Birds of the Bible – Turtle Doves

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)

According to the latest list of Turtle Doves by the I.O.C version 2.5 there are only six doves that bear the name “Turtle Dove.” They are in two genus (groups), the Nesoenas and the Streptopelia. That means that they are closely related, but the ornithologist have divided them that way.

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

The Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) is the only one in the Nesoenas. The Malagasy Turtle-dove (Nesoenas picturata), is also known as the Madagascar Turtle-dove, is a bird species in the pigeon and dove family, Columbidae. It is found in British Indian Ocean Territory, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, and Seychelles. Its closest relative a Pink Pigeon together they form a lineage apart from both the typical pigeons (Columba) and the typical turtle-doves (Streptopelia).

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

The other five Turtle Doves, the Euopean, Dusky, Adamawa, Oriental, and Red are in the Streptopelia genus. These are mainly slim, small to medium-sized species. The upperparts tend to be pale brown, and the underparts are often a shade of pink. Many have a characteristic black-and-white patch on the neck, and monotonous cooing songs. Mainly in Africa, but several species occur in tropical southern Asia. As a group, this genus is highly successful; many species are abundant in a range of habitats in the tropics, and two now have a much more extensive distribution.

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

In Scripture, the Turtle Dove or “turtledove” appears in fifteen verses. Most of those have to do with the turtledove being used as a sacrifice. In Genesis 15:9 the Lord GOD told Abraham to provide one and a pigeon as part of a sacrifice when Abraham was give the covenant of the promised land.

Then in Leviticus a turtledove was used in the burnt offering in Lev. 1:14, two turtledoves for the trespass offering of Lev. 5:7, two for a second burnt offering in Lev. 5:11, for purification after the birth of a child in Lev. 12:6, 8, a sin offering in Lev. 14:22, a sin and a burnt offering in Lev. 14:30, two more offered in Lev. 15:14 and 29.

In Deuteronomy 6:10, two turtledove or pigeons are used for a cleansing.

O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. (Psalms 74:19 KJV)

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

Here is what Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible says about the above verse in Psalms: “Psa 74:19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove – The “life” of thy turtle-dove; or, thy turtle-dove itself. The turtle-dove is a name of endearment for one beloved, in Son. 2:12, and is thus applied here to the people of Israel. The leading idea in such an application of the word is that of innocence, harmlessness, timidity, gentleness. The thought here is that of a people dear to God, now timid and alarmed. It is the prayer of a people beloved by God that he would not deliver them to their enemies. The prayer may be regarded as one which was used on the occasion referred to in the psalm; or, as a general prayer for the people of God, considered as exposed to ravening enemies.”

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes says of Song of Son. 2:12 (quoted at top): “The flowers – The communications of God’s grace, the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, are vouchsafed unto, and appear in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring. The turtle – This seems particularly to be mentioned because it not only gives notice of the spring, but aptly represents the Spirit of God, which even the Chaldee paraphrast understands by this turtle, which appeared in the shape of a dove, and which worketh a dove – like meekness, and chastity, and faithfulness, in believers.”

Jeremiah speaks of the migration of the turtledove.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

Last but not least, Mary offered a pair of turtledove at the end of her purification after Jesus was born. The turtledove are in Luke 2:24, but the whole passage from Luke 2:21-39 is worth reading.

Most of the times, not always, the turtledove or pigeons were use in the sacrifices by someone who could not afford an animal like a lamb or a bullock. I find this very comforting because God did not make salvation only for those who could afford it. In fact, none of us can afford the cost of what took for the purchase of our salvation.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 KJV)

The Gospel Message

(All photos may be clicked on – WikiC = Wiki Commons. Hover mouse over underlined verses.)
*

Birds of the Bible – Dove and Turtle-Dove

The Dove is probably recognized by most people, even though they may not know which specific kind they are viewing. White doves are released at weddings and other special occasions. The symbol for the dove is displayed many times. The coo of the mourning dove is heard and most recognize a Rock Pigeon (formerly a Rock Dove). We do not have Turtle-Doves here in America; they are in the Orient, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The dove family (Columbidae) ranges from about 6.5” to 12” and seem to be gentle. Doves tend to be monogamous and both male and female produce a “crop milk” to feed their young the first few days. Most birds regurgitate food for the young from the beginning. Doves do not make the most elabroate nests, often they are on the ground and flimsy. Many were domesticated and were used for sacrifices. They are considered “clean” birds in the Bible. There are at least twenty references to doves in the Word of God.

  • The first mention of the Dove is in Genesis 8:8-13 when Noah released her from the ark. She was released three times, but came back two times because she “found no rest for the sole of her foot.” They do not eat carrion as the raven does. Most are ground feeders and she had nowhere to feed that was dry. The second time she came back with an olive leaf, and then never returned the last time.
  • (Genesis 15:9, Leviticus 5:7 and 12:6-8, Luke 2:22-24) all refer the Dove and Turtle dove being used for sacrifices.
  • David was distressed and wrote “…Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. (Psalms 55:6 KJV)
  • Isaiah 38:14 says, “I did mourn as a dove…” We have a Mourning Dove.
    The Lord used the dove when he told His Apostles, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matt.10:16)
  • The dove became a symbol of The Holy Spirit at Jesus’ Baptism (Mat 3:16; Luk 3:22; John 1:32).

There is more to be said, but when you find the Dove in your Scripture reading, you will have a mental picture of them. The Hymn writers have used the dove in songs like:
Sunshine in My Soul – Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920
There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flow’rs of grace appear. Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove – Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Come, Holy Spirit, heav’nly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning pow’rs;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Pictures are (In Order-Mourning, Eurasian Collared, Ground, and White-winged Doves) Reinier Munguia at Wildstock Photography)

See our Doves and Pigeon page