The Raven: Bird of Death or Messenger of Life?

The Raven - Bird of Death or Messenger of Life (1)
Image by George Hodan (public domain)

With their black feathers and distinctive croak, ravens are often associated with death, darkness, and evil. In art, they tend to be the pets of witches, warlocks, and other villains, sitting around on skulls, and making a dreadful racket. Perhaps the most famous example is the creepy talking bird in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” Evil ravens also appear in Disney’s films Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

In the Bible, however, ravens are portrayed favorably. A raven helped Noah search for land after the Flood (Genesis 8:7). A group of ravens brought food to the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:6). God is said to provide food for the ravens (Psalm 147:9). Jesus even used ravens as a symbol of God’s care for us (Luke 12:24).

The Bible never mentions ravens as a creature Christians should be afraid of. Only the wicked are given reasons to be terrified of ravens. Proverbs 30:17 rather gruesomely states, “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley” (ESV). And Isaiah 34:11 prophesies that the land of the wicked will be handed over to ravens as a place for the black birds to nest.

As Christians, when we see ravens, they should comfort us, not make us apprehensive. If we’re on the narrow path to heaven, ravens are guardians of life, symbols of God’s care for the righteous, and creatures of light despite their dark feathers. Only on the wide road to hell are ravens harbingers of death, executioners in black cloaks, and birds of prey watching for a chance to attack.

Ravens can help us remember that God looks at the heart, not at appearances or reputations. We may be outcasts, or considered scary like ravens are, but if we are humble and dedicated to righteousness, God can use us to do great things, just as He has used ravens. Long after cultural perceptions are forgotten, all true and good hearts, whether in birds or people, will soar onward.

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