Antelope are cud-chewing, hollow horned animals related to goats. Early European Bible translators were not acquainted with antelope, which roam the grassy plains and forests of Asia and Africa; so they called the antelope deer instead. Antelope are listed among clean wild game (Deut. 14:5), and among King Solomon’s table provisions (1 Kin. 4:23).
When threatened, antelope flee in breathtaking leaps. So speedy were they that hunters in Bible times sometimes needed nets to catch them (Is. 51:20). Sometimes a grazing herd of antelope is joined by other animals that profit from their ability to spot an enemy or smell water at a great distance.
Various Bible translations mention three types of antelopes. The addax is a large, light-colored antelope with spiral horns. The oryx is a large African antelope, whose long horns are nearly straight. Most familiar to Bible writers was the gazelle, which stands less than a yard (approximately one meter) high at the shoulders.
The word gazelle is Arabic for “affectionate.” Young gazelles were taken as pets. Poets made much of their dark, liquid eyes and delicate beauty. King David’s soldier, Asahel, gifted with both speed and endurance, was “as fleet of foot as a wild gazelle” (2 Sam. 2:18). The woman of good works whom Peter raised to life was called Tabitha (Hebrew for gazelle), or Dorcas (Acts 9:36). The dorcas gazelle, once common, almost became extinct. Protected by the modern nation of Israel, it is now an agricultural nuisance.
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