Exploring The Deeper Meaning Of Doves In The Bible

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Published by Kenneth Garcia


Co-Founder of Biblekeeper, Author & Theologian

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Doves are graceful and attractive by nature. This fundamental characteristic of the dove is instructive because it shows that Jesus did not come to save sinners by their deeds but by grace. Therefore, the dove itself stands for Jesus’ method of ensuring eternal salvation for all who believe in and receive Him. So, what does “dove meaning in the Bible” mean?

The Bible gives the dove a lot of symbolic and mystical significance. The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus is an allegoric fulfillment of an Old Testament promise and an introduction to the Day of Pentecost. These texts demonstrate how the unseen God-Spirit can appear in a variety of shapes and forms. However, the only one that is mentioned explicitly in the Bible is the appearance of a dove.

Key Takeaways

  • Doves symbolize diverse concepts like grieving, vagueness, love, and liberation in biblical narratives, including stories of Jesus’ baptism and Noah’s Ark, conveying deeper meanings of peace and deliverance.
  • Doves, associated with the Holy Spirit in the Bible and Christian tradition, symbolize innocence, humility, and peace, reflecting qualities such as love, purity, and guidance attributed to the Holy Spirit.
  • In biblical texts like Psalms, doves signify blessing and prosperity, illustrating God’s provision and care. Their portrayal as symbols of wealth emphasizes divine favor and sustenance conveyed through them.

What Do Doves Symbolize In The Bible?

Every one of the gospels mentions a time when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove. Luke 3:22 says that the voice from heaven replied, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee, I am well pleased,” as the Spirit of God descended upon Him in the form of a dove.

1. Symbol Of Grieving

The dove’s quiet, gentle cooing gave the listeners the idea that it was grieving or mourning and came to represent that emotion in human life. “We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves,” the prophet claims (Isaiah 59:11).

2. Symbol Of Vagueness

The dove flies back and forth, creating the sense that it is uncertain of its future or bewildered. This trait of the bird was used as a suitable emblem for Israel’s uncertainty and lack of devotion to the Lord.

3. Symbol Of Love

The ancients considered the dove to be a representation of human love and elegance because of its beauty and long-standing fidelity to its lover. This is especially true in the Song of Songs: “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding spots on the hillside, show me your face, let me hear your voice” (2:14).

4. Symbol Of Liberation

The swift flight of the dove came to represent freedom from oppressive forces or dangerous situations. A freshly plucked olive leaf was in the dove’s beak when it came back to Noah in the evening and was likely the most significant representation of deliverance.

an oil painting portraying a majestic white dove against a stormy sky

What Do Doves Mean In The Bible?

In the New Testament, doves can be seen at events like Jesus’ baptism, birth, and the moments leading up to his crucifixion. According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph offered two doves as sacrifices at the Temple after the birth of Jesus, as required by the law as mentioned above (Luke 2:24). But in the Gospel of John[1], Jesus chastises all the traders and forces them out of the Temple, even those who sold doves to the worshipers (John 2:16).

The tale of the Flood and Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6–8 is another dove-related motif. After the earth had been submerged in water for some time, Noah sent a dove from the ark to see whether there was any dry land nearby. The dove returned with an olive branch in her mouth, and Noah knew that the water had left the planet.

Symbolically, the tale of Noah’s dove informs us that once the flood had cleansed the earth of its wickedness, God made peace with humankind. The dove stood in for His Spirit, who brought the good news of God’s and man’s reconciliation.

Of course, this was a temporary reconciliation because Jesus Christ is the only way to experience a permanent, spiritual reconciliation with God. It is noteworthy that at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit was shown as a dove, signifying peace with God. Symbolic of the Holy Spirit, He went to John the Baptist to be baptized just before beginning His earthly ministry.

an illustration of a serene dove perched on a branch

Why Do Doves Often Use As A Symbol For The Holy Spirit?

The New Testament refers to a white dove as a good, innocent creature. Doves were also used as sacrifices at the Tabernacle and temple in biblical times. For instance, Matthew 10:16 reports Jesus saying, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary probably brought a dove as a sacrifice (Luke 2:22–24).

In the earliest Christian art, we also learn that the dove is a symbol of love. The loved one is compared to a dove in the Song of Solomon. This provides more proof of how the dove was perceived. It was a bird and stood for the affection shared by two people.

This is consistent with what the Holy Spirit is said to have done in the Bible. Paul discussed the Holy Spirit’s love in his Romans letter. We also discovered that people had an unfavorable opinion of doves—those who have trusted Christ experience the gentle activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives and hearts.

The dove appeared to signify humility to the community. This absolutely accords with how the Holy Spirit is described in the Bible. He actually does not talk about Himself; instead, He simply talks about God the Son, Jesus. The dove, according to the Bible, is aware of seasonal changes. As God, the Holy Spirit is all-knowing. Nothing eludes His awareness.

This clean fowl is suitable for sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is without flaws or defects in the same way, and it is the ideal personification of God. We learn that the dove served as a peace sign. Those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior have peace and tranquility in their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

a watercolor depiction of a dove in flight

What Are Some Important Doves In The Bible?

According to the Bible, the dove was also a representation of love. The love the Holy Spirit fosters in a believer’s life is one of His fruits. The dove stood for perfection and holiness. This is a fitting description of the Holy Spirit. In all of His actions, He is flawless and pure.

The Grace And Peace Dove

Romans 8:11 says, “However, if the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwelleth in you.” In other words, the Holy Spirit would be actively involved in Jesus’ physical resurrection and securing the gift of salvation for humankind.

The Dove Symbolizes Prosperity

The Psalms portray the dove as a symbol of blessing and wealth. Psalm 68:9–10 says that God still provides for them when His people are discouraged. The Bible says, “Thou, O God, didst send a bountiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine heritage, for it was weary. Your congregation has inhabited it, and you, God, have provided your best for us.”

The dove is mentioned here right away in relation to God’s supply and blessing, which a bird embodies with silvery wings and pure gold feathers. Even when God judges evil in the world, this speaks of prosperity and provision for God’s people.

a digital illustration capturing the ethereal beauty of a dove perched on a blossoming cherry tree branch


The dove gained many meanings and interpretive implications from the ancient world to modern times, becoming a sophisticated and potent addition to religious texts and visual depictions. Thus, many qualities of doves led to comparisons of many ideas.

It reveals to us that the Holy Spirit embodies most, if not all, of the qualities ascribed to doves in the Bible and is full of grace and truth. The dove represents peace for humanity. Through Christ, we are now connected to heaven. Through His Son, God demonstrates to us that we are also accepted in the beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf by receiving His Son.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does God Use Doves?

God uses doves as symbols representing the Holy Spirit, embodying peace, purity, and divine guidance in Christianity, particularly exemplified by the dove’s descent during Jesus’ baptism.

Across various cultures, doves symbolize love, fertility, and renewal, with their gentle nature and white plumage epitomizing hope and innocence in spiritual teachings and narratives.

Does The Bible Say The Holy Spirit Is A Dove?

The Bible describes the Holy Spirit descending “like a dove” during Jesus’ baptism, symbolizing divine approval and the Spirit’s presence. While not explicitly stating the Holy Spirit is a dove, this imagery underscores peace, purity, and divine guidance associated with the Spirit in Christian theology.

Why Is The Dove Symbol Important To Christians?

The dove symbol is important to Christians as it represents the Holy Spirit, embodying peace, purity, and divine guidance. Its association with Jesus’ baptism signifies divine approval and the Spirit’s presence, while its symbolism of hope, innocence, and reconciliation aligns with core Christian values of faith and love.

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