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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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כלב , an animal well known. By the law of Moses, the dog was declared unclean, and was held in great contempt among the Jews, 1 Samuel 17:43; 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Kings 8:13 . Yet they had them in considerable numbers in their cities. They were not, however, shut up in their houses or courts, but forced to seek their food where they could find it. The Psalmist compares violent men to dogs, who go about the city in the night, prowl about for their food, and growl, and become clamorous if they be not satisfied, Psalms 59:6; Psalms 59:14-15 . Mr. Harmer has illustrated this by quotations from travellers into the east. The Turks also reckon the dog a filthy creature, and therefore drive him from their houses; so that with them dogs guard rather the streets and districts, than particular houses, and live on the offals that are thrown abroad. In 1 Samuel 25:3 , Nabal is said to have been "churlish and evil in his manners; and he was of the house of Caleb;" but Caleb here is not a proper name. Literally, it is, "He was the son of a dog;" and so the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic render it,—he was irritable, snappish, and snarling as a dog. The irritable disposition of the dog is the foundation of that saying, "He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears," Proverbs 26:17; that is, he wantonly exposes himself to danger.

In 1 Kings 21:23 , it is said, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel." Mr. Bruce, when at Gondar, was witness to a scene in a great measure similar to the devouring of Jezebel by dogs. He says, "The bodies of those killed by the sword were hewn to pieces, and scattered about the streets, being denied burial. I was miserable, and almost driven to despair, at seeing my hunting dogs, twice let loose by the carelessness of my servants, bringing into the court yard the heads and arms of slaughtered men, and which I could no way prevent but by the destruction of the dogs themselves." He also adds, that upon being asked by the king the reason of his dejected and sickly appearance, among other reasons, he informed him, "it was occasioned by an execution of three men, which he had lately seen; because the hyaenas, allured into the streets by the quantity of carrion, would not let him pass by night in safety from the palace; and because the dogs fled into his house, to eat pieces of human carcasses at their leisure." This account illustrates also the readiness of the dogs to lick the blood of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:38; in conformity to which is the expression of the Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 15:3 , "I will appoint over them the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear."

2. The dog was held sacred by the Egyptians. This fact we learn from Juvenal, who complains, in his fifteenth satire,

Oppida tota canem vencrantur, nemo Dianam. "Thousands regard the hound with holy fear, Not one, Diana."


The testimony of the Latin poet is confirmed by Diodorus, who, in his first book, assures us that the Egyptians highly venerate some animals, both during their life and after their death; and expressly mentions the dog as one object of this absurd adoration. To these witnesses may be added Herodotus, who says, that when a dog expires, all the members of the family to which he belonged worship the carcass; and that, in every part of the kingdom, the carcasses of their dogs are embalmed, and deposited in consecrated ground. The idolatrous veneration of the dog by the Egyptians is shown in the worship of their dog-god Anubis, to whom temples and priests were consecrated, and whose image was borne in all religious ceremonies. Cynopolis, the present Minieh, situated in the lower Thebais, was built in honour of Anubis. The priests celebrated his festivals there with great pomp. "Anubis," says Strabo, "is the city of dogs, the capital of the Cynopolitan prefecture. These animals are fed there on sacred aliments, and religion has decreed them a worship." An event, however, related by Plutarch, brought them into considerable discredit with the people. Cambyses, having slain the god Apis, and thrown his body into the field, all animals respected it except the dogs, which alone ate of his flesh. This impiety diminished the popular veneration. Cynopolis was not the only city where incense was burned on the altars of Anubis. He had chapels in almost all the temples. On solemnities, his image always accompanied those of Isis and Osiris. Rome, having adopted the ceremonies of Egypt, the emperor Commodus, to celebrate the Isiac feasts, shaved his head, and himself carried the dog Anubis.

3. In Matthew 7:6 , we have this direction of our Saviour: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they," the swine, "trample them under their feet, and," the dogs, "turn again and tear you." It was customary, not only with the writers of Greece and Rome, but also with the eastern sages, to denote certain classes of men by animals supposed to resemble them among the brutes. Our Saviour was naturally led to adopt the same concise and energetic method. By dogs, which were held in great detestation by the Jews, he intends men of odious character and violent temper; by swine, the usual emblem of moral filth, he means the sensual and profligate; and the purport of his admonition is, that as it is a maxim with the priests not to give any part of the sacrifices to dogs, so it should be a maxim with you not to impart the holy instruction with which you are favoured, to those who are likely to blaspheme and to be only excited by it to rage and persecution. It is, however, a maxim of prudence, not of cowardice; and is to be taken along with other precepts of our Lord, which enjoin the publication of truth, at the expense of ease and even life.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Dog'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​d/dog.html. 1831-2.
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