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Misc | Bat References from the Bible

Bat References

Leviticus 11: 19
13“And these you shall detest among the birds;a they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle,b the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15every raven of any kind, 16the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Deuteronomy 14: 18
11 You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon,14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

Isaiah 2: 20
20 In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats21 to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.

The bat is mentioned three times in the Bible, twice in the list of unclean creatures and once in a passage in Isaiah, describing the end of all idols. Evidently it was thought a very doleful sort of creature and this is not surprising when we think of its looks. It is a mysterious thing because most people have never seen one and lots of people think it is a bird. Bats are to be found mostly in eastern countries. By day they sleep in temples, caves and tombs and at dusk come out in clouds to scour the surrounding country. Naturally, because they seemed to like ruins, graves and desolate places they got a bad name amongst the ancient people. There were lots of superstitions about them. Some thought they were devils and witches. Some of the Chinese and some of our own people like to eat a kind of bat that lives on fruit. The Hebrew name for bat means "that which flies in the dark."


Everyone knows that a bat is not a bird. Bats are beakless, give birth to live young, and nurse their young with milk until they are self-sufficient. A bat’s wings are featherless, and its body is covered with hair. Based upon such characteristics, scientists classify bats as mammals, not birds. So what does the Bible have to say about these creatures?

Bats are specifically mentioned only three times in Scripture. Isaiah warned Israel of the time when their idols would be cast away “into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth...to the moles and bats” (2:19-20). The other two occurrences are found in the Pentateuch amidst laws regarding clean and unclean animals. In the book of Leviticus, Moses wrote:

“[T]hese you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat” (11:13-19, emp. added).

Deuteronomy 14:11-18 also lists the bat among “birds.” But bats aren’t birds; they are mammals.

According to skeptics, the Bible’s classification of bats as birds represents one of the “scientific difficulties in the Bible” (Petrich, 1990). Such categorization is supposedly “an obvious contradiction between the Bible and Science” (Khalil, 2007). Since “the bat, is, of course, a mammal, not a bird,” McKinsey listed Leviticus 11:19 as a “superb verse to use...to take enlightenment to the biblically benighted” (1995, pp. 744,14, emp. added; see also McKinsey, 2000, p. 213).

Was Moses, who “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22), so uninformed that he could not tell the difference between bats and birds? Was the God, Whom the Bible claims created bats and birds, unable to classify them properly? How is this not “an obvious contradiction between the Bible and Science,” as Ibrahim Khalil asserted?

The elementary answer to these questions is simply that God did not classify animals 3,500 years ago according to our modern classification system. As far back as Creation, God has divided animals into very basic, natural groups. He made aquatic and aerial creatures on day five and terrestrial animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Similarly, in the first 23 verses of Leviticus 11, God divided the creatures into land animals (11:2-8), animals “that are in the water” (11:9-12), “birds” (11:13-19), and flying insects (11:20-23). He did not divide animals into mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In fact, the group of “creeping things” mentioned later in Leviticus 11 (vss. 29-30; cf. Genesis 1:24-25) includes both mammals (e.g., mice) and reptiles (e.g., lizards). Clearly then, God divided animals according to their locomotion and environment rather than whether or not they have hair, lay eggs, and nurse their young.

Still, some may question why the English word “bird” is used for the category in which bats are listed. Why not simply call this group of animals “the flying creatures”? Actually, the term “bird” in Leviticus 11:13 (as well as Genesis 1:20-30) is translated from the Hebrew word ‘ôp, which literally means “flying creatures” (Harris, et al., 1980, p. 654; cf. Brown, et al., 1993). It is derived from ‘ûp, meaning to “fly, fly about, fly away” (Harris, et al., pp. 654-655). That this word is not used solely for “birds” is evident from Leviticus 11:20-23, where it is used with sherets in reference to “winged creeping things” (ASV), i.e., flying insects.

Admittedly, bats and birds have many differences, but one major commonality—the ability to fly—is the very characteristic God used to group them together. Why are no other mammals included in this list? Because “bats are the only mammals capable of true flight” (Jones, n.d.)—another reason why Bible translators have chosen to use the term “birds” in these passages, instead of the more general terms “flying creatures.” The rationale among translators seems to be, “if 99.9% of all ‘flying creatures’ are birds, then we will use the term ‘birds’ to translate the word (‘ôp).” Since Bible students should be very familiar with the figure of speech known as synecdoche (“by which a part is put for the whole”—“Synecdoche,” 2009; see Dungan, 1888, pp. 300-309; cf. Genesis 8:4; 21:7), they should have little trouble understanding why translators continue to use the term “birds” to categorize all the flying creatures, including bats. After all, bats make up a very small percentage of all of the animals that fly.

What’s more, notice that bats are placed at the end of the list of birds and just before the list of flying insects. This placement is entirely proper for the only living “flying creature” that is neither a true bird nor an insect.

To accuse God or the Bible writers of categorizing animals incorrectly based upon Linnaeus’ taxonomy in Systema Naturae (1735), or any other modern method of classifying animals, is tantamount to criticizing people for not organizing their wardrobe or cataloging their books according to your own methods. Whether a person chooses to organize books alphabetically, sequentially, or topically, according to the Dewey Decimal Classification System or the Library of Congress Classification System, is a matter of judgment. Likewise, it is extremely unfair to judge ancient classification systems according to modern man’s arbitrary standards. Skeptics are wrong for imposing their preconceived standards back onto an ancient text. Frankly, placing bats in the category of “flying creatures,” rather than with the land animals, “all that are in the water,” or the “creeping things,” makes perfectly good sense. Bats are, after all, “the world’s most expert fliers” (Cansdale, 1970, p. 135, emp. added), not walkers, crawlers, or swimmers. For Moses’ allusion to bats to be a true error, he would have had to say something to the effect of, “bats are not flying animals.”

Sadly, one significant question often left unexplored in a discussion of the Bible’s treatment of bats and birds is why God classified bats as “unclean.” Was this simply due to many bats’ eerie outward appearance, or that they are nocturnal cave dwellers? Could there be something more? Kyle Butt addressed the wisdom of God’s instruction about bats in his book, Behold! The Word of God (2007). The fact is,

...bats often carry rabies. While it is true that many animals are susceptible to rabies, bats are especially so. The American College of Emergency Physicians documented that between 1992 and 2002, rabies passed from bats caused 24 of the 26 human deaths from rabies in the United States (“Human Rabies...,” 2002). In the Science Daily article describing this research, “Robert V. Gibbons, MD, MPH, of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD, reviewed the 24 cases of humans with bat rabies.” From his research, he advised “the public to seek emergency care for preventive treatment for rabies if direct contact with a bat occurs” (“Human Rabies...,” 2002, emp. in orig.). Moses’ instruction to avoid bats coincides perfectly with modern research. Once again, the super human wisdom imparted through Moses by God cannot be denied by the conscientious student of the Old Testament (p. 124).

Mar 06, 2007 By Prof.dr. Ibrahim Khalil

One of the inherited doctrines of mankind is that the Quran is quoted or borrowed from the Bible.

The Bible categorizes the Bat among the "BIRDS". Zoologists say that Bat is an animal (mammals). The Bible talks about flying birds that walk on all fours.

Such creatures have not been present yet.

This illustrates the contradictions between the Bible and Sciences.

In next article about the Rabbit, you will find out how the Quran talks about the animals and birds.

Bat in the Bible:The Bat is "detested" and "abominated" and it is a symbol of darkness, desolation or ruin.
Leviticus 11:13-20 (New International Version)

Unclean and Detested bird:13 "These are the "BIRDS" you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat, 20 " 'All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you.
Deuteronomy 14:11-19 (New International Version)

Unclean Food: You may eat any clean bird. But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat, All flying insects that swarm are unclean to you; do not eat them. But any winged creature that is clean you may eat.

Isaiah 2:19-21 (New International Version)
Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.

The Bible categorizes the Bat among the "BIRDS" in the list of unclean animals.

According to these verses, Bat is a "BIRD" that should be "DETESTED" and "abominated" and it is a symbol of darkness, desolation or ruin.

Here again, you notice the obvious contradiction between the Bible and Science.

Bat is a bird says Bible!

However, the Zoologists say that Bat is an animal (mammals).

Bats are exceptional. Even though they share the characteristics of all mammals e.g., hair, keeping up body temperature, the capability to bear their young alive and take care of them; however, bats is the only mammals to truly fly.

Not only that but we have also:Birds that walk on four! (Leviticus 11: 20)
'All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you.
To the best of my knowledge I do not recall or know any bird(s) that walk on fours.
Does any one identify, please let me discern.

The Bats and Sciences:Bats, the shy, nocturnal creatures are among the most attractive and calm animals on earth. They are very important to the ecology and environment and improve our lives in many ways. Insect eating bats eat millions of bugs night by night, and fruit bats get us some 400 marketable products.
Yet for all they do, bats are constantly executed due to mythology, superstition, false notion and fear. The Western civilization has generally considered bats with superstition, fear, and uncertainty.
Too often, popular mistaken belief has made them as "dirty," "disease carriers," or "blood suckers," an unwelcome reputation to be sure.
Because bats are small, secretive, feed at night, and are unfamiliar to most people, they are sometimes regarded as rare. On the contrary, they are found throughout the world.
Bats eat different kinds of food; most bats consume a variety of insects such as moths, beetles, gnats, and crickets. Some specialize in catching land insects like grasshoppers or roaches.

Another false concept: "Blind as a bat" is a common saying yet it is not true. All bats can see, even though vision may be less important than other senses. Unlike birds, bats are color blind and, therefore, not dependent on color for locating and choosing their food.

Is the Bat Inventor? The Bats have used the Ultrasonic before man:
Some 50 millions years ago, the Bats used the acoustic and echo-technology before man. They emit a series of supersonic cries through the mouth or nose and detect flying insects by the echoes reflected back. Bats emit sounds in the ultrasonic range and navigate in response to echoes. Man has discovered this art of science at 1940.

What is important to know?Regardless of the Biblical concept for the Bats, They are advantageous members of the animal population. They help to control night-flying insects; they can pollinate flowers, and spread out the seeds of plants. Their excreta are rich in nitrogen and are sold as fertilizer.
The more we learn about the bat's biology and habits, the more we accept and appreciate this soft furry creature as a natural part of our environment which helps us to have a healthy ecosystem.

Appreciating the role of Bats:Only in China, exhibited in art and handicrafts, has the bat achieved respectability as a sign of cheerfulness, happiness and excellent fortune.
In addition, the great role played by the Bat World Sanctuary in USA emphasizes the vital value of the bats. The target of the Bat World Sanctuary is to end the abuse and destruction of bats and provide bat rehabilitation and therein, thousands of bats are rescued each year.

The Bat in the Quran:This subject needs an independent article to show the reader how the Quran talks about the animals and birds.
You will find out in the next article about the Rabbit how the Quran talks about the animals and birds.
Last but not least, the belief put by the scholars said that the Bat is "detested" and "abominated" and it is a symbol of darkness, desolation or ruin. However, when we have read and knew the facts; we changed our mind dramatically.

The question is: is every belief and/or faith that you have inherited or acquired true?

About the Author

Professor Dr. Ibrahim Khalil Prof. of Clinical and Chemical Pathology, Head of Clinical Microbiology and Infection Control Unit... (show bio)



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BatsRule!: Misc | Bat References from the Bible
Misc | Bat References from the Bible
Misc | Bat References from the Bible
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