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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [1]

This word, used in contradistinction to man, denotes all animals besides,  Psalm 36:6 , sometimes it means quadrupeds, and not creeping things,  Leviticus 11:2-7; and sometimes domestic cattle, in distinction from wild creatures,  Genesis 1:25 . They were all brought to Adam to be named. Few are mentioned in the Bible but such as lived in Palestine and the countries adjacent. Beasts suffer with man under the penalties of the fall,  Genesis 3:14   Exodus 9:6   3:15   Ezekiel 38:20   Hosea 4:3 . Yet various merciful provision for them were made in the Jewish law,  Exodus 20:10   23:11,12   Leviticus 22:28   25:7 . Animals were classed in the law as clean or unclean, with a primary reference to animal sacrifices,  Genesis 7:2   Leviticus 11:1-47 The word beasts is figuratively used to symbolize various kings and nations,   Psalm 74:14   Isaiah 27:1   Ezekiel 29:3   Daniel 7:1-28,8   Revelation 12:13 . It also describes the character of violent and brutal men,  Psalm 22:12,16   1 Corinthians 15:32   2 Peter 2:12 . The Hebrew word commonly rendered beast signifies living creatures. In Ezekiel's vision,  Ezekiel 1:1-28 , this is applied to human beings or their symbols. In the book of Revelation two distinct words are employed symbolically, both rendered "beast" in our version. One is applied to persecuting earthly powers,  Revelation 11:7   13:1 , etc.; the other to superhuman beings or their symbols,  Revelation 4:6 , etc. this latter might be appropriately rendered, "living creature," as the corresponding Hebrew word is in Ezekiel.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

When this word is used in opposition to man, as  Psalms 36:5 , any brute creature is signified; when to creeping things, as  Leviticus 11:2;  Leviticus 11:7; four-looted animals, from the size of the hare and upward, are intended; and when to wild creatures, as  Genesis 1:25 , cattle, or tame animals, are spoken of. In  Isaiah 13:21 , several wild animals are mentioned as dwelling among the ruins of Babylon: "Wild beasts of the desert," ציים , those of the dry wilderness, as the root of the word implies, "shall dwell there. Their houses shall be full of doleful creatures," אתים , marsh animals. "Owls shall dwell there," ostriches, "and satyrs," שעירים , shaggy ones, "shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands," איים , oases of the desert, "shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons," תנים , crocodiles, or amphibious animals, "shall be in their desolate places." St. Paul,   1 Corinthians 15:32 , speaks of fighting with beasts, &c: by which he does not mean his having been exposed in the amphitheatre to fight as a gladiator, as some have conjectured, but that he had to contend at Ephesus with the fierce uproar of Demetrius and his associates. Ignatius uses the same figure in his epistle to the Romans: "From Syria even unto Rome I fight with wild beasts, both by sea and land, both night and day, being bound to ten leopards;" that is, to a band of soldiers. So Lucian, in like manner, says, "For I am not to fight with ordinary wild beasts, but with men, insolent and hard to be convinced." In Revelation 4, 5, 6, mention is made of four beasts, or rather, as the word ζωα signifies, living creatures, as in Ezekiel 1; and so the word might have been less harshly translated. Wild beasts are used in Scripture as emblems of tyrannical and persecuting powers. The most illustrious conquerors of antiquity also have not a more honourable emblem.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [3]

In the Bible, this word, when used in contradistinction to man ( Psalms 36:6), denotes a brute creature generally, when in contradistinction to creeping things ( Leviticus 11:2-7;  Leviticus 27:26), it has reference to four-footed animals; and when to wild mammalia, as in  Genesis 1:25, means domesticated cattle.

The zoology of Scripture may, in a general sense, be said to embrace the whole range of animated nature but after the first brief notice of the creation of animals recorded in Genesis, it is limited more particularly to the animals found in Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and the countries eastward, in some cases, to beyond the Euphrates. It comprehends mammalia, birds, reptiles, fishes, and invertebrate animals: but in a work like the Bible, written for a far different purpose, we might naturally expect that only a small part of these would be found described, and that generic indications would more frequently occur than specific characteristics. As the intention of Scripture, in its allusions to animate or inanimate objects, was not scientific description, but the illustration of arguments and precepts by images drawn from objects familiar to those to whom it was addressed, it is not to be expected that zoology or botany should be treated systematically, or in terms such as modern science has adopted; yet where we can now fully ascertain the true meaning of the text, the imagery drawn from natural history is always forcible, correct, and effective, even where it treats the subject under the conditions of the contemporary popular belief; for, had the inspired writers entered into explanations on matters of science not then commonly understood, the poetical force of the imagery, and consequently its intended effect, must necessarily have been greatly diminished; yet, where system is appropriate, we find a classified general distribution of the creation, simple indeed, but sufficiently applicable to all the purposes for which it was introduced. It resembles other parts of the philosophy of the earliest nations, in which the physical distribution of matter, excepting so far as man is concerned, proceeds by triads. Botany is treated under the heads of grass, shrubs, and trees: in animated nature, beginning with the lowest organized in the watery element, we have first 'the moving creature that hath life,' animalcula, crustacea, insecta, etc.; second, fishes and amphibia, including the huge tenants of the waters, whether or not they also frequent the land, crocodiles, python serpents, and perhaps even those which are now considered as of a more ancient zoology than the present system, the great Saurians of geology; and third, it appears, birds, 'flying creatures' ( Genesis 1:20); and still advancing (cetaceans, pinnatipeds, whales and seals being excluded), we have quadrupeds, forming three other divisions or orders: first, cattle, embracing the ruminant herbivora, generally gregarious, and capable of domesticity; second, wild beasts, carnivora, including all beasts of prey; and third, reptiles, minor quadrupeds, such as creep by means of many feet, or glide along the surface of the soil, serpents, annelids, etc.; finally, we have man, standing alone in intellectual supremacy. The classification of Moses, as it may be drawn from Deuteronomy, appears to be confined to Vertebrata alone, or animals having a spine and ribs, although the fourth class might include others: taking man as one, it forms five classes—first, Man; second, Beasts; third, Birds; fourth, Reptiles; fifth, Fishes. It is the same as that in Leviticus 11, where beasts are further distinguished into those with solid hoofs and those with cloven feet. But the passage specially refers to animals that might be lawfully eaten because they were clean, and others prohibited because they were declared unclean, although some of them, according to the common belief of the time, might ruminate; for it may be repeated that the Scriptures were not intended to embrace anatomical disquisitions aiming at the advancement of human science, but to convey moral and religious truth, without disturbing the received opinions of the time on questions having little or no relation to their main object. In like manner, fishes and birds are divided into clean and unclean; and, taken altogether, the classification now described forms an excellent series of distinctions, which, even at the present day, and in countries far distant from the scene where it was ordained, still remains applicable, with little exception, and from its intrinsic propriety will remain in force, notwithstanding our present knowledge of the manners and opinions of the East and of Egypt has rendered many of the earlier comments upon it in a great measure useless.