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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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עורב , in Chaldee, orba, in Syriac, croac, in Latin, corvus, Genesis 8:7; Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy 14:14; 1 Kings 17:4; 1 Kings 17:6; Job 38:41; Psalms 147:9; Proverbs 30:17; Song of Solomon 5:11; Isaiah 34:11; κοραξ , Luke 12:24; a well known bird of prey. All the interpreters agree that oreb signifies the raven, from oreb, " evening," on account of its colour. Michaelis, in proposing a question respecting certain birds, says of the oreb, "Il est decide, que c'est le corbeau; il seroit donc superflu de le demander. Mais je desirerois plus de certitude sur le nom Syriaque des corbeaux." [It is settled that this is the raven; it would therefore be superfluous to investigate it. But I could wish more certainty respecting the Syriac name of ravens.] One can hardly doubt that it is taken from the note of this bird. On the decrease of the waters of the flood, so that the tops of the mountains became visible, Noah sent forth out of one of the windows of the ark a raven, a bold and adventurous bird, by way of experiment, to see whether the waters were sunk or abated. Forty days the violent rain had continued; and he might think this, therefore, a likely time for the waters to run off again. In the original text, in the Samaritan, in the Chaldee and Arabic, it is said that the raven "returned" to the ark; but the Greek interpreters, the Syriac, the Latin, and most of the eminent fathers and commentators, say that it did not return any more. Here are great authorities on both sides, but the latter reading, though so contrary in sense to the other, yet in the Hebrew is not very different in the form of the letters, and appears to be the better reading of the two. For if the raven had returned, what occasion had Noah to send forth a dove? Or why did he not take the raven in unto him into the ark, as he did afterward the dove? Or why did he not send forth the same raven again, as he did afterward the same dove again? It is not improperly expressed in our translation, that "the raven went forth to and fro," flying hither and thither, "until the waters were dried up from off the face of the earth." He found, perhaps, in the higher grounds, some of the carcasses of those who had perished in the deluge.

The Prophet Elijah was in his retirement fed by this bird. A writer, indeed, in the Memoirs of Literature, for April, 1710, endeavours to show, from many authors, that there was in the country of Bethschan, in Decapolis, by the brook Cherith or Carith, a little town called Aorabi or Orbo, Judges 7:25 : Isaiah 10:6; and he therefore explains the word orebim, which, in 1 Kings 17:4 , we translate "ravens," of the inhabitants of that village, some of whom, he contends, daily carried bread and flesh to Elijah, who had retired to and lay in a cave in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, Scheuchzer ably vindicates the commonly received opinion. The editor of Calmet, also, in the appendix, under the article Elijah, has some pertinent observations on this subject. "We ought to consider," says he,

"1. That Ahab sought Elijah with avidity, and took an oath of every people, no doubt, also, in his dominions, that he was not concealed among its inhabitants; his situation, therefore, required the utmost privacy, even to solitude.

2. That when the brook Cherith was dried up, the prophet was obliged to quit his asylum, which he needed not to have done, had a people been his suppliers, for they could have brought him water as well as food."

In Psalms 147:9 , it is said, "The Lord giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." And in Job 38:41 , "Who provideth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry unto God, wandering for want of meat?" Job and the psalmist may allude to what is said by some naturalists, that the ravens drive out their young ones early from their nests, and oblige them to seek food for their own sustenance. The same kind Providence which furnishes support to his intelligent offspring is not unmindful of the wants, or inattentive to the desires, of the meanest of his creatures.

Lo, the young ravens, from their nest exiled, On hunger's wings attempt the aerial wild!

Who leads their wanderings, and their feast supplies?

To God ascend their importuning cries.

Christ instructs his disciples, from the same circumstance, to trust in the care and kindness of Heaven: "Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap, neither have storehouse, nor barn; and God feedeth them. How much better are ye than the fowls!" Luke 12:24 . Solomon, speaking of the peculiar regard and veneration due to the worthy persons and salutary instructions of parents, observes, that an untimely fate, and the want of decent interment, may be expected from contrary conduct; and that the leering eye, which throws wicked contempt on a good father, and insolent disdain on a tender mother, shall be dug out of the unburied exposed corpse by the ravens of the valley, and eaten up by the young eagles, Proverbs 30:17 . It was a common punishment in the east, and one which the orientals dreaded above all others, to expose in the open fields the bodies of evil doers that had suffered by the laws of their offended country, to be devoured by the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven. The wise man insinuates that the raven makes his first and keenest attack on the eye, which perfectly corresponds with his habits, for he always begins his banquet with that part. Isiodore says of him, Primo in cadaveribus occulum petit; [he attacks first the eye of the dead;] and Epictetus, Οι μ εν κορακες των τετελευτηκοτων τους οφθαλμους λυμαινονται , "the ravens devour the eyes of the dead." Many other testimonies might be adduced, but these are sufficient to justify the allusion in the proverb.

The raven, it is well known, delights in solitude. He frequents the ruined tower or the deserted habitation. In Isaiah 34:11 , it is accordingly foretold that the raven, with other birds of similar dispositions, should fix his abode in the desolate houses of Edom. In the Septuagint and other versions the Hebrew word for desolation is rendered raven. The meaning is, that in those splendid palaces, where the voice of joy and gladness was heard, and every sound which could ravish the ear and subdue the heart, silence was, for the wickedness of their inhabitants, to hold her reign for ever, interrupted only by the scream of the cormorant and the croaking of the raven.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ravels'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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