Why a Dove?
The Hebrew word for dove is yonah. The word is familiar to readers of the Bible in English in the form of the name Jonah, which means “dove.” It comprises four Hebrew letters (yod, waw, nun, he), like the Divine Name, the Tetragrammaton (yod, he, waw, he). Three of its letters are the same as three of the letters of the Divine Name. It looks quite like the Divine Name. In the story of the burning bush, there is a play on words between the Hebrew word ‘ehyeh (meaning “I am” or “I will be”) and the Divine Name (YHWH). The word ‘ehyeh is a case of a four-letter word (aleph, he, yod, he) that has three of its letters in common with the Divine Name. So my suggestion is that, in a period when Jews no longer spoke the Divine Name but still wrote it, it would be easy to see an association between the Divine Name and the Hebrew word for “dove.” What better symbol for the Spirit of the LORD than a bird whose name resembles the name of the LORD?
- Bauckham, Who Is God?, 96