by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water all over the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought back to himself in the ark.” Genesis 8:5-9
So five months between rain and flooding before the waters began to recede. Then two and a half months after the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat [like getting caught on a reef or a shoal under the water] the water finally went down enough more that they could see the tops of the mountains they were snagged on.
But it was another forty days after this before Noah opened a window and tested the readiness of the earth with some bird scouts. To date that makes 265 days total on the ark before Noah thinks that maybe they’re getting close to being able to leave.
At first, Noah sends out an unclean bird, the raven. Ravens are scavengers. They will eat carrion which is the meat of dead animals, an act that made them unhealthy for consumption. However, this also made the raven an unreliable scout. Because when the raven didn’t find dry land or trees to perch on, it was totally willing to touchdown on floating carcasses then to return and maybe sit atop the ark’s roof before going scavenging again. It did this back and forth routine, without returning to Noah’s hand, until the earth was dry enough to live on again.
The dove, however, is a clean animal because it does not scavenge. This made the dove a more reliable scout as well, because the dove wouldn’t land on floating carcasses. So when there was no dry land, the dove returned to Noah’s hand.
Doves are actually in the pigeon family and historically were trained to carry messages in a tube tied to their leg. They would learn a route to fly between two people/destinations and faithfully delivered their cargo. Perhaps that is why God chose to use the dove as a symbol of His Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism [Matthew 3:16]. A clean [aka holy] message bearer who faithfully moves between two parties–God and man.
A message bearer who we can receive if we just reach out our hand.
Have you reached out to accept God’s message bearer, the Holy Spirit, in your life? If so, what have you done with His message?