I was reading the bible story of Noah & the ark to my children and when I got to the part where Noah sent the raven and the dove to see if the water had dried up, something interesting hit me. Why was it that the raven did not return to the ark, but the dove did?

Then God opened the eyes of my understanding of some traits/characteristics of these two amazing birds and how they also reflect the state of the human soul.

The dove, apart from representing purity, is also:

  1. A Gentle creature
  2. Faithful to its partner till death
  3. A bird that dwells amid life
  4. A bird that feeds on greenery and seeds

The raven, apart from representing filth, is also:

  1. A wild bird (a bird of prey)
  2. A selfish bird, hence fidelity is not a part of its lifestyle
  3. A bird that dwells comfortably amid rot & decay
  4. A scavenger-feeds on carcasses

When Noah sent out the raven, the flood hadn’t completely dried up. There must have been enough carcasses for the raven to feed on; hence it refusing to return to the ark. Remember, God asked Noah to gather just one pair of unclean animals (male & female) into the ark before the flood (Gen 7:2). So the Raven must have had a partner. But going by this bird’s selfish and scavenging nature, it refused to come back for its partner to partake in this ‘bountiful meal’. How much it could have eaten all alone in seven days?

Ravens are known to be omnivores on a good day but when push comes to shove, they are also known to feed on carrion-especially from carcasses of other animals-little wonder God refers to them as ‘unclean’ animals (Lev 11:13-15).

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But then, Noah decided to send a different bird on the same assignment and it returned because there was no convenient dwelling place. The dove looked beyond the present but a long-lasting future. It returned to its family in the ark and waited for the day of perfection which was the 7th day when Noah sent it out again. This time, it returned to the ark and to its family with a branch of an olive plant (probably to feed its mate or babies)- a proof that the earth was peaceful and habitable again.

It’s been observed that the dove loves human dwellings naturally, recognises only one home, feeds its young, and spends its life in quiet conversation, living with its mate.

Doves, according to some naturalists are known to have an undying love for their mates. When separated (even in death), the one who is left behind sits and mourns with moaning in the voice of his or her missing mate, and there is no satisfying him or her until there is a reunion.

How does this relate to man?
An unsaved soul is unclean, full of filth, selfish and desperately wicked. He can go to any devious extent to get what he wants for himself alone. He cares nothing about others. And just like the raven that represents doom or death in some cultures, an unsaved soul spells doom and destruction wherever he goes.

But a soul saved and washed by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) is pure and has life in abundance and exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit who, in this case, is symbolised by the dove. Such a soul is gentle, pure in heart, faithful to God and others, even in the face of persecution or death. He is generous, wants the best for others; hence loves to be around people.

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Indeed there is so much to learn from God’s creatures…including man.

Iboro Tonye-Edet