Who has pottered by this way, then?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I need to know about these hedgehogs...

I was reading through the book of Zephaniah this evening. This book is famous as a kind of 'double bluff' pub quiz question: "True or false, Zephaniah is a book of the Bible." It's not widely quoted, not famous for anything in particular and hides in the last few millimetres of the Old Testament, so as a pub quiz question it's quite a good one.

As I was reading through its prophetic words about destruction, I came across an interesting verse concerning what was going to pan out in Nineveh:
Chapter 2 verse 14 in the New American Standard Version reads: "Flocks will lie down in her midst, All beasts which range in herds; Both the pelican and the hedgehog will lodge in the tops of her pillars; birds will sing in the window, desolation will be on the threshold; For he has laid bare the cedar work."

The pelican and the hedgehog? What?! Ah, there is a footnote at this point... it says that instead of pelican, it might be "owl" or "jackdaw". Right, interesting, but I was more struck by the "hedgehog" reference if I'm honest. Picture the scene: the city of Nineveh (you know, the place which Jonah was so keen not to go to that he did the whole going to sea and getting eaten by a massive fish thing) is desolate, left parched of water and in ruins, so much so that livestock roam in their flocks and herds among them and on the top of the ruined pillars both pelicans and hedgehogs lodge.

How did the hedgehogs get up there? 

I'm sorry Zephaniah, I have no clue now what your book is about. I cannot shake this knotty theological problem about the hedgehogs out of my head to make space for what I am sure you intended to challenge me with.

If anyone can help explain how the hedgehogs got up to the tops of these pillars, please let me know so my theological studies can continue. Till then, my mind is full of Terry-Gilliamesque images.

Note: For 'pelicans and hedgehogs' on 'pillars', the King James has 'cormorant and bittern' on its 'upper linterns', while the NIV has 'the desert owl and screech owl' roosting on its 'columns'. And people wonder why I love the NASB!

1 comment:

  1. Mystery solved! My eldest daughter pointed out the obvious answer. The pelicans carried the hedgehogs up there in their beaks.
    Right... my Bible studies can continue now.