Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 39:13

"The ostriches' wings flap joyously With the pinion and plumage of love,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Birds;   God;   Ostriches;   Peacock;   Thompson Chain Reference - Birds;   Ostriches;   Peacocks;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Birds;   Ostrich, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Animals;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Peacock;   Stork;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Peacocks;   Stork;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Peacock;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Job;   Knowledge;   Nature;   Ostrich;   Peacocks;   Stork;   World;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ostrich;   Peacocks;   Stork,;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Ostrich;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ostrich,;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Ostrich;   Stork;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Feathers;   Goodly;   Ostrich;   Peacock;   Pinion;   Stork;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bar Yokni;   Birds;   Ostrich;   Peacock;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The goodly wings unto the peacocks? - I believe peacocks are not intended here; and the Hebrew word רננים renanim should be translated ostriches; and the term חסידה chasidah, which we translate ostrich, should be, as it is elsewhere translated, stork; and perhaps the word נצה notsah, rendered here feathers, should be translated hawk, or pelican. The Vulgate has, Penna struthionis similis est pennis herodii et accipitris; "the feather of the ostrich is like to that of the stork and the hawk." The Chaldee has, "The wing of the wild cock, who crows and claps his wings, is like to the wing of the stork and the hawk." The Septuagint, not knowing what to make of these different terms, have left them all untranslated, so as to make a sentence without sense. Mr. Good has come nearest both to the original and to the meaning, by translating thus: -

"The wing of the ostrich tribe is for flapping;

But of the stork and falcon for flight."

Though the wings of the ostrich, says he, cannot raise it from the ground, yet by the motion here alluded to, by a perpetual vibration, or flapping - by perpetually catching or drinking in the wind, (as the term נעלסה neelasah implies, which we render goodly), they give it a rapidity of running beyond that possessed by any other animal in the world. Adanson informs us, that when he was at the factory in Padore, he was in possession of two tame ostriches; and to try their strength, says he, "I made a full-grown negro mount the smallest, and two others the largest. This burden did not seem at all disproportioned to their strength. At first they went a pretty high trot; and, when they were heated a little, they expanded their wings, as if it were to catch the wind, and they moved with such fleetness as to seem to be off the ground. And I am satisfied that those ostriches would have distanced the fleetest race-horses that were ever bred in England."

As to נצה notsah, here translated falcon, Mr. Good observes, that the term naz is used generally by the Arabian writers to signify both falcon and hawk; and there can be little doubt that such is the real meaning of the Hebrew word; and that it imports various species of the falcon family, as jer-falcon, gos-hawk, and sparrow-hawk.

"The argument drawn from natural history advances from quadrupeds to birds; and of birds, those only are selected for description which are most common to the country in which the scene lies, and at the same time are most singular in their properties. Thus the ostrich is admirably contrasted with the stork and the eagle, as affording us an instance of a winged animal totally incapable of flight, but endued with an unrivalled rapidity of running, compared with birds whose flight is proverbially fleet, powerful, and persevering. Let man, in the pride of his wisdom, explain or arraign this difference of construction.

"Again, the ostrich is peculiarly opposed to the stork and to some species of the eagle in another sense, and a sense adverted to in the verses immediately ensuing; for the ostrich is well known to take little or no care of its eggs, or of its young, while the stork ever has been, and ever deserves to be, held in proverbial repute for its parental tenderness. The Hebrew word חסידה chasidah, imports kindness or affection; and our own term stork, if derived from the Greek στοργη, storge, as some pretend, has the same original meaning." - Good's Job.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? - In the previous verses the appeal had been to the wild and untamable animals of the desert. In the prosecution of the argument, it was natural to allude to the feathered tribes which resided there also, and which were distinguished for their strength or fleetness of wing, as proof of the wisdom and the superintending providence of God. The idea is, that these animals, far away from the abodes of man, where it could not be pretended that man had anything to do with their training, had habits and instincts special to themselves, which showed great variety in the divine plans, and at the same time consummate wisdom. The appeal in the following verses Job 39:13-18 is to the remarkable habits of the ostrich, as illustrating the wisdom and the superintending providence of God. There has been very great variety in the translation of this verse, and it is important to ascertain its real meaning, in order to know whether there is any allusion here to the peacock, or whether it refers wholly to the ostrich. The Septuagint did not understand the passage, and a part of the words they endeavored to translate, but the others are retained without any attempt to explain them. Their version is, Πτέρυξ τερπομένων νεέλασσα, ἐὰν συλλάβῃ ἀσιδα καὶνέσσα Pterux terpomenōn neelassa ean sullabē asida kai nessa - the wing of the exulting Neelassa if she conceives or comprehends the Asia and Nessa.” Jerome renders it,” The wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the falcon and the hawk.” Schultens renders it, “The wing of the ostrich is exulting; but is it the wing and the plumage of the stork?” He enumerates no less than twenty different interpretations of the passage. Herder renders it,

“A wing with joyous cry is uplifted yonder;

Is it the wing and feather of the ostrich?”

Umbreit renders it,

“The wing of the ostrich, which lifts itselfjoyfully,

Does it not resemble the tail and feather of the stork?”

Rosenmuller renders it,

“The wing of the ostrich exults!

Truly its wing and plumage is like that of the stork!”

Prof. Lee renders it, “Wilt thou confide in the exulting of the wings of the ostrich? Or in her choice feathers and head-plumage, when she leaveth her eggs to the earth,” etc. So Coverdale renders it, “The ostrich (whose feathers are fairer than the wings of the sparrow-hawk), when he hath laid his eggs upon the ground, he breedeth them in the dust, and forgetteth them.” In none of these versions, and in none that I have examined except that of Luther and the common English version, is there any allusion to the peacock; and amidst all the variety of the rendering, and all the difficulty of the passage, there is a common sentiment that the ostrich alone is referred to as the particular subject of the description. It is certain that the description proceeds with reference only to the habits of the ostrich, and it is very evident to my mind that in the whole passage there is no allusion whatever to the peacock.

Neither the scope of the passage, nor the words employed, it is believed, will admit of such a reference. There is great difficulty in the Hebrew text, which no one has been able fully to explain, but it is sufficiently clear to make it manifest that the ostrich, and not the peacock, is the subject of the appeal. The word which is rendered “peacock,” רננים reneniym is derived from רנן rânan “to give forth a tremulous and stridulous sound;” and then to give forth the voice in vibrations; to shake or trill the voice; and then, as in lamentation or joy the voice is often given forth in that manner, the word comes to mean to utter cries of joy; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 35:6; and also cries of lamentation or mourning, Lamentations 2:19. The prevailing sense of the word in the Scriptures is to rejoice; to shout for joy; to exult. The name is here given to the bird referred to, evidently from the sound which it made, and probably from its exulting or joyful cry.

The word does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures as applicable to a bird, and there is no reason whatever, either from its etymology, or from the connection in which it is found here, to suppose that it refers to the peacock. Another reason is suggested by Scheutzer (Phys. Sac. in loc.), why the peacock cannot be intended here. It is, that the peacock is originally an East Indian fowl, and that it was imported at comparatively a late period in the Jewish history, and was doubtless unknown in the time of Job. In 1 Kings 10:22, and 2 Chronicles 9:21, it appears that peacocks were among the remarkable productions of distant countries that were imported for use or luxury by Solomon, a fact which would not have occurred had they been common in the patriarchal times. To these reasons to show that the peacock is not referred to here, Bochart, whose chapters on the subject deserve a careful attention (Hieroz. P. ii. L. ii. c. xvi. xvii.), has added the following:

(1) That if the peacock had been intended here, the allusion would not have been so brief. Of so remarkable a bird there would have been an extended description as there is of the ostrich, and of the unicorn and the horse. If the allusion is to the peacock, it is by a bare mention of the name, and by no argument, as in other cases, from the habits and instincts of the fowl.

(2) The word which is used here as a description of the bird referred to, רננים reneniym derived from the musical properties of the bird, is by no means applicable to the peacock. It is of all fowls, perhaps, least distinguished for beauty of voice.

(3) The property ascribed to the fowl here of “exulting in the wing,” by no means agrees with the peacock. The glory and beauty of that bird is in the tail, and not in the wing. Yet the wing is here, from some cause, particularly specified. Bochart has demonstrated at great length, and with entire clearness, that the peacock was a foreign fowl, and that it must have been unknown in Judea and Arabia, as it was in Greece and Rome, at a period long after the time in which the book of Job is commonly supposed to have been written. The proper translation of the Hebrew here then would be, The wing of the exulting fowls “moves joyfully” - נעלסה ne‛âlasâh The attention seems to be directed to the wing, as being lifted up, or as vibrating with rapidity, or as being triumphant in its movement in eluding the pursuer. It is not its beauty particularly that attracts the attention, but its exulting, joyful, triumphant, appearance.

Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? - Margin, “or, the feathers of the stork and ostrich.” Most commentators have despaired of making any sense out of the Hebrew in this place, and there have been almost as many conjectures as there have been expositors. The Hebrew is, ונצה חסידה אם־אברה 'im'ebrâh chăsı̂ydâh venôtsâh A literal translation of it would be, “Is it the wing of the stork, and the plumage,” or feathers? The object seems to be to institute a comparison of some kind between the ostrich and the stork. This comparison, it would seem, relates partly to the wings and plumage of the two birds, and partly to their habits and instincts; though the latter point of comparison appears to be couched in the mere name. So far as I can understand the passage, the comparison relates first to the wings and plumage. The point of vision is that of the sudden appearance of the ostrich with exulting wing, and the attention is directed to it as in the bounding speed of its movements when in rapid flight.

In this view the usual name is not given to the bird - יענה בנות benôth ya‛ănâh Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 50:39, but merely the name of fowls making a stridulous or whizzing sound - רננים reneniym The question is then asked whether it has the wing and plumage of the stork - evidently implying that the wing of the stork might be supposed to be adapted to such a flight, but that it was remarkable that without such wings the ostrich was able to outstrip even the fleetest animal. The question is designed to turn the attention to the fact that the ostrich accomplishes its flight in this remarkable manner without being endowed with wings like the stork, which is capable of sustaining by its wings a long and rapid flight. The other point of the comparison seems couched in the name given to the stork, and the design is to contrast the habits of the ostrich with those of this bird - particularly in reference to their care for their young. The name given to the stork is חסידה chăsı̂ydâh meaning literally “the pious,” a name usually given to it - ”avis pia,” from its tenderness toward its young - a virtue for which it was celebrated by the ancients, Pliny “Hist. Nat. x;” Aelian “Hist. An. 3,23.” On the contrary, the Arabs call the ostrich the impious or ungodly bird, on account of its neglect and cruelty toward its young. The fact that the ostrich thus neglects its young, is dwelt upon in the passage before us Job 39:14-17, and in this respect she is placed in strong contrast with the stork. The verse then, I suppose, may be rendered thus:

“A wing of exulting fowls moves joyfully!

Is it the wing and the plumage of the pious bird?”

This means that with both (in regard to the wing and the habits of the two) there was a strong contrast, and yet designing to show that what seems to be a defect in the size and rigor of the wing, and what seems to be stupid forgetfulness of the bird in regard to its young, is proof of the wisdom of the Creator, who has so made it as to be able to outstrip the fleetest horse, and to be adapted to its shy and timid mode of life in the desert. The ostrich, whose principal characteristics are beautifully and strikingly detailed in this passage in Job, is a native of the torrid regions of Arabia and Africa. It is the largest of the feathered tribes and is the connecting link between quadrupeds and fowls. It has the general properties and outlines of a bird, and yet retains many of the marks of the quadruped. In appearance, the ostrich resembles the camel, and is almost as tall; and in the East is called “the camel-bird” (Calmet).

It is covered with a plumage that resembles hair more nearly than feathers; and its internal parts bear as near a resemblance to those of the quadruped as of the bird creation - Goldsmith. See also Poiret‘s “Travels in the Barbary States,” as quoted by Rosenmuller, “Alte u. neue Morgenland,” No. 770. A full description is there given of the appearance and habits of the ostrich. Its head and bill resemble those of a duck; the neck may be compared with that of the swan, though it is much longer; the legs and thighs resemble those of a hen, but are fleshy and large. The end of the foot is cloven, and has two very large toes, which like the leg are covered with scales. The height of the ostrich is usually seven feet from the head to the ground; but from the back it is only four, so that the head and the neck are about three feet long. From the head to the end of the tail, when the neck is stretched in a right line, the length is seven feet.

One of the wings with the feathers spread out is three feet in length. At the end of the wing there is a species of spur almost like the quill of a porcupine. It is an inch long, and is hollow, and of a bony substance. The plumage is generally white and black, though some of them are said to be gray. There are no feathers on the sides of the thighs, nor under the wings. It has not, like most birds, feathers of various kinds, but they are all bearded with detached hairs or filaments, without consistence and reciprocal adherence. The feathers of the ostrich are almost as soft as down, and are therefore wholly unfit for flying, or to defend the body from external injury. The feathers of other birds have the web broader on one side than the other, but those of the ostrich have the shaft exactly in the middle. In other birds, the filaments that compose the feathers of the wings are firmly attached to each other, or are “hooked together,” so that they are adapted to catch and resist the air; on those of the ostrich no such attachments are found.

The consequence is, that they cannot oppose to the air a suitable resistance, as is the case with other birds, and are therefore incapable of flying, and in fact never mount on the wing. The wing is used (see the notes at Job 39:18) only to balance the bird, and to aid it in running. The great size of the bird - weighing 75 or 80 pounds - would require an immense power of wing to elevate it in the air, and it has, therefore, been furnished with the means of surpassing all other animals in the rapidity with which it runs, so that it may escape its pursuers. The ostrich is made to live in the wilderness, and it was called by the ancients “a lover of the deserts.” It is shy and timorous in no common degree, and avoids the cultivated fields and the abodes of man, and retreats into the utmost recesses of the desert. In those dreary wastes its subsistence is the few tufts of coarse grass which are scattered here and there, but it will eat almost anything that comes in its way.

It is the most voracious of animals, and will devour leather, glass, hair, iron, stones, or anything that is given. Valisnieri found the first stomach filled with a quantity of incongruous substances; grass, nuts, cords, stones, glass, brass, copper, iron, tin, lead, and wood, and among the rest, a piece of stone that weighed more than a pound. It would seem that the ostrich is obliged to fill up the great capacity of its stomach in order to be at ease; but that, nutritious substances not occurring, it pours in whatever is at hand to supply the void. The flesh of the ostrich was forbidden by the laws of Moses to be eaten Leviticus 11:13, but it is eaten by some of the savage nations of Africa, who hunt them for their flesh, which they regard as a dainty. The principal value of the ostrich, however, and the principal reason why it is hunted. is in the long feathers that compose the wing and the tail, and which are used so extensively for ornaments, The ancients used these plumes in their helmets; the ladies, in the East, as well as in the West, use them to decorate their persons, and they have been extensively employed also as badges of mourning on hearses. The Arabians assert that the ostrich never drinks, and the chosen place of its habitation - the waste, sandy desert - seems to confirm the assertion. As the ostrich, in the passage before us, is contrasted with the stork, the accompanying illustrations will serve to explain the passage.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible


"The wings of the ostrich wave proudly;

But are the pinions and plumage of love?

For she leaveth her eggs on the earth,

And warmeth them in the dust,

And forgetteth that the foot may crush them,

Or that the wild beast may trample them.

She dealeth hardly with her young ones, as if they were not hers:

Though her labor be in vain, she is 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."

God's question for Job in this section is not grammatically stated but implied, as indicated by our title for these verses. Can anyone explain how such a senseless creature could survive throughout the millenniums of human history?

"But are the pinions and plumage, of love" (Job 39:13)? The exact meaning here is obscure; but Rawlinson wrote that, "The question here is, 'Does the ostrich use those beautiful pinions and plumage for the same kindly purpose as other birds, namely, to warm her eggs and further the purpose of hatching them."'[3]

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?.... Rather "ostriches", as the Vulgate Latin and Tigurine versions render it; some render it, "the wing of those that exult is joyful", so Montanus; that is, of the ostriches; who, in confidence of their wings, exult and glory over the horse and his rider, Job 39:18; for peacocks are not remarkable for their wings, but for their tails; whereas the wings of the ostrich are as sails unto them, as several writers observeF11Xenophon. de Expedit. Cyri, l. 1. Aelian. de. Animal. l. 2. c. 77. ; and with which they rather run, or row, than fly: hence it is called by PlautusF12Persa, Act. 2. Sc. 2. v. 17. "passer marinus", the sea sparrow: and the feathers of it are more goodly than those of the wings of the peacock; and besides, it is a question whether the peacock was where Job lived, and in his times; since it is originally from the Indies, and from thence it was brought to Judea in the times of Solomon; and was not known in Greece and RomeF13Aelian. de Animal. l. 5. c. 21. until later ages. Alexander the Great, when he first saw them in India, was surprised at them; and yet SolonF14Laert. Vit. Solon. l. 1. c. 2. speaks of them in his time as seen by him, which was at least two hundred years before Alexander; though at Rome not common in the times of HoraceF15Sermon. l. 2. Sat. 2. v. 25, 26. Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 20. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 3. c. 13. , who calls a peacock "rara avis"; and speaks of them as sold for a great price; but ostriches were well known in Arabia, where Job lived, as is testified by XenophonF16Ut supra. (Xenophon. de Expedit. Cyri, l. 1.) , StraboF17Geograph. l. 16. p. 531. , and Diodorus SiculusF18Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133. . Moreover, what is said in the following verses is only true of the ostrich, and that only is spoken of here and there, as it follows;

or wings and feathers unto the ostrich; or whose wings and feathers are like the storks; and so Bochart renders the words, truly they have "the wing and feather of the stork"; the colours of which are black and white, from whence it has its name πελαγροςF19Suidas in voce πελαγρος. in Greek; and so Leo AfricanusF20Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 766. says of the ostriches, that they have in their wings large feathers of a black and white colour; and this was a creature well known in ArabiaF21Diodor. Sicul. ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133.) , in which Job lived.

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Rather, “the wing of the ostrich hen” - literally, “the crying bird”; as the Arab name for it means “song”; referring to its night cries (Job 30:29; Micah 1:8) vibrating joyously. “Is it not like the quill and feathers of the pious bird” (the stork)? [Umbreit]. The vibrating, quivering wing, serving for sail and oar at once, is characteristic of the ostrich in full course. Its white and black feathers in the wing and tail are like the stork‘s. But, unlike that bird, the symbol of parental love in the East, it with seeming want of natural (pious) affection deserts its young. Both birds are poetically called by descriptive, instead of their usual appellative, names.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 39:13 [Gavest thou] the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

Ver. 13. Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?] Alam exultandam, the wings and tail to the peacock, wherein he so prideth himself and taketh such pleasure, being all in changeable colours. So are some great promises (the peacock here hath his name from his loud and shrill voice), as often changed as moved. A beautiful bird it is, and preciously clothed by God. They were wont to say here, that peacocks, hops, and heresy came first into England in one and the same ship. They say, he most of all spreads his fair tail when he is most beheld by men, and praised. His feathers are good for little else but only to please children. But that he pulleth down his fair plumes, and setteth up his harsh note, when he looketh down upon his ill favoured feet, is an old wive’s tale; let those who wish to believe it.

Or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?] And so by a synecdoche, to all other fowls of the air; in the admirable variety of whose colours, tunes, and tastes, 1 Corinthians 15:39, much of God’s power and wisdom, yea, of his goodness also, may be seen; and therefore the loss of these creatures (good for food, for physique, and for delight, as the companions of our lives) is threatened as a judgment, Jeremiah 4:25; Jeremiah 9:10. Some for the ostrich render the stork, and some a night bird of an ill note; but the following description agreeth best with the bustard or ostrich, which is between a beast and a fowl, having so thin feathers and so heavy a body that be cannot fly, but only lifteth up his wings, and runneth very swiftly. Aelian saith, that he is almost as big as a camel, being, therefore, called Struthio-camelus. Pliny saith that he is higher than a horseman on horseback, and can outrun him; but is so foolish, that being pursued, if he can hide his head only in some hole or thicket, and can see nobody, he thinks himself safe, and that nobody seeth him; though his great bulk be all in sight, Cum interim tota corporis mole promineat. Other effects of his folly follow in the next words.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 39:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Gavest thou: the style of this book is very concise, and some verb is manifestly wanting to supply the sense; and this seems to be fitly understood out of Job 39:19, where it is expressed. The goodly; or, triumphant; that wherein it triumpheth or prideth itself. Wings, or feathers; Heb. wing or feather. The peacock’s beauty lies in its tail; which may well enough be comprehended under this name, as it is confessed that the Latin word ala, which properly signifies a wing, is used by Martial and Claudian to express the peacock’s tail.

The peacocks; or, as some render it, to the ostrich, whose wings are much more great and goodly than those of the peacock. And for the other word in the next clause, which is rendered

ostrich, they translate it another way; for that the Hebrew word hasidah doth not signify an ostrich, seems plain from the mention and description of that bird, Psalms 104:17 Jeremiah 8:7 Lamentations 4:3 Zechariah 5:9, which doth not at all agree to the ostrich. And forasmuch as the following verses do evidently speak of the ostrich, and it is absurd to discourse of a bird which had not been so much as named, and consequently the name of it must be found in this verse, and there is no other word in this verse which bids so fair for it, it may seem probable that this word is not to be rendered the peacock, (though it be so taken by most,) but the ostrich. Nor is it likely that both the peacock and the ostrich should be crowded together into one verse, especially when all the following characters belong only to the latter of them. Add to this, that it is confessed, even by the Hebrew writers themselves, that there is a great uncertainty in the signification of the names of birds and beasts; and therefore it is not strange if many interpreters were mistaken in the signification of this word. Or

wings and feathers unto the ostrich: or, or the wings or feathers of the stork (or, or) the ostrich. Or, didst thou give (which may be repeated out of the former branch)

the wings and feathers to the stork? Or, verily (the particle im being oft used as a note of confirmation, as Psalms 59:16 63:7 Proverbs 3:34 23:18) it hath

wings and feathers like those of a stork; for so indeed they are, black and white like them. And this may be noted as a great and a remarkable work of God, that it should really have wings and feathers as other birds have, and particularly the stork, who comes nearest to it in bulk and colour, although otherwise, by its vast bulk, it might seem to be a beast rather than a bird, as it is also called by Aristotle, and Pliny, and others.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 39:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

β. The ostrich, resembling the stork in her stilt-like structure, the colour of her feathers, and gregarious habits, widely differs from the stork in respect to care for her young, and yet, in one particular at least — that of fleetness — she ranks pre-eminently among creatures vastly wiser and more affectionate than she, Job 39:13-18.

13.Peacocks . The Hebrew signifies “cryings,” “wailings,” and should, as Bochartus has shown, be rendered “ostriches,” the cry of which is a prolonged wail, said to be as loud as that of a lion. “The female ostriches,” says Consul Wetzstein, “are called renanim,’ not from the whirring of their wings when flapped about, but from their piercing, screeching cry.” Job has before alluded to this peculiarity of the ostrich in Job 30:29, (see note,) where the word for ostrich is , a howl, a cry; though others (Gesenius) make the root to signify “greed,” “voraciousness,” which as properly expresses another equally marked characteristic. This camel-bird, as the Persians, the Greeks, (Στρουθοκαμηλος,) and the Romans, (struthiocamelus,) call it on account of its camel-like neck, still inhabits the great Syrian desert; some are found in the Hauran, “and a few,” says Burckhardt, “are taken almost every year, even within two days’ journey of Damascus.’ The people of Aleppo sometimes bring home ostriches which they had killed at the distance of two or three days eastward.” The feathers, to which special allusion is made in the text, have always, on account of their surpassing beauty, been held in great value. The male has black feathers, with white ends, except the tail feathers, which are wholly white. But the feathers of the female are spotted grey. See BURCKHARDT, Notes on the Bedouins, i, p.217. The feathers of the stork, on the other hand, are pure white, except the greater coverts, scapulars, and quill feathers, which are black. For some unknown reason the ostrich was held sacred by the ancient Assyrian, as is shown by its being frequently introduced on Babylonian and Assyrian cylinders, accompanied by the emblematical flower. It was also found as an ornament on the robes of figures in the most ancient edifice at Nimroud. — LAYARD, Nineveh, etc., 2:437. An ostrich feather was a symbol of the goddess of truth or justice. See note on Job 31:6, and Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt, v, p. 216. The abrupt introduction of renanim, “the wailing ones,” (ostrich,) is happily illustrated by Herder: “The ostrich, on its first rising to the view, is sketched with an expression of eagerness and exultation. Such is the feeling of surprise, and wonder, too, that the name is at first forgotten, and it presents itself to the sight as a winged giant, exulting in the race, and shouting for joy. What is stupid forgetfulness in the bird appears as the wisdom of the Creator, by which be has kindly adapted it to its shy and timid life in the desert.” — Hebrews Poet., 1:102.

The goodly wings unto the peacocks — Of this difficult verse Schultens cites nineteen explanations; his own, the twentieth, is now substantially accepted by Arnheim, Umbreit, Hengstenberg, Hitzig, Cook, (Speaker’s Com.,) etc., as follows: —

The wing of the ostrich waveth joyously,*

Is it the wing and feathers of the stork?

In other words, “hath she the fond wing and plumage of the stork?” The Septuagint gave up the passage in despair, simply refraining the more difficult Hebrew words, without any attempt at explanation. Their version is, Πτερυξ τερπομενων νεελασσα, εαν συλλαβη ασιδα και νεσσα, literally, “a wing of delighted ones is Neelassa, (Hebrews, ,) if she conceives [comprehends] Asis and Nessa.” Jerome’s, though more intelligible, is quite as insipid: “The wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the falcon and the hawk.” Among moderns, Ewald, Hirtzel, Delitzsch, etc., accord to , stork, its radical meaning of pious, a name the stork bore on account of her affectionate solicitude for her young; and, making the word a predicate, read the second clause, “Is she pious, wing and feather?” Wordsworth understands the meaning to be, “The wing of the ostrich exults gloriously; she makes a great display of her flaunting plumage; but does she use her wings for purposes of natural affection for her offspring? No.” Whichever of the two readings, that of Schultens, or that of Ewald, is adopted, the sense is not materially altered. The grammatical reasons given by Hitzig are quite decisive for the former.

[* Homer says similarly of the cranes, which in some marked respects resemble the storks, “They fly here and there, rejoicing in their wings.” — Iliad, 2:462.] This chapter has thus far traced resemblances, marks of connotation, which bring the species together under the genus, and has pointed out differences of disposition or mode of life, and has impliedly asked Job to account for them, both for the difference between the wild and tame ass. and between the reem and his tame congener, the ox; and now between the stork and the ostrich, which are so like and yet so unlike. While the ostrich, as we have before seen, in plumage and general make presents considerable resemblance to the stork, the contrast in disposition is perhaps greater than that between any other two species of birds. The one is affectionate; builds “her house” in the fir-trees, (Psalms 104:17;) and displays remarkable intelligence and a self-sacrificing devotion to her young that is almost without parallel among birds. These traits have everywhere been noted.

The Romans followed the Hebrew in calling her the pious bird, avis pia. Pliny (book Job 10:31) informs us that in Thessaly it was a capital crime for any one to kill a stork. See, also, Aristotle, (Anim. Job 9:13,) and AElian, (Anim. Job 3:23.) Both the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks made the stork the symbol of love to children. The former looked upon her with a reverence only inferior to that which they paid to the mystical ibis. Instances are on record in which the stork, in cases of danger, such as of fire, unable to remove her young, has remained and shared their fate. See Encyc Brit., 16:799, eighth edition. On the other hand, the ostrich, whom the Arabs call an impious bird, displays traits the reverse of these, which the sacred writer proceeds to give at large.

In illustration of the phrase, “the wing waveth joyously,” the observation of Dr. Shaw upon an ostrich, taken and tamed, may be cited: “In the heat of the day, particularly, it would strut along the sunny side of the house with great majesty. It would be perpetually fanning and priding itself with its quivering, expanded wings, and seem, at every turn, to admire and be in love with its shadow. Even at other times, whether walking about or resting itself upon the ground, the wings would continue these fanning, vibratory motions, as if they were designed to mitigate and assuage that extraordinary heat wherewith their bodies seem to be naturally affected.” — Travels in Barbary, sec. ed., p. 454.

Wings’ feathers — “On the Darwin or Lucretian theory, her poor flapper, which she uses so much, ought to have become a warm, well-feathered pinion ages ago.” — T. Lewis.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 39:13. Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? — The subject now changes from beasts to birds. There is no Hebrew in the text for gavest thou, and Bochart, who says of this verse, Vix ullus sit Scripturæ locus qui minus intelligatur, There is, perhaps, scarce any passage of Scripture which is less understood, “seems to have proved beyond dispute,” says Dr. Dodd, “that the word rendered peacocks,” רננים, renanim, “signifies ostriches, and the following description entirely agrees with that opinion. Mr. Heath renders the verse, The wing of the ostrich is triumphantly expanded, though the strong pinion be the portion of the stork and the falcon. Dr. Shaw renders the verse, The wing of the ostrich is quivering, or expanded, the very feathers and plumage of the stork; and he observes, that the warming the eggs in the dust, or sand, is by incubation. In commenting on these verses it may be observed, says the doctor, that when the ostrich is full grown, the neck, particularly of the male, which before was almost naked, is now very beautifully covered with red feathers. The plumage likewise upon the shoulders, the back, and some parts of the wings, from being hitherto of a dark grayish colour, becomes as black as jet, while the rest of the feathers retain an exquisite whiteness. They are, as described Job 39:13, the very feathers and plumage of the stork; that is, they consist of such black and white feathers as the stork, called from thence πελαργος, is known to have. But the belly, the thighs, and the breast, do not partake of this covering, being usually naked, and when touched are of the same warmth as the flesh of quadrupeds. Under the joint of the great pinion, and sometimes upon the lesser, there is a strong pointed excrescence, like a cock’s spur, with which it is said to prick and stimulate itself, and thereby acquire fresh strength and vigour whenever it is pursued.”

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 39:13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hawk. We may also read, "Is the wing of the ostrich like?" Septuagint or Theodotion, "The bird of Neelasa is rejoicing, if she take the Asida, &c., the Neessa." (Haydock) --- Hebrew is variously translated, "The ostrich lifts itself up with its wings, which have feathers, as well as those of the stork." (Bochart) --- It flutters, running like a partridge, swifter than any horse. (Adamson) --- "Canst thou give to the stork and the ostrich their feathers," which form all their beauty? (Calmet) --- Protestants, "Gavest thou the goodly wings upon the peacock, or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?" (Haydock) --- The import of these names is uncertain. (Menochius) --- Renanim, (from Ron, "to cry, or move quickly,") may signify peacocks, ostriches, &c. Chasida, "a stork, (Haydock; Jer.[Jeremias?]) falcon, (Worthington) or heron; notsa "a hawk, or a feather." (Haydock) --- The first term occurs no where else, and may denote any singing birds or grasshoppers, as the last may be applied to the ostrich, which has "wings," though it fly not. (Grotius) (Calmet) --- Acknowledge the wisdom of Providence, which has thus enabled such a huge animal to travel so fast. (Menochius) --- See Parkhurst, alcs. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Next God mentions that strange bird, the ostrich. This bizarre bird, weighing up to 300 pounds and reaching a height of seven or eight feet. It flaps it wings, but it cannot fly, "the ostrich proudly waves her wings, but they are not pinions of love. The original term rendered "love" is related to a noun used in Hebrew literature for the stork. Thus, there is perhaps a contrast between the seemingly rather un-motherly ostrich and the fame of the affectionate stork" (Jackson p. 83). The ostrich will lay thirty or more eggs in a nest of sand and leave them from time to time. The outer eggs are at times exposed and so are trampled. "Hens may desert the nest if they are overfed, or if impatient they may leave the nest before all the chicks are hatched. If a human disturbs the nest, an ostrich may trample the eggs. Or a hen may sit on eggs in another nest, forgetting her own" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 769). The stupidity of such a bird is proverbial among the Arabs, yet the same bird can run at remarkable speeds of 40 mph, even outstripping a swift horse. "The phrase, "when she lifts herself on high" refers to an ostrich"s lifting its head, extending its rudimentary wings for balance, and taking giant strides of twelve to fifteen feet while running" (Zuck p. 173). Would Job even have thought of making such an animal?

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Gavest thou. The Ellipsis (App-6) is correctly supplied.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? - rather, 'the wing of the ostrich hen (literally, of cries: the crying-bird [ r

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?—Rather, The wing of the ostrich is superb, but are her pinions and her feathers like the stork’s? Ostrich feathers are said to be worth from £8 to £15 a pound; but, beautiful and valuable as they are, they are hardly like the plumage of a bird, and are not so used for flight; on the contrary, the ostrich runs like a quadruped, it is stated at the rate sometimes of fifty or sixty miles an hour.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21
wings and feathers unto the
or, the feathers of the stork and.
30:29; *marg:; Leviticus 11:19; Psalms 104:17; Jeremiah 8:7; Zechariah 5:9
Reciprocal: Psalm 50:11 - know;  Lamentations 4:3 - like

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 39:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".