The Bible is something that interests most people. Coming from the “Bible Belt”, we hear all of the popular stories growing up. One stories has always interested me the most and that is the story of Noah. For any animal lover, like myself, the story of Noah and his ark is very intriguing. Many people know the story by heart, but very few have actually put the story into perspective. There are many sections of this story that can be looked into, but I am choosing to look at the dove and what it all symbolizes.
The dove gives us the easy to see symbols such as, pure, free, and holy. However, it also gives some symbols that the common Bible reader might not pick up on. The dove is a pure bird and the raven is not, we can gather that much from reading Edgar Allan Poe, but was it a coincidence that these two birds were placed and contrasted against each other? No. The raven is a Christian symbol for Satan. According to Marcus Tidmarsh, http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/raven-christian-symbol.htm,
“Catholic Christian symbolism in art provides a clear graphic illustration which represents people or items of religious significance. What is the definition and the meaning of the Raven? A raven is large black passerine bird (Corvus corax) with a straight bill and long wedge-shaped tail , similar to the crow, but larger. Ravens feed greedily, eat greedily and prey on or hunt and obtain or seize by violence. The color of the raven is jet black symbolising darkness. The Raven Christian Symbol represents Satan and unrest, a symbol of ill-fortune.”
With that being said, if the raven is compared so closely with Satan, why was it trusted to find land? Why did Noah send it out? Since the Raven is considered an unclean species, why would Noah risk the life of that bird and the species dying out?
Why Noah sent the raven can be answered in many different ways and theories. It could be something as simple as seeing if it would be able to find dead carcasses on land, as mentioned in the Hebrew translation, or he could be sending it to see if there was any evil still left on the land. According to R.W.L Moberly, http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1585294?uid=3739520&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104579562167 , we receive different translations when it comes to the ESV Bible and the Hebrew. The Hebrew Bible tells us that the Raven goes and returns multiple times. The English translation just tells us of one account. The many different theories to why the raven was sent out first all come back to how the Hebrews saw it, as unclean. According to Tim O’Hearn, http://minuteswithmessiah.com/minutes/raven.htm,l the raven could have possibly been sent out first because it would have been fine it it did not survive. Nevertheless, the theories are completely different than what it symbolizes.
Personally, I think the Raven was sent first because it represented man and what man had become. Noah could be looked at like a symbol of God. God released the unclean man into the world just as Noah released the unclean bird. The raven represents the darkness that was released over men. Another theory I came up with is that Noah released the raven first as a symbol of God washing away the evil in the world. By releasing the unclean bird, showed us that they were ready to start over clean.
Now, to the dove. While this is more self explanatory, there are still some theories about why the dove was chosen and what it symbolizes.
According to Dorothy Willette, http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/the-enduring-symbolism-of-doves/, “There is strong evidence in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the archaeological record, that many ancient Israelites believed the goddess Asherah was the consort of their god Yahweh. Perhaps it is not so surprising, then, that the heirs of this Israelite religion incorporated the “feminine” symbol of the dove to represent the spirit of God (the word for “spirit,” ruach, is a feminine word in Hebrew).” This could be a reason why the dove is written so much about in the Bible. However, this still does not explain why Noah chose the dove second. Dorothy Willette goes on to further state that many ancient sailors used doves to find land. Noah could have very well borrowed this trick. However, I disagree with her on the dove representing a goddess in the Bible. I do not think the dove was chosen for that reason because I do not think and idol would be written about and praised upon such as the Bible does the dove. Since the dove is also a symbol for the Holy Spirit, I do not think it would represent Asherah.
Christians and Hebrews see the dove as a symbol of peace and purity among other things. In Noah’s Ark the dove represents hope and a clean slate. The white almost translucent coat of the dove shows the slate of man. The dark depth of the raven’s coat shows the sin that man drowned themselves in (literally).
Since the dove represents the starting over of man’s purity, what is the significance in the olive branch? According to some research done by Regina, https://5minutebible.wordpress.com/tag/noahs-ark/, the olive branch has a multitude of meanings. She stats that the olive tree is very fruitful and multiplies quickly. That could represent what God is telling Noah’s family to go forth and do. She also talks about how strong the roots are of the tree and that can represent the strength of Noah and his family.
My theory goes back to what I said earlier about Noah symbolizing God. Noah releases the dove to bring peace and purity back to the world. The dove keeps returning to Noah. He comes back to Noah and even brings an olive branch. I think this symbolizes the Old Testament and how men had to make sacrifices to God. When the dove is released for the third time and does not return to bring Noah something, I think this represents the New Testament and symbolizes what is to come. God is very well present in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament he is more hidden. The Bird no longer has to see Noah to know that he is there. Noah trusts the dove just as God begins to re-trust man.
The olive branch and the dove are world wide symbols for peace and the raven is a world wide symbol for darkness. The role these two birds played in Genesis 6-10 has forever changed how people will see them. Will all of this being said, there is a plethora of ways the dove and the raven can be viewed. Each person will have their own interpretations of this matter.