THE DOVE. NOAH'S MESSENGER.

GRANVILLE OSBORNE.


AMONG the beautiful incidents of scripture none has become more familiar to old and young alike than that which relates how Noah "sent forth a dove from him to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground." We can imagine the timid messenger sent forth by Noah's hand from the open window of the ark. Over the vast surface of the waters it flew, in obedience to natural instincts, seeking a place of rest, but, as the narrative relates, "the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth." With what an unerring flight the dove had returned to the only safe refuge, and how gently did Noah "put forth his hand" and "draw her in unto him," after the weary quest was over and the tired wings had only brought back a message of defeated hopes. After seven days had gone by Noah sent forth the dove again with longing expectancy that the flood might be receding. With swift flight the dove disappeared from view, and, high in air, sought amid the waste of Waters, with its marvelous powers of sight, for any sign which told of safety and rest. At length it reached a refuge, the spot it sought, where the valleys once more began to show themselves above the depths. And in the evening, as Noah watched and waited at the open window of the ark, he saw afar off the glint of snowy wings against the golden sky, and "lo, the dove returned, bearing in her mouth an olive leaf plucked off, so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth." The olive branch was a token that even the trees in the valleys were uncovered, and has been the type in all after ages of peace and rest. The Hebrew word "yonah" is the general name for the many varieties of doves and pigeons found in Bible lands. It is frequently used by the prophetic writers as a symbol of comparison. Both Isaiah and Ezekiel speak of doves that "fly as a cloud."

     

In many of the wild valleys of Palestine the cliffs are full of caves, and there the wild pigeons build their nests and fly in flocks that truly are "like the clouds" in number. Again the same prophets speak of the "doves of the valleys, all of them mourning." This is peculiarly applicable to the turtle dove. Its low, sad plaint may be heard all day long at certain seasons in the olive groves and in the solitary and shady valleys amongst the mountains. These birds can never be tamed. Confined in a cage, they languish and die, but no sooner are they set at liberty than they "flee as a bird" to their mountains. David refers to their habits in this respect when his heart was sad within him: "O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest." Nahum alludes to a striking habit of the dove when he says: "And the maids of Hazzab shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts."

Hazzab was the queen of Nineveh, who was to be led by her maidens into captivity, mourning as doves do, and "tabering," or striking on their breasts, a common practice in that country.

David, in beautiful imagery, comforts those who mourn, saying: "Though ye have lain among the pots, ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold." A dove of Damascus is referred to whose feathers have the metallic luster of silver and the gleam of gold. They are small and kept in cages. Their note is very sad and the cooing kept up by night as well as by day.

To the millions who devoutly sing of the "Heavenly Dove" no other symbol either in or out of the Bible suggests so much precious instruction and spiritual comfort as this innocent bird — pure, gentle, meek, loving, faithful, the appropriate emblem of that "Holy Spirit " that descended from the open heavens upon our Lord at his baptism.


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