What Does an Owl Symbolize in the Bible

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/23/23 •  12 min read

Owls have long been associated with wisdom and knowledge, and this symbolism can also be found in the Bible. In Psalm 91:5, we read, ‘You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.’ This verse suggests that God’s protection extends even to the night, when owls are most active. The owl is seen as a symbol of protection, vigilance, and discernment.

To further explore the significance of owls in the Bible, let us delve into a story that sheds light on their spiritual meaning. In the book of Isaiah, we find a powerful passage that speaks to the symbolism of owls. Isaiah 34:11-15 describes a desolate land, saying, ‘But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, and the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.’ This passage illustrates the owl’s association with darkness and desolation, highlighting its role as a symbol of spiritual discernment in times of trouble.

Moreover, the owl’s presence in the Bible is not limited to its representation as a protector and guardian of the night. In Proverbs 2:10-11, we are reminded, ‘For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.’ This verse suggests that knowledge and discernment, symbolized by the owl, can provide us with spiritual protection and guidance.

In addition to these biblical references, owls have also been mentioned in other religious texts and folklore. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the owl was associated with the goddess of wisdom, Ma’at. The Greeks believed that owls were connected to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and considered them to be a symbol of intelligence and foresight.

In conclusion, owls hold significant spiritual meaning in the Bible. They symbolize protection, vigilance, and discernment, and serve as a reminder of God’s divine power. Through biblical stories and verses, we can gain a deeper understanding of the owl’s symbolism and its relevance to our own spiritual journeys.

Key Takeaways

Biblical Reference to Owls

In the Bible, owls are mentioned in several passages of scripture. One such passage is Isaiah 34:15, where God speaks of the owl dwelling and laying eggs, caring for her young under the shadow of her wings. This verse symbolizes the destructive judgment of God.

In the book of Job, owls are portrayed as messengers of bad news. Job 30:29 says, ‘I am a brother to owls and a companion to desert creatures.’ This verse highlights the association of owls with desolation and distress.

However, it is important to note that owls can also symbolize God’s protection and wisdom. Proverbs 2:10-11 states, ‘For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.’ These verses suggest that wisdom, represented by the owl, can guide us through difficult times and protect us from harm.

To further illustrate the significance of owls in the Bible, let us consider the story of King Solomon. Known for his exceptional wisdom, Solomon’s reputation spread far and wide. 1 Kings 4:29-34 describes how people from all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, including the Queen of Sheba. Impressed by his knowledge and discernment, she praised the God of Israel, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, He has made you king, to execute justice and righteousness.’

In this story, the owl can be seen as a representation of Solomon’s wisdom, which was a gift from God. Just as owls are known for their keen perception and ability to see in the dark, Solomon possessed the ability to discern truth and make wise decisions.

Cultural Associations of Owls

Throughout various cultures, owls have been associated with wisdom and intelligence. This association can also be found in the Bible, where owls are mentioned as a symbol of wisdom and insight.

In the book of Job, chapter 28, verse 20, it is written, ‘Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?’ This question is asked as a way to explore the source of wisdom, and the answer is given in verse 21, ‘It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky.’ Here, the birds in the sky are mentioned, implying that even they do not possess true wisdom.

However, in another verse, Isaiah 34:14, it is written, ‘Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also lie down and find for themselves places of rest.’ The term ‘night creatures’ can be interpreted as referring to owls, as they are known to be active during the night. This verse suggests that even in the darkness, these creatures find rest and comfort, symbolizing their ability to navigate through difficult times with wisdom and guidance.

Furthermore, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 30, verse 17, it is written, ‘The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.’ While this verse does not specifically mention owls, it emphasizes the importance of respecting and valuing wisdom and guidance from parents. This aligns with the association of owls with wisdom and knowledge.

In the story of King Solomon, known for his great wisdom, there is a tale that further illustrates the connection between owls and wisdom. It is said that King Solomon had the ability to understand and communicate with all creatures, including owls. It is believed that the owl served as a messenger for him, bringing him guidance and insight from the divine.

Symbolism of Owls in the Bible

The Bible offers numerous references to owls as symbols of wisdom and insight, connecting them to mysticism and spiritual symbolism that has endured for centuries. Let us delve into the biblical references and stories that shed light on the significance of owls:

In the Old Testament, owls are portrayed as symbols of destruction and darkness. Isaiah 34:11-15 describes a desolate land where owls dwell, emphasizing the desolation and abandonment brought upon by God’s judgment. Likewise, Jeremiah 50:39 depicts the desolation of Babylon, stating that it will become a dwelling place for owls. Hosea 2:18 mentions how God will make a covenant with the creatures of the earth, including the birds of the air, possibly hinting at the owls as representatives of darkness and destruction.

Contrasting the negative connotations in the Old Testament, the New Testament sheds light on a different aspect of owls. Jesus refers to owls in Matthew 10:16 when He instructs His disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Here, the owl is used as a symbol of wisdom and guidance, encouraging His followers to navigate the world with discernment and prudence.

Luke 12:24 further reinforces the idea of owls as symbols of guidance in the Lord’s service. In this verse, Jesus reminds His disciples of God’s care for even the smallest creatures, including the ravens and owls. By including owls in this context, Jesus highlights their significance as creatures under God’s divine providence, emphasizing their role as guides and protectors.

Expanding upon the biblical references, the Apocryphal books also associate owls with enlightenment and divine insight. The Wisdom of Solomon 11:14 describes how God created all things in wisdom, including the birds of the air, including the owl. This verse suggests that owls possess a unique wisdom bestowed upon them by God. Similarly, Sirach 12:8 portrays owls as symbols of understanding and insight, further emphasizing their connection to divine wisdom.

The spiritual symbolism of owls pervades the Bible, offering profound insights into the divine. One such story that exemplifies the significance of owls is found in the book of Job. When Job faces immense suffering and seeks answers from God, he receives a powerful response that highlights the wisdom and sovereignty of God. In Job 38:1-3, God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind, asking him, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’ God proceeds to challenge Job’s understanding of the world and His divine wisdom, questioning whether Job can comprehend the mysteries of creation. This story serves as a reminder of the profound wisdom and insight that owls symbolize in the Bible.

Exploring the representations of owls in art further enhances our understanding. Throughout history, artists have depicted owls as symbols of wisdom, often portraying them alongside scholars and philosophers. These depictions serve as visual reminders of the biblical references and the spiritual significance attributed to owls.

Owl Representations in Art

Artists have long depicted owls as symbols of wisdom and insight. In many cultures, owls are revered as messengers of divine knowledge. They are seen as wise creatures, with mystical powers, that can guide humans in the night. Their nocturnal habits, often associated with mystery and the unknown, have been the subject of many owl myths throughout history.

In the Holy Bible, owls are mentioned in several verses that highlight their symbolism of wisdom and guidance. In the book of Job 28:20-21, it is written, ‘Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky.’ This verse suggests that wisdom is a hidden treasure, not easily accessible to all. Just as the owl possesses the ability to see in the darkness, it represents the inner wisdom that can guide us through life’s challenges.

Furthermore, in the book of Proverbs 3:21-23, it is written, ‘My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.’ This verse emphasizes the importance of holding onto wisdom and understanding. Like the owl’s ability to remain aware of its surroundings even in darkness, we are encouraged to stay rooted in our inner knowledge and discernment.

A powerful story in the Bible that showcases the symbolism of owls is found in the book of Esther. Queen Esther, guided by her inner wisdom and faith, saved her people from destruction. In Esther 4:14, Mordecai tells Esther, ‘For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ Esther’s courage and wisdom, like that of an owl, allowed her to fulfill her purpose and bring salvation to her people.

In Christian beliefs, owls can be seen as reminders of the importance of tapping into our inner knowledge and seeking guidance from God. Just as the owl’s wisdom can offer a compassionate and merciful perspective, we can turn to God for wisdom and understanding. The book of James 1:5 reminds us, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’

Significance of Owls in Christian Beliefs

Owls have held great significance in Christian beliefs throughout history, embodying qualities such as wisdom, guidance, and courage. While superstitions and folklore have often surrounded these majestic creatures, the Christian faith has also incorporated owls into its teachings.

In the Bible, owls are not explicitly mentioned, but there are verses that highlight the qualities associated with them. Proverbs 4:7 states, ‘The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.’ This verse emphasizes the importance of wisdom, which is often symbolized by the owl.

One story that showcases the significance of owls in Christian beliefs is found in Acts 27:13-26. The apostle Paul was on a ship that encountered a fierce storm. The sailors were filled with fear and uncertainty, but Paul assured them that an angel of God had appeared to him, assuring him that everyone on board would be saved. In this story, the owl represents guidance and protection, as Paul’s encounter with the angel provided him with the wisdom and insight needed to guide the sailors through the treacherous storm.

Moreover, in Psalm 91:4, it is written, ‘He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.’ This verse conveys the idea of finding refuge and protection under God’s wings, which can be symbolically associated with the wings of an owl.

While some may perceive owls as a sign of impending death or bad luck, it is important to remember the positive connotations they carry in Christian beliefs. The owl encourages believers to embrace their inner wisdom and seek guidance from God. Just as owls possess keen insight and the ability to see in the dark, Christians are encouraged to seek divine wisdom and insight in the midst of challenging situations.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.