What the Bible Really Says About Dogs

Many people cherish their canine companions dearly, observing the loyalty, friendship, and protection dogs offer to humans. The Bible, as one of the most influential religious texts, presents various interpretations of dogs throughout both the Old and New Testaments. By delving into biblical verses and stories, we can better understand the role dogs play in the context of scripture and, in turn, draw connections between these ancient texts and our relationships with our furry friends today.

Dogs appear in the Bible in various contexts, such as metaphors, parables, commands, and warnings. In some instances, they’re portrayed in a negative light, symbolizing sin or unholiness, while in other cases, they represent positive qualities, such as companionship and devotion OpenBible.info. It’s essential to study these biblical narratives and examine the language used to describe dogs to grasp their significance in the religious teachings. Through careful analysis, we shall uncover the depth of meaning and symbolism surrounding dogs in the Bible, enriching both our spiritual and day-to-day lives.

Biblical References to Dogs

what does the bible say about dogs
Biblical References to Dogs

Dogs in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, dogs are mentioned in various contexts. For instance, in Job 30:1, dogs are referred to as caretakers of flocks, a common role in ancient times. In some cases, negative connotations are attached to dogs, such as in Proverbs, where a “dog returning to its vomit” symbolizes a fool repeating his folly (Proverbs 26:11-12).

Dogs were also associated with an unclean status, as evidenced in Deuteronomy 23:18, where it is prohibited to bring a prostitute’s earnings into the house of the Lord, comparing it to “the wages of a dog.” Similarly, in 1 Samuel 17:43 and 1 Samuel 24:14, dogs are used metaphorically as insults. The story of Jezebel in the Old Testament displays a more gruesome relationship between dogs and humans, where the dogs feed on her remains as a fulfillment of prophecy (2 Kings 9:30-37).

The role of dogs in the Old Testament is not entirely negative. For example, Exodus 11:7 states that during the tenth plague, no dog would harm the Israelites, signifying God’s divine protection. In Isaiah 56:10-11, dogs symbolize negligent leaders, referred to as “mute dogs” unable to bark and protect their flocks.

Dogs in the New Testament

In the New Testament, dogs continue to carry symbolic meaning. In Philippians 3:2, Paul uses the term “dogs” to warn against false teachers who were disseminating incorrect teachings among the faithful. In Matthew 7:6 and Matthew 15:22-28, dogs represent those who are unworthy or undiscerning of spiritual truths.

The story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 features a positive depiction of dogs, as the dogs lick the sores of Lazarus, showcasing their compassionate nature. Revelation 22:15, however, carries a negative connotation, as it describes dogs as those living outside God’s kingdom due to their immoral behavior.

Cultural and Historical Context

The representation of dogs in the Bible must also be understood within the context of ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures. According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, domesticated dogs in these cultures served as companions, hunting dogs, sheepdogs, and guard dogs. Although dogs sometimes appear in negative contexts in the Bible, they are not listed as ritually “unclean” animals.

Examining the biblical references to dogs reveals various roles and symbolic meanings attached to these animals. While there are instances of negative connotations, there are also instances where dogs are depicted as compassionate and protective creatures. Recognizing the cultural and historical context of these references helps us gain a better understanding of the role of dogs in the biblical world.

Dogs as Symbols

In the Bible, dogs are used as powerful symbols to convey various messages related to purity, loyalty, and the distinction between wild and domesticated animals. Through these symbolic representations, the Bible instills moral and spiritual lessons for humanity.

Purity and Impurity

Dogs are often portrayed as a symbol of impurity in the Bible. For example, they were associated with uncleanness in the Old Testament, primarily when they scavenged on dead animals. Exodus 22:31 speaks of the impurity linked to dogs by emphasizing the need for God’s people to remain pure and holy1.

In contrast, dogs are also sometimes used to represent purity and righteousness. This contrast highlights the need for individuals to strive for a righteous life, free from sin and unclean behaviors. For instance, those who repent their sinful ways are likened to a dog which turns away from evil and folly 2.

Loyalty and Betrayal

In Scripture, dogs symbolize loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion to God. For example, in Proverbs 26:11, the verse talks about a dog returning to its vomit, reminding us of the importance of not returning to our foolish or sinful behaviors3.

However, dogs are also used to represent betrayal and falsehood. The use of dogs to signify evil, evildoers, and false teachings is evident in Philippians 3:2, where Paul warns believers against spiritual dangers4. In this verse, dogs serve as a metaphor for the negative consequences of straying from the Word of God.

Wild Versus Domesticated

There is a distinction between wild and domesticated dogs in the Bible. Wild dogs are depicted as unclean and dangerous, whereas domesticated dogs are portrayed more positively as loyal protectors and companions. For example, the Bible compares unrepentant murderers, idolaters, sorcerers, and evildoers to wild dogs5.

In contrast, domesticated dogs loyal to their masters demonstrate virtues like selflessness and devotion. Some stories in the Bible represent angels in the form of domesticated dogs, providing protection and guidance to the righteous[^6^].

The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

what does the bible say about dogs
The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

In the Bible, there is a well-known parable of Jesus called Lazarus and the Rich Man. It is found in the Gospel of Luke 16:19-31. The story tells of a rich man who is dressed in purple and fine linen and lived a life of luxury every day. At his gate was a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores, longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores1.

Jesus goes on to explain that when both men died, Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side in heaven. In contrast, the rich man found himself in Hades2, a place of torment. The rich man could see Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. He cried out to Abraham, asking for mercy and for Lazarus to be sent to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue to relieve his suffering3.

Abraham responded by reminding the rich man of the stark contrast between their lives on earth and how their fates are now reversed. The rich man then requested that Lazarus be sent to his father’s house to warn his brothers of the fate that awaits them if they don’t change their ways. However, Abraham declined, saying that they already had Moses and the Prophets to guide them, and if they did not listen to them, they would not be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead4.

The major themes of this parable revolve around wealth and indifference to the plight of the poor. The rich man lived in luxury, while Lazarus suffered, covered in sores and begging for scraps. The dogs that licked Lazarus’s sores symbolize that even they, considered unclean animals, showed more compassion than the rich man.

This biblical passage serves as a powerful reminder for us to be aware of and compassionate toward the less fortunate in our lives, bearing in mind that our eternal fate depends not on earthly wealth but on our actions and attitudes.


  1. Luke 16:19-21, Bible Gateway
  2. Luke 16:22-24, Bible Gateway
  3. Luke 16:24-26, Gospel of Luke
  4. Luke 16:27-31, Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Canaanite Woman’s Faith

Canaanite Woman's Faith
Canaanite Woman’s Faith

Dogs and Crumbs

In the Bible, there is an interesting account of Jesus calling a Canaanite woman a dog in Matthew 15:26 and Mark 7:27. The Canaanite woman approached Jesus, asking for His help with her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus responded, “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Despite the seemingly harsh words, the woman demonstrated unwavering faith and responded, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

In this context, dogs were not like our modern companions; instead, they were often considered scavengers. Jesus, referring to the Jews as children, was making a point about the priority of His mission. The woman’s faith was so strong that even the smallest portion of Jesus’ grace, represented as crumbs, was enough for her. As a result of her faith, her daughter was healed.

Jesus’ Teachings on Gentiles

The interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman was significant, not only because of her faith but also the underlying teachings about Gentiles. The woman was a Syrophoenician, which meant she was a non-Jew or a Gentile. To the Jews, Gentiles were often seen as unclean and less deserving of God’s blessings. Jesus’ reference to feeding the children first (the Jews) portrays the priority given to the Jews in His early ministry. However, this encounter also demonstrated that Jesus’ love and power were not confined to the Jewish people alone.

We can observe an important message from this account about the accessibility of God’s grace for all people regardless of their nationality or social status. Jesus recognized and rewarded the Canaanite woman’s faith by healing her daughter, and this is a powerful reminder that faith and persistence can overcome any barriers.

Overall, this section in the Bible provides valuable insights into the relationship between dogs, crumbs, and gentiles. More importantly, it showcases the importance of faith in accessing God’s grace, irrespective of one’s background.

Roles and Perceptions of Dogs

In examining the roles and perceptions of dogs in the Bible, we must navigate various contexts in which they appear. From shepherds and hunting dogs to guarding and protection, dogs fulfill diverse purposes.

Shepherds and Hunting Dogs

Dogs played essential roles as shepherds and hunting partners in the biblical world. They were valuable assets to ancient peoples, assisting in herding sheep, tracking prey, and providing companionship.

Guarding and Protection

Guard dogs held the vital responsibility of protecting their owners and flocks from harm. To emphasize this symbolically, the Hebrew verse Isaiah 56:10-11 compares God’s watchmen to silent watchdogs. Dogs were seen as loyal protectors in the biblical narrative, often reflecting the values that humans should embody towards their community and God.

Scavengers and Strays

Despite their positive attributes, the Bible also presents dogs in less favorable contexts. As inhabitants of ancient Near Eastern cities, dogs would dwell near the outskirts as scavengers, feeding on refuse and even the remains of the dead. In this context, dogs were portrayed as unclean and associated with the imagery of sin and depravity. For example, 1 Kings 14:11 and 2 Kings 9:10 describe the fate of evildoers as being eaten by dogs.

In Proverbs 26:11 and Matthew 15:26, dogs are used metaphorically to contrast the righteous and the wicked. Jesus, in Matthew 15:26, declines to help a Canaanite woman initially, stating, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” However, her clever response signifies humility and faith, leading to the granting of her request. This story exemplifies human virtue.

When considering the Bible’s portrayal of dogs, we find diverse roles and perceptions – from faithful shepherds and hunting dogs to diligent protectors and unclean scavengers. Through these roles, dogs help underscore valuable spiritual lessons and metaphors, teaching us the importance of loyalty, humility, and faith.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do dogs symbolize in biblical scripture?

Dogs in the Bible often symbolize obedience, loyalty, and faithfulness to God. They serve as reminders of the importance of following a righteous path and the consequences of straying from God’s Word. Additionally, dogs in the Bible are sometimes metaphorically used to highlight the contrast between righteous individuals and those living in sin (source).

Are there biblical references to dogs in the house?

While the Bible does not explicitly mention dogs in the house, it does reference the presence of dogs in various situations. In some cases, dogs are portrayed negatively, such as scavenging or feeding on undesirable items. In other cases, dogs are shown positively, as demonstrated by their loyalty and faithfulness. This duality reflects the complex relationship between humans and dogs throughout biblical times.

Does the Bible reference the destiny of dogs after they die?

The Bible does not provide a definitive answer regarding the fate of dogs, or animals in general, after their death. While animals, including dogs, are part of God’s creation and possess the breath of life, they lack the capacity to choose eternal salvation through Jesus Christ like humans do. Some believers are hopeful that there may be a place in heaven for animals, but this remains open to interpretation and debate (source).

What is the portrayal of dogs in biblical texts?

Dogs in biblical texts are often portrayed with a dual nature, both positively and negatively. On the one hand, they are seen as loyal and faithful companions, symbolizing obedience to God. On the other hand, dogs can also represent outcasts and immorality in certain biblical passages (source).

Can passages about dogs be found in the King James Version of the Bible?

Yes, passages about dogs can be found in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, as well as other translations. Dogs are mentioned in various contexts, such as their loyalty, their interactions with humans, and their association with uncleanliness. These passages help to paint a picture of the complex symbolism and significance of dogs in biblical literature.

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