A close-up photo capturing a worn Bible page with the verse references mentioning dogs, revealing the significance of these mentions in biblical scriptures.

How Many Times Are Dogs Mentioned In The Bible?

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years. They provide companionship, help with work, and offer security. Given how important dogs are in everyday life, some may wonder how often they appear in the sacred text of Christianity – the Bible.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: dogs are mentioned over 40 times in the Bible.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will take a deep dive into the many references to dogs throughout both the Old and New Testaments. We will examine the different Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as “dog”, look at various stories and passages that include dogs, and analyze the symbolism and significance of dogs in biblical times.

The Hebrew Word for Dog in the Old Testament

Kelab – Common Domestic Dogs

The most common Hebrew word translated as “dog” in the Old Testament is kelab. This word refers primarily to domestic dogs that lived among the Israelites. These were likely similar to modern house pets – guard dogs, hunting dogs, sheep dogs, etc.

Archaeological evidence confirms that domesticated dogs lived alongside humans in ancient Israel.

There are several biblical references to kelab. For example, Exodus 22:31 warns the Israelites not to eat torn flesh that has been thrown to the kelabim (dogs). In Deuteronomy 23:18, kelab is used in a metaphorical sense to refer to a “male temple prostitute.”

And kelabim are mentioned in biblical lists of property and wealth, indicating they had economic value in those days (Job 30:1).

So the kelabim were common sights around Israelite settlements in Old Testament times. They served various domestic purposes despite being unclean animals. And Scripture sometimes uses kelab figuratively to refer to undesirable or immoral people.

Keleb – Wild Dogs and Scavengers

Another less common Hebrew term often translated “dogs” is keleb. This word refers more to wild dogs, jackals and scavenging canines living on the fringes of civilization. Kelebim were seen as savage beasts that posed a danger to people and livestock.

For example, Psalm 59 pictures wicked men “howling like dogs (kelebim) and prowling about the city.” And the mourning prophet Jeremiah warns, “Beware of the kelebim prowling in the streets” (Jeremiah 15:3).

Similarly, Job complains of being mocked by young boys whose fathers he would have scorned to set over the dogs (kelebim) of his flock (Job 30:1).

So while the kelabim were domestic dogs living among God’s people, the kelebim were more like feral dogs or jackals inhabiting the wilderness areas around ancient Israelite towns and villages. They readily attacked stray sheep, goats or unattended children when given the opportunity.

Both types of “dogs” feature prominently in biblical references.

References to Dogs in the Old Testament

Dogs Eating Jezebel’s Body

One of the most well-known references to dogs in the Old Testament is the story of Jezebel’s death. After Jezebel was thrown from a window by members of Jehu’s army, her body was eaten by dogs, fulfilling Elijah’s earlier prophecy that dogs would consume Jezebel’s flesh (1 Kings 21:23, 2 Kings 9:10).

This gruesome scene demonstrated God’s judgment on the wicked queen. The dogs gnawed on Jezebel’s corpse, leaving only her skull, feet, and hands (2 Kings 9:35). It was a disgraceful end that revealed her unholy life.

Job’s Description of Dangerous Dogs

In the book of Job, when defending his integrity, Job referred to dangerous dogs as a metaphor for evil men. He asked why evil people still lived and prospered, questioning why God allowed it (Job 21:7-16).

In verse 30, Job vividly depicted wicked people as fierce dogs who prey on others: “That the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, That they are rescued in the day of wrath?” This imagery conveyed the ruthless, vicious nature of ungodly men who took advantage of others.

Proverb about Dogs Returning to Their Vomit

One well-known proverb mentions dogs and their habit of returning to eat their own vomit. In Proverbs 26:11, Solomon wrote: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Dogs will often eat their vomit if given the chance.

In the same way, foolish people repeat unwise behaviors and mistakes, even though these actions are disgusting and damaging. The proverb emphasizes how important it is to learn from one’s errors instead of repeating them.

While dogs were sometimes presented negatively in the Old Testament, they also had positive qualities like loyalty and vigilance that were appreciated. Their presence in several accounts provides vivid imagery and lessons about human character and God’s judgment.

The Greek Word for Dog in the New Testament

Kyon – Common Household Pets

In the New Testament, the most common Greek word translated as “dog” is kyon (κυων). This refers to the dogs that were kept as pets or working animals in ancient biblical times.

Dogs served various purposes in ancient Palestine. The Bible references dogs as household pets, working animals that herded livestock, and street animals that scavenged for food. Specific breeds like greyhounds were kept for hunting by the wealthy.

Commoners mostly kept mutts or mixed-breed dogs as pets and workers.

Several Bible verses mention dogs in the context of households. For example, Philippians 3:2 uses kyon metaphorically to refer to false teachers, illustrating that household dogs were common and familiar to the letter’s recipients.

Working dogs that herded sheep and protected flocks are also referred to. Job 30:1 states, “But now those younger than I mock me, whose fathers I disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.” This suggests using dogs to guard flocks was a common practice.

Kunarion – Small Dogs or Puppies

In addition to kyon, the diminutive term kunarion (κυνάριον) is also translated as “dog” in the New Testament. This word refers to a small dog or puppy rather than a grown dog.

Kunarion appears only once, in Matthew 15:26-27. When a Canaanite woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter, he initially refuses, saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” But when the woman persists, Jesus praises her faith, referring to her as a “little dog” or kunarion.

Some interpret this kunarion reference as a clever bit of wordplay on Jesus’s part. Saying the woman’s faith means she is not a mere “dog” but a puppy deserving of a place at the family table. Others read it as slightly derogatory, illustrating common attitudes towards Canaanites.

Still others think Jesus was testing the woman’s willingness to humble herself.

Whatever the exact motivation behind calling the woman a “little dog,” the passage illustrates that households at that time kept small dogs or puppies (kunarion) as pets, though these were considered less prestigious than children and less worthy of receiving food.

References to Dogs in the New Testament

Dogs Under the Table at the Healing of the Syrophoenician Woman’s Daughter

One of the most well-known references to dogs in the New Testament is found in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30, which describe Jesus’ encounter with a Syrophoenician woman who begged him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.

Jesus at first refused her request, saying “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” But when the woman replied that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” Jesus relented and healed her daughter, impressed by the woman’s faith.

In this passage, “dogs” is used as a metaphor for Gentiles like the Syrophoenician woman, who were considered outsiders to God’s covenant with the Jewish people. By humbly accepting the “dog” label and arguing that even dogs get scraps from the table, the woman displayed bold faith in Jesus’ power and compassion.

Her persistence was rewarded with the miraculous healing of her daughter.

Dogs Licking Lazarus’ Sores

The poor beggar Lazarus is described in Luke 16:19-31 as being “laid at the rich man’s gate, covered with sores, and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” Lazarus was so destitute that stray dogs would come and lick his open sores, providing a pathetic image of utter misery.

This reference associates dogs with extreme poverty and wretchedness. As unclean scavengers, the dogs licking his sores only added to Lazarus’ miserable state as a social outcast, ignored and neglected by the wealthy elite of his day.

Yet Lazarus’ lowly plight on earth was ultimately reversed in the afterlife, when he was carried by angels to Abraham’s side in heaven, while the unnamed rich man suffered torment in Hades.

Comparison Between Dogs and Swine

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus instructs his disciples: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Here, dogs are paired with swine (pigs) and associated with those who are unworthy of spiritual truths and holy things.

Throwing pearls before swine indicates wastefully giving something of great value to those who cannot appreciate it. While this saying may sound harsh to modern sensibilities, in the ancient Jewish context pigs and dogs were both seen as unclean animals unfit for close human interaction or intimacy.

The comparison emphasizes the need to exercise wisdom and discernment when sharing deep spiritual truths.

Dogs Swine
Unclean scavengers Unclean wallowers in mud
Consume scraps Trample pearls
Outside of God’s covenant with Israel Cannot appreciate spiritual truths

While negative in connotation, these biblical references associate dogs with those on the fringes of society: desperate gentiles, destitute beggars, and foolish mockers of truth. They reflect cultural attitudes of the day more than innate characteristics of dogs themselves.

Just as Jesus showed compassion to outsiders, we can avoid close-mindedness when considering those different from ourselves. The golden rule applies across all cultural boundaries.

The Symbolism of Dogs in the Bible

Associated with Scavenging and Licking Wounds

In the Bible, dogs are often depicted as scavengers, roaming the streets and feeding on trash, dead animals, and even licking wounds (1 Kings 14:11, 1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 21:23–24). This portrays them as unclean animals living on the fringes of society.

For example, 1 Kings 14:11 warns that those who die in the city will be eaten by dogs: “Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds will eat.” This fate was considered a disgrace.

Considered Unclean Animals

Along with pigs, dogs are included in the biblical list of unclean animals that the Israelites are forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11:27). As scavengers, dogs likely carried diseases and parasites, making their meat unsafe.

As unclean animals, dogs also represented spiritual corruption and idolatry. Deuteronomy 23:18 warns: “Do not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both.

Their wages are compared to the price paid for a dog, emphasizing how detestable it is.

Represented Pagan Idolatry and Immorality

Since dogs were often used in pagan rituals, they took on a symbolic association with idolatry and spiritual corruption. For example, Isaiah 56:10–11 compares Israel’s corrupt leaders to lazy, greedy, sleeping watchdogs that love to slumber.

Instead of guarding the people, these leaders are blind and ignorant, looking out only for themselves.

Female prostitutes at pagan temples were also called “dogs” as an insult to their immorality (Deuteronomy 23:18). So the term “dog” became an expression meaning religious apostate or someone entrenched in sinful behavior.

Despite this negative symbolism, there are a few positive portrayals of dogs in the Bible.


As we have seen, dogs are mentioned frequently throughout both the Old and New Testaments – over 40 times in all. The Hebrew and Greek words used refer most often to scavenging street dogs, reflecting the lowly status of dogs in biblical culture.

While dogs served functional roles as guardians and herders, they were largely seen as unclean scavengers. Biblical writers used images of dogs metaphorically to representDanger and impurity. Yet buried within these negative connotations are glimpses of dogs as beloved companions.

Though dogs may not get star treatment in the pages of Scripture, their presence permeates biblical stories from beginning to end.

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