The flesh of "swine" (domestic) was forbidden food to Israel. Eating it was the token of apostasy under Antiochus Epiphanes' persecution, and is mentioned among Judah's provocations of Jehovah (Isaiah 65:4; Isaiah 66:17). E. of the sea of Galilee, some Gadarenes are mentioned as having a herd of 2,000. Probably they refrained themselves from the flesh, and compromised between conscience and covetousness by selling them to their neighbors the Gentiles. But they gained nothing by the compromise, for the whole herd perished in the wafters, in judicial retribution. The Lord of the land, peculiarly set apart as the Holy Land, finds it defiled with demons and unclean beasts. The demons beg leave not to be sent to the abyss of torment, but into the swine. With His leave they do so, and the swine rush down the steep and perish in the waters.
Instead of gratitude for the deliverance, the Gadarenes prefer their swine, though at the cost of the demons' presence, to the Savior at the cost of sacrificing their swine; so they entreat Him to "depart out of their coasts," forgetting His word, "Woe to them when I depart from them" (Hosea 9:12); a striking contrast to him who was delivered from the demons and who "prayed that he might be with Jesus (Mark 5:15-18). The lowest point of the prodigal's degradation was when he was sent into the fields to feed swine (Luke 15:15). The sensual professor's backsliding into "the pollutions of the world," after he has "escaped them through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior," is fitly compared to "the sow that was washed returning to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:20-22).
"As a jewel of gold (worn often by women as 'nose jewels,' Isaiah 3:21) in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion" (Hebrew: taste, i.e. without moral perception of what is pure and impure) (Proverbs 11:22). The brutish stolidity of those who appreciate only what gratifies their own foul appetites disqualifies them for appreciating heavenly mysteries; to present these holy truths to them would be as unwise as to east pearls before swine, which would only trample them under foot (Matthew 7:6).
The wild boar is mentioned once only (Psalm 80:13). Its destroying a vineyard partly by eating the grapes, partly by trampling the vines under foot, is the image of the pagan world power's ravaging of Israel, Jehovah's choice vine, transplanted from Egypt into the Holy Land. Pococke saw large herds among the reeds of Jordan, where it flows into the sea of Galilee; and so it is sculptured on Assyrian monuments as among reeds. Its Hebrew name, chazir, is from a root to roll in the mud.