On Dove’s and Ravens

In Genesis after the flood Noah sent out a raven and a dove. Their behaviour is illustrative of spiritual truth. Ever wonder why the dove returned and the raven did not?

6  So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. 7  Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. 8  He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground. 9  But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself. Genesis 8:6-9 (NKJV)

The context of the above passage is after many months in the Ark the waters began to recede and mountaintops could be seen. This is when Noah sent out the raven and the dove. If the raven could find a place to rest why couldn’t the dove find a ‘resting place for the soul of her foot?’ The simple answer is that ravens eat carrion and there would have been plenty of dead carcasses still floating around. The dead carcasses in spiritual terms speak of our flesh. The Holy Spirit will not rest upon and bless our flesh. We may protest that Acts 2 tells us otherwise. I will come to that.

  1. σρξ sarx noun

Flesh, human, mortal nature, physical life.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.

The Greek word sarx is used in the New Testament to refer to both our physical body and natural sinful propensities. Paul created this latter usage in his writing with numerous phrases such as the ones below.

4  that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4 (NKJV) 16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)

Here Paul extrapolates from the use of the term to refer to our physical body to have it refer to our natural sinful tendencies that are at odds with the desires of the Holy Spirit. Thus we can have Paul using the term the way he does above, with Luke writing in Acts and quoting Peter using it to refer to our natural physical body.

17  ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17 (NKJV)

A very interesting side note here is that most people associate this outpouring of the Spirit upon humanity as tied to the release of spiritual gifts. Yet Peter was not making that connection – he was connecting the release of spiritual gifts with conversion! This may seem like a small point but it is crucial. We tend to see the release or development of spiritual gifts as a post conversion experience. Peter quoted Joel to explain what had happened to the 120 when the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost and birthed the church. Peter then explicitly connected the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to conversion.

38  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 (NKJV)

So back to our dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit here in Genesis and at Jesus baptism (please note that the dove is only one of a number of representations of the Holy Spirit). The dove will not rest upon carrion, If we want the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives He will come and impart new life, we will be born again and receive Jesus nature in our spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit will never be comfortable with our flesh, our sinful propensities. He is the third member of the Godhead and while He may release gifts through us He will not find a resting place for the sole of His feet as long as we choose carrion over Him. We may have moments of His presence but He desires a resting place.

I remember once hearing a story from a missionary. He and his wife were on the mission field and a dove kept coming to sit on their balcony. At the time they were going through some marital struggles and noticed that every time they argued the dove left. They liked the dove and concluded that the dove represented the Holy Spirit being with them. They also concluded that since the dove was not going to change if they wanted the dove’s presence they needed to change their behaviour, they did. Let Isaiah express Yahweh’s heart in this manner.

1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2  For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:1-2 (NKJV)

Do we want to be His resting place?

PS – your comments on this or any other post are welcome. I think that creates a dialogue that helps us grow in Him and that is my goal in what I write.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

2 thoughts on “On Dove’s and Ravens”

  1. Hi Randy, great post, I’m learning a lot from your teachings.
    I have two questions.
    First, In Matthew 24:28, Jesus says, “28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. (sorry-NIV)
    Is this the same idea as your mentioning the raven and carrion? I’ve never been able to figure this verse out.
    Second, there are many times when I’m worshipping when I’m just totally undone by His Presence. But you also say this could just be a moment of His resting on me. Wouldn’t the Spirit always be with me? Confused as always – Terry.

    1. Terry, in Matthew 24:28 (also Luke 17:37) the word translated as ‘vultures’ is ‘eagle’ in the older versions and the NKJV and the new Modern English Version. Most recent versions translate the word as ‘vulture’ yet it is the same Greek word in Revelation 4:7 and 12:14, where clearly it refers to an eagle. It is hard to imagine one of the four living creatures in heaven worshipping around the throne as a vulture, or in 12:14 having a vulture being the source of rescue and safety. In Matt. 24:28 Jesus is speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and whose military standard was the eagle in this case Jesus was most likely providing a cryptic message as to who was going to destroy Jerusalem, the Roman eagle.

      As for being undone by His presence – in Acts 4:31 many of those ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit had been filled in Acts 2 in the upper room. His presence in us is always there, His manifest presence on us varies in intensity at times and most of us, me included, need more of the latter.

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