Nature – The Bat

The prophet Isaiah paints a dismal picture of the awful and awesome events of the end of the world. As one illustration of the change in attitude of the people at that time, he writes that they would cast their idols “ to the bats ” (Isaiah 2:20).

In using this illustration Isaiah could well have had in mind the Egyptian leaf-nosed bats whose incredible numbers made them well known throughout Palestine. They were regarded as loathsome and disquieting creatures whose dung-filled haunts produce an overpowering smell.

The only other mention of bats in the Bible is in the Leviticus and Deuteronomy lists of animals unfit for food. One might wonder if anyone would eat a bat, yet this is common practice even today among many natives of the South Pacific. …

Four Hebrew words are used in the Scriptures for bat. Many scholars accept this as proof that there were several varieties in ancient Palestine. Backing this up is the fact that over 15 different kinds of bats are found there [today, over 30 species are found].

A number of foreign words for bats are descriptive of their mannerisms or physical structure. One Hebrew word, for instance, means “night flier.” The German fledermaus means “flitter mouse”; this is a good description of the bats’ style of flying for most have an uneven fluttering flight. Fledermaus and the term chiroptera from the Greek for “handwing” can be found on the 40-pfennig 1962 stamp of the German Democratic Republic. …

The bat is one of the most marvelous creatures of God’s kingdom. However, more fallacies than truth have spoiled its name. It has been associated with things dark and evil such as the pictures one often sees of Satan with bat’s wings.

The saying “blind as a bat” is misleading, for although small and not too useful in daylight, bats have perfectly good eyes. They also have no interest in getting entangled in a person’s hair and only fly near to catch the mosquitoes that follow people.

More than 1,000 known kinds of bats fall into two main classes: fruit and insect eaters. Fruit-eating bats are generally large and found only in the tropics and subtropics. It is the so-called flying fox and as the largest living bat has a wing span of between four and five feet.

Insect eaters are small bats and are found wherever insects are. They rid the world of millions of insects with some devouring half their weight in insects each night in order to survive. Insect-eating bats live in old buildings, grottoes, and caverns. We can easily imagine that some inhabited the tombs among which the demoniac of Mark 5 lived. …

It is well known that bats hunt almost entirely by sound. In its normal flight a bat will emit from twenty to two hundred ultrasonic cries a second. The frequency of the beeps depends upon the bat’s distance from an obstacle. Ounce for ounce and watt for watt the bat’s sonar is a billion times more sensitive and efficient than any radar or sonar device yet contrived by man.

Ernest N. Wendth, The Youth’s Instructor Magazine, March 21, 1967.

“Satan did not appear to Christ as he is often falsely represented, as an imp with bats’ wings and cloven hoofs. The Scriptures plainly declare that he ‘is transformed into an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). It was as a heavenly angel that Satan accosted the Son of God [Christ’s temptation in the wilderness].” Pamphlet, 105, 1.