Pearls Before Swine

"Do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

This phrase has come to mean different things in different I have divided this page into three sections.

Then all of these meanings can be explored.

The sections are as follows:

1. Literal interpretation--Pearls before swine, a story from Muscatine, Iowa during the days of clamming for shells used for buttons.

2. Spiritual interpretation--commentaries on verse about Pearls before swine in Matthew 7:6.

3. Creative interpretation--Pearls before swine comic strip.

Blurred Pink Pearls

"Pearls Before Swine," comes from Matthew 7:6

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

It seems like a funny thing for Jesus to include on His famous "Sermon on the Mount," but He was the master of picture language and deeper meaning...cryptic nuances that take some thought.

I wanted to do a page on this, so got out our trusty Matthew Henry commentaries and was prepared to spend the day copying it all down when Mark, my husband, informed me that it's a lot quicker to "copy and paste" on the computer.

It had never entered my mind that Matthew Henry might be on the computer...I thought he "lived" on our bookshelf.

Boy, sometimes, I realize how half of me still lives in the dark ages while the other half is trying to enter into the computer age.

Anyway, I found, not only Matthew Henry, but tons of other commentaries too....some even easier and more "21st century-friendly" than good old Matt Henry.

I'll only include three, but for the students out there, keep your eyes on my site for the full length version including "fourteen" commentaries...coming soon.

By the way, you can read the Bible online at in a choice of 24 versions, plus tons of languages including three types of French and three types of Greek and even get free Bible downloads...Arabic maybe? or Russian, or Chinese? Its also great for copying and pasting and for comparison studies.

The couple who registered "" were pretty smart. I understand managing the site is their full time job....good for them.

Anyway, back to "pearls before swine"...

First Section--Literal Example

During the beginning of the twentieth century, our city, Muscatine, Iowa was known as the Pearl Button Capital of the World. Because it's on the Mississippi River there was an abundance of clam for the taking.

Everyone and his brother. entered into the business of gathering shells, and cutting out blanks for buttons. (It's said that parts of our city are built on four feet of the discarded punched out shells.)

But, before they could be cut, they needed to be opened and cleaned.

There was no better way than to "cook them"...this would kill the mussel and open them, making it easy to work with the money-making shell.

Were there pearls in those multitudes of clams?

You bet!

Some young friends of ours, just this summer, gathered clams for fishing bait.

In the small number they gathered, they found three pearls! They were small, but pearls all the same. They made a great gift for their mom.

I've talked to others also who have firsthand experience of Mississippi River pearls. One man who bought a pink pearl necklace from me last Christmas said he saw a huge pink pearl from a river clam. That's why he was so thrilled to buy a pink pearl necklace for his wife!

These American pearls are a fascinating topic, watch for a future page about them or sign up for my e-zine to stay informed.

Every sort of clam is capable of producing pearls. (I once found a small rice pearl while eating oysters.)

In the flurry of the moment in Muscatine during the pearl button rush, the value was on the shells themselves, not the pearls.

Yes, pearls were gathered, but the emphasis those days wasn't on looking for pearls. Some pearls, however, found here in Muscatine are on display at the Pearl Button Museum.

Time usually was not spent to carefully search every shell for pearls, before throwing them in the "cooking pot."

So, the clams were "cooked" in gigantic outdoor cookers.

Once the shells were free of the unwanted meat, the concoction was...

Yes, you guessed it....FED TO THE SWINE!

...meat, brine, pearls and all!

I found this so interesting...a literal fulfillment of this warning from Jesus--don't cast your pearls before swine.

I have read about one man from Eastern USA who found a beautiful large pearl... only he found it "after" it had been "cooked"... ruining it's value.

I want to write more about natural pearls (sometimes called "orients") at a future time.

Pink Pearls in Old Tower

Second Section--Spiritual Interpretation

Here are three commentaries on Matthew 7:6."

1. Pastor Chuck has been the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa since 1965, and has been influential in the Christian community for many years.

v. 6 We need to be careful about what we share with people when we witness to them, and use discernment as to whether they will scorn the precious things of God or listen with an open mind. The Sermon on the Mount needs to be taken in context The first section contains the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3 -16 The Beatitudes place the emphasis on what we are as opposed to what we do. Matthew 5:17 -48 deals with the relationship of Jesus Christ to the law Matthew 6 deals with our relation ship with God, and Matthew 7 deals with our relationship with man.

2. David Guzik is the director of Calvary Chapel Bible College, Germany.

Balancing love with discernment a. Dogs and swine in this context are those who are hostile to the gospel; our love for others must not blind us to their hardened rejection of the gospel b. Our pearls of the gospel may only confuse unbelievers (who are blinded to the truth by the god of this age), 2 Corinthians 4:4 and open the gospel to their ridicule c. Of course, this is not a prohibition against sharing the gospel, but a call to discernment, and an invitation to look for prepared hearts

3. Geneva Study Bible Modern believers can read the Scriptures with help from the theology of Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and other Reformation leaders. It was first printed in 1560.

7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your a pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. a. The stiff-necked and stubborn enemies of the gospel are unworthy to have it preached unto them. b. A pearl is known among the Greeks for its oriental brightness: and a pearl was in ancient times greatly valued by the Latins: for a pearl that Cleopatra owned was valued at two hundred and fifty thousand crowns: and the word is now borrowed from that, to signify the most precious heavenly doctrine.

Have you ever cast your pearl before "swine"? Don't worry...there's life after casting pearls.

Third Section--Creative Interpretation

A comic strip named: Pearls Before Swine

At its heart, "Pearls Before Swine," the comic strip tale of two friends: a megalomaniacal Rat who thinks he knows it all and a slow-witted Pig who doesn't know any better. Together, this pair offers caustic commentary on humanity's quest for the unattainable. The title of the strip comes from the New Testament, and is taken from the phrase, "Don't cast your pearls before swine." In this case, Rat believes that he is an endless source of wisdom, and that it is wasted upon Pig, who is rather slow. In truth, neither of them is very smart, but while Pig is content with his humble status in life, Rat is always on a futile search for fame, riches and immortality.


Rat: Arrogant, self-centered, fatalistic, philosophical and quick-tempered, Rat is obsessed with fame, immortality and making a quick buck. Spends his time with Pig because it makes him feel superior and, more importantly, no one else will hang out with him.

Pig: Humble (in fact, painfully aware of his limitations), practical, kind and a little slow in the head, Pig has few aspirations in life, other than to spend his days watching TV and doing almost nothing productive. Apparently sees something redeeming in Rat, as he is willing to endure Rat's endless barbs and numerous schemes. Kicked out of the Society of Cultured Pigs because he was caught eating a BLT.

Zebra: The humanitarian (or, more accurately, "zebratarian"). Focused almost solely on devising ways to protect his fellow zebras on the plains from their numerous, more able predators. Must endure repeated failures in this endeavor, as the lions, tigers and crocodiles win out repeatedly. Not even his placement of zebras in small Popemobiles can prevent their destruction.

Goat: The smart one. Would rather spend his time with his snout in a book than talking to any of the other odd characters in this strip.

About the Author

Stephan Pastis was born in 1968 and raised in San Marino, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989 with a degree in political science. Although he had always wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist, Pastis realized that the odds of syndication were slim, so he entered UCLA Law School in 1990 and became an attorney instead. He practiced law in the San Francisco Bay area from 1993 to 2002. While an attorney, he began submitting various comic strip concepts to all of the syndicates, and, like virtually all beginning cartoonists, got his fair share of rejection slips. Then, in 1997, he began drawing Pearls Before Swine, which he submitted to the syndicates in mid-1999. In December, 1999, he signed a contract with United. Pearls Before Swine debuted in newspapers in January, 2002, and Pastis left his law practice in August of that year. Pearls Before Swine was nominated in each of its first two years as by the National Cartoonists Society and won the award in 2004. Pastis lives with his family in Northern California.

Conclusion to Pearls Before Swine

Yes, Jesus is a master of picture language and these three variations of pearls before swine--Literal, Spiritual, and Creative--on one simple phrase prove the complexities of His teachings and the effectiveness of His intriguing methods.

Find out more meaning of pearls here.

Play a really fun online "Pearls Before Swine" game.

Beat the nasty pirate at his own game.

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