Creation Of Fishes And Birds Genesis 1:20

Genesis 1:20

The earth has now become a delightful abode, but it is entirely without inhabitants. Two days more shall people it with animals, and the water itself, which has hitherto been the obstacle of production, shall be first of all rendered productive. 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.” And the effect of this creative word is recorded with some variations, which it may be well to note. “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.”

In connection with the remark, offered yesterday as to the use of the word made, as distinguished from that of the word created, the reader will not fail to observe, that now again, when the statement has reference to a direct calling into existence of that which did not previously in any form exist, the latter word is again employed.

Milton scarcely anywhere, in so narrow a compass, indicates his profound knowledge of biblical lore, as in the version he has given of the first clause of the Divine mandate uttered on the fifth day of creation -

“Let the waters generate
Reptile with spawn abundant.”

He knew that the word translated “moving creature,” was not “moving,” or “creeping” (as elsewhere rendered), but rapidly multiplying or “swarming creatures,” - in short, to all kinds of living creatures, inhabiting the waters, which are oviparous, and remarkable for fecundity, as we know is eminently the case with the finny tribes. In other passages of Scripture it is applied even to the smaller land animals and reptiles noted for their swarming abundance. The word translated “moving creature,” is in fact the noun of the very verb which, in the same verse, is rendered “to bring forth abundantly.” Thus we see, that the immense numbers of these creatures, the astonishing fecundity with which they were endowed, is the prevalent idea of this description. Indeed, there is no phrase in human language in which, both by noun and verb, this idea could be more forcibly expressed, than in the Hebrew original. And yet all language fails to convey an idea of the amazing extent of that “abundance” in bringing forth, with which these creatures were endowed on the day of their creation. This is, of course, more remarkable in some species than in others - and is most obvious to our notice in the immense shoals of herrings, pilchards, and mackerel upon our own shores. Many other species are  probably equally prolific; but not being of gregarious habits, are not seen together in such vast numbers, and are in consequence less easily taken. But any one who attempts to estimate the number of eggs in the roes of various kinds of fish, may form some faint conception of the degree in which the sea generates “reptiles with spawn abundant.” The old microscopist Leuwenhoek gave estimates which the mind could scarcely grasp. The greater accuracy of modern research has somewhat moderated his statements; but enough remains to fill the mind with astonishment. Thus the roe of a codfish has been found to contain nine millions of eggs; of a flounder, nearly a million and half; of a mackerel, half a million; of tenches, three hundred and fifty thousand; of the carp, from one to six hundred thousand; of the roach and sole, a hundred thousand; of herrings, perches, and smelts, twenty and thirty thousand; lobsters, from seven to twenty thousand; shrimps and prawns, above three thousand. In fact, scarcely a month passes in which the reader may not gather, from the commonest sources, some facts showing the enormous productiveness of fish. At one time we are told that a hundred thousand mackerel are, in the season, brought weekly to the London fish-market (Billingsgate); another time we hear that herrings or pilchards have been caught so abundantly, as to have no market-value except as manure - for which purpose they are carted away, in tens and hundreds of thousands, by the farmers near the coast. Look, then, at the sprats, the white bait, the shrimps, and consider what hecatombs of these minute existences are sacrificed to help the dinner of a Dives, or to form the supper of a Lazarus.

Nor, if we look at the text, does this function of bringing forth abundantly, apply only to the inmates of the waters, but is extended to the inhabitants of the air. And how truly! Look at the countless number - millions on millions - of the eggs of one species of bird only, that are consumed in the London market, and consider that nearly all these might, in the course of nature, become birds, did not man  interfere; and hence form some idea of the marvellous productiveness of the feathered tribes. Still more, the vast shoals of fish have a most exact parallel in the immense flocks of some kinds of birds. The Passenger Pigeon of North America, has been seen in flocks a mile broad, that took four hours in passing, at the rate of a mile a minute; and which have been reckoned, on these data, to contain about two thousand and a quarter millions of birds. So Captain Flinders, in that remarkable voyage, one of the bird-facts in which a poet of our own day has immortalized, Note: James Montgomery, in his Pelican Island.] saw a flock of petrels, three hundred yards or more broad, and fifty to eighty yards deep, flying as compactly as their wings could move, and that took an hour and a half in passing, at the rate of thirty miles an hour. This immense body was reckoned to comprise a hundred and fifty millions of birds. So, in the Antarctic regions, the ground is sometimes covered to the extent of two or three miles, with millions of that strange bird, the penguin; and when the purple grackle of America assembles for migration, a congregated multitude of many hundred thousands is at once present to the view.

A valuable writer, in a work which embodies a vast body of curious, but not well-digested, nor always accurate facts, well remarks on this subject, Note: Sharon Turner, in his Sacred History of the World.] - “The quantity of individuals of the various bird genera which are at any one time, and at all times, existing in our world, surpasses not only our usual supposition, but even all power of human numeration, at least as to any real distinct conception of the amount; for we can only pen down the words millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions, and such other augmentative terms, in which all actual comprehension soon becomes lost in mere verbal sounds.”

Thus has been fulfilled, in these creatures, the great command, which became to them the law of their being - “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”