What Do Pigs Symbolize in the Bible: Understanding the Significance

Pigs are typically associated with farm life, but did you know that they are also mentioned in the Bible? That’s right, these fascinating creatures have been used as a symbol in several stories in the holy book. In fact, pigs have long featured in religious texts as a representation of various themes and metaphors that are woven into key passages.

So what exactly do pigs symbolize in the Bible? Interestingly, the answer is not straightforward. Depending on the context, pigs can represent sin, impurity, and even destruction. They are mentioned in various parables and stories in the Bible, often being portrayed as a negative force. At the same time, there are also instances where pigs are used in a positive light, such as in stories that focus on abundance and bounty. Overall, the symbolic meaning of pigs in the Bible is complex and multi-layered, and it’s worth examining the different perspectives that exist on this topic.

Pigs as Unclean Animals in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, pigs were considered unclean animals. This meant that Jews were forbidden from consuming pork or anything derived from pigs. The prohibition on consuming pork can be found in Leviticus 11:7-8 which states, “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.” This prohibition was not only limited to the consumption of pork but also extended to other parts of the pig such as the skin and the bones.

The classification of pigs as unclean animals was not just limited to the Jewish faith but was also common in other religions during that time. The reason for this classification can be attributed to several factors such as the health risks associated with consuming pork and the perceived uncleanliness of pigs. Pigs were scavengers and would often feed on refuse and dead animals, making them carriers of diseases like swine flu, trichinosis, and other ailments.

The prohibition on consuming pork was considered among the most important laws by ancient Jews, and the act of eating pork was viewed as a violation of faith. This prohibition was one of the distinguishing features that set Jewish dietary laws apart from other religious practices during that time. The dietary laws of Judaism were designed to promote cleanliness, discipline, and obedience to God, and the prohibition on consuming pork was an essential part of these laws.

The story of the Gadarene swine in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the story of the Gadarene swine is one of the most well-known accounts of pigs. As narrated in Mark 5:1-20, Jesus and his disciples arrive at the land of the Gadarenes after a storm tossed their boat. They were greeted by a man possessed by demons who had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could bind him. The man cried out to Jesus, who commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him.

  • The unclean spirits, who called themselves Legion, begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs that were feeding nearby.
  • Jesus permitted them, and the demons entered the pigs. The pigs then ran down the steep bank into the sea and drowned.
  • The swineherds, who were tending the pigs, witnessed what happened and fled to the city to inform the people about what Jesus had done.

The people from the city then came to see Jesus. They saw the man who had previously been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind. However, they were afraid and asked Jesus to leave their region. With this, Jesus and his disciples departed from Gadarenes.

The story of the Gadarene swine has different interpretations among scholars and theologians. Some believe that it is just a teaching on Jesus’ power to heal and the demons’ surrender to Jesus. Others believe that the pigs sent into the sea represent the old Jewish ceremonial laws that Jesus had come to abolish, or the Gentile sinners who would soon come to faith. Nevertheless, the Gadarene swine has remained relevant to this day, especially in terms of its significance and symbolism involving pigs.

In the next subsection, let’s take a closer look at the symbolism behind the Gadarene swine story and what pigs symbolize in the Bible.

The connection between pigs and the demon-possessed man in the Gadarene swine story

In the Gadarene swine story, as told in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus encounters a man possessed by demons in the country of the Gadarenes. The demon-possessed man lived in the tombs and was so fierce that no one was able to bind him, even with chains. Jesus commanded the unclean spirits to leave the man, and they entered into a herd of about 2,000 pigs feeding nearby. The pigs then rushed down a steep bank into the sea and drowned, causing the owners of the pigs to flee and report the incident to others.

  • The pigs symbolize impurity and uncleanliness in Jewish traditions. In Leviticus 11:7-8, pigs are designated as unclean animals and are forbidden to eat. Touching a pig makes someone unclean and requires a purification ritual. Therefore, the fact that the demons entered the pigs highlights their nature as impure and unclean entities.
  • The incident of the Gadarene swine is seen as a sign of Jesus’ power over the spiritual realm. By commanding the demons to leave the man and enter the pigs, Jesus demonstrates that he can exercise authority over all creation, including the spiritual world and physical entities like the pigs.
  • However, the destruction of the pigs also suggests a contrast between the value of material possessions and the value of human life. The owners of the pigs prioritize their economic gain over the well-being of the demon-possessed man and are more concerned about losing their herd than about the healing of their fellow human being. This serves as a reminder that material wealth is fleeting and ultimately less valuable than spiritual and human concerns.

Overall, the connection between pigs and the demon-possessed man in the Gadarene swine story emphasizes the contrast between spiritual impurity and purity, Jesus’ power over the spiritual realm, and the value of human life over material possessions.


Leviticus 11:7-8The Bible
Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39The Bible

The concept of sacrifice and the role of pigs in the Old Testament rituals

In the Old Testament, sacrifice was a common practice to seek God’s forgiveness and favor. The Israelites believed that offering animal sacrifices was a way to appease God’s wrath and to symbolize their repentance from sin. Among these animals, pigs were often considered unclean and unsuitable for sacrifice.

  • Leviticus 11:7-8 prohibits the consumption of pigs, stating that they are unclean animals that should not be eaten. This passage implies that offering pigs as sacrifices is also not acceptable.
  • Isaiah 65:4 criticizes people who eat pork, calling them “a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day.”
  • The Book of Ezekiel 39:17-20 refers to the sacrifice of pigs as part of God’s wrath against the enemies of Israel. It describes a massive slaughter of horses, chariots, and pigs, suggesting that the latter are not acceptable offerings for God’s altar.

Despite the negative connotation of pigs in the Old Testament, there are instances where they were used as sacrificial animals.

For example, in 1 Samuel 6, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and suffered from plagues. They returned the Ark to the Israelites, along with a guilt offering of gold mice and tumors, and five golden images that represented their plagues. The Philistines’ priests and diviners advised them to send along with the Ark a trespass offering of two milch cows that had never been yoked, and to let them go where they would. If the cows went straight to Israel, the Philistines would know that it was God who had plagued them. And if they turned aside anywhere, the Philistines would know that God had not plagued them. The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. The Israelites rejoiced at the sight, and the cows were offered as burnt offerings to the Lord.

Scripture ReferenceSummary
Leviticus 11:7-8Pigs are considered unclean, suggesting that offering them as sacrifices is also unacceptable.
Isaiah 65:4Pork is criticized, calling those who eat it “a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day.”
Ezekiel 39:17-20Pigs are described as part of God’s wrath against the enemies of Israel, suggesting that they are unacceptable offerings.

Overall, while pigs were generally not acceptable animals for sacrifice in the Old Testament, there are instances where they were used as offerings in unique situations. The concept of sacrifice and its role in seeking God’s favor were central to Old Testament worship and continue to be relevant to modern Christians today.

The use of “pig” as a metaphor for sin and impurity in the Bible

Pigs have been used as a metaphor for sin and impurity in the Bible. This association can be traced back to the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, where pigs are listed among the animals that are considered unclean and should not be eaten. In the New Testament, the metaphor is expanded to include the behavior of people who embrace sin and ignore God’s teachings.

  • In Leviticus 11:7-8, pigs are expressly forbidden as food for the Israelites. The pigs were identified as “unclean” animals because they do not have a divided hoof, which the Bible considers a necessary condition for clean animals.
  • The book of Proverbs compares those who do not heed wisdom to pigs who return to their wallowing in the mud after they have been washed. This illustration emphasizes the futility of reforming an individual who is determined to continue in a particular sinful behavior.
  • Another notable reference to pigs is in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance and wastes it on “wild living.” When he is left destitute, he returns home and asks his father to take him back as a servant. But the father readily forgives him and throws a celebration to welcome him home. This story illustrates the mercy of God and the redemption that is possible for those who repent of their sins.

Throughout the Bible, the symbol of the pig is a reminder of what is considered unholy or unclean in the eyes of God. It points to the need for repentance and renunciation of sinful behaviors in order to be reconciled with God.

It is worth noting that the use of pig as a metaphor for sin is not meant to denigrate the animal itself. Rather, it is a symbolic warning to people to stay away from that which can lead them to spiritual ruin. As with all things in the Bible, the focus is on the spiritual message, not on the animal itself.

ReferenceBible Verse

In conclusion, the use of pig as a metaphor for sin and impurity in the Bible serves as a warning to people to stay away from that which can lead them to spiritual ruin. It emphasizes the need for repentance and renunciation of sinful behaviors in order to be reconciled with God. While the pig itself may not be sinful, the spiritual message behind the metaphor serves as a reminder of God’s expectations and the consequences of disobedience.

The Prohibition of Eating Pork in Certain Religious Practices

In the Bible, the consumption of pork is strictly forbidden in certain religious practices. It is one of the dietary laws prescribed in Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8, and Isaiah 65:2-5. The reason for this prohibition is not given in the Bible, but there have been various interpretations and explanations put forward by scholars and religious leaders.

  • One of the most commonly cited reasons for the prohibition of pork in the Bible is its association with pagan practices. In the ancient Near East, pig worship was prevalent, and the pig was seen as a symbol of fertility and abundance. Therefore, the consumption of pork was seen as an act of participating in pagan practices, which was strictly prohibited by the Hebrew God.
  • Another reason for the prohibition of pork is based on hygienic and health concerns. Pork is a carrier of many parasites, including tapeworms, which can be harmful to humans if ingested. In ancient times, there were no proper methods of cooking and preserving meat, which made the consumption of pork even more dangerous.
  • Some scholars suggest that the prohibition of pork was also a way for the Hebrew God to maintain the identity and distinctiveness of the Hebrew culture. By prohibiting the consumption of pork, the Hebrews were able to differentiate themselves from their pagan neighbors and maintain their unique identity in a polytheistic world.

The prohibition of pork in the Bible has been a topic of debate and discussion for centuries. While some religious traditions still observe this dietary law, others have abandoned it. In any case, it serves as an important reminder of the ancient Hebrew culture and their religious practices.

Here is a table that summarizes the dietary laws prescribed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:

Allowed AnimalsForbidden Animals

As you can see, the dietary laws are quite specific, and the list of forbidden animals includes not only pigs but also other birds and animals that were considered unclean or associated with pagan practices.

The symbolic meaning of the “prodigal son” story and the role of pigs in it.

The “prodigal son” story found in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32 is about a son who asks his father for his inheritance and goes to a faraway land, where he squanders all his wealth and ends up working as a swineherd. This story has several symbolic meanings, and the role of pigs in it is one of them.

  • Pigs symbolize impurity and sin in the Bible, which is why the Jewish people considered them unclean animals and did not eat them. When the prodigal son ends up working as a swineherd and eating the pigs’ food, it shows how far he has fallen and how he has become impure and disconnected from his father and his faith.
  • The fact that the prodigal son is willing to eat the pigs’ food also represents his desperation and the depth of his sin. It shows that he is willing to compromise his values and beliefs for temporary pleasure and satisfaction.
  • The pigs themselves can also be seen as a symbol of the prodigal son’s own greed and indulgence. Like the pigs, he has consumed everything he has and is left with nothing.

Overall, the role of pigs in the “prodigal son” story serves as a powerful reminder of the consequences of sin and the importance of remaining connected to one’s faith and values. It also highlights the transformative power of repentance and forgiveness.

Comparing the Importance of Pigs in Jewish and Islamic Cultural and Religious Practices

Pigs are one of the most fascinating creatures when it comes to religions and cultures across the world. In particular, pigs have played a vital role in both Jewish and Islamic cultural and religious practices. These two religions have contrasting views on the significance of pigs, and this article will explore the differences in-depth.

  • Importance in Jewish Culture: In Jewish culture, pigs are seen as unclean animals, and they are explicitly forbidden in the Torah. This prohibition is associated with the belief that the pig lacks certain attributes of kosher animals, such as divided hooves and chewing cud. Thus, pigs are not consumed, and even the touch of the animal’s carcass makes an individual impure. The only time pigs are mentioned in the Bible is as a negative example.
  • Importance in Islamic Culture: Unlike Jewish culture, pigs play a crucial role in Islamic cultural and religious practices. Muslims are not allowed to consume pig meat, which is forbidden or ‘haram.’ However, the pig’s importance in Islam goes beyond dietary restrictions. The Quran speaks negatively about pigs, referring to them as “filthy” animals. However, there is also an appreciation for pigs in Islamic culture. In the Quranic tale of Prophet Solomon, he had an army that included pigs, which some interpret as a sign of their intelligence and bravery.
  • The Significance of the number 8: In Judaism, pigs are associated with the number 8, which is viewed as a symbol of impurity. The Hebrew word for “pig” has the numerical value of 608, with the letter “8” representing impurity. The Jewish concept of purity places emphasis on the number 7, with the Sabbath as the seventh day. Therefore, the number 8 is seen as representing something beyond what is holy. In contrast, there is no significance of the number 8 regarding pigs in Islamic culture.

It is clear that while pigs hold significant roles in both Jewish and Islamic cultural and religious practices, there is a marked difference in how they are perceived. For Jews, pigs symbolize impurity and are entirely avoided, while Muslims appreciate the pig’s intelligence and bravery but abstain from eating them. Furthermore, the number 8 holds great importance in Jewish culture in association with pigs, while it has no such significance in Islam.

Pigs as FoodForbidden/uncleanForbidden/haram
Pigs in the Bible/QuranNegative depictionNegative depiction but appreciated for bravery
Number 8Symbol of impurity in association with pigsNo significance

Clearly, pigs play a significant role in both Jewish and Islamic cultures. The differences in their respective views demonstrate the importance of the pig’s symbolism and their influence in religious practices. Exploring the meanings behind such symbols provides a fascinating insight into how religions and cultures have evolved throughout the centuries and continue to shape our world today.

The use of pigs in ancient Near Eastern cultures and their influences on the Bible

Pigs were a common animal in the ancient Near East, where they were raised for their meat. In many cultures, the pig was also considered a symbol of fertility and abundance. However, the pig was not universally accepted as a clean animal. The Hebrews, for example, forbade the consumption of pork under the laws of kosher, as pigs were considered unclean animals in their culture.

  • The Babylonians associated the pig with the god Marduk, who was often depicted holding one or riding one into battle.
  • In ancient Egypt, the pig was associated with the god Set, who was both revered and feared as a tricky god capable of causing chaos and confusion.
  • The ancient Greeks associated the pig with the goddess Demeter, who was associated with fertility and agriculture.

These cultural associations with the pig influenced the way it was portrayed in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the pig is known as an unclean animal and is often associated with impurity and sin. For example, in Isaiah 65:4, it says, “Who sit among graves, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels.” This passage is a condemnation of those who indulge in unclean foods, such as pork.

In the New Testament, pigs are closely associated with the story of the Prodigal Son. In Luke 15:15-16, it says, “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” Pigs, in this story, represent the low point of the son’s journey, as he is forced to take care of them and eat their food as a form of punishment for his reckless behavior.

CulturePig Symbolism
BabylonianAssociated with Marduk, the god of creation and patron deity of Babylon.
Ancient EgyptAssociated with Set, the god of chaos and confusion.
Ancient GreeceAssociated with Demeter, the goddess of fertility and agriculture.

The pig’s symbolic significance in the ancient Near East has left a lasting legacy in the Bible. While it may have been a symbol of abundance and fertility in some cultures, in the Hebrew and Christian traditions, it remains a symbol of impurity and recklessness.

Pig sacrifice and worship in ancient Greek and Roman religions and their parallels to the Old Testament

Pigs have played important roles in a number of historical and cultural contexts around the world, including in ancient Greek and Roman religions. In these cultures, pigs were often associated with sacrifice and worship of the gods, and were raised specifically for ritual purposes. Interestingly enough, there are parallels between these practices and those found in the Old Testament.

  • In ancient Greece, pigs were often used as offerings to the gods, particularly during festivals and other important religious events. These animals were carefully selected for their physical appearance and overall health, and were then sacrificed in a specific manner to ensure that the gods would be pleased. This practice was common in ancient Rome as well, where pigs were considered to be sacred animals and were often used as offerings to the gods.
  • There are also references to pig sacrifice in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Leviticus. Here, the careful selection of animals for sacrifice is emphasized, as is the proper method of slaughter and the use of specific parts of the animal’s body. While the motivations behind these rituals were different in ancient Greek and Roman religions as compared to those in the Old Testament, there are clear similarities in terms of the importance placed on the ritual and the care that went into selecting and preparing the animals.
  • One additional point of similarity between ancient Greek and Roman religions and the Old Testament is the idea of purity and cleanliness. In both contexts, there was a strong emphasis placed on avoiding contamination and on ensuring that animals used in sacrifice were pure and unblemished. These ideas were embodied in specific rituals and customs, and were seen as important for maintaining the favor of the gods.

Overall, the use of pigs in ancient Greek and Roman religions and in the Old Testament signifies the important place these animals held in the spiritual and cultural lives of people at those times. Whether the focus was on pleasing the gods, avoiding contamination, or simply following established customs and rituals, the role of pigs in these contexts was significant and enduring.

Ancient Greek and Roman religionsOld Testament
– Pigs were used as offerings to the gods during festivals and other important religious events– The book of Leviticus emphasizes the careful selection and slaughter of animals for sacrifice
– The proper method of sacrifice was important to ensure that the gods were pleased– There was an emphasis on the importance of selecting pure and unblemished animals for sacrifice
– Avoiding contamination and ensuring purity and cleanliness was a guiding principle in religious ritual– Specific rituals and customs were developed to embody these ideas

Through all these practices, it is clear that pigs held a special place in the spiritual and cultural lives of ancient people. While the motivations driving these practices may have differed, the use of pigs as sacrificial offerings remains an important part of the history and mythology of these cultures.

What do pigs symbolize in the bible?

1. Are there any pigs mentioned in the bible?

Yes, there are several mentions of pigs in the bible. In Leviticus 11:7, it is stated that pigs are unclean and should not be eaten or touched. In the New Testament, the story of the Prodigal Son describes the son as being desperate and eating pig slop.

2. What do pigs symbolize in the bible?

In the bible, pigs symbolize uncleanliness, greed, and gluttony. This is because pigs are scavengers and will eat anything, including garbage. They were often seen as dirty animals and associated with impure behavior.

3. What is the significance of the Prodigal Son eating pig slop?

The Prodigal Son eating pig slop is a symbol of his desperation and degradation. He had squandered his inheritance and was forced to live in poverty, even to the point of eating the same food as pigs. This was meant to show the consequences of a life of sin and excess.

4. Why were pigs considered unclean in the bible?

Pigs were considered unclean in the bible because of their eating habits and lack of hygiene. They ate anything, including dead animals and garbage, making them carriers of disease and parasites. This is why they were forbidden as food in Jewish law.

5. What is the significance of the story of the demons being cast into a herd of pigs?

In the story of the demons being cast into a herd of pigs in Matthew 8:28-34, it is a symbol of the unclean spirits being driven out of the man possessed by them and into the unclean animals. The pigs then run off a cliff and drown, symbolizing the destruction of evil.

6. Are pigs mentioned in any parables in the bible?

Yes, pigs are mentioned in the parable of the Prodigal Son, as well as in the parable of the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13:45-46. In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a merchant who finds a pearl of great value and sells everything he has to buy it.

7. How can we apply the symbolism of pigs in the bible to our lives today?

The symbolism of pigs in the bible can serve as a warning against the dangers of excess and materialism. It reminds us to live our lives in a balanced and virtuous way, resisting the temptation of greed and gluttony.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about what pigs symbolize in the bible. It is interesting to explore the deeper meanings behind the stories and parables we read. Remember to visit again for more insights and inspiration.