Animals from the Bible

Updated: May 24, 2019

Are there African animals in Scripture? Yes - and plenty of them! This is actually a serious problem for archeologists and zoologists alike, and they do have to come up with a myriads of theories as to why animals like Cheetahs, Lions, Crocodiles, Hyenas, Hippos, etc., does not feature in the supposed area of ancient Israel today. Could it be its because they never did feature or could survive this barren and dried up area in the world? Could it be that the Biblical land is somewheres else? If so and the area in question is a completely other place in the world, what else might we have missed?

Image is ironically from a jewish encyclopaedia

If we start the search for the Promised land, which can be done by finding the animals mentioned in Scripture, and their natural habitat to this very day. If you were asked to name a book that mentions lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos and hyenas, people tend to think in line of the Jungle Book, with the likes of Tarzan or Mowgli - or some other such exotic tale. Bears, jackals, monkeys and panthers are the domain of `fairy-tales` right? Yet all these animals are also found in the Bible. There is around a hundred different types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates mentioned altogether throughout Scripture. It’s difficult to give a precise number because there are several words that may be synonyms for the same creature, or with which it is not entirely clear if they are even referring to animals. For as this blog har tried to convey, the Xhosa language reveal the deep symbolisms and meanings of animal spirits, practised, though through some for of animalistic worship (Animism, totems and such).

Now seen as the setting of the Bible is the Promised Land (today know as the continent of Africa) and its environs, the animals described in the Bible are those that were native to this very region. Thus, there is no mention of pandas, penguins or polar bears in the Bible. There are some exceptions, however; monkeys and peacocks from India appear simply because they were shipped in to adorn King Solomon’s palace (1 Kings 10:22). There is also a possible reference to the giraffe (Deuteronomy 14:5), which was likewise sometimes exported from the internals of Africa and shipped internationally as gifts.

One cannot read or find a moderne book on the ancient fauna of Africa (Ancient Israel). However, to gain an understanding of Biblical wildlife, we can simply underline here, once and for all why the modern state of Israel cannot be the area in question. We find that several species that live in the modern state that are so-called non-native species and who obviously (though people will claim the opposite) existed there in Biblical times; is it not strange then, that they do not appear in the Bible? Mynah birds, nutria (beaver-like rodents) and the ubiquitous brown rat are plentiful in modern Israel today, but they did not live there during Biblical times.

Unexplainably, there are many other species mentioned in the Bible that lived in Biblical lands but subsequently seen to have disappeared or vanished in thin air - from the promised area. These include hippopotami (Job 40:15–25), crocodiles (Ezekiel 29:3–6), hartebeest (Deuteronomy 14:4), cheetahs (Habakkuk 1:8), bears (2 Kings 2:24) and lions (mentioned on over 150 occasions!). Some other such animals have been bred in captivity and were subsequently released back into the wild, such as ostriches (Lamentations 4:3), Mesopotamian fallow deer (Genesis 49:21) and the magnificent oryx antelope (Deuteronomy 14:5).

Because the land was (is) actually Africa itself, it is not hard to find all these animals in abundance there today.

Below comes a non-exhaustive list of animals found in Scripture:

  1. Ostrich - Job 39,13

  2. Leopards - Jeremiah 5,6

  3. Wolves - John 10,12

  4. Wild Donkeys- Jeremiah 14,6

  5. Ivory (Elephants) - Amos 3,15

  6. Gazelle - Proverbs 6,5

  7. Rhino - Job 39,9-10 (seen this one in the Middle east lately?)

  8. Peacock - 2. Chronicles 9,21

  9. Lions - Proverbs 26,13

  10. Jackals - Isaiah 13,22

  11. Owls - Leviticus 1,16-8

  12. Apes - 1 Kings 10,22

  13. The mysterious shu`al - Judges 15,4

  14. Hyrax - Proverbs 30,26

  15. Rock-badger - Psalms 104,18 - well known around Cape Town (Kapernaum)

Other famous mentions are beasts such as dragons, lamb, ox and many others. And guess what? They can all be found in Southern Africa. The KJV Bibles give a unique rendition of another African land animal, the Rhinoceros, given the name Unicorn (like the mythical creature, horse with horn) in the KJV. It`s most likely not a unicorn but a Rhino. Check the Latin Vulgate 1598, you`ll see, Job 39,9-10.

Now people at institutions such as Biblical Museum of Natural History, who's main job is to revise zoogeography of the Bible reflects (rather fancifully) and puts forward a great deal of theories trying so desperately hard to make the modern state of Israel seem a likely candidate for the so-called Promised Land. Its not.

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