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HERON (אֲנָפָ֖ה. heron, all Eng. VSS; Lev 11:19, Deut 14:18 only).

This Heb. word has always been in dispute, and philologists can only suggest that the root may describe a bird with a beak shaped like a nose. Driver notes that in the Targum Ps. Jon, the first v., it is described as a black hawk; in the second v., a white hawk. He tr. “cormorant,” whereas LXX gives it the Lat. name Charadrius, making a plover genus. On the other hand, it would not be surprising if herons were listed. A dozen kinds live in or pass through Pal., some of them conspicuous and in numbers; some of the species are palatable when young but their habits would class them as unclean. The most common are the gray, purple, and night herons, and the little and cattle egrets. These may all be seen at close quarters in spring in the bird sanctuaries on the Israeli coast and in the upper Jordan valley.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Herons are mentioned only in the abomination lists of Le 11:19 (margin "ibis") and De 14:18. They are near relatives of crane, stork, ibis and bittern. These birds, blue, white or brown, swarmed in Europe and wintered around Merom, along the Jordan, at the headwaters of the Jabbok and along its marshy bed in the dry season. Herons of Southern Africa that summered in the Holy Land loved to nest on the banks of Merom, and raise their young among the bulrushes, papyrus, reeds and water grasses, although it is their usual habit to build in large trees. The white herons were small, the blue, larger, and the brown, close to the same size. The blue were 3 1/2 ft. in length, and had a 5-ft. sweep. The beak, neck and legs constituted two-thirds of the length of the body, which is small, lean and bony, taking its appearance of size from its long loose feathers. Moses no doubt forbade these birds as an article of diet, because they ate fish and in older specimens would be tough, dark and evil smelling. The very poor of our western and southeastern coast states eat them.

Gene Stratton-Porter

See also

  • Birds