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Birds of the Bible – The Bat?

And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. (Leviticus 11:19-20 KJV) and
And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Deuteronomy 14:18 KJV)

Townsends Big-eared Bat from Wikipedia

These verses show up at the end of the list of “unclean birds.” I have heard people say or write that since the Bat is not a bird, that make the Scriptures incorrect and not true. Let’s look at this a little closer. For one thing, the following verses go on to mention “fowls that go upon all fours” and other critters that are not birds. “Fowl” in the Bible refers to being covered with wings and that includes birds, bats, insects, and others that fly.

Here is what some of the commentators say about these verses.

Gill – “and the bat; a little bird which flies in the night, Aben Ezra says; Kimchi (s) describes it a mouse with wings, which flies in the night, and we sometimes call it the “flitter mouse”; it is a creature between a fowl and a beast; and, as Aristotle says (t), it partakes of both, and is of neither; and it is the only fowl, as Pliny (u) observes, that has teeth and teats, that brings forth animals, and nourishes them with milk. It is a creature so very disagreeable, that one would think almost there was no need of a law to forbid the eating of it; and yet it is said by some to be eatable, and to be eaten, as Strabo (w) affirms, yea, to be delicious food. It is asserted (x), that there is a sort of them in the east, larger than ordinary, and is salted and eaten–that there are bats in China as large as pullets, and are as delicate eating.”

Dan holding a bat at Avon Park AF Range

Clarke – “The bat – עטלף atalleph, so called, according to Parkhurst, from עט at, to fly, and עלף alaph, darkness or obscurity, because it flies about in the dusk of the evening, and in the night: so the Septuagint νυκτερις, from νυξ, the night; and the Vulgate vespertilio, from vesper, the evening. This being a sort of monster partaking of the nature of both a bird and beast, it might well be classed among unclean animals, or animals the use of which in food should be avoided.” “Lev 11:20 All fowls that creep – Such as the bat, already mentioned, which has claws attached to its leathern wings, and which serve in place of feet to crawl by, the feet and legs not being distinct; but this may also include all the different kinds of insects, with the exceptions in the following verse.”

JFB – “the bat — the great or Ternat bat, known in the East, noted for its voracity and filthiness.” Lev 11:20 All fowls that creep, etc. — By “fowls” here are to be understood all creatures with wings and “going upon all fours,” not a restriction to animals which have exactly four feet, because many “creeping things” have more than that number. The prohibition is regarded generally as extending to insects, reptiles, and worms.”

Here are some interesting facts about the bat (not a bird) from Wikipedia:

1) Bats are flying mammals in the order Chiroptera (pronounced /kaɪˈrɒptərə/). The forelimbs of bats are webbed and developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums and colugos, glide rather than fly, and only for short distances. Bats do not flap their entire forelimbs, as birds do, but instead flap their spread out digits, which are very long and covered with a thin membrane or patagium. Chiroptera comes from two Greek words, cheir (χείρ) “hand” and pteron (πτερόν) “wing.”

Fruit Bat at Avon Park AF Range

2) There are about 1,100 bat species worldwide. About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species feed from animals other than insects. Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plants depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.
3) Bats range in size from Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat measuring 29–33 mm (1.14–1.30 in) in length and 2 g (0.07 oz) in mass,[4] to the Giant Golden-crowned Flying-fox, which has a wing span of 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) and weighs approximately 1.2 kg (3 lb).
4) Bat echolocation is a perceptual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat’s surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localize and even classify their prey in complete darkness. At 130 decibels in intensity, bat calls are some of the most intense airborne animal sounds.
5) The finger bones of bats are much more flexible than those of other mammals. One reason is that the cartilage in their fingers lacks calcium and other minerals nearer the tips, increasing their ability to bend without splintering. The cross-section of the finger bone is also flattened compared to the circular cross section that human finger bones have, and is very flexible. The skin on their wing membranes has more elasticity and so can stretch much more than other mammals. The wings of bats are much thinner than those of birds, so bats can manoeuvre more quickly and more accurately than birds. It is also delicate, ripping easily. However the tissue of the bat’s membrane is able to regrow, such that small tears can heal quickly.
6) The teeth of microbats resemble insectivorans. They are very sharp to bite through the hardened armor of insects or the skin of fruit.
7) Mammals have one-way valves in veins to prevent the blood from flowing backwards, but bats also have one-way valves in arteries.
8) One species of bat has the longest tongue of any mammal relative to its body size. This is beneficial to them in terms of pollination and feeding their long narrow tongues can reach deep into the long cup shape of some flowers. When their tongue retracts, it coils up inside their rib cage.

God has graciously created the Bat to fulfill its role in doing His will. He has given it exactly what it needs. To some, it may seem a contradiction, but to those of us who believe in creation, there is no conflict.

Below is something we read recently from Comments on Here and Hereafter by Bob Jones, Sr., p. 79-80.

“The animals and fowls decided to have a battle, so the story goes. The animals lined up one one side and the fowls on the other. In the crowd was a little bat. The animals came upon the bat, and he dropped his wings, showed his teeth and said, ‘I am an animal.’ the fowls came upon the bat. He stretched his wings and said, ‘I am a fowl.’ I have known people like the bat. Whatever crowd they are in, that is what they are. They are like the chameleon. They are colored by their surroundings. God’s people, instead of being affected by their surroundings, should affect their surroundings. A good, consecrated Christian who will be faithful to his trust will have some influence upon his environment.”