The Hoopoe in the Bible

And the Bird in Legend

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Legends of the Hoopoe

Respecting the crest of the hoopoe there is a curious old legend. As is the case with most of the Oriental legends, it introduces the name of King Solomon, who, according to Oriental notions, was a mighty wizard rather than a wise king, and by means of his seal, on which was engraven the mystic symbol of Divinity, held sway over the birds, the beasts, the elements, and even over the Jinns and Afreets, i.e. the good and evil spirits, which are too ethereal for the material world and too gross for the spiritual, and therefore hold the middle place between them.



On one of his journeys across the desert, Solomon was perishing from the heat of the sun, when the Hoopoes came to his aid, and flew in a dense mass Over his head, thus forming a shelter from the fiery sunbeams. Grateful for this assistance, the monarch told the Hoopoes to ask for a boon, and it should be granted to them. The birds, after consulting together, agreed to ask that from that time every Hoopoe should wear a crown of gold like Solomon himself. The request was immediately granted, and each Hoopoe found itself adorned with a royal crown. At first, while their honours were new, great was the joy of the birds, who paused at every little puddle of water to contemplate themselves, bowing their heads over the watery mirror so as to display the crown to the best advantage.

Soon, however, they found cause to repent of their ambition. The golden crown became heavy and wearisome to them, and besides, the wealth bestowed on the birds rendered them the prey of every fowler. The unfortunate Hoopoes were persecuted in all directions for the sake of their golden crowns, which they could neither take off nor conceal.

At last, the few survivors presented themselves before Solomon, and begged him to rescind his fatal gift, which he did by substituting a crest of feathers for the crown of gold. The Hoopoe, however, never forgets its former grandeur, and is always bowing and bending itself as it used to do when contemplating its golden crown in the water.

The Hoopoe in the Bible

IN the two parallel chapters, Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, there occurs the name of a bird which is translated in the Authorized Version of the bible as Lapwing: 'And the stork, the heron after her kind, the lapwing, and the bat.'

The Hebrew word is dukiphath, and various interpretations have been proposed for it, some taking it to be the common domestic fowl, others the cock-of-the-woods, or capercaillie, while others have preferred to translate it as Hoopoe. The Jewish Bible retains the word lapwing, but adds the mark of doubt. Commentators are, however, agreed that of all these interpretations, that which renders word as Hoopoe is the best.

There would be no particular object in the prohibition of such a bird as the lapwing, or any of its kin, while there would be good reason for the same injunction with regard to the Hoopoe.

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