Birds of the Bible – Silly Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Lee

Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. (Hosea 7:11 ESV)

I came across this verse yesterday in my reading of Scripture. Hadn’t noticed it before, at least that I recall. So what it is this about a “Silly Dove”? After checking Wikipedia, nothing showed up that indicates silliness. Then it was off to Cornell’s About Birds, still nothing indicating a silly dove. Even checked their PigeonWatch, no luck. (Doves and Pigeons are in the same family, Columbidae) At a dove hunting site, they indicated that they were easy to flush out to either shoot or capture.

Now it is time for e-Sword to help figure this out. Putting Hosea 7:11 in the compare mode revealed most of the versions used “silly”, but a few other words show up such as; mindless, foolish, senseless, decoyed, easily deceived.

The second part of the verse says the dove is “without sense.” Again here are some of the other translations; without understanding, not having a heart or heartless, without wisdom, fluttering back and forth, lacking sense, clueless, easily tricked.

When the commentaries were checked out, then the verse started making more sense. In context, Ephraim is being called the “silly dove” because of their trying to depend on others instead of God. God is trying to get them to turn back to Him, but they are “easily deceived.” Are people not like that today? They would rather search out other philosophies (like evolution) or religions instead of turning to their Creator God.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Dan

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Dan

Comments from the Commentaries:

like a silly dove — a bird proverbial for simplicity: easily deceived.
without heart — that is, understanding.
call to Egypt — Israel lying between the two great rival empires Egypt and Assyria, sought each by turns to help her against the other. As this prophecy was written in the reign of Hoshea, the allusion is probably to the alliance with So or Sabacho II (of which a record has been found on the clay cylindrical seals in Koyunjik), which ended in the overthrow of Hoshea and the deportation of Israel (2Ki_17:3-6). As the dove betrays its foolishness by fleeing in alarm from its nest only to fall into the net of the fowler, so Israel, though warned that foreign alliances would be their ruin, rushed into them.

(Believer’s Bible Commentary) Ephraim flew like a silly dove . . . to Egypt and Assyria for help, but God would catch the dove in a net and punish the people.

Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart – A bird that has little understanding; that is easily snared and taken; that is careless about its own young, and seems to live without any kind of thought. It has been made, by those who, like itself, are without heart, the symbol of conjugal affection. Nothing worse could have been chosen, for the dove and its mate are continually quarrelling.

(Exposing the Word) A Silly Dove- unstable, flitting from one hope to another. God stands trying to catch them in the snare accord to verse 12.

(Geneva Translation Notes) That is, without all judgment, as those that cannot tell whether it is better to cleave only to God, or to seek the help of man.

(Haydock) Decoyed. Hebrew, “stupid,” chap. iv. 11. The dove is the only bird which is not grieved at the loss of its young. (St. Jerome) — It returns to the same nest, though repeatedly robbed, forgetting past dangers. (Theodoret) — Thus Israel is not reclaimed, though idolatry has so often proved its ruin. — Egypt. Jeroboam had returned thither, and at his return brought about a division of the kingdom, 3 Kings xi. 40. Osee, the last king, applied to Sua, and this provoked the Assyrians to destroy the kingdom. They pretended that it was tributary to them, after Phul had been invited to assist Manahem for a thousand talents, 4 Kings xv. 19., and xvii. 4. Thus was a worldly policy confounded.

(John Wesley Explanatory Notes) Like a silly dove – Ephraim is now become like the dove in weakness and fear, as well as in imprudence and liableness to be deceived. Without heart – Without either discretion or courage. To Assyria – Instead of going to God, who alone can help.

(J Vernon McGee) This is another interesting illustration. If you have ever been dove hunting, you know that if a dove has a nest with eggs or little ones in it she will act as if she has a broken wing and actually let you get very close to her. She tries to lure you away from her nest. Actually, that is not a very smart move on the part of the dove for two reasons. When a dove lets you get that close to her, you know there is a nest nearby. Secondly, she endangers her own life.

Now here was Ephraim. She refused to run to God for help. So first she ran down to Egypt for help. When Egypt wouldn’t give her the help she wanted, she went up to Assyria and asked for help. She went back and forth like a silly dove. What a picture!

(Life Application Study Bible) Israel’s King Menahem had paid Assyria to support him in power (2Ki_15:19-20); King Hoshea turned against Assyria and went to Egypt for help (2Ki_17:4). Israel’s kings went back and forth, allying themselves with different nations when they should have allied themselves with God.

Mourning Dove by Reinier Munguia

Mourning Dove by Reinier Munguia

The explanation I like the best comes from Dr. Joe Temple about the Dove. This is his understanding of it. I know I am quoting much, but it makes great sense.

The Innocent Dove

Hosea 7

11 Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.

Here Ephraim is compared to a silly dove. A better word for silly would be innocent . Ephraim was innocent enough to think that Egypt and Assyria could come to her rescue when the chastening hand of God was resting upon her. Oftentimes Hosea had seen a dove ensnared because of its innocence, because it was not wary of that that would ensnare it. He recognized that characteristic of the dove and he said, “Ephraim is just like that.”

Go with me to the New Testament and notice the Lord Jesus Christ not only told us to be bird watchers, but He was a bird watcher Himself, for He noticed the characteristics of the dove and brought one of those characteristics to the attention of the people to whom He was speaking. This needs to be emphasized for us today. Notice, Matthew, chapter 10, verse 16. He said to His disciples:

Matthew 10

16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Notice: “…harmless as doves.” A better word for harmless is innocent . The reason that He said that is that He wanted us to be wise concerning the things of God and simple and innocent concerning the things that are evil. I think that one of the biggest lies that the Devil is telling Christian people today, particularly Christian parents, is that their children must not be too protected, for if they are, they will not know how to handle themselves in a world that is full of sin. The Devil is suggesting to people today that Christian people need to be familiar with all of the sinful things that are going on in the world so that they will know how to react when they face them.

I don’t believe that. I believe your children can be grounded in the Word of God so that they live by princiiples that are applicable to any situation in any generation, and I believe you can be likewise. I always respond to the suggestion that we need to know about sin so that we know how to react to it with a statement that a man from another generation made when he said, “You don’t have to go through the sewer to know how dirty it is. All you need to do is go down to the sewage plant and you will know. Go where the sewer comes out.” The devil would have us believe we have to be involved in order to know what is going on. We don’t. Remember the dove. Christ said, “I am sending you out into the world which is full of wolves, ready to pounce on you, but I want you to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”


Cool Pigeon Facts – Cornell

Mourning Dove – All About Birds

Wordless Birds


6 thoughts on “Birds of the Bible – Silly Dove

  1. As a new reader, I want to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog – and especially, “Birds of the Bible.” It is fascinating, insightful, and most appreciated. I love the variety of commentaries that you have included. Definitely “faith-building.” Bless you, today.


  2. Wow! This is really interesting. It just goes to show how things get lost in translation. Sometimes English isn’t the most descriptive (i.e. emotive) language. I love delving into the meaning of verses. Great post! :)


  3. Very revealing in a number of ways. Gives me good food for thought. But it also makes we wonder how on earth we came to equate doves with love! We see all these things in society that use doves to represent lovers and loving, but if they quarrel with their mates and do not mourn the loss of their young, they are some of the most UNloving creatures on earth. Just another example of man’s worldly “wisdom” carrying him into deception I guess.


  4. “Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart.” And why silly? Why, it is silly, of course, to profess to be a dove at all, unless a dove at heart; silly of you to enslave yourselves with the customs of a country of which you are not a citizen,-to bind yourselves with the rules of a family of which you are not a member. We find men, when they go to another country, if there is a conscription there, only too willing to plead their own nationality, in order to escape it; and yet we have persons who will serve in the Christian conscription, who give as God’s people give, and outwardly do what God’s people do, and yet they are not of the godly nation, but are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Is not this silly,-to take the irksome toil, and not to get the joy and the benefit of it? You are silly to go and work in the vineyard, though you have never eaten of the clusters, and never can unless your heart be right in the sight of God. Isn’t it silly, then, to profess to be a dove at all, and yet not to be a dove?


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