While preparing for church this week at the Austin Stone, I have been studying the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1: 2-11. As I read about the Spirit descending in the form of the dove, I remembered sermons I’ve heard on the many different things the dove might represent, each preacher quite sure of their interpretation. It’s strange how confident we can be on some of the mysteries God has left for us. This weekend I’d love for you to comment about what you feel the dove means. I think we can all benefit from each other’s interpretations, and I know I’ll benefit from your background, study, and insight. I’ll start. Obviously, I don’t know what it means exactly, but my favorite things I’ve learned so far have to do with the dove being the burnt offering found in Leviticus 1. It is the offering for the poorest people. Also, as a burnt offering, it is completely consumed. I have no idea if this is why the Spirit took this form, but I love the imagery. And after thinking about it, I’m fairly sure God purposefully included a lot of direct and indirect messages in all of His choices throughout the Scripture. But I loved the picture of an offering for the poor, tying into the first Beatitude, and the complete consumption of the offering.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. And… discuss.
13 thoughts on “The Dove”
I think my take on it has always related to the dove being released out of the ark. When it didn’t return, this indicated to Noah that the floodwaters had receded and there was new life out there. The dove landing on Jesus is therefore an indication that here was new life.
I like your interpretation from Leviticus though – I’d not heard that before.
I was curious and did a search for where else a dove is mentioned in the Bible. In Jeremiah 48:28, it says “Be like a dove that makes its nest at the mouth of a cave.”. I hadn’t known that’s where they live in that region, so the dove landing on Jesus’ head could be an indicator that he wouldn’t live in a cave/tomb.
That might be stretching it though!
To me the dove is a symbol of purity. We as believers can only be close to GOD clean and without sin because GOD is a holy and magnificent GOD. GOD was with JESUS as he was baptized- and well pleased. Nothing more pleasing to him than the son without sin and full of love and hope for the world. What is prettier than the beautiful unblemished white dove ~ only the sight of JESUS coming to take his people home…
This is the verse I was thinking of
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
The gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of the Lord ascended like a dove. It wasn’t a dove, it was just taking the shape of a dove. It descended upon him and and Jesus comes up from the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit. The Dove was a symbol of meekness and purity and it was common, offerred up for sacrifice. How perfect to descend upon the perfect sacrifice.
I wish I could have seen it.
well i looked up dove in my bible study software.in genesis chapter 8 and found some awesome stuff.first the world was destroyed because of sin.and i agree the dove is for purity.the water purified the sinful world.and until all the sinful things were gone it had to stay.the same thing god used the dove in this time.he used with our lord jesus.it’s all prophetic the world was destroyed by water and the one coming after john would use water(holy spirit).but god made a new covenant with moses and jesus was our new covenant.the dove went out until the water was gone and the world was pure.so now jesus came to purify the sin of the world.and when the dove landed on jesus marked him as the pure and holy one for all the world amen.maybe this is not to freaked out this is just what came to me .god bless you all and love in jesus brother timothy!!!
I learned today that in 1935, the definition for pigeon, or dove, was: an object for whom one has great affection. In mentorship, I am seeking truth from my mentor and have been referred to as a pigeon. In working in close relationship with the woman I have chosen to entrust my whole life with; my thoughts, secrets, actions… the ugly truth about myself, it’s teaching me how to truely let someone else in. Freedom is the reward every time I let her in a little bit more. What an awesome gift this is! In this relationship I’ve learned that the more willing I am to let her into my life to see the scary truths about myself, the deeper my relationship grows with God. The more Christ like I become. Compassionate, empathetic, trustworthy, merciful, loving, kind, gentle. I learn more about how long, high, deep and wide the Fathers love is for all of us. We are all children of God. Christian and nonchristian alike. I can truely be a vessel in that area that I have just been freed from. Somehow this relates 😉
After reading your blog, I was so excited to test out Logos Bible Study software which I recently installed. I was amazed at all the references to a dove in scripture and its significance to people during that time. Here are a few: 1. Symbol of peace and reconciliation-Dove sent out of the ark (Gen. 8), and returning as a dove of peace signaling the end of divine wrath. 2. Sacrifices for those who are poor (Lev. 1:14, 5:7) Mary offered two doves after the birth of Christ. 3. Israel was mentioned as God’s dove (Psa. 68:13; 74:19) 4. “Dove” was used as a term of endearment (SS2:14; 5:2) 5. Emblem of purity (Psa. 68:13) 6. Symbol of the Holy Spirit (SS 2:12) 7. Connection with the soul (Psa. 84:2-3). It’s also interesting that the name “Jonah” means dove. Some scholars interpret the story of Jonah as a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection. Other scholars interpret the Holy Spirit “brooding over the waters” in Genesis 1 as a dove broods over her young without touching them.
In the ancient world, the dove was the bird of the gods. It was also considered the bird of the soul or used as a metaphor or example of human conduct. The dove is chaste, remains faithful to its partner for life, gentle, with a cooing voice that signified suffering, mourning and passion (Ezek. 7:16). In spite of its gentleness, a dove was also considered a symbol of power (2 Sam. 22:36; Psa. 18:35).
The dove was John’s confirmation from God that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:33). The symbol of the dove also fits in with Jesus’ mission to free the captives and minister to the poor.
The symbolism that really captured my heart was the descent of the dove from heaven. Mark’s Gospel tells about the heavens being torn (the same word used for the temple curtain being torn during Jesus’ crucifixion) and the Spirit of God descending. Isaiah 64:1 says “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Here in one place, God shows up. He “comes down” in the form of Jesus, the man, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovering and confirming Jesus as the mediator and peacemaker, and God’s own voice of affirmation. This was truly a “God with us” moment!
And it’s so amazing to me that God not only shows up in the chaos of our world, but He provides the sacrificial offering for our sins, available for the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. Then He invites us to make our home with Him, to be His family, and to dance at His party. Wow!
Gen 8:8-12, Notice how the Dove was sent out the first time… found no footing and a hand stretched out and brought her back into the safety of the Ark (Tabernacle where G-d resides)… Second time she came back with an olive branch w/leaves (Isreal)… third time she disappeared never to be seen again… that is until heaven opened up and she lit on Yeshua (an Israeli). The dove is said to have had an olive branch and brought it back to the tree to signify this is Yeshua (the Tree of Life).
Just a side note the Holy Spirit has been around from the beginning Gen 1:2 is the first mention and just as G-d has everthing mapped out and it repeats itself with the Holy Spirit hovering above the water.
I love the picture Scriptures gives regarding the dove. One of purity, of peace, of hope, and new life….a sacrifice of the poor as you pointed out = we were all poor at one time, in debt…to sin…made rich through Christ.
As you stated, there are many mysteries of God that cannot be rationalized down to a mere definition or statement. I think the Dove is one of these. A symbol so complex, yet common to man. To think, God’s Spirit descended upon the Word made flesh as a dove…is an awesome portrail of His wonder….
Have a blessed week – may we take notice to the wonders God reveals to us in our own daily lives….I think we all need to be “bird” watching….I promise, we will be amazed!
Always heard John was the only one who saw the dove because it was only a sign for him to know that this was the Christ whom he had been teaching about.
Im coming in a little late with a response. Wish I could have read this earlier…..
Anyway, I was at my churches staff retreat this past month. It was an awesome time of vision casting, fellowship, Bible study and prayer. Our missions pastor was leading one of the sessions and he was teaching on the subject of the Holy Spirit. He brought up the topic of the dove and brought an interesting perspective to the table. He explained that if a dove were to land on your shoulder, you would walk, talk, and act with the dove in mind. Whatever you did, you would do with consideration to the dove. (assuming you wanted it to stay that is)
Doves are skittish animals, They certainly arent going to stick around if I started being loud, jumping, running, and causing trouble.
If we have the spirit then we need to live with the spirit in mind. While God never leaves or forsakes us, His spirit wont stick around if e live a life of sin. Scripture warns against Grieving the spirit. It has emotions and opinions. So as we walk as christian’s, We walk with the spirit in mind. We talk in such a way as not to alarm it. We live in such a way that it can make its home in us.
I took all this in from our missions pastor. I thought about it and have decided that maybe it was a symbol for purity or peace or all those things weve mentioned. But maybe its a bit more literal. Im not saying the spirit is like a bird. not at all. But I am saying that if we desire to live in submission to the Holy Spirit. We should live in a way that he is kept in mind. The same way we would keep a dove in mind if he was to have landed on our shoulder. With gratitude, respect and fear of this awesome thing. He doesn’t have to be here. He doesn’t have to love us or gift us. He chooses to, and because of that we should seek to live in a pleasing way to him.
There is my thought on the subject…..a month late.
The dove and the lamb are symbols of purity, innocence, and sacrifice. We know the magi (wisemen) had not yet visited Jesus when His parents took Him to the temple to be dedicated, (first bc it says He was a young child then, but second) because they offered the sacrifice of two doves or pigeons instead of a dove and a lamb, a sacrifice for only the very poor according to Leviticus (side note: they did have a lamb Who would one day be the ultimate sacrifice, but that is for a different discussion). The Bible is full of symbolism where the dove is purity and the presence of Holiness, and the crow is death and the presence of evil. But if you’re in the parking lot at Wal-Mart and you happen to see a crow or two – that does not mean evil is lurking – a crow is just a bird – we have a tendency to attach our western mindset to Biblical passages that were a different time, culture and language.
For example, if you take a horse, a bird, and a cow, and you ask a modern native English speaker which two are most alike, the response will be the horse and the cow because of the way they look. If you ask a native Hebrew or Greek speaker, the answer will be the horse and the bird because of the way they move.
When I was younger, I had this vision of a dove landing on Jesus’ shoulder. But…when I go to the Greek text and look at this passage in linguistical and cultural context, I see a different picture (hence the explanation above). The word “as” would be better translated “as if it were” – the author is describing movement, not an animal, per say. Also, the word for Spirit is literally “life-breath” which is so cool to think of the Spirit of God as the life-breath of God! So now I have a new picture in my mind. First, I think this life-breath must have had some visibility – think of when you breathe out on a cold day and you can see your breath. This breath must have had form – and it descended down from the Heavens and floated on the air currents the way a dove flies on the air currents, until it landed on Jesus. It might have reminded the reader of a dove as it glides on the air. (So my translation for this is: ‘the life-breath (Spirit) of God descended as if it were a dove and came to rest upon Jesus.’
It has been a blessing to read these interpretations. A few months ago I had a vision of a transclucent beautiful dove decending down on my chest and I’ve often wondered what it meant. Unfortunately when I happen I got a little afraid and covered my head and I really just felt unworthy. I wish I had embraced the moment. A couple of days before he vision-I had a near death experience.