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WOLF (זְאֵב, H2269, wolf all Eng. VSS; λύκος, G3380). The largest wild canine. The wolf is never mentioned literally in the OT or NT, but it must have been a familiar member of the Pal. fauna throughout the Biblical period. As the wild ancestor of the domestic dog, and a close relative of the oriental jackal, the wolf is by nature a hunter; its large size—up to forty-eight inches long with a tail of fifteen inches, weighing 100 pounds—makes it formidable; so it is not surprising that the Lord spoke of it as a danger to flocks (John 10:12, et al.). The gray wolf (Canis lupus) was once found over much of N America, Europe and Asia; now it has been exterminated from most settled areas and is plentiful only in large tracts of undisturbed forests and steppes. It still lives in Pal. in small numbers, but is no longer a danger to livestock. Because of their greater size wolves can take much larger prey than foxes and jackals; they also hunt in packs which can overcome even large deer or cattle, but for most of their time they are content with smaller animals, including mice, insects, crabs, and even fish. In some familiar passages there is a straight metaphor, e.g. Matthew 7:15: “False prophets...inwardly are ravening wolves.” The description of wolves and other carnivores becoming vegetarian in the kingdom age (Isa 11:6; 65:25) is hard to interpret biologically.


E. P. Walker, Mammals of the World, Vol. II (1964) 1146-1152.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) ze’ebh (Ge 49:27; 11:6; 65:25; Jer 5:6; Eze 22:27; Hab 1:8; Ze 3:3; also as proper name, Zeeb, prince of Midian, Jud 7:25; 8:3; Ps 83:11); compare Arabic dhi’b, colloquial dhib, or dib;

(2) lukos (Mt 7:15; 10:16; Lu 10:3; Joh 10:12; Ac 20:29; Ecclesiasticus 13:17; compare 2 Esdras 5:18, lupus);

(3) ’iyim, the Revised Version (British and American) "wolves" (Isa 13:22; 34:14; Jer 50:39):

The name of Zeeb, prince of Midian (Jud 7:25; 8:3), has its parallel in the Arabic, Dib or Dhib, which is a common name today. Such animal names are frequently given to ward off the evil eye.

See also TOTEMISM.

Alfred Ely Day

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  • Animals
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