Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 30, 1949

"Dumb Dogs" In The Pulpit

Robert H. Farish, Summerville, Georgia

"Dumb dogs" is the blunt term Isaiah used to describe those of his day who failed in their duty of guarding the flock of God—"dumb dogs, they cannot bark." (Isa. 56:9-11) In this scene Isaiah pictures the helplessness of the flock when they, because of the failure of the guarding dogs, are exposed to the wild beasts of forest and field. The attacking beasts are bold because they know that no threatening bark will be uttered to frighten them or to alarm the flock into flight.

A consideration of the present perilous situation of the church brings Isaiah's scathing rebuke to mind. For it is very apparent that the church is seriously threatened and is in real danger because of the silence of many of her preachers. Too many preachers in the pulpits are "dumb dogs", ignoring the ominous threat of error and evil; too many in the pew are praising these "dumb dogs" for their very silence and are heaping contempt upon those who raise the alarm.

Our "adversary, the devil as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour." Sobriety and vigilance are required of every Christian. Let no one be deceived; the enemy will avail himself of every opportunity afforded by the silence of the watchman. To fail to give warning when danger appears is simply criminal.

The barking of the faithful watch dog will be annoying, not only to the one who desires to devour in peace, but also to the complacent and blind shepherds who are "dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber." The enemies of the flock are just as ravenous today as ever. Their tactics are to lull with a smile, or to cow with a sneer of arrogance. They get by the "dumb dogs" with the smooth and fair speech of the premillennialist or the superior air of the modernist.


The failure of the dumb dogs to sound the warning is ascribed by Isaiah to several causes. One of them is blindness. "His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge." They may have the "wisdom of the world" but they do not have the wisdom that enables them to discern the approach of evil. And there is no excuse for their blindness, for they could have that knowledge. It is accessible to them.

We need not think it strange to discover learned men who are mute when they should be raising their voices in warning. Paul speaks of those who were "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (II Tim. 3:7) Care must be exercised always to avoid such blindness; discernment must be developed.


Another factor contributing to the dumbness of the watch dogs was complacency. Their complacency is pictured by the prophet in these words, "dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber." Complacency and laziness go hand in hand. Dreaming, indifference, and spiritual lethargy on the part of the watchers provide the devourer with his best opportunity for wreaking havoc with the flock. Certainly it is not easy to jeopardize one's position, especially when that position is one of ease and "all men speak well of you." It is so much easier to murmur, "peace, peace," and to doze off again than it is to come out with a roaring bark, disturbing the whole neighborhood, antagonizing many, and disturbing one's own dreamy nap.

Greedy Dogs

If this combination of words, "greedy dogs" hurts some oversensitive ears, the best we can suggest for you is an examination of your hearing apparatus. You may find that the cause of your super sensitivity is a bad case of the itch—"itching ears." it was God's prophet Isaiah, who wrote, "Yea, the dogs are greedy, they a never have enough; and these are shepherds that cannot understand they have all turned to their own way—each to his own gain."

If some should count such language unrefined as offensive, yet even they must admit that it fitly describes the one who would withhold warnings of danger for fear of losing some temporal advantage. Any man who "turns to (his) own way—each to his own gain" automatically disqualified as a watchman. He, like greedy dog, will take a bribe from the devil. In Isaiah, figurative presentation he charges that the silence of the dogs was due in part to their greediness. Greedy dogs like greedy preachers, are dumb when their silence is calculated to bring them some selfish gain. Surely, this Great Shepherd of the sheep has no place in his service for the "dumb dogs" who are motivated by such base desires.

The Other Extreme

While thinking of the "dumb dogs" it might not out of place to give passing notice to the other extreme—the blatant, shrill, clamorous outcry of the perpetual "viewer with alarm." It is as necessary to keep silent on occasions as it is to bark when warning needs to given. Some need to "study to be quiet." This is true especially of those who partake of the qualities of little feisty dog—that noisy little barker who keeps up incessant yapping, yelping clamor at all times.

There are some preachers who simply can't be quieted. If we were in an uncharitable mood, we might be attempts to suspect that they, like the little feists, are barking to attract attention to themselves rather than to give warning to the flock. Perhaps they have an inferiority complex and try to make up for it by the volume of noise they produce. Raising false alarms is a favorite past time of certain small ones—whether preachers or dogs. They rail enough racket over a toad frog to alarm the whole neighborhood. They provoke some, frighten none, and disgust all.

The antics of a provocative feist on the one hand and the dumbness of the watch dog on the other must be avoided. There is a desire to keep silent; there is a time to bark at the top of one's voice. The welfare of the flock, not the personal whims or desires of the watch is the thing to be considered.


After you have been stripped of everything else you can lose what you have left is your character.


Hating people is like burning down your house get rid of a rat, —Fosdick