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Since the Israelites were mainly an agricultural people, animals played a large part in their lives. Israelites raised cattle, sheep and goats extensively throughout their land, and these provided them with food products and materials for clothing (Numbers 32:1; 2 Chronicles 26:10; Proverbs 27:26-27). They used oxen to pull carts, plough fields and thresh grain (Numbers 7:6-8; 1 Kings 19:19; Amos 2:13; 1 Corinthians 9:9). They were to treat their working animals kindly and give them proper food and rest (Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 22:10; Deuteronomy 25:4). (For further details see FARMING.)

Israelites did not keep pigs, considering them to be unclean animals whose meat was not fit to be eaten (Leviticus 11:7; Proverbs 11:22). However, there were pig farmers among non-Israelites who lived in the region (Luke 8:26; Luke 8:32; Luke 15:15). Another animal that the Israelites loathed was the dog, for most dogs in those days were savage, disease-ridden animals that roamed the streets and fed on filth (2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Kings 9:33-36; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 59:6; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; 2 Peter 2:22).

For transport people in Bible times used asses (Joshua 9:4; 1 Samuel 9:3; 1 Samuel 25:20; Matthew 21:2-5), camels (Genesis 24:10; Genesis 30:43; Genesis 31:17; Genesis 37:25; Isaiah 30:6) and horses (Isaiah 28:28), though the latter were kept mainly for warfare (Joshua 11:4; 1 Kings 10:28-29; Isaiah 30:16; Isaiah 36:8). Mules, which combined the strength of the horse with the endurance of the ass, sometimes played an important part in Israel’s communications (1 Kings 18:5; Ezra 2:66).

Many different animals lived in the forest and semi-desert regions of Palestine: lions (1 Samuel 17:34; Psalms 7:2; Isaiah 31:4; Jeremiah 5:6; Nahum 2:11-12), bears (1 Samuel 17:34; 2 Kings 2:24; Amos 5:19), foxes (Judges 15:4; Matthew 8:20), wolves (Jeremiah 5:6; John 10:12), hyenas (Isaiah 13:22), jackals (Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20), wild asses (Job 39:5-8; Jeremiah 14:6), wild oxen (Job 39:9; Psalms 22:21), wild boars (Psalms 80:13), and deadly snakes (Numbers 21:6; Isaiah 30:6; see SNAKE). The Israelites did not hunt for sport, but on occasions had to kill wild animals to defend themselves (Exodus 23:29; Judges 16:5; 1 Samuel 17:34-36; 2 Kings 17:26).

There were many other animals which, though wild, were not fierce, such as the hart, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, rock badger, rabbit, hare and porcupine. The Israelites hunted some of these for food, but there were others that they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11:1-8; Deuteronomy 14:3-8; Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 34:11; see UNCLEANNESS). Hunters used bows and arrows, slingstones, and traps of various kinds such as nets and pits (Genesis 21:20; Genesis 27:3; 1 Samuel 17:40; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 124:7; Ezekiel 19:8).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Animals'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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