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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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יונה . This beautiful genus of birds is very numerous in the east. In the wild state they generally build their nests in the holes or clefts of rocks, or in excavated trees; but they are easily taught submission and familiarity with mankind; and, when domesticated, build in structures erected for their accommodation, called "dove-cotes." They are classed by Moses among the clean birds; and it appears from the sacred as well as other writers, that doves were always held in the highest estimation among the eastern nations. Rosenmuller, in a note upon Bochart, derives the name from the Arabic, where it signifies mildness, gentleness, &c. The dove is mentioned in Scripture as the symbol of simplicity, innocence, gentleness, and fidelity, Hosea 7:11; Matthew 10:16 .

The following extract from Morier's Persian Travels illustrates a passage in Isaiah: "In the environs of the city, to the westward, near the Zainderood, are many pigeon houses, erected at a distance from habitations, for the sole purpose of collecting pigeons' dung for manure. They are large round towers, rather broader at the bottom than the top, and crowned by conical spiracles, through which the pigeons descend. Their interior resembles a honey-comb, pierced with a thousand holes, each of which forms a snug retreat for a nest. More care appears to have been bestowed upon their outside than upon that of the generality of the dwelling houses; for they are painted and ornamented. The extraordinary flights of pigeons which I have seen alight upon one of these buildings afford, perhaps, a good illustration for the passage in Isaiah 60:8 : ‘Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?' Their great numbers, and the compactness of their mass, literally look like a cloud at a distance, and obscure the sun in their passage."

The first mention of the dove in the Scripture is Genesis 8:8; Genesis 8:10-12 , where Noah sent one from the ark to ascertain if the waters of the deluge had assuaged. She was sent forth thrice. The first time she speedily returned; having, in all probability, gone but a little way from the ark, as she must naturally be terrified at the appearance of the waters. After seven days, being sent out a second time, she returned with an olive leaf plucked off, whereby it became evident that the flood was considerably abated, and had sunk below the tops of the trees; and thus relieved the fears and cheered the heart of Noah and his family. And hence the olive branch has ever been among the fore-runners of peace, and chief of those emblems by which a happy, state of renovation and restoration to prosperity had been signified to mankind. At the end of other seven days, the dove, being sent out a third time, returned no more; from which Noah conjectured that the earth was so far drained as to afford sustenance for the birds and fowls; and he therefore removed the covering of the ark, which probably gave liberty to many of the fowls to fly off; and these circumstances afforded him the greater facility for making arrangements for disembarking the other animals. Doves might be offered in sacrifice, when those who were poor could not bring a more costly offering.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Dove'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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