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Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

Animals, Religion and the Environment
The Bible’s Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature
by Lewis Regenstein

Part 5: A Righteous Man Has Regard for the Life of His Beast

The Bible makes clear that God condemns and harshly punishes cruelty to animals. When Jacob called together his twelve sons – representing the twelve tribes of Israel – to say what fate would befall them, Simeon and Levi were castigated and chastised for crippling oxen, among other things (Genesis 49:6-7).

Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us that among the "six things which the Lord hates" are "hands that shed innocent blood." Proverbs 12:10 goes on to say that a righteous person cares for his animals: “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” This important verse suggests a Biblical division of people into two distinct types: those who are "righteous" and just and are kind to their animals, and those who are "wicked" and are cruel to creatures under their care.

The book of Hosea (2:18-20) suggests that God would make a pact with the animals to give them safety from being hunted and persecuted by abolishing the instruments of their destruction: “And in that day, will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword, and the battle out of the earth; and I will make them to lie down safely”.

The fifth chapter of Job also prophecies a day when mankind will be at peace with nature: “Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth, For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.”

Isaiah 11:6-9 eloquently describes how the animal kingdom will be included in the blessings of peace on earth when it is achieved: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion -- and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

The story of Rebekah at the well stresses the importance of kindness to animals as a personal attribute. In this account, the patriarch Abraham, seeking a wife for his son Isaac, sends his trusted servant out to search for a suitable woman. The servant chooses Rebekah after she demonstrates a kind disposition by drawing water not just for him but for his camels as well (Genesis 24:19).

Similarly, in the twelfth chapter of 2nd Samuel, the Lord uses the sad story of the inexcusable killing of a family's beloved pet lamb to teach King David a lesson and to show him the error of his ways.

Go on to Part 6: The Beasts of the Field Shall Be at Peace with Thee
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