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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Turtle (Dove)

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tor ; Latin, tur-tur , from imitation of its cooing note. Abraham's offering (Genesis 15:9) with a young pigeon (gozal ). A pair was the poor man's substitute for the lamb or kid, as trespass, sin, or burnt offering (Leviticus 12:6); so the Virgin mother for her purification, through poverty (Luke 2:24; 2 Corinthians 8:9). Also in the case of a Nazarite accidentally defiled by a dead body (Numbers 6:10). Owing to its being migratory and timid, the turtle was never domesticated as the pigeon; but being numerous, and building its nest in gardens, it afforded its young as an easy prey to those who did not own even pigeons. The palm dove, Τurtur Αegyptiacus , probably supplied the sacrifices in Israel's desert journey, for its nests abound in palms on oases. Its habit of pairing for life, and its love to its mate, made it a symbol of purity and so a suitable offering.

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8:7) makes its return at its proper time in spring a tacit reproof of Israel who know not the seasonable time of returning to Him when the "winter" of His wrath is past and He invites them back to the "spring" of His favor. Christ in inviting His people to gospel hopes from past legalism ("the winter is past": Matthew 4:16; 1 John 2:8; also past estrangement through sin, Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 50:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17) says "the voice of the turtle is heard in the land" (Song of Solomon 2:11-12). the emblem of love and so of the Holy Spirit. Love is the keynote of the new song of the redeemed (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 19:6; Isaiah 35:10).

The turtle dove represents "the congregation of God's poor" which the psalmist (Psalms 74:19) prays God not to deliver "unto the wild beasts" (Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic), or "to the greedy host" (Maurer). The turtle marks the return of spring still more than other singing birds, for it alone unceasingly sings from morn until sunset. The Τurtur auritus abounds in Palestine; plaintive tender melancholy characterizes its note. The turtle is smaller, more slender and elegant, than the pigeon. It is also distinguished by having the tall feathers graduated in length, and forming together a wedge in shape; the first quill feather of the wing is narrow and pointed. A black band passes nearly round the neck of the collared species, which is of a pale hue. From its prevalence in N. Africa it is called the Barbary dove.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Turtle (Dove)'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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