Bad Birds!

Source: George W.E. Nickelsburg, “Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times,” Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, ed. Michael E. Stone (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 42.

“Sarah’s suffering [in Tobit] is caused by the demon Asmodaeus, Tobit’s blindness is caused by sparrows. For birds as instruments of Satan, cf. Jub. 11:19-24.”

The Satan part of the Jubilees passage actually occurs in v 10: “And the prince Mastêmâ sent ravens and birds to devour the seed which was sown in the land, in order to destroy the land, and rob the children of men of their labours.”

I wonder about the role of birds in various movies I’ve seen. First, there’s Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Were they Satanic? No, but they were mean and destructive. I think they were mad at that one woman for bringing songbirds in a cage, so they launched a mass protest against the captivity of their own kind. But Alfred Hitchcock is playing to something within us that doesn’t like birds.

Second, there’s Stephen King’s The Dark Half, in which birds take away the evil side of an author. There, the birds do good in that they defeat the bad guy.

Third, there’s the bird on the Passion of the Christ, who takes out the eye of one of the malefactors on the cross. A former nun at Jewish Theological Seminary once said that this is a common medieval Christian motif, though I don’t remember her precise words on this topic.

Can God use Satan to accomplish good? That would explain how the birds in the Dark Half and the Passion happen to do God’s will, assuming that Stephen King and Mel Gibson are familiar with the motif of birds as Satan’s emissaries. The answer is “yes.” In Revelation 9, God uses the scorpions of Apollyon to execute his judgment. Apollyon is the lord of the bottomless pit, which is the abode of demons and the source of the Beast (Luke 8:31; Revelation 11:7).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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