The Fascinating Meaning Of Owls In The Bible

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Published by Kimberly Wall

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Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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We seldom see a live owl. It is one of the birds that are going extinct because of hunting, habitat loss, and climate change. We often see owls as figurines or images in our homes and other places. These nice decorative pieces evoke wonder and curiosity. So, what is the owl’s meaning in the Bible?

There are more than 200 species of owls on Earth, and their feathers are suitable for silent flight. They are wild predators known for their hooting sounds. Because of their large heads that rotate up to 270 degrees and their big eyes, many people regard them as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom.

But the Bible also reveals that owls are symbols of uncleanliness, ruin, and desolation. They thrive in both arid and semiarid environments. They also bring bad omens and are carriers of illness, witchcraft, black magic, and death.

The Biblical Meanings Of Owls

These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, and the Osprey.

Leviticus 11:13–18

The Old Testament is filled with God’s laws on how His children, the Israelites, should live or conduct their daily activities. The Ten Commandments were primarily given by God as the main and primary source of all His essential rules, guidelines, and commands.

The Torah contains all the mundane things and ways that the Israelites were to observe, including the observance of holy days and rules for dealing with family, neighbors, and foreigners. It also includes the manner in which they dress and instructions on how to observe their feasts.

One important rule that God wrote and told the Israelites is about the food that they may or may not eat. He is concerned about the consumption of only “clean food” and advises people to avoid “unclean foods[1].”

Bible owls are considered impure in the Old Testament. These birds are primarily referenced as “dirty birds,” specifically in Leviticus 11:13–18 and Deuteronomy 14:11–17. Just like other birds of prey, owls consume meat with blood still on it. Blood is generally considered “unclean” in the Scriptures as it defiles the holy and pure essence of the human body.

The owl is also mentioned in the Bible to symbolize loneliness, torment, death, darkness, and desolation. They thrived in the barren wastelands and ruined temples of the country.

The prophet Jeremiah reveals the destruction of Babylon and the lingering desolation of the city, whose only dwellers are owls, hyenas, and other creatures of the desert. In the Book of Psalms, the owl is represented by the loneliness of the afflicted heart of the Psalmist.

In addition, Bible owls are referenced to indicate many different things and meanings. These predatory birds thrive with wild beasts in far-off wildernesses or ruined cities.

3 brown owls on branch and owl meaning in the bible

What Do Owls Symbolize In The Bible? 

Symbol Of Impurity And Uncleanliness

You may eat any clean bird. But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, and the cormorant.

Deuteronomy 14:11–17

The Bible clearly illustrates what the Israelites could and could not consume. According to the rules of Kosher, some foods are considered unclean and should not be eaten. These include birds and animals slaughtered for their meat to be taken as food. The Jews considered these animals and birds unclean because they were predatory creatures that fed on flesh with blood still on it.

Moreover, the uncleanliness of these creatures is associated with what they eat. In particular, an owl is a scavenger that feasts on dead prey, which is considered unclean in the laws of the Jews. When a Jew partakes of tainted meat, they will commit a sin and be separated from God.

Moreover, if an unclean person touches a clean person or thing, uncleanliness is also transmitted. If a person broke these laws, they were to show repentance to God by offering sacrifices to cleanse themselves.

Knowledge And Wisdom

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or ask the birds in the sky, and they will tell you.

Job 12:7

Growing into adulthood, we have learned the phrases “as wise as an owl” or “as wise as Solomon.” In the Bible (1 Kings Chapter 3), Solomon is portrayed as a king who possessed great wisdom and wealth. But the origins of this phrase can be traced back to the legends of ancient Greece. In art, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is frequently depicted with an owl.

Since ancient times, owls have been considered symbols of knowledge and wisdom. Despite the fact that they only possess average intelligence, cultures have thought that they possess remarkable insight. The notion of the owl’s profound wisdom is probably brought about by its solitary character and nature. Secondly, its astounding binocular vision allows it to see objects at great distances.

Symbol Of Grief And Mourning

Because of this, I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl.

Micah 1:8

In the Bible, several passages refer to the owl’s symbolism as representing death, mourning, and grief. Job’s children perished and his possessions vanished because of the divine testing he was going through. Job compared his lament and grief because of his tragic circumstances to those of these nocturnal creatures.

In his misery, Job likened his voice to that of the owl. Job 30:28–29 reads, “I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I have become a brother of jackals and a companion of owls (ostriches).”

In the Old Testament, Micah compared the hooting sound of an owl to a person who is in mourning and undergoing sorrow and lament. This was a situation of weeping brought about by the impending judgment on Jerusalem and Samaria that would bring great suffering and grief. In other early cultures and traditions, the sound of owls meant that someone was going to die or experience great suffering.

The Symbol Of Misery And Loneliness

So desert creatures and hyenas will live there, and there the owl will dwell. It will never be inhabited or lived in by future generations.

Jeremiah 50:39

The owl is a species of bird that thrives in isolation and dwells in the desolation of rocky ravines, deserts, and palm groves. Because of the nature of its habitat, this bird is often associated with misery and loneliness. In the Bible, solitude was a sign of punishment from God, separating a person from the rest of the community.

When you live in isolation and harshness, similar to a desert experience, you struggle with pain, disease, desperation, and brokenness. When we see an owl, we are called upon to seek God to help us get away from such solitude and wretchedness.

A Symbol Of Destruction And Ruin

In my distress, I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 

Psalm 102:5–6

In the Bible, God has always been just and righteous. He abhors the situation when His children, the Israelites, are taken advantage of or treated unfairly. The land of Edom has been in the sights of God because of its grievous offense to the people of Judah.

The owl symbolizes the disturbing punishment and consequences of the bad acts of people against others. Babylon and other wicked cities are referenced as being rendered ruined and desolate because of their unrighteous deeds.

God has demonstrated in the Bible how He chastises and punishes those who cause undue harm to His children. These retributions are sometimes indicated by the hooting and desolation characterized by the owl.

What Do Owls Represent In The Bible?

For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause… From generation to generation, it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again. The desert owl and screech owl will possess it, and the great owl and raven will nest there.

— Isaiah 34:8–11

Satan

Because of its nocturnal life and activity and its connection with being sinister and mysterious, the owl has often been used in Christian art to represent Satan. It tricks other birds into falling prey to the traps set by hunters, much like the deceptive ways of the Devil.

Solitude

The owl is used to display the spirit of a vigilant and secluded hermit. When we look at an owl, it seems that this bird does not need the company of other creatures. It is often depicted in scenes where hermits are praying. The owl’s meaning in the Bible centers on our solitary nature. Sometimes, we only need to be still in God’s presence.

God’s Provision

The Bible mentions His gracious characteristic of feeding the birds of the air. When we see an owl feeding on worms, it means God is providing for all of our needs. Like owls, we can survive the harshness of the earth if we remain faithful and obedient to God.

Repentance

Owls are associated with contrition and sorrow in the Bible. The bird alludes to both godly and worldly sorrow. When we see a lonely owl, we are reminded to reflect on our spiritual state and approach God for the cleansing of our souls.

What Are Superstitious Beliefs About Owls?

  • The ancient Greeks symbolized the owl as the goddess Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom.
  • Across the Middle East, Africa, and some parts of America and Europe, owls have often been linked with death and bad omens.
  • When you always see a black owl, it means you are always living in sin.
  • In ancient Greece, the owl was considered a symbol of higher wisdom.
  • Having an owl as your spirit animal means you are a wise and observant listener.
  • The owl was also considered a protector of the Acropolis.
  • In some cultures, the owl symbolizes the relationship between the moon, feminine energy, and fertility.
  • Birds, like the owl, symbolize the cycles and renewals of the moon.
  • Seeing the same owl in the same place many times may signify an important message from the heavens.
  • The Roman goddess Diana, who was equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena, also had the owl as her sign.
  • The biblical meaning of an owl in a dream should be examined. Your life will also be more frightening when you dream of a black owl at night.

What Species Of Owls Appear In The Bible?

  1. The Hebrew word and name “yanshuf,” which means twilight, inspired the Great Owl’s name. It is somewhat similar in that it is called the eagle owl or arrow snake (Isaiah 34:15; Leviticus 11:17; Deuteronomy 14:16).
  2. Other versions of the Scriptures have changed “great owl” to “dart-snake” or “arrow snake.” The little owl, from the Hebrew word “kos,” is often alluded to as the “mother of ruins.” It is usually found in the deserted cities and ruined temples of Palestine together with wild animals.
  3. The screech owl, derived from the Hebrew “Lilith,” was renamed the “night monster” due to its hooting behavior (Isaiah 34:14).
  4. The horned owl was derived from the Hebrew word “tinshemet.” It is considered one of the unclean birds in Leviticus 11:16 and Deuteronomy 14:15.
  5. Ostrich is also known as Bat ya’anah in Hebrew. Some versions of the Scriptures have translated this kind of owl in some verses to “ostrich,” which thrives in the desert and seldom cries and hoots (Leviticus 11:16; Job 30:29; Deuteronomy 14:15).

What Is The Prophetic Meaning Of Seeing Owls?

But desert creatures will lie there; jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell; and there the wild goats will leap about.

— Isaiah 13:21

Messengers Of God

In general, birds are known as divine messengers. The owl, like many birds in the Bible, can refer to many different things depending on the exact circumstances of a person at a particular time. It is best to pray and reflect on God’s Word and compare it to any particular circumstance, pain, struggle, or milestone you are experiencing in your life.

Doom And Destruction

When you see a black owl, it may mean that impending doom is coming your way. This can be the tragic loss of someone you know or the failure and decline of your business or income.

Deep Spiritual Knowledge

The Bible depicts the owl as possessing deep spiritual knowledge and wisdom. When you witness an owl drinking from a brook, it means that the owl is drinking from the source or fountain of wisdom and knowledge. Furthermore, if you see yourself drinking water like the owl, it indicates that you have profound spiritual insight and knowledge.

owl with yellow flowers and owl meaning in the bible

Conclusion

An owl is a magnificent creature to behold. When we see its figurines in houses, we are reminded of wisdom and intelligence. But we also learn that the owl is a harbinger of bad news and omens. Bible characters and events refer to the owl as a creature representing darkness and desolation.

However, we should not put our entire faith in owls as a source of wisdom and news. Our God is the supreme source of intelligence and wisdom in the universe. As our Creator, He endowed us with the intellect and abilities to navigate our mundane lives correctly and righteously. When we seek His face in prayer and guidance, we draw upon His infinite wisdom and righteousness.

2 thoughts on “The Fascinating Meaning Of Owls In The Bible”

  1. Wow, I found the article on the owl in the Bible fascinating—did the owl’s association with wisdom and magic influence any specific stories or beliefs in biblical times?

    Reply

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