(עֹרֵב, 'oseb'; Sept. and New Test. κρόαξ, Vulg. corvUS), the well- known bird of that name which is mentioned in various passages in the Bible. There is no doubt that the Heb. 'oreb is correctly translated, the old versions agreeing on the point, and the etymology, from a root (עָרִב) signifying "to be black," favoring this rendering. A raven was sent out by Noah from the ark to see whether the waters were abated (Ge 8:7). This bird was not allowed as food by the Mosaic law (Le 11:15); the word 'oreb is doubtless used in a generic sense, and includes other species of the genus Corvus, such as the crow (C. corone), and the hooded crow (C. cornix). Ravens were the means, under the divine command, of supporting the prophet Elijah at the brook Cherith (1
Kings 17:4, 6). They are expressly mentioned as instances of God's protecting love and goodness (Job 38:41; Lu 12:24; Ps 143:9). They are enumerated with the owl, the bittern, etc., as marking the desolation of Edom (Isa 34:11). "The locks of the beloved" are compared to the glossy blackness of the raven's plumage (Song of Solomon v, II). The raven's carnivorous habits, and especially his readiness to attack the eye, are alluded to in Pr 30:17. SEE OREB. The Sept. and Vulg. differ materially from the Hebrew and our A.V. in (Ge 8:7; for whereas in the Hebrew we read "that the raven went forth to and fro [from the ark] until the waters were dried up," in the two old versions named above, together with the Syriac, the raven is represented as "not returning until the water was dried from off the earth." On this subject the reader may refer to Houbigant (Not. Crit 1, 12), Bochart (Hieroz. ii, 801), Rosenmuller (Schol. in V. T.), Kalisch (Genesis), and Patrick (Commentary), who shows the manifest incorrectness of the Sept. in representing the raven as keeping away from the ark while the waters lasted, but as returning to it when they were dried up. The expression "to and fro" clearly proves that the raven must have returned to the ark at intervals. The bird would doubtless have found food in the floating carcasses of the deluge, but would require a more solid resting- ground than they could afford. SEE DELUGE. The subject of Elijah's sustenance at Cherith by means of ravens has given occasion to much fanciful speculation. It has been attempted to show that the 'orebim ("ravens") were the people of Orbo, a small town near Cherith; this theory has been well answered by Reland (Palest. ii, 913). Others have found in the ravens merely merchants; while Michaelis has attempted to show that Elijah merely plundered the ravens' nests of hares and other game! Keil (Comment. on 1 Kings 17) makes the following just observation: "The text knows nothing of bird-catching and nest-robbing, but acknowledges the Lord and Creator of the creatures, who commanded the ravens to provide his servant with bread and flesh." It has also been well replied that an animal unfit for food or sacrifice did not necessarily defile what it touched. "An ass was as unclean as a raven; yet no one was polluted by riding on an ass, or by eating that which an ass had carried." An objection more to the point would be that the flesh which ravens would bring would leave the prophet no opportunity of being satisfied that it was such as he could legally receive; either that it was the flesh of a clean beast, or, if so, that it had not died with the blood undrained. But to this, too, the answer is obvious: if Jehovah could so restrain and overrule the instincts of these voracious birds as to make them minister to his servant, he could also take care that they should select nothing but what was fit, and he could give Elijah confidence that it was so. Some, however, understand Arabs to be there meant. SEE ELIJAH.
The raven belongs to the order Insessores, family Corvidoe. The raven is so generally confounded with the carrion crow that even in the works of naturalists the figure of the latter has sometimes been substituted for that of the former, and the manners of both have been mixed up together. They are, it is true, very similar, belonging to the same Linnaean genus, Corvus, nand having the same intensely black color; but the raven is the larger, weighing about three pounds; has proportionally a smaller head, and a bill fuller and stouter at the point. Its black color is more iridescent (hence the comparison to the bridegroom's locks, Song of Solomon v, 11), with gleams of purple passing into green, while that of the crow is more steel- blue; the raven is also gifted with greater sagacity; may be taught to articulate words; is naturally observant and solitary; lives in pairs; has a most acute scent; and flies to a great height. Unlilke the crow, which is gregarious in its habits, the raven will not even suffer its young, from the moment they can shift for themselves, to remain within its haunt; and, therefore, though a bird found in nearly all countries, it is nowhere abundant (Bochart, Hieroz. ii, 796 sq.; Kimchi on Psalm 14:7). Whether the raven of Palestine is the common species, or the Corvus montanus of Temminck, is not quite determinedl; for there is of the ravens, or greater form of crows, a smaller group including two or three others, all similar in manners, and unlike the carrion crows (Corvus corrone, Linn.), which are gregarious, and seemingly identical in both hemispheres. Sometimes a pair of ravens will descend without fear among a flight of crows, take possession of the carrion that may have attracted them, and keep the crows at a distance till they themselves are gorged. (Comp. Horace, Ep. i, 16, 48; Aristoph. Thesmoph. 942). The habits of the whole genus typified by the name 'oreb render it unclean in the Hebrew law; and the malignant, ominous expression of the raven, together with the color of its plumage, powers of voice, and solitary habits, are the causes of that universal and often superstitious attention with which mankind have ever regarded it.
In the mythological history of the Gentiles, we find the appellation of Ravens bestowed upon an oracular order of priesthood. In Egypt, it seems, the temples of Ammon were served by such — perhaps those priests that occur in the catacombs playing on harps, and clothed in black. More than one temple in Greece had similar raven priests. It was the usual symbol of slaughter among the Scandinavians; and a raven banner belonged to the Danes. and also to the Saxons; one occurs amomng the ensigns of the Normans in the Bayeux tapestry; and it was formerly a custom in the Benedictine abbeys on the Continent to maintain in a very large cage a couple of ravens, where several are recorded to have lived above fifty years. The Raven of the Sea, that ominous bird in Northern mythology, is properly the cormorant — the morvran of the Celts. Jewish and Arabian writers tell strange stories of this bird and its cruelty to its young; hence, say some, the Lord's express care for the young ravens after they had been driven out of the nests by the parent birds; but this belief in the raven's want of affection to its young is entirely without foundation. To the fact of the raven being a common bird in Palestine, and to its habit of flying restlessly about in constant search for food to satisfy its voracious appetite, may, perhaps, be traced the reason for its being selected by our Lord and the inspired writers as the especial object of God's providing care. There is something weird and shrewd in the expression of the raven's countenance; a union of cunning and malignity, which may have contributed to give it among widely severed nations, and in remote ages, a character for preternatural knowledge. Its black hue — the hue of night and of mourning — its recluse, solitary suspicion, and its harsh croak have no doubt increased its uncanny reputation. Certain it is that the "infausta cornix" has long been feared and hated as the messenger of evil and the prognosticator of death, while the Romans dedicated it to Apollo as the god of divination. An anonymous writer familiar with the habits of the bird has ingeniously suggested an explanation of its divining power. "The smell of death is so grateful to them that they utter a loud croak of satisfaction instantly on perceiving it. In passing over sheep, if a tainted smell is perceptible, they cry vehemently. From this propensity in the raven to announce his satisfaction in the smell of death has probably arisen the common notion that he is aware of its approach among the human race, and foretells it by his croakings. I have no doubt the idea is fosunded in truth, although I think the coming event is not communicated to the raven by any immediate or supernatural impulse, but that in passing over a human habitation from which a sickly or cadaverous smell may escape, it is perfectly natural for him to announce his percepltion of it by his cries" (Zoologist, p. 217). The shepherd has a better reason for calling the raven a bird of ill omen. A more vigilant or more cruel enemy to the flock can hardly exist, and it frequently makes its ferocious assaults on the yet living victim. See Wood, Bible Animals, p. 439 sq.; Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 198 sq.