Barry Newman's Blog

November 15, 2012

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (part VIII)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The parable of the Mustard Seed — barrynewman @ 8:42 pm

The Birds of the Air (cont)

In Ezekiel 31: 6, 13; 32: 4, references to “the birds (‘<op’) of the air” form part of a metaphorical description of the greatness of the Assyrian nation, depicted as a tree.  Upon its downfall, “the birds of the air” are pictured as dwelling (that is, acting as birds of prey) on its ruin. It may be that the birds represent the peoples that originally obtained their security by making alliances with Assyria but upon its downfall benefitted from its ruin. .

In Daniel 4: 12, 21 “the birds (‘tsippor’) of the air” feature metaphorically in a vision in which Nebuchadnezzar is described as a tree.  Upon it being cut down, the birds flee. In this instance the birds may represent his supporters and advisers.

In Ezekiel 17: 23 there is a reference to “every bird (‘tsippor’) of every wing” dwelling in the shade of the branches of a majestic cedar that has grown as a result of Yahweh having planted a twig taken from a cedar. Here “every bird of every wing”, probably meaning “every bird of every kind”, probably refers to peoples of all nations, not only “Israel”. There is no reference in this text however to “birds of the air”.  References to “birds (‘tsippor’) of every wing” are also found in Ezekiel 39: 4, 17. Here the reference is to birds of prey. Interestingly, there is an instance of the phrase, “every bird (‘<op’) with wings after its kind” (Genesis 1: 21) and the words “<op” and “tsippor” are found together in the combined phrases, “every bird (‘<op’) after its kind, every bird (‘tsippor’) of every wing” (Genesis 7: 14).

On the basis of the usage of the phrase “birds of the air” in both the Old and New Testaments, there is no compelling reason to assume that in the parable that Jesus told, the phrase is a reference to something evil, unclean or distasteful.

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