“Those who hope in the LORD shall renew their strength.

They shall mount up with wings like vultures (רֶ שֶׁנ).

They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”

                                                               Isaiah 40:39

A Griffin Vulture in Israel


An Eagle in the Bible Is a Griffin Vulture

The Hebrew word רֶ שֶׁנ (nesher) is wrongly translated as ‘eagle’ in most English Bible translations. Nesher is the Griffin Vulture in Israel.

I think Christians prefer a comparison to an eagle, not a vulture.

But there are three facts about Israel’s giant bird, the Griffin Vulture, that adequately describe those who trust the LORD.


1). The Griffin Vulture must WAIT before it WORKS.

The Griffin vulture flies higher than any other bird on Earth.

It doesn’t flap its wings to get so high. Instead, the vulture waits for the warm thermal air that rises from the Earth as the sun heats the ground.

The Griffin vulture is the king of soaring with thermal currents.

It waits, and then, at the appropriate time, it spreads its massive wings and rides the air.

Most birds fly below 200 feet. But the Griffin vulture can glide effortlessly above 5,000 feet.

In 1973, a griffon vulture collided with a commercial airliner over Africa as the plane flew at 37,900 feet.

That is the highest altitude ever recorded for a bird.

From a perspective in the highest of the heavens, the Griffin vulture can see farther and more precisely than any others.

If we desire to fly high, we must learn to wait on the Spirit of God to move before we work.

Religion has a lot of people flapping their wings to get things done.

Kingdom people who wait (hope) in the LORD glide effortlessly as they move the Earth, doing amazing things for the eternal Kingdom. The effortlessness results from the Spirit’s leading, not the vulture’s flapping.

Wait, then work.


2). The Griffin Vulture is more BOLD than it is BEAUTIFUL.

The Griffin Vulture isn’t pretty like the American Bald Eagle. 

Vultures’ heads are often disproportionately small compared to their bodies.

They sit hunched up with their heads sunk between their shoulders. Compared to an eagle, there’s not much beauty in a vulture.

Isaiah 53 tells us that our Kinsman-Redeemer:

“There’s no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

The Apostle Paul tells us:

“Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

It’s typically not the bronzed and beautiful that soar on the currents of the Spirit.

It’s those available to the King and courageous for the Kingdom.


3). A Griffin Vulture MAKES DEATH DISAPPEAR.

Griffin Vultures gather around death and make it disappear.

Most creatures have to kill to eat, but not Griffin Vultures.

The food of Griffin Vultures has either been killed by natural causes or by other creatures.

So, the Griffin Vultures’ job is to act as nature’s vacuum cleaners.

A Griffin Vulture cleans up and cleanses the mess of the natural world.

They are Nature’s death eater. They rid the Earth of toxicity.

I wonder whether that isn’t an appropriate metaphor for God, too. When John saw Jesus walking towards Him, he said:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

So, too, when Christians do their work, decay and death disappear.

The world depends on salt to prevent decay and light to expel darkness.

For a lesser-known metaphor, the world needs culture vultures who hope in the LORD and fly high, ignoring the sneers and jeers of others while cleaning up the decay of death.


Being compared to a Griffin Vulture might not be the image you prefer, but the actions of Israel’s high-flying bird are ours in Christ’s Kingdom.

Be a Culture Vulture.