Home Articles & Books Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary



                         ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE

     The Bible shows a vital interest in every aspect of nature.
However, it  tends to look upon nature more in terms of how mankind
experiences it than in  terms of scientific interest. Furthermore,
the Bible frequently draws  spiritual lessons from its
observations. God created all things; He is also  concerned for His
creation. Not even a common sparrow falls to the ground  without
His notice (Matt. 10#29).
     Scores of specific animals are named in the Bible. But many of
these  names are simply the educated guesses of translators. In
some cases, the  meaning is obvious to translators, and in others
the passage gives helpful  clues. But other passages offer no clue
at all to which specific animals are  intended. In those cases, the
meaning of animal names has been lost.
     This problem is complicated by the fact that the animal life
of Palestine  has changed over the centuries. One naturalist
claimed that it was impossible  that certain passages of Scripture
could really mean lion; no lions lived in  the Holy Land with which
he was familiar. But, as is true in many areas of  the world, some
animals of the biblical world have since become extinct. To  make
matters even more complicated, over the centuries the words used to 
describe certain animals have changed. Scholars who have done much
work in  the language of the Bible and have studied the evidence
from archaeology are  not always clear or final in their
conclusions. When a single term has as  many as ten possible
meanings, it is no wonder that different names are given  for the
same animals in different translations of the Bible.
     The Bible classifies animals quite broadly. Sometimes its
terms are  unfamiliar to modern ears. For instance, (Genesis 1#28)
divides animal life  into fish fowl, and living things. The words
flesh and beast often imply  animal life in general. Beast also
refers to wildlife, in contrast to cattle,  which means the
domesticated animals (sheep, goats, asses, and pigs, as well  as
cows and oxen). Fowl means all bird life, not just domesticated
fowl.  Since (Genesis 1#20) obviously refers to fish, whales
probably indicates  larger sea creatures. Creeping things (swarming
things) includes reptiles,  amphibians, insects, and small animals
that scamper around, such as mice.
     The most basic division of animal life-- clean and unclean--
was in  effect very early in Israel's history. Clean animals, the
Jews believed, were  acceptable to God for sacrifices and were thus
permitted as food. All others  were considered unclean, or
unacceptable for sacrificing or eating.
     Distinguishing between clean and unclean animals was the
responsibility  of the priest (Lev. 11#47). Guidelines for this
procedure were given in  detail in (Leviticus 11). Of the larger
mammals, God said, "Whatever divides  the hoof, having cloven
hooves and chewing the cud-- that you may eat" (Lev.  11#3). Birds
were an important source of food; so the few unclean ones were 
listed. These were mostly scavenger birds that ate flesh. Though
neighboring  peoples ate lizards, snakes, and turtles, Jews
considered all reptiles  unclean. Fish with scales and fins were
clean; but shellfish, eels, and  sharks were unclean. Most insects
were unclean with the exception of locusts,  grasshoppers, and some
beetles, which could be eaten.
     Early Christians inherited this historic concern of the Hebrew
people  with clean and unclean animals. The Christians' concern was
whether meat  bought in the marketplace might have come from Roman
sacrifices. Paul  counseled them that nothing was "unclean of
itself" (Rom. 14#14). Peter, a  devout Jew who would not think of
eating an unclean animal, was instructed to  do so in a vision
(Acts 10). He interpreted the angel's message, "What God  has
cleansed you must not call common," as a call to carry the message
of the  gospel to non-jewish nations.
     Almost since the Fall of man, people sacrificed animals to
God. The first  biblical mention of this practice is Abel's
offering of a lamb (Gen. 4#4).  Animal sacrifice was an essential
part of Jewish worship until the Temple in  Jerusalem was destroyed
in A. D. 70. Forced to abandon the practice, Jews  replaced it with
the study of the Law and fellowship and worship in  synagogues.
     Moses spelled out strict rules for animal sacrifice. Many of
these  guidelines are found in the Book of Leviticus in the Old
Testament. Only  clean animals were acceptable, and they had to be
at least eight days old,  with no blemishes or flaws. A bullock,
kid, or lamb was the usual offering.  In some cases, older animals,
doves, or pigeons were brought. A very poor  man, who could not
afford even a bird, might offer a measure of fine flour in  its
     Although they practiced animal sacrifice, the Jewish people
believed in  humane treatment of their animals. The Old Testament
contains many warnings  against mistreating livestock. The Law
itself provided that animals should  receive a day of rest during
the week, along with their masters. Israel also  had a distinctive
attitude toward animals. Unlike their neighbors, they did  not
worship animals. Egypt, for instance, considered the bull and cat
sacred,  and Greece worshiped the serpent. It was common for a
nation of the ancient  world to be represented by an animal on its
coins. But the prohibition  against making graven images prevented
this practice in the nation of Israel.
     Many Old Testament writers were students of nature, quick to
draw  parallels between animal and human behavior. In the creation
and the  creatures that filled it, they saw evidence of the power
of God Almighty,  Maker of heaven and earth.
     The following animals are mentioned or implied in the Bible.
This list is  keyed to the New King James Version, with cross
references from five  additional popular translations-- KJV, NASB,
NEB, NIV, and RSV. Animals in  this listing include mammals,
insects, and reptiles.
     Addax (see Antelope).
     Adder (see Snake).
     Ant. Approximately 100 species of ants live in the Holy Land.
Harvester  ants are the ones meant in (Proverbs 6#6-8) and (30#25).
These tiny insects  settle near grain fields, carrying seed after
seed into their private  storehouses. In cold weather these ants
cluster together and hibernate. When  winter comes, they have food
stored up until the next harvest.
     God has provided ants with such amazing instincts that they
appear to  reason and plan ahead. If stored grain gets wet, they
haul it out into the  sun to dry. Their hard work was considered a
worthy example for human beings  by the writer of Proverbs (Prov.
6#6-8; 30#25).
     Antelope. Antelope are cud-chewing, hollow horned animals
related to  goats. Early European Bible translators were not
acquainted with antelope,  which roam the grassy plains and forests
of Asia and Africa; so they called  the antelope deer instead.
Antelope are listed among clean wild game (Deut.  14#5), and among
King Solomon's table provisions (1 Kin. 4#23).
     When threatened, antelope flee in breathtaking leaps. So
speedy were they  that hunters in Bible times sometimes needed nets
to catch them (Is. 51#20).  Sometimes a grazing herd of antelope is
joined by other animals that profit  from their ability to spot an
enemy or smell water at a great distance.
     Various Bible translations mention three types of antelopes.
The addax is  a large, light-colored antelope with spiral horns.
The oryx is a large  African antelope, whose long horns are nearly
straight. Most familiar to  Bible writers was the gazelle, which
stands less than a yard (approximately  one meter) high at the
     The word gazelle is Arabic for "affectionate." Young gazelles
were taken  as pets. Poets made much of their dark, liquid eyes and
delicate beauty. King  David's soldier, Asahel, gifted with both
speed and endurance, was "as fleet  of foot as a wild gazelle" (2
Sam. 2#18). The woman of good works whom Peter  raised to life was
called Tabitha (Hebrew for gazelle), or Dorcas (Acts  9#36). The
dorcas gazelle, once common, almost became extinct. Protected by 
the modern nation of Israel, it is now an agricultural nuisance.
     Ape. King Solomon brought apes from tropical and semi-tropical
regions of  the ancient world to Israel. Solomon's zoo probably
contained a variety of  apes, monkeys, and baboons (1 Kin. 10#22;
2 Chr. 9#21). Some commentators  suggest that Isaiah's reference to
the "satyrs" who "dance" and "cry to  [their] fellow [s]" (Is.
13#21; 34#14), (KJV) would fit the dog-faced baboon  honored by the
Egyptians. Also see Monkey.
     Asp (see Snake).
     Ass (see Donkey).
     Baboon (see Ape).
     Badger. Only the skin of badgers is mentioned in the Bible and
even this  is questionable. (Exodus 26#14) and (Numbers 4#6-25)
speak of the coverings  for the tent of the tabernacle. The Hebrew
word tachash is translated "badger  skins." However, no one really
knows what the Hebrews meant by this word.  Other translators
render it as "goatskins" (RSV), "porpoise-hides" (NEB), or  "hides
of sea cows" (NIV).
     Possibly this word did mean badgers. Coarse badger hair would
certainly  be a protective cushion between the fine fabrics in
which the articles of  worship were wrapped for travel. The KJV
translates the word as "badgers"  skins" in (Ezekiel 16#10), which
refers to a foot covering. The RSV  translates "leather."
     Bat. Bats are flying mammals. They are included on the list of
unclean  fowl (Lev. 11#19). About 15 species of bats live in the
Holy Land. Most feed  on insects or fruit.
     Bats hunt their food at night. An amazing built-in sonar
system enables  them to fly safely in total darkness. They sleep
hanging upside down, often  with their wings wrapped around them.
Some species gather in caves. (Isaiah  2#20) pictures discarded
idols being cast "to the moles and bats," as if to  say that is
where such abominations belong.
     Bear. In Old Testament times, bears were a threat to man and
beast. They  ate honey, fruit, and livestock; so they harmed both
crops and herds. Bears  are easily angered, and the Asian black
bear is exceptionally fierce. This  bear is prone to attack man,
with or without provocation, as did the two  female bears that
mauled the boys who taunted the prophet Elisha (2 Kin.  2#24). It
was a mark of David's courage that he killed a bear that stole from 
his flock (1 Sam. 17#34-37).
     A bear "robbed of her cubs" (2 Sam. 17#8) was legendary
because of her  fierceness. Since bears are rather clumsy, they
sometimes lie in ambush,  waiting for prey to come to them (Lam.
3#10). The era of peace shall arrive  when, as (Isaiah 11#7)
predicts, "the cow and the bear shall graze" side by  side.
     Bee. Bees are not mentioned often in the Bible, but honey is.
Honey was  the major sweetening substance for primitive peoples.
Beekeeping was  practiced in Canaan. Indeed, the Jews spoke of the
Promised Land as a region  flowing with milk and honey. Honey was
among the gifts Jacob sent to Joseph  in Egypt (Gen. 43#11).
(Ezekiel 27#17) notes that Israel marketed honey in  Tyre.
     Bees may remind us of honey, but biblical writers saw angry
bees as a  picture of God's wrath (Ps. 118#12). These insects can
be ferocious when  disturbed or threatened. Wild bees of Palestine
often choose strange hives.  They may hide their honeycombs in the
crannies of high rocks (Deut. 32#13).  One swarm even settled in
the carcass of a lion (Judg. 14#8).
     Beetle. Beetles fly, but they do not leap (Lev. 11#21).
Crickets, which  are related to locusts, both fly and leap. Some
scholars contend that  katydid, or locusts, are more likely the
correct translations of this one  biblical reference to beetles or
     Behemoth. Behemoth could mean elephant, crocodile,
hippopotamus, water  buffalo, or mythological monster. The word
appears in (Job 40#15), where God  humbles Job by praising two of
His creations, behemoth and Leviathan.  Hippopotamus is the best
choice for the precise meaning of behemoth. Hippos  submerge
themselves in rivers and bask in cool marshes. Yet they can climb
up  riverbanks and hillsides, devouring vegetation. An angered
hippo can bite a  man in half or crush a canoe with his enormous
     Bittern. This bird is similar to the heron. The KJV uses
"bittern" in  (Isaiah 14#23; 34#11); and (Zephaniah 2#14),
referring to a creature that  dwells in ruined places-- a symbol of
     The bittern can be found in marshes all over the world. His
loud cry,  hollow and drum-like, booms through the darkness while
he hunts his prey. The  bittern was considered an omen of
desolation and a prophecy of evil. Bitterns  are large birds, about
two feet long, with a gift of camouflage. A bittern  may freeze
with his long beak tilted skyward and be overlooked among reeds 
swaying gently in the wind. Bitterns eat frogs, snails, worms, and
small  fish.
     Other translations of the Hebrew word for bittern are hedgehog
(Is.  14#23; Zeph 2#14), (RSV) and porcupine (Is. 14#23), (NKJV;
(Is. 34#11), RSV,  NKJV).
     Black Vulture (see Osprey).
     Boar (see Swine).
     Buck (see Deer).
     Buffalo (see Cattle).
     Bull, Bullock (see Cattle).
     Bustard (see Porcupine).
     Buzzard (see Vulture).
     Calf (see Cattle).
     Camel. Although it is an ugly beast, the camel is prized in
desert  countries. From the time of Abraham, the Bible mentions
camels frequently,  mostly in lists of possessions. Large herds of
camels were a sign of wealth.
     Jeremiah spoke of the "swift dromedary" (Jer. 2#23), a camel
raised for  riding and racing. Jesus talked of "blind guides, who
strain out a gnat and  swallow a camel!" (Matt. 23#24), and
predicted, "It is easier for a camel to  go through the eye of a
needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of  God" (Matt.
     Camels are bad-tempered, prone to spit and grumble when they
take on a  load. But they are well suited for harsh desert life.
With a heavy coat as  insulation, this animal perspires little; and
his well-balanced system does  not require much liquid. He can go
for weeks or even months without water.  When he does drink, he
takes only enough to replace lost moisture. Each one  of his three
stomachs can hold 23 liters (5 gallons) of water. In the hump on 
his back the camel stores fat for times when food is scarce. Then
the hump  shrinks when his body draws on that reserve.
     The camel stands 20 meters (6 feet) or higher at the shoulder.
He is  trained to kneel on his leathery knees to take on a load. He
holds his head  high with what seems to be a haughty air, but he is
merely peering out from  under bushy eyebrows. Like his tightly
closing lips and nostrils, his  eyebrows protect him against desert
sand storms. His tough feet are ideal for  walking through sharp
rocks and hot sands.
     The Hebrew people used camels primarily as pack animals. They
were  indispensable for traveling the desert routes, carrying
several hundred  pounds on their backs. The Jews also rode camels
and milked them, although  they considered camels unclean and did
not eat them (Lev. 11#4).
     The Arabs, however, let no part of a camel go to waste. They
ate camel  meat and wove the soft fur into warm, durable cloth.
John the Baptist was  clothed in a garment of camel's hair (Matt.
3#4). The tough hide made good  leather for sandals and water bags,
and camel-dung chips served as fuel. Even  the dried bones of
camels were carved like ivory.
     Desert tribes rode camels to war (Judg. 7#12), and camels were
seized as  spoils of war.
     Cankerworm (see Worm).
     Cat. Cats were common throughout the ancient world, but they
are  mentioned only in the APOCRYPHA (Epistle of (Jeremiah 21)).
The Hebrews may  have avoided cats since the Egyptians worshiped
them. The Romans made cats a  symbol of liberty. Cats and mongooses
were probably used to control rats and  mice in places where grain
was stored.
     Caterpillar (see Moth, Worm).
     Cattle. If we think of cattle as a group of cows, we must
adjust our  thinking when we read the Bible. The word cattle is
usually a general  reference to livestock (Gen. 30#32; 31#10). What
we think of as cattle, the  Bible calls oxen. A wild ox-- a
massive, untamable beast-- is also mentioned  (Job 39#9-10). The
KJV calls it a unicorn.
     The Bible also uses many specific terms to refer to cattle:
kine, for  instance, the plural of cow, and beeves, the plural of
beef. But then as now,  a male was a bull, a female was a cow, and
their offspring was a calf. Until  she bore a calf, a young female
was known as a heifer; the young male was a  bullock.
     Some oxen were raised for sacrifice or prime quality meat.
Rather than  running with the herd, they were fed in a small
enclosure. Fatling, fatted  calf, fed beasts, stalled ox, fattened
cattle and yearling described such  well-cared-for animals. One
translation even refers to buffalo (2 Sam. 6#13),
     (NEB), when fatling seems to be the obvious reference. A
similar term,  firstling, refers to the first offspring of any
livestock. All firstborn  males belonged to the Lord (Gen. 4#4; Ex.
     Oxen were hollow-horned, divided-hoof, cud-chewing animals
considered  "clean" by the Jews. They needed considerable food and
space because of their  large size, so a person who kept many
cattle was rich indeed. The pastures  and grain country of Bashan,
located east of the Jordan River and south of  Damascus, were ideal
places to raise oxen.
     Scripture speaks of oxen as a measure of wealth (Job 42#12),
beasts of  burden (1 Chr. 12#40), draft animals (Deut. 22#10), meat
(Gen. 18#7), and  sacrificial offerings (2 Sam. 6#13).
     Bulls (as opposed to work oxen) were allowed a large measure
of freedom.  Strong, fearsome beasts, they were often used as
symbols. The BRONZE SEA in  the Temple rested on the backs of 12
brass oxen-perhaps to show that Israel's  strength was dedicated to
the Lord (1 Kin. 7#23). Anyone who has trembled at  a bully can
identify with King David's frustration with his enemies, whom he 
compared to the "strong bulls of Bashan" (Ps. 22#12).
     The Old Testament showed concern for the humane treatment of
oxen (Deut.  22#4) and provided legal recourse for a person wounded
by an ox (Ex.  21#28-36).
     While in Egypt, the Hebrews were surrounded by bull
worshipers. After the  Exodus, they began to despair of Moses and
his invisible God. So Aaron melted  down their jewelry to make a
visible idol, a golden calf. The people were  punished severely for
this idolatry, but some of their descendants fell into  the same
sin (Exodus 32; 1 Kin. 12#18).
     Chameleon (see Lizard).
     Chamois. The KJV has "chamois" for the goat or antelope of
(Deuteronomy  14#5). The chamois ("goat antelope") of Europe never
lived in Palestine.  Since the Hebrews were allowed to eat this
animal, it must have been very  familiar in their country. It may
have been a wild goat (ibex?) or a type of  wild mountain sheep.
Also see Sheep.
     Chicken (see Fowl).
     Cobra (see Snake).
     Cock (see Fowl).
     Cockatrice (see Snake).
     Colt (see Donkey; Horse).
     Coney (see Rock Badger).
     Cormorant. Both the prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah linked the
cormorant or  "the pelican" (NKJV) with the bittern to describe the
ruin God brings in  judgment upon man's proud cities (Is. 34#11;
Zeph. 2#14). The cormorant (or  "the fisher owl," NKJV) was listed
among the few birds the Israelites were  not to eat (Lev. 11#17;
Deut. 14#17).
     Cormorants are large fish-eating birds, related to pelicans,
with hooked  beaks and webbed feet. They dive into the water to
catch fish; they swim  well; and they can stay under water for a
long time.
     The cormorant found in Israel has a black head, yellow-circled
eyes, and  green highlights in its black plumage. As the prophets
suggested (Is. 34#11;  Zeph. 2#14), the cormorant would be an
unsettling sight in the swampy pools  of a ruined city.
     Cow (see Cattle).
     Crane. Cranes are the largest of several migratory birds that
fly over  Palestine (Jer. 8#7) in noisy flocks of thousands.
     Hezekiah, king of Judah, thinking he was dying, chattered and
clamored  "like a crane" (Is. 38#14);
     (swift, NIV). This must have been quite a noise. With a
windpipe coiled  like a french horn, cranes produce one of the
loudest bird calls in the  world.
     Cricket (see Beetle).
     Crocodile. The land crocodile appears as an unclean beast in
the RSV  rendering of (Leviticus 11#30). Many scholars assume that
the crocodile is  the mysterious "Leviathan" (whale, NEB) praised
by Job (Job 41#1-34) and  mentioned in (Psalm 74#14; 104#26); and
(Isaiah 27#1).
     Crocodiles used to live in rivers in the Holy Land, including
the Jordan,  but they have now disappeared from this region. A
long, heavy animal, the  crocodile has a tough hide covered with
overlapping scales. His eyes and  nostrils are high on his head; so
he can float almost totally submerged.  Crocodiles are extremely
dangerous, with strong jaws and sharp teeth. They  ordinarily eat
small animals, birds, and fish, but occasionally will attack 
larger animals or man.
     Crow (see Raven).
     Cuckoo. Cuckoos are insect-eating migratory birds that appear
in Israel  during the summer. Scholars feel that the Hebrew word
was incorrectly  rendered cuckow in the KJV. There is no obvious
reason why the cuckoo would  be considered an unclean bird (Lev.
11#16; Deut. 14#15). The NKJV translates  "seagull."
     Cuckow (see Cuckoo).
     Deer. From early times, deer were game animals. Isaac's son
Esau was "a  skillful hunter" (Gen. 25#27). And it was Isaac's
craving for deer meat that  enabled Jacob to steal his dying
father's blessing (Gen. 27). Deer were still  plentiful in
Palestine in Solomon's day and were served at his table (1 Kin. 
4#23). Jews could eat deer because this animal "chews the cud" and
"divides  the hoof." (A deer track perfectly illustrates a "divided
     The Bible contains many references to deer. The animal was
admired for  its agility and grace, its ability to sense danger
quickly, and its  swiftness. Biblical writers also noted the doe's
gentle care of her young. A  young deer is called a fawn (Song 4#5;
7#3). The psalmist thought of the long  journey for water that a
deer faces in dry seasons and exclaimed: "As the  deer pants for
the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God" (Ps. 42#1). 
Isaiah wrote of the feelings of joy and elation when he wrote, "the
lame  shall leap like a deer" (35#6).
     Scholars are not sure of the precise species or kind of deer
Esau hunted  or Solomon served. The terms stag or buck (male), hart
(male), and hind  (female) are used of the red deer common in
Europe, which has never lived in  Palestine. Likely candidates are
the fallow deer (Deut. 14#5), (KJV), which  was common in
Mesopotamia, and the roe deer, often called by its male name,  roe
buck (Deut. 14#5), (RSV). Bible translators often interchanged
terms for  various kinds of deer, and for gazelle as well; so
readers must settle for  informed guesses about the exact species
intended. Also see Antelope,  Gazelle.
     Dog. In ancient Israel, the dog was not "man's best friend."
In fact,  calling someone a dog was one of the most offensive ways
of insulting that  person. The Bible mentions dogs frequently; most
of the references are  derogatory. Even in New Testament times,
Jews called Gentiles "dogs" (Matt.  15#26). The term "dog" also
referred to a male prostitute (Deut. 23#18).  Unbelievers who were
shut out of the New Jerusalem were also termed "dogs"  (Rev.
22#15)-- probably a reference to their sexual immorality. Moslems
later  applied the insult to Christians.
     The dog may have been the first animal in the ancient world to
be tamed.  Ancient Egyptians raced greyhounds, mentioned by Solomon
in his Proverbs  (Prov. 30#31), (NKJV), and the Greeks raised
mastiffs. But dogs in Palestine  were more wild than tame. They
often banded together in packs and lived off  the refuse and food
supplies of a village. Some dogs were useful as watchdogs  or
guardians of sheep, but even they were not altogether reliable (Is. 
     Donkey. One of the first animals tamed by man, the donkey was
a necessity  in Bible times. It is mentioned frequently in the
Bible. Wild donkeys  (referred to as the onager in (Job 39#5),
NKJV) also roamed the land. "Like a  wild donkey" (Hos. 8#9)
described a headstrong, untamed nature. But the  domesticated
donkey was an obedient servant.
     Donkeys stand about 1.3 meters (4 feet) high. They are usually
gray,  reddish-brown, or white. The long-suffering donkey often won
the affection of  the household and was decorated with beads and
bright ribbons. But his true  role was to serve as a work animal.
He trampled seed, turned the millstone to  grind grain, and pulled
the plow.
     Donkey caravans were the freight trains and transport trucks
of ancient  times. These animals could carry great weight in spite
of their small size.  Since they required only a fraction as much
fodder as a horse, they were more  economical to own. The donkey
was also a safe and comfortable animal to ride.  They were ridden
by rich and poor alike. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he  signaled
his peaceful intentions by riding a young donkey rather than a 
prancing war-horse.
     The offspring of a male donkey (jack) and female horse (mare)
was a mule.  The mule had the surefootedness and endurance of the
donkey, coupled with the  greater size and strength of the horse.
Crossbreeding like this was outlawed  among the Jewish people (Lev.
19#19), but from David's time mules were  imported and increasingly
used by the Israelites (2 Sam. 18#9; 1 Kin. 1#33;  18#5). (Ezra
2#66) records that the Israelites brought 245 mules with them  when
they returned from captivity in Babylon.
     Dove. Doves and pigeons belong to the same family. They are
often  mentioned in the Bible as if they are the same animal. The
rock dove found in  Palestine is the wild ancestor of our common
street pigeon. Turtledoves are  migrants. They spend the months of
April to October in the Holy Land, filling  the air with soft
cooing when they arrive each Spring (Song 2#11-12).
     Doves come in several colors, from pure white to the
chestnut-colored  palm turtledove. Even the plain gray pigeon has
a silver sheen. Solomon waxed  poetic over doves' eyes. David
longed for "wings like a dove" (Ps. 55#6), so  he could fly away
from his enemies.
     Pigeons were probably the first domesticated bird. When people
realized  doves could travel long distances and always find their
way home, they used  them to carry messages. Homing pigeons have
keen eyes with which they spot  landmarks to help them stay on the
right route.
     Hebrews ate pigeons and, from Abraham's time, used them in
sacrifice.  Even a poor man could provide a pigeon or two for
worship, as Joseph and Mary  did at Jesus' circumcision (Luke
2#21-24; Lev. 12#8).
     Doves appear to express affection, stroking each other, and
"billing and  cooing." They mate for life, sharing nesting and
parenting duties. They are  gentle birds that never resist attack
or retaliate against their enemies.  Even when her young are
attacked, a dove will give only a pitiful call of  distress.
     Because of its innocence and gentle nature, the dove is a
common  religious symbol. The Holy Spirit took the form of a dove
at Jesus' baptism  (Matt. 3#16; Mark 1#10; Luke 3#22). The dove
also symbolizes peace, love,  forgiveness, and the church.
     Dragon. Dragons are imaginary beasts with a long history in
the folklore  of many cultures. Usually the dragon is a crafty
creature that represents  evil. The word dragon, as used in some
translations of the Bible, is often  confusing. Occasionally this
word is used when the intended meaning was  probably jackal (Lam.
4#3), (RSV), sea serpent or serpent (Ps. 91#13), (RSV),  or even
crocodile (Ezek. 29#3-4).
     This huge, fire-breathing monster with terrifying wings and
claws is a  symbol of Satan (Rev. 12#3-17; 16#13; 20#2). In the
church of early Christian  history, dragons represented sin.
Christian art often depicts a dragon at the  feet of Jesus-- to
show His triumph over sin.
     Dromedary (see Camel).  (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible
Dictionary)  (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers) ANIMALS
     Eagle. Eagles are included among the unclean birds mentioned
in the Bible  (Lev. 11#13), (NKJV), but they were admired as
majestic birds. The golden  eagle, which is really dark brown with
sprinkles of gold, has a 26-meter  (8-feet) wingspread. It nests in
high places that are inaccessible (Jer.  49#16). There, in a nest
which the eagle makes larger each year, the eagle  hatches two
eggs. Usually only one eaglet survives to adulthood.
     An eagle has keen eyesight. He can spot his prey while soaring
hundreds  of feet in the air. Like a lightning bolt, he drops to
seize it, killing it  quickly with his powerful claws. Then he
swoops back to his nest to rip the  meat apart and share it with
his young.
     A mother eagle carries her eaglet on her back until it masters
the art of  flying. Moses used this familiar picture from nature to
describe God's care  for His people. God stirred up Jacob (the
nation of Israel), and carried His  people on His wings (Deut.
32#11-12) as He delivered them from slavery in  Egypt.
     Solomon marveled at "the way of an eagle in the air" (Prov.
30#19). An  eagle can stay aloft for hours, rarely moving his wings
and riding wind  currents. But many passages in the Bible also
speak of the swiftness of the  eagle's flight (Deut. 28#49).
     The belief that an eagle renews its strength and youthful
appearance  after shedding its feathers gave rise to (Psalm 103#5)
and (Isaiah 40#31).  Eagles do have a long life-span, living 20 to
30 years in the wild, and longer  in captivity.
     In the Old Testament, prophets spoke of the eagle as a symbol
of God's  judgment (Jer. 48#40; Ezek. 17#3,7). In (Revelation
12#14), "two wings of a  great eagle" portray God's intervention to
deliver His people from  persecution.
     Eagle Owl (see Owl).
     Elephant. No elephants lived in Palestine. But they were
native to the  neighboring continents of Africa and Asia. Wealthy
Jews sometimes imported  the ivory which came from their great
tusks. King Solomon "made a great  throne of ivory, and overlaid it
with pure gold" (1 Kin. 10#18). And King  Ahab built an "ivory
house" (1 Kin. 22#39).
     Ewe (see Sheep).
     Falcon. In some translations of the Bible the falcon appears
in the lists  of unclean birds (Lev. 11#14; Deut. 14#13), (NKJV).
As a bird of prey, it is  often grouped with hawks. But a falcon is
not a true hawk. The sport of  hunting with trained falcons
originated in ancient Persia. Great numbers of  falcons are still
seen in Palestine, as they surely were in Bible times (Job  28#7).
     Fallow Deer (see Deer).
     Fawn (see Deer).
     Ferret (see Lizard).
     Fish. According to one authority, 45 species of fish are found
in the  inland waters of Palestine. Many more live in the
Mediterranean Sea. But the  Bible gives no details on any specific
species of fish.
     Fish, just like other animals, were divided into clean and
unclean  categories. Fish with fins and scales were considered
clean, and they made a  popular Sabbath meal. Unclean fish included
catfish, eels, and probably  sharks and lampreys, as well as
shellfish. The Hebrews also considered whales  and porpoises as
fish, since they lived in the sea.
     Fishing was a major industry among the Jewish people.
Jerusalem had a  Fish Gate, and presumably a fish market. Fish were
caught with nets (Hab.  1#15), hooks (Is. 19#8; Matt. 17#27), and
harpoons and spears (Job 41#7). The  catch was preserved by salting
and drying or storing in salt water.
     The Bible contains many references to fish and fishing.
(Habakkuk  1#14-17) compares captive Israel to helpless fish
gathered into a dragnet by  her enemies. Jesus, on the other hand,
called his disciples to become  "fishers of men" (Matt. 4#19; Mark
1#17). Since the time of the early church,  the fish has been a
symbol of Christianity. The Greek word for fish--  ichthus-- is an
acrostic for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."
     Fisher Owl (see Cormorant).
     Flea. Fleas flourished in the sand and dust of the Holy Land.
Classified  as parasites, these tiny insects attach themselves to
a body and suck blood  from their host. Fleas have no wings, but
they do have strong legs and can  jump several inches at one leap.
The flea that lives on man is tiny, but it  can be very irritating.
David described himself as a mere flea being pursued  by a king (1
Sam. 24#14; 26#20). He may have seemed insignificant, but he 
irritated King Saul.
     Fly. The "flies" of the Bible included the common housefly, as
well as  other two-winged insects. Many of these were biting
insects. This explains  the "devouring" flies of (Psalm 78#45). The
flies visited as a plague upon  the Egyptians probably included the
housefly and the stinging sand fly, as  well as gnats and
     The prophet Isaiah's reference to the "fly that is in the
farthest part  of the rivers of Egypt" (7#18) may have been a
symbol of swarms of Egyptian  soldiers. Or, he could have had in
mind the dreaded tsetse fly of Africa,  which spreads sleeping
sickness. Still another possibility is the olive fly,  which could
ruin a crop of ripe olives.
     Solomon's "fly in the ointment" (Eccl. 10#1) has become a
proverb. So  also has Jesus' "straining out a gnat"-- which
referred to the custom of  straining wine to take out the
impurities before it was served (Matt. 23#24).
     Fowl. Most people assume that hens and roosters (cocks) were
common in  Palestine, but they are rarely mentioned in the Bible.
Domestic chickens  probably descended from the red jungle fowl of
Asia. Cocks were bred for the  ancient sport of cock-fighting
before hens were raised for meat and eggs.
     The crowing of cocks served the ancient world as an alarm
clock. Cocks  crowed about midnight and again about 3 A. M.
Soldiers often rotated their  guard duty at this regular signal.
Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him  three times before the
cock crowed (Matt. 26#34; Mark 14#30; Luke 22#34; John  13#38).
     Wild or tame, chickens gather in flocks. Jesus must have been
familiar  with this flocking instinct. He spoke of a mother hen
that tucks a whole  brood of chicks under her wings for safety
(Matt. 23#37; Luke 13#34).
     The "fatted fowl" provided for King Solomon (1 Kin. 4#23) may
have been  geese. Ancient carvings from Megiddo show peasant women
carrying fat geese.  Geese also appear in Egyptian tomb paintings.
     Fox. Foxes were common predators in Bible times. Since they
fed on small  rodents like rats and mice, they helped to protect
the grain crops. But their  fondness for grapes caused farmers much
grief. Sometimes they even tunneled  under protective walls to
feast on grapevines (Song 2#15). Foxes also settle  in holes and
burrows, often those abandoned by other animals. Jesus pointed  out
that foxes have holes, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His
head  (Matt. 8#20).
     Foxes have a keen sense of sight, smell, and hearing. They are
also  clever enough to lie in wait for prey. They may even play
dead to attract a  bird within striking range. When hunted, they
are cunning and devious,  misleading their pursuers. Jesus compared
Herod, the Roman tetrarch of  Galilee and Perea, to a fox, because
of his crafty, devious nature (Luke  13#32).
     "The land of Shual" (1 Sam. 13#17) may have been fox country,
for shual  means "fox" or "jackal." Also see Jackal.
     Frog. Frogs are mentioned several times in the Bible (Ex.
8#2-13; Ps.  105#30; Rev. 16#13). All but the passage in Revelation
refer to the plague of  frogs in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians
connected frogs with fertility and the  life cycle, so they
considered frogs sacred. What dismay it must have caused  when the
frogs multiplied uncontrollably and then died and the Egyptians had 
to gather these sacred animals into stinking heaps. (Revelation
16#13) speaks  of frogs as the symbol of unclean spirits.
     Gazelle (see Antelope).
     Gecko (see Lizard).
     Gier Eagle (see Vulture).
     Glede (see Hawk).
     Gnat (see Fly).
     Goat. In Bible times, Hebrew shepherds treasured the goat
because it was  such a useful animal. They wove its hair into a
type of rough cloth. They  drank the goat's milk which is sweet and
more nutritious than cow's milk--  ideal for making cheese. They
even used goatskin bottles to transport water  and wine. When the
hide of these containers wore thin, they leaked and had to  be
patched (Josh. 9#4; Matt. 9#17).
     Goats often grazed with sheep in mixed flocks. Unlike their
gentle and  helpless cousins, goats were independent, willful, and
curious. Bible writers  sometimes used goats to symbolize
irresponsible leadership (Jer. 50#8; Zech.  10#3). In Jesus'
parable of the Great Judgment (Matt. 25#32-33), the goats 
represented the unrighteous who could not enter His kingdom.
     Goats were often sacrificed in the worship system of ancient
Israel. In  an early ritual, the Hebrews used two goats. They
sacrificed one, sprinkling  its blood upon the back of the other.
This scapegoat was then sent into the  wilderness, symbolically
bearing the sins of the people (Lev. 16#10).
     Young goats are referred to as kids in the Bible (Gen.
27#9,16; Num.  7#87). The wild goat of Palestine is known as the
ibex (Deut. 14#5), (RSV,  NIV; mountain goat, NKJV; pygarg, KJV;
satyr, KJV, RSV).
     Goose (see Fowl).
     Grasshopper. Numerous references to grasshoppers and locusts
in the Bible  show what an impact these insects had in the hot, dry
lands of the ancient  world. Some of these references are literal
(Ex. 10#4-19) while others are  symbolic (Num. 13#33).
     The terms grasshopper and locust are often used
interchangeably. A locust  is one kind of grasshopper. Another term
used rarely for these insects is  katydid (Lev. 11#22), (NIV). It
has a brown-colored body two to three inches  long. Airborne, with
two sets of wings, the locust was dreaded because of its 
destructive power as a foliage-eating insect in the ancient world.
     The eighth plague that God sent upon the Egyptians was an
invasion of  locusts. Millions of these insects may be included in
one of these swarms,  which usually occur in the spring. Locusts in
such numbers speedily eat every  plant in sight, totally destroying
the crops. A locust plague is practically  unstoppable. Water does
not work; for when enough locusts drown, the  survivors use their
bodies as a bridge. They have also been known to smother  fires
that had been set to destroy them. Even modern farmers wrestle with 
this problem, often resorting to poisoning the adults and harrowing
fields in  the fall to destroy the eggs before they can hatch in
the spring.
     (Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation) presents a nightmarish
prospect:  locusts with special powers will be unleashed upon
mankind for five months.
     Locusts do not always appear in swarms. Hot weather normally
brings a few  solitary grasshoppers and locusts to the Holy Land.
But scientists have  learned that under certain conditions of
climate and food scarcity, chemical  changes take place in the
female locust. These cause more eggs to hatch,  sending millions of
locusts into the air at the same time in search of food.
     Many people, including the Jews, eat locusts (Lev. 11#22).
These insects  may be boiled, fried, or dried. Locusts were part of
the wilderness diet of  John the Baptist (Matt. 3#4).
     Great Lizard (see Lizard).
     Great Owl (see Owl).
     Greyhound (see Dog).
     Griffon (see Vulture).
     Grub (see Worm).
     Hare. Hares were plentiful in Palestine, but they are
mentioned in the  Bible only as forbidden food (Lev. 11#6);
(rabbit, NIV, NASB). They look like  large rabbits with longer ears
and legs. The common jackrabbit is actually a  hare. Unlike
rabbits, hares are born furry and able to see. Hares were 
mistakenly thought to chew the cud, but they were considered
unclean because  they did not have divided hoofs (Lev. 11#6; Deut.
14#7). Perhaps they were  forbidden because they are rodents, but
the Hebrews' Arab neighbors did not  hesitate to hunt them for
     Hart (see Deer).
     Hawk. Hawks are the fierce little brothers in the eagle and
vulture  family. Adult hawks vary from one to two feet in length.
They are known for  their exceptional eyesight, which is about
eight times as keen as man's.  Solomon remarked, "Surely, in vain
the net is spread in the sight of any  bird" (Prov. 1#17).
     The farsighted hawk not only detects nets from a distance, but
he can  also see mice, insects, and birds. He strikes with
devastating swiftness, his  powerful claws crushing his prey, which
he eats whole.
     Some 18 species of hawk exist in Palestine, among them the
small sparrow  hawk. This hawk, which Egyptians considered sacred,
nests in a hollow tree,  amid old ruins, or upon a rock. As winter
approaches, it migrates to a warmer  climate.
     Harrier hawks are found in the valleys and low-lying plains.
They glide  nearer the ground and "harry" other birds by forcing
them to land.
     Kites (gledes) are a larger breed of hawk, with long narrow
wings (Deut.  14#13). Red kites, black kites, and Egyptian kites
are found in Palestine.  Kites in Syria hide their nests by draping
them with cloth scraps or animal  skins. Just as they abstained
from eating other birds of prey, Israelites did  not eat hawks
(Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15).
     Hedgehog (see Porcupine).
     Heifer (see Cattle).
     Hen (see Fowl).
     Heron. The Bible mentions herons only in the lists of unclean
birds (Lev.  11#19; Deut. 14#18). Several species of herons and
egrets made their home in  Palestine. Egyptian carvings picture
herons and their nests among the reeds  of marshes and lakes.
     A tall, graceful bird, the heron flies with its neck curled
and its long  legs stretched out behind. The heron eats fish,
frogs, and small reptiles,  which it spears swiftly with a long,
sharp beak.
     Hind (see Deer).
     Hippopotamus (see Behemoth).
     Hoopoe. The hoopoe is a beautiful bird with a disgusting
habit: it probes  foul places for insects with its sharp, slender
beak. Its wing feathers bear  a zebra stripe, and its head sports
a lovely crown of feathers. When  frightened, the hoopoe may
flutter his crest or drop to the ground and play  dead. The
offensive odor picked up from its feeding grounds is enough to 
drive away most of its enemies.
     Called lapwing in the KJV, the hoopoe is on the list of
unclean birds  (Lev. 11#19; Deut. 14#18). It is frequently seen
throughout the Holy Land  today.
     Horned Owl (see Owl).
     Hornet (see Wasp).
     Horse. Horses are mentioned often in the Bible. But they were
of little  importance to the average Hebrew, who found it more
practical to keep a  donkey to ride or an ox to pull the plow.
Horses were traded for food when  money failed during a famine in
Egypt (Gen. 47#17). Some kings used swift  horses rather than
camels to carry messages (Esth. 8#10,14). But for the most  part,
Hebrews thought of horses in terms of war.
     Pharaoh's horses and chariots pursued when Moses led the
Israelites out  of Egypt (Ex. 14#9). Their Canaanite enemies met
them with many horses and  chariots, but they still fell before the
Israelites (Josh. 11#4-9).  Repeatedly God warned the Hebrews not
to place their faith in the strength  and speed of horses (Ps.
20#7) or to "multiply" horses (Deut. 17#16).
     In spite of these warnings, David and Solomon did multiply
horses, even  importing them from other countries. Solomon had a
sizeable cavalry as well  as horses to draw war chariots.
     The prophet Jeremiah used the word stallion in speaking of
horses (Jer.  8#16; 47#3; 50#11), (RSV). He warned the nation of
Judah that it would fall  to a conquering army that would be riding
prancing stallions. He also used  the symbol of a "well-fed, lusty
stallion" (Jer. 5#8), (NKJV) to describe the  idolatry and
unfaithfulness of God's people.
     The New Testament tells of the "Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse," who  ride out to ravage the earth in the end times
(Rev. 6#1-8). But even more  dramatic than this is the entrance of
a white horse bearing the "King of  kings and Lord of lords" (Rev.
     Horseleach (see Leech).
     Hound (see Dog).
     Hyena. Hyenas were plentiful in Bible times. "Doleful
creatures" (KJV)  and "beasts of the field" (Is. 13#21; Jer. 12#9)
may refer to hyenas. The  place name Zeboim (1 Sam. 13#18; Neh.
11#34) means "hyena." A member of the  dog family, hyenas have
square snouts and powerful jaws. They run down prey  and may even
attack human beings. The Israelites hated hyenas and considered 
them unclean because they are scavengers. Sometimes they would even
dig up  and devour dead bodies. Hyenas hunt at night. Their eerie
howls sound like  demented laughter. A reference by the prophet
Isaiah to the hyena is also  translated as jackal (Is. 13#22),
     (RSV). Also see Jackal.
     Ibex (see Goat).
     Jackal. The prophet Isaiah spoke of jackals-- wild dogs that
make their  dens in desolate places (Is. 34#13). As scavengers,
jackals also fed on  garbage in towns and villages in Bible times.
     Jackals have an unpleasant smell, and they make a yapping and
howling  noise at night. They are also agricultural pests.
Palestinian farmers put up  shelters for watchmen, who guarded
their cucumber fields against jackals.  Some farmers heaped up
whitewashed stones to frighten the jackals, just as  scarecrows are
used in other places.
     Bible references to jackals are confusing, since jackal, fox,
dragon, and  wolf may be used interchangeably, depending on the
translation. The "foxes"  to whose tails Samson tied torches were
probably jackals which, unlike foxes,  travel in packs (Judg.
15#4). Also see Fox.
     Jackdaw (see Pelican).
     Jerboa (see Mouse).
     Katydid (see Grasshopper).
     Kid (see Goat).
     Kine (see Cattle).
     Kite (see Hawk).
     Lamb (see Sheep).
     Lapwing (see Hoopoe).
     Leech. A leech may be described as a type of worm with suckers
at each  end of its body. One end also contains a mouth. Some
species of this animal  even have tiny teeth. Parasitic leeches
attach themselves to a person or an  animal, from which it sucks
blood for nourishment. A leech of this type  secretes chemicals
which keep the blood flowing freely.
     In primitive times, physicians used leeches to "bleed" a
patient and  purge his body of what was thought to be contaminated
blood. But an untended  leech could cause pain and damage. In his
Proverbs, Solomon may have had the  blood-sucking nature of this
animal in mind when he spoke of the leech's "two  daughters" who
cry "Give! Give!" (Prov. 30#15).
     Leopard. The huge cats known as leopards were familiar in
Palestine, and  the Hebrews had good reason to fear them. Smaller
and lighter than lions,  leopards are better hunters. They are
swift, wary, and intelligent; and they  can climb trees as easily
as a domestic cat. A leopard is also strong enough  to drag his
prey to a tree branch, where he can devour it out of reach of 
lions or hyenas. Although leopards do not usually attack human
beings,  Jeremiah portrayed them symbolically as an instrument of
God's judgment: "A  leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone
who goes out from there shall  be torn in pieces" (Jer. 5#6).
     The books of Daniel and Revelation use the leopard as a symbol
of  swiftness in cruelty (Dan. 7#6; Rev. 13#2). Isaiah suggested
that a day of  peace would come when the savage leopard would not
harm a young goat (11#6).
     Leviathan (see Crocodile).
     Lice. Lice thrive in dry, dusty climates where sanitation is
poor. These  tiny insects are parasites with flat, colorless
bodies. They cling to  animals, humans, or plants, sucking blood or
sap. The Egyptian nobles and  priests shaved their heads and beards
so lice could find no hiding place on  their bodies. An infestation
of lice, the third plague of the Exodus, must  have been
particularly bothersome to them (Ex. 8#16-18), (gnats, RSV, NIV, 
NASB; maggots, NEB).
     Lion. The lion was the most awesome and dangerous wild beast
in  Palestine. His tawny hide blended into the golden fields and
sandy wastes.  Lions hid in forests and sometimes pounced from the
thickets near the Jordan  River (Jer. 49#19).
     The Bible contains many references to lions. Daniel
miraculously survived  a night in a lions' den (Daniel 6). Samson
and David killed lions  singlehandedly (Judg. 14#5-6; 1 Sam.
17#34-37). Kings hunted lions for sport.  According to (Ezekiel
19#1-9), lions were also captured with pits and nets.
     The lion's majestic appearance and fearsome roar prompted many 
comparisons. The prophet Joel declared, "The Lord also will roar
from Zion"  (Joel 3#16). The apostle Peter wrote: "Be sober, be
vigilant; because your  adversary the devil walks about like a
roaring lion." The prophet Hosea  foretold that God would be like
a protective lion for the nation of Israel  (Hos. 5#14); (panther,
     Largest and grandest of cats, the lion is filled with power.
A swat of  his paw can kill. His massive body forces him to rely on
strength instead of  speed in his hunting.
     A lion looks and sounds so imposing that he symbolizes royalty
and  courage. The highest compliment which biblical writers could
give was to  indicate that a person had the face or heart of a
lion. Ari, the most common  term for lion, means "the strong one."
In (Isaiah 29#1) Jerusalem is called  "Ariel," implying that the
capital of the Jewish nation is "the strong  [lion-like] city of
God." In some translations of the Bible, a young lion is  called a
cub (Gen. 49#9), (NIV), while other translations use the word whelp 
(Gen. 49#9).
     The Israelite tribes of Judah, Dan, and Gad-- and also the
nation of  Babylon-- adopted the lion as their symbol. Jesus is
called "the lion of  Judah" (Rev. 5#5). Isaiah the prophet foretold
that at the end of time, the  Prince of Peace would tame even the
fierce heart of the lion (Is. 9#6-7;  11#1-9).
     Little Owl (see Owl).
     Lizard. Lizards receive little attention in the Bible,
although they are  common in Palestine. They appeared on the list
of unclean animals (Lev.  11#30) and were thus forbidden as food to
the Israelites.
     The lizard comes in many species. Some of the small lizards
often pass  for snakes, while larger versions of this animal
resemble the crocodile. All  lizards are cold-blooded reptiles.
Since their body temperature depends on  their surroundings, they
thrive in the tropics and in deserts. But when the  sun gets too
hot even for them, they lie in the shade or burrow into the  sand.
One species is even called a sand lizard (Lev. 11#30); (skink,
     Lizards are ingenious in the different ways they move. Some
unfurl  skin-like sails and soar from tree to tree. Monitor lizards
(probably the  Bible's great lizard, (Lev. 11#29), RSV, NIV) swim
well. They can also climb  trees. Many lizards scamper rapidly
across the ground. Others have poorly  developed legs or no legs at
all. But the little gecko (translated ferret in  KJV, (Lev. 11#30))
can walk across a plaster ceiling upside down or cling to  a pane
of glass. His toes end in a pad made of hundreds of tiny hooks,
capped  with a hidden claw. This enables him to get a foothold on
smooth surfaces.  Geckos are abundant in Palestine.
     Most lizards eat insects. Larger species of this reptile also
eat small  animals or plants. The chameleon's sticky tongue, nearly
as long as his body,  whips out to catch insects. Chameleons are
also common in Palestine. They are  so narrow they look as if they
have been squashed, and their bulging eyes can  see in opposite
directions. They have a long tail that can grasp a branch or  coil
into a spiral when at rest. Chameleons move at a slow, deliberate
     The chameleon is known for its ability to change its color to
match its  surroundings. Actually, this is a common protective
trait for most species of  lizards. Another defensive tactic is the
use of tricks or bluffs. The glass  snake, a type of lizard,
escapes capture by shedding its wiggling tail. Other  lizards hiss,
puff up, or use their tails as whips.
     Locust (see Grasshopper).
     Maggot (see Lice; Worm).
     Mare (see Horse).
     Mole. Palestine has no true moles. The few Bible references to
moles  probably mean a burrowing rat that resembles a mole. "Mole
rats" live  underground and feed on roots and bulbs, to the
distress of farmers. Their  tiny ears and eyes are nearly hidden in
their thick coats of fur. Because  these mole rats live in
darkness, the prophet Isaiah referred to them as  symbols of the
spiritually blind. The NEB translates "dung-beetles" (Is.  2#20).
Also see Weasel.
     Mole Rat (see Weasel).
     Monitor Lizard (see Lizard).
     Monkey. Monkeys are not native to Palestine. So King Solomon
apparently  had them imported from other nations, along with apes
and other exotic goods  such as ivory, silver, and gold. They may
have come from India, Africa, or  even parts of Lower Egypt. The
NKJV has "monkeys" in (1 Kings 10#22) and (2  Chronicles 9#21).
Other versions translate as "peacocks." Also see Ape.
     Moth. Moths are mentioned several times in the Bible as a
symbol of  destructiveness and the perishable nature of all earthly
goods. In (Hosea  5#12), God says, "I will be to Ephraim like a
moth." Just as the damage  caused by moths takes place slowly and
undetected, so God would quietly, but  inevitably, bring judgment
upon His backsliding people.
     The female moth lays her eggs upon garments. When the eggs
hatch into  caterpillars, they feed on the fibers, eventually
leaving the garment full of  holes. Jesus warned against placing
too much confidence and hope in worldly  possessions that could be
wiped out so easily by moths (Matt. 6#19; Luke  12#33)
     Mountain Sheep (see Sheep).
     Mouse. About 40 kinds of mice are found in the Holy Land.
These include  house and field mice, moles, small rats, jerboas,
and even hamsters. Arabs  ate hamsters, but the Hebrew people
considered all rodents unclean (Lev.  11#29; Is. 66#17).
     In spite of its small size, the mouse is one of the most
destructive  animals in the world. Swarms of mice threatened grain
crops in ancient times.  When the Philistines stole the ARK OF THE
COVENANT, God punished them by  sending a swarm of mice which
infected them with a disease (1 Sam. 6#4-5,  11,18); (rats, NKJV).
     Mule (see Donkey). 
     Night Creature (see Owl).
     Nighthawk. This is another bird mentioned in the Bible only on
the list  of unclean birds (Lev. 11#16; Deut. 14#15). No specific
characteristics are  given which might help to identify the bird.
Nighthawks, also called  nightjars, are found in the Holy Land, but
they are not predators. There is  no obvious reason why nighthawks
would be considered unclean by the  Israelites. Other translations
render the Hebrew word for nighthawk as owl  (NASB) or screech owl
(NIV). After sunset, nighthawks fly high into the air  to hunt for
insects. They build nests near the ground in thickets or hedges.
     Onager (see Donkey).
     Oryx (see Antelope).
     Osprey. Sometimes called fish hawk or fishing eagle, the
osprey is a  member of the hawk family. With a six-foot wingspan,
it is one of the larger  birds of prey. The osprey appears on the
list of "unclean birds" (Lev. 11#13;  Deut. 14#12). Some scholars
think the term refers to the black vulture. Also  see Vulture.
     Ossifrage (see Vulture).
     Ostrich. Several Scripture passages that refer to owls in the
KJV are  rendered ostrich in the RSV. This strange bird was a
common sight in the  deserts of Israel and Sinai in Bible times.
Earth's largest living bird, the  ostrich may stand about 2.5
meters (eight feet) tall. While it cannot fly,  this unusual animal
with its long steps, which can cover 15 feet per stride  at top
speed, can outrun a horse. Sometimes an ostrich will use its wings
as  a sail to achieve even greater speed. An adult ostrich fears
only man and  lions, and it may live as long as 70 years.
     The popular belief that ostriches hide their heads in the sand
is not  true. However, when a young ostrich senses danger, it will
crouch near the  ground and stretch out its long neck to lessen the
possibility of being seen.
     This enormous bird has only a walnut-sized brain. But God has
given it  certain helpful instincts, along with its great physical
stamina. Like a  camel, the ostrich is fitted for desert life. It
eats coarse food and can go  for a long time without water. Its
head, neck, and powerful legs have no  feathers. This helps to keep
the bird cool in the hot desert climate. Its  huge eyes enable it
to spot danger from a great distance, and its long  eyelashes
protect its eyes from dust and sand. The male ostrich has a cry 
that is similar to a lion's roar.
     Unlike most other birds, the ostrich does not build a nest to
protect its  young. The female ostrich deposits her eggs on the
desert floor and covers  them with sand. These eggs are generally
left unattended during the day,  since the desert sun serves as a
natural incubator. Job compared these habits  unfavorably with the
more traditional nesting instincts of the stork (Job  39#13-18).
     Owl. The owl is mentioned several times in the Bible (Lev.
11#16-17; Ps.  102#6; Jer. 50#39; Mic. 1#8). The largest species
native to Palestine is the  great owl, sometimes called an eagle
owl. Several varieties of smaller owls  are also common. Among them
are screech owls, whose calls and whistles bring  an eerie feeling
in the night.
     Other varieties of owls mentioned by different translations of
the Bible  include the short-eared owl (Lev. 11#16), (NKJV, NEB);
long-eared owl (Lev.  11#16), (NEB); horned owl (Lev. 11#16),
(NIV); little owl (Lev. 11#17), (KJV,  NIV, NASB); tawny owl (Lev.
11#17), (NEB); fisher owl (Lev. 11#17),
     (NKJV); desert owl (Lev. 11#18), (NIV); and white owl (Lev.
11#18),  (NKJV, NIV, NASB).
     The owl is no wiser than any other bird, but his facial
features give him  a thoughtful and solemn look. Owls have round
faces with a circle of feathers  around their heads, framing and
highlighting their large eyes. These feathers  also serve as a
sound collector for the ears. An owl's fluffy feathers make  him
appear larger than he actually is. They also enable him to fly
silently,  since the edges of the feathers pierce the air with
little wind resistance.
     Owls have good night vision, which enables them to stalk their
prey at  night. Unlike other birds, whose eyes are set on opposite
sides of their  head, the owl looks directly ahead. He navigates in
the dark mostly by sound.  Alerted by a noise, he plunges in toward
his prey with his claws spread for  the kill.
     Owls serve a useful agricultural purpose, since they feed on
rats, mice,  and other rodents. But the Hebrew people considered
the owl an unclean bird  and often associated it with scenes of
desolation. The scops owl may be the  satyr of such verses as
(Isaiah 13#21) and (34#14) (night creature, NKJV). It  has a horned
look and does a hop-like dance much like a goat.
     Ox, Oxen (see Cattle).
     Palmerworm (see Worm).
     Panther (see Lion).
     Partridge. From early times, the partridge has been a game
bird. They  were among the birds which could be eaten as clean food
by the Jewish people.  Two species, the sand partridge (Is. 34#15),
     (NEB) and the chukar, are common in Palestine.
     Partridges live in fields, feeding on grain and insects. They
usually  travel in coveys of 12 to 30 birds. Their meat is tasty,
and the bird is  clever enough to give the hunter a fine chase. It
takes sharp eyes to spot  the mottled feathers of a partridge. When
alarmed, the bird will hide in a  hole, crouch among loose stones,
or fly from tree to tree with loudly  whirring wings. David
compared himself to a partridge when he was fleeing  from Saul (1
Sam. 26#20).
     The prophet Jeremiah compared the person who gathered riches
by  unrighteous means to a partridge that gathers a brood of young
birds which  she has not hatched (Jer. 17#11).
     Peacock. According to the KJV, Solomon imported peacocks from
other  nations for his royal courts in Israel (1 Kin. 10#22; 2 Chr.
9#21). A  peacock, the male of the species, is about the size of a
turkey, with  feathers of brilliant blue, green, and purple. He
parades in front of the  female, spreading his train of gorgeous
long plumes behind him like a huge  fan. Some versions of the Bible
translate this term as monkeys, peacocks, or  baboons.
     Pelican. The pelican is one of the largest webfooted birds,
often  reaching 2 meters (6 feet) in length with a 3 meter
(lo-foot) wingspread. But  in spite of its great size, the pelican
swims and flies well.
     Pelicans live in colonies, and they are known as experts at
catching fish  for food. Their long bills have an elastic pouch on
the bottom half. With  this pouch a pelican scoops up several
quarts of water along with his prey.  The pouch serves also as a
dinner bowl for baby pelicans, who dip into it for  a partially
digested treat.
     Beautiful in flight, the pelican is a haunting, solitary
figure when at  rest. Perhaps this was the image in David's mind
when he declared, "I am like  a pelican of the wilderness" (Ps.
102#6). Other translations render the word  as vulture, desert-owl,
or jackdaw.
     Pig (see Swine).
     Pigeon (see Dove).
     Porcupine. The prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah mention a wild
creature that  lived in desolate ruined places (Is. 14#23; 34#11;
Zeph. 2#14). The KJV calls  it a bittern, but the RSV translates
the animal as hedgehog or porcupine  (bustard, NEB). Palestine does
have porcupines, even today. They are small  animals with sharp
needles all over their backs. When in danger, the  porcupine rolls
up into a prickly ball.
     Porpoise (see Badger).
     Pygarg. The Hebrew term translated pygarg in (Deuteronomy
14#5) means  "leaper." The RSV translates ibex and the NKJV has
mountain goat or addax  (margin). This animal probably was the
white-rumped antelope. Also see  Antelope, Goat.
     Quail. In Palestine, the quail is a migrating bird that
arrives in droves  along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. With
their strong flying muscles,  these birds can fly rapidly for a
short time. When migrating, however, they  stretch their wings and
allow the wind to bear them along. Sometimes they  reach land so
exhausted after their long flight that they can be caught by  hand.
     Most of the time quail remain on the ground, scratching for
food and  helping farmers by eating insects. Their brown-speckled
bodies are  inconspicuous, but they often give away their presence
by a shrill whistle.
     The Hebrew people probably ate dried, salted quail while they
were  enslaved by the Egyptians. When they longed for meat in the
Sinai desert, God  promised He would provide enough meat for a
month. Then He directed thousands  of quail to their camp, where
the birds dropped in exhaustion (Num. 11#31-34;  Ex. 16#13; Ps.
     Rabbit (see Hare).
     Ram (see Sheep).
     Rat (see Mouse).
     Raven. In the Bible, raven is a catch-all term for crows,
ravens, rooks,  jackdaws, magpies, and jays. All were considered
unclean by the Jewish people  (Lev. 11#15). With a wingspread of
about 1 meter (three feet), the raven is  the largest member of
this family.
     Ravens are scavenger birds that will eat almost anything.
Their harsh cry  has probably contributed to their reputation as
birds of ill omen. Since they  have keen eyes and strong wings,
this may explain why the first bird Noah  sent from the ark was a
raven (Gen. 8#7). These birds were also known for  their practice
of pecking out the eyes of a body-- a quick way to determine 
whether their meal was actually dead! (Prov. 30#17).
     The Bible indicates that God feeds even young ravens (Job
38#41). Jesus  used a similar example to illustrate God's care
(Luke 12#24). Because God  sent ravens to feed the prophet Elijah,
ravens are also associated with God's  protective care (1 Kin.
17#4,6). Solomon brought the expression, "black as a  raven," into
common use (Song 5#11).
     Rock Badger. The rock badger or rock hyrax is a rabbit-sized
furry  animal. With short ears, sharp teeth, and black-button eyes,
it resembles an  overgrown guinea pig (Lev. 11#5); (coney, KJV,
     "The rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes
in the  crags," says (Proverbs 30#26), holding them up as little
things that are  "exceedingly wise." Feeble, or defenseless they
may be, but they find safety  in steep, rocky terrain. Their feet
have a suction-like grip that enables  them to scamper among rocky
outcroppings. Their enemies easily overlook a  rock badger
stretched out motionless on a sun-warmed rock.
     Rock Goat (see Sheep).
     Rock Hyrax (see Rock Badger).
     Roe Buck (see Deer).
     Sand Fly (see Fly).
     Sand Lizard (see Lizard).
     Sand Partridge (see Partridge).
     Sand Viper (see Snake).
     Satyr (see Goat; Owl).
     Scorpion. The scorpion is a small crawling animal that looks
like a flat  lobster. A member of the spider family, it has eight
legs, two sets of  pincers, and a tail with a poisonous stinger. A
scorpion feeds on spiders and  insects, which it rips apart with
its claws. It uses its poisonous sting only  when threatened or
when it attacks large prey. This sting is seldom fatal,  but it can
be very painful (Rev. 9#5).
     During the day, scorpions escape the desert heat by hiding
under rocks.  They come out at night to hunt and eat. Inhabitants
of Bible lands feared  scorpions. These animals were an
ever-present danger when Moses led the  children of Israel through
the hot, rocky wilderness (Deut. 8#15).
     Jesus' words in (Luke 11#12) about giving a person a scorpion
instead of  an egg may refer to a light-colored scorpion, which
could be mistaken for an  egg when in a coiled position. The
prophet Ezekiel was told by God not to be  afraid of his enemies,
who were referred to symbolically as scorpions (Ezek.  2#6). King
Rehoboam's threat did not mean he would use scorpions as whips (1 
Kin. 12#14). In those days a barbed whip or scourge was called a
     Screech Owl (see Owl).
     Sea Cow (see Badger).
     Sea Gull. Sea gulls are birds about the size of pigeons. They
have long  wings, which they use to swoop and soar gracefully on
air currents. Gulls  gather in flocks near bodies of water. They
are scavengers who eat garbage as  well as fish and insects. Sea
gulls are mentioned only in some translations  of the Bible. Others
translate the Hebrew term as cuckoo, sea mew, or owl  (Lev. 11#16;
Deut. 14#15).
     Sea Mew (see Sea Gull).
     Sea Monster. Several terms are used in the Bible to describe
large sea  creatures: sea monsters or serpents, dragons, great
fish, whales, and  Leviathan. All of these do not refer to one
animal, but it is impossible to  match the terms with specific
marine life. For instance, many animals have  been mistaken for sea
serpents-- large eels, sharks, and giant squid. The  Mediterranean
and Red Seas contain whales and enough other such "monsters" to 
provide plenty of material for sea-related scare tales.
     Dragons are mythical creatures that appear in many ancient
cultures. The  prophet Ezekiel saw images of dragons on the city
gates when he was exiled in  Babylon. The book of Revelation refers
to Satan as "a great, fiery red  dragon" (12#3). However, Ezekiel
and the writer of the Psalms also used the  word dragon as a
synonym for whale.
     Whales, of course, were real creatures that may have been a
common sight  in the Mediterranean Sea during Bible times. The NEB
refers to them in (Psalm  148#7) as water-spouts, a possible
reference to the sperm whale.
     Serpent (see Snake).
     Sheep. Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other
animal in the  Bible-- about 750 times. This is only natural since
the Hebrew people were  known early in their history as a race of
wandering herdsmen. Even in the  days of the kings, the simple
shepherd's life seemed the ideal calling. The  Bible makes many
comparisons between the ways of sheep and human beings. In  the New
Testament the church is often compared to a sheepfold.
     Well-suited for Palestine's dry plains, sheep fed on grass,
woods, and  shrubs. They could get along for long periods without
water. Sheep in  clusters are easily led, so a single shepherd
could watch over a large flock.
     Sheep today are bred for white wool. But the sheep of Bible
times were  probably brown or a mixture of black and white. Modern
farmers clip off the  tails of sheep for sanitary reasons, but fat
tails were prized on biblical  sheep. The Hebrews called this "the
whole fat tail." When they offered this  prized part of the sheep
as a burnt offering to God, they burned the "entire  fat-tail cut
off close by the spine" (Lev. 3#9), (NEB).
     Sheep were also valuable because they provided meat for the
Hebrew diet.  Mutton was a nutritious food, and it could be packed
away and preserved for  winter. And before man learned to spin and
weave wool, shepherds wore warm  sheepskin jackets.
     By nature, sheep are helpless creatures. They depend on
shepherds to lead  them to water and pasture, to fight off wild
beasts, and to anoint their  faces with oil when a snake nips them
from the grass. Sheep are social  animals that gather in flocks,
but they tend to wander off and fall into a  crevice or get caught
in a thorn bush. Then the shepherd must leave the rest  of his
flock to search for the stray. Jesus used this familiar picture
when  He described a shepherd who left 99 sheep in the fold to
search for one that  had wandered off. The God of the Hebrews
revealed His nurturing nature by  speaking of himself as a shepherd
(Psalm 23). Jesus also described Himself as  the Good Shepherd who
takes care of His sheep (John 10#1-18).
     A unique relationship existed between shepherd and sheep. He
knew them by  name, and they in turn recognized his voice. Sheep
were models of  submissiveness. Because he demonstrated purity and
trustful obedience to the  Father, Jesus was also called "the Lamb
of God" (John 1#29,36).
     Wild sheep, high-spirited and independent, lived among the
tall peaks of  Palestine's mountains. Like their domesticated
cousins, they flocked  together, but their disposition more nearly
resembled goats. They are  referred to as mountain sheep (Deut.
     (NKJV, RSV, NIV, NASB), chamois (KJV), and rock goat (NEB).
     Wild or domestic, the male sheep is called a ram; the female
is called a  ewe.
     Skink (See Lizard).
     Snail. Snails are small, slow-crawling animals with a soft
body protected  by a coiled shell. They move with wave-like motions
of their single foot,  secreting a slime as they go to make their
travel easier. The psalmist may  have had this peculiar motion in
mind when he spoke of the snail "which melts  away as it goes" (Ps.
     The snail in (Leviticus 11#30) (KJV) is probably a skink, a
type of sand  lizard.
     Snake. A snake is the Bible's first-- and final-- animal
villain (Genesis  3; Rev. 20#2). Throughout the Old and New
Testaments, several different words  for snake or serpent appear
some 20 times. Scholars can only make educated  guesses as to which
of Palestine's many species of snakes are meant in most  verses.
     The asp and adder are both common in the Holy Land. The asp is
a type of  cobra with its familiar hood, although its hood is not
as pronounced as the  Indian cobra's. There is also a desert cobra,
which has no hood at all. Adder  and viper are two different words
for the same deadly snake. A horned viper  and sawscale, or carpet
viper, are native to Israel. Another species  mentioned in the
Bible is the sand viper (Is. 30#6), (NEB).
     In the wilderness, the Israelites were plagued by fiery
serpents (Num.  21#6). "Fiery" may indicate the burning fever
caused by their bite. Or it may  refer to the puff adder, which has
yellow, flame-like markings. The  cockatrice of the KJV was a
mythological monster. It had the wings and head  of a cock and the
tail of a dragon. According to the superstitious legend  about this
animal, its look could kill.
     Most snakes in Palestine were non-poisonous, but the Jewish
people feared  and hated all snakes. In the Bible the serpent is
often referred to as the  symbol of evil and wrongdoing (Ps. 140#3;
Jer. 8#17).
     In spite of this attitude among the Jews, some of Israel's
neighbors  associated serpents with health, life, and immortality.
The kingdom of Lower  Egypt took the cobra as its official symbol.
Even Moses once lifted up a  BRONZE SERPENT before the Israelites
at God's command to save the people from  the fiery serpents in the
wilderness (Num. 21#9). Some continued to worship  that bronze
serpent until King Hezekiah destroyed it generations later (2  Kin.
     Snakes are fascinating creatures. Scales on their undersides
provide  traction. Their forked tongues flick rapidly in and out to
collect sensations  of touch and smell. (Psalm 58#4) is correct in
speaking of the "deaf cobra,"  since snakes have no ears to receive
sound waves. Like deaf persons, they  rely on physical vibrations
to pick up sounds. Thus cobras are not charmed by  music, but by
     A snake's spine may contain as many as 300 tiny vertebrae.
This gives  them their amazing flexibility to coil and curve. Their
mouths are hinged to  permit them to swallow and eat creatures much
larger than themselves. Their  eyes are protected by transparent
lids which are always open, causing  scientists to wonder if snakes
ever sleep.
     Sow (see Swine).
     Sparrow. Sparrow is the name given to several different
species of birds  in the Bible. They ate grain and insects and
gathered in noisy flocks. The  psalmist wrote, "I... am like a
sparrow alone on the housetop" (Ps. 102#7).  These tiny birds were
such social creatures that a lone sparrow was the  symbol of deep
     Sparrows build their untidy nests in the eaves of houses.
Sparrows were  not driven away when they built their nests in the
Temple (Ps. 84#3).
     In Jesus' time sparrows sold for a very low price-- two for a
copper  coin, five for two copper coins (Matt. 10#29; Luke 12#6).
Perhaps this was  the Temple price, for they were considered a poor
man's sacrifice. Those who  could not afford to sacrifice a sheep
or a goat might bring a sparrow. Moses  once directed healed lepers
to bring two sparrows to the Temple for a  cleansing ceremony (Lev.
     Sometimes it seems that only God cares for sparrows. Cats,
hawks, and  naughty boys prey upon them. People complain about how
they multiply,  considering them pests. Yet, Jesus declared, "Not
one of them falls to the  ground apart from your Father's will"
(Matt. 10#29). We may not esteem the  little sparrow, but the Son
of God used it to illustrate our Heavenly  Father's watchful care:
"You are of more value than many sparrows" (Matt.  10#31; Luke
     Spider. Hundreds of different species of spiders are found in
the Holy  Land. A spider's skill at spinning threads into a web is
one of nature's  miracles. The fragile web of a spider is used to
demonstrate the folly of  placing confidence in something other
than the stable, dependable God (Job  8#14).
     Spiders trap their victims in their webs and dissolve them
with  pre-digestive juices so they can be eaten. Oil on the
spider's body keeps it  from being entangled in its own web.
     Sponge. The sponge is a plant-like animal that lives on the
ocean floor.  It absorbs nourishment from water passing through its
body. When a sponge is  removed from water, the cells die, leaving
a skeleton. The skeletons of some  sponges are flexible and porous.
These have been used for centuries as  cleaning and water-absorbing
tools. Such a sponge, dipped in sour wine, was  offered to Christ
on the cross (Matt. 27#48; Mark 15#36; John 19#29).
     Stag (see Deer).
     Stork. This goose-sized bird looks ungainly in flight, with
its legs  dangling and its wings slowly flapping. But people in
Palestine were always  glad to see the storks on their yearly
migration from Europe to Africa.  Storks had the reputation of
bringing good luck. If they were numerous,  surely crops would be
good. Farmers welcomed storks because they helped their  crops by
eating insects.
     Both black and white storks were often seen in Palestine.
White storks  nest as high as possible-- often on chimneys. But
since houses in the Holy  Land had low, flat roofs, they nested
instead in the fir trees (Ps. 104#17).  In spite of their
commendable features, storks were considered unclean (Lev.  11#19;
Deut. 14#18).
     Swallow. The swallow is a migratory bird quite familiar to
residents of  the Holy Land. Frequently on the move to warmer
climates, swallows gather in  huge flocks to travel thousands of
miles. A chattering flock can make quite a  racket (Is. 38#14). The
psalmist makes an interesting distinction between the  sparrow, who
finds a home, and the swallow, who gets a nest (Ps. 84#3). Only  a
permanent resident needs a home. Some translations render the
Hebrew word  for swallow as thrush (Jer. 8#7), (NIV, NASB) or
wryneck (Jer. 8#7), (NEB).
     Swallows spend most of their time in the air, catching insects
on the  wing. They are beautiful birds, brightly colored, with
forked tails.
     Swan. Swans are seen occasionally in Palestine. As
vegetarians, they are  related to ducks and geese. Alternate
translations of the Hebrew term for  swan include ibis, stork,
white owl, and water hen. These are better  translations, since
there seems to be no reason why swans would have been  considered
unclean (Lev. 11#18), (KJV).
     Swift. The swift is a small migratory bird often confused with
the  swallow. Although they are similar, the two birds come from
different  families. Swifts are strong fliers that can travel short
distances at over  100 m. p. h. They spend much of their time
feeding on airborne insects.
     The prophet Jeremiah must have known the migrating habits of
the swift.  He spoke of this bird and others that "observe the time
of their coming."  Unlike these birds, he observed, the rebellious
people of the nation of Judah  "do not know the judgment of the
Lord" (Jer. 8#7).
     Swine. The Jewish people had nothing to do with pigs, but
these animals  still received much attention in the Bible. In
(Psalm 80#13), Israel's  enemies were likened to a "boar out of the
woods." Vicious wild pigs (boars)  ranged throughout Palestine.
Owners of vineyards hated them, because they  devoured grapes and
trampled their vines. Dogs and men alike feared their  razor-sharp
tusks. In modern times, the boar is the largest game animal in 
     Domesticated pigs (swine) were also raised in Palestine-- by
Gentiles or  unorthodox Jews. Pigs were ceremonially unclean,
supposedly because they did  not "chew the cud." The symbol of
greed and filth, pigs symbolized a person's  unredeemed nature (2
Pet. 2#22). Jesus told a story of a prodigal son who  really hit
bottom when he had to take care of hogs and even eat food intended 
for them (Luke 15#15-16).
     Tawny Owl (see Owl).
     Thrush (see Swift).
     Tortoise (see Turtle).
     Turtle. Both turtles and tortoises (a type often found in
Palestine) and  their eggs and meat were eaten. In (Numbers 6#10)
and (Jeremiah 8#7) (KJV),  turtle is simply an abbreviation of
turtledove. The context clearly indicates  that a bird is meant,
not the silent, slow-moving turtle.
     Turtledove (see Dove).
     Unicorn. A unicorn is a mythical creature, similar to a horse,
with a  single spiral horn growing out of its forehead. In the
Middle Ages, the  unicorn appeared in paintings as a symbol of
purity. Many people believed an  animal like this really lived. In
the Bible, most verses that refer to the  unicorn emphasize its
great strength (Num. 23#22; 24#8; Deut. 33#17). The  biblical
writer may have had the aurochs in mind. This horned wild ox was so 
large and powerful that no one could control or tame it (Job
39#9-10; Ps.  22#21; 92#10; Is. 34#7).
     Viper (see Snake).
     Vulture. Vultures are large, loathsome members of the hawk
family. The  largest species have a wingspread of about 32 meters
(9 to 10 feet). Most  vultures have bare heads and necks. However,
the lammergeier (bearded  vulture) has dirty-white neck feathers
and a tassel of dark feathers hanging  from its beak. The Egyptian
vulture likewise has neck feathers. A griffon's  long neck is
covered with fine white down.
     The lammergeier is also called the ossifrage (see (Lev. 11#13;
Deut.  14#12)) or the gier eagle (Lev. 11#18; Deut. 14#17).
     Vultures feed on dead bodies. For this reason they were
considered  UNCLEAN animals by the Jewish people (Lev. 11#13; Deut.
14#12-13). Other  versions of the Bible translate the word as
buzzard, falcon, and bustard.
     Wasp. These overgrown relatives of bees are known for their
painful  sting. Wasps are common throughout the Holy Land. Hornets
are a large species  of wasp. So savage were these insects when
disturbed that Egyptian soldiers  used hornets as a symbol of their
military might. When the people of Israel  were marching toward the
Promised Land, God promised He would send hornets  before them to
drive the Canaanites out of the land (Ex. 23#28). Ancient  writers
claim that entire tribes were sometimes driven out of a country by 
wasps or hornets.
     Weasel. These animals live in almost every country, including
Palestine.  They are small and furry, with thin, long bodies and
short legs. Weasels eat  small animals and have a reputation for
stealing eggs. The Bible mentions  them only in (Leviticus 11#29),
in the list of unclean animals. Some modern  sources believe the
mole (NASB) or mole-rat (NEB) was meant in this verse.
     Whale (see Crocodile; Sea Monster).
     Wild Boar (see Swine).
     Wild Donkey (see Donkey).
     Wild Goat (see Goat).
     Wild Ox (see Cattle; Unicorn).
     Wolf. Wolves were a menace to the sheep farmers of Palestine.
Man's first  dogs were probably tamed wolf pups. Perhaps this
kinship enabled wolves to  lurk near sheepfolds and gain their
reputation for treachery.
     Of his youngest son, the patriarch Jacob said: "Benjamin is a
ravenous  wolf" (Gen. 49#27). The Hebrew word translated ravenous
means "to rip and  tear," indicating the bloodthirsty nature of the
wolf. Wolves seem  particularly cruel because they seek out the
weak, old, and defenseless as  victims. The flow of blood incites
them to rip and tear even more with their  powerful jaws.
     In many Bible references, wolves represent ruthless enemies.
Jesus warned  of false prophets "who come... in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly... are  ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7#15).
     Worm. Worms have no backbone, legs, or eyes, although their
bodies are  sensitive to light and temperature. But they do play a
useful role. They  improve the soil by working decaying vegetation
into the earth and aerating  it with their tunnels.
     The Bible speaks both literally and figuratively of worms. The
word worm  also refers to a worm-like creature, such as insect
larva. For instance, the  palmerworm, cankerworm, and caterpillar
of (Joel 1#4) are all caterpillars,  which is the larval stage of
various moths. (The NKJV, however, translates  these as various
kinds of locusts.) Grub is another word used for worm in  various
translations (Is. 51#8), (NEB, NASB). (Job 7#5) and other passages, 
which refer to infestation of worms, probably mean maggots, the
larvae of  flies. Decaying matter often teems with tiny worm-like
     Some worms, such as tapeworms and pinworms, are parasites
which invade  the human body. Thus Herod could be described as
"eaten by worms" (Acts  12#23).
     The common earthworm also appears in the Bible. (Micah 7#17)
refers to  worms (snakes, NKJV) coming out of their holes. Perhaps
it was an earthworm  also that God appointed to strike at the root
of Jonah's shade (Jon. 4#7).  The psalmist lamented: "I am a
worm... and despised" (Ps. 22#6). Job claimed  kinship with the
lowly worm (Job 17#14). (Isaiah 41#14) uses "you worm Jacob"  as a
metaphor of weakness. The Jews associated worms and fire with the
place  reserved for the ungodly dead Isa. 66#24; Mark 9#44,48.
     Wryneck (see Swallow).

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