There is a bird mentioned in the Old Testament,
which, although its name is only given twice, is a very interesting bird
to all students of the Scriptures, both passages giving an insight into
the manners and customs of the scarcely changing East. This is the bird
called in the Hebrew Kore, a word which has been generally accepted as
signifying some kind of Partridge There is no doubt that, like most
other Hebrew names of animated beings, the word is a collective one, signifying
a considerable number of species.
The Partridge upon the
The first passage occurs in 1 Samuel 26:20.
When David was being pursued by Saul, and had been forced to escape from
the city and hide himself in the rocky valleys, he compared himself to
the Partridge, which frequented exactly the same places: 'The
king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge
upon the mountains.'
The Desert Partridge
and its Habits
The appositeness of this simile is perfect.
The bird to which David alluded was in all probability the Desert Partridge,
a species which especially haunts rocky and desert places, and even at
the present day is exceedingly plentiful around the area of the Cave of
The way in which the males often call or
challenge each other is a peculiarity that has earned for the bird the
Hebrew name of Kore, or ' the caller'. Its habit of running at great speed
toward rocky openings which can serve as a hideaway when chased demonstrates
how close the parallel was between this bird and David, who was forced,
like the Partridge, to seek for refuge in the rocky caves.
Hunting the Partridge
But the parallel becomes even closer when
we come to examine the full meaning of the passage. The Partridge is at
the present day hunted in some mountainous regions of the world exactly
as was the case in the time of David. The hunters are often boys, who provide
themselves with a supply of stout sticks-about eighteen inches in length,
and, armed with these, they chase the birds, hurling the sticks one after
the other along the ground, so as to strike the Partridge as it runs. Generally,
several hunters chase the same bird, some of them throwing the sticks along
the ground, while others hurl them just above the bird, so that if it should
take to flight, it may be struck as it rises into the air. By pertinaciously
chasing an individual bird, the hunters tire it, and contrive to come so
close that they are certain to strike it.
Basic as this mode of bird-hunting may
seem, it is effective even against birds far more active on the wing than
the Partridge. It has been used to kill Snip in the New Forest in England.
Squirrels have been chased and killed in a similar manner, except that
the 'bolts,' or the sticks for squirrel-hunting, were weighted with lead
at one end.
It can therefore be seen how perfect is
the Image. Driven from the city, David was forced to wander, together
with the Desert Partridge, upon the hill-sides, and, like that bird, his
final refuge is the rock. Then came the hunters and pursued him, driving
him from place to place, as the boys hunt the Partridge, until he was weary
of his life, and exclaimed in his despair, 'I
shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.'
Eggs of the Partridge
The second passage in which the word kore
found occurs in Jer. xvii. 11: '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.' The
marginal reading of this passage gives the sense in a slightly different
form, and commences the verse as follows: 'As
the partridge gathereth (young) which she hath not brought forth, so he...'
The Jewish Bible gives the whole passage rather differently from both these
readings: 'A partridge hatching
what it hath not laid (or borne), is he that getteth (or maketh) riches,
and not by right (or judgment): he shall leave them in the midst (or half)
of his days, and at his end shall be base.'
Taking all these readings, and comparing
them with the original, with each other, and with the context, we can have
but little doubt that reference is made by the prophet to the number of
unborn, i.e. unhatched, eggs on which the Partridge sits, but which
are so often taken from her before they can be hatched. Just as hunting
the Partridge is an acknowledged sport among the inhabitants of the uncultivated
parts of the Holy Lands, so is searching for the eggs of the bird a regular
business at the proper time of year.
The Partridges of the Holy Lands are, like
those of our the UK, exceedingly prolific birds, laying a wonderful number
of eggs, more than twenty being sometimes found in a single nest. These
eggs are used for food, and the consumption of them is very great, so that
many a Partridge has been deprived of her expected family: she has sat
upon eggs, and hatched them not.
Of these birds several species inhabit
The Holy Land. There is, for example, the Desert Partridge, which has already
been mentioned. It is beautifully, though not brilliantly, coloured, and
may be known by the white spot behind the eye, the purple and chestnut
streaks on the sides, and the orange bill and legs. These, however, soon
lose their colour after death.
The 19th Century biblical scholar, HB Tristram
suggested, with much probability, that the Francolin, or Black Partridge
of India, and the Sand-Grouse, may be included among the number of the
birds which are included under the common name of Kore. The latter bird
is extremely common in The Holy Land, and, in all probability, was classed
by the Jewish writers of old who may not have been too observant, with
the true Partridge.