Bird of the Month: The Raven

Past Birds of the Month can be found here.

Which bird is most like the lilies of the field, which famously toil not, neither do they spin? You might say the cuckoo, which hijacks the nests of other birds rather than toiling over its own. You might say the swan, seeing in its curved neck an echo of the lily’s curved white petals.

But if you look up the verse about the lazy lilies in St Luke’s Gospel, and go three verses back, you will find this:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?

Few birds resemble the lily less than the raven, yet Jesus uses them to the same purpose here: neither flower nor bird works anxiously to secure its future, yet God takes care of both. (The message of the parable is to focus on the spiritual and trust God to sort out your material needs.)

384px-Heinola_-_Common_Raven

There are a lot of references to the raven in the Bible, though far more in the Old Testament than in the New. The Hebrew word for raven is orev. However, the same word describes most of the members of the Corvus family, to which the raven belongs. So when the Old Testament refers to the orev, it could be talking about a crow, a rook or a raven – or just a generic crow-like creature. But most English translations of the Bible go with ‘raven’ because the raven is the largest corvid, and has the greatest gravitas.