The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)
According to the latest list of Turtle Doves by the I.O.C version 2.5 there are only six doves that bear the name “Turtle Dove.” They are in two genus (groups), the Nesoenas and the Streptopelia. That means that they are closely related, but the ornithologist have divided them that way.
The Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) is the only one in the Nesoenas. The Malagasy Turtle-dove (Nesoenas picturata), is also known as the Madagascar Turtle-dove, is a bird species in the pigeon and dove family, Columbidae. It is found in British Indian Ocean Territory, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, and Seychelles. Its closest relative a Pink Pigeon together they form a lineage apart from both the typical pigeons (Columba) and the typical turtle-doves (Streptopelia).
The other five Turtle Doves, the Euopean, Dusky, Adamawa, Oriental, and Red are in the Streptopelia genus. These are mainly slim, small to medium-sized species. The upperparts tend to be pale brown, and the underparts are often a shade of pink. Many have a characteristic black-and-white patch on the neck, and monotonous cooing songs. Mainly in Africa, but several species occur in tropical southern Asia. As a group, this genus is highly successful; many species are abundant in a range of habitats in the tropics, and two now have a much more extensive distribution.
In Scripture, the Turtle Dove or “turtledove” appears in fifteen verses. Most of those have to do with the turtledove being used as a sacrifice. In Genesis 15:9 the Lord GOD told Abraham to provide one and a pigeon as part of a sacrifice when Abraham was give the covenant of the promised land.
Then in Leviticus a turtledove was used in the burnt offering in Lev. 1:14, two turtledoves for the trespass offering of Lev. 5:7, two for a second burnt offering in Lev. 5:11, for purification after the birth of a child in Lev. 12:6, 8, a sin offering in Lev. 14:22, a sin and a burnt offering in Lev. 14:30, two more offered in Lev. 15:14 and 29.
In Deuteronomy 6:10, two turtledove or pigeons are used for a cleansing.
O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. (Psalms 74:19 KJV)
Here is what Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible says about the above verse in Psalms: “Psa 74:19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove – The “life” of thy turtle-dove; or, thy turtle-dove itself. The turtle-dove is a name of endearment for one beloved, in Son. 2:12, and is thus applied here to the people of Israel. The leading idea in such an application of the word is that of innocence, harmlessness, timidity, gentleness. The thought here is that of a people dear to God, now timid and alarmed. It is the prayer of a people beloved by God that he would not deliver them to their enemies. The prayer may be regarded as one which was used on the occasion referred to in the psalm; or, as a general prayer for the people of God, considered as exposed to ravening enemies.”
John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes says of Song of Son. 2:12 (quoted at top): “The flowers – The communications of God’s grace, the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, are vouchsafed unto, and appear in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring. The turtle – This seems particularly to be mentioned because it not only gives notice of the spring, but aptly represents the Spirit of God, which even the Chaldee paraphrast understands by this turtle, which appeared in the shape of a dove, and which worketh a dove – like meekness, and chastity, and faithfulness, in believers.”
Jeremiah speaks of the migration of the turtledove.
Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)
Last but not least, Mary offered a pair of turtledove at the end of her purification after Jesus was born. The turtledove are in Luke 2:24, but the whole passage from Luke 2:21-39 is worth reading.
Most of the times, not always, the turtledove or pigeons were use in the sacrifices by someone who could not afford an animal like a lamb or a bullock. I find this very comforting because God did not make salvation only for those who could afford it. In fact, none of us can afford the cost of what took for the purchase of our salvation.
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 KJV)