Dogs and Swine, Holy and Pearls
For the most part, Jesusí teaching is little known. People know selected sections, but when it comes to being conversant with Jesusí teaching in its totality, only a few are acquainted. A case in point is what Jesus taught in Matthew 7: 6:
"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
Jesusí teaching is both terse and revealing. Man has a responsibility to "judge" in the sense of discernment and determination based on fruit (cp. Matt. 7: 1, 20 and 7: 6). In fact, man is commanded to judge "righteous judgment" (John 7: 24). There are two players in our study verse, dogs and swine and two associated actions, rend you and trample under foot. Let us appreciate at the very outset of our study of Matthew 7: 6 that the verse contains a command.
The players, dogs and swine. Dogs were not uncommon in Jesusí day. However, for the most part, the dog was considered a scavenger and ran in packs. They were notorious for consuming all manner of reject (cp. Ex. 22: 31). The objectionable habit of dogs is used by Peter to teach the reprehensible condition of the apostate child of God, "The dog is turned to his own vomit again" (2 Pet. 2: 22). The term "dog" is figuratively used to stand for false teachers and those who shall be outside of heaven (Phili. 3: 2, Rev. 22: 15).
The swine is also unfavorably mentioned in the scriptures, being unclean to the Jew (Lev. 11: 7). Swine were associated with filth and were also used by Peter regarding the fallen away ones (Prov. 11: 22, 2 Pet. 2: 22). It was appropriate that the prodigal son ended up "feeding the swine" (Luke 15: 15, 16).
The case of dogs and swine. The dog and swine have no capacity for holy and precious matters. Hence, they make proper symbols for people who lack the ability to discern the excellent (cp. Rom. 1: 31). Dogs and hogs also have no aptitude or inclination toward real value (Acts 22: 22). Furthermore, the holy and precious stones have no practicality to dogs and swine. After all, what can a dog or hog do with that which is holy and precious?
The holy and pearls. Under the Jewish Economy that was prevailing at the time of Jesusí words, meat offered in sacrifice was holy (Ex. 29: 37). Such meat after offered has a specified use, for the consumption of the officiating priest. Hence, the thought of such meat being given to undiscerning scavengers was unthinkable. Valuable pearls have always been esteemed by man and such intrinsic worth is seen in the scriptures (Matt. 13: 45, 46). "Holy" and "pearls" stand for spiritual speciality, exclusiveness, and worth. The gospel is Godís power to save, we are told in unequivocal terms (Rom. 1: 16). The seventy were given the following instructions in the limited commission:
"But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city"(Luke 10: 10-12).
Regarding the preparatory gospel commission involving the seventy, the emphasis was on "heareth you" (Luke 10: 16). The same emphasis is seen in the sending out of the apostles on their limited commission, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that home or city, shake off the dust of your feet" (Matt. 10: 14). The gospel is holy or concentrated because it sets apart and it is valuable in view of forgiveness, the church, heaven, etc. (John 17: 17; Acts 2: 38; Matt. 16: 18; I Pet. 1: 4).
Two associated actions performed by the dogs and swine. Under Jesusí circumstance involving introverted parallelism, the dogs turn again and rend you and the swine trample under foot. One naturally "gives" to dogs and "cast" to swine. Here, though, the command is not to give and cast.
Regarding giving to dogs that which is holy, Jesus said they will turn and "rend" you. The Greek word rendered "rend" is used seven times in the Greek Testament. It is translated to "break" and "tear" (Matt. 9: 17; Mark 9: 18).
The swine will abuse what you offer them, trample them under foot. Again, swine have no appreciation, cognizance, or practical association regarding valuable pearls. Rather than hold up the pearls in esteem, they will stomp them down into the filth and mire of the hog pen.
The modus operandi of the dogs and swine. Dogs "rend you" or according to the Amplified Version, "tear you in pieces." How do people with the capacity, aptitude, and lack of appreciation of the value of the gospel rend you? Such people when especially presented with repeated efforts to teach them can actually resort to literal physical violence. Those to whom Stephen preached murdered him (Acts 7:54-60). Often, the assault is verbal. The dogs will assign an evil motive to any and every thing you say, attempting to make you appear the sinner (cp. Gen. 3: 4, 5). They will resort to lying and slandering you.
The swine will trample the pearls under foot. When presented with the gospel, the swine will be seen desecrating the message of the gospel. It is they who often contend that manís salvation is by grace alone and that it does not matter how the saved lived. They cheapen the grace of God and turn it into a license to commit sin (2 Cor. 6: 1, Rom. 6: 1ff.). They reduce the church for which Jesus died to a social institution, simply providing the placation for the pleasures of men (cp. I Tim. 3: 15). The swine are heard saying, "Jesus was living with Mary Magdalene and he was bi-sexual."
What Jesus is saying is do not give and cast the precious gospel of Jesus Christ to dogs and swine because they will personally attack you and disgrace and shame the truths of the gospel.
How does the Christian ascertain the identity of dogs and swine? By their "fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 20). When people start personally attacking or shaming the gospel, they have revealed themselves as Jesusí dogs and swine!
In closing, dogs and swine can be observed throughout the history book of the New Testament, Acts. We see those who when the gospel was preached, embracing it and we can observe some who resented the truth and personally attacked those who offered it (Acts 17: 2-6; 11-13; 32-34).