What was a herd of swine doing in Israel in Jesus' day?

In the bible, there’s a story about how Jesus cast out demons into a herd of 2000 swine which promptly committed mass suicide. But Jews don’t eat pork so what were a herd of 2000 swine doing in the middle of Israel circa 30AD?

Unlike cows or chickens, swine don’t produce any appreciably byproducts except for their meat and I assume that back then, 2000 swine was a sizable investment, not just something someone decided to accumulate on a whim.

So whats the deal?

WAG: Wasn’t Israel occupied by Roman forces? I’m sure they had no problem eating pork.

BTW: That’s where deviled ham comes from.

Some Roman; some Arameans (esp. in the North) who would not have been Jewish; some ethnic Jews who were, shall we say, not the most observant… (you think this is a new phenomenon? A sizeable chunk of the Prophets section of the OT is about people “doing evil in the eyes of the Lord”, i.e., breaking religious laws (some of it is about social (inter-personal) issues, but nowhere near all.)

Those areas of the middle east had not been exclusively jewish (and not even then, really) since the Babylonian invasion and exile - 450 or so years prior.

In the intervening years, Israel was occupied by the Persians, Greeks, the Seleucids of Syria, a Hasmonean (jewish state) arose, and the Romans invaded. Some of these empires deliberately transplanted people groups into conquered territories to destroy ties to land and faith (thus, the higher levels of jewish society were exiled to Babylon, and many were made to work by Nebuchadnezzar as Babylonian officials - like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). When the exiles returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus to rebuild the temple (Ezra and Nehemiah), they faced opposition from groups (Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines) moved to Israel by the Babylonians.

By ~30AD, there were peoples of many faiths and cultures living in Israel. For devout Jews, being forced to tend swine would have been a humiliation (as noted in the story of the Prodigal Son). The Romans would certainly like pork, and would have no qualms about forcing them on their jewish vassals.


Sorry, but it just strikes me as very funny that you would be fact-checking the swine, but not the demons.

And brushes, and leather, and… in Spanish we refer to pigs as “that animal from which everything is useful”.

Where I grew up (in the rural US), they said they use every part of the pig but its squeal.

thinks about possible uses for a pig’s squeal

You know, either Chick Yelling In Movie Noise or ringtone special for hated relatives might work.

Sell it to a televangelist specializing in Deliverance ministries? :smiley:

Save it for date night.

Any idea how the swine committed mass suicide?

(And I guess that would be called “soo-eee-cide.”)

More like “sow-icide.”

According to Matthew, they ran into deep water and drowned.

What the hell was Israel doing it Jesus’s day as it did not exist and had not since a bit of a disagreement with some Assyrian sight seerers about 600 years prior?

It was my understanding that during that time in history Swine carried many deceases and that was one of the reason’s pork was considered unclean.

They stampeded off a cliff into the lake of Galilee and drowned.


You know that your God is a vengeful one when he won’t let you eat bacon.

Pork can carry parasites that will infect humans and make them sick, but in the time those laws were being codified, lots of things would make people sick and die. I doubt that they could have been specific enough to identify pig meat in particular. And plenty of other people groups ate pork and got on fine. There are probably other reasons, as noted here.


Mrs. Plant v. 2.0 was rather fond of Kosher “Bakin-Bits” made from corn or matzoh or sand or something…

Anybody who claims that the Jewish dietary laws show divine knowledge of parasitology has to explain why there aren’t verses in the Bible about washing your hands before and after treating the sick or wounded, boiling water before drinking it, etc. Very simple things that would have saved countless lives.