A Eurasian eagle owl standing on a rocky surface.

What Do Owls Symbolize In The Bible

“What Do Owls Symbolize In The Bible” – The Bible is a treasure trove of symbolism, using various literary devices to convey complex ideas. Among the numerous symbols, animals play a crucial role in representing abstract concepts such as faith, wisdom, and protection.

One such animal that appears in the Bible is the owl. In this blog post, we will delve into the symbolism of owls in the Bible and explore their significance in the biblical context.

Definition of Symbolism

Symbolism is the practice of using symbols to signify abstract ideas or qualities. Symbols can be physical objects, images, or even actions that represent something beyond their literal meaning.

In literature, symbolism is often used to give deeper meaning to characters, events, and themes. In the Bible, there are many examples of symbolism used to convey important messages.

Importance of Symbolism in the Bible

The use of symbolism in the Bible is important because it helps readers to better understand complex ideas and themes presented in the text.

Symbolism also adds depth and layers of meaning to stories and passages. The use of symbols connects readers with biblical figures on a spiritual level.

Overview of Owls as a Symbol in the Bible

Owls are one animal that is often used as a symbol in Christian literature and art throughout history. Owls have been depicted as representing wisdom, solitude, silence, and vigilance.

They have been used as symbols for both positive and negative attributes depending on their context. In this article, we will explore what owls symbolize in different parts of the bible from earliest times up until now.

An owl close up shot.
Photo by Brett Sayles: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photo-of-owl-1272753/

Owls in the Old Testament

Description of Owls in Hebrew Language and Culture

The Hebrew language refers to owls as “lilith,” which is derived from the root word “layil” meaning night. In some texts, lilith specifically refers to a type of owl known as the screech-owl.

The owl was seen as a nocturnal bird, which made it an appropriate symbol of darkness and evil. In ancient Hebrew culture, owls were considered unclean birds, and their appearance was believed to signal impending doom or death.

The owl’s haunting hoot was viewed as a bad omen, often associated with mourning or grief. Despite this negative perception of owls, they also held significance within ancient mythology and religion.

References to Owls in the Book of Isaiah

Isaiah is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament who lived during a time when Israel was facing political unrest and spiritual decline. In his writings, Isaiah used various poetic devices, including metaphors and symbols, to convey his message.

In Isaiah 35:1-2, he describes how wilderness and desert will sing joyously, while Arabah rejoices like the crocus flower.

This passage indicates that even places that are typically barren can become sources of life and happiness through God’s intervention. Additionally, it suggests that God’s presence can bring about transformation where there once was despair.

Another reference to owls in Isaiah is found in chapter 34 verse 15: “The owl will nest there and lay eggs; she will hatch them; And care for her young under the shadow of her wings; There also the birds of prey will gather; Each one with its mate.”

This passage depicts owls not as symbols of evil or darkness, but as creatures that inhabit desolate areas. It also highlights how animals rely on God’s provisions for their survival.

While owls were often viewed negatively in ancient Hebrew culture, the Book of Isaiah portrays them as part of God’s creation and indicates that even in the most unlikely places or creatures, His love can be found.

An owl perched in a tree during daytime.
Photo by Henry Dinardo on Unsplash

Owls in the New Testament

References to Owls as Unclean Birds

In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament mentions owls as unclean birds.

The Book of Revelation refers to Babylon as a “dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.”

(Revelation 18:2) The term “unclean” was used in Jewish culture to refer to animals that were not fit for consumption or sacrifice.

It is worth noting that in the passage from Revelation, owls are not singled out but referred to among all other unclean birds. Therefore, it is difficult to draw specific conclusions about what owls symbolize in this context.

However, some scholars suggest that the mention of owls reflects their nocturnal nature and association with darkness and death.

The Significance of Babylon

The mention of Babylon in this passage is significant because it was a powerful city in ancient Mesopotamia that became synonymous with wickedness and corruption.

In Jewish literature, Babylon represented everything that was opposed to God’s will and values. Therefore, its downfall was seen as a sign of divine justice and redemption.

The fact that owls are mentioned alongside other unclean creatures suggests that they were associated with the negative qualities that Babylon represented.

Some interpreters argue that they symbolized spiritual darkness, ignorance, or even demonic forces.

Owls in Christian art

Despite their negative connotations in some parts of the Bible, owls have been depicted positively in Christian art throughout history.

For example, they are often used as symbols of wisdom and knowledge because of their large eyes and ability to see through darkness.

In medieval bestiaries (books containing descriptions of various animals), owls were described as vigilant guardians against evil spirits.

They were also associated with the Virgin Mary, who was often portrayed holding an owl as a sign of her watchfulness and wisdom.

The Ambiguity of Owls’ Symbolism

Overall, the symbolism of owls in the Bible is complex and somewhat ambiguous. While they are associated with wisdom and knowledge in some contexts, they are also linked to darkness, death, and wickedness in others.

It is possible that their symbolism changed over time or varied depending on the cultural context. Therefore, it is important to approach their use in the Bible with caution and carefully consider the broader themes and messages conveyed by each passage.

A Barred Owl perched on a tree.
Photo by Jeremy Hynes on Unsplash

FAQs: What Do Owls Symbolize In The Bible?

What does an owl mean spiritually?

Owls are often seen as symbols of wisdom, intuition, and spiritual knowledge in various cultures. They are believed to represent an individual’s connection to the spiritual realm and the ability to see beyond the physical world.

What God is represented by an owl?

In Greek mythology, the goddess Athena is often associated with the owl. Athena, the Greek goddess, embodies various virtues such as wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law, and justice.

Are owls bad luck or good luck?

The belief in owls as a symbol of bad luck or death varies among cultures. In some cultures, they are seen as an omen of death, while in others, they are seen as a symbol of protection or good fortune.

Is it good or bad to see an owl?

Seeing an owl can be interpreted as a sign of spiritual growth, insight, and knowledge. In some cultures, they are believed to bring good luck and protection, while in others, they are seen as a warning of impending danger.

Why is an owl a good omen?

Owls are considered to be messengers of change, knowledge, and spiritual awakening. In some cultures, they are believed to bring good fortune, protection, and insight, making them a positive omen.

Are owls messengers of gods?

In many cultures, owls are considered to be messengers of the gods and the spiritual realm. They are believed to bring important messages and knowledge from the spiritual world to humans.

What are owls associated with?

Owls are frequently linked with wisdom, intuition, and the capacity to perceive beyond superficial appearances. They are also associated with protection, spiritual growth, and change.

Is it good to have owls around your house?

Having owls around your house can be beneficial as they can help control rodent populations and provide a sense of protection. However, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should be respected from a distance.

Do owls bring wealth?

In some cultures, owls are believed to bring wealth and prosperity. They are seen as a sign of good fortune and success in business ventures.

Are owls a symbol of protection?

Owls are often seen as symbols of protection, as they are believed to have the ability to see and hear things that others cannot. They are seen as protectors of those who seek knowledge and spiritual growth.

When an owl crosses your path?

When an owl crosses your path, it may be seen as a sign of change, transformation, and spiritual growth. It can also be interpreted as a reminder to trust your intuition and inner wisdom.

Where should an owl statue be placed at home?

An owl statue can be placed in various areas of the home, such as the living room or study, to represent wisdom, protection, and intuition. It can also be placed near an entrance as a symbol of protection and good fortune.

What does it mean when an owl is hooting outside your house?

When an owl is hooting outside your house, it may be communicating a message from the spiritual realm. It can also be a sign of change or transformation that is about to occur in your life.

A Boreal Owl perched in a tree.
Image by davidpotrony from Pixabay


The symbolism of owls in the Bible reflects a complex interplay between different cultural beliefs and religious traditions. While they are often associated with wisdom and knowledge, they can also be seen as symbols of darkness or demonic forces.

Despite this ambiguity, owls have played an important role in Christian art throughout history. They continue to be cherished for their beauty and striking appearance, as well as their mysterious nature.

Overall, studying the symbolism of owls can deepen our understanding of how different cultures have interpreted these fascinating creatures throughout history. It reminds us that even seemingly ordinary animals can carry powerful meanings that reveal deeper truths about ourselves and our world.


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.

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