(קַפֹּד or קַפּוֹד, kippod'; Sept. ἐχῖνος, i.e. hedgehog) occurs but three times in Scripture, in connection with the desolations of Babylon, Idumeea, and Nineveh (Isa 14:23; Isa 34:11; Zep 2:14), and has been variously interpreted owl, osprey, tortoise, porcupine, otter, and, in the Arabic, bustard. Bochart, Shaw, Lowth, and other authorities, have supported the opinion that it refers to the porcupine (see especially Keith, Evidence, ed. 1840, p. 435, 490), making the first syllable to be derived from קָנֶה, kaneh', "spine;" in confirmation of which, Bochart, with his wonted learning, cites the Chaldee, Hebrew, Arabic, and Ethiopian names of the porcupine and hedgehog, which apparently confirm his opinion, while Gesenius defends the same identification, although by a different derivation, from קָפִר, kaphad', "to contract," i.e. into a ball; but this meaning is utterly irreconcilable with the context. In Isa 14:23, "I will make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water," etc., the words are plain and natural. Marshes and pools are not the habitation of hedgehogs, for they shun water. In Isa 34:11, it is said, the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it, the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it," etc., that is, in the ruins of Idumea. Here, again, the version is plain, and a hedgehog most surely would be out of place. Zep 2:14, " Both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it, and their voice shall sing in the windows," etc. Surely here kippod cannot mean the hedgehog, a nocturnal, grovelling, worm-eating animal, entirely or nearly mute, and incapable of climbing up walls; one that does not haunt ruins, but earthy banks in wooded regions, and that is absolutely solitary in its habits. The arguments respecting the Heb. term itself, drawn from indications of manners, such as the several texts contain, are, on the contrary, positive, and leave no doubt that the animal meant is not a hedgehog, nor even a mammal, but a bird, and that of some aquatic species. Hence the word must bear an interpretation which is applicable to one of the feathered tribes, probably to certain wading species, which have, chiefly on the neck, long pointed feathers, more or less speckled. This is confirmed by the Arabic version, which has Alioubara, the name of a bird which, according to Shaw, is of the size of a capon, but of a longer habit of body. The bittern answers these conditions, and is a solitary bird, loving marshy ground. Its scientific name is Botaurus stellaris, and it belongs to the Gruidae, or cranes. The Arabian bustard, Otis houbara, might be selected if it were not that bustards keep always in dry deserts and uplands, and that they never roost-their feet not admitting of perching-but rest on the ground. The term seems most applicable to the heron tribes, whose beaks are formidable spikes that often kill hawks-a fact well known to Eastern hunters. Of these, Nycticorax Europcus, or common night-heron, with its pencil of white feathers in the crest, is a species not uncommon in the marshes of Western Asia; and of several species of bittern, the Ardea (botaurus) stellaris has pointed long feathers on the neck and breast, freckled with black, and a strong pointed bill. After the breeding season it migrates, and passes the winter in the south, frequenting the marshes and rivers of Asia and Europe, where it then roosts high above ground, uttering a curious note before and after its evening flight, very distinct from the booming sound produced by it in the breeding-season, and while it remains in the marshes. Though not building, like the stork, on the tops oft houses, it resorts, like the heron, to ruined structures, and is said to have been seen on the summit of Tank Kesra at Ctesiphon. The common bittern is a bird nearly of the size of the common heron, but differing from it greatly in the color of its plumage. The crown of the head is black, with a black spot also on each side about the angle of the mouth; the back and upper part are elegantly variegated with different colors, black, brown, and gray, in beautiful arrangement. This species of bird is common only in fenny countries, where it is met with skulking about the reeds and sedge; and its sitting posture is with the head and neck erect, and the beak pointed directly upward. It permits persons to approach near to it without rising. It flies principally toward the dusk of the evening, and then rises in a very singular manner, by a spiral ascent, till quite out of sight. It makes a curious noise when among the reeds, and a very different, though sufficiently singular one, as it rises on the wing in the night. (See Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v.) SEE PORCUPINE.

Bible concordance for BITTERN.

Definition of bittern

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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