This gentle and easily scared bird, first mentioned in the account of Noah’s ark, is a symbol of purity and innocence, and typifies the Holy Spirit who, in the form of a dove, descended on Jesus at His baptism (Gen 8:8-12; SOS 5:2, 6:9; Lk 3:21,22).

Doves were used extensively for OT sacrifices (Lev 1:14).

Jesus, when sending out His disciples in ministry said to them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as snakes, and harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16). He compared two opposites in His instruction as to their behaviour and lifestyle. Wolves are intentionally hostile towards defenceless sheep. Like sheep we are to be inoffensive and harmless as we go into an unfriendly and cruel world that would seek to devour us. We are to exercise wisdom, caution and cunning to avoid danger (the qualities of snakes) yet be prudent, not provoking irritation or retaliating but exhibiting harmlessness and innocence (the qualities of doves). Note: innocence does not equal gullibility as we serve the Lord blamelessly.

Our lifestyle which represents Christ should be a balance between the dove and the serpent. Being gentle without being pushovers, and sacrificial without being taken advantage of, aware of the unscrupulous tactics used by the enemy, yet always living with integrity. The Bible admonishes us, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Pet 2:12).

See also: innocent, lifestyle.