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OPINION

A Quick, Compelling Bible Study Vol. 82: What the Bible Says About Dogs

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here. News Flash: The first 56 volumes are compiled into a book titled “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible.” More details at the end. Now back to our regular programming. 

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Thanks for joining us! We begin our study about dogs in the Bible with a famous quote from President Harry Truman: “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”

However, in Scripture, our furry, four-legged friends were physically and symbolically associated with everything unholy, unclean, wild, and sinful. Dogs in ancient times were feared scavengers, often roaming the streets in attack packs. Compare that to modern times when my friend bought a puppy with hopes of meeting her future husband at the dog park. (First stopping at the local bow-wow bakery for some enticing treats.)

Now let’s review some Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) verses and then the New Testament. 

Dogs are mentioned in Psalm 22, considered a Messianic prophecy associated with Christ’s suffering on the cross. Psalm 22 is also the most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Here are the verses relevant to our study:

“Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen” (Psalm 22:16-21).

The “power of dogs” is used as a metaphor for enemies of the anguished writer — traditionally thought to be King David. 

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Dogs in Scripture are often associated with cringe-worthy imagery:

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

Numerous verses with dogs involve them eating human flesh and licking blood. One such is Psalm 68, shown below, followed by three examples from 1 Kings: 

“The Lord says, ‘I will bring them from Bashan; I will bring them from the depths of the sea, that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes, while the tongues of your dogs have their share’” (Psalm 68: 22-23).

“Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country” (1 Kings 16:4).

“Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’” (1 Kings 21:19).

“And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’” (1 Kings 21:23).

Undoubtedly you understand how dogs were portrayed as ruthless, ravenous animals.

Turning to the New Testament, among the most familiar verses using dog imagery was a conversation between Jesus and a non-Jewish woman. In addition, the lesson reminds us of an oft-forgotten fact voiced by Jesus about His earthly ministry — He was sent only to Jews:

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“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’

“Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’

“The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.

“He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:22-28).

From this passage, we learn that Jews considered Canaanites lowly as dogs. And, as mentioned above, Jesus proclaimed, “‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’” Hence, He revealed His Messianic mission — prompted by the Father — exclusively to the Jewish people as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. Nonetheless, Jesus appreciated the Canaanite woman’s snappy retort that showed “great faith” when recognizing and addressing Him as “Lord” even though she was not among “the lost sheep of Israel.” Thus, the Canaanite woman faithfully won this “dog” contest, and her daughter was healed.

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Earlier in Matthew, citing unclean dogs and pigs, Jesus warns us about relationships with those who are unworthy. The lesson is that we must learn to evaluate character:

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

The common phrase “licking his wounds” — meaning retreating or recovering from an embarrassing misstep or defeat — stems from a parable in Luke 16 called The Rich Man and Lazarus.

The specific dog verse describes the suffering of a poor man, “even the dogs came and licked his wounds.” But later, he is redeemed in heaven while the man who was rich on earth suffers in “Hades.” I recommend reading the entire parable. Jesus warns about eternal suffering for those who ignore the Old Testament writings about Him fulfilling the Law and the Prophets after His death saying: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:31).

Moving on to Philippians, St. Paul warned about the enemies of the gospel, calling them “dogs”:

“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-4).

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Now it's time to leave the ancient kennel. (Do I hear cheers from dog lovers?) But if you are interested in reading more canine-related Bible verses, click here.

Obviously, our lovable, photogenic mutts (hat-tip to Gracie) had a traumatic Bible study. But the good news is dogs “evolved,” offering great comfort and service to humankind.

Now for the Hollywood ending: Mission accomplished — my friend met her husband at the dog park. Arf-arf and Amen!

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her new book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study.

Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.

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