I. Regulations Respecting Their Use.
1. For Food: According to the lists (Lev. xi. 1-31, 46-47; Deut. xiv. 1-19), the clean animals (i.e., those whose flesh might be eaten) were ruminant quadrupeds which parted the hoof, were cloven-footed, and chewed the cud; aquatic animals that had fins and scales; all birds except the nineteen species specified, which were birds of prey or carrion; only those flying insects which, like the grasshopper, have two long legs for leaping. No vermin was clean, nor was the carcass of any clean animal, if it had died naturally, or been torn to death. Everything was unclean that touched the unclean; so was the kid seethed in its mother's milk, and the heathen sacrifices in all their parts. See DIETARY LAWS OF THE HEBREWS.
2. For Sacrifice: The general rule was, that only the clean animals could be offered; this dates back to the pre-Mosaic period (Gen. viii. 20). Asses, camels, and horses were not offered by the Hebrews. But only the tame among even the clean animals could be sacrificed; therefore, no animal of the chase. Doves were not regarded as wild. Every animal offered must be without blemish (Lev. xxii. 20), at least seven days old (verse 27; Ex. xxii. 30), because too young flesh is disgusting, and therefore unclean. Nor must it be too old; for bovines three years, for small cattle one, was usual (Ex. xxix. 38; Lev. ix. 3; Num. xxviii. 9; Lev. i. 5, "bullock," a young ox). What man might not eat, it was profanation to sacrifice. See DEFILEMENT AND PURIFICATION, CEREMONIAL.
II. The Emblematic Use of Animals.
1. In the Old Testament: Locusts were used as the symbol of the divine judgments. The twelve oxen which bore the brazen sea in the court of the temple (I Kings vii. 25) were doubtless symbolic; the animal shapes which appeared in prophetic visions were also symbolic (Ezek. i. 5--14), and seem to be identified with the cherubim (Ezek. x. 1).
2. In the New Testament: Peter uses a lion as the emblem of Satan (I Pet. v. 8); on the other hand, a lion is the emblem of Christ (Rev. v. 5). The ass symbolizes peace (Matt. xxi. 5); the dove, innocence and the Holy Ghost; the dog and swine, uncleanness and vulgarity (Matt. vii. 6; II Pet. ii. 22) . But the emblematic use of beasts is much greater in Revelation than in all the other books of the Bible combined. Constant mention is made of the four living creatures (iv. 6, etc.) who were from the fifth century considered as symbolizing the four evangelists. Christ is constantly called the Lamb; the Devil, the dragon (xii. 3, etc.). There are, besides, a beast who comes out of the bottomless pit (xi. 7), horses (vi. 2, etc.), locusts (ix. 3), birds (xix. 17), and frogs (xvi. 13).
3. The Ecclesiastical Use of Animals: This was very varied. There was not only the lamb for Christ but also dolphins, hens, pelicans, apes, and centaurs. The old Gothic churches exhibit these fanciful and really heathen designs. Bernard of Clairvaux raised his voice against them. In the catacombs one finds the drawing of a fish to symbolize Christ, because the initials of the title of Christ (Gk. Iēsous Christos Theou Uios Sōtēr) spell the Greek word for fish (ichthus). See SYMBOLISM.
III. The Use of Emblematic Animals in Worship: Among the Hebrews there are two spoken of. The brazen serpent which Moses made, which was at last destroyed by Hezekiah, because it was worshiped (II Kings xviii. 4). The golden calf was not intended as a substitute for the Yahweh worship, but as an aid; but it became a snare to Israel in the wilderness before Sinai (Ex. xxxii.) and in the days of Jeroboam I. and his successors on the throne of Israel (I Kings xii. 28-30).