- (qen; neossia, nossia; in the New Testament kataskenosis; Latin nidus): A receptacle prepared by a bird for receiving its eggs and young. Nests differ with species. Eagles use a large heap of coarse sticks and twigs on the cleft of a mountain (Job 39:27
ff; Jer 49:16
; Ob 1:4); hawks prefer trees; vultures, hollow trees or the earth; ravens, big trees; doves and pigeons, trees or rocky crevices (Jer 48:28
); hoopoes, hollow trees; swallows, mud nests under a roof, on cliffs or deserted temples; owls, hollow trees, dark places in ruins or sand burrows (on the qippoz of Isa 34:15
see OWL); cranes, storks and herons, either trees (Ps 104:17
) or rushes beside water (storks often choose housetops, as well).
Each nest so follows the building laws of its owner's species that any expert ornithologist can tell from a nest which bird builded it. Early in incubation a bird deserts a nest readily because it hopes to build another in a place not so easily discoverable and where it can deposit more eggs. When the young have progressed until their quickening is perceptible through the thin shells pressed against the breast of the mother, she develops a boldness called by scientists the "brooding fever." In this state the wildest of birds frequently will suffer your touch before deserting the nest. Especially is this the case if the young are just on the point of emerging. The first Biblical reference to the nest of a bird will be found in Balaam's fourth prophecy in Nu 24:21: "And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his parable and said, Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thy nest is set in the rock." Here Balaam was thinking of the nest of an eagle, hawk or vulture, placed on solid rock among impregnable crags of mountain tops. The next reference is among the laws for personal conduct in Dt 22:6: "If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young." Beyond question this is the earliest law on record for the protection of a brooding bird. It is probable that it was made permissible to take the young, as the law demanded their use, at least in the case of pigeons and doves, for sacrifice. In Job 29:18, Job cries,
"Then I said, I shall die in my nest,
And I shall multiply my days as the sand:"
that is, he hoped in his days of prosperity to die in the home he had builded for his wife and children. In Ps 84:3 David sings,
"Yea, the sparrow hath found her a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
Even thine altars, O Yahweh of hosts,
My King, and my God."
These lines are rich and ripe with meaning, for in those days all the world protected a temple nest, even to the infliction of the death penalty on anyone interfering with it. This was because the bird was supposed to be claiming the protection of the gods. Hebrew, Arab and Egyptian guarded all nests on places of worship. Pagan Rome executed the shoemaker who killed a raven that built on a temple, and Athens took the same revenge on the man who destroyed the nest of a swallow. Isaiah compared the destruction of Assyria to the robbing of a bird's nest: "And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the peoples; and as one gathereth eggs that are forsaken, have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing, or that opened the mouth, or chirped" (Isa 10:14; compare 16:2). Matthew quotes Jesus as having said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Mt 8:20 = Lk 9:58).