Verse 12. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. How refreshing are these words! What happy memories they arouse of splashing waterfalls and entangled boughs, where the merry din of the falling and rushing water forms a sort of solid background of music, and the sweet tuneful notes of the birds are the brighter and more flashing lights in the harmony. Pretty birdies, sing on! What better can ye do, and who can do it better? When we too drink of the river of God, and eat of the fruit of the tree of fife, it well becomes us to "sing among the branches." Where ye dwell ye sing; and shall not we rejoice in the Lord, who has been our dwelling place in all generations. As ye fly from bough to bough, ye warble forth your notes, and so will we as we flit through time into eternity. It is not meet that birds of Paradise should be outdone by birds of earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 12. -- By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation. Never shall I forget my first ride from Riha to Ain Sultan; our way lay right across the oasis evoked by the waters. It may be that the contrast with the arid desert of the previous day heightened the feelings of present enjoyment, but certainly they echoed the words of Josephus, -- a "Divine region". At one time I was reminded of Epping Forest, and then of a neglected orchard with an undergrowth of luxuriant vegetation. Large thorn bushes and forest shrubs dotted the plain on every side. In some places the ground was carpeted with flowers, and every bush seemed vocal with the cheerful twittering of birds. I use the word "twittering", because I do not think that I ever heard a decided warble during the whole time I was in Syria. Coleridge speaks of the "merry nightingale",
"That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast, quick warble, his delicious notes."
The song of my little Syrian friends seemed to consist of a series of, cheerful chirps. Other travellers have been more fortunate. Bonar speaks of the note of the cuckoo; Dr. Robinson of the nightingale. Lord Lindsay tells us of the delight of an evening spent by the Jordan, "the river murmuring along, and the nightingale singing from the trees." Canon Tristram, describing the scenery near Tell-el-Kady, says that "the bulbul and nightingale vied in rival scrag in the branches above, audible over the noise of the torrent below." In the face of these statements it seems to me remarkable, considering the innumerable references to nature in the Bible, that the singing of birds is only mentioned three times. In the well known passage which so exquisitely depicts a Syrian spring, we read "the time of the singing of birds is come" ( Song of Solomon 2:12 ). The Psalmist in speaking of the mighty power and wondrous Providence of God, mentions the springs in "the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation which sing among the branches." Canon Tristram commenting on this passage, says, that it may refer especially to the "bulbul and the nightingale, both of which throng the trees that fringe the Jordan and abound in all the wooded valleys, filling the air in early spring with the rich cadence of their notes." --James Wareing Bardsley, in "Illustrative Texts", 1876.
Verse 12. -- By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, etc. To such birds may saints be compared; being, like them, weak, defenceless, and timorous; liable to be taken in snares, and sometimes wonderfully delivered; as well as given to wanderings and straying; and to fowls of the heaven, being heaven born souls, and partakers of the heavenly calling. These have their habitation by the fountain of Jacob, by the river of divine love, beside the still waters of the sanctuary, where they sing the songs of Zion, the songs of electing, redeeming, and calling grace. --John Gill.
Verse 12. -- The fowls...which sing among the branches. The music of birds was the first song of thanksgiving which was offered from the earth, before man was formed. -- John Wesley.
Verse 12. -- The fowls of the heaven which sing among the branches. How do the blackbird and thrassel thrush, with their melodious voices, bid welcome to the cheerful spring, and in their fixed months warble forth such ditties as no art or instrument can reach to? ... But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it makes mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, "Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when you afford bad men such music on earth?" --Izaak Walton.
Verse 12. --
While over their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blithely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep roaring fa's,
Overhung with fragrant spreading shaws,
The birks of Aberfeldy. --Robert Burns, 1759-1796.