The eagle is arguably the most incredible bird that was created. It has so many unique attributes that make it incomparable. From its exemplary vision coupled with its swift flight to its ability to molt and renew itself, this incredible bird can have lots of spiritual significance. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Bible uses it in different contexts to portray different messages.
Depending on the context, eagles can symbolize three things in the Bible. First, eagles symbolize God’s protection. Secondly, eagles symbolize spiritual (or physical renewal). Thirdly, Eagels symbolize God’s judgment.
Let’s take a look at each of these symbols in more detail below:
Eagles as a symbol of God’s protection
The eagle goes to great lengths to protect her eggs and eaglets. For starters, the eagle builds her nest on a cliff far away from the reach of any predator. Just in case a predator somehow reaches her nest, the eagle fortifies the nest with thorns and sharp twigs on the exterior walls to deter any would-be predators. When it is finally time to train her eaglets to fly, Mother Eagle throws them off the cliff and then swoops in to catch them on her wings just before they hit the ground. After a couple of these maneuvers, the eaglets learn to fly. This is the symbolism that God alludes to in the book of Exodus when he refers to carrying Israel on his wings.
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:4
Even though the metaphor isn’t used prevalently in the Pentateuch, it is evident that God carried them on his wings. In this case, Israel was like the young eaglets that were struggling to fly and god was like the loving mother that came to their rescue whenever they were in dire need. Here are a couple of illustrations of how God Carried them on his wings:
- Through the 10 plagues that eventually led to their release from Egypt (Exodus 7-10)
- God provides food (quail and manna) (Exodus 16)
- Provision of water in the wilderness (Exodus 17:1-7)
- God heals them from snake bites (Numbers 21)
- God helps them to conquer the impregnable Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)
The metaphor of stirring up the nest is also used in Deuteronomy.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. Deut. 32:11-12
This is in reference to how the eagle will remove the fluffy material from the nest after the eaglets are of age. By so doing, the eaglets will start getting pricked with the twigs and the discomfort will force them to venture outside the nest. This is a necessary step for them to learn to fly. However, as they attempt to leave the nest, they will inevitably fall but the mother will catch them and carry them on her wings to ensure they do not hit the ground.
God exposed Israel to a lot of uncomfortable situations as a way of forcing them to grow into their inheritance. For instance, they were so used to eating the food of slavery that when they were faced with hunger in the wilderness, they started craving the fish, onions, and other foods of Egypt (Numbers 11). But as the Bible records, God caused them to hunger in order to teach them that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Deut.8:3).
Eagles as a Metaphor for Renewal
When an eagle grows old, he goes through a 40-day period of renewal. He does this by plucking his old feathers and then hibernating on a cliff until new feathers grow back. This gives the Eagle a new lease of life and he is able to fly and hunt like a young eagle again. This is the imagery adopted when the Bible uses the eagle as a metaphor for spiritual renewal. In the book of Psalms, the Psalmist writes:
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalms 103:5
This scripture illustrates that just as the eagle molts and becomes new, the believer can also “molt” and experience spiritual renewal. If you go through a season of “dryness”, you can believe God for spiritual renewal which He will readily provide. Another scripture that uses the eagle as a metaphor for Renewal is found in the book of Isaiah:
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
This verse emphasizes the spiritual vitality and endurance that God provides, drawing a parallel between believers and eagles’ ability to soar above challenges. Just like the eagle is not afraid of a storm, the believer will also soar above the storms that life throws in their general direction. And just like the eagle, the believer will not grow tired but will renew their strength in God. .
Eagle as an image of God’s Judgement
The Bible, especially also uses the eagle as a symbol of God’s looming judgment. The first indication we have of this is recorded in the Gospel of Mathew. While speaking about the return of Jesus to rapture the church, he uses the following proverb;
Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures (or eagles) will gather. Matthew 24:28.
Jesus was cryptically referring to the divine judgment that will come. Just as eagles and vultures are drawn to carrion, so too will divine justice be brought to bear on the unfaithful.
Another use of Eagles to illustrate judgment is found in the book of Revelation.
Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, p“Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow! Rev. 8:13
John the Revelator saw an Eagle flying in mid-heaven white proclaiming several woes that would come on earth during the tribulation. The cry of the eagle (woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on earth) shows that the eagle was used as a divine warning of the looming judgment.
For the most part, eagles are known as symbols of spiritual renewal and spiritual strength. While these symbolisms are accurate, it is also worth noting that eagles are also used as symbols of God’s judgment. The image of the eagle should therefore remind the Christian to live a life worthy of their calling because the hour of judgement is near.