RAVEN (Heb. בֵרֹוע) is a predator bird mentioned in the Pentateuch among the unclean birds is "every raven after its kind" (Lev. 11:15).
The reference is to the genus Corvus of which four species are found in Israel, three black (cf. Song 5:11) and one, very prevalent near inhabited areas, the hooded crow, Corvus corone, which has a gray back and belly and a black head and wings. It is commonly found in Jerusalem where it nests in high trees. Metal spikes were placed on the roof of the Temple to prevent ravens, undoubtedly attracted by the remains of sacrifices, from sitting on these (Mid. 4:6) and disturbing the Temple service with their raucous cries. These sounds are particularly strident during hot spells at the beginning of summer, when the "youngravens" leave the nest. Although already grown, the young are incapable of finding food, and since they have a voracious appetite, their parents fly to and fro in search of food for them, the air being filled with their cries, and hence the description: "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Ps. 147:9). These young ravens cry, as it were, to God to satisfy their hunger, as it says in Job (38:41): "Who provideth for the raven his prey, when his young ones cry unto God…?" The hooded crow is found in flocks which with great devotion defend their companions and especially the young, and hence the saying: "Three love one another, proselytes, slaves, and ravens" (Pes. 113b). The black raven, Corvus corax, preys on small animals and feeds on carcasses and corpses (cf. Prov. 30:17). Although folklore represents the raven as presaging evil (cf. Isa. 34:11), it is once mentioned in a favorable context, ravens having fed *Elijah when he hid in the brook *Cherith (I Kings 17:2–6). The raven is endowed with a highly developed sense of orientation, and in eastern countries mariners took with them ravens to direct them to dry land; the story of the raven in the ark (Gen. 8:7) is reminiscent of this.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.