So why is the Holy Spirit symbolized as a Dove in the Bible? I am glad you asked!
The Egyptian gods were often depicted as animals or were zoomorphic. Zoomorphism is a word derived from the Greek ζωον, meaning animal, and μορφη, meaning shape or form. The Holy Spirit was seen as a dove; however, this is not a zoomorphism. The Holy Spirit was seen "like a dove" and not as a zoomorphic appearance as a dove. That is, the Bible does not teach the zoomorphic appearance of God.
Nevertheless, God chose to descend like a dove for a reason. How many know that God never says or does anything without a reason? That is, whenever God says or does anything... school is in session! Amen. Consequently, let us see what God the Holy Spirit (1) is teaching us through descending "like a dove."
A dove has nine main feathers on each of the two wings which are utilized to provide lift and propel it forward. It also has five main tail feathers that act as a rudder to guide the dove in flight. The feathers of a dove are also unique in that they curl up and instead of down like other birds. Let us explore each of these characteristics of the dove.
Nine Main Feathers on the Starboard Side.
For those that do not understand the term "starboard" allow me to explain.
"Unlike left and right, "port" and "starboard" refer to fixed locations on a sea or air vessel. Since port and starboard never change, they are unambiguous references that are independent of a mariner’s [or aviator's] orientation, and, thus, mariners [and aviator's] use these nautical terms instead of left and right to avoid confusion. When looking forward, toward the bow of a ship [or airplane,] port and starboard refer to the left and right sides, respectively. In the early days of boating, before ships had rudders on their centerlines, boats were controlled using a steering oar. Most sailors were right handed, so the steering oar was placed over or through the right side of the stern. Sailors began calling the right side the steering side, which soon became "starboard" by combining two Old English words: stéor (meaning "steer") and bord (meaning "the side of a boat"). As the size of boats grew, so did the steering oar, making it much easier to tie a boat up to a dock on the side opposite the oar. This side became known as larboard, or "the loading side." Over time, larboard - too easily confused with starboard - was replaced with port. After all, this was the side that faced the port, allowing supplies to be ported aboard by porters." (3)
The Bible states that there are nine ministry gifts (1) of the Holy Spirit.
Nine Main Feathers on the Port Side.
The Bible states that there are nine fruits (1) of the Holy Spirit.
I chose to assign the nine fruits to the nine main feathers on the port or left wing because that is where the ship is connected to the port or dock. This is the side where the crew would relate to others in order to conduct commerce. That is, these fruits are developed in our lives in order to reveal Christ Jesus to the world. Through the fruit of the Holy Spirit we live out before the world the highly desirable characteristics of Jesus in our relationships with God, mankind, and ourselves.
Five Main Feathers on the Stern
The Bible states that there are five office or positional gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The five main stern or tail feathers provide a perfect picture of the fivefold offices or positions gifts of the Church. They are the Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, and Evangelist. The five office or positional gifts are not to do all the ministry of the church but rather to equip the saints for the work of ministry. That is, they are to build up the body of Christ balanced in fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – mature persons attaining to the measure of Christ's full stature.
Both the port and starboard wings are necessary for the dove to achieve sustainable flight. That is if we develop in only the gifts or only the fruit of the Holy Spirit we will be unbalanced (1) and not able to soar on the Holy Wind. (1) When all the gifts and fruits are working together in harmony there is a perfect balance. If only the gifts or fruit are operating then the Church is trying to fly straight with only one wing which results in inefficient flight and accomplishing less for the Kingdom of God. If only the gifts are operating, the church is more like a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Juxtaposed to a church with fruit but without the gifts will not be able to sound the clarion call that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power! (Hebrews 13:8. Acts 1:8)
"Tails are actually integral to bird flight. But if a bird’s wings produce the lift, where do the tails come in? Well, its tail feathers are analogous to the rudders of ships and boats. They help them steer and maneuver while flying, as well as provide stability as they take-off and land. By twisting its tail, the bird can change its direction mid-flight. To help the bird slow down, the tail flares out downward, creating more drag and decrease the bird’s velocity. The tail also helps the bird balance when it is perched on a branch. And while the bird is soaring, it can spread out its tail feathers behind it to create additional lift and stability." (4) Likewise, the five positional gifts are to direct and correct the church so that we stay on the mission the Holy Spirit has given to us. Ensuring we do not get ahead or behind, nor enter into the left (license)(1) or right ditch (legalism)(1) as we walk the narrow road of His perfect will.
(1) Left click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Jaroslava Brychtova and Stanislav Libensky, DOVE, 1980