Emblem of peace (Genesis 8:7-12). After God's wrath for sin had been executed upon the earth, the dove was thrice sent forth; at the first sending she found no rest for the sole of her foot until she put herself in Noah's (or "comforter") hand, and was drawn into the ark; on the second trip, she brought back the olive leaf, the earnest of the restored earth; on the third trip, she was able to roam at large, no longer needing the ark's shelter. As the raven messenger "going forth to and fro," alighting on but never entering into the ark, symbolizes the unbelieving that have "no peace," "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest" (Isaiah 57:20-21): so the dove, in its threefold embassy, represents respectively the first return of the soul to its rest, the loving hand of Jesus; its subsequent reception of the dovelike spirit, the earnest of the final inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14); and its actual entrance finally on the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21), where there will be no need of the arklike church to separate between the world and God's people, between the saved and unsaved, where all shall be safe and blessed forever and the church shall be co-extensive with the world.
As the lamb is the emblem of the Savior, so the dove of the Holy Spirit the Comforter, because of its gentleness, tenderness, innocence, and constant love (Matthew 3:16). He changes us into His own likeness. The liquid full soft eye is the emblem of the heavenly bride's eye, through which the soul beams out (Song of Solomon 1:15). Contrast the sinner's eye (Matthew 20:15; 2 Peter 2:14). The church's unsheltered innocence in the world calls forth the prayer: "Deliver not the soul of Thy turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked" (Psalm 74:19; Psalm 55:11). Their plaintive note symbolizes the mourning penitent (Isaiah 59:11).
The change from the Egyptian bondage amidst the face blackening potteries to the freedom and beauty of Israel's theocratic state is expressed in Psalm 68:13-14, "though ye have lien (lain) among the pots yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," the dove's outspread wings reflecting a golden or silver splendor according to the direction in which the sunshine falls on them, typifying the dovelike spirit of joy and peace beaming forth from the believer, once darkness, but now light in the Lord. The dove's timidity answers to the believer fleeing from sin, self, and wrath, to the refuge in the cleft Rock of ages (Song of Solomon 2:14; Jeremiah 48:28; Isaiah 26:4, margin). Its gregariousness answers to the communion of saints, all having flocked together to Christ (Isaiah 60:8); the returning Israelites shall so flock to Jerusalem, as doves in a cloud to their cotes; and the converted Gentiles to Israel.
Saints must imitate its harmless simplicity (Matthew 7:16), but not its silliness (Hosea 7:11). The Israelites under God's visitation of the enemy's invasion "shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys" (Ezekiel 7:16); as doves which usually frequent valleys mount up to the mountains when fearing the birdcatcher (Psalm 11:1), so Israel, once dwelling in the peaceful valleys, shall flee from the foe to the mountains, once the scene of their highplace idolatries, now retributively the scene of their abject flight. In Jeremiah 25:38, "because of the fierceness of the oppressor" (Hebrew: the dove), the allusion is to the Chaldaean standard, the dove, the symbol of Venus. Semiramis the queen was said to have been nourished by doves when exposed at birth, and at death to have been transformed into a dove. In 2 Kings 6:25 the "dove's dung" sold for food in the famine seems to have been a vegetable or poor grain or vetch pea, so named, that grew in the land not built upon and lying, as is common in the East, within the city.
Linnaeus identified it with the Ornithogalum umbellatum, with eatable bulbs, "the star of Bethlehem"; the color of the flowers, white mixed with green, originated the name "dove's dung," which is of like color. Keil thinks it to be a saltwort yielding alkali, Herba alkali. Josephus, however (B. J., 5:13, section 7), mentions literal dung having been eaten in terrible famine. The offering of a dove was the alternative permitted to those unable to afford a more costly one, an alternative adopted instead of the lamb by the Virgin mother at her purification, a proof of the poverty to which our Lord stooped at His incarnation. The sellers of doves profaned the temple court by selling doves to meet the wants of the poorer classes (John 2:13-17).