The eagle is one of the prime creatures mentioned in the Bible for different reasons and lessons. You may have come across a couple of passages and kept on wondering what the eagle represents in those specific contexts. To help you answer that and many other questions you may have, here is a look at the eagle from a biblical perspective. So what does an eagle symbolize in the bible?
What You'll Learn Today
The Eagle as the Image of God
Throughout the Bible, the eagle is synonymous with God and his abilities. Both the Old and New Testament mentions the eagle as it was probably one of the common creatures in the Jewish land where the Bible is set.
In the Book of Exodus 19:4, the Bible says,
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
The picture created here is that of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt and taking them to the promised land. Along the way in the wilderness, we don’t see Israelites being carried on eagles wings, but rather see God providing for them from one stage to the next in their journey.
In Deuteronomy 32:11, Moses draws an interesting symbol of God’s work in His people using the eagle as the creature of choice. This is what it says,
“Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions.”
The pinions are the outer wings of the eagle. The symbol here is that God caused Israel to come out of captivity, supported them in the wilderness, and continues to support them to date.
The Eagle Symbolizing Strength
In Psalm 103:5, the Bible talks of the renewal of strength so that we can be like eagles. This imagery shows how the author perceived the eagle as far as its strength attributes were concerned. This is what the Bible says,
“who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
In the Book of Isaiah 40:31, the prophet depicts God as an eagle with reference to its strength. This is what it says,
“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”
Punishment Against Israel and Judah
God loves his people and is ready to sacrifice anything for their wellbeing. However, what he needs from them is obedience to him. Through prophets, God warned the people of Israel and Judah that if they do not obey the laws and commandments that he had given them, they will be picked up by their enemies and removed from their land.
In some of these prophesies, God used an eagle as the creature of punishment symbolizing the enemy that comes to destroy the wellbeing of His people.
In the Book of Jeremiah 4:13, the Bible reads:
“Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!”
Similarly, in Deuteronomy 28:49, the Bible warns that if the nation of Israel continues worshiping idols and does not repent even after a series of warnings, God will send a nation against them. The way in which the enemy will come down upon them is characterized by the swooping move of an eagle.
This is what it says,
“The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand.”
The prophet Habakkuk emphasizes on the punishment to be meted on Israel if they refuse to repent. It speaks of the coming enemy in almost the same way as that of Moses in Deuteronomy.
In Habakkuk 1:8, the prophet says,
“Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour.”
The Eagle as God Punishment for The Oppressors of His People
God is protective and will guard his people with everything that it takes. Inasmuch as he uses the nations to punish his people if they sin and refuse to repent, he can also reverse the punishment and go after the nations that oppress his people.
The language that he uses focuses on the swooping movement of the eagle as he targets the surrounding nations. In Jeremiah 49:22, the Bible explicitly writes about the punishment that should be visited upon Edom and Bozrah.
This is what the prophet says:
“Look! An eagle will soar and swoop down, spreading its wings over Bozrah. In that day the hearts of Edom’s warriors will be like the heart of a woman in labor.”
In the Book of Obadiah 1:4, God declares himself as the superior most being able to counter the machinations of the enemy. The Bible says,
“Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.”
The Eagle as a Symbol of God’s Protection
God is the utmost king and ruler of the universe. He has immense power to destroy, to protect, and to ensure that his people are safe. Thanks to his sovereignty, God is never affected by the conditions surrounding us.
Therefore, he is at a vantage point when it comes to protecting his people. In Psalm 91:1-4, the author pens down what is to date one of the clearest psalms when it comes to God’s protection.
This is what it says,
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust! For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”
The eagle is a majestic bird with a weight that can go up to 15 pounds and a lifespan extending up to 40 years. Of all bird species, the eagles are the most attentive parents and like doves, the greatest teachers for their young ones.
The significance of the eagle in the Bible touches on several aspects of God including his own image. God covers us and shadows us and hides us. He allows us to soar like eagles and protects us against advancing enemies.