Wolves were a menace to the sheep farmers of Palestine. Man’s first dogs were probably tamed wolf pups. Perhaps this kinship enabled wolves to lurk near sheepfolds and gain their reputation for treachery.
Of his youngest son, the patriarch Jacob said: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf” (Gen. 49:27). The Hebrew word translated ravenous means “to rip and tear,” indicating the bloodthirsty nature of the wolf. Wolves seem particularly cruel because they seek out the weak, old, and defenseless as victims. The flow of blood incites them to rip and tear even more with their powerful jaws.
In many Bible references, wolves represent ruthless enemies. Jesus warned of false prophets “who come… in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly… are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).
The wolf is rather larger than our largest dogs, and looks somewhat like them; but he seems more wild, savage and cruel. The wolves go in large companies, making a terrible howling noise; and though they are in general cowardly, yet when they are very hungry they attack large animals, and even men. They almost always go out by night, and the Bible refers to this when it says, “Their horses are more fierce than the evening wolves.” Jacob, just before his death, said of one of his sons, “Benjamin shall raven as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at evening he shall divide the spoil.”
There were once a great many wolves in New England and in other parts of the United States, and some are left yet, although many have been killed or driven away. There are still great numbers of them in some countries. In England the month of January used to be called Wolf- monat, or wolf-month; “because,” as an old book says, “people are wont in that moneth to be more in danger to be devoured of wolves than in any season els of the yeare, for that through the extremity of cold and snow those ravenous creatures could not find other beasts sufficient to feed upon.”
A sad story is told of something that happened in Russia a few years since. A woman was one day riding on a sledge with her three children over a lonely road, when suddenly she heard the noise of wolves behind her. She was not very far from home, and tried to urge her horse on, to get out of their reach; but they gained upon her every moment, and were just on the point of rushing on the sledge, when the poor woman, to save the lives of the rest, caught up one of the children and threw it to the wolves. This stopped them but a short time; they devoured it at once and again ran howling after the sledge. The mother threw out a second child, hoping to escape with the other; but in vain. Again the cruel animals were close behind her, and to save her own life, hardly knowing what she did, she threw over her only remaining child. She succeeded in reaching home herself, in safety, but where were her children? She told the terrible story; but while she was endeavoring to excuse herself by telling of her exceeding fright and danger, a man who stood by struck her on the head with an axe and killed her at one blow-saying that a woman who would thus give up her children to save her life, was not fit to live.
The Bible tells us of a time yet to come, when “The wolf shall feed with the lamb.” Perhaps this will be exactly true of the animals in those days, though it now seems so unlikely; but I suppose it means also that wicked and cruel men shall become holy and Christ-like. Then all will be peace on earth, and “none shall hurt or destroy in all” God’s “holy mountain.”
[Cook, Scripture Alphabet of Animals]