Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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?”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."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. 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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 104:10 and further on) is able to go on in attributive and predicative participles: Who sendeth springs בּנּחלים, into the wads (not: בּנחלים, as brooks). נחל, as Psalm 104:10 shows, is here a synonym of בּקעה, and there is no need for saying that, flowing on in the plains, they grow into rivers. The lxx has ἐν φάραγξιν. חיתו שׂדי is doubly poetic for חיּת השּׂדה. God has also provided for all the beasts that roam far from men; and the wild ass, swift as an arrow, difficult to be hunted, and living in troops (פּרא, Arabic ferâ, root פר, Arab. fr, to move quickly, to whiz, to flee; the wild ass, the onager, Arabic himr el-wahs, whose home is on the steppes), is made prominent by way of example. The phrase "to break the thirst" occurs only here. עליהם, Psalm 104:12, refers to the מעינים, which are also still the subject in Psalm 104:11. The pointing עפאים needlessly creates a hybrid form in addition to עפאים (like לבאים) and עפיים. From the tangled branches by the springs the poet insensibly reaches the second half of the third day. The vegetable kingdom at the same time reminds him of the rain which, descending out of the upper chambers of the heavens, waters the waterless mountain-tops. Like the Talmud (B. Ta‛anı̂th, 10a), by the "fruit of Thy work" (מעשׂיך as singular) Hitzig understands the rain; but rain is rather that which fertilizes; and why might not the fruit be meant which God's works (מעשׂיך, plural) here below (Psalm 104:24), viz., the vegetable creations, bear, and from which the earth, i.e., its population, is satisfied, inasmuch as vegetable food springs up as much for the beasts as for man? In connection with עשׂב the poet is thinking of cultivated plants, more especially wheat; לעבדת, however, does not signify: for cultivation by man, since, according to Hitzig's correct remonstrance, they do not say עבד העשׂב, and להוציא has not man, but rather God, as its subject, but as in 1 Chronicles 26:30, for the service (use) of man.
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