Most of us know the story of creation. We also know about the Flood. But, perhaps, we have lost sight of the story within the story, both from these two stories, as well as from the others contained in the pages of our Bible; for I believe that within the pages of our Bible, we will indeed find the answer to our quest, as to whether animals do have souls and spirits.
Let's look first at Genesis 6:5-8.
5. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
7. And the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.
8. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
We should take a moment first to discuss verse 6. It says the Lord was sorry and grieved that He had made man on the earth. Does this mean that God made a mistake? Absolutely not! God is perfect. He can do no wrong. He is the beginning and the end, and knows all that is in between. To believe otherwise would bring contradiction into Scripture, and that, too, would not be of God. Yes, man did write the Bible, but the Holy Spirit inspired it. To do any kind of in-depth study, we need to trust in this concept. Having said this, let's move on. The meaning or cause of God's sorrow is just below the surface, and if we allow ourselves to feel as God feels, by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we will grasp the true intent.
Have we not all, at one time or another, done something from the bottom of our heart for someone else, with the best of intentions, and even been absolutely correct in what we did, and then have that person we did it for totally reject what we did? God most assuredly did what was best, but mankind rejected what He did. What is even worse, man rejected God as well.
Any type of rejection grieves our heart, and may even make us feel sorry about what we did. This is the position in which God found Himself. And if we truly want to understand the Lord our God, as well as any other person, it is best to walk in their shoes awhile, and feel as they feel, and try to act as they act in various situations. We need to use more of the common sense God gave us, and apply it to His word.
In Genesis 6:7, we see what God is going to do. He's going to blot out both man and animals from the face of the earth. And here again we see God's sorrow expressed: "for I am sorry that I have made them."
"Them"! Yes, "them". God is saying that He is sorry that He made all the creatures He is about to destroy. But why both man and animals?
A Commentator of the Bible, H. C Leupold states in part:
...Yahweh's right thus to destroy the major part of mankind is indicated by the adjective clause: "which I have created". The Giver of life is the Supreme Lord over life and death... Beasts and other creatures, which were originally created for man's sake, may well perish if a purpose salutary to man is served.
God should not be second-guessed, but the finality of Leupold's overly simplistic statement leaves probably as many questions unanswered as it answers.
First of all, if what Leupold suggests is correct, we have lost love and compassion for part of God's creation, those who were innocent and yet were killed by the Flood, if in fact they were innocent, and this includes both humans and animals.
For man to learn from his mistakes, he must understand the nature of what he has done, and then learn how to correct or combat them. Now, man knew that he was to follow God, but he didn't, and was destroyed. This is punishment, absolute punishment. Man isn't being given another chance to correct his evil ways. Then what good, or beneficial purpose would it serve to destroy innocent animals with man, for those destroyed can no longer learn from this example. There must be some other reason that God destroyed the animals along with the people.
Let's continue to digress about this for a moment. Aren't people in the world today doing the same thing they were doing during the days of Noah prior to the Flood? And as we look ahead into the New Testament, we see that all such people who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will face similar destruction, and eternal death.
But what does it really mean to accept, or believe, or have faith in Jesus Christ? It means to accept and live in unconditional love. First of all, Jesus is God's gift of Love as we are told in John 3:16-17
16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
This is pure grace, but once we are enlightened, we also have a responsibility. Note the fact that Jesus didn't say that God so loved the people, but that He loved the whole world, including all its inhabitants, both human and animal.
And just so we don't lose sight of this responsibility, that true believers are to have, note Ephesians 2:8-10.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9. not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Here, in this passage, we see that a person is saved, or set apart from others who are destined for destruction, solely by the grace of God because of their belief and faith, just as Noah and those with him were set apart.
The same thing happened to Abraham, as we are told in Genesis 15:6.
6. Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Now once this happens to a person, their life should change, and they should begin to do the "good works" that God prepared beforehand.
With this in mind, note what we are told in Genesis 1:31 following God's creation of the heavens and the earth.
31. And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
These are the good works that God prepared beforehand, but they are even more, they are His "very good" works. The heavens, the earth, the vegetation, and every living creature, human or otherwise, are the very good works of God, that were prepared beforehand. And as we have just read, we are to walk in these good works.
Now, to further tie all this together, note what we are told in Genesis 6:9.
9. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
So, if we say we believe in God, then we should see the works of faith that prove our belief, just as we are told about Noah and Abraham.
But how does one "walk with God" in His creation?
By following the greatest of all commandments. Note Deuteronomy 6:5.
5. "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Now, if we truly, deeply, and wholly love the Lord our God, we will likewise love His whole creation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it as God intended it to be, even as He intended it to be before sin entered the world, way before the time of the Flood.
Thus, to abuse any part of God's creation would bring sorrow to the Lord our God, and we would never willfully bring sorrow to anyone we truly and unconditionally love.
So, why did God want to destroy both man and animals in the Flood?
Let's look at Genesis 6:12.
12. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
God looked upon the world, and He saw no love, no compassion, only the corrupting of His "very good" creation.
But was this corruption by both humans and animals? The Hebrew makes no distinction between the flesh of a human and that of an animal. So we have to look at the context in which it is written.
H. C. Leupold makes specific comment on this portion of verse 12. ... "for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." He says:
The expression "all flesh" can here refer only to mankind because of the qualifying nature of the object "its way." "Way" is the course man is to follow. Only a moral being can corrupt its way. Therefore "all flesh" refers to the totality of mankind in so far as it is not submitting to the Spirit's guidance, as in 6:3. (Exposition of Genesis, 267)
Before making any further comment, let's put verse 6:3 before us.
3. Then the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.
The word "also" in verse 6:3 does not appear in the Hebrew, but the translators seemed to have believed that it was implied.
Referring back to verse 12, Leupold further states that other commentators indicate that the beasts were also corrupt. This Leupold refutes. The actual situation may not be quite so clear-cut, one way or the other.
Leupold's statement does not allow for such things as the entrance of the original sin into the world through a serpent corrupted by Satan. Nor does it account for the fact that the "way" of the serpent was "crafty" (Genesis 3:1).
1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made...
And since this is the "way" of the serpent, the Bible indicates that the animal has the power to choose, thus classifying it with humans in the case before us, which is the position Leupold reserves only for humans. The serpent was indeed corrupt (crafty). Thus by his own reference, Leupold refutes himself.
And likewise, Jesus did not idly say, as in Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." For the use of the Greek word for creation, ktisis, implies the original formation or building. If Jesus had meant only mankind, He could easily have stated so. Jesus wanted us to know, that not only humans need salvation, but all of creation too.
When the descendants of Adam, the Sethites (those who followed the way of God) and the Cainites (those who turned away from God) co-mingled, the evil prevailed, and the whole world became corrupted. It is more than likely, that the beasts of the world "under the dominion of man" also became corrupted.
It does not take one very long in reading our newspapers, or any other literature, or by simply observing what is going on around us, to come to the realization, that humans corrupt animals through their own evilness. Likewise, the animals' lovingness is brought forth when exposed to humans true love and compassion.
Whether or not the corruption of animals came about as I have indicated is a matter for further debate; however, the eleventh century Hebrew commentator, Rashi, believed in part that it did, and that the animals may have made a choice on their own. He states in reference to Genesis 6:12:
Even cattle, beasts and fowl consorted with those who were not of their own species.
Nothing in Scripture specifically confirms Rashi's conclusions, or for that matter, my own position. From what Rashi says, one is not certain whether or not he is indicating that the animals are also responsible for themselves.
Or is it that even this possible form of corruption was brought about by man, and the consorting was in part with man?
Rashi says in reference to the consorting of the evil with the good as stated in Genesis 6:2, and the taking of wives, that "even the men and the animals" (Rashi, 53. did so. And again in reference to the blotting out of man and beast in Genesis 6:7 he says, "Even they (the beasts) perverted their way" (Rashi, 56.).
While no attempt is being made to second-guess God, it does seem somewhat unlikely that God would choose the Flood as the method of destruction, if it was solely mankind who was corrupt. For example, consider the following:
In 2 Samuel 24:15, we read that the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel that caused 70,000 men to die. Women and children did not die, nor did the animals. This came about because David had taken a census of the men in a way counter to the command of the Lord. And since the men knew that such a way was against God's will, they died; but David was left alive to reflect upon what he did, and its consequences.
In Isaiah 37:36-37, we read, "Then the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians". He selectively removed the fighting men from the enemies of Israel. And here also, he left their leader, Sennacherib, and others to return to Nineveh, and reflect upon what they had done.
And on the other hand, the Lord lets us see that if we repent of our sins, He will spare both humans and animals, as He did with this same city of Nineveh, as recorded in Jonah 4:11, where He questions the reluctant Jonah about His reasons.
11. "And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hands, as well as many animals?"
This same thought is expressed in Psalm 36:6 where David says in his prayer, "0 Lord, Thou preservest man and beast."
Yet, God also commanded Saul through Samuel to go and strike Amalek, and to destroy all human and animal life, as we see in 1 Samuel 15:3.
3. 'Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."'
There is obviously something in the way that God looks at things, as opposed to the way mankind does. (The reader may find some more insight by reading all of 1 Samuel 15.) God considers those who are under the dominion of evil, and who follow that evil, to be evil. He also considers those who are under the dominion of righteousness, and who follow such leadership, to be acceptable, even if they sin in part, as we all do. I believe that man's influence over animals under his dominion affects the animals in God's sight, even if not apparent to us.
In understanding dominion, people must look beyond what they see, or think they see, to what is unseen. And once we have done this, we must ask ourselves a question, "Are we of the dominion of God, or of the dominion of Satan?"
Now, while the above question may seem to over-simplify things, it does not necessarily make our understanding seem any more logical. God's ways are not simple, and His understanding is greater than ours, but everything He does is logical.
What God considers good or evil is not always as we see it in the present. God most assuredly sees the beginning and the end and all things in between. As such, God knows beforehand whether or not a decision of total destruction is required to prevent the carrying forward of evil to a society of His believers, or whether a partial destruction is all that is required. Note Deuteronomy 3:6-7.
6. "And we utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city.
7. "But all the animals and the spoils of the cities we took as our booty.
No matter how hard we try in this lifetime, we are absolutely unable to equal the wisdom of God. Similarly, I doubt if we'll equal His wisdom even during our eternal life with Him. We must learn to accept His Word and obey it.
And from what we have seen so far, animals do seem to be considered to be responsible in some way for their own actions, even when their corruption is influenced by humans. Yet, we also have to remember that it was an animal's influence that led to the corruption of the first woman.
And in this light, it has been suggested by many theologians, that Romans 8:18-25 expresses the groaning of all creation due to the Fall of man, and helps explain why God destroyed so much because of the Fall. Whatever the heavenly laws are that govern such things, we are not fully told. We are just told that mankind fell, that all flesh was also corrupt, and that the ground was cursed. As we read this portion of Romans 8, note how it implies the groaning of all of creation.
18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19. For the anxious longings of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
For all of creation to have "anxious longings" and that it "waits eagerly" indicates an emotional state of being; one of the qualities that one would expect to see in one that was responsible for their actions.
And note also that the sons of God are those of us who walk with God, those who have dominion (stewardship) over the earth with love and compassion.
20. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21. that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
23. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for, why does one also hope for what he sees?
25. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Excerpts from The Pulpit Commentary, in reference to these Roman verses, are included below, as they present additional insight on the inclusion of all creation. Additionally, the comment made that the term translated "creation" is too general in its context to limit the meaning to mankind or to any individual creature. Note the following:
...The whole animal creation is included too. So general a term... could not surely have been used if man only had been meant. And it is obviously true that the whole sentient creation, as well as man, has a share now in the general suffering. To the objection that the irrational creatures cannot be conceived as sharing in the "hope" and "earnest expectation" spoken of, it may be replied that, so far as it seems to be implied that they do, it may only be that the apostle, by fine prosopopeia conceived them as feeling even as the human mind feels concerning them. But, further, conscious hope and expectation does not seem, if the language of the passage is examined, to be distinctly attributed to them. All that is of necessity implied is that they share in the groanings from which we crave deliverance.... Inanimate nature too may be included in the idea, it also seeming to share in the present mystery of evil, and falling short of our ideal of a terrestrial paradise.... It may be that St. Paul had in his mind what is said in Genesis of the cursing of the ground for man's sake, and of the thorns and thistles; and also the picture found in the prophets of a renovated earth, in which the desert should rejoice and blossom as a rose. (The Pulpit Commentary - Romans, 210.)
The important point to note in the above commentary, is that all of creation does come forth groaning because of our present corrupt condition. This present condition is not God's original intent. But due to the Fall of man, we have, for whatever reason, involved all of creation. we were "governmentally" in control over God's creation (Genesis 1:28), and we failed to manage properly.
Referring back to our previous statement God views things differently than we do, the reader is urged to read 2 Samuel 24 for a similar situation where God extends punishment to subjects of the king, because participated in, or went along with the sin of the ruler.
David Martin Lloyd Jones gives and excellent illustration of this groaning process.
Let me use a simple illustration. Do you remember yourself as a child looking forward to a holiday or something equally pleasurable? Do you remember the groan - "another six weeks to go?" But that is because you knew it was coming. If you had not known it was coming you would not have groaned. The more you know of the wonderful thing that is coming, the more difficult it is to wait until it comes! Spiritually speaking, the unregenerate do not "groan within themselves"; and there are many Christians who do not seem to groan within themselves. It is because they do not know about the glory; they have never grasped the thing. If they but grasped this teaching, they would soon begin to groan.
Yet the verses in question do say that all of creation is groaning, and the commentaries agree. Then why is this illustration seemingly excluding those without consciousness of the end in which a permanent and complete deliverance from the bondage of corruption will come with the new heaven and a new earth? It is because it is only for those who are redeemed.
Remember also that the present heaven and earth will also pass away, yet it, or part of it, is now groaning.
However, this does not mean we are to wait upon God for this redemption, for we who are the peacemaking children of God (Matthew 5:9), are to work, now, to help free creation from from its present corruption.
If we are going to be consistent, and at the same time understanding that there is no conflict in God's word, we have to accept the fact that God has not as yet told us the whole story. Is there then a portion of, or a quality of, the inanimate earth that will be redeemed? And if so, could it have a consciousness, not like ours, but a type of spiritual consciousness known only to God? Now don't get hung up on this somewhat far-out question, but just reflect on it a little while.
While reflecting on the above paragraph, also look at Deuteronomy 20:19-20:
19. "When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?
20. "Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.
Now, don't worry! We won't miss commenting on the animals' groaning as a result of their consciousness of what is to come. Anyone who has become close to any animal realizes without a doubt that the animal knows who we are. They also mutually come to know things about each other's behavior, and respond accordingly. From a sociological point of view, the "pet" responds to its "master". How much more may that animal respond to our mutual Master? Again, we are not specifically told. But if we do preach the gospel to all creation, will it respond? Some of us have seen it do just that. And even though I have seen it, it is still beyond my understanding. But by faith, I will trust the Lord to be true to His Word.
Let me tell you a little story about two feline members of our family, Nathan and Travelin, now both deceased. They truly loved each other. At the age of 17, Nathan died of kidney disease in Mary's arms. Travelin was right there when Nathan died, and you could tell that she was very depressed. She hid herself in the corner of the basement, and wouldn't eat or drink anything. We would bring her out and hold her, but then she would go back to her corner. She wanted to die, too. On the third day, the odor of death was all over her, and we had to take her to the vet. He gave her some saline solution through an IV to rehydrate her, so much in fact, that she actually sloshed on the way home. We continued to pray with her and tell her that we loved her and that God loved her, and that He wanted her to live. And she responded, and lived several more years.
Is this not also confirmed by Revelation 5:13?:
13. And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
"To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
If we also look at Genesis 6:20:
20. "Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.
Note specifically that God did not tell Noah to find two of every kind of animal. Could this be because Noah was unable to choose animals that were not corrupted? God specifically said that, "two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive". Is this not also saying that those animals that came to Noah did so because they listened to God's instruction?
From reading Scripture you see that the easiest message to understand is as simply presented. In depth study only amplifies and should not change the basic meaning. If God makes a distinction between man and animals, we accept it. When He does not make such a distinction, should we not also accept it? Should we not consider that God could mean exactly what He says?
Let's move ahead in the story of Noah to Genesis 8:1:
1. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.
Leupold here makes an interesting comment:
"Incidentally, there is a tender touch in the account that describes the Almighty God as having concern for all His creatures (cf. Psalm 147:9 and Jonah 4:11)."
I believe that Leupold has here picked up God's true meaning, but I don't believe that it is "incidental". We have already looked at the referenced verse from Jonah. Now look back at it in this context. We should also take a look at Psalm 147:9 before moving on:
9. He gives to the beast its food.
And to the young ravens which cry.
The reader is also referred to Psalm 104 to see how God cares for all His works.