Job 39:30 AND Matthew 24:28
For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
This is scripture regarding Christ's return. My difficulty is in understanding why this referral to eagles and the dead is made.
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
I often turn to Biblical commentators when I have questions like this. In my studies, I have found a few that, in my opinion, are consistently reliable; that is, their thoughts are founded on and derived from their knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages; as well as their understanding of scriptural and secular history.
"For wheresoever the carcass is - ...the dead carcass. The Jewish nation, which was morally and judicially dead."
"There will the eagles - The Roman armies, called so partly from their strength and fierceness, and partly from the figure of these animals which was always wrought on their ensigns, or even in brass, placed on the tops of their ensign-staves. It is remarkable that the Roman fury pursued these wretched men wheresoever they were found. They were a dead carcass doomed to be devoured; and the Roman eagles were the commissioned devourers. See the pitiful account in Josephus, War, b. vii. c. 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, and 11."
"For wheresoever the carcass is,.... Not Christ, as he is held forth in the Gospel, crucified and slain, through whose death is the savour of life, and by whom salvation is, and to whom sensible sinners flock, encouraged by the ministry of the word; and much less Christ considered as risen, exalted, and coming in great glory to judgment, to whom the word 'carcass' will by no means agree, and but very poorly under the former consideration: but the people of the Jews are designed by it, in their fallen, deplorable, miserable, and lifeless state, who were like to the body of a man, or any other creature, struck dead with lightning from heaven; being destroyed by the breath of the mouth, and brightness of the coming of the son of man, like lightning, just as antichrist will be at the last day:
"there will the eagles be gathered together: not particular believers here, or all the saints at the day of judgment; though these may be, as they are, compared to eagles for many things; as their swiftness in flying to Christ, their sagacity and the sharpness of their spiritual sight, soaring on high, and renewing their spiritual strength and youth: but here the Roman armies are intended, whose ensigns were eagles; and the eagle still is, to this day, the ensign of the Roman empire: formerly other creatures, with the eagle, were used for ensigns; but C. Marius, in his second consulship, banished them, and appropriated the eagle only to the legions: nor was it a single eagle that was carried before the army, but every legion had an eagle went before it, made of gold or silver, and carried upon the top of a spear...: and the sense of this passage is this, that wherever the Jews were, whether at Jerusalem, where the body and carcass of them was, in a most forlorn and desperate condition; or in any other parts of the country, the Roman eagles, or legions, would find them out, and make an utter destruction of them."
There are others I often turn to: James Burton Coffman, Dr. Thomas Constable, Charles John Ellicott, and Matthew Henry.
You will note that the four commentators quoted all conclude that Jesus' words were not in regard to our day; but were a description of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
I encourage you to maintain your interest in these matters!
The analogy between Job 39:30 AND Matthew 24:28 is construed by taking a single line out of context in both texts.
Job 30 as a whole writes about knowing the features of animals (deer, donkey, ox, etc). The Last 5 verses speak of birds:
26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food; its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there it is.”
If we look at the original Job 39:30:
This line is partially quoted in Matthew 24:28
ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ τὸ πτῶμα, ἐκεῖ συναχθήσονται οἱ ἀετοί.
"Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather - NASB
πτῶμα in NT texts is generally translated as "(dead) body". In Hellenistic Greek, it also has the connotation of "fall", "misfortune". It is generally taken as a metaphorical expression denoting the spiritually dead, based on Matthew 8:22:
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτῷ Ἀκολούθει μοι, καὶ ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς.
But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.
Hoewver, the word used here is νεκροὺς and not πτῶμα.
The interpretation as a metaphorical expression denoting the spiritually dead is also based on Luke 16:24:
καὶ αὐτὸς φωνήσας εἶπεν Πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἐλέησόν με καὶ πέμψον Λάζαρον ἵνα βάψῃ τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ δακτύλου αὐτοῦ ὕδατος καὶ καταψύξῃ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου, ὅτι ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ.
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
However, the prophetic imagery depicting the mode of punishment in Matthew 24:28 is not that of consuming by fire, and that for the simple reason that the latter would not harmonize with the idea of the carcase and the eagles (Bleek, Luthardt, Auberlen).
Lightfoot, Hammond, Clericus, Wolf and Wetstein have erroneously supposed that the carcase alludes to Jerusalem or the Jews, and that the eagles are intended to denote the Roman legions with their standards (Xen. Anab, i. 10. 12; Plut. Mar. 23). But it is the advent that is in question; while, according to Matthew 24:23-27:
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
25 Behold, I have told you before.
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
the advent is not related to one particular place. ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ cannot be taken as referring to any one particular locality, so the entire association of the carcass and the eagle with Jerusalem and Rome is incongruent with the Matthew 24:23-27.
Futhermore, the Greek of Matthew 24:28 doesn't actually mention eagles. The οἱ ἀετοί refers to Vultur Percnopterus, a vulture, which is correctly translated as such in Holman, NASB and ISV.
In conlusion, this is clearly construed to make an OT verse allude to NT.
Trying to determine what kind of bird is in view is a distraction. Luke's account of the same conversation adds helpful detail.
For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. - Luke 17:24-25
Jesus' first advent is ruled out here as the "day" of the Son of Man because He must suffer and be rejected first.
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. - Luke 17:26-30
Here, the days of the Son of Man are compared to the days of Noah and the flood of judgement and to the days of Lot when Sodom was destroyed. Further these days are given as a comparison of the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” - Luke 17:31-35
These next verses make it clear that there is not a specific group that this is limited to here (as in those who hold that those "taken" are taken in the rapture, or those who hold that the 'taken' are taken in judgement). Rather, these two groups (taken and left) are given as a warning to Jesus' disciples (17:22) on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. Remember Lot's wife.
The angel of the Lord was bringing Lot and his family out from the city just prior to it's destruction. Lot's wife looked back. Back toward the life she had. Back toward what was familiar and comfortable. In looking back she, by necessity, looked away from the deliverance of the Lord. She looked away from salvation and looked back to everything that brought judgement. Whether she was semantically taken or left is secondary...the salient point is that she was not rescued and it was because of her own wavering desire.
The grand context of this passage is "when the kingdom of God would come," (Luke 17:20) and Jesus says "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed". In other words, stop looking for events and signs that line up with your conception of what a Kingdom looks like...you won't see it that way. The primary thing that a Kingdom needs is a King, and the Kingdom along with it's King is in the midst of you (Luke 17:21).
When the Son of Man is revealed...to you...as that King...proven by His resurrection from the dead (the day the Son of Man was revealed)...
and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, - Romans 1:4
will you forsake everything else and follow him or will you turn back? Remember Lot's wife!
This is a consistent teaching of Jesus to his disciples.
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:59-62
The Eagles/Vultures (it makes no difference which) are the instruments of God's judgement on sinful flesh in the last battle. The imagery is familiar to almost everyone: These birds are those that circle on currents of air above impending doom.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” - Revelation 19:17-18
The (spiritually) dead who congregate with the dead and prioritize dead things (things of this world) are those around whom the eagle/vultures will gather and the birds are the consuming judgement of God.
"Where the corpse is, there the eagles/vultures will gather" means that the judgement of God is circling overhead. There are dead things and there are those that are attracted to dead things and the providential judgement of God draws them together. If we do not consistently set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts now, then we will not suddenly do so when judgement comes. Today is the day of salvation.
Remember Lot's wife. - Luke 17:32