Sparrow. Sparrow is the name given to several different species of birds in the Bible. They ate grain and insects and gathered in noisy flocks. The psalmist wrote, “I… am like a sparrow alone on the housetop” (Ps. 102:7). These tiny birds were such social creatures that a lone sparrow was the symbol of deep loneliness.

Sparrows build their untidy nests in the eaves of houses. Sparrows were not driven away when they built their nests in the Temple (Ps. 84:3).
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Spider. Hundreds of different species of spiders are found in the Holy Land. A spider’s skill at spinning threads into a web is one of nature’s miracles. The fragile web of a spider is used to demonstrate the folly of placing confidence in something other than the stable, dependable God (Job 8:14).
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The sponge is a plant-like animal that lives on the ocean floor. It absorbs nourishment from water passing through its body. When a sponge is removed from water, the cells die, leaving a skeleton. The skeletons of some sponges are flexible and porous. These have been used for centuries as cleaning and water-absorbing tools. Such a sponge, dipped in sour wine, was offered to Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; John 19:29).
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This goose-sized bird looks ungainly in flight, with its legs dangling and its wings slowly flapping. But people in Palestine were always glad to see the storks on their yearly migration from Europe to Africa. Storks had the reputation of bringing good luck. If they were numerous, surely crops would be good. Farmers welcomed storks because they helped their crops by eating insects.

Both black and white storks were often seen in Palestine. White storks nest as high as possible– often on chimneys. But since houses in the Holy Land had low, flat roofs, they nested instead in the fir trees (Ps. 104:17). In spite of their commendable features, storks were considered unclean (Lev. 11:19; Deut. 14:18).
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The swallow is a migratory bird quite familiar to residents of the Holy Land. Frequently on the move to warmer climates, swallows gather in huge flocks to travel thousands of miles. A chattering flock can make quite a racket (Is. 38:14). The psalmist makes an interesting distinction between the sparrow, who finds a home, and the swallow, who gets a nest (Ps. 84:3). Only a permanent resident needs a home. Some translations render the Hebrew word for swallow as thrush (Jer. 8:7), (NIV, NASB) or wryneck (Jer. 8:7), (NEB).
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Swans are seen occasionally in Palestine. As vegetarians, they are related to ducks and geese. Alternate translations of the Hebrew term for swan include ibis, stork, white owl, and water hen. These are better translations, since there seems to be no reason why swans would have been considered unclean (Lev. 11:18), (KJV).
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The swift is a small migratory bird often confused with the swallow. Although they are similar, the two birds come from different families. Swifts are strong fliers that can travel short distances at over 100 m. p. h. They spend much of their time feeding on airborne insects.
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The association or idea of a pig is an animal which really has no discernment nor desire to live cleanly, rather it highly prefers to live in the filth, and “bathe” itself in this filth. It eats and sleeps and lives happily in its own urine and excrement. The Bible associates this with great uncleanness and displeasure in God’s eyes.

[David Cox]
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