Birds of the Bible – Descending Like A Dove

When I have my devotions, I sit in a chair by the window that faces the bird feeders. So while reading, I notice the birds busily getting their daily quota of my seed. I have been reading currently through the Gospels and keep coming upon when Jesus was baptized and the “Spirit of God descended like a dove?” That phrase is in all four Gospels; Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22 and in John 1:32.

I have 3 or 4 Mourning Doves and a group of 9-11 Eurasian Collared Doves that come to eat quite frequently at about the time I am reading. So I have been noticing them more lately. They sort of flutter down to the feeders. The Red-winged Blackbirds and the Boat-tailed Grackles seem to sail in and then put on their brakes to land. The few House Sparrows don’t seem to flutter like the Doves either.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. (Matthew 3:16 NKJV)

Barnes says – “The Spirit of God – See Mat_3:11. This was the third person of the Trinity, descending upon him in the form of a dove, Luk_3:22. The dove, among the Jews, was the symbol of purity of heart, harmlessness, and gentleness, Mat_10:16; compare Psa_55:6-7. The form chosen here was doubtless an emblem of the innocence, meekness, and tenderness of the Saviour. The gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approbation of Jesus Joh_1:33, and a sign of his being set apart to the office of the Messiah. We are not to suppose that there was any change done in the moral character of Jesus, but only that he was publicly set apart to his work, and solemnly approved by God in the office to which he was appointed.”

Pulpit Commentary – “The dove-Spirit on Christ. “Descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” Comparing the accounts given by the evangelists, it still remains uncertain whether what was seen by John actually had the form of a dove, or hovered or brooded as a descending bird does. But for our fixed associations, and the familiar comments, we should be more willing to see that the brooding, resting, abiding of the Spirit on Jesus, is the thing intended to be set prominently before us by the figure. It will be safer, perhaps, to fix attention on both the explanations.”

Doves in Israel

Doves in Israel ©©

And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. (Mark 1:10 NKJV)

Matthew Henry – “(2.) He saw the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. Note, Then we may see heaven opened to us, when we perceive the Spirit descending and working upon us. God’s good work in us is the surest evidence of his good will towards us, and his preparations for us. Justin Martyr says, that when Christ was baptized, a fire was kindled in Jordan: and it is an ancient tradition, that a great light shone round the place; for the Spirit brings both light and heat.”

Bible Knowledge Comm. – “Second, He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove, in a visible dovelike form, not in a dovelike way (cf. Luk_3:22). The dove imagery probably symbolized the Spirit’s creative activity (cf. Gen_1:2). In Old Testament times the Spirit came on certain people to empower them for service (e.g., Exo_31:3; Jdg_3:10; Jdg_11:29; 1Sa_19:20, 1Sa_19:23). The coming of the Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (cf. Act_10:38) and the task of baptizing others with the Spirit, as John predicted (Mar_1:8).”

J Vernon McGee – “Mark 1:10-11 - Here we see the Trinity brought together in a very definite way. We see the Lord Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead; the Spirit of God who descends like a dove upon Him—the Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead; and the voice from heaven saying, “Thou art my beloved Son” is that of the Father, the first Person of the Godhead. So the Trinity is brought to our attention. And this, by the way, is heaven’s seal upon the Person and dedication of Jesus.   You will notice that things are happening very fast here. He is the Servant. John the Baptist is the one who introduces Him, and then God the Father identifies Him and puts His seal upon Him. Next the temptation will initiate Him.”

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Quy Tran

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Quy Tran

And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22 NKJV)

Life Application Study Bible – “Luke 3:21-22 - Theologians have long been troubled by Jesus’ allowing himself to be baptized by John. After all, this baptism was for sinners. Why, then, did Jesus do it? He did it because he is both God and human—he underwent baptism and even death as only a human could; he lived a sinless life and rose from the dead as only God could. This baptism by John in the Jordan River was another step in his identification with us sinful people; and the arrival of the dove signifies God’s approval. Now Jesus would officially begin his ministry as God’s beloved Son walking the dusty roads of Israel. When you are hurting, depressed, broken, remember: You have a Savior who understands your humanity. When you sin, remember: He has paid the price for your disobedience.

This is one of several places in Scripture where all the members of the Trinity are mentioned—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the traditional words of the church, the one God exists in three persons but one substance, coeternal and coequal. No explanation can adequately portray the power and intricacy of this unique relationship. There are no perfect analogies in nature because there is no other relationship like the Trinity.

Gill – “like a dove upon him; either in the form of a dove, or this corporeal form, whatever it was, descended and hovered on him as a dove does:”

I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:31-34 NKJV)

Ironside – “Then John says, “This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not” (vv. 30-31a). Evidently he had been out in company where Jesus was, but he did not understand that this was the Messiah until now. He “knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove”-you see this event takes place after the baptism, which is not referred to here, but is mentioned in other Gospels-”I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (vv. 31-33). The great work that John was sent to do was nearing an end. Now here is the climax: “I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.” Did John really know that? Yes, he did-“I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (v. 34). Do you know that, dear friend? Have you trusted Him for yourself? Oh, if you have never trusted Him before, won’t you come to God, owning your sin? “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

*** From the above remarks from the different commentaries and the four verses, it seems that the Dove descending on Christ and resting there is for several reason. John the Baptist had been told to look for that sign so that he would know who the Messiah was. Also, the verse help reveal the work of the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit (our Dove). And most important of all, those verse point to Our Savior or “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” I trust you know Him as your personal Savior.

The next time I watch a Dove landing, I am sure what I have just gleaned from these writers and my reading of the Bible will bring to mind Jesus’ baptism and the how the Holy Spirit descended like a Dove and God speaking from heaven, confirming that He is the Son of God.

Quotes are from my e-Sword program.

See ~ Birds of the Bible – Doves

Sharing The Gospel

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Video by  CherokeePhoenix

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I know these are not Doves, but Gulls, but they remind me of the Dove’s landings at my feeders.

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6 thoughts on “Birds of the Bible – Descending Like A Dove

  1. Beautiful blog! I also sit by my window and watch the birds at our feeding while I have devotions. I’m writing a commentary on the Song of Solomon and will be writing on 2:12, “The voice of the turtle is heard in our land” in a couple of weeks. I am wondering if I may use your picture of Christ with the dove if I credit you, or would I need to get copyright permission from someone else? Thanks!

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      • Okay, thank you! I’ll see if I can track it down. Do you have a particular source/sources for free pictures on Bible themes? There are so many times when I write that I would love to be able to use a picture of Christ but don’t know where to look. Bless you for your rich reflections and ministry! I have been collecting pictures of birds for years and hope someday to produce a series about them with my own reflections based on things the Lord has taught me through them. God is good!

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  2. Pingback: Follow the Holy Spirit. | GodLovesBummyla

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