Birds In The Bible: A Fascinating Look At The Symbolism Of Doves And Sparrows

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Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about birds?

 

Birds are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. There are many references to birds in the Bible – nearly 300 of them! In an archived article in Ministry magazine, the author, a professor from Emmanuel Missionary College, writes, “More than one hun­dred of these merely use the word “fowl” or “bird,” leaving the reader to guess at the species.

 

 

 

 

It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament, birds are written about much more frequently than in the New Testament.

 

For example, Moses, in Genesis, alone, refers to birds dozens of times, but, Paul mentions birds only twice in all of his writings.

 

Here’s a quick rundown:

 

Bird(s) – Mentioned 42 times in the Old Testament, 7 times in the New Testament.

 

Fowl(s) – Mentioned 74 times in the Old Testament, 11 times in the New Testament.

 

Turtledove(s) (Turtle, Pigeon(s)) – Mentioned 66 times in the Old Testament, 11 times in the New Testament.

 

*Note that all mentions of Turtle in the Bible are referring to the Turtledove, not the reptile.

 

Some of these mentions of birds in the bible, are simply referring to birds, themselves (fowl or bird) while others are used to teach us spiritual lessons.

 

 In this post, we will focus on just two types of birds in the Bible: Doves and Sparrows. (You can read about Eagles, Ravens and unclean birds in this post). While I would love to include all of the birds in the Bible, we’ll start with these two on our study of birds in the Bible and their meanings.

 

 

The symbolism of birds in the Bible

 

Doves in the Bible

 

יונה (pronounced yo-nah)

 

*TIP:  Yonah, dove, is the exact same Hebrew name of the prophet Jonah. ‘J’ sounds do not exist in Hebrew, and if you came across an English biblical name with this letter, you can convert the ‘J’ to a ‘Y’ and keep the vowels as they are.

 

The dove or ‘yonah’, written about in the Bible is much more than just a beautiful, common bird. References to the dove are full of symbolism.

 

Though most of us think of doves as pure and pigeons as dirty, bird experts will confirm that they are, indeed, the same bird.

In each of the gospels, a dove appears as the Spirit of God. Most of us envision a beautiful, pure white bird. However, the bird that appears at the baptism was most likely a “rock dove”, a common species in the geography and time period.

 

A rock dove is grey with an iridescent green and purple/violet neck. Basically, my friends, a pigeon. (you tube dove sounds)

 

 

 

You are probably thinking, “So, you are saying, that the beautiful symbol of the Holy Spirit and the symbol of city scavengers is one and the same”?

 

Yes. In fact, I think it is a fitting example, as Christianity can be messy. God did not promise us an easy road. 

 

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 

 

Pigeons are often seen as dirty or disdained. Do you ever feel like that in your Christian walk? Looked down upon or judged because your beliefs don’t line up with mainstream society?

 

God makes us new when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. A trashy, garbage picking bird is also the symbol of peace and new life. 

 

(The below image is downloadable and printable for you to keep as a reminder of just how much He loves you!)


Matthew 6:26 Bible verse Birds in the Bible

How fitting!

 

Let’s take a look at some important Bible verses about doves:

 

Doves are mentioned frequently in the Bible – nearly fifty times!

 

The Dove as a Symbol of Peace

 

When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8:11

 

The dove is the symbol of peace on earth. This dove brought back an olive branch to confirm that the floodwaters had receded and that it was safe to exit the ark. God’s punishment had ended and it was time to repopulate the earth.

 

The Dove as a Symbol of Love

The dove is also used as a metaphor for beauty and love as shown in the below verses in Song of Songs (Song of Solomon).

 

How beautiful you are, my darling!

    Oh, how beautiful!

    Your eyes are doves. –

Song of Songs 1:15

 

I slept but my heart was awake.

    Listen! My beloved is knocking:

“Open to me, my sister, my darling,

    my dove, my flawless one.

My head is drenched with dew,

    my hair with the dampness of the night.” –

Song of Songs 5:2

 

His eyes are like doves

    by the water streams,

washed in milk,

    mounted like jewels. –

Song of Songs 5:12

 

The most powerful symbolism of the Dove in the Bible, however, is in the Spirit of God appearing as a dove.

 

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. – Matthew 3:16

 

and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  – Luke 3:22

 

 

The Holy Spirit is just that—a spirit—He is not visible to us in a physical way. In these accounts, however, the Spirit of God took on a visible appearance and could be seen by witnesses.

That symbol is just so powerful, so beautiful.

 

Purity, love, peace. All describing our Heavenly Father. 

 

I also think this can be a metaphor for our faith. Faith cannot be seen, but how can you live in such a way that people can SEE your faith?

 

(Click the image below for a downloadable/printable PDF of images with birds and nest to use in your war binder, Bible journaling or other forms of creative worship.)

Birds in the Bible BIble journaling images for Bible journaling

 

Sparrows in the Bible

 

Sparrows are next in the most referenced birds in the Bible. The Hebrew word for sparrow is צִפּוֹר   “tzippor” , which not only means sparrow, but any small bird. This Hebrew word occurs more than forty times in the Old Testament and just two times in the New Testament.

 

Sparrows are small brown and gray birds that tend to always be in the company of others. They were abundant in Bible geography. Sparrows like to build nests in vineyards and bushes as well as the eaves of homes or other nooks and crannies. The sparrow’s diet consists of seeds, green buds and small insects and worms.

Most are musical and sing sweet songs as they go about their bird business. (Listen to the beautiful sparrow call on this you tube video of sparrow sounds)

 

Sparrows, in biblical times, were held in contempt. They had little worth and were seen to be annoying.

 

The sparrow, however, what was Jesus referred to when illustrating our worth to God.

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. – Matthew 10:29

 

If a lowly bird, with little worth receives the care of Our Heavenly Father, the love and attention He shows us is much greater.

If a lowly bird, with little worth receives the care of Our Heavenly Father, the love and attention He shows us is much greater. Click to Tweet

God’s heart, kindness and compassion is so deep and wide that it extends to the smallest of creatures and the haughtiest of the them (the human!).

 

Sparrows have also been referenced as symbols of freedom, in particular, the freedom for humans to have freewill and choose between good and evil.

 

A single sparrow on a roof represented sadness, depression and insignificance.

 

 I lie awake; I have become

    like a bird alone on a roof. –

Psalm 102:7

 

Let’s look at some more Bible verses about sparrows that demonstrate just how important we are to God. They are all from the gospels. I find it so valuable to know that these verses were important enough for all of the gospel writers to include. You are so important to God. He loves you and cares for you, even more than a “lowly” sparrow.

 

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …

– Matthew 6:25-34

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. –

Matthew 10:29-31

 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. – Luke 12:6

 

In the above verses, the disciples are reminding us that we are so valuable to God. 

 

To be transparent with you, I struggle with this. Although I believe and trust God when He tells us that our sins were wiped clean when Jesus died on the cross for us, I sometimes feel so unworthy of His unyielding love. I look at my sin and feel shame when I know that He has taught us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12. When I’m feeling this way, I like to refer to these scriptures that emphasize just how loved we are by our Heavenly Father.

 

Below, I have for you a three page downloadable, printable PDF with Bible verses about birds for you to use for further study or for your Bible journaling or War Binder or just to keep as a reminder.

Bible verses about birds

 

What is your favorite Bible verse about birds? Do you, like me, sometimes struggle with feeling deserving of the value our Lord God places on us? I would love to hear your story.

 

I absolutely love studying signs and symbolism in the Bible and use the below resources frequently.

 

 

What is your favorite Bible verse about birds? Do you, like me, sometimes struggle with feeling deserving of the value our Lord God places on us? I’d love to hear your story.

 

In His Perfect and my imperfect Love,

Sue

For references in the Bible on Open Doors see HERE or Closed Doors see HERE

 

Susan is a writer, speaker and the creator of Women of Noble Character ministries. She is passionate about helping Christian women deepen their walk with God through Bible study and creative worship and strengthen their marriages.

She lives in rural North Central Missouri with her handsome and hilarious husband and a myriad of dogs, cats and chickens.

Susan runs on Jesus, coffee and not enough sleep.

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30 Comments

  1. Shalom Madam Susan Nelson! Your writings, Teachings are not only for your fellow women but even men. You deserve all the best for your contributions for the kingdom of God is so great and for sure God will never leave you in anyhow lather you will be store of blessings.

      1. Thank you
        For a wonderful teaching.
        I love birds and this teaching confirms Gods love for me….His caring and the fact that He is beautifying me with His prescious and powerful Spirit

        1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! I have another post on unclean birds of the Bible, as well. I truly enjoy symbolism in the Bible. Thanks for stopping by and writing. Have a beautiful and blessed day.

    1. I was going through a very difficult time and had been crying out to God for His help and for strength. I remember asking Him ” don’t you care what’s happening to me?” He felt so far away. Then one day as I was sitting outside in my van, a sparrow flew in the open window and landed on my hand. I was surprised and delighted at this and he flew out the other window right away. But I heard in my spirit not a sparrow falls to the ground but your heavenly Father sees it. And you are of more value than many sparrows. God had reached me to strengthen and encourage me using that little bird, and ever since sparrows have a special place in my heart. Little messengers of God.

  2. Every now and then the symbols of the Bible strikes my interest and I was happy to come across this today. I’d love to dive into learning a lot more of the signs and symbols of the Bible. Thank you!

  3. Hi Sue!
    Thanks for sharing with us! And thanks for being volnerable too, it really helps to relate. I totally agree, value is a hard thing to get a good revelation of and it seems to be one of the ones that’s hard to hold onto when you have it too. Thanks for referring us to some books too, they both look fantastic, I hope I get a chance to buy them and give them a read. I trust you have read captivating by John and Staci Eldridge?
    Anyway, thank you very much,
    God bless you xx,
    Ellise

  4. Thank u for sharing this article. Not only is it interesting to Chris’s but offers the chance to share with non Christians interested in birds. Who knows when this will catch their attention and bring them to Christ thru their interest in birds! We can even get children more involved through their fascination with birds. Thank u again.

  5. So glad to come across this ☺ Thank you for your insights. I am a fellow Missourian, residing in Urban Kansas City. Recently, I too feel a calling to lead women toward a Proverbs 31 life. Today I will explore more about you and Woman of Noble Character. God Bless!

  6. Are canaries the same as sparrows, I saw one yellow canary bird perched on me in my dream. I tried to chase it but it wont leave ,I have never seen that before . What does that symbolise?

    1. Hi, Oly – I don’t believe that they are the same bird and I’m not sure what it means. I can find just a few references to canaries in the Bible but I don’t find much on what, if anything it symbolizes. I wish I could be more help! Thank you for stopping by!

  7. Thank you for making this post. I had been thinking about the verses in Matthew 10:29-31, and how Jesus said we are worth “more than many sparrows”. It’s a blessing to have that reminder. Have a blessed day.

  8. My daughter got baptised and the same night she dreamt of birds talking to her and I was looking on the net to see what it couple meant but this gives a bit of insight thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Lovely article about God’s beautiful creatures! He gives us such beautiful reminders of His Wonderful Love for each of us.
    Thank you,

  10. Thank-you so much for taking the time to share all of this wonderful information. I’m chronically ill and spend much time in my room. I’m doing a wall with some beautiful pictures of sparrows and I want to add scripture. This was helpful. I will share your information when others are admiring the cute little ones on my wall. Much love from a sister in Christ. 🙂 Xo

  11. Great article about the symbolism and significance of birds in the holy bible and how the Father pays attention to every little detail and. How awesome it is to be in His loving hand of grace.
    Rebirth takes place immediately after baptism Water (reconciliation and submertion) and SPIRIT (proof is speaking in an unfamiliar/unlearned language). This proves all sins of the past, the present, and the future are remitted and are a CITIZEN of HEAVEN body, soul, and human spirit and seated at the right hand of THE FATHER IN CHRIST!!! That calls for a celebration every time I’m reminded of this reality! And the only way that would ever change is if God wasn’t Himself any more and that’s never going to happen, Hallelujah! My precious HOLY SPIRIT within my that’s married with my human spirit wants to sing like a bird and soar through the sky and tell everybody how marvelous God is and will always be forever and ever!! Thanks for reminding me of His beautiful heart that is mine as well in Christ. Holy Christmas and Mazel Tov if you’ve received acceptance into the family through the power of the Holy Spirit/Fire/Light!

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