[Heb., keʹlev; Gr., kyʹon; ky·naʹri·on, ‘little dog’ (Mt 15:26)].
To the Israelites this animal was ceremonially unclean, and it is therefore unlikely that they gave any thought to the training of dogs. (Le 11:27; Isa 66:3) Although sheep and shepherds are often mentioned in the Bible, only Job, a non-Israelite, speaks of “the dogs of my flock.”
Dogs (Canis familiaris), like carrion birds, were scavengers, particularly in the cities. The Law directed throwing to the dogs flesh that had been torn by a wild beast. (Ex 22:31) At times Jehovah’s judgment against his enemies was that their dead bodies would be eaten or their blood licked up by scavenger dogs. Because of the course of gross unfaithfulness followed by Kings Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab, any who belonged to their respective households and who died in the city were to be devoured by dogs. (1Ki 14:11; 16:4; 21:24) In fulfillment of Jehovah’s word, the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood, and the flesh of his wife Jezebel became food for the dogs. (1Ki 21:19; 22:38; 21:23; 2Ki 9:10, 35, 36) Indicating that dogs would lick up the blood of the foes of Jehovah’s people, the psalmist wrote: “That the tongue of your dogs may have its portion from the enemies.” (Ps 68:23) It was foretold that dogs would share in the ruin that would come upon unfaithful Jerusalem and Judah. Dead bodies the dogs would drag away, mutilating, devouring, and licking up blood.
Illustrative Use. The dog’s repulsive habit of disgorging food it has gulped down and then returning to eat it again later is used to illustrate the course of those abandoning the way of righteousness and returning to their former state of defilement. (2Pe 2:20-22; Pr 26:11) Morally unclean persons are called dogs. God’s law to Israel stated: “You must not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog [“male prostitute,” AT; “likely a pederast; one who practices anal intercourse, especially with a boy,” NW, ftn] into the house of Jehovah your God for any vow, because they are something detestable to Jehovah your God, even both of them.” (De 23:18) All those who, like scavenger dogs of the streets, practice disgusting things, such as sodomy, lesbianism, viciousness, and cruelty, are debarred from access to New Jerusalem.
Further indication of the contempt in which these wild, scavenging dogs were held are the following examples: “Am I a dog?” bellowed Goliath to David, because the latter came to him with a staff. (1Sa 17:43) “After whom are you chasing? After a dead dog?” asked David of King Saul, thus showing that he was insignificant and could do no more harm to Saul than a dead dog. (1Sa 24:14) Similarly, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, in speaking to King David, referred to himself as “the dead dog,” the lowest condition possible. (2Sa 9:8; see also 2Sa 3:8; 16:9; 2Ki 8:13.) The prophet Isaiah compared God’s professed spiritual watchmen to speechless, slumbering dogs full of soulful desire, completely ineffectual in the case of danger. (Isa 56:10, 11) The enemies of Jehovah’s servants were likened to dogs, and so were the Gentiles. (Ps 22:16, 20; 59:6, 14; Mt 15:26, 27; see SYROPHOENICIAN.) Jesus Christ compared persons having no appreciation for spiritual things to dogs, saying: “Do not give what is holy to dogs.”
In the light of the unfavorable figurative sense attached to the dog, the very low state of the Lazarus of Jesus’ illustration is clearly reflected in the words, “Dogs would come and lick his ulcers.” (Lu 16:21) However, even the despised dog is better off than a dead lion, for the living dog is conscious, whereas the dead lion, the regal beast, is conscious of nothing at all.
The dog’s manner of lapping water while at the same time keeping its eyes open to surrounding conditions was referred to when God prescribed a test for the volunteers of Gideon’s army. Only those who were alert, lapping up water from their hands, “just as a dog laps,” were to be chosen for the fight against Midian.