- foul (`oph; peteinon): The word is now generally restricted to the larger, especially the edible birds, but formerly it denoted all flying creatures; in Lev 11:20
the King James Version we have even, "all fowls that creep, going upon all four," 11:21, "every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four."
1. Old Testament Terms and References:
The word most frequently translated "fowl" is `oph from `uph, "to cover," hence, wing; it is used collectively for birds and fowl in general (Gen 1:20, etc.; 2:19,20, etc.); `ayit (from `ut, "to rush") means a ravenous beasts; or bird of prey, used collectively of ravenous birds (Gen 15:11 the King James Version; Isa 18:6 the King James Version "fowls"; Job 28:7, "a path which no fowl knoweth," the Revised Version (British and American) "no bird of prey"); in Isa 46:11 it is used as a symbol of a conqueror (compare Jer 12:9, "bird," "birds of prey"; Ezek 39:4, "ravenous birds"); tsippor, Aramaic tsippar (from tsaphar, "to twitter or chirp"), "a chirper," denotes a small bird or sparrow (Dt 4:17 the King James Version; Neh 5:18; Dan 4:14); to give the carcasses of men to the fowls (birds) of the air was an image of destruction (Dt 28:26 the King James Version; 1 Sam 17:44,46; Ps 79:2; Jer 7:33, etc.); barburim, rendered (1 Ki 4:23) "fatted fowl" (among the provisions for Solomon's table for one day), is probably a mimetic word, like Greek barbaros, Latin murmuro, English babble, perhaps denoting geese from their cackle (Gesenius, from barar, "to cleanse," referring to their white plumage; but other derivations and renderings are given). They might have been ducks or swans. They could have been guineas or pigeons. The young of the ostrich was delicious food, and no doubt when Solomon's ships brought peafowl they also brought word that they were a delicacy for a king's table. The domestic fowl was not common so early in Palestine,but it may have been brought by Solomon with other imports from the East; in New Testament times chickens were common; ba`al kanaph, "owner of a wing," is used for a bird of any kind in Prov 1:17. "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird," the King James Version margin Hebrew, "in the eyes of everything that hath a wing."
2. In the Levitical Law:
In the Levitical law fowls (birds) were distinguished as clean and unclean (Lev 11:13 f; Dt 14:11-20; compare Gen 8:20); the first were allowed to be eaten because they fed on grains, seeds, and vegetables; the second were forbidden because they fed on flesh and carrion.
3. New Testament References and Illustrative Uses:
In the New Testament the common word for "fowl" is peteinon, "winged fowl." "The fowls of the air" (the Revised Version (British and American) "the birds of the heaven") are pointed to by our Lord as examples of the providential care of God (Mt 6:26; Lk 12:24); in another connection the "sparrows" (strouthion) sold cheap, probably for food, are so employed (Mt 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?" Lk 12:6, "five .... for two pence"); their quickly picking up seeds from the ground is made to illustrate the influences which render "the word" powerless (Mt 13:4); their being sheltered in the branches, the growth of the kingdom (Mt 13:32, peteinon); the hen's (ornis) sheltering care for her chickens, His desire to protect and save Jerusalem (Mt 23:37; compare 2 Esdras 1:30; Ruth 2:12); the fowls were shown in vision to Peter as among the things made clean by God (Acts 10:12; 11:6); in Rev 18:2; 19:17,21, orneon, "bird," "fowl," a carnivorous bird (the Revised Version (British and American) "bird"), is the representative of desolation and of destruction.
For "fowls" the American Standard Revised Version has "birds" (Gen 6:7,20; 7:3; Lev 20:25b; Acts 10:12; 11:6; with the English Revised Version Mt 6:26; 13:4; Mk 4:4,32; Lk 8:5; 12:24; 13:19); for "every feathered fowl" (Ezek 39:17), the Revised Version (British and American) has "the birds of every sort"; for "all fowls that creep" (Lev 11:20) and for "every flying creeping thing" (Lev 11:21), "all winged creeping things."
W. L. Walker