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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Dog

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כּלב , kelebh ; (compare Arabic kelb , "dog"); κύων , kúōn ; and diminutive κυνάριον , kunárion ): References to the dog, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, are usually of a contemptuous character. A dog, and especially a dead dog, is used as a figure of insignificance. Goliath says to David (1 Samuel 17:43 ): "Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?" David says to Saul ( 1 Samuel 24:14 ): "After whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea." Mephibosheth says to David (2 Samuel 9:8 ): "What is th servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" The same figure is found in the words of Hazael to Elisha (2 Kings 8:13 ). The meaning, which is obscure in the King James Version, is brought out well in the Revised Version: "But what is thy servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?" The characteristically oriental interrogative form of these expressions should be noted.

Other passages express by inference the low esteem in which dogs are held. Nothing worse could happen to a person than that his body should be devoured by dogs (1 Kings 14:11; 1 Kings 16:4; 1 Kings 21:19 , 1 Kings 21:23 , etc.). Job 30:1 says of the youth who deride him that he disdained to set their fathers with the dogs of his flock. In Philippians 3:2 and Revelation 22:15 , dogs are coupled with evil-workers, sorcerers, etc. In Matthew 7:6 we read: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine."

Job 30:1 (cited above) refers to the use of dogs to guard flocks; and the comparison of inefficient watchmen with dumb dogs ( Isaiah 56:10 ) implies that at least some dogs are useful. In the apocryphal Book of Tob, Tobias' dog is his companion on his travels (Tobit 5:16; 11:4; on this see Expository Times , XI, 258; HDB , IV, 989; Geiger, Civilization of E. Iranians , I, 85ff).

There is further the reference to the greyhound (Proverbs 30:31 English Versions) as one of the four things which are "stately in their going." But the rendering, "greyhound," rests solely upon inference, and is contrary to the Septuagint and Vulgate, which have respectively aléktōr and gallus , i.e. "cock," the King James Version margin "horse." The Hebrew has zarzı̄r mothnayim , which the King James Version marginrenders "girt in the loins." the Revised Version, margin has "warhorse," Hebrew "well girt (or, well knit) in the loins." In support of the meaning, "girt," for zarzı̄r , there is the word zēr , which, with zarzı̄r , is assigned to the obsolete root zārar and the Arabic zirr , "button," from zarr , "to button," "to compress." Further, to render zarzı̄r by "cock" logically requires a change in the text, for mothnayim , "loins," becomes superlative and inappropriate (see Encyclopedia Biblica , under the word "Cock"). On the other hand, the Arabic zarzūr is a starling (compare Arabic zarzar , "to utter cries," said of birds; ṣarṣar , "to cry out"; ṣarṣūr , "cockroach," or "cricket "). Also, according to Encyclopedia Biblica (s.v. "Cock"), "the Talmudic zarzı̄r ̌ ... means some bird (a kind of raven)." If the text stands, there appears to be no better rendering than "girt in the loins," which might fairly be taken to refer to a war horse or to a greyhound. The Persian greyhound would in that case be understood, a hairy race, which, according to the Royal Natural History , is less fleet than the English breed and is used in chasing gazelles and in hunting the wild ass, and which according to Doughty (Arabia Deserta ) is kept by the Bedouin. "These dogs are said to be sometimes girdled by their owners to prevent them from over-eating and becoming fat" (L. Fletcher, British Museum (Natural History)).

Domestic dogs have probably been derived from various species of wolves and jackals. In this connection, it is noteworthy that the dogs of certain regions greatly resemble the wolves of those regions. The pariah dogs of Syria and Palestine resemble the jackals, especially in color and in the tail, differing in their greater size and in the shape of muzzle and ears. It is fair to assume that they are much the same as existed in Bible times. They are in general meek and harmless creatures, and are valuable as scavengers, but disturb the night with their barking. Each quarter of the city has its own pack of dogs, which vigorously resents any invasion of its territory. A dog which for any reason finds itself in foreign territory gets home as quickly as possible, and is lucky if it does not have to run the gauntlet of a pack of vicious foes. The pariah dog is sometimes brought up to be a sheep dog, but the best shepherd dogs are great wolfish creatures, which are usually obtained from Kurdistan.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Dog'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/d/dog.html. 1915.

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