Why did Jesus Cast Demons Into the Pigs?

I have a passion and love for animals and view them as having inherent value and dignity so it was with great dismay that I read about the accounts of Jesus casting the demons into the pigs who were to run off into the sea and drown. I was also a bit confused (this is the same Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount and about humility and innocence?).

I’m wondering how a typical Catholic understands these accounts? Are they meant to be understood literally or is there some hidden metaphorical meaning that I am not grasping? What do you think the motives of Jesus was here and why did he not just cast out the demons without sending them into the swine? Why did he grant the wish of the demons?

Haydock’s commentary offers several reasons:

Ver. 32. Many reasons might be brought why our Saviour suffered the devils to enter into the swine: 1. To shew that the devils had no power even over swine without his permission. 2. That such as were freed from their power, might acknowledge the greatness of the favour done them, by seeing from how great a multitude they were liberated. 3. To punish those Jewish citizens, who fed upon swine’s flesh contrary to their law. And, 4. To shew how willingly the devils dwell in the hearts of those who are addicted to the voluptuous and carnal life, aptly designated by the swine. (Menochius) — St. Chrysostom says that our Saviour permitted the devils to enter the swine, not for their own sakes, but for our instruction. 1. That we might know how very desirous the enemy of our salvation is to bring upon us the greatest evils. 2. That the devil has not any power, even over swine, without the permission of God. And, 3. That these cruel fiends would, if the Almighty allowed them, inflict still more grievous torments on their unhappy slaves. (Hom. xxix.) Jesus Christ here confutes the Sadducean doctrine, which denies the existence of spirits, good or bad. (Haydock) (source)

In Jewish antiquity, swine were considered an “unclean” animal. Leviticus specifically says *And the swine…is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you. (Lev. 11:7-8)*In the story of the Prodigal Son, what happens to the Prodigal Son after he wanders away? What is the only job he is able to get? He feeds swine (Luke 15:15). You see the typology here––when this son was at home, he fed on the food of his father. When he leaves his home, he has to feed swine––the representative of uncleanliness. He has been reduced to feeding sin as represented by the unclean animal. St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and theologian Cornelius Lapide, all refer to the pig owner for whom the son works as at least a master or a higher demon, ruling over his minion demons represented in the swine.

So one of the things we can see when Christ exorcises the demons is the sign of the swine absorbing the demons and going off the cliff. The “uncleanliness” of evil was removed from the person. Christ not only can remove personified evil such as a demon, but the spiritual evil of sin from the soul, vanquishing this uncleanliness off a cliff to its extermination.

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One of the worst and most dangerous temptations is to doubt God’s goodness. Even if you don’t understand something (which happens to us all, in fact I don’t know why exactly the demons were cast into those pigs) - it’s important to trust in God’s wisdom and goodness, because we know this for a fact. If you’re doubting this, just look at the Cross, and look at Christ who bled and died for you - would He do this if He did not love you? So He is Love and loves us more than it’s possible for anyone to love… so everything He did, He did to help us :slight_smile: He also loves His creation, but He came to earth to save our souls, because our souls are eternal and can be saved or lost… what a great loss He feels, when a soul is lost, - the soul that He redeemed at the cost of His own Blood, and suffered such tortures for! He would do it all again for that soul. If you focus on that, that will give you more understanding, because often we can only understand God’s ways when we trust and love Him :slight_smile: because this is something that comes to us through grace, and something that is communicated to us… if we don’t open up to God with trust, we are blocking anything He wants to give us, such as understanding, if that is His Will. But if it continues to be unclear why this happened to the pigs, - just continue to focus on Our Lord, and someday in Heaven, you might know, but the most important part is being with Him :slight_smile: I undertstand that this is probably really bothering you, but instead of coming to it from the perspective of the pigs, - think first of God’s goodness and trust in that, and that could really help. I had a similar thing with God’s existence and the reality of evil in the world… I looked at the evil in the world, and began to doubt God’s existence because I wasn’t aware of how theologians and Saints have explained it over the centuries. Once I learned their explanations, they made so much more sense than the atheistic points. But I found that I could understand these explanations from the Saints better when I was closer to God and opened up more to Him, because He helped me to understand… and this is something that we need TRUST for.

God made the earth and the animals and the sun and the stars - with so much love, because He is Love, and He did it in a way that brings glory to Him, - and He gave us all these things. Animals are wonderful and I love animals too. But He made you in His image which is even greater, much greater. He gave you an eternal soul to be in union with Himself forever. This is something that we can’t really imagine, and the more we learn about it, the greater it gets. He gave you reason, free will, and an individuality that cannot be repeated, and a mission in life that cannot be repeated by anyone else, ever. Then, He came to earth for you, which is more significant than if any of us were to become a worm. He left infinite glory in Heaven to continually suffer, in many ways that most people do not know, and then be killed by His creatures, and nailed to a Cross… He did all this for each soul, and for you. If you look at the Crucifix, you can see God’s Love there. If after this, there are points in the Gospels that are not clear, like about the pigs, - you can still say to God - “I don’t understand why this happened, but I know that You are Good, and You are Love, and Wisdom, and I trust in everything that You decided to do. Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.

God bless you! :slight_smile:

Good morning. Maybe he wanted a bacon sandwich for breakfast :smiley:

No seriously Jews view pigs as unclean animals and Jesus was a Jew, who incidently taught Judaism to Jews, so not much suprise there.

Not many people outside of Christianity think seizures are caused by demonic activity. :takeoff:

I’d just say try to see the funny side

Actually, just by reading the title, I was gonna reply, “because demons gotta eat too.” After reading the OP, I decided against posting this reply. I only mention it now because I hope that your humor will not be misinterpreted as offensive. Something along these lines surely occurs to many people who open this thread. No disrespect is intended, but many people do not share the OP’s high regard for animals (many of us eat animals).

I think you can have high regard for animals and eat animals too. Outdoor reared pigs I would suggest have a decent life and are tasy too :slight_smile:

Maybe He figured that if it were a choice between saving a human and saving some animals, He should save the human.

I agree it is a disturbing narrative though. Pigs are sensitive and intelligent creatures, despite getting a bad rap for being stupid and dirty.

Jesus was in the “Country of the Gadarenes.”

*****And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. ***(Matthew 8:28)

We have to pay attention to Jesus’ location. The location is given for a reason. Jews who read the account would have understood.

The ancient city of Gadara is located in what is now Northern Jordan near the modern city of Umm Qais. This was not Jewish land but the land of the pagan Gentiles. The food, the religion, the way of life and the people were considered unclean by the Jews. Even the land itself was considered to be polluted.

The demoniacs “came out of the tombs” indicating that the Gentiles of the area were spiritually dead. Jesus took the demons out of the Gentiles and thereby cleansed the Gentiles. Swine represent the uncleanliness of the Gentile land, people and way of life. In casting the demons into the swine, Jesus is condemning the Gentile way of life and with their death, the land, diet and people are cleansed.

Note that the swine died in the water. The sea was often used as a metaphor for Gentile nations. The Gentile way of life was not sustainable. The Gentile nations were on a self destructive path. Jesus cleanses them.

The very fact that Jesus even set foot on on pagan Gentile land would have been shocking to Jews who heard the account. But this is consistent with many other things Jesus does - he touches a leper, goes to Samaria and speaks with a foreign woman, dines with tax collectors and sinners and ventures into non-Jewish land, and all of this to cleanse.

And cleansing is really the point here. Jews thought that all these things - pagans, foreigners, unclean food, etc., that all these contaminated the Jews. They thought that uncleanliness contaminates the clean, but Jesus teaches that it is not the clean who are contaminated by the unclean but the unclean rather, are cleansed when they come in contact with us.

We are the leaven which leavens the whole lump of dough. We are the salt which flavors the whole dish. Our presence purifies the world. We should not hide from the world but should engage it and not be afraid to associate with “sinners and tax collectors.” They will be purified by us. We will not be contaminated by them.



Thank you all for your replies.

What troubled me here is that it didn’t even seem to be a choice of saving humans versus saving animals because Jesus had cast out demons before without sending them into another creature. It seems that he cast them into the pigs to grant the wish of the demons. I don’t think one needs a very high regard for animals in order to be dismayed by this account.

In my view, the best exploitation for these accounts is the one Todd quotes: “to show how willingly the devils dwell in the hearts of those who are addicted to the voluptuous and carnal life, aptly designated by the swine.” MarcoPolo noted that swine were regarded as “unclean” so this explanation has some merit. It shows that the demons desire to live in this “uncleanness” but it is still a mystery why the wish was granted. Perhaps to further indicate how willing and able they (the demons) were to enter into unclean and vulnerable spirits?

Monica, I hear what you are saying about trusting that God has a good reason for things that is beyond our understanding. God is all knowing, he can see the “big picture” and we can only see a few pixels and so must trust in God’s goodness. What bugged me here is that Jesus did something which seemed so contrary to his character that was portrayed on the Sermon on the Mount, which I found very inspiring and drew me toward Christianity. There he talked about how the Father cares even for the sparrows, providing them with food. I suppose you are right that one should not doubt the goodness of God, but I don’t see anything wrong with trying to understand his reasons and motives.

In a time when animals seem to be valued at least as much as human beings, his action might seem strange but our Lord Jesus is reminding us that the welfare of a single human being is more important than the welfare and lives of a thousand animals. He says pretty much the same thing in Matthew 10:31 and Luke 12:7: “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

I would also say it was the external sign to witnesses that sinfulness and uncleanliness was truly vanquished. It shows Christ’s power in his word. Similar to when Jesus healed the paralytic as he forgave his sins to show the unseen healing that occured. Here we see an outward sign depicting the unseen cleansing.

Pigs are/were always considered ‘unclean’ animals in the ME
Since these are ‘unclean spirits’ why shouldn’t he cast them into unclean pigs? This way Jesus knew they could never return/escape to enter human beings again.

The demons decided on mass suicide - not Jesus. Presumably with the death of their hosts (the pigs) the evil spirits returned to their infernal abode for all eternity.

Likewise people have a problem with Satan as a serpent - tho to a lesser extent. Sadly the poor old snakes have never ever recovered from such a bad press.

It is the first recorded case of deviled ham.

All of creation is God’s possession and He does with it as He wishes. Morality is not involved, as that applies only to human beings. Let us remember that only humans are made by God in His image and likeness. That sets us apart from, and above all other living creatures.

All of creation is God’s possession and He does with it as He wishes. Morality is not involved, as that applies only to human beings. Let us remember that only humans are made by God in His image and likeness. That sets us apart from, and above all other living creatures.

Even if we choose not to eat animal products, we must remember that, in order for us to live, something living must die. That’s life.

I guess I agree with you all.

The message I get is that many Jews had fallen away from their beliefs and were very sinful. This is shown by eating or raising double hoofed animals such as pigs. To show that God hates the sinfulness of His people, he cast the demons into the pigs and they went over the edge to their deaths by drowning. This is better than having His people die and the pigs were the substitutes. But in their sinfulness He was told to leave because they saw this as a threat to their personal economies of raising pigs which they should not be doing.

Matthew 15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Maybe I am not understanding your post. I do know that the gentiles had not been grafted on to the vine yet. Is that what you mean ???

You noted that the Jews had departed from true worship of God and had fallen into various sins. As such, they were the lost sheep of the House of Israel.

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