TALKING TURKEYS FROM TARSHISH

If you run a search for “turkey” in the Bible, nothing will come up. And that is to be expected, since the turkey is a New World bird, only known to the Mediterranean after the 16th century. Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey the national bird of the new United States of America, but lucky for us, he was overruled, and we eat turkey at Thanksgiving instead of dining on eagle!


But there is one bird in the scriptures whose Hebrew name sounds like “turkey.” The took-kee, or peacock, appears twice, in 1 Kings 10:22, and 2 Chronicles 9:21. There’s a story, probably apocryphal, in which Christopher Columbus’ translator Luis de Torres, a recent converso from Judaism, christened the turkey from his knowledge of the took-kee in the Hebrew scriptures. The crossover makes a certain sense: turkeys and peacocks are both similarly sized ground-dwellers with brilliant plumage, albeit of different shapes (turkeys and peacocks belong to the phasianidae family of birds).


Both times the took-kee appears in scripture, it is as a part of the lavish tribute received by King Solomon. “For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (1 Kings 10:22).” In our illustrated edition of Solomon, artist Jared Boggess depicted these apes and peacocks together:

In light of our