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Phoenix Bird

The Greek legend of the phoenix, the fabulous bird that lives forever, is mentioned in apocalyptic literature with various addenda, as for example that "its food is the manna of heaven and the dew of the earth, and from its excrement the cinnamon tree grows" (III Bar. 6: 13). Some contend that the ḥol mentioned in Job 29:18 is the phoenix. It is so translated in the Septuagint, while the Midrash explains it as referring to that bird "which lives for a thousand years. At the end of a thousand years fire comes out of its nest and consumes it, and leaving behind of itself about the size of an egg, it reproduces limbs and lives again." Another view holds that after a thousand years "its body is consumed, its wings moult," and it renews itself (Gen. R. 19:5). This idea of a bird's renewing itself after a great age is applied elsewhere to the griffon vulture (Ps. 103:5). However, it is not definite that in Job ḥol refers to the phoenix, since it may mean sea sand which is "eternal."


Lewysohn, Zool, 352f., no. 501; N.H. Tur-Sinai, Sefer Iyyov (1954), 250.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.