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At one time gazelles were widely distributed in Pal. and common enough to provide a useful amount of meat. This is clearly implied in Deuteronomy 12:15 and 22 where it is mentioned almost as a standard commodity. When Isaac asked Esau to go and kill some game (“venison” KJV), this could have meant any wild game, but by living in the Beersheba area—the gateway to the Negev—a gazelle would be the most likely target for Esau’s arrow. Gazelle meat is sometimes rather dry but good enough for eating.

The spread of cultivation reduced the numbers of gazelles progressively, though the creatures are not unduly worried by the presence of men, and will feed around or even in farms and close to tractors if allowed to do so. Wealth allowed desert hunting for sport in cars, quickly reducing numbers to the danger point. In most Arab countries there is still little or no control, but with protection by game laws and reserves in Israel, stocks have recovered and their survival is much more hopeful. See Deer.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(tsebhi, and feminine tsebhiyah; compare Tabeitha (Ac 9:36), and Arabic zabi; also Arabic ghazal; Dorkas (Ac 9:36); modern Greek zarkadi):

The gazelle is an antelope belonging to the bovine family of the even-toed ruminants. There are more than twenty species of gazelle, all belonging to Asia and Africa. The species found in Syria and Palestine is the Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas). It is 2 ft. high at the shoulders. Both sexes have unbranched, lyrate, ringed horns, which may be a foot long. The general coloration is tawny, but it is creamy white below and on the rump, and has a narrow white line from above the eye to the nostril. Several varieties have been distinguished, but they will not bear elevation to the rank of species, except perhaps Gazelle merilli a form of which a few specimens have been obtained from the Judean hills, having distinctly different horns from those of the common gazelle. The gazelle is found singly or in small groups on the interior plains and the uplands, but not in the high mountains. It is a marvel of lightness and grace, and a herd, when alarmed, makes off with great rapidity over the roughest country (2Sa 2:18; 1Ch 12:8; Pr 6:5; So 8:14). The beauty of the eyes is proverbial. The skin is used for floor coverings, pouches or shoes, and the flesh is eaten, though not highly esteemed.

See Deer; Goat; ZOOLOGY.

See also

  • Animals