Heb. zeeb, frequently referred to in Scripture as an emblem of treachery and cruelty. Jacob's prophecy, "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf" (Gen. 49:27), represents the warlike character of that tribe (see Judg. 19-21). Isaiah represents the peace of Messiah's kingdom by the words, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb" (Isa. 11:6). The habits of the wolf are described in Jer. 5:6; Hab. 1:8; Zeph. 3:3; Ezek. 22:27; Matt. 7:15; 10:16; Acts 20:29. Wolves are still sometimes found in Palestine, and are the dread of shepherds, as of old.
There can be little doubt that the wolf of Palestine is the common Canis lupus
, and that this is the animal so frequently mentioned in the Bible. (The wolf is a fierce animal of the same species as the dog, which it resembles. The common color is gray with a tinting of fawn, and the hair is long and black. The Syrian wolf is of lighter color than the wolf of Europe it is the dread of the shepherds of Palestine. --ED.) Wolves were doubtless far more common in biblical times than they are now, though they are occasionally seen by modern travellers. The following are the scriptural allusions to the wolf: Its ferocity is mentioned in (Genesis 49:27
; Ezekiel 22:27
); Habb 1:8; Matt 7:15 Its nocturnal habits, in (Jeremiah 5:6
; Zephaniah 3:3
); Habb 1:8 Its attacking sheep and lambs, (Matthew 10:16
; Luke 10:3
; John 10:12
) Isaiah (Isaiah 11:6
) foretells the peaceful reign of the Messiah under the metaphor of a wolf dwelling with a lamb: cruel persecutors are compared with wolves. (Matthew 10:16
; Acts 20:29
- woolf ((1) ze'ebh (Gen 49:27
; Jer 5:6
; Ezek 22:27
; Hab 1:8
; Zeph 3:3
; also as proper name, Zeeb, prince of Midian, Jdg 7:25
; Ps 83:11
); compare Arabic dhi'b, colloquial dhib, or dib; (2) lukos (Mt 7:15
; Lk 10:3
; Jn 10:12
; Acts 20:29
; Ecclesiasticus 13:17; compare 2 Esdras 5:18, lupus); (3) 'iyim, the Revised Version (British and American) "wolves" (Isa 13:22
; Jer 50:39
While the wolf is surpassed in size by some dogs, it is the fiercest member of the dog family (Canidae), which includes among others the jackal and the fox. Dogs, wolves and jackals are closely allied and will breed together. There is no doubt that the first dogs were domesticated wolves. While there are local varieties which some consider to be distinct species, it is allowable to regard all the wolves of both North America, Europe, and Northern Asia (except the American coyote) as members of one species, Canis lupus. The wolf of Syria and Palestine is large, light colored, and does not seem to hunt in packs. Like other wolves it is nocturnal. In Palestine it is the special enemy of the sheep and goats. This fact comes out in two of the seven passages cited from the Old Testament, in all from the New Testament, and in the two from Apocrypha. In Gen 49:27 Benjamin is likened to a ravening wolf. In Ezek 22:27, and in the similar Zeph 3:3, the eiders of Jerusalem are compared to wolves. In Jer 5:6 it is a wolf that shall destroy the people of Jerusalem, and in Hab 1:8 the horses of the Chaldeans "are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves." Babylon and Edom (Isa 13:22; 34:14; Jer 50:39) are to be the haunts of 'iyim (the Revised Version (British and American) "wolves") and other wild creatures.
The name of Zeeb, prince of Midian (Jdg 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