As a minister with a special fascination for anything related to ecology, I love tying in animal-related content with my weekly Sunday School lessons.
It keeps the kids interested and gives them a broader, deeper understanding of the faith. Last week, when I told them to think of Biblical meanings of a turtle, I was stunned that no one had anything to say.
Most of them dismissed the animal as a slow boring creature. I, of course, knew that this is not true. All of God’s lovely creations have meaning and purpose.
To prove them wrong, I had to get my facts right and I must say, some of the things I found out during my research shocked me. So, what does a turtle symbolize in the Bible?
In the Biblical context, according to verses such as Ecclesiastes 9:11, a turtle is seen as a symbol of wisdom, resilience, patience, and virtue. The calm, docile, steadfast nature of these animals is the reasoning behind this symbolism. As well their long lifespans make them a perfect example of resilience.
I wrote this article to explore the powerful importance of turtles not only in Christianity but in other cultures. I took a thorough look at the symbolism tagged to turtles and various interpretations of turtle-related dreams.
You will learn all about this and more.
What Is the Biblical Meaning of a Turtle?
According to Biblical interpretation, the turtle embodies fertility, wisdom, vitality, and other strong virtues such as patience and peace. Theologians have studied the nature and character of turtles.
They have been able to draw links between them and the teachings of the Holy Book. A good illustration would be how the Bible time and time again, reminds Christians to be steadfast in their faith. They should practice resilience and strength.
1 Peter 5:6-7 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
We can see these qualities exemplified in turtles which are tenacious and strong in the face of adversity. They have a hard, protective outer shell. Likewise, the faithful should have a spiritual shield to protect them from the Enemy and his temptations.
Another example would be how peaceful turtles are. Most species of turtles are slow-paced and passive animals. Christ’s followers are called on to be just the same way in Matthew 5:9 which calls peacemakers, Sons of God: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
This highlights just how important peaceable and docile character traits are in the Christian faith. Turtles embody this and so many believers are encouraged to emulate them.
Where Do Turtles Appear in The Bible?
In the Hebrew language, the word “tzav” is used to refer to both a turtle and a tortoise. They can be used interchangeably. This typically happens in some Biblical translations.
With that in mind, turtles are only mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible. For example, Leviticus 11:29 reads, Contextually, God was, in this verse, giving Moses a list of animals that the Israelites could consume: “These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind.”
Some of the clean animals were cows, goats, and sheep. Turtles were not, however, considered “clean”.
While the specific reason why it was named as an unclean animal is unclear, some Biblical theologians propound that turtles were seen as scavenger eaters.
A turtle is mentioned again in Solomon 2:12 of the same Bible version: “The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
It is part of a chorus but does not mean the regular turtles as we know them.
According to some Biblical interpretations, the word “turtle” or “turtledove” (as it appears in other versions) is a migratory bird. The word “turtledove” is used in other verses but again, does not mean turtles but a specific bird.
Other versions of the Bible do not reference turtles.
4 Biblical Symbolic Meanings of a Turtle
In general, turtles have been held in high esteem within the faith for their mellow, calm, and wise nature. So, what does the Bible say about turtles and their way of life?
What meanings and teachings can we draw from them? According to Sam Ellis from Catholics & Bible, here are some of them:
Turtles are widely known to be long-living animals with high life expectancies. Something only human beings can dream of. Since Ancient times, turtles have been used as a symbol of immortality and resilience.
To maintain their long lifespan, turtles molt which is essentially the process of shedding layers of their shell. Their vitality is taken as a biblical sign of heroism.
Likewise in the Holy book, the stories of Enoch who lived 356 years (Gen 5:21-24), and Elijah (2 Kings 2) who never died, are seen as symbols of mortality meshing with immortality.
The After Life
The shell of a turtle is a highly protective barrier between the animal and the outside world. It is covered in intricate patterns that have long been regarded as markings of spiritual paths between this world and the next.
Biblical cosmology, as well, take these designs as a symbol of the two planes i.e. Heaven and Earth. According to these studies, a link was found between constellations and the shells on turtles’ backs.
The arced shell represents the firmament (Genesis 1:6-8) and the body underneath is the flat earth. It is taken as a symbol of how Heaven and Earth are linked and Heaven is above Earth, just as the shell is on top of the turtle’s body.
If you have ever studied turtle reproduction, you would notice that these aquatic reptiles during mating season, typically lay up hundreds of eggs at once. Did you know that this carries biblical symbolism?
Water is held to be one of the oldest symbols of fertility in Biblical belief systems. It is considered the source and sustenance of life and all living beings.
As a shelled turtle comes to spawn on the shore, it is seen as a representation of the connection between life in the water and on land.
Imagine when baby turtles are hatched from their eggs and how they waddle into the water from the seashore. Additionally, during the Middle Ages, Christian teachings heavily associated water with femininity and fertility because of its cold, fluid nature.
Illustrations of Biblical parables and teachings can also be drawn from turtles, according to Christianity. Turtles are slow, wise, patient, and resilient.
These are virtues that the Bible encourages believers to nurture. For instance, Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, “The race is not swift”.
Just like the slow but sure turtle, God calls on his people to employ wisdom, calmness, and patience even in their fast-paced lives.
Believers are encouraged to apply wisdom before they undertake tasks or activities. They should not be hasty in decision-making but instead, make calculated and well-thought-out choices.
Psalm 84:7 says, “They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”
Proverbs 19:2 reads, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
2 Corinthians 3:8 also has similar teachings: “will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”
What Is the Spiritual Meaning of Turtles?
Many people believe that animals, including turtles, carry spiritual meaning and symbolism. Crystal from A-Z Animals holds the thought that the reptile has both positive and negative spiritual meaning.
Let us have a look at her analysis. Some of the noble spiritual meanings people put behind turtles are patience, wisdom, longevity, perseverance, protectiveness, and fertility.
They are considered tenacious, resilient, and calculating animals with an aura of wisdom and self-awareness. Contrastingly, they can also be considered stubborn, slow, and isolated.
Many believe them to be very determined animals that are not open to outside ideas. Others say they are lazy because of their slow-paced lifestyle.
It is also believed that turtles do not form strong bonds with others and prefer isolation and their own company.
What Do Turtles Mean in Different Cultures?
Now that we have a deeper understanding of turtles’ significance to Christianity, we can also look at their spiritual meaning in other cultures. Learn more below:
In line with Celtic mythology and history, turtles were regarded as the gatekeepers to the faerie realm. They were known for their sharp senses of smell and hearing, making them fantastic guards.
The Celts also believed in the old fable of the hare and the tortoise. In this legend, it is believed that the wisdom and patience of the reptile gave him an advantage over the hare and his agility.
They, therefore, know the turtle to be a symbol of longevity, tenacity, and patience. Turtles were also considered the best survivors because of their hard, protective shells.
They lived long and withstood all types of physical elements. The Celtic god Lugh, who was the god of the sun, war, and skills, was also associated with turtles.
Early Eastern civilizations as well placed symbolic significance on turtles. In Chinese mythology, the four cardinal directions are protected and represented by four celestial warrior spirits.
For the North Point, it was a turtle that was also linked to the winter season. As well, in Japanese culture, the Kappa river spirit is symbolized by a turtle humanoid figure.
This spirit is said to embody both good and evil. It is a wise, mischievous, and cunning omen, according to the Japanese.
Native American Meaning
Each Native American tribe had its unique symbolic meaning for turtles but all of them collectively held the animal in great reverence. For example, they used the turtle as a symbol of Mother Earth.
The 13 scutes or scales of a turtle signified the 13 full moons of a year, while the small outer scutes which are 28, represented the days in a lunar month.
There is also a Native American myth that the turtle, as Mother Earth, saved them from an ancient flood by making land for them using mud from the ocean floor.
Some Early African societies such as Ancient Egypt, regarded turtles to be guardians and protectors. Particularly of the Nile River.
This was owed to the tough protective shell of the turtle, which they thought gave him warrior-like qualities. The turtle would pass between land and riverbed and was also believed to have the power to travel between our world and the dead world.
Other traditional African myths depict this reptile as a mischievous trickster that was very cunning. One such legend is the race between the turtle and the hare, where it was said the shelled animal won by the use of trickery.
What Do Turtles Mean in A Dream?
Turtles do not only show up in the real world. They can also appear to us in our dreams. Many dream interpreters believe they do not feature in our dreams by chance.
Biblical Meaning of Baby Turtles in Dreams
Baby turtles are infant turtles and they are commonly thought to represent the nurturing protective connection between mother and child.
Seeing them in a dream could be a Biblical indication that God is watching over His faithful. Baby turtles are believed to symbolize protection, innocence, and new beginnings.
You may need a fresh start or maybe you need to give something another chance. Alternatively, it could mean that you need protection from evil forces.
Biblical Meaning of a Snapping Turtle in A Dream
Snapping turtles have a reputation for being very aggressive animals. Likewise, dreams involving them are believed to represent hostile behavior.
If you experience this dream, you may be feeling frustrated with someone or something. Another possible biblical meaning is that you are being controlled by something and you don’t appreciate it.
For instance, you may be feeling distant from God as a result of something but the vision of the snapping turtle could be a message that you can overcome it.
Meaning of A Sea Turtle in A Dream
It is opinioned that seeing a sea turtle in a dream shows that your soul is stubborn and independent. You could be hard-headed and averse to instructions from authority. Even if the advice is good.
The sea turtle could also mean that you are defensive or guarded. You may be closing yourself off from something or someone that intends to hurt you.
Additionally, this type of dream could also mean that you have a strong desire for freedom or that you feel trapped in some sort of confines.
The Biblical Meaning of An Injured Turtle in A Dream
Walter Jones, a well-known psychic advisor, thinks that visions of injured turtles, while you sleep, could be a biblical sign that your guardian angel is warning you against pending danger or misfortune.
It is taken as a caution to be careful and avoid uncharted new territories or ventures. According to this interpretation, you should stick to your regular routine and avoid making hasty decisions.
You should pray to God and ask for His protection, especially for the near future.
The Biblical Meaning of a Turtle Egg in A Dream
A turtle egg in your dream may seem oddly placed but according to Jones, this could be a sign that you have untapped potential within you. A new start may be around the corner.
Usually, people assume that the fresh beginnings will be positive. Dream interpreters advise that when you see a turtle egg in a dream, continue believing in yourself and putting in the work.
Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance to unlock this potential and achieve what is meant to be.
Turtles as Spirit Animals
According to an ordained Daoist monk, Yun Rou, the turtle as your spirit animal makes you patient, wise, and resilient.
In certain spiritual traditions and cultures, spirit animals refer to spirits that guide and protect an individual through their journey of life. It is also widely believed that the spirit animal lends qualities and characteristics to a person.
In this case, turtles as spirit animals are thought to embody patience, steadfastness, and humility. People with them as their spirit animals may have all those qualities plus wisdom and resilience.
These individuals are fondly known as “old souls” because of their wise and tenacious nature. They are seen as insightful beings that give good wholesome advice.
Lastly, those with the turtle as their spirit animal are believed to be stubborn and lazy. They also greatly enjoy their independence and solidarity.
Is Encountering A Turtle A Good or Bad Omen?
The experts at Crystal Clear Intuition, liken turtles to a superstition of good luck. They understand turtles to be a connection between our world and the spiritual one.
Encountering them can pass messages and according to spiritualists, they are positive. For instance, they believe turtles can be a good omen for piecing together what needs to be done to achieve your goals.
This results in good luck and abundance.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.