Deer. From early times, deer were game animals. Isaac’s son Esau was “a skillful hunter” (Gen. 25:27). And it was Isaac’s craving for deer meat that enabled Jacob to steal his dying father’s blessing (Gen. 27). Deer were still plentiful in Palestine in Solomon’s day and were served at his table (1 Kin. 4:23). Jews could eat deer because this animal “chews the cud” and “divides the hoof.” (A deer track perfectly illustrates a “divided hoof.”)
The Bible contains many references to deer. The animal was admired for its agility and grace, its ability to sense danger quickly, and its swiftness. Biblical writers also noted the doe’s gentle care of her young. A young deer is called a fawn (Song 4:5; 7:3). The psalmist thought of the long journey for water that a deer faces in dry seasons and exclaimed: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1). Isaiah wrote of the feelings of joy and elation when he wrote, “the lame shall leap like a deer” (Ps. 35:6).
Scholars are not sure of the precise species or kind of deer Esau hunted or Solomon served. The terms stag or buck (male), hart (male), and hind (female) are used of the red deer common in Europe, which has never lived in Palestine. Likely candidates are the fallow deer (Deut. 14:5), (KJV), which was common in Mesopotamia, and the roe deer, often called by its male name, roe buck (Deut. 14:5), (RSV). Bible translators often interchanged terms for various kinds of deer, and for gazelle as well; so readers must settle for informed guesses about the exact species intended. Also see Antelope, Gazelle.