings up her young. Kimchi says it is a large bird, and builds its nest in high trees, as in cedars; but the bird which goes by the name of "pelargus" with the Greeks, and of "ciconia" with the Latins, and of "stork" with us, for the most part builds its nest on the tops of towers and temples (w), and the roofs of high houses, and seldom in trees; and when it does, it is in such that are not far from the habitations of men, which it loves to be near: perhaps the reason of its not building on houses in Palestine might be because their roofs were flat and frequented, and therefore built on high trees there, as fir trees and cedars. And Olympiodorus (x) says it does not lay its eggs on the ground, but on high trees; and Michaelis on the text attests, that he himself had seen, in many places in Germany, storks nests on very high and dry oaks. It has its name in Hebrew from a word (y) which signifies "holy", "merciful", and "beneficent"; because of the great care which it takes of its dam when grown old (z): and a like behaviour among men is called piety by the apostle, 1 Timothy 5:4. But in the Chaldee tongue, and so in the Targum, it has its name from its whiteness; for though its wings are black, the feathers of its body are white: and so Virgil (a) describes it as a white bird, and as an enemy to serpents; for which reason the Thessalians forbad the killing them, on pain of banishment (b). It was an unclean bird, according to the ceremonial law, Leviticus 11:19. Good men are called by the same name, holy and beneficent; and though they are unclean by nature, yet Christ, the green fir tree, Hosea 14:8 is the house of their habitation; in him they dwell by faith, who receives sinners, and eats with them, Luke 15:2. It is usual with the Latin poets to call the nests of birds their houses (c).

(w) Vid. Turnebi Adversar. l. 8. c. 18. & Praetorii Disp. Histor. Physic. de Crotalistria, c. 6. Heldelin. in ibid. c. 11. (x) Apud Bachart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 29. col. 330. (y) a Buxtorf. Lexic. fol. 247. (z) Solinus, c. 53. Aelian. de Animal. l. 3. c. 23. (a) "Candida venit avis longis invisa colubris", Georgic. l. 2.((b) Plutarch. de Iside et Osir. prope finem. (c) "Frondiferasque domos avium", Lucret. l. 1. v. 19. "Antiquasque domos avium", Virgil. Georgic. l. 2. v. 209.

Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
17. the stork] Chăsîdâh, the Heb. name for the stork, is connected with chĕsĕd, “lovingkindness, and it was so called from its affection for its young, a trait often noticed by Greek and Latin writers. Thus it is called πτηνῶν εὐσεβέστατον ζῴων by Babrius (Fab. 13), and ‘avis pia’ or ‘pietaticultrix’ (Petron. 55. 6). Though in Western Europe the stork commonly builds its nest on houses, and in the East selects ruins where they are to be found, “where neither houses nor ruins occur, it selects any trees tall and strong enough to provide a platform for its huge nest, and for this purpose none are more convenient than the fir tree.” Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 248.

Verse 17. - Wherein the birds make their nests (comp. above, ver. 10). As for the stork, the fir trees are her house. Again, God's care for the animal creation is in the psalmist's mind. As the grass is "caused to grow for the cattle" (ver. 14), so trees - even the grandest - are partly intended for the birds. Psalm 104:17In the fourth decastich the poet goes further among the creatures of the field and of the forest. The subject to להוציא is מצמיח. The clause expressing the purpose, which twice begins with an infinitive, is continued in both instances, as in Isaiah 13:9, but with a change of subject (cf. e.g., Amos 1:11; Amos 2:4), in the finite verb. On what is said of wine we may compare Ecclesiastes 10:19, Sir. 40:20, and more especially Isaiah, who frequently mentions wine as a representative of all the natural sources of joy. The assertion that משּׁמן signifies "before oil equals brighter than oil," is an error that is rightly combated by Bttcher in his Proben and two of his "Gleanings,"

(Note: Proben, i.e., Specimens of Old Testament interpretation, Leipzig 1833, and Aehrenlese (Gleanings), referred to in the preface of these volumes. - Tr.)

which imputes to the poet a mention of oil that is contrary to his purpose in this connection wand inappropriate. Corn, wine, and oil are mentioned as the three chief products of the vegetable kingdom (Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Dathe, and Hupfeld), and are assumed under עשׂב in Psalm 104:14, as is also the case in other instances where distinction would be superfluous, e.g., in Exodus 9:22. With oil God makes the countenance shining, or bright and cheerful, not by means of anointing-since it was not the face but the head that was anointed (Matthew 6:17), - but by the fact of its increasing the savouriness and nutritiveness of the food. להצהיל is chosen with reference to יצהר. In Psalm 104:15 לבב־אנושׁ does not stand after, as in Psalm 104:15 (where it is לבב־ with Gaja on account of the distinctive), but before the verb, because לבב as that which is inward stands in antithesis to פנים as that which is outside. Since the fertilization of the earth by the rain is the chief subject of the predication in Psalm 104:13, Psalm 104:16 is naturally attached to what precedes without arousing critical suspicion. That which satisfies is here the rain itself, and not, as in Psalm 104:13, that which the rain matures. The "trees of Jahve" are those which before all others proclaim the greatness of their Creator. אשׁר־שׁם refers to these trees, of which the cedars and then the cypresses (ברושׁים, root בר, to cut) are mentioned. They are places where small and large birds build their nests and lodge, more particularly the stork, which is called the חסידה as being πτηνῶν εὐσεβέστατον ζώων (Barbrius, Fab. xiii.), as avis pia (pietaticultrix in Petronius, Leviticus 6), i.e., on account of its love of family life, on account of which it is also regarded as bringing good fortune to a house.

(Note: In the Merg& district, where the stork is not called leklek as it is elsewhere, but charnuk[ on account of its bill like a long horn (Arab. chrn) standing out in front, the women and children call it Arab. 'bû sa‛d, "bringer of good luck." Like the חסידה, the long-legged carrion-vulture (Vultur percnopterus) or mountain-stork, ὀρειπελαργός, is called רחם (Arab. rḥm) on account of its στοργή.)

The care of God for the lodging of His creatures leads the poet from the trees to the heights of the mountains and the hiding-places of the rocks, in a manner that is certainly abrupt and that disturbs the sketch taken from the account of the creation. הגּבהים is an apposition. יעל (Arabic wa‛il) is the steinboc, wild-goat, as being an inhabitant of יעל (wa‛l, wa‛la), i.e., the high places of the rocks, as יען, Lamentations 4:3, according to Wetzstein, is the ostrich as being an inhabitant of the wa‛na, i.e., the sterile desert; and שׁפן is the rock-badger, which dwells in the clefts of the rocks (Proverbs 30:26), and resembles the marmot - South Arabic Arab. tufun, Hyrax Syriacus (distinct from the African). By שׁפן the Jewish tradition understand the coney, after which the Peshto here renders it לחגסא (חגס, cuniculus). Both animals, the coney and the rock-badger, may be meant in Leviticus 11:5; Deuteronomy 14:7; for the sign of the cloven hoof (פּרסה שׁסוּעה) is wanting in both. The coney has four toes, and the hyrax has a peculiar formation of hoof, not cloven, but divided into several parts.

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