OSTRICH >> Severe and Gloomy Thought >> Stupidity
Another bird which, perhaps, should be mentioned among those of remarkable plumage, is the ostrich. It is a bird of the desert, with no power of flying, the very looseness of structure for which its wing and tail feathers are valued depriving them of their hold on the air. Instead, it possesses a power of running perhaps superior to that of any other animal.
The ostrich is polygamous, and several hens deposit their eggs in one place—a hole scraped in the sand. The eggs are then covered over, and left during the heat of the day; but in the colder regions at any rate, as in the Sahara, the birds sit regularly during the night, and until the sun has full power, the male also incubating. But the ostrich lays an immense number of eggs, far more than are ever hatched, and round the covered eggs are to be found many dropped carelessly, as if she forgot that the frost might crack them, or the wild beast might break them. But most naturalists confirm the statement of the natives, that the eggs on the surface are left in order to afford sustenance to the newly hatched chicks, which could not otherwise find food at first in these arid regions. (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible)
Some of these peculiarities are well described in the book of Job:
The wings of the ostrich exult; but are her pinions and feathers like the stork? Who leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in the dust; and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones as if they were not hers; her labor is in vain without fear, because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider. (Job 39:13–19)
The Arabs call the ostrich the “camel bird”;1 and they also regard him as stupid, partly because, since it is usually safest for him to run towards the wind, towards the wind he will go, even if it be also towards his enemies; and partly from his habit of swallowing all sorts of indigestible things; no doubt they are acquainted with other habits of his which seem stupid.2 I think they name him well; and that he is among birds very much what the camel is among quadrupeds. That he cannot fly means that there is nothing spiritual in the thought which he represents; but the showiness of his wings indicates a great appearance of spiritual principle in it. His desert home, hard diet, and usual solitariness all belong to the love of thinking such ascetic principles as spiritual camels love to live. The stupid persistency with which he follows his rule, even when inapplicable to the circumstances, is also camel-like. His usual representation in the Bible seems to be a state of severe and gloomy thought, deprived of all that is good and pleasant. “The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness” (Lamentations 4:3). “I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the ostriches” (Isaiah 43:19, 20). In several other places they are mentioned similarly, as signs of vastation.
(Bible Animals. Tristram.)
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875