As an eagle stirreth up her nest
Her young ones in it, to get them out of it: Jarchi says the eagle is merciful to its young, and does not go into its nest suddenly, but first makes a noise, and disturbs them with her wings, striking them against a tree or its branches, that so they being awakened may be fitter to receive her: with respect to literal Israel, Egypt was their nest, where they were who were then in their infant state, lay like young birds in a nest; and though it was a filthy one and where they were confined, yet they seemed sometimes as if they did not care to come out of it; until the Lord made use of means to get them out, by the ministry of Moses and Aaron, by suffering their taskmasters to make their bondage heavier, and by judgments inflicted on the Egyptians, which made them urgent upon them to depart: with respect to spiritual Israel, their nest is a state of unregeneracy, in which they are at ease, and do not care to be awakened and stirred out of it; but the Lord, in love to them, awakens them, stirs them up, and gets them out, by sending his ministers to arouse them, by letting in the law into their consciences, which works a sense of wrath, by convincing them by his Spirit of their sin and danger, opening their eyes to see their wretched and miserable estate and condition, and by exerting his almighty power, plucking them as brands out of the burning:
fluttereth over her young;
by that means to get them out of the nest, and teach them to fly, as well as to preserve them from the attempts of any to take them away; for though some writers represent the eagle as hardhearted to its young, casting them out of the nest, when they are taken care of by the offifrage; yet this is to be understood of it when tired with nursing, and when its young are capable of taking care of themselves; or of some sort of eagles; for Aelianus F18 testifies, that of all animals the eagle is most affectionate to its young, and most studiously careful of them; when it sees anyone coming to them, it will not suffer them to go away unpunished, but will beat them with its wings and tear them with its nails: Jarchi thinks this phrase is expressive of the manner of its incubation on its young; it does not, he says, lie heavy upon them, but lifts up herself, and touches them as if she did not touch them; but it rather signifies the motion she makes with her wings to get her young, when fledged, out of the nest, and to teach them to make use of their wings, as she does; and we are told that young eagles, when their wings are weak, will fly about their dams and learn of them to fly F19; and hence it is that young eagles while they are eating flutter their wings, that motion being so natural to them, and seeing their dams do so likewise F20: this passage seems to contradict a notion that has obtained with some, that an eagle only breeds one at a time; the philosopher says F21, the eagle lays three eggs and casts out two of them; according to the verse of Musaeus, it lays three, casts out two, and brings up one; and so, he says, it commonly is the case: but sometimes three young ones are seen together; and the black eagles are more kind to their young, and careful in the nourishment of them; and the same says Pliny F23; yea we are told, that sometimes seven are seen in a nest F24:
spreadeth abroad her wings taketh them, beareth them on her wings;
that is, spreads forth her wings when she flutters over her young to instruct them; or she does this in order to take up her young and carry them on them: it is said that eagles fly round their nest, and vary the flights for the instruction of their young; and afterwards taking them on their backs, they soar with them aloft, in order to try their strength, shaking them off into the air: and if they perceive them too weak to sustain themselves, they with surprising dexterity fly under them again, and receive them on their wings to prevent their fall F25; (See Gill on Exodus 19:4); thus the Lord, comparable to this creature for his affection to the people of Israel, his care of them, and his strength to bear and carry them, did bear them as on eagles' wings, and carried and saved them all the days of old; even Christ, the Angel of Jehovah's presence, the rock of salvation they rejected, see ( Exodus 19:4 ) ( Isaiah 63:9 ) ; and all this in a spiritual and evangelic sense may be expressive of the gracious dealings of God with his spiritual Israel; teaching and enabling them to mount up with wings as eagles, to soar aloft in the exercise of faith, hope, and love, entering thereby within the vail into the holiest of all, and living in the constant and comfortable expectation of heaven and happiness; and of the Lord's taking his people up from the low estate in which they are, and raising them up to near communion with himself, bearing them on his heart, in his hands, and on his arm, supporting them under all their afflictions, and carrying them, through all their troubles and difficulties, safe to eternal glory and happiness.
F18 Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 40.
F19 Suidas, vol. 1. p. 89.
F20 Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 3. col. 178.
F21 Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 6.
F23 Nat Hist. l. 10. c. 3.
F24 Vid. Bochart ut supra. (F20)
F25 See Harris's Voyages, vol. 1. B. 1. c. 2. sect. 14. p. 486.