In this article we will answer the question what does a dove symbolism and how it wonderfully and powerfully parallels with the Holy Spirit. Grab your Bible and let’s take a deep look at what doves mean.
In the avian world, doves have a special place in many cultures and religions and faiths, especially those who follow the Bible. As a Christian I love studying symbolism of the Bible (check out the symbolism of colors in the Bible) and after writing The Different Symbols of The Holy Spirit. I wanted to camp out a bit on the topic of the symbolism of doves.
Majority of us know that the dove symbolises the Holy Spirit. But I want to go deeper on the topic sharing the parallels between a dove and the Holy Spirit (it’s pretty amazing!!) and shed some light on other things doves can represent and mean through scripture.
If you are wanting to skip around then please feel free to use the table of content. If you wanting to study on the topic then I encourage you to read through it. I hope it blesses you and encourages your walk with the Lord.
- Dove Symbolism in Christianity
- What Does The Dove Represent?
- Quick View of What A Dove Means
- The Dove as a Symbol for The Holy Spirit
- Mourning Doves Symbolism
- Dove Dreams
Dove Symbolism in Christianity
Doves in the Bible
When it comes to doves in the Bible we find that these beautiful birds are referenced 31 times in the King James Version (KJV). You can check them out here: BibleGateway Dove References. Turtledove is only mentioned 10 times.
It’s not a ton of references for example “do not fear” is mentioned 365 times. But it’s enough to give us some clarity especially since scripture uses them in such a way that makes it obvious.
The word dove in Hebrew is yownah. As far as I am aware it doesn’t have a deeper meaning to the word. It literally means dove or pigeon.
יוֹנָהyôwnâh, yo-naw’; probably from the same as H3196; a dove (apparently from the warmth of their mating):—dove, pigeon.
Noah’s Ark and the Dove
The first mention of a dove in the Bible is found in the story of Noah and the Ark (Genesis 8). Noah first sent out a raven bird to check and see if there was dry land. The raven kept flying back and forth and was not a good indicator if the land was dry. So, then Noah sent out a dove. He sent the dove out three time. The first time the dove came back to Noah because it had no where to perch. (Genesis 8:9), 7 days later it came back with an olive branch in its beak, the third time it never returned. Meaning it had found a new home.
It’s this story that gives us the iconic symbol of the dove with an olive branch in its beak.
Doves Used In Levitical Offerings
In Leviticus we see doves used as part of the burnt offering. In some translations they use the term turtledove. Just a side note pigeons and doves come from the same family of birds called Columbidae.
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. – Leviticus 1:14
These burnt offerings were voluntary and they represented surrender, devotion, and commitment to God. This also adds to the rich meaning of doves.
It’s also interesting to note that Mary and Joseph offered
In the East doves are domesticated and kept in pigeon houses (dovecote). It’s easy to see that these were used as part of the levitical sacrifices, but oddly enough some of these houses are used to collect their poop or should I be more proper and say dove dung? This is also referenced in the Bible in 2 Kings 6:25. Usually the dung was used as manure.
Other Old Testament Biblical References to Doves
We see doves throughout the Old and New Testament. And we will look into these Bible references and their meaning later. But I do want to share some of the Old Testament verses for you to look at if you want to study on the topic more. We will look more into the New Testament later in this post.
- Doves in Psalms 55:6, 68:13
- Doves in Song of Solomon 1:15, 2:14, 4:1, 5:12
- Doves in Isaiah 38:14, 59:11, 60:8
- Doves in Jeremiah 48:28
- Doves in Ezekiel 7:16
- Doves in Hosea 7:11, 11:11
- Doves in Nahum 2:7
What Does The Dove Represent?
It’s amazing when you start looking at scripture and seeing what something symbolises. The emblem or object becomes like a diamond; multifaceted. And each angle you look at it you see something different yet you still see the diamond. This is true for what the dove represents. You see all these beautiful sides, but they all connect well together.
The Dove Represents the Holy Spirit
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him… – Matthew 3:16
This is by far the most popular and well known symbols of a dove. We will look more into this under the heading, The Dove as a Symbol for The Holy Spirit.
The Dove Represents Purity & Holiness
Because the dove represents the Holy Spirit. We see attributes of the Holy Spirit and even Christ be painted upon the symbol of a dove. This inculded purity. Many view the white dove as a symbol of both the Holy Spirit and purity. We see this is also connected to the symbolic meaning of white.
The same goes for holiness. The Holy Spirit is holy therefore we see that in the symbol of a dove. But we also see this when we see the dove brought an olive branch. Olive oil was used in anointing and sanctification aka…set apart. This is what being holy is. Being set apart.
The Dove Represents Peace
Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8:11
After 40 days of rain and destruction it was the dove that brought back news of hope and peace for the Earth. And since the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit who brings us peace (Romans 14:17) and who is the spirit of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
The Dove Represents Devotion
Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats, Going down from Mount Gilead. – Song of Solomon 4:1
We see this idea of devotion for the dove being a burnt offering which symbolized devotion to God and we see it painted all throughout Song of Solomon as both the lover and beloved use doves to describe each other. Their devotion and love for each other is seen through the whole book.
*Interesting to note that most doves mate for like.
The Dove Represents Beauty
I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” – Song of Solomon 5:2
To piggyback on devotion, Song of Solomon also conveys the idea of beauty. Three verses in the book describe their love to having eyes like a dove.
The Dove Represents Christians
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. – Matthew 10:16-20
Jesus is talking believers how they should act when facing persecution. He encourages us to be like doves. This can then been taking that doves can represent Christians. Also see (Isaiah 60:8)
The Dove Represents Innocence
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. – Matthew 10:16
Jesus warns us of persecution that will come by believing in Him. He tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The Greek word harmless is akéraios which means innocent, harmless, and/or simple.
The Dove Represents the Arrival of Spring or New Life
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land. – Song of Solomon 2:12
Again, in the book of Song of Solomon we see that doves can symbolize the arrival of spring. Also, doves were offered in sacrifice of purification (again we see the dove meaning purity) after childbearing (new life).
Quick View of What A Dove Means
This is taken above but it’s just a quick view in a table for you to see all the things a dove means.
|What the Dove Symbolizes|
|Dove Symbolizes: The Holy Spirit|
|Dove Symbolizes: Purity|
|Dove Symbolizes: Devotion|
|Dove Symbolizes: The Arrival of Spring|
|Dove Symbolizes: Peace|
|Dove Symbolizes: Innocence|
|Dove Symbolizes: Holiness|
|Dove Symbolizes: Beauty|
|Dove Symbolizes: Christians (believers)|
The Dove as a Symbol for The Holy Spirit
All four Gospels tell the story of how the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus after He was baptised. This paints one of the most vivid symbols for us. It’s beautiful! But did you know that their are incredible parallels between the two? Below I have created a chart for you!
Parallels Between a Dove and the Holy Spirit
|White – Expresses Purity||The Holy Spirit is pure and brings purity to our lives|
|Gentle – Doves are gentle birds. They never retaliate and won’t even fight if their nest is attacked. But they will cry in distress||The Holy Spirit is gentle and kind. Also, we are called not to retaliate or seek out vengeance. The Holy Spirit makes intercession in times of trouble. |
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. – Romans 8:26
|Affectionate – Doves are affectionate creatures and will even coo while being held or petted.||The Holy Spirit is affectionate towards us. Showing love, kindness, comfort, and goodness to us.|
|Wings – The dove has nine main feathers on both the right and left side.|
Dove wings point towards their heads not their tails when hovering.
|The Holy Spirit has 9 gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) and 9 attributed to the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)|
Holy Spirit always point to Christ the head of the Church.
|Tail Feathers – The dove has 5 main tail feathers||This can represent the five-fold ministry|
Mourning Doves Symbolism
I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!” – Isaiah 38:14
Mourning doves are also known as turtles dove get their name because it is said their cooing sounds sad and some even describe it as haunting. In a handful of scriptures we see mourning doves are used metaphorically to describe people mourning or despair. So, a mourning doves cry can represent anguish or sadness, but the dove itself can represent what we mentioned earlier.
In the natural most cooing is typically made by male doves and are used in finding a mate. Also, domesticated doves will coo while being held and petted.
There could be countless reasons why you have landed on this post. You could simply just want to learn on what doves mean or perhaps you are doing a Bible Study.
But it could be because you are dreaming of doves! I firmly believe God can speak to us in dream and you read more about that here: Does God Speak In Dream. I hope so far that learning about the symbolism about doves has brought some clarity to your dream.
I do recommend some additional steps when it comes to understanding your dreams. But always remember the interpretation comes from the Lord (Genesis 40:8) and we must always pray about our dreams.
- Write the dream down and make note of anything prominent in the dream. If the dream had a dove or doves, make special note of it. Describe what the dove looked like for example were dreaming of a white dove or a different color? What was the dove doing? Was it flying, perched? etc…
- Look at God’s word about certain symbols you see in the dream besides the dove. Write down any the Lord highlights to you.
- Begin to pray about the dream and ask God to bring clarity about what the dove(s) symbolizes. If you sense anything from the Lord jot it down.
- Share the dream with a mature brother or/and sister in Christ. Tell them what your feeling about the dream and ask for their thoughts and counsel. I would encourage you to ask for prayer as well.
- Pray over what you feel about the dream and the doves meaning and take action if you feel the Lord is leading to you.
I hope those 5 steps help you understand your dove dream and I pray brings greatly clarity to you.
Well, there you have it! We have explored the topic of dove symbolism from a Biblical perspective. If you would like to dig deeper into the topic of symbols check out these post below:
And if you would like to grow more in the Holy Spirit you can check out these posts!
- Symbols of the Holy Spirit
- Names of the Holy Spirit
- Benefits to having fellowship with the Holy Spirit
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this post! Many blessings to you as you grow in the Lord.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…