I recently got an email from a friend who was absolutely delighted to tell me that Pope Francis has stated that “Eternity is open to all God’s creatures,” which means, essentially, that we will see our dogs in heaven. That same friend told me that this was amazing because, according to her, there is nothing in the Bible about dogs.
Actually, she’s wrong. She couldn’t really have read her Bible, because the fact is that dogs are mentioned repeatedly. Now granted, it’s not always in a good context, because in the Bible, dogs are often referred to as “dirty.” Unrepentant sinners, fools and apostates are also often referred to as “dogs” in the Bible
Before I get into talking about how dogs are represented in the Bible, let me state at the outset that I’m not condemning the ancient Christian perspective on dogs any more than I am that of any other religion. Just the other day, I had Janice and Leroy at the mall with me. I finished my shopping and stowed my purchases in the trunk of the car. My best buddies were in the back seat.
As I was about to get into the car, a woman rushed over to me, and in a near panic, asked me to move my car so that she could get into hers, which was parked next to mine. I took a look, and it seemed to me that I wasn’t crowding her, so I asked her, “What’s the problem?”
She pointed at Janice and Leroy, and said “Unclean!”
I’m not going to tell you whether she was a member of an extremist Christian sect, or of another religion entirely. It doesn’t matter. Whatever book formed the basis for her religion, it didn’t matter. Maybe the dog thing came from the Bible, or the Qu’ran, or The Manifesto of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Most religious documents don’t have a whole lot good to say about dogs.
However, for the purpose of this post, I’m just going to deal with the treatment of the dog in the Bible. So, let’s take a closer look, just for argument’s sake, at the way the Bible (International Standard Version) refers to dogs. I’m choosing this version simply because it’s very readable, and I don’t want to have to interpret for you what, say, the King James version says when the International Standard version does it quite nicely. There are several Bible verses referencing dogs, and here are 18 of them. I will also offer commentary.
1. Revelation 22:13-16
I am the First and the Last. I am the beginning and the end. Those who wash their clothes clean are happy (who are washed by the blood of the Lamb). They will have the right to go into the city through the gates. They will have the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs. They are people who follow witchcraft and those who do sex sins and those who kill other people and those who worship false gods and those who like lies and tell them. “I am Jesus. I have sent My angel to you with these words to the churches. I am the beginning of David and of his family. I am the bright Morning Star.”
Well, as far as I know, dogs don’t practice witchcraft, and don’t typically kill unless they’re put in a pit to fight other dogs. Maybe they do, in a way, worship “false gods” in that they love their humans to distraction and probably don’t have much of a concept of a supreme being. If you want to call practitioners of witchcraft and fornicators and worshippers of false gods heretics, or assholes, that’s fine by me. But dogs? Gimme a break!
2. Isaiah 56:9-12
All you animals of the field, all you animals of the forest, come to eat. The leaders who are to guard the people are blind; they don’t know what they are doing. All of them are like quiet dogs that don’t know how to bark. They lie down and dream and love to sleep. They are like hungry dogs that are never satisfied. They are like shepherds who don’t know what they are doing. They all have gone their own way; all they want to do is satisfy themselves. They say, “Come, let’s drink some wine; let’s drink all the beer we want. And tomorrow we will do this again, or, maybe we will have an even better time.”
This passage kind of compares useless people to dogs. I think that’s a bit unfair, dogs being highly useful when it comes to protecting their humans. As to the drinking thing, dogs don’t drink! At least they don’t, unless some idiot human thinks it’s funny to see a dog half in the bag and then maybe dying of kidney failure later on.
3. Psalm 59:1-14
Save me from my enemies, my God! Keep me safe from those who rise up against me. Save me from those who practice evil; deliver me from bloodthirsty men. Look, they lie in ambush for my life; these violent men gather together against me, but not because of any transgression or sin of mine, Lord. Without any fault on my part, they rush together and prepare themselves. Get up! Come help me! Pay attention! You, Lord God of the Heavenly Armies, God of Israel, stir yourself up to punish all the nations. Show no mercy to those wicked transgressors. At night they return like howling dogs; they prowl around the city. Look what pours out of their mouths! They use their lips like swords, saying “Who will hear us?” But you, Lord, will laugh at them; you will mock all the nations. My Strength, I will watch for you, for God is my fortress. My God of Gracious Love will meet me; God will enable me to see what happens to my enemies. Don’t kill them! Otherwise, my people may forget. By your power make them stumble around; bring them down low, Lord, our Shield. The sin of their mouth is the word on their lips. They will be caught in their own conceit; for they speak curses and lies. Go ahead and destroy them in anger! Wipe them out, and they will know to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob. At night they return like howling dogs; they prowl around the city.
All I can say here is, nobody likes a howling dog. Or a prowling, mouthy human.
4. Psalm 22:16-21
An evil gang is around me; like a pack of dogs they close in on me; they tear at my hands and feet. All my bones can be seen. My enemies look at me and stare. They gamble for my clothes and divide them among themselves. O Lord, don’t stay away from me! Come quickly to my rescue! Save me from the sword; save my life from these dogs. Rescue me from these lions; I am helpless before these wild bulls.
Lions and bulls and dogs, oh my!
5. Philippians 3:1-3
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.
Here’s another passage that refers to evil humans as comparable to dogs. I’m starting sense a pattern here – the men who wrote the Bible, supposedly under the inspiration of God, had a real bean up their ass when it came to our canine friends.
6. Matthew 7:6
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.
Well, if I were rich enough to own pearls, which I am not, I would not be so foolish as to toss them in a pig pen. I’m not sure what’s meant by not giving dogs what is holy. Unless it’s a reference to the wine and bread that’s delivered during communion. I can’t say that I really find anything to criticize in this passage. I don’t give my dogs wine either (see Isaiah 56:9-12), and bread only sparingly.
7. Matthew 15:22-28
A Canaanite woman from that area came to Jesus and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter has a demon, and she is suffering very much.” But Jesus did not answer the woman. So his followers came to Jesus and begged him, “Tell the woman to go away. She is following us and shouting.” Jesus answered, “God sent me only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” Then the woman came to Jesus again and bowed before him and said, “Lord, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” The woman said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! I will do what you asked.” And at that moment the woman’s daughter was healed.
I’m not sure what any of this means, other than that Jesus will help anyone who believes in him. The dog reference here in the Bible seems a little gratuitous, but that’s just MHO.
8. 2 Peter 2:20-22
For if, after escaping the world’s corruptions through a full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah, they are again entangled and conquered by those corruptions, then their last condition is worse than their former one. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them. The proverb is true that describes what has happened to them: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and “A pig that is washed goes back to wallow in the mud.”
Of course dogs return to their vomit! A processed meal always tastes better to a dog than it did the first time around. Obviously, though, what’s meant here is that people make the same mistakes over and over.
9. Proverbs 26:11-12
A dog that returns to its vomit is like a fool who reverts to his folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own opinion? There’s more hope for a fool than for him.
See 2 Peter 2:20-22.
10. 1 Kings 21:22-25
I will destroy your family just as I destroyed the families of King Jeroboam son of Nebat and King Baasha. I will do this to you because you have made me angry and you have caused the Israelites to sin.’ The Lord also says this about your wife Jezebel: ‘Dogs will eat the body of Jezebel by the wall of the city of Jezreel. As for the family of Ahab, whoever dies in the city will be eaten by dogs, and whoever dies in the fields will be eaten by birds.’” So Ahab sold himself out to do what the Lord says is evil. There is no one who did as much evil as Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who caused him to do these things.
You can tell that this is from the Old Testament, when God was still in a pretty “smitey” mood.
11. Luke 16:19-24
Now there was a certain rich man. And he was dressing himself in purple and fine-linen, radiantly enjoyinghimself daily. And a certain poor man, Lazarus by name, had been put at his gate – having been covered-with-sores, and desiring to be filled-to-satisfaction by the things falling from the table of the rich man. Even indeed the dogs coming were licking his sores. And it came about that the poor man died and he was carried-away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. And the rich man also died and was buried. And having lifted-up his eyes in Hades while being in torments, he sees Abraham from a-distance, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he, having called, said, ‘Father Abraham, have-mercy-on me and send Lazarus in order that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool-off my tongue, because I am suffering-pain in this flame’.
You might be surprised to know that in ancient Rome, there were actually spas where you could go to have your wounds licked by dogs. It made a lot of sense back in the day, since a clean wound was (as it is now) far less prone to becoming infected. I guess it didn’t work out for the guy who is mentioned in this particular verse, but at least in one instance a dog in the Bible wasn’t mentioned in a derogatory context.
12. Job 30:1
But now they mock me; men who are far younger than I, whose fathers I would have hated to entrust with my own sheep dogs.
Well, if you can’t trust someone with your sheep dogs, he’s got to be pretty untrustworthy. And the apple apparently doesn’t fall all that far from the tree.
13. Ecclesiastes 9:3-4
This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope, even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
Again, nothing derogatory here. Just a simple statement of fact.
14. Exodus 22:29-31
Do not hold back your offering from the first of your harvest and the first wine that you make. Also, you must give me your firstborn sons. You must do the same with your bulls and your sheep. Let the firstborn males stay with their mothers for seven days, and on the eighth day you must give them to me. You are to be my holy people. You must not eat the meat of any animal that has been killed by wild animals. Instead, give it to the dogs.
The Old Testament is full of dietary prohibitions. This is simply another, and nothing really against dogs in the Bible, or anywhere else.
15. Jeremiah 15:2-4
When they ask you, ‘Where will we go?’ tell them: ‘This is what the Lord says: Those who are meant to die will die. Those who are meant to die in war will die in war. Those who are meant to die from hunger will die from hunger. Those who are meant to be taken captive will be taken captive.’ “I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,” says the Lord. “I will send war to kill, dogs to drag the bodies away, and the birds of the air and wild animals to eat and destroy the bodies. I will make the people of Judah hated by everyone on earth because of what Manasseh did in Jerusalem.”
I’m not sure what was going on in the time of Jeremiah, but it’s probably safe to assume that dogs were working animals as well as pets. Dogs were probably harnessed up from time to time to perform various sorts of work, and that work might have included dragging away dead bodies.
16. 1 Kings 16:2-6
The Lord said, “You were nothing, but I took you and made you a leader over my people Israel. But you have followed the ways of Jeroboam and have led my people Israel to sin. Their sins have made me angry, so, Baasha, I will soon destroy you and your family. I will do to you what I did to the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Anyone from your family who dies in the city will be eaten by dogs, and anyone from your family who dies in the fields will be eaten by birds.” Everything else Baasha did and all his victories are written down in the book of the history of the kings of Israel. So Baasha died and was buried in Tirzah, and his son Elah became king in his place.
This is a bit of a reiteration of Jeremiah 15:2-4, with the exception that in this case, the bodies are eaten, not dragged away. Again, it’s probably a statement of fact. This is likely what would have happened at the time.
17. 1 Kings 22:37-39
In that way King Ahab died. His body was carried to Samaria and buried there. The men cleaned Ahab’s chariot at a pool in Samaria where prostitutes bathed, and the dogs licked his blood from the chariot. These things happened as the Lord had said they would. Everything else Ahab did is written in the book of the history of the kings of Israel. It tells about the palace Ahab built and decorated with ivory and the cities he built.
Again, we have a statement of fact, and not a denunciation of dogs.
18. Kings 8:12-13
And Hazael said, Whyweepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.
A servant doing a great thing is comparable to the action of a dog? I’m not sure if I’m reading sarcasm on the part of Hazael, or if something has been lost in the translation and this is yet another Biblical comparison of horrible, violent humans to dogs.
So there you have a selection of verses about dogs in the Bible. But what really brought you to this site in the first place?
I’m thinking that you’re wondering if you’ll see your dog in Heaven.
Will I See My Dog in Heaven?
Pope Francis apparently thinks that you will. I also think that you will. I’d like to reproduce a poem here that I really love, called “The Rainbow Bridge.” It brought me comfort when I lost Jake, and Gloria, and other dogs that have meant a great deal to me. Here goes.
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be parted….
This brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. And I believe that it’s true. Maybe when it comes to dogs in the Bible, there’s no mention of the Rainbow Bridge, but I’d like to think that a loving, caring God would see this poem and think, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea – I think I’ll build a Rainbow Bridge!” So even if it didn’t exist in Biblical times, the Rainbow Bridge exists now.
Interestingly, I have a friend who is a Norse Heathen – a believer in the old gods. Odin, Thor, Freya, Tyr and so on. She tells me that in the Norse religion, there actually has always been a Rainbow Bridge! It’s guarded by the god Heimdall, and when you die, you go to the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a little different from the Rainbow Bridge that I’ve just described, though, in that when you get there, you’re met by all the animals you’ve ever owned in your life, and they decide if you’re worthy of crossing into Valhallah, or you end up in Hel (yes, it IS a single-L Hel!). So please be good to your dogs – they get to decide where you end up in the afterlife!
The Final Word
So, I’ve nattered on about dogs in the Bible, and dogs in Norse Heathenry and other religions, and tried to be funny at times. Please, if you’re a Christian with a huge level of belief in the Bible, understand that I’m not making fun of your religion, or anyone else’s. It’s just that sometimes, things strike me as funny, and I feel like sharing my sense of humor. I hope that we can all laugh together without feeling offended.
I really don’t think that, in this day and age, anyone thinks of dogs as dirty, so in that context as well, I’m pretty sure that I won’t have offended you. If I did, well, get a sense of humor! I’m an equal opportunity offender, and I’m not singling you out!
Back to the Introduction…
Just to let you know, that person who wanted me to move my car because Janice and Leroy were unclean?
Well, I moved. But in my heart, I wanted to just sit there and read my newspaper and make her wait for me to move. I don’t get the “unclean” thing, but I was respectful of her beliefs. I didn’t understand them, but I respected them.
In this post, I’ve presented just a few Bible verses that have to do with dogs. Some represent dogs in a good light; others not so much. One thing is for certain, though – if anyone tells you that the Bible has nothing to say about dogs, they’re wrong. Dogs are very much represented in the Bible. And why wouldn’t they be? Dogs have been a part of our life since the first wolf wandered over to a fire and decided that maybe getting a handout from a human would be better than trying to hunt down and kill something. They’ve been in our lives since that first wolf decided that maybe it would be okay to wander over to the fire and share warmth with a human. They’re been our friends, our companions and our protectors since before history was even recorded, and now they share our homes and our beds, protect our children and guard our houses.
Think about this… we are totally different species, and yet we have an affinity. Many of us prefer the company of our dogs to that of humans, and dogs generally prefer the company of humans to that of their own kind. It’s really nothing short of miraculous, the love that humans and dogs have for one another.
Read your Bible. I’m not stopping you. But if your Bible tells you that somehow dogs are dirty, or evil and unclean, then throw your Bible away, because it’s feeding you garbage.
I know that I’m going to get all kinds of invective over that last statement, but I stand by it. Any book that tells you your dog is dirty or somehow undesirable is WRONG. Look into your dog’s sweet, brown eyes, and then tell me that he’s dirty. You can’t do it, can you? Because he’s NOT dirty. He’s a GOOD BOY. And anyone who says otherwise, no matter what religious book they’re basing that on, is an idiot.