DEER. This word apparently is not found in any modern Eng. VSS, other than in combination “fallow deer” (KJV), but this animal is clearly recognizable in hart and hind (q.v.), possibly also in doe (q.v.). Brief notes only are given under these and other related names, with more detailed discussion under this head. At least three species of deer lived in Pal. during OT times, but they were prob. not distinguished. It seems agreed that Heb. אַיָּלָה, H387, and derivatives (see Hart, Hind) applied to all three species, or at least to the larger two. Those once native to Pal. are:
This formerly had a wide distribution living in all suitable wooded parts of Europe and SW Asia, and also in N Africa. Its range has been reduced and with the destruction of forest it has sometimes become a moorland and mountain animal. Red deer were often preserved strictly as royal game and with continuing protection they have survived even in industrialized lands. It stands between four and five ft. at the shoulder and the stag has large spreading antlers with ten or even more points, which are shed and renewed annually, as with all deer. This species disappeared from Pal. early, perhaps several centuries b.c. It became extinct in Iraq less than one cent. ago and the nearest survivors are prob. in Anatolia and Greece.
are much smaller, standing only three ft. All deer are spotted at birth but in this species the coats remain spotted at all ages, esp. in summer. Their antlers are palmate. This deer has been used as a park animal for so long and introduced so often that its distribution is confused. In early times there were two species in the Middle E, both living in hill forests. They disappeared long ago, but one, Dama mesopotamica, known as the giant fallow deer, survives in the Zagros Mountains of Luristan, Persia. Both red and fallow deer are herd animals for most of the year and more likely to be obtainable in quantity.
are much smaller still, standing only about twenty-eight inches, with short upright antlers. In contrast to the others it is solitary and stays mostly under cover, coming out only to graze on field margins. As a result it exists almost unknown in many woodland areas and recorded facts about it are scanty, but it has long been lost to Pal. Although it was prob. the commonest kind, it was rarely depicted in ancient art whereas the others were often illustrated. All deer make excellent eating when in good condition and, being ruminants, they were clean meat to the Israelites. The first five mentions of hart and hind are all in literal contexts and they imply clearly that deer were familiar animals and regularly eaten—e.g.
H. B. Tristram, Theof the Bible. 9th. ed. (1898) (valuable for account of conditions in mid-19th cent.); F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life in Palestine (1935); Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(’ayyal, feminine ’ayyalah, and ’ayyeleth (compare Arabic, ’ayyal and ’iyal, "deer" and ’ayil, "ram," and Latin caper and capra, "goat," caprea, capreolus, "wild goat," "chamois," or "roe deer")); yachmur (compare Arabic, yachmur, "deer"); ya`alah, feminine of ya`el (compare Arabic, wa`l, "Pers wild goat"); tsebhi, and feminine tsebhiyah (compare Arabic, zabi and feminine zabiyah, "gazelle"); `opher (compare Arabic, ghafr and ghufr, "young of the mountain goat"):
Of the words in the preceding list, the writer believes that only the first two, i.e. ’ayyal (with its feminine forms) and yachmur should be translated "deer," ’ayyal for the roe deer and yachmur for the fallow deer. Further, he believes that ya`el (including ya`alah) should be translated "ibex," and tsebhi, "gazelle." `Opher is the young of a roe deer or of a gazelle.
’Ayyal and its feminine forms are regularly in
The Arabs call the roe deer both ’ayyal and wa`l. Wa`l is the proper name of the Persian wild goat, Capra aegagrus, and is also often used for the Arabic or Sinaitic ibex, Capra beden, though only by those who do not live within its range. Where the ibex is at home it is always called beden. This looseness of nomenclature must be taken into account, and we have no reason to suppose that the Hebrews were more exact than are the Arabs. There are many examples of this in English, e. g. panther, coney, rabbit (in America), locust, adder and many others.
Ya`el (including ya`alah) occurs 4 times. In
’Opher is akin to `aphar, "dust," and has reference to the color of the young of the deer or gazelle, to both of which it is applied. In
With the exception of mere lists of animals, as in