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Bochart also doubts the truth of the story told by some writers, respecting the figure of a dove blazoned on the banners of the Assyrian kings, because no ancient author can be cited in whose works it is recorded. And it is most probable that Cyrus, after the conquest of Babylon, retained the same military ensigns under which his ancestors, the Medes and Assyrians, had been accustomed to combat. It appears from Xenophon, that their ensign was a golden eagle raised upon a long spear, which was adopted by all the kings of Persia ; and he contends that the texts quoted from the prophecies of Jeremiah, allude not to the dove, as many writers have supposed, but to the severe oppression which his people had to suffer from the Assyrian arms.m It cannot, however, be doubted, that the dove was long a favourite emblem among the Assyrians; was held in great veneration, and even worshipped as a goddess in Syria; though it may be difficult to as. certain at what precise time the idolatrous, custom was introduced. , . . ; ' .
The dove is universally admitted to be one of the most beautiful objects in nature. The brilliancy of her plumage, the-splendor of her eye, the innocence of her look, the excellence of her dispositions, and the purity of her manners, have been the theme of admiration and praise in every age. To the snowy whiteness of her wings, and the rich golden hues which adorn her neck,o the inspired Psalmist alludes in these elegant strains : “ Though ye haye lien among the pots, yet ye shall be as the wings of
m Bochart. Hieroz, vol. ji, lib. i, cap. 1, p. 7 and 8. 'n Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. x, cap. 52. Varro de Re Rust. lib. iii, cap. 7. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iii, c. 15. Buffon's Nat. Histi vol. i, p. 435.
• Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. x, cap. 26, and lib. xxxvii, cap. 5.
a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.”p These bold figures do not seldom occur in the classical poets of antiquity. Virgil celebrates the argenteus anser, the silver coloured goose ;9 Ovid, the crow which once rivalled the dove in whiteness ;' Lucretius, the changeful hues of her neck, which she turns to the sun. beam, as if conscious of its unrivalled beauty.
Mr. Harmer is of opinion, that the holy Psalmist alludes, not to an animal adorned merely by the hand of nature, but to the doves that were consecrated to the Syrian deities, and ornamented with trinkets of gold; and agreeably to this view, he interprets the passage, “ Israel is to me as a consecrated dove; and though your circumstances have made you rather appear like a poor dove, blackened by taking up its abode in a smoky hole of the rock; yet shall ye become beautiful and glorious as a Syrian silver coloured pigeon on whom some ornament of gold is put."
But this view makes the holy Ghost speak with some approbation, or at least without censure, of a heathenish rite, and even to borrow from it a figure to illustrate the effects of divine favour among his chosen people. No other instance of this kind occurs in the sacred Scriptures, and therefore it cannot be admitted here without much stronger evidence than that respectable writer has produced. It is much more natural to suppose, that the Psalmist alludes to parti-coloured doves with white wings, and the rest of their feathers of a bright brown. Buffon mentions a species of turtle dove in the bay of Campeachy, which is entirely brown, while others are of a snowy white; p Psa. lxviii, 13.
in Met. lib. ii, Fable 7. . 1 Æneid. lib. viii, 1. 655.
* Book ii, verse 800. go Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. i, p. 482. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iv, cap. 2.
and both Ælian and Homer mention a dove of a red or deep yellow colour resembling gold. To these varieties the sacred writer might refer; and the more effectually to represent the blissful effects of divine favour, might com bine the beauties of each into one picture. . . .
The surprising brightness of her eye, and the simplicity and chastity of her look, which is directed only to her mate, are selected by the Spirit of God to express the purity and fidelity of a genuine believer: “Behold thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes." u A faithful index of the holiness which reigns within, they neither court the notice nor meet the glance of a strange lord ; they are lifted up to heaven, and stedfastly fixed on the glorious realities of a better world. Sensible of the sin and danger of casting a wishful eye on forbid. den objects, the true Christain earnestly prays, “ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way;"* and, like Job, he makes a covenant with his eyes, that his mind may not be polluted with an unholy thought. He looks 6 not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” · The same beautiful figure is employed to represent the peerless excellencies of the Redeemer, and particularly his infinite wisdom and knowledge, which are ever exercised for the good of his people : which are pure and holy, and in the estimation of every saint, as in their own nature, ineffably precious and lovely : “ His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” The eyes of a dove, always brillliant and lovely, kindle with peculiar delight by the side of a crystal brook, for this is her favourite haunt ; here she loves to wash and to quench her thirst. But the inspired writer seems to intimate that, not satisfied with a single rivulet, she delights especially in those places which are watered with numerous streams, whose full flowing tide approaches the height of the banks, and offers her an easy and abundant supply. They seem as if they were washed with milk, from their shining whiteness; and fitly, rather fully set, like a gem set in gold, neither too prominent nor too depressed, but so formed as with nice adaptation to fill up the socket. So precious and admirably fitted to the work of mediating between God and man, are the excellencies of Jesus Christ. God and man in one person, he is at once invested with all the attributes of deity, and all the perfections of which our nature is capable. As the eternal Son of God, he is wisdom and prudence itself; and as the Son of man, he is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners : “ He is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand : yea, he is altogether lovely.", afin · The voice of the dove is peculiarly tender and plaintive, and bears a striking resemblance to the groan of a person in distress. This circumstance is admirably described by the elegant muse of Virgil : !1131
u Song i, 15. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iii, cap. 44. Varro de Re Rust. lib. iii, cap. 7.
* Psa. cxix, 37.
“ Nec tamen interea raucae tua cura palumbes stiilis
Nec gemere aerea cessabit turtur ab ulmo.” Ecl. i, 1, 58. The statement of the poet is confirmed by the natural historian : “ The song of all doves is the same, consisting of
Lid w Song v, 12.
three strains, ending with a groan.". The inspired bard, as may well be supposed, is not less true to nature. Hezekiah, alluding to the sickness from which he had just recovered, pours out his gratitude to Jehovah in these emphatical terms: “ Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter, I did mourn as a dove; and the men of Judah thus deplore the bitter consequences of their sin ; “ We mourn sore like doves; we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us :") in Hebrew, we groan with the groaning of the dove; that is, with a heavy and continual groaning. The prophet Ezekiel, describing the grievous lamentations of his people in the day of their destruction, employs the same figure: “ But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning every one for his iniquity."2 The hoarse and mourn ful cooing of the dove, gives a vivid idea of the low and murmuring complaints uttered by the dejected captives, dragged by their pitiless conqueror from the land of their fathers, to a far distant and unfriendly region. To this circumstance Nahum alludes, when he predicts the desolations of Nineveh : "Huzzab shall be led away captive; she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts."a Pliny says the dove exults as she wings her flight through the boundless expanse of heaver), and cleaves it in various directions. · The sacred writers more than once allude to the flight of this bird, which they praise for its swiftness and ease.