I have always been fascinated by the beauty and majesty of the eagle as have generations before me. Soaring through the air, an eagle is a wonder to behold!
As one of the larger birds of prey, the eagle has muscular legs, powerful talons and large sharp, hooked beaks with eyes 4 to 5 times the size of humans. The angle of its eyes give it a wider view allowing it to see prey up to 2 miles away. An eagle can see UV light and 5 basic colors; unlike humans who see only 3 basis colors. The eagle is a fierce predator, able to rip the flesh off of prey with those sharp, hooked beaks and powerful talons. The wingspan of larger eagles, such as the sea eagle, can reach up to 72 to 96 inches; that’s up to 8 feet!(onekindplanet.org)
This imperious bird can fly up to 60 miles per hour. It uses the air and wind currents to rise and soar high up in the skies, rather than flap their wings so that it can conserve energy. An eagle can soar above a storm, even reaching heights of up to 10,000 to 20,000 feet above sea level. It can fly for many hours without using up much energy. (birdwatchingbuzz.com)
Here are other interesting facts about the eagle. It is sometimes represented. The eagle is loyal and basically monogamous and very protective of their young. It is often a symbol of war and power. (britannica.com)
In writing this blog, I recalled some years back when I shared an eagle story circulating on the internet with my teachers. It was inspirational and they were in need of encouragement. When I did some research on this story and I found that it was presented as factual by some internet users, even though it was not factual. (snopes.com/fact-check/rebirth-of-the-eagle/). Although it was fictional, a Jewish folklore, I knew it inspired my teachers. The folklore, was based on Psalm 103:5 and it compared a Christian’s spiritual rebirth to an eagle’s renewal.
In the narrative, at some point around 40, the eagle’s talons become so long and inflexible that it cannot grip its prey; its beak becomes dull and curved and its wings become heavy as its feathers stick to its breast. So the eagle has to choose whether to die or choose a renewal process. This renewal is compared with an individual’s choice of repenting of their sin and accepting Jesus as their Savior in what believers call rebirth or being born again. (snopes.com/fact-check/rebirth-of-the-eagle/)
The eagle chooses the renewal, an excruciating 150 day transformation. The aging eagle ascends to the top of a mountain for the 150 day period. It is there that he awaits a new beak after he hits his old beak against a rock until it breaks. It then pulls its talons/claws out with its new beak and when the new claws grow out, it plucks out its old feathers to grow new ones. The eagle remains on the mountaintop for about 5 months until it has recovered. According to the narrative, the eagle can then live up to 30 or 40 more years.
This story takes some license in that the eagle does not live to the age of 60 or 70; they may live up to 30 years; in captivity, an eagle may live up to 50, according to Scopes. Contrary to the story, an eagle will never pluck out its feathers or pull out its talons. It does go through a molting process at least once a year in which a portion of its old feathers are replaced with new ones, symmetrically (from each side). It never lose all of its feathers in a single molting, as they would not be able to survive!
In my quest to know more about this fascinating bird, I began to study its imagery in the Bible which is the gist of this blog. The eagle is mentioned 42 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament!
So, I decided to take a look at Psalm 103:5 first since it was the scripture mentioned in the Jewish folklore. In Psalm 103:5, David states:
. . . your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Why did David state that one’s youth is renewed like an eagle’s? Well, the eagle is invigorated and able to move forth when it’s goes through the molting process—shedding old feathers for new ones. (Remember: all feathers are never shed one molting.) God invigorates a believer with renewed strength and energy by providing every benefit (forgiveness of sin, healing, grace) needed to move forth in the purposes of God just as he revitalizes the eagle when he sheds some of its feathers.
Exodus 19:4 says this about the eagle:
You yourself have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
I believe that this verse symbolizes God’s deliverance and protection of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and it is being compared to the way the eagle protects and hovers over their young with with their wide powerful wingspans.
The analogy of the strong, powerful eagle protecting its young from danger by carrying them on its back and wings is compared to God’s supernatural deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and its protection to and through the wilderness.
Isaiah 40:31 reads:
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall walk and not faint.
An eagle is aware of an approaching storm so they fly to a high spot and await the incoming winds. During the storm, the eagle strategically sets its wings in a position so that the wind picks the eagle up and lifts it above the storm. The eagle does not escape the raging storm; it rises and soars above it. (the leaf chronicle.com)
We, too, can choose to look to have faith in God during times of storms and not grow faint or weary. We can allow the Lord to lift us up above the raging winds and storms. When we do that—wait on the Lord, we can soar above the storm! David compares this to “mounting up with wings like an eagle.” So, never give up when you are weary and faint; wait upon and rest in the Lord. It is God who renews and reinvigorates our strength in troubled times.
And then there is Psalm 91:1-4 and the corresponding verse, Deuteronomy 32:11:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow (like the eagle’s wing span) of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. For he will deliver you from the snare of the Fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his (eagle’s) feathers, and under his (eagle’s) wings you will find refuge;
. . . like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and Carrie’s them aloft. (Deut 32:11)
Psalm 91 is one of the most popular chapters in scripture. It is here that David speaks of God protecting his people under His Almighty shadow just as the eagle shelters it’s young under its huge wingspan. David speaks of God as a provider, a refuge and fortress from the enemy, for his people. This is compared with the eagle’s coverage and protection of its young with its feathers and wings.
Deuteronomy 32:11 goes even farther. The eagle is one of the most affectionate, loving creatures with their young, even to the point of not startling them when they approach the nest by flapping their wings or keeping some noise (stirring up their nest). They hover over their young when they teach them to fly, flying under them to keep them safe. God demonstrated his unconditional love in rescuing the Israelites from slavery and protecting them in the wilderness with manna for food; clouds to protect from heat during the day and fire to keep them warm by night. He has sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for all believers—that is the ultimate demonstration of unconditional love by Father God and Jesus Christ.
There are a number of demonstrations of eagle symbolism throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament. The eagle is used to warns his people in Deuteronomy 28:49, Lam 4:19, Habakkuk 1:8. It is used to warn their enemies in Jer 49:22 and Obadiah 1:4. It is used in Dan 2:20-21/5:18-21, Pro 8:15: 16, Rom 13:1-2 to demonstrate God’s sovereignty and majestic power.
The study of the eagle and its symbolism in the Bible has been quite a journey for me. Thanks for sharing my ride.
Be blessed, my friends.
britannica.com snopes.com/fact-check/rebirth-of-the-eagle/. the leaf chronicle.com) Bennie L. Robinson “God Strengthens Us During our Time of Waiting”