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7

I lie awake;

I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.


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6 I have become like a pelican of the wilderness Instead of rendering the original word by pelican, some translate it bittern, and others the cuckoo. The Hebrew word here used for owl is rendered by the Septuagint νυκτικοραξ, which signifies a bat. 141141     “La translation Grecque ha Nicticorax qui est Chauvesouris.” — Fr. But as even the Jews are doubtful as to the kind of birds here intended, let it suffice us simply to know, that in this verse there are pointed out certain melancholy birds, whose place of abode is in the holes of mountains and in deserts, and whose note, instead of being delightful and sweet to the ear, inspires those who hear it with terror. I am removed, as if he had said, from the society of men, and am become almost like a wild beast of the forest. Although the people of God dwelt in a well cultivated and fertile region, yet the whole country of Chaldea and Assyria was to them like a wilderness, since their hearts were bound by the strongest ties of affection to the temple, and to their native country from which they had been expelled. The third similitude, which is taken from the sparrow, denotes such grief as produces the greatest uneasiness. The word צפור, tsippor, signifies in general any kind of bird; but I have no doubt that it is here to be understood of the sparrow. It is described as solitary or alone, because it has been bereaved of its mate; and so deeply affected are these little birds when separated from their mates, that their distress exceeds almost all sorrow. 142142     Although Calvin expresses himself as having no doubt that the sparrow is here intended, the most eminent expositors are of a different opinion, contending that it is difficult to reconcile with the nature of the sparrow the ideas of wakefulness and solitude which the Psalmist represents as characteristic of the bird to which he compares himself. The sparrow is not a solitary moping bird which sits mournfully on the housetop, nor so timid as to betake itself to the darkest corners for concealment, and to spend the live long night in sleepless anxiety. It is gregarious, is commonly found chirping and fluttering about in the crowd, a pert, loquacious, and bustling creature, and builds its nest in the habitations of men. Every part of the description leads to the supposition that some nocturnal bird is to be understood, which from instinct hates the light, and comes forth from its hiding-place only when the shadows of the evening fall to hunt its prey, and from amidst the fragments, of some mouldering ruin to attract the attention of mankind by its mournful voice. Accordingly, it has been thought that the Psalmist refers to some species of the owl, distinguished for its plaintive cry and solitary disposition. — Paxtons Illustrations of Scripture, volume 2, pages 355-357. “But,” says Merrick, “as chos, mentioned in the preceding verse, seems also to signify an owl, we are perhaps to suppose two sorts of owls intended, one of which confines itself to deserts or ruinous places, and the other sometimes approaches cities or villages, and according to Virgil’s description, (which Bochart quotes as conformable to that of the Psalmist,) sits alone on the house-top.
   Solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo Visa queri, et longas in fletum ducere voces.’
Æneid, lib. 4. 50. 462.

   I doubt whether the Psalmist would in two verses together compare his situation to that of the very same bird, with no other difference than that of its sitting in the desert in one verse, and on the house-top in the other.” Bochart thinks that the screech-owl is intended. The reason which Calvin assigns for the sparrow being called solitary, namely, because of the extreme sorrow which she feels when deprived of her mate, does not agree with the natural history of that bird; for, unlike the turtle, who, on losing her spouse, remains in a state of inconsolable widowhood, she accepts without reluctance the first companion that solicits her affections.




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