It is interesting that, in the Gospel text for this Sunday [Luke 13:31-35], Jesus resorts to a little ‘name calling’. That seems to be a more common occurrence these days. People are used to getting their way electronically, with all the ‘likes’ on their posts, and when things do not go their way, there can easily be a meltdown … along with a little name-calling to make the person feel a little better.
In the text and in other places in scripture, name-calling does not seem to happen at the end of an encounter. It is something that happens at the very beginning. God created things, and then he named them. As a side note, it is also interesting to compare the names of some things in the language of the Old Testament. The word for God (Elohim), for example, has a similar ending to the word for ‘complete’ or ‘whole’ (ta-mim’). In the text for this Sunday, Jesus first names King Herod a fox, but then then he calls himself a hen.
Here is what The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Volume 2, Page 358) says of foxes:
If they do not actually excavate these [burrows] themselves, they will often take over the burrow of another animal such as the badger. The use of ‘fox’ in reference to Herod (Lk. 13:32) indicated his low cunning and comparative worthlessness (cf. Neh. 4:3 for the insignificance of this animal). Ezekiel compared Israel’s prophets to foxes; they care for themselves but show little concern for Israel’s relation to God (13:4f).
Here is what is said of the hen—more specifically, of the chicken—after the encyclopedia says that they probably were not around during the time of Solomon, since they would have been mentioned in the text—they are described as ‘a marvel worth recording’ (Volume 1, Page 644):
From the history of the bird in other countries it is safe to estimate that they [the chickens] entered Palestine at about the 6th century B.C. That would allow sufficient time for them to increase and become common enough to be used as illustrations by Jesus. He mentions the hen … and her brood … in a moving image of divine concern for the Jews who rejected him (Mt. 23:37; Lk 13:34).
It seems easy to imagine how a battle would go between a fox and a hen. It would be quite a different ending to say that the Son of God is battling a son of man. Between the fox and the hen, I think the fox would be the easy winner. The action of the hen, covering her chicks with her wings, is, I would agree, a moving image of divine concern.
This is a case where a little name-calling becomes a wonderful thing.