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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Term of Contempt.

—Biblical Data:

The dog referred to in the Bible is the semisavage species seen throughout the East, held in contempt for its fierce, unsympathetic habits, and not yet recognized for his nobler qualities as the faithful companion of man. He is used chiefly by shepherds or farmers to watch their sheep or their houses and tents, and to warn them by his loud barking of any possible danger (Job 30:1; Isaiah 56:10). He lives in the streets, where he acts as scavenger, feeding on animal flesh unfit for man, and often devouring even human bodies (Exodus 22:31; 1 Kings 14:11, 16:4, 21:23; 2 Kings 9:10,36; Jeremiah 15:3). At night he wanders in troops from place to place, filling the air with the noise of his barking (Psalms 59:7-14; compare Exodus 11:7), and it is dangerous to seize him by the car in order to stop him (Proverbs 26:17). He is of a fierce disposition (Isaiah 56:11; A. V. "greedy")and therefore the type of violent men (Psalms 22:17 [A. V. 16], 21 [20]). Treacherous and filthy (Proverbs 26:11), his name is used as a term of reproach and self-humiliation in such expressions as: "What is thy servant, which is but a dog" (2 Kings 8:13, R. V.); or "Am I a dog's head?" (2 Samuel 3:8); or "After whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog?" (1 Samuel 24:15 [A. V. 14]; compare 2 Samuel 9:8, 16:9; Cheyne's emendation in "Encyc. Bibl." s. "Dog," seems unnecessary).

The dog known to the Hebrews in Biblical times was the so-called pariah dog, the shepherd-dog (Job 30:7) being the more ferocious species. The Assyrian hunter's dog was probably unknown. The A. V. translation of ("well girt in the loins") in Proverbs 30:31 by "greyhound" is incorrect; R. V. (margin) has more correctly "war-horse" (see commentaries ad loc.).

The dog being an unclean animal, "the breaking of a dog's neck," mentioned as a sacrificial rite in Isaiah 66:3 (compare Exodus 13:13), indicates an ancient Canaanite practise (see W. R. Smith, "Rel. of Sem." p. 273). The shamelessness of the dog in regard to sexual life gave rise to the name ("dog") for the class of priests in the service of Astarte who practised sodomy ("kedeshim," called also by the Greeks κυναίδοι, Deuteronomy 23:19 [A. V. 18]; compare ib. 18 [17] and Revelation 22:15; see Driver ad loc.), though as the regular name of priests attached to the temple of Ashtoret at Larnaca has been found on the monuments (see "C. I. S." , No. 86).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Two different dogs are mentioned: the ordinary dog and the small Cyprian (not, as commonly explained, "the farmers' dog," ). The former species resembles the wolf; the latter the fox; and the crossing of these is forbidden as "kilayim" (mixture of species; Kil. 1:6; compare Aristotle, "Historia Animalium," 8:27,8, where the one species of dogs is declared to be a crossing of dogs and wolves, and the other [the Laconian] a crossing of dogs and foxes). While the ordinary dog is counted by R. Meïr among domestic animals ("behemah"), the Cyprian dog is declared to be a wild animal ("ḥayyah"; Yer. Kil. 27a). In the dusk the former is difficult to distinguish from the wolf (Ber. 9b).

As a rule, the dog does not scratch and tear like beasts of prey (Ḥul. 53a), but when driven by hunger he tears and devours young lambs (B. K. 15b); he bites men, but does not break a bone (Pes. 49b). "With his sharp scent he smells the bread hidden three fists deep in the soil" (Pes. 31b). Shepherd-dogs are fed on bread made of flour and bran (Ḥallah 1:8). Two shepherd-dogs are required to save the flock from the attack of wolves (B. M. 7:9). While dogs hate one another, they are ready to unite against the attacking wolf (Pes. 113b; Sanh. 105a). The dog depends chiefly on the nourishment furnished him by man, but is as a rule greatly neglected, wherefore God has provided him with the faculty of retaining his food in the stomach for three days (Shab. 154b; Beẓah 21a). At times, however, he eats his excrement (B. Ḳ. 92b). The excrement of dogs is used for tanning (Ber. 25a; Ket. 77a).

The barking of dogs at midnight (Ber. 3a) gives people a feeling of safety, wherefore the rule is given: "Dwell not in a town where no barking of dogs is heard" (Pes. 113a). "A dog in a strange city will not bark, and it takes him seven years to feel at home" ('Er. 61a).

The Keeping of Dogs.

The dog is the most shameless of animals ( , Ex. R. ); he was one of those who would not abstain from cohabitation in the Ark (Gen. R. ). The Mishnah (B. Ḳ. 7:7) forbids the keeping of dogs unless they are chained; in cities, near the seacoast or the frontier, they may for safety's sake be let loose at night (B. Ḳ. 83a). According to Tosef., B. Ḳ. 8:17, and B. Ḳ. 80b, the raising of small Cyprian dogs is allowed. These seem to be the little dogs (κυνάρια) that "eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table" (Matthew 15:26,27).

In the time of the Amoraim the ordinary dog does not appear to have been regarded as ferocious; for it is said: "One should not raise a bad dog [] in the house, this being a transgression of Deuteronomy 22:8, 'Thou shalt not bring blood upon thine house'" (B. Ḳ. 16b, 46a: compare Shab. 63a; Yer. B. Ḳ. 7:6a, with reference to Job 6:14, Hebr., where is interpreted as λαμὸς= "dog"; see Krauss, "Lehnwörter," s.). "A dog before the house withholds kindness from one's neighbor, because no one can enter the house."

A wild dog ( = ἄγριος) is mentioned as dangerous to handle (Gen. R. ), as is also a young dog ('Er. 86a). A mad dog is so dangerous that he may be killed even on Sabbath (Shab. 121b). Rabies is the effect of an evil spirit or of witchcraft; and its signs are: the dog keeps the mouth open; his saliva is constantly flowing; his cars hang down; his tail lies closely upon his loins; he walks on the sideways of the street, and does not bark (Yoma 83b). The cure for hydrophobia is the eating of a part of the dog's diaphragm (Yoma 8:6; see FOLK-MEDICINE).

The Faithful Dog.

In the course of time a certain affection for the dog seems to have been developed among the Jews. In Hor. 13a the dog is said to be distinguished from the cat in that he recognizes his master while the latter does not. In the more recent versions of Tobit 6:1 and 11:4 (see Grimm's commentary ad loc.; but compare Abrahams in "Jew. Quart. Rev." 1:288) the dog follows Tobias on his journey from home and back. According to Rab, in Gen. R. , the sign given by God to Cain (Genesis 4:15) is to be explained that he was given a dog as companion or guardian. Idle housewives were known to play with dogs (Ket. 61b). "For his friendly conduct at the exodus of the Hebrews when he did not 'move his tongue against man or beast' (Exodus 11:7), God compensated the dog by telling the people that the meat forbidden to them should be cast unto him" (Mek., Mishpaá¹­im, 20, on Exodus 22:30).

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the story of the faithful dog which Dunlop ("History of Prose Fiction," ch.; see Index, s. "Gellert") and Benfey ("Panchatantra," 1859, 1:482) have traced through the various literatures of the East and the West, isfound for the first time in Yer. Ter. 8:46a and Pesiḳ. 10:79b as one of R. Meïr's fables used as a haggadic illustration of Proverbs 16:7. Some shepherds had curdled milk for a meal, when in their absence a serpent ate of it and thus (as was the belief) instilled poison into it. The dog, which had witnessed the act, began to bark when his masters, on their return, proceeded to cat it; but they would not heed his voice of warning. So he hastened to eat it all up and fell down dead, having thus saved his masters' lives. In gratitude, the shepherds reverently buried the faithful dog, and erected a monument to him which is still called "The Dog's Monument" ().

The Jewish belief was that the howling of dogs () betokened the presence of the angel of death, or death itself in the vicinity (compare Wuttke, "Der Deutsche Volksaberglaube," 1869, §268); their cheerful (sportful) barking (), the presence of the prophet Elijah—that is, some joyful event (B. Ḳ. 60b). "If one goes out to select a wife for himself and hears the barking of dogs, he may divine in their voices an omen of good or of evil" (Gen. R.; the reading, however, is doubtful).

Golden Dogs Barking.

The idol Nibhaz (2 Kings 17:31; "Nibhan," , according to David Ḳimḥi) was taken to have been the image of a dog (Sanh. 63b). The name of "Pene Melek" (Moloch's Face) was to be changed into "Pene Keleb" (Dog's Face; 'Ab. Zarah 46a). The Egyptian dog or jackal-god, as guardian of the dead, together with the two golden images of dogs (jackals) which were used as symbols of the two hemispheres (Brugsch, "Religion und Mythologie der Alten Aegypter," 1888, p. 670), appears in the Haggadah in the following legendary form:

(according to Ex. 11:7; Pesiḳ. 10:86a; Ex. R. ; see Brüll's "Jahrb." 1:150; p. 151, note, for cabalistic comments upon the passage)

"The Egyptians, in order to prevent Joseph's body from being taken from them, had two dogs of gold [or brass] placed on his tomb and endowed by witchcraft with the power of frightening away every intruder by their loud barking. When Moses came to take the bones of Joseph the two dogs began to bark, but he addressed them, saying: 'You are the work of deceit, and you would not move your tongues if you were genuine dogs'".

"Dog" is also the synonym in rabbinical literature for shameless and relentless people, and therefore for wicked heathen. The time of general degeneracy is a time when "the generation will have the face of the dog" (Soṭah 9:15). R. Joshua ben Levi compares the righteous to the guests invited to the king's table, and the wicked heathen to the dogs who obtain the crums that fall therefrom (Midr. Teh. to Psalms 4:8, based upon Isaiah 56:10,11). R. Ishmael b. R. Jose called the Samaritans dogs, as "being as adhesive to idolatrous customs as the dog is to the flesh of carcasses" (Gen. R. ). Just as the dog must be beaten by the master, so must the wicked be smitten by God (Ex. R. , with reference to Psalms 59:7; compare Sanh. 109a: "As the dog scents food from afar, so do the wicked scent the bones of the rich for pillage"). The epithet "dog" used for heathen in the New Testament (Matthew 15:26; Philippians 3:2) is explained hereby; but the statement of Eisenmenger, "Entdecktes Judenthum," 1:714-716, that the Jews call non-Jews (Christians) "dogs," repeated often and referred to in Meyer's commentaries to Matthew, c., as well as the Talmudical quotations in Herzog-Hauck's "Real-Encyc." s. "Hund," and in Cheyne and Black, "Encyc. Bibl." s. "Dog" (obviously based on the misunderstood passage in Wünsche, "Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der Evangelien," 1878, p. 189), are altogether incorrect. The epithet "keleb" (dog) is given as a nickname to miserly Jews (see Tendlau, "Sprichwörter und Redensarten," 1860, Nos. 270 and 909).

The dog is equally prominent in Jewish folk-lore and in Chaldean magic (see Lenormant, "Magie und Wahrsagekunst der Chaldäer," Jena, 1878, p. 471); being especially connected in mythology with death or the nether world (see the dogs of Hecate in Rhode, "Psyche," 1894, pp. 221, 363, 367, 375; the jackal dog-god Anubis in Egypt in Brugsch, c., pp. 252, 670; Zend Avesta, Vendidad, 5:29, in "Sacred Books of the East," 4:58; compare "Shayast la Shayast," 2:1, 10:10; Nork, "Etymologisch-Symbolisch-Mythologisches Realwöterbuch," s. "Hund").

  • Lewysohn, Die Zoologie des Talmuds, 1858, pp. 82-89;
  • Parthey, Plutarch über Isis und Osiris, 1850, p. 263;
  • Kohut, Aruch Completum, s. ;
  • Winer, B. R.;
  • Hamburger. R. B. T. s. Hund;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s. Dog;
  • L. Hopf, Thierorakel und Orakelthiere, Stuttgart, 1888, Index, s. Haushund;
  • Zapletal, Der Totemismus und die Religion Israels, p. 38, Freiburg, 1901.
S. S.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Dog'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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