Nest (קֵן ken, from קָנִן, to build; κατασκήνωσις , lit. a tent-dwelling). The law in De 22:6-7 directs that if one falls in with a bird's-nest with eggs or young, he shall allow the dam to escape, and not take her as well as the nest. The reason Maimonides (Moreh Nebuchim) gives for this is, "The eggs on which the dam is sitting, or the young ones which have need of her, are not, in general, permitted to be eaten; and when the dam is allowed to escape she is not distressed by seeing her young ones carried off. It thus frequently happens that all are untouched, because that which might be taken may not be lawfully eaten." He adds, "If the law, then, be thus careful to prevent birds and beasts (for he had been alluding to the instances of this humanity of the law) from suffering pain and grief, how much more mankind!" SEE LAW OF MOSES.
The ingenuity with which a bird's-nest is constructed, its perfect adaptation to its intended purpose, its compactness, its hollow form, its warmth, the different materials of which it is composed, its lining, the industry and perseverance with which it is collected and put together, the art with which it is concealed-all these and other points render it impossible to look on the more elaborate specimens of birds'-nests without strong admiration. It is true there are very numerous gradations in the perfection of what we may call art in these structures — from the shallow cavity scratched in the ground by the partridge, to the purse of the oriole, exquisitely woven of horse-hair, and suspended from a twig, or the tiny cup of the humming-bird compactly felted of silk-cotton, and ornamented with lichens; but this endless variety is only the more admirable, because we see that each form is perfect in its kind, and answers its own purpose better than any other could have done. Various as are the materials selected by birds for the formation of their nests, they are generally chosen for one prominent quality, namely, the warmth of the young (Job 29:18).
The eagle is remarkable for the jealousy with which its domestic economy is removed far from human intrusion. Jehovah alludes to this in his contest with his servant Job (Job 39:27-28): "Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place: from thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off." The loftiness of the eagle's nest was proverbial, it was "among the stars" (Ob 1:4); and "to make his nest as high as the eagle" was a phrase by which the prophets reproved the pride and ambition of man (Jer 49:16; Hab 2:9). SEE EAGLE.
Another bird remarkable for the inaccessible localities in which it incubates is the rock-dove. SEE DOVE. Clefts in lofty precipices, deep holes in beetling cliffs, and shelves in dark caverns, are chosen by this bird. The narrow passes between towering rocks that cleave the elevated region on both sides of the Dead Sea are perforated with clefts and caves, which are numerously tenanted by blue rock-doves. The prophet Jeremiah takes occasion from this derisively to exhort Moab, in the prospect of his desolation by the Chaldaean king, to imitate the rock-dove: "O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth" (Jer 48:28). It was doubtless the resemblance in habit between the rock-dwelling inhabitants of Idumsea and the rock-dove, both of whom were probably full in view from the summit of Pisgah, that suggested the metaphor which Balaam used of the Kenite, "Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock" (Nu 24:21). SEE KENITE.
The gallinacae usually lay their eggs in great numbers, often in a nest carelessly made on the ground, and with very little precaution against accidents or interferences from others of the same species. Hence they frequently fail in incubation, or even desert their nest. This seems to be the point of the allusion of the prophet Jeremiah: "As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool" (Jer 17:11). Such a nest we may suppose to have been in the mind of the prophet Isaiah, in the self-gratulatory soliloquy which he puts into the mouth of the conquering king of Assyria: "And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped [piped]" (Isa 10:14). A nest on the ground, containing many eggs, from which the chicks emerge active and fledged, and in which they can utter their feeble piping, is the figure here, and suits some gallinaceous species.
Most birds, however, resort to trees for the fabrication of their nests; and in Palestine the thick foliage of the cedars would afford peculiar advantages of shelter and concealment. The dominion exercised over the surrounding nations by the great empire of Assyria is symbolized by Ezekiel under the figure of a lofty and far-spreading cedar in Lebanon, in whose boughs all the fowls of the heaven made their nests (Eze 31:3-6), and a like comparison indicated to Nebuchadnezzar his royal power (Da 4:21). Jeremiah apostrophizes the inhabitants of Lebanon, as "making their nests in the cedars" (Jer 22:23); and in the beautiful picture of nature in Psalm 104, the cedars of Lebanon which God hath planted are brought before us as the place "where the birds make their nests;" while "as for the stork, the ir-trees are her house" (verse 17); perhaps the flat summits of old trees, a more exposed situation than in the cedar forest. SEE STORK.
The propensity of the swallow to affix its nest to human edifices. and of the sparrow to bring up its young in the haunts of men, is elegantly glanced at by the Psalmist, when he contrasts their familiarity with his own exile from the sanctuary (Ps 84:2-3). SEE BIRD.