In this article, we keep exploring animals found in scripture, and today, we are going to look at owls in the Bible, their symbolism, meaning, references, and more. So, grab your Bible, and let’s dig in…
Owls are such unique birds. Have you ever looked at pictures of different types of owls? It blows your mind how some look cute, some are creepy, and some are like, “what is that?!” I do think God had fun when He made them.
Owls are carnivorous birds of prey that live off other animals. This can range from bugs, rodents, and even fish! They tend to have round faces, huge eyes, and excellent eyesight and hearing, making them good hunters.
Most owls hunt at night, so their eyes are accustomed to seeing well in the dark. Owls have a reputation for being wise and knowledgeable. Have you ever heard the phrase “wise old owl”?
It actually comes from an old nursery rhyme! Nothing to do with the bird itself.
Still, some cultures regard them as being harbingers of bad luck to have around or being omens of death. Some cultures get this because they believe owls are messengers of witches.
We are not going to go after all these cultural views on owls, but what does the Bible say about owls!
The owl is mentioned a few times in the Bible. Read on to see where these passages are found in Scripture, their symbolic meaning, and what lessons Christians can learn from the owl.
What Does The Bible Say About Owls?
In the King James version of the Bible, we see that owls are mentioned 14 times and all of those insistence are in the Old Testament.
When we look at the Hebrew we actually see various words being used to describe owls. It’s interesting to note that some translations don’t translate the word owl, but ostrich. Here is an example of that in HCSB:
כּוֹסkôwç, koce; from an unused root meaning to hold together; a cup (as a container), often figuratively, a lot (as if a potion); also some unclean bird, probably an owl (perhaps from the cup-like cavity of its eye):—cup, (small) owl. Compare H3599.
יַנְשׁוּףyanshûwph, yan-shoof’; or יַנְשׁוֹף yanshôwph; apparently from H5398; (compare H5399) an unclean (aquatic) bird; probably the heron (perhaps from its blowing cry, or because the night heron is meant):—(great) owl.
לִילִיתlîylîyth, lee-leeth’; from H3915; a night spectre:—screech owl.
קִפּוֹזqippôwz, kip-poze’; from an unused root meaning to contract, i.e. spring forward; an arrow-snake (as darting on its prey):—great owl.
בַּתbath, bath; from H1129 (as feminine of H1121); a daughter (used in the same wide sense as other terms of relationship, literally and figuratively):—apple (of the eye), branch, company, daughter, × first, × old, owl, town, village.
We read that owls are considered unclean and should not be eaten. Other symbolism for owls is loneliness, desolation, mourning, and judgment. Let’s look at some of these passages and what they mean.
What Kind Of Owls Were There In Biblical Places and Times?
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, – Leviticus 11:17
In the Old Testament, there are various mentions of different types of owls. In Levititcus 11:17 we see two kinds mentioned there.
Through historical accounts, archaeological findings, and studies of regional fauna, we can learn that several owl species most likely lived in the region during biblical times. Some of these species include:
- Little Owl (Athene noctua): A small owl with a distinctive white “eyebrow” above each eye.
This species is native to the Mediterranean region and is known to inhabit various habitats, including farmland, gardens, and woodlands.
- Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops): Characterized by its small size and ear tufts, this owl prefers wooded areas and can be found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.
- Long-eared Owl (Asio otus): This medium-sized owl has prominent ear tufts and likes woodland habitats near open fields or grasslands.
- Barn Owl (Tyto alba): Recognizable by its heart-shaped face, the Barn Owl is a common widespread species that inhabits a variety of environments, including agricultural lands, deserts, and forests.
- Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo): One of the largest owl species, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl is known for its impressive size, powerful build, and striking orange eyes.
Bible Verses About Owls
If you would like to read all the Bible verses about owls you can do so in this section. With only 14 verses mentioning these little guys it’s easy to go through these and get an idea of what scripture is saying. The verses below either use the KJV or NKJV.
If you want to understand better I would read these verses in context with the chapter they are in.
‘the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; ‘the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; – Lev 11:16-17 NKJV
“the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds; “the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, – Deu 14:15-16 NKJV
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. – Job 30:29 KJV
I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. – Psa 102:6 NKJV
But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there. – Isa 13:21 NKJV
But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.
The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate. – Isa 34:11-15 NKJV
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. – – Isa 43:20 KJV
Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. – Jer 50:39 KJV
Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.– Mic 1:8 NKJV
Owl Symbolism In The Bible
Alright, it’s time to look at the symbolic, spiritual, or propehtic meaning of owls in the Bible!
Owls Were Considered Unclean
“‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, – Leviticus 11:13-18 NIV
In Leviticus 11:13-18, the people of Israel are given a complete list of unclean birds that they may not eat. Owls are one of these birds. It is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:11-18 that owls are one of the unclean bird species.
Owls were considered unclean as they were predatory animals which means they can be susepctical to many viruses and dieseas. I talk more about this in my artical: 10 Amazing Scientific Facts in the Bible
Owls Symbolizes Loneliness
We read in Jeremiah 50:39 that a person who is separated from God is like an owl who lives in rocky ravines and thrives in isolation.
The owl is associated with misery and loneliness, just like people who do not have the love and care of God or other Christians to care for them.
In Psalm 103:3-6, we read of the Psalmist who cries out to God in distress and describes his feelings. He says he is like a desert owl in the wilderness, telling us of his terrible loneliness.
In Biblical times people lived in communities and only lived alone when they were afflicted by disease.
In this passage, the Psalmist is in a desperate situation, and he feels cut off from the rest of the community, like the desert owl who lives in the rocky ravines of the desert.
Judgment and Desolation
In Isaiah 34:8-11, and Isaiah 13:21, we read of the prophecy of Isaiah when he warns nations, and especially Edom, that the judgment of God will come and the lands will be in ruins.
It speaks of God’s punishment that the land will become barren and desolate. A wasteland where the owls will make their nests.
This passage also connects to Matthew 24:21, where we read about the Great Tribulation. This will happen in the end time when conditions on Earth will be so bad, and it will be a horrific time for humanity.
Owls Symbolize Mourning And Grief
In Micha 1:8, Micah speaks of the Lord’s judgment on the different nations of Jerusalem and Samaria. He describes how dreadful and agonizing God’s wrath will be on those that reject Him.
Micah says he will mourn like the owl. Young owls have a piercing screams when they want food, and owls screech when they defend their nest.
An owl’s hooting also has a haunting sound that depicts utter desolation.
We read in Job 30:28-29 of Job’s total grief and mourning. His children had perished, and his possessions had washed away. He tells us of his mourning and how he now has only owls as his companions. Here the owl symbolizes his grief, loneliness, and sorrow.
What Can We Learn From Owls In The Scripture
Owls are primarily mentioned in the Bible in a negative context. But if we look at some of the characteristics of the owls, there are some lessons Christians can learn from them.
Be Cleansed By The Blood Of Jesus
In the Old Testament, the Israelites lived according to the Jewish food law, where they could not eat anything considered unclean.
This was to symbolically separate Israel from other unclean nations who ate all types of meat. In the New Testament, Jesus changed this law, and now all food is considered clean.
All nations can now become clean by the cleansing of the blood of Jesus.
If we accept Him as our Savior, we are cleansed from our sins and are free to start a new life serving and worshipping Him.
To Have Wisdom And Companionship
Although the Bible does not say anything about the owl being wise, in ancient and modern times, people have referred to owls as having wisdom.
Christian’s wisdom should come from learning the lessons from the Bible. By reading God’s Word, we get nourishment for our soul and change our way of thinking so we become more Christlike in our ways.
Spending time with other Christians, seeking their advice on issues of faith, and listening to the teachings and wisdom of our spiritual leaders is vital to our spiritual growth. (Romans 12:2)
When we are with other believers, we are never lonely like the owl that Jeremiah and the Psalmist speak of who thrives in isolation. We have the companionship of other believers, and we are a family in Christ.
Be Patient And Silent
Like many birds of prey, the owl will sit quietly on a branch while waiting patiently for its prey. And so should we have patience when we wait on the Lord to answer our prayers.
Waiting for something is not always easy, but we must trust God, knowing His time is right. We should not rush into decisions but pray to God for guidance and wait patiently for His answer. (Psalm 37:7)
When praying to God, we should also wait on the Lord just like the owl sits, waiting for the right moment to attack its prey. We need to be still and listen to the inner voice of God to reveal His will for our lives. (Romans 8:25)
Faith and Discernment
Owls have exceptional eyesight and can see very well in the dark. So, must we keep our eyes fixed on God and trust Him in the darkest times of our lives. This can look like faith, and discernment.
Faith and discernment have an ability to pierece through the darkeness and see clearning what is true. Just like how an owl can see during the night.
Trust In God’s Promise
The female owl covers her eggs with her body when she sits on them, and when they are hatched, she shields her owlets under her wings. So too, does God cover us and shield us under His wings when we stay in His presence (Psalm 91:4).
He promises to rescue and protect us if we are faithful to Him and trust Him. With God as our shelter, Christians are assured that we are never alone.
To summerize and recap…
In Scripture, owls represent birds that are unclean because they are preditory and hunt. In the Bible, only the Old Testament mentions owls.
Most of the passages speak of where owls reside, which is in the barren desert and wilderness. This is why owls symbolize loneliness, ruin, destruction, mourning, and grief.
But if we look at the characteristics of the owls, there are positive lessons that Christians can learn. Like the owl, we can have the patience to wait for God’s answer when we ask something in prayer.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on owls in the Bible and have learned something new! If you are interested in learning about more animlas then please check out my articles below:
Animals In The Bible
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…