Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Strata: How Many?

By Natan Slifkin

Answer: Around 100

If you were asked to name a book that mentions lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, and hyenas, your thoughts might turn to Tarzan or some other such exotic tale. Bears, jackals, monkeys, and panthers are the domain of The Jungle Book. All these animals are also found, however, in the Bible.

There are around a hundred different types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and invertebrates mentioned in the Bible. (It’s difficult to give a precise number because there are several words that may be synonyms for the same creature, as well as words that scholars are not certain even refer to animals.)

Since the setting of the Hebrew Bible is the Holy Land and its environs, the animals described in the Bible are native to that regional confluence of western Asia and northern Africa. Thus, there is no mention of pandas, penguins, or polar bears in the Bible. There are some exceptions, however; monkeys and peacocks from the Indian subcontinent appear in the Bible. The reason for this is that they were shipped in to adorn King Solomon’s palace. There is also a possible reference to the giraffe, which was likewise sometimes exported from Africa and shipped internationally as gifts for kings. Aside from such exceptions, the animals of the Bible are from the region of Israel.

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