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Domestic Animals in Ancient Israel

How Hebrew life and thought balanced the needs of people and animals

Stephen Broyles


In the Bible, God is green. The best of Hebrew life and thought strove for a humane and sustainable balance between the needs of people and animals. The same God, after all, preserves both man and beast. Hebrew law required a man to give aid to a donkey or an ox that had fallen, to let the mother bird go when he took her young, and not to muzzle the ox that treads out the grain. Hebrew wisdom said, “a righteous man has regard for the life of his beast.” Here are four short articles on animals in ancient Israel.


The Dog: Its Gradually Changing Status

The dog’s present-day position as a decent, noble animal has been hard won.


The Donkey: Faithfulness, Gentleness, Loyalty

In the tradition of the West we know the donkey as a slow, dull, foolish creature. Did the ancient East share the same sentiments?


The Camel: Our Adaption to Them

This animal is so well adapted for life in a hostile desert environment that its domestication was more a process of people conforming themselves to its ways than the other way around.


Sheep and Goats: A Mingled Flock

Sheep and goats were tamed very early in the Near East. Man and flock go back together a very long time.




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