Nature’s Apostle: The Dove as Communicator in the Hebrew Bible, from Ararat to Nineveh

Menahem Blondheim*, Hananel Rosenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The dove, the most frequently mentioned bird in the Hebrew Bible, appears in diverse contexts, spanning its appearance as an element in the narrative (as in the case of Noah’s ark), and as an allegory and metaphor (as in the cryptic “sword of the dove”—twice in Jeremiah—and “the city of the dove”—Zephaniah). The dove even appears as the proper name of a prophet (or possibly of two, both named Jonah, son of Amittai). This article applies a communication perspective to better interpret some of these texts. We argue that the dove’s communicative attributes, to include unique acoustics, remarkable power of flight, but primarily the trait of returning home—the basis for the use of doves as carrier pigeons—may either explain or deepen the interpretation of many of the references to the pigeon in the Bible. In this vein, a major focus of the article is on using the dove’s homing ability as a key for reinterpreting the Book of Jonah. We conclude by suggesting that the dove’s trait of returning and, hence, its use as envoy made it a useful symbol of the deity’s presence in the world. In the Jewish reading, it became an emblem of one of the main political and eschatological themes of the Bible: the return home from exile, beginning with the exodus and return of Jacob’s sons to Canaan and ending with the Eschaton.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number502
JournalReligions
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 by the authors.

Keywords

  • Hebrew Bible
  • Jonah
  • Noah’s ark
  • carrier pigeons
  • communication in the Bible
  • doves in antiquity
  • media history

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