In the Bible, the term fowl was likely used as a generic term to refer to all types of birds. The Bible often uses the translated word fowl to refer to eagles, pigeons, crows, hens, turkeys, ducks, and other types of winged animals – both edible birds and birds of prey.
A number of Greek and Hebrew terms are translated into the English word “fowl,” the most commonly used is עוֹף, or oph. This word is used all throughout the Old Testament and a similar word is used just once in the New Testament.
Mentions of Fowl in the Bible
As mentioned, fowl is used most notably in the Old Testament (73 times) and once in the New Testament to refer to all different types of birds. Let’s look at a handful of mentions of fowl from the King James version:
- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Genesis 1:20)
- And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21)
- Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. (Genesis 8:19)
- You shall therefore make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean fowl and the clean: and you shall not make yourselves abominable by animal… (Leviticus 20:25)
- And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. (1 Samuel 17:44)
- But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee… (Job 12:7)
- And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy. (Jeremiah 15:3)
- Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26)
These are just a few of the mentions of fowl, but it’s clear throughout the KJV version of the Old Testament, this was the generic word of choice when translating most mentions of birds or winged animals. And they were seen as unclean, much like frogs.
Spiritual Significance of Fowls
I think it would be a stretch to say birds of the air signify or symbolize anything specific throughout the scriptures. The one place the term fowl is used in a metaphor is in Matthew 6, where Jesus is encouraging people with the truth that He cares deeply about His people, and will provide for them all of their needs.
The only other place we see birds carry significance would be within sects of witchcraft, where they’re often seen as mystical beings who communicate to us and may even help us make necessary life changes.
But the Bible certainly doesn’t communicate any such symbolism. We should see fowl as reminders our Father knows us, cares for us, and will provide for us exactly what we need in Him.