> Are you sure it's a raven and not a dove?
Oh, it's a raven alright. This is based on a Biblical passage. Many of the stories of 'saints' are built from re-using elements found in the Bible.
I Kings 17:4, 5, 6
017:004 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I
have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
017:005 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he
went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
017:006 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and
bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Elijah is fed by "ravens" in the wilderness. But this is one of those infamous 'ambigous' words in the Bible. No vowels remember. RBM could be 'orebim' (ravens) or Orebim (inhabitants of the city of Oreb!) or even Arabim (Arabs!) But since this is the Bible and everything has to be 'miraculous' the translators settled on ravens. It looks much more 'supernatural' and 'miraculous' to have animals bringing the prophet bread and meat than it does to have populations of mere humans bringing the prophet bread and meat.
In the Elijah story (I Kings xvii. 4), ravens ("'orebim") bring food to the prophet. The Talmud (Ḥul. 5a) reports an interesting discussion, wherein it is suggested that "'orebim" might be the name of men (Judges vii. 25), or perhaps men of a certain locality, this of course implying the reading "Arabians." And despite the fact that all the ancient versions read "ravens," the reading "Arabians" or "Bedouins" is still a possibility. The hiding-place of Elijah lay directly in the path of the bands who, in the period of drought, would have reason to remain near a brook (I Kings x. vii. 6).
I have commanded the ravens to feed thee. - It is contended that if we consider µybr [ orebim ] to signify ravens, we shall find any interpretation on this ground to be clogged with difficulties. I need mention but a few.
The raven is an unclean bird, And these ye shall have in abomination among the fowls-every raven after his kind; Lev. xi. 13-15; that is, every species of this genus shall be considered by you unclean and abominable. Is it therefore likely that God would employ this most unclean bird to feed his prophet? Besides, where could the ravens get any flesh that was not unclean? Carrion is their food; and would God send any thing of this kind to his prophet? Again: If the flesh was clean which God sent, where could ravens get it? Here must be at least three miracles: one to bring from some table the flesh to the ravens; another, to induce the ravenous bird to give it up; and the third, to conquer its timidity towards man, so that it could come to the prophet without fear. Now, although God might employ a fowl that would naturally strive to prey on the flesh, and oblige it, contrary to its nature, to give it up; yet it is by no means likely that he would employ a bird that his own law had pronounced abominable. Again, he could not have employed this means without working a variety of miracles at the same time, in order to accomplish one simple end; and this is never God's method: his plan is ever to accomplish the greatest purposes by the simplest means.
The original word orebim has been considered by some as meaning merchants, persons occasionally trading through that country, whom God directed, by inspiration, to supply the prophet with food. To get a constant supply from such hands in an extraordinary way was miracle enough; it showed the superintendence of God, and that the hearts of all men are in his hands.
Like ancient Rome, we today are once more importing every form of exotic superstition in the hope of finding the right remedy for our sickness.
-- C. G. Jung
Richard Wilhelm: In Memoriam (1930), CW 15: pg. 60