"But it happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 2 Peter 2:22 (KJV)

The part about the dog can be found in Proverbs 26:11. Where did the part about the sow come from?

3 Answers 3


The source of Peter's proverb appears to derive from a 5th century BC Syrian story about Ahikar.

I located this in a commentary by M. Green:

  1. Peter concludes this chapter of stirring denunciation and strong invective with two proverbs which aptly describe the situation of the false teachers. Their punishment is that they will be given over to the lot they have chosen. The awfulness and irrevocability of hell lies just here; God underwrites a man’s deliberate choice. In the end we all go ‘to our own place’. The dog which has got rid of the corruption inside it through vomiting it up cannot leave well alone; it goes sniffing round the vomit again. The pig that has got rid of the corruption outside it by means of a scrubbing cannot resist rolling in the mud. ‘The gospel is a medicine that purges us as a wholesome emetic, but there are many dogs who swallow again what they have brought up, to their own ruin. Likewise the gospel is a basin which cleanses us from all our dirt and stains, but there are many pigs who, immediately after they have washed, roll back again into the mud. Thus the godly are warned to beware of both dangers if they do not want to be included in the ranks of dogs and pigs’ (Calvin). These two similes are particularly apt, in line with the animal theme which has been applied by Peter to the false teachers in this chapter (vv. 12, 16). But Peter also calls these expressions proverbial. He probably took them from some popular collection. The first appears to be biblical (Prov. 26:11), the second not. It does, however, readily fit into verse, and reappears in the Syrian story of Ahikar, which was certainly in existence by the second century BC, and so may well have been known to our author. Incidentally, in the Ahikar story, it follows a proverb about a dog. ‘My son, thou hast been to me like the swine that had been to the baths, and when it saw a muddy ditch, went down and washed in it, and cried to its companions, “Come and bathe”.’ Borboros, mud, a rare poetic word, is otherwise found in the Bible only in the LXX of Jeremiah 45:6, where it describes the filth of Jeremiah’s prison. But it is used in the Apocalypse of Peter viii for the filth of hell, and is also found in the Acts of Thomas lv. Exerama, vomit, is also a New Testament hapax legomenon (the word in Proverbs is emeton), as is kylismos, wallowing (not kylisma, as in the majority of inferior MSS). Significantly, dogs and pigs are united by Jesus, in Matthew 7:6, as pictures of mankind out of touch with God. Both were unclean animals to the Jew...

Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, pp. 143–144). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


The Book of Ahicar: the oldest attested version of this work comes from Aramaic fragments from the 5th century BC in a papyrus scroll found in a Jewish military colony in Elephantine. The book is preserved complete in Syriac.

According to the book of Tobit, Ahikar was the cupbearer of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon and was Tobit’s nephew. Tobias (2:10; 11:18) Thus, the author of the book of Tobit probably knew The Story of Ahikar, in which, as in the book of Tobit, the plot is a pretext for the introduction of speeches and wise sayings. Some of Tobit’s sayings have close parallels in the words of the wise Ahikar.

  • Hi Diego, welcome to the site, and great first post. Please be sure to take the site tour, and thanks for contributing! Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 0:25

2 peter 2:22 is not speaking solely of proverbs in the book of Proverbs but those proverbs that were in general use in those times.

Barnes commentary on 2 Peter 2:22

"And the sow that was washed ... - This proverb is not found in the Old Testament, but it was common in the Rabbinical writings, and is found in the Greek classics."

  • I think this is the correct answer, but I think it could be greatly improved by citing whatever source Barnes cited as well. And there may be other commentaries that have more light on this. As it stands the answer is I would say not terribly well supported. Barnes could simply be reporting something he heard somewhere from somebody else.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 16:34
  • Doesnt the fact that the proverb cant be found in scripture support the answer enough? Surely it wasnt a proverb not being used at the time?
    – GFFG
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 17:43
  • One of the mottoes of this site is "Show your work". In other words, the answer to life might actually be "42" but without citing the evidence that I expect Barnes provided we aren't privy to why he says what he did. Barnes just says it is so (in the snippet) but doesn't quote the actual Greek sources. Wouldn't that be more powerful? But Barnes is a household name so maybe his word is "good enough for government work" as they say.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 17:52

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