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Night Hawk

NIGHT HAWK (תַּחְמָס, H9379, night-hawk Eng. VSS, owl Vulg. LXX). The root meaning of the Heb. word is “robber.” All authorities regard this as an owl, and from the position in the list of forbidden meats it could be of mediumsize, perhaps short- or long-eared owl.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The Hebrew tachmac means "to tear and scratch the face," so that it is very difficult to select the bird intended by its use. Any member of the eagle, vulture, owl or hawk families driven to desperation would "tear and scratch" with the claws and bite in self-defence. The bird is mentioned only in the lists of abominations (see Le 11:16; De 14:15). There are three good reasons why the night-hawk or night-jar, more properly, was intended. The lists were sweeping and included almost every common bird unfit for food. Because of its peculiar characteristics it had been made the object of fable and superstition. It fed on wing at night and constantly uttered weird cries. Lastly, it was a fierce fighter when disturbed in brooding or raising its young. Its habit was to lie on its back and fight with beak and claw with such ferocity that it seemed very possible that it would "tear and scratch the face." Some commentators insist that the bird intended was an owl, but for the above reasons the night-jar seems most probable; also several members of the owl family were clearly indicated in the list.

See Hawk.

Gene Stratton-Porter

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