The Lammergeier identified as the Ossifrage of the Bible

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The Lammergeier may safely be identified with the Ossifrage of Christian Biblical Scripture. The Hebrew word is 'Peres,' a term which only occurs twice when signifying a species of bird, namely, in Leviticus xi. 13, and the parallel passage in Deuteronomy xiv. 12.
The first of these passages runs as follows: "These ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey." The corresponding passage in Deuteronomy has precisely the same signification, though rather differently worded: "These are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey."

It can be noticed that the Biblical narrative gives no account of the appearance or habits of the bird, but merely classes it with the remainder of the predacious birds, all of which are declared to be unfit for food. We must therefore look for some assistance in the etymology of the word peres, which signifies one who breaks anything. The same word occurs in several other passages of the Bible.

For example, the word was much used by David in commemorating any remarkable event. When David sent Uzzah and Ahio to fetch the ark from Kirjath-jearim, the oxen which drew the cart stumbled and shook the ark, so that it seemed likely to fall. Uzzah, who walked by the side of the cart, while his brother marched in front of the oxen, instinctively put out his hand to support the toppling cart, and fell dead by the side of the ark which he had touched without authority. In order to commemorate this event, David called the spot where this had occurred Perez-Uzzah, or the Breaking of Uzzah, "because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah." (See 2 Sam. vi. 8.)

Reference to this event was afterwards made by David when he brought the ark into Jerusalem. Having taken warning by the solemn event which he had witnessed, he called together the priests and Levites, to whom he gave the commission to bring the ark with due honour, and said unto them, "Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For, because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach (peres) upon us, for that we sought Him not in due order" (1 Chron. xv. 12, 13). David again employed the word to signify the breaking up or destruction of the Philistines: "David smote them there, and said, 'the LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-perazim" - meaning the Place of Breakings. The same word occurs again in the dread message to Belshazzar, written by the hand upon the wall "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin," or peres, the last word signifying that the kingdom was broken up, and would be given to other rulers.

The word peres, then, signifies a breaker; and the Latin term Ossifraga, or Bone-breaker, is a very good translation of the word. How it applies to the Lammergeier can be seen in the bird's Flight and Feeding.
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