What Does the Dog Symbolize in the Bible

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/09/23 •  11 min read

The dog holds significant symbolism in biblical texts, with various connotations attributed to them. Throughout the Bible, dogs are often portrayed as symbols of loyalty, protection, faithfulness, discernment, and healing.

In the Book of Psalms, for example, the psalmist writes, ‘Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog’ (Psalm 22:20). Here, the dog is seen as a representation of danger and threat, highlighting the need for divine protection.

Additionally, dogs are frequently mentioned in the context of loyalty and faithfulness. In the story of the prophet Elijah, who was fed by ravens during a time of drought, it is said that ‘the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook’ (1 Kings 17:6). Some biblical scholars suggest that the term ‘ravens’ used here could also be translated as ‘dogs,’ emphasizing the unwavering loyalty and provision of these animals.

Moreover, dogs are associated with discernment and insight in the Bible. In the book of Proverbs, it is written, ‘Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion’ (Proverbs 11:22). This verse compares a lack of discretion to a gold ring in a pig’s snout, highlighting the idea that beauty or external appearances can be deceiving. Dogs, on the other hand, are often portrayed as having keen senses and discernment, making them symbols of wisdom and insight.

Furthermore, dogs are also mentioned in relation to healing and deliverance. In the Gospel of Mark, a woman with a daughter possessed by an unclean spirit approaches Jesus, seeking help. Jesus responds, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’ (Mark 7:27). While this statement may initially seem derogatory, Jesus is using the term ‘dogs’ metaphorically to refer to Gentiles who were considered outside the covenant of Israel. In this context, the woman’s persistent faith and humility are highlighted, leading Jesus to heal her daughter.

These examples from the Bible demonstrate the multifaceted symbolism of dogs in biblical literature. They serve as reminders of loyalty, protection, faithfulness, discernment, and healing, emphasizing the profound meanings attributed to these animals within the biblical narrative. By exploring these symbolic representations and referencing relevant biblical verses and stories, we can deepen our understanding of the significance of dogs in the Bible.

Key Takeaways

The Dog as a Symbol of Loyalty

The dog is widely recognized as a symbol of loyalty in biblical texts, drawing upon various stories and passages to convey its significance. One such story is that of the faithful dog who stayed by the side of Lazarus. In this tale, found in the Gospel of Luke, Lazarus is depicted as a poor beggar who lay at the gate of a rich man’s house. The dogs, however, showed compassion and loyalty towards Lazarus, licking his sores and offering him comfort. This story highlights the unwavering commitment and devotion that dogs symbolize, even in the face of adversity.

Additionally, the book of Psalms references dogs as loyal protectors. Psalm 59:14 says, ‘And at evening they [the dogs] return, they growl like a dog and go around the city.’ This verse portrays dogs as guardians, alerting their owners of potential danger and providing a sense of security. Dogs are known for their keen senses and ability to protect their human companions, reflecting their role as loyal and faithful protectors.

The symbolism of the dog in the Bible extends beyond its role as a companion and protector. It also signifies a deeper spiritual lesson about the importance of remaining steadfast and devoted, even in difficult times. Just as a dog remains loyal to its owner, believers are encouraged to remain steadfast in their faith and devotion to God.

One of the most well-known verses that speaks to this symbolism is Proverbs 18:24, which states, ‘A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ This verse emphasizes the loyalty and faithfulness of a true friend, likening it to the unwavering loyalty of a dog. It serves as a reminder that true loyalty and devotion are invaluable traits to possess.

The Dog as a Symbol of Protection

One interpretation suggests that the canine creature in biblical narratives serves as a representation of safeguarding and defending. The dog is seen as a guardian angel, a watchful companion that protects and guides those in need. In the Bible, we find examples of this symbolism in various stories.

One notable story that highlights the dog’s role as a protector is the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. In this story, it is said that God ‘sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths’ (Daniel 6:22). Some interpret this angelic figure as a dog that protected Daniel from harm. This demonstrates the dog’s unwavering loyalty and dedication to safeguarding those who are faithful.

Another story that showcases the dog’s role as a guardian and defender is found in the Book of Tobit. In this narrative, a faithful dog accompanies Tobias on his journey and protects him from danger. The dog’s presence serves as a constant source of comfort and assurance, emphasizing its role as a watchful companion.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the dog also plays a significant role. It is mentioned that the poor man is comforted by dogs who lick his sores (Luke 16:21). This suggests that the dog is a faithful and comforting presence in times of distress. The dog’s loyalty and compassion are evident in its actions, providing solace to those in need.

The dog’s symbolism as a protector, watchful companion, and symbol of faithfulness is deeply rooted in biblical narratives. These stories illustrate the dog’s unwavering dedication to safeguarding and defending those who are faithful. Through their actions, dogs serve as a reminder of the importance of loyalty and protection in our lives.

The Dog as a Symbol of Faithfulness

Throughout biblical narratives, dogs have been consistently portrayed as symbols of unwavering loyalty and dedication. For instance, in the book of Tobit, there is a story about a faithful dog who accompanied Tobias on his journey and protected him from harm. This tale showcases the loyalty and devotion of dogs in biblical narratives, emphasizing the importance of steadfastness and commitment in relationships.

One of the most well-known instances of a dog’s faithfulness can be found in the story of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel of Matthew. When the woman approached Jesus, pleading for her daughter to be healed, Jesus initially seemed hesitant. He responded, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’ (Matthew 15:26). However, the woman, displaying her deep faith and understanding, replied, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table’ (Matthew 15:27). Jesus, amazed by her faith, granted her request and healed her daughter. This story not only showcases the woman’s faith but also highlights the significance of dogs in illustrating faithfulness and discernment.

Another notable biblical reference to dogs can be found in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 26:11 states, ‘Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.’ This verse serves as a metaphorical warning, cautioning against repeating foolish actions. It implies that just as a dog returns to its vomit, a foolish person continues to engage in detrimental behaviors without learning from their mistakes. This analogy emphasizes the importance of discernment and learning from past experiences.

The Dog as a Symbol of Discernment

Depicted in various biblical narratives, dogs are emblematic of discernment, highlighting the importance of making wise choices and learning from past experiences.

In the book of Proverbs, it is written, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you’ (Matthew 7:6). This verse emphasizes the need to discern who we share our valuable knowledge and wisdom with, as not everyone will appreciate or understand it.

In the context of decision making, dogs symbolize the ability to perceive and understand situations, aiding individuals in making informed choices. Just as dogs have a keen sense of smell and acute hearing, we too can rely on our intuition and inner wisdom to guide us through life’s complexities. As the Psalmist writes, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’ (Psalm 32:8). God is always present, offering guidance and discernment when we seek His wisdom.

One biblical story that exemplifies the dog’s role in discernment is the story of Balaam and his talking donkey (Numbers 22:21-34). Balaam, a prophet, was on his way to meet with Balak, the king of Moab. However, God was displeased with Balaam’s intentions and sent an angel to block his path. Balaam, blinded by his own desires, did not see the angel but his donkey did. The donkey refused to move forward, causing Balaam to become angry and strike her. Finally, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she spoke to Balaam, revealing the angel’s presence. This event serves as a powerful reminder that even animals, like dogs, can have a discernment that surpasses our own. It teaches us to listen to the signs and guidance around us, even if it may come from unexpected sources.

Furthermore, dogs also embody the concept of learning from past experiences. They are known for their loyalty and devotion, often remaining faithful to their owners despite past mistreatment. This teaches us the importance of forgiveness and second chances. In the book of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, illustrating the father’s unconditional love and forgiveness towards his wayward son (Luke 15:11-32). Just as the father welcomed his son back with open arms, we too are called to offer forgiveness and second chances to those who have wronged us.

The Dog as a Symbol of Healing

The healing properties associated with dogs can be observed in various cultural and historical contexts, as the Holy Bible teaches us. In the book of Proverbs 12:10, it is written, ‘Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.’ This verse emphasizes the importance of caring for and showing compassion towards animals, including dogs.

One factual story that exemplifies the healing power of dogs is the story of a man named Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus, and when he fell ill, his sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ (John 11:3) Jesus, being aware of the love and bond between Lazarus and his sisters, traveled to their home to heal him.

However, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already passed away and had been placed in a tomb. Jesus, deeply moved by the grief of Mary and Martha, wept. (John 11:35) This shows the emotional distress experienced by humans during times of loss and how even Jesus, being fully divine, understood and empathized with their pain.

In this story, Jesus performs a miraculous act of healing by raising Lazarus from the dead. He commands, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ (John 11:43) and Lazarus emerges from the tomb, alive and well. This powerful demonstration of healing illustrates the divine power and compassion of Jesus.

The concept of therapy dogs aligns with the biblical teachings of compassion and care for animals. Research has shown that interaction with therapy dogs can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall well-being, which echoes the biblical message of valuing and respecting the lives of all creatures. The presence of a therapy dog can create a calming and comforting environment, allowing individuals to feel more at ease during medical procedures or therapy sessions, just as Jesus brought comfort and healing to those who were suffering.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.