Thursday, December 12, 2013

Animals In The Bible #2 - The Dove

The Bible appears to be bipolar about doves.

We get our best known glimpse of them very early on the Bible, when Noah sends a dove out in Genesis Chapter 8 to see if the waters that had previous flooded the earth had receded at all, and is there land for us to get off this ark because all these animals are kinda stinky.
(side note, before Noah sends the dove out in verse 8, Noah sends a raven out.  And the raven comes back with nothing.  Yet the dove ALSO comes back with nothing on the first attempt, and brings back the olive branch on the second try.  Which begs the question, why didn't the raven get a second try?  Why was the raven immediately benched?  Because the dove is prettier?)
(Second side note, the third time Noah sends the dove out, the dove never comes back.  Noah takes this as a sign that there must be dry land that the dove landed on, but I dunno why Noah didn't just follow the dove so he knew where the dry land was.  Maybe the dove also was annoyed, "Yo, I brought you back an olive branch!  Why are you making me go back out!  What do ya want, the whole damn tree!  Well, thanks, Mr. Ungrateful, I'm high tailing it off this smelly ark once and for all!")
Doves and Pigeons are part of the same bird family, did you know that? They make up the bird family Columbidae.  So they can effectively be considered siblings, and yet pigeons are usually held in lower esteem.  Doves are generally thought of as white, and gracious in flight and a symbol of peace.  Pigeons have the bad rap of being disease carriers, and messing up things in New York City, and their biggest cheerleader is Bert the Muppet naming a dance move after them. 

Doves definitely win the award here.

Which, in the Old Testament, means doves are preferable as a temple sacrifice over pigeons (insert a million snickering pigeons).  Leviticus offers a bunch of instructions for burnt offerings to the Lord, and they always mention doves before pigeons.
In Luke 2:24, Mary and Joseph are going to the temple to present Jesus for the purification rites offer either two turtle doves, or two pigeons, it doesn't say which, leading to a gang war between doves and pigeons that exist to this very day (not really, but kinda funny to think about.)
Yet in Song of Solomon, otherwise known as The Book In The Bible That Mentions BOOBS! Doves are used as similes and metaphors in flattering descriptions of the woman's eyes and the woman herself.
Later in the New Testament, doves are used as similes and metaphors to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus (Luke 3:22, John 1:32)

I think what the Bible tries to say that doves are pretty enough to be used as a compliment, and Old Testament temple sacrifices demanded the sacrifice of something pretty and innocent to demonstrate how weird the Old Testament God was, and better a dove than your beautiful girlfriend.  I mean, I GUESS that makes sense, for Biblical times.  But there’s a million doves (and probably pigeons) that would violently disagree with that.

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