The dog isn’t referenced in the Bible in a very good way, as there are more than fifty verses describing dogs in a negative manner. That attitude goes for all canines: jackals, wolves, hyenas, etc. To the Hebrew people, canines were created to serve a particular purpose in God’s plan — they are the scavengers necessary to help clean up the environment, such as rotting carcasses and such.
Ancient Hebrews, for the most part, did not have a culture which included animals as companions or pets, although other peoples around them did, such as the Egyptians. Different cultures, different likes, I guess. Today it is the same, because some modern cultures raise dogs as a food source, while other cultures, like ours, make dogs our friends or even treat them as family members. Humans have taken the dog and bred them into dozens of different types with different traits. Although dogs will still return to their vomit (Proverbs 26:11), they have, for the most part, been refined into a variety of loving creatures.
God Loves Animals
The Bible references the dog by its unfavorable behavior, but not because God dislikes them. Just as God knows and loves all people, he also knows and loves all animals. “For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.” (Psalms 50:10-11)1 When God established the seventh day for resting, he specifically stated that animals were to rest, too. “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.” (Deuteronomy 5:14)
God tells us we can learn from the animals. In the book of Job, when Job responded to Zophar’s2 comment, he told him he needed to learn from the animals, who knew their very breath came from God’s hand.3 Job 12:7-10 tells us:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”
There is an old Native American saying about God and the dog. “God made the earth, the sky and the water, the moon and the sun. He made man and bird and beast. But he didn’t make the dog. He already had one.”4 German theologian, Martin Luther, said this about the dog: “The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made his greatest gift the commonest.”5
Dogs in My Family
Our family — five of us — had always been drawn to the smaller breeds and for a long time, years ago, my wife Mary, bred and exhibited Yorkshire Terriers. The dogs did not live their entire lives being caged, like some breeders do, but had access to several rooms within our home, as well as access to a fenced yard, and played with our children, as well as with a great variety of toys. They were happy pets and they brought a lot of happiness to us.
I often observed that the relationship we had with our pets echoed many similarities to our relationship with God. Our dogs depend upon us for their necessities, as we depend on God for ours. Our dogs depend upon us for protection from bad things, as we depend on God for ours. You get the idea. Anyway, just having these pets brings a lot of satisfaction to our own lives and I think God feels the same way about his people. Just as God loves us, we love our furry family members.
Twenty-two years ago, while thinking about Martin Luther’s quote (mentioned above), I wrote for my wife a light-hearted little poem about her love for Yorkies. A lot of Yorkie owners seemed to like it and asked if they could have a copy. I’ve made dozens over the years for friends and acquaintances. The poem has even been published in a dog magazine as well as on several online places. Here is what I wrote.
Yorkies in the Garden
Concerning the very origin of the dog,
I know what the scientific experts say:
“There is just too much fossil evidence,
Found among the rocks and in the clay.”
But, I believe that dogs were created,
For they could not have just evolved.
God knew ‘woman’ also needed a companion,
And with a dog, that problem was solved.
And what kind of dog would be helpful,
Living in Earth’s very first paradise?
God knew, besides intelligence and courage,
That small size and softness would be nice.
So, two Yorkies were given to Mother Eve,
To mate them and bring forth, by birth,
Pure joy, pleasure, comfort, and warmth,
For all the women that were to fill the Earth.
Now, when you see a little Yorkshire Terrier,
With its tail up high and proud as can be,
You will know that there is a very real God,
Who sometimes spells LOVE as Y-O-R-K-I-E.
Copyright © 1996, 2018 by Ray Hermann
I hope you are a pet owner. It matters not if it is a dog, cat, or some other animal. God put animals on earth for many reasons, some of which are for humankind’s enjoyment. Pets help you reduce stress, provide companionship, and give you entertainment. Pets teach you how to be responsible and compassionate. They can also sense and warn you of danger.6 Pets are wonderful creatures for a multitude of reasons. If you don’t now have a pet, I pray you get one soon.
Copyright © 2018, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Zophar is one of the three friends of Job who visits to comfort him during his illness.
“Zophar” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 5 August 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zophar
- Elwell, Walter A., (Ed.), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 1, p. 733.
- “Religious Dog Quotes,” (DogQuotations.com, retrieved 22 August 2018), https://www.dogquotations.com/religious-dog-quotes.html
- “7 Reasons You Should Get a Pet,” (Lifespan, retrieved 22 August 2018), http://www.lifespan.com/7-reasons-get-pet/