Jackals are mentioned several times in the Bible (Isaiah 13:21–22; 35:7; Lamentations 5:18; Jeremiah 9:11; 49:33; Psalm 44:19; Ezekiel 13:4). The word jackal can refer to several species of carnivorous animals inhabiting Africa and Asia. They are kin to the wolf and dog and are known for feeding on the kills of other animals. They are cowardly, nocturnal, and travel in packs, similar to wolves. Jackals are known for their mournful howling, much as coyotes are (Micah 1:8). Usually, the jackal symbolizes desolation and desperation.
Nehemiah 2:13 mentions a Jackal Well (NIV) outside the city of Jerusalem, although in some translations it is called the Dragon Spring (ESV), Dragon’s Well (NASB), or Well of the Serpent (BSB). This is the only mention of such a well, and there is no archeological clue as to its exact location. The Jackal Well may have been so named due to its shape or the presence of an image beside it of a dragon or wild beast. Some scholars speculate that the Jackal Well was a natural spring that flowed out of an image of a beast made of wood, stone, or brass.
In Scripture, jackals often represent a deeper spiritual truth. Most of the Bible’s mentions of jackals come in God’s speaking through a prophet, warning nations of what was about to come if they continued their rebellion. God warned Judah with these words: “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there” (Jeremiah 9:11). Similar descriptions are prophesied against Hazor (Jeremiah 49:33), Edom (Isaiah 34:13; Malachi 1:3), and Babylon (Jeremiah 51:37). For a city or land to be the home of jackals meant that it was deserted and left to ruin. The wild things had taken over.
The psalmist cried out to God in lamentation: “You crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness” (Psalm 44:19), before appealing to God to “rescue us because of your unfailing love” (verse 26). Job mourned that he had “become the brother of jackals, a companion of owls” (Job 30:29). To be a brother of jackals meant that, in his misery, Job felt completely abandoned and left to die.
We’ve all had seasons when we’ve felt like the brother of jackals or that we’re living in a jackal’s haunt, but for God’s children, such a season is temporary. We have His promise that He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5). And if Jesus is Lord of our lives, we are never desolate or without hope. The wild things cannot take over. God is preparing a place for us that promises love, joy, and peace forever (John 14:1–2; Hebrews 11:39–40; 2 Corinthians 4:17). No jackals allowed!