pij'-un (yonah; peristera; Latin pipire):
A bird of the family Columbidae. See DOVE. The Hebrew yonah seems to be translated either pigeon or dove, yet almost every reference made to these birds proves that there were distinct branches of the family recognized, and one or the other or both are designated. On the other hand, some of the translations read doves, where the remainder of the text makes it very clear that pigeons were the birds intended, The Latin pipire means "to cheep," and refers to the unusually clamorous young in the nest. The old birds coo, moan and wail as doves. The birds are almost 12 inches long, have full, plump bodies that are delicious food, and beautifully marked and shaded plumage. They feed principally on grain, seeds, small buds and fruit. Beyond question wild pigeons were the first birds domesticated and taught to home with man. They appeared in a state of such complete domestication, that they flew free, yet homed and bred in places provided by man at the time of the very first attempts at keeping records of history. At the time the earliest Biblical accounts were written, pigeons were so domesticated that in all known countries of the East they were reckoned when an estimate was made of a man's wealth.
The rich provided large and expensive cotes of molded pottery for their birds, each section big enough for the home of one pair of birds, the regular rows of openings resembling lattice work, so that Isaiah refers to them as "windows" (Isaiah 60:8). Septuagint reads sun nossois, literally, "with young" or "fledglings" (see below). The middle classes modeled cotes of oven-baked clay, and the very poor cut holes in the walls, over the doors, and allowed the birds to enter and live with the family.
In wild estate, rock and wood pigeons swarmed in countless numbers through rocky caves and caverns and over the plains of Gennesaret, the forests of Gilead and the woody slopes of Carmel. They remained throughout the season, breeding at all times. The doves were migratory, and were kept in confinement only as caged pets or to be held for sale for sacrifice. For these purposes, it appears that the dove was slightly preferred. When only one bird was to be used, a dove is always specified; where two, almost in every case the dove is mentioned first. Where one or the other will suffice, the dove seems to have been given preference. This may have been because it required greater effort to procure a dove, and so it was considered a greater sacrifice. Everyone having a home of any sort had pigeons they could use, or they could be taken wild at any time. The dove is first mentioned in Genesis 15:9:
"And he said unto him, Take me a heifer three years old, and a she-goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon."
It will be observed that the dove is mentioned first, and it is specified that the pigeon was to be young. It is probable that the people protected their domesticated pigeons by using the wild for sacrifice, whenever possible. Young birds could be taken from a nest at almost any time. The old birds, among the wild, were shy creatures and far more difficult to capture in nets or snares than doves that came close to cities and villages to live, and exhibited much less fear of man than the wild pigeons. The next reference is in Leviticus 5:7:
"And if his means suffice not for a lamb, then he shall bring his trespass-offering for that wherein he hath sinned, two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, unto Yahweh; one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering." Here two birds of each kind were to be offered, if the person making the sacrifice could not afford a lamb. Again in Leviticus 12:6: "And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb a year old for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sinoffering, unto the door of the tent of meeting, unto the priest." Here is a rare instance where the text or the translators place the pigeon first.
"And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting" (Numbers 6:10). In Song of Solomon 2:14:
"O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
In the covert of the steep place,
Let me see thy countenance,
Let me hear thy voice;
For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely."
Here the text reads "dove," but the description of the location and the implication of the text prove the bird to have been a rock pigeon--a tender, loving thing, yet shy and timid, that peeps with eyes of bright concern over the rocks of its chosen home, down at the intruder. Isaiah 60:8:
"Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" Here is another place where the wrong bird is used. Doves were wild and migratory. They had no "windows." But the tile pots massed in one diamond-shaped cote appeared at a little distance, like latticed windows. This should read "pigeons" instead of "doves." For the same reason see Jeremiah 48:28: "O ye inhabitants of Moab, leave the cities and dwell in the rock; and be like the dove that maketh her nest over the mouth of the abyss." Again the bird intended is the rock pigeon. Luke 2:24: "A sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." This describes the sacrifice offered in the temple by Mary following the birth of Jesus.