What Does Dog Symbolize in the Bible: Unpacking the Meaning and Significance

Dogs have been human’s companions for thousands of years, offering protection, loyalty, and love. Throughout history, dogs have also played a significant role in religion and spirituality. In the bible, dogs are mentioned numerous times, often symbolizing various characteristics and traits that humans can learn from.

One of the most famous biblical references to dogs is in the book of Revelation, where they represent judgment and corruption. Jesus warned his followers not to “throw their pearls to pigs” while also warning them of “dogs” who were dangerous to their spiritual lives. On the other hand, in Psalm 22, dogs signify trouble and attack from enemies as the psalmist cried out for God’s protection from his enemies.

In contrast, there are also positive connotations attached to the dog in the bible. In the Old Testament, the canine is seen as a faithful companion, with references to dogs guarding fields and flocks. There’s also a tale in the Book of Tobit, where a loyal dog accompanies Tobit’s son on a journey and helps him defeat a demon. These biblical references provide a fascinating insight into ancient beliefs and values, where canines were seen as metaphorical tools to impart essential moral and ethical lessons to humans.

Dogs in the Old Testament

Dogs have appeared in the Bible numerous times, but surprisingly, they’re not mentioned very positively. In fact, in the Old Testament, dogs are often portrayed as unclean, wild and filthy animals. One of the earliest references to dogs is in the Book of Exodus where it states, “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7). This verse describes how dogs were seen as unclean by the Israelites, and it was forbidden for them to come in contact with them.

  • Deuteronomy 23: 18 says, “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” This verse implies that dogs were commonly used in immoral acts, and their presence was considered defiled.
  • In 1 Kings 14:11, Ahijah proclaims that “Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the Lord hath spoken it”. This verse emphasizes how dogs were viewed as wild animals that could consume anything without any opposition.
  • Psalm 22:16 describes a scene of Jesus being crucified, and it states that “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Here, dogs are mentioned as a group of vicious creatures who are a part of a larger attack on Jesus.

These biblical references about dogs are quite negative, but it’s important to remember that these were cultural beliefs and perceptions back then. It doesn’t mean that dogs are inherently evil or unclean. Later in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, dogs are portrayed differently as symbols of loyalty and fidelity.

Dogs in the New Testament

The mention of dogs in the New Testament is often associated with negative connotations. Dogs were considered unclean animals in the Jewish culture, and they were often depicted as wild scavengers that roamed the streets looking for food. Additionally, dogs were often viewed as symbols of impurity, greed, and violence. Despite the negative connotations associated with dogs, there are a few instances where dogs were mentioned in a positive light.

  • The Canaanite Woman’s Faith (Matthew 15:21-28) – In this story, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks for him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Initially, Jesus ignores her, but she persisted, and he eventually granted her request. In this story, Jesus compares the woman’s faith to that of a dog, saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” The woman responds, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In this instance, the dog was used as a symbol of persistence and faith.
  • The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) – In this story, a man is beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite pass by but do not help. However, a Samaritan stops and tends to the man’s wounds, taking him to an inn to rest and recover. Jesus implies that the Samaritans, who were considered outcasts in Jewish society, were like dogs in the eyes of the Jews but proved themselves to be more merciful and compassionate than those who were supposedly holy.
  • The Boldness of Paul (Philippians 3:1-6) – In this passage, Paul warns the Philippians to be aware of false teachers who would lead them astray through circumcision and other religious rituals. Paul states that he has more reason to put his trust in those rituals than anyone else, but he has chosen to put his faith in Jesus instead. Paul uses the Greek word for “dogs” to describe those who still cling to the old ways, despite knowing the truth of the gospel. In this instance, the dog is used as a symbol of those who stubbornly cling to religious rituals that have become irrelevant.

Despite the negative connotations associated with dogs in the New Testament, there are instances where they are portrayed positively, as symbols of persistence, compassion, and truth. However, these instances are few and far between, and dogs are generally used in the New Testament to represent negative qualities such as impurity, greed, and violence.

Dog as a Symbol of Loyalty

One of the most common associations with dogs in the Bible is their symbolism of loyalty. Dogs are known for their unwavering loyalty to their owners, and this quality has been recognized in the Bible as well. The Bible shows dogs as loyal companions who are always by their master’s side.

  • One of the most famous instances of a dog’s loyalty in the Bible is the story of David and Jonathan. The account tells of Jonathan’s son, who had a dog that refused to leave his side even after Jonathan’s death (2 Samuel 9:8).
  • In the New Testament, dogs are also mentioned as loyal friends. The Apostle Paul praises the loyalty of his fellow believers, referring to them as “dogs” who have “stood by [his] side” (Philippians 4:3).
  • The Book of Revelation also highlights the loyalty of dogs. John uses the image of dogs to describe those who have remained faithful to Christ, saying they are “the dogs who are outside” (Revelation 22:15).

These examples show that dogs have been perceived as loyal companions throughout biblical history. Even today, dogs are seen as dependable friends who will always be there for their owners. Their loyalty is a testament to the goodness and purity of their character, making them a beloved symbol in the Bible and beyond.

Overall, the dog’s image as a symbol of loyalty in the Bible illustrates the value that we place on this quality in our everyday lives. It is a reminder of the importance of trust and devotion in our relationships, whether with family, friends, or God.

In conclusion, dogs’ symbolic role in the Bible offers insight into the various characteristics that we appreciate about them. While some people believe certain breeds embody particular characteristics, dogs’ remarkable ability to show unadulterated loyalty and devotion to their owners has been a constant throughout history, making them a universally adored pet and symbol in the Bible.

Dog as a symbol of protection

In the Bible, dogs are often associated with protection. As loyal and faithful animals, they were used to protect flocks of sheep or herds of cattle from predators. This quality of protection is also reflected in the relationship between dogs and their owners, who are often considered their protectors or guardians. Here are some examples of how dogs are seen as symbols of protection in the Bible:

  • The book of Exodus describes how the Israelites were spared from the plague that killed all the firstborn in Egypt. According to the story, God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood over their doorposts, so that when the angel of death passed over the land, he would “see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway” (Exodus 12:23). This act of protection is similar to the way that dogs would protect their flocks from predators, by marking their territory and keeping watch over their charges.
  • In the book of Proverbs, dogs are mentioned several times as defenders of their owners. For example, Proverbs 26:17 says, “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” This comparison suggests that a dog will fiercely defend its owner when they are threatened, just as a person who gets involved in someone else’s fight may be putting themselves in harm’s way.
  • Jesus himself uses the image of a dog as a protective symbol in one of his teachings. In Matthew 7:6, he advises his followers not to “throw [their] pearls to pigs,” because they will trample them and then turn to attack the person who gave them. This metaphor suggests that disciples should be cautious about sharing their spiritual insights with those who are not receptive, as they may be met with hostility or even violence. By using the image of pigs and dogs, Jesus is highlighting the protective instincts of these animals and the danger of crossing them.

Beyond these specific examples, the dog can be seen as a more general symbol of protection in the Bible. Its loyalty, tenacity, and instinctual drive to defend its territory and loved ones are attributes that we can aspire to as people of faith. Just as dogs are willing to risk their own safety to keep others safe, we too should be willing to stand up for what is right, even in the face of danger or opposition.

Dog as a symbol of uncleanliness

In the Bible, dogs are often seen as unclean animals that should be avoided. This belief stems from their reputation in ancient times as scavengers and carriers of disease.

Here are five examples of how dogs symbolize uncleanliness in the Bible:

  • Deuteronomy 23:18 states, “You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” The reference to “dog” is believed to refer to male temple prostitutes or perhaps to the practice of bestiality.
  • In 1 Kings 14:11, the prophet Ahijah predicts that Jeroboam’s family will be consumed by wild dogs. This is seen as a symbol of how their unclean actions would bring about their downfall.
  • In Matthew 7:6, Jesus warns against giving “what is holy to dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” This is a warning against giving spiritual teachings to those who are not ready to receive them and may misuse them.
  • In Revelation 22:15, the “outside” of the New Jerusalem is described as a place where “dogs” and other unclean things will remain. This is symbolic of the fact that those who remain unclean and unrepentant will be excluded from the eternal city of God.
  • In Psalm 22, David cries out to God, “Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (v. 21). The “mouth of the lion” likely refers to his enemies, who are often portrayed as vicious dogs that seek to tear him apart.

Overall, dogs in the Bible are associated with uncleanliness and impurity. While this may seem harsh to modern readers who love and cherish their dogs, it is a powerful symbol that has resonated throughout the ages.

Despite this negative association, some believe that dogs can also symbolize loyalty and friendship, as seen in the story of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel.

Symbolism Examples in the Bible
Uncleanliness Deuteronomy 23:18, 1 Kings 14:11, Revelation 22:15
Loyalty and friendship 1 Samuel 20:16-17
Persistence or perseverance Matthew 15:27

Despite their mixed symbolism, dogs remain an important part of the Bible and the human experience in general. Whether seen as faithful companions or unclean scavengers, they offer a powerful image that can inspire and challenge us to become better people.

Dog as a Representation of Gentiles

In the Bible, dogs are often mentioned as symbolizing Gentile people, who were considered outside of the Jewish community. The term “dog” was used by Jews to refer to Gentiles in a derogatory manner, as they were considered unclean and impure. However, the Bible also recognizes that Gentiles can become part of God’s chosen people, just like the dogs who ate the crumbs that fell from the table in the story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28).

Biblical References to Dogs as Gentiles

  • Philippians 3:2 warns Christians to “watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”
  • In Revelation 22:15, dogs are listed as one of the groups of people who will not enter the New Jerusalem.
  • In Matthew 7:6, Jesus tells his disciples to not give what is holy to dogs, again referring to Gentiles.

The Story of the Canaanite Woman

One of the most well-known stories that mentions dogs as Gentiles is the story of the Canaanite woman. In Matthew 15:21-28, a woman approaches Jesus and begs him to heal her daughter, who is demon-possessed. At first, Jesus ignores her, saying that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. But the woman persists, and even when Jesus tells her that it is not right to give the children’s bread to dogs, she responds by saying, “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Moved by her faith, Jesus heals her daughter.

Symbolism Meaning
Dogs Gentile people
Crumbs Even a small amount of faith can bring healing and salvation

This story illustrates that even though Gentiles were considered outsiders, they too could have faith and be part of God’s chosen people. Through the Canaanite woman’s persistence and faith, she demonstrated that Gentiles were not excluded from God’s mercy and grace.

Dogs in the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is known for its vivid and intricate imagery and symbolism. One of the symbols used in this book is the dog, which is associated with several characteristics and concepts. Let’s take a closer look at the significance of dogs in Revelation.

The Number 7

The number 7 is highly significant in the Book of Revelation, as it is used repeatedly to symbolize completion, perfection, and divine fullness. Seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls are just some of the instances where the number 7 appears in this book.

  • The number of dogs mentioned in Revelation is also seven, further emphasizing the significance of this number in the book.
  • The seven dogs are described as “outside” the city gates, which represents exclusion from the presence of God and his people.
  • These dogs are depicted as being among the “unclean,” along with sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, and idolaters, among others (Revelation 22:15).

Thus, the seven dogs in Revelation symbolize the completeness and fullness of a group of individuals who are outside the community of believers, considered unclean and excluded from the presence of God.

Symbol Meaning
Dogs Completeness, uncleanliness, exclusion
Number 7 Completion, perfection, divine fullness

Understanding the symbolism of dogs in the Book of Revelation, particularly in relation to the number 7, reveals deeper insights into the spiritual themes and messages conveyed in this apocalyptic book.

Jesus’ interactions with dogs

Dogs are mentioned several times in the Bible, often symbolizing loyalty, faithfulness, and friendship. They are also associated with protection and can sometimes represent uncleanliness or impurity. In the New Testament, dogs are mentioned several times in relation to Jesus’ ministry and interactions with people.

  • In Matthew 15:26-27, Jesus compares the Syrophoenician woman to a dog when she asks him to heal her daughter. However, when the woman responds with great faith, Jesus commends her and grants her request.
  • In Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus portrays the dogs as comforting and perhaps even protecting Lazarus, the poor beggar.
  • In Revelation 22:15, dogs are mentioned among those who will not be allowed into the New Jerusalem, implying that they represent something unclean or impure.

However, one of the most famous interactions between Jesus and a dog is not actually mentioned in the Bible. According to tradition, Jesus encountered a dog on the road to Damascus. The dog was injured and Jesus healed it, causing the owner of the dog to convert to Christianity. This story has become a popular image in Christian art and has been interpreted in various ways, with some seeing it as an example of Jesus’ compassion and others seeing it as a symbol of the way in which mankind should relate to animals.

Overall, the biblical symbolism of dogs is complex and can have both positive and negative connotations. However, Jesus’ interactions with dogs highlight the themes of compassion, loyalty, and faith, and serve as a reminder of the importance of kindness and care towards all living creatures.

Here is a table summarizing some of the biblical references to dogs:

Reference Context
Matthew 15:26-27 Jesus compares the Syrophoenician woman to a dog
Luke 16:19-31 Dogs are depicted as comforting Lazarus, the poor beggar
Revelation 22:15 Dogs are among those excluded from the New Jerusalem

Source: BibleStudyTools

Dog as a symbol of vigilance

In the Bible, dogs are often used as a symbol of vigilance. This is because dogs are known for their ability to watch over and protect their owners, making them a fitting representation of watchfulness and guardian duty. Here are some examples:

  • In Isaiah 56:10–11, the prophet compares the leaders of Israel to “watchdogs” who fail to warn against danger and instead seek their own personal gain. This passage highlights the importance of being vigilant and responsible, especially for those in positions of leadership.
  • In Matthew 7:6, Jesus warns against casting pearls before swine, which may trample them and turn to attack. He then goes on to caution against giving “what is holy to dogs,” which could be interpreted as a warning against entrusting valuable things to those who lack vigilance and responsibility.
  • In Philippians 3:2, Paul warns the Christian community to “watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.” This passage highlights the importance of being vigilant against false teachings and those who would lead believers astray.

Moreover, the idea of dogs as vigilant protectors is also evident in the way they are portrayed in the Hebrew scriptures. For example, in 1 Samuel 17:34–36, David tells King Saul that he is able to fight Goliath because he has already protected his father’s flock from predators such as lions and bears. The use of the dog as a symbol of protective vigilance goes beyond the spiritual realm, emphasizing the practical and tangible benefits of having a vigilant guard.

However, it is worth noting that not all references to dogs in the Bible are positive. In the New Testament, for example, dogs are sometimes used to symbolize those who are unclean, impure, or morally deficient. Nonetheless, overall, dogs are often portrayed positively as faithful, vigilant, and protective guardians.

Verse Translation Description
Isaiah 56:10–11 New International Version (NIV) “[Israel’s] watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain.”
Matthew 7:6 New International Version (NIV) “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Philippians 3:2 New International Version (NIV) “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”

In conclusion, dogs are often used in the Bible as a representation of vigilance and watchfulness, emphasizing the importance of being responsible and aware in both spiritual and practical matters. Through this symbol, we are reminded of the need to protect ourselves and others from harm, as well as the importance of remaining faithful even in the face of danger.

Dog as a Representation of Faithfulness to God

In the Bible, dogs are often portrayed as symbols of faithfulness to God. This is evident in several instances where dogs are mentioned in the scriptures. The loyalty, devotion, and vigilance of dogs are qualities that are highly valued and esteemed in the biblical times, and these same attributes make them excellent symbols of faithfulness to God.

  • One of the most notable instances where dogs are mentioned in the Bible is in the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. In this story, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter who is possessed by a demon. Initially, Jesus rebuffs her, but the woman persists and says, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Her faithfulness and perseverance are rewarded, and Jesus heals her daughter.
  • In Revelation 22:15, dogs are listed among the “outside” things that will not be allowed into the new Jerusalem. This passage speaks to the idea that those who are faithful to God will be allowed into his kingdom, while others will not.
  • Psalm 22:16 speaks of dogs surrounding the psalmist, but the passage is often interpreted as a metaphor for the enemies of God surrounding and attacking the faithful. However, the psalmist expresses the hope and trust that God will deliver him from his enemies and ultimately triumph over them.

It is important to note that while dogs are often used as symbols of faithfulness in the Bible, they are not always portrayed in a positive light. For example, in Deuteronomy 23:18, dogs are associated with male prostitutes, and in Job 30:1, they are depicted as scavengers and outcasts.

Overall, the symbolism of dogs in the Bible as representations of faithfulness to God reflects the high regard and importance that loyalty and devotion have in the teachings of Christianity.

Matthew 15:21-28 Dogs as a representation of faithfulness and loyalty to God
Revelation 22:15 Exclusion of faithless individuals from the kingdom of God
Psalm 22:16 Dogs as a metaphor for enemies of God surrounding and attacking the faithful

What Does Dog Symbolize in the Bible?

Q: Are dogs mentioned in the Bible?
A: Yes, dogs are mentioned in the Bible over 35 times.

Q: What does the dog symbolize in the Bible?
A: In the Bible, dogs are often a symbol of impurity and wickedness.

Q: Is there a positive symbolism of dogs in the Bible?
A: Yes, in some instances, dogs are portrayed as loyal companions and protectors.

Q: What is the story of the faithful dog in the Bible?
A: The story of the faithful dog is not in the Bible, but it is a popular legend about a dog that followed its master to a monastery and waited for him outside until it died.

Q: Why are dogs associated with Gentiles in the Bible?
A: In Jewish culture during biblical times, dogs were often used as scavengers and were associated with Gentiles because of their lack of dietary restrictions.

Q: Are dogs mentioned in any biblical prophecies?
A: Yes, the prophet Isaiah mentions dogs in a prophecy about the destruction of Babylon.

Q: Does Jesus mention dogs in the New Testament?
A: Yes, Jesus uses dogs as an analogy in his teachings about casting pearls before swine.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about what dogs symbolize in the Bible. Dogs hold different meanings and symbolism throughout the Bible, which can be seen as a representation of how different cultures and societies viewed them during biblical times. We hope that this article has answered all your queries about dogs in the Bible. Please visit us again for more informative articles.