A kind of wild dog that has a long, pointed muzzle and a bushy tail, and closely resembles the fox. This animal (Canis aureus) is still encountered in Palestine. Though the jackal may attack and kill fowl and even lambs and, in fact, live on almost anything, including fruit, it is basically a scavenger that feeds on carrion. Hence, the animal performs a beneficial service, since the carrion otherwise might provide a breeding place for germs. Jackals generally hunt at night, singly, in pairs, or in small packs. During the day they usually sleep in desolate places, holes in the ground, caves, abandoned buildings, or ruins.
Since jackals are denizens of wild, lonely, and even desertlike areas, the domain of the jackal is used figuratively in the Scriptures to represent a state of utter desolation, without human inhabitant. Various prophecies use this figure to forecast desolation for Jerusalem, the cities of Judah, Hazor, Babylon, and Edom. (Jer 9:11; 10:22; 49:33; 51:37; Isa 34:5, 13; Mal 1:3) The Bible also makes reference to the jackal’s mournful wailing, or howling. (Isa 13:22; Mic 1:8) The jackal’s cry begins at sunset and is a long-drawn-out wail, repeated three or four times, each repetition being slightly higher in key than the preceding one. Finally the wail ends in a series of short, loud, yelping barks.
In Scripture the jackal figures repeatedly in an illustrative setting. Job, in describing his own lamentable state, exclaims that he has become “a brother to jackals.” (Job 30:29) In regard to a humiliating defeat of God’s people, the psalmist, perhaps with reference to the battlefield where jackals congregate to feed upon those slain (compare Ps 68:23), mourned: “You have crushed us in the place of jackals.” (Ps 44:19) Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. brought the stress of famine, with the result that mothers treated their own offspring cruelly. Thus Jeremiah appropriately contrasted the cruelty “of my people” with the jackals’ maternal care.—La 4:3, 10.
On account of the intense droughts on the land of Judah when it lacked Jehovah’s blessing, zebras are depicted as snuffing up the wind, that is, panting for breath, like jackals. (Jer 14:1, 2, 6) On the other hand, with reference to the restoration of his people, Jehovah promised that the abiding place of jackals would come to have grass, reeds, and papyrus plants. And Jehovah’s providing water for his people in the wilderness would cause animals such as the jackal to glorify him.—Isa 35:7; 43:20, 21.