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A bird of the family Columbidae. Doves and pigeons are so closely related as to be spoken and written of as synonymous, yet there is a distinction recognized from the beginning of time. It was especially marked in Palestine, because doves migrated, but pigeons remained in their chosen haunts all the year. Yet doves were the wild birds and were only confined singly or in pairs as caged pets, or in order to be available for sacrifice. Pigeons, without question, were the first domesticated birds, the record of their conquest by man extending if anything further back than ducks, geese and swans. These two were the best known and the most loved of all the myriads of birds of Palestine. Doves were given preference because they remained wild and were more elusive. The thing that escapes us is usually a little more attractive than the thing we have. Their loving natures had been noted, their sleek beautiful plumage, their plump bodies. They were the most precious of anything offered for sacrifice. Their use is always specified in preference to pigeons if only one bird was used; if both, the dove is frequently mentioned first. Because of their docility when caged, their use in sacrifice, and the religious superstition concerning them, they were allowed to nest unmolested and, according to species, flocked all over Palestine. The turtle-dove nested in gardens and vineyards, and was almost as tame as the pigeons. The palm turtle-dove took its name from its love of homing in palm trees, and sought these afield, and in cities, even building near the temple in Jerusalem. It also selected thorn and other trees. It has a small body, about ten inches in length, covered with bright chestnut- colored feathers, the neck dappled with dark, lustrous feathers. The rock dove swarmed over, through, and among the cliffs of mountains and the fissures of caves and ravines. The collared turtle-dove was the largest of the species. It remained permanently and homed in the forests of Tabor and Gilead, around the Dead Sea, and along the Jordan valley. This bird was darker than the others and took its name from a clearly outlined collar of dark feathers encircling the neck, and was especially sought for caged pets on account of its size and beauty.

In all, the dove is mentioned about fifty times in the Bible. Many of these references are concerning its use in sacrifice and need not all be mentioned. The others are quoted and explained from a scientific standpoint and in accordance with the characteristics and habits of the birds. The first reference to the dove occurs in Ge 8:8-12, in the history of the flood; then follows its specified use in sacrifice; note of its migratory habits is made, and then in poetry, prophecy, comparison, simile and song, it appears over and over throughout the Bible.

New Testament references will be found in a description of the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:16). People are admonished to be "harmless as doves" (Mt 10:16). "And Jesus entered into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold the doves" (Mt 21:12). This proves that these birds were a common article of commerce, probably the most used for caged pets, and those customarily employed for sacrifice.

Dove’s Dung (chari yonim, Kethibh for dibhyonim): 2Ki 6:25: "And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver." This seems so repulsive that some commentators have tried to prove the name applied to the edible root of a plant, but the history of sieges records other cases where matter quite as offensive was used to sustain life. The text is probably correct as it stands.

Gene Stratton-Porter

See also

  • Birds