Heb. 'orebh, from a root meaning "to be black" (Compare Cant. 5:11 ); first mentioned as "sent forth" by Noah from the ark ( Genesis 8:7 ). "Every raven after his kind" was forbidden as food ( Leviticus 11:15 ; Deuteronomy 14:14 ). Ravens feed mostly on carrion, and hence their food is procured with difficulty ( Job 38:41 ; Psalms 147:9 ). When they attack kids or lambs or weak animals, it is said that they first pick out the eyes of their victims ( Proverbs 30:17 ). When Elijah was concealed by the brook Cherith, God commanded the ravens to bring him "bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening" ( 1 Kings 17:3-6 ). (See ELIJAH .)
There are eight species of ravens in Palestine, and they are everywhere very numerous in that land.
(black ). The Hebrew oreb is applied to the several species of the crow family, a number of which are found in Palestine. The raven belongs to the order Insessores , family Corvidae . (It resembles the crow, but is larger weighing three pounds; its black color is more iridescent, and it is gifted with greater sagacity. "There is something weird and shrewd in the expression of the ravens countenance, a union of cunning and malignity which may have contributed to give it among widely-revered nations a reputation for preternatural knowledge." One writer says that the smell of death is so grateful to them that when in passing over sheep a tainted smell is perceptible, they cry and croak vehemently. It may be that in passing over a human habitation, if a sickly or cadaverous smell arises, they should make it known by their cries, and so has arisen the idea that the croaking of a raven is the premonition of death.--ED.) A raven was sent out by Noah from the ark. ( Genesis 8:7 ) This bird was not allowed as food by the Mosaic law. ( Leviticus 11:15 ) Elijah was cared for by ravens. ( 1 Kings 17:4 1 Kings 17:6 ) They are expressly mentioned as instances of Gods protecting love and goodness. ( Job 38:41 ; Luke 12:24 ) The ravens carnivorous habits, and especially his readiness to attack the eye, are alluded to in ( Proverbs 30:17 ) To the fact of the raven being a common bird in Palestine, and to its habit of flying restlessly about in constant search for food to satisfy its voracious appetite, may perhaps be traced the reason for its being selected by our Lord and the inspired writers as the especial object of Gods providing care.
ra'-vn (`orebh; korax; Latin Corvus corax):
A large family of the smaller birds of prey belonging to the genus Corvus corax. A bird of such universal distribution that it is known from Iceland to Japan, all over Asia, Europe and Africa, but almost extinct and not of general distribution in our own country. In no land is it more numerous than in Palestine In general appearance it resembles the crow, but is much larger, being almost two feet long, of a glossy black, with whiskers around the beak, and rather stiff-pointed neck feathers. A bird exhibiting as much intelligence as any, and of a saucy, impudent disposition, it has been an object of interest from the beginning. It has been able to speak sentences of a few words when carefully taught, and by its uncanny acts has made itself a bird surrounded by superstition, myth, fable, and is connected with the religious rites of many nations. It is partially a carrion feeder, if offal or bodies are fresh; it also eats the young of other birds and very small animals and seeds, berries and fruit, having as varied a diet as any bird. It is noisy, with a loud, rough, emphatic cry, and its young are clamorous feeding time.
Aristotle wrote that ravens drove their young from their location and forced them to care for themselves from the time they left the nest. This is doubtful. Bird habits and characteristics change only with slow ages of evolution. Our ravens of today are, to all intents, the same birds as those of Palestine in the time of Moses, and ours follow the young afield for several days and feed them until the cawing, flapping youngsters appear larger than the parents. In Pliny's day, ravens had been taught to speak, and as an instance of their cunning he records that in time of drought a raven found a bucket containing a little water beside a grave and raised it to drinking level by dropping in stones.
Palestine has at least 8 different species of ravens. This bird was the first sent out by Noah in an effort to discover if the flood were abating (Genesis 8:6-8). Because it partially fed on carrion it was included among the abominations (see Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy 14:14). On 1 Kings 17:4-6, see ELIJAH and the present writer's Birds of the Bible, 401-3. Among the marvels of creation and providence in Job 38:41, we have this mention of the raven,
"Who provideth for the raven his prey,
When his young ones cry unto God,
And wander for lack of food?"
The answer to this question is in Psalms 147:9:
"He giveth to the beast his food,
And to the young ravens which cry."
Both these quotations point out the fact that the young are peculiarly noisy. In Proverbs 30:17 it is indicated that the ravens, as well as eagles, vultures and hawks, found the eye of prey the vulnerable point, and so attacked it first. The Hebrew `orebh means "black," and for this reason was applied to the raven, so the reference to the locks of the bridegroom in the So of Solomon becomes clear (Song of Solomon 5:11). The raven is one of the birds indicated to prey upon the ruins of Edom (Isaiah 34:11). The last reference is found in Luke 12:24:
"Consider the ravens, that they sow not, neither reap; which have no store-chamber nor barn; and God feedeth them." This could have been said of any wild bird with equal truth.
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