Numerous animals are named in the Bible, although a number of them are not called the same as modern day titles, especially in some of the older versions such as the King James Version, and others. Our study will begin with those whose names begin with an 'a' in our current English designation. In alphabetical order the four mentioned are the antelope, the ape, the asp (or adder) and the ass.
The term 'antelope' is found twice in the American Standard Version of the Bible although it is translated 'wild ox' in the King James Version. The two references are as follows:
"These are the beasts which ye may eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat, the hart, and the gazelle, and the roebuck, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the antelope, and the chamois." (Deuteronomy 14:4-5 ASV)
"Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of Jehovah, the rebuke of thy God." (Isaiah 51:20 ASV)
The antelope is an animal of a number of species with a vast difference in size. A 'common eland' bull can measure as high as 70 inches at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 2,100 pounds, while an adult 'royal antelope' reaches only about 9.5 inches tall at the shoulders and weighs only slightly over 3 pounds. Of the 91 known species of antelope, most are native of the African continent. It is an animal which met the requirements of God's permitting the Israelites to use for food, that of having a divided hoof and of chewing the cud.
"Antelope pursue a number of defense strategies, often dictated by their morphology. Large antelope that gather in large herds, such as wildebeest, rely on numbers and running speed for protection. In some species, adults will encircle the offspring, protecting them from predators when threatened. Many forest antelope rely on cryptic coloring and good hearing to avoid predators. Forest antelope often have very large ears and dark or striped colorations. Small antelope, especially duikers, evade predation by jumping into dense bush where the predator cannot pursue. Springboks use a behavior known as stotting to confuse predators." (Wikipedia-Antelope)
Apes are only mentioned once in the Holy Scriptures, it is found in 1 Kings 10:22 in reference to the virtual innumerable holdings of King Solomon. It is interesting to read this full chapter and one cannot help but be amazed at this man's riches. Apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia. Apes are the largest primates and the orangutan, an ape, is the largest living arboreal (locomotion in trees) animal.
"For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." (1 kings 10:22 [read chapter] ASV)
Asp or Adder: Asp is only mentioned one time in the scripture and is among chapter of symbolic meanings. It also mentions an adder as another name for a serpent. Again, one needs to read the entire chapter to be able to comprehend the verse. It is God speaking through the prophet Isaiah concerning the coming of the messiah and brings out these items symbolically indicating the safety of one being in the kingdom of Christ. Nothing can harm those who are in Christ, simply because this mortal life is unimportant in comparison with the reward of eternity with God.
"And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den." (Isaiah 8:6-8 ASV read chapter)
Ass: The term 'ass' is listed in the American Standard Version of the Bible 77 times and refers to a donkey or sometimes 'Jack ass'. A fairly small beast of burden used abundently in biblical times for riding, carrying bundle packages and for pulling a carts. The first mention in the Bible is when an angel of the Lord talks to Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, who had fled from Sarah due to her dealing harshly with her. Sarah had given her to Abraham to bare a child, but after she became pregnant, Sara treated her badly. Here is what transpired:
“And the angel of Jehovah said unto her, I will greatly multiply thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of Jehovah said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah hath heard thy affliction. And he shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his brethren.” ( Genesis 16:10-12 ASV)
The angel has reference to Ishmael who did father the large arabic nation. Adam Clarke, one of the most respected theologians to write a commentary on the whole Bible, has this to say about verse 12 of the quote given here:
"pere adam. As the root of this word does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is probably found in the Arabic [Arabic] farra, to run away, to run wild; and hence the wild ass, from its fleetness and its untamable nature. What is said of the wild ass, Job 39:5-8, affords the very best description that can be given of the Ishmaelites, (the Bedouins and wandering Arabs,) the descendants of Ishmael: "Who hath sent out the wild ass ( pere) free? or who hath loosed the bands ( arod) of the brayer? Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing." Nothing can be more descriptive of the wandering, lawless, freebooting life of the Arabs than this." (Adam Clarke Commentary, Volume one-Genesis 16;12)