We're studying a feathered "lady" of the Bible this week . . . the dove in Noah's story.
As we study her, we'll see how she contrasts with the first bird that Noah sent out: the raven.
First of all, the raven was an unclean bird. Let's look at Leviticus, where the animals are listed that are unclean:
There were certain animals and birds that God's people in the Old Testament were not allowed to eat. They were also not allowed to offer them as sacrifice to God. Most of the birds on the list are those that scavenge for their food -- and they are not connoisseurs. They'll eat anything. Including dead stuff. I know, ugh.
So, ravens actually feed on death. They eat the flesh of dead things. They look for, and hunt for, dead things.
In stark contrast, the dove is a clean animal. The people of God could not only eat them, but they could offer them as sacrifices to God. Let's look at some verses about them:
So the said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” (Genesis 15:9)
If the offering to the is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. (Leviticus 1:14)
But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”(Leviticus 12:8)Doves were clean animals, in contrast with the ravens. But God also seems to have a special place in His heart for them . . . Jesus used them in His teachings as symbols of purity and innocence. We all probably remember His words to His disciples:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)And perhaps the most memorable image of a dove in the entire Bible is after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan:
(Mark 1:10)Have you ever wondered what the significance was, that Noah first sent a raven, and then our friend, the dove? Why not just send the dove the first time, too? First an unclean bird, then a clean one?
Well, I guess the most simple answer is that God told Him to! After all, Noah had been obedient to God, and was following His instructions to the letter. (Grin)
But there are some other reasons that we can look at, today and again tomorrow. . . .
First, God may have been reminding Noah and all of us that the flood brought death. Remember, ravens literally look for death, and feed on death. After the flood, there was plenty of death.
Everything that breathed on land was dead. Everything. Not being dramatic here. Everything was wiped out.
Why? C'mon, doesn't the Bible tell us that "God is love," and all that? Absolutely.
The flood was brought because it was God's judgement on mankind. That's a word that isn't used much nowadays, but I'm an old fogey, and I believe that "mankind" means humans, not just the male variety. Women and men were guilty before God:
God had given mankind (yeah, I know, there's that word again) plenty of chances. Their wickedness was "great," and every one of their thoughts was "only evil all the time." All of the earth was "corrupt" and "full of violence." (Genesis 6:5-12)
Like our world today?
Yep. Kinda makes ya think. And makes us want to "redeem the time," and tell others about Jesus before it's too late . . .
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)But I digress.
The flood brought death. And there was plenty of food for the raven.
But let's move on a little in the story . . . the raven looked for death. But the dove looked for life.
The message of the dove is two-fold: it is one of hope, and of life.
We'll study her more tomorrow.