What Does the Bible Say About Dogs?

Dogs are a common animal mentioned in the Bible. Dogs appear in metaphors, proverbs, even in the words of Jesus. Though sometimes viewed unfavorably, dogs had a significant place among the people of the Bible.

What Does the Bible Say About Dogs

In America, dogs are typically referred to as “man or woman’s best friend.” But what about dogs in the ancient world of the Bible? Perhaps surprisingly, the Bible references dogs on a number of occasions.

What Does the Bible Say About Dogs (KJV)?

The word “dog” or “dogs” (Hebrew keleḇ; Greek kynarion and kyōn) appears 41 times in the King James Bible across the Old and New Testaments. A few examples of these are:

“And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.”Exodus 22:31
“And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake”1 Kings 22:38
“They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.”Psalms 59:6
“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”Proverbs 26:11
“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

Dogs Were Common in the Ancient World

These examples show that dogs were near to, if not among, the Israelite community, such that mutilated animals could be cast to the dogs for them to eat. The references to dogs in the two proverbs indicate that the habits and behaviors of dogs were common knowledge in the ancient world. Thus the author is able to draw upon the image of a dog in his readers’ mind to make a vivid comparison between the wise and foolish.

These examples also show that dogs were common in communities during Bible times. The ubiquity with which dogs are referred in the Bible seems to speak to their being familiar and widespread in the ancient world.

What Does the Bible Say About Dogs Going to Heaven?

The Bible does not specifically mention whether or not dogs go to heaven. When the Bible does speak about heaven, it does not give a complete, detailed list of the things that believers will encounter in heaven. Rather, the biblical picture of heaven is just that: a picture, a glimpse into eternity, meant to stir our hearts and affections for the One who created both heaven and earth.

What Happens to Dogs When They Die?

The biblical picture of death could be described as shadowy, even for humans. What is described is somewhat limited in terms of details. Instead, the Bible focuses more on the theological perspective of life and death and eternity.

The Bible doesn’t speak directly to whether dogs will go to heaven when they die. It is clear, however, that only humans are made in the image of God.

Dogs in the New Heavens and New Earth

The biblical picture of heaven is more all-encompassing (both theologically and in reality) than the common description of heaven that one may hear in modern Christian circles.

For example, the Bible speaks of the peace of the New Heavens and New Earth using the language of animals: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together” (Isaiah 65.25). Although this is probably meant to be a metaphor, the categories used in the metaphor help us understand its meaning, and one may assume that animals (including dogs) will part of the renewed creation.

Whether the language of the Bible speaks to a renewed heaven and earth or one that is completely new is debated. In either case, there seems to be an underlying assumption that earth as we know it will have some continuity with heaven. In Genesis, God gave us a precursor to heaven, the Garden of Eden, which certainly included dogs. This allows one to conclude that dogs will exist in the New Earth.

Does the Bible Say Anything Good About Dogs?

While there aren’t examples of the Bible speaking highly of a dog, there are a few occasions when the Bible speaks of dogs in a manner that would imply they were present, nearby, and fed.

“Dogs ate the scrapes that fell from the table ”Mark 7:28
“Dogs held a position of close proximity with people that many other animals did not ”Exodus 22:31

What Does the Bible Say About Dogs as Pets in the House?

“And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”Matthew 15:27

The Bible doesn’t speak specifically to having pets in the house. However, one might assume that if dogs were eating table scraps, they were present in the house and were not shewed away, even for mealtime.

What Does the Bible Say About Selling Dogs?

“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.”Deuteronomy 23:18

There are some people who interpret this passage as implying that dogs can be bought or sold, which is the image . However, many scholars agree that this verse is actually speaking about male prostitutes, with “dogs” being used figuratively. In either case, the selling of “dogs” was forbidden in the house of the Lord.

Are Dogs Unclean in the Bible?

According to the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, as detailed in places like Leviticus 11, dogs were considered unclean.

“And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even”Leviticus 11:27

It should be noted, however, that the issue of clean versus unclean animals in Leviticus is primarily addressing what animals the Israelites were permitted to eat.

“This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.”Leviticus 11:46-47

However, the Levitical code concerning animals does not specify whether it would be permissible to be near an “unclean” animal such as a dog, only that coming into contact with its dead body would make an Israelite unclean for a few hours. Presumably it would not, since avoiding close proximity to a host of animals while living in an agrarian society would be impossible.

Lastly, it should be noted that the ceremonial laws of clean versus unclean as it pertains to animals are done away with in the New Testament. As the gospel reaches beyond the Jewish locales and into the gentile world, so too are the food laws eclipsed by the multiethnic reality of the new kingdom established by Jesus Christ (Acts 10:13).

What Does a Dog Symbolize in the Bible?

Biblical authors often used dogs in metaphors, knowing very well that the audience would understand the meaning. The ways in which dogs are used in biblical metaphors and other figures of speech says something about how dogs were viewed in biblical times.

Nevertheless, the picture we get of dogs from these biblical metaphors is varied. Oftentimes, the picture we get of dogs tends to be unfavorable. In some instances, the picture we get of dogs speaks to their value.

Dogs as a Picture of Something Insulting

“And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.”1 Samuel 17:43
“And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?”2 Kings 8:13

Here, referring to one’s self as a dog is symbolized as something entirely negative. It is the insult of insults.

Dogs Symbolizing Something Spiritually Dangerous

“Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough…”Isaiah 56:11
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”Philippians 3:2

These examples reveal that dogs were sometimes symbolized as dangerous, devouring creatures, much as wolves may be thought of in both biblical and modern times. The image serves as a parallel to the ways in which Christians’ spiritual lives are at times in danger from an outside attack from the enemy.

Dogs Symbolizing Something Valuable

“He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.”Isaiah 66:3

Keeping with the logic of this text, the first picture is of a common ritual that would seem benign, the second is something that would seem utterly wrong. With this in mind, the “cut[ting] off a dog’s neck” fits with something that would have been held in contempt, here called an “abomination”, which leads one to conclude that dogs were to be treated respectfully.

Is it a Sin to Kill a Dog?

“He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.”Isaiah 66:3

While the Bible doesn’t specifically mention whether or not it is a sin to kill a dog, we can see in this example that the picture of killing a dog is meant to be as graphic as it is uncouth, as grotesque as it is abominable. Therefore, killing a dog for no purpose is assumed to be a sin.

On the other hand, there are many cultures in which dogs are a source of sustenance. The question of whether or not it is a sin to eat a dog is more clear. In Acts 10:13, the Lord does tell Peter that it is now okay to eat things that were once considered to be unclean.

Stephen D

Stephen Dillard serves as a Bible Scholar with Wycliffe Associates and is a contributing writer on Revelations.org. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife, Madison, have four children and make their home in Indiana.

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