The Book of Genesis
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The Book of Genesis
By: Lisa Barnaby
Old Testament Survey II
International College of Excellence
February 19, 2006
The word Genesis means “an origin, creation, or beginning.” Genesis begins by narrating God’s creation of the world, man and every living thing. God bestowed dominion to man within a perfect world, where no death, destruction, violence or pain existed. God was pleased with His creation and it was excellent in every way. However, as a proximate result of Adam’s sin (the Fall), God’s divine order and ideal for His creation fell. Sin, death, violence, destruction, pain and suffering manifested on the earth. Man’s nature became depraved and evil. God greatly regretted His creation and destroyed every living thing with a great flood, sparing only Noah, his family and a pair of every kind of animal. In Genesis 9:8-17, God made a new covenant with man and animals, promising them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
Then God told Noah and his sons, “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth” (Genesis 9:8-10).
Since God’s original desire was for man and animals to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22), man has a responsibility to strive to uphold God’s ideal and to exercise his dominion in a way that causes the least pain and suffering to God’s animals as possible.
I. DOMINION, STEWARDSHIP AND MAN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH ANIMALS
Webster’s dictionary defines dominion as “supreme authority.” While we were granted dominion over God’s creation, our dominion was never intended by God to be tyrannical.
The word tyrant means: a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally … unjustly cruel, harsh, or severe …. Rather, God entrusted man with a stewardship.
Stewardship means “conducting, supervising or managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management … entrusted to one’s care.” “We should remember in our dealings with animals that they are a sacred trust to us from our heavenly Father” (Stowe).
God desired man and animals to have an interdependent relationship.
Man’s responsibility was to care for and nurture the animals, while the animals served in being their “helpers.”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals (Genesis 2:18-20).
Many people believe it is acceptable to God or justifiable to exercise their “dominion” without regard to the pain, suffering and death caused to God’s animals. They err in believing that we are free to exercise our dominion over animals to their detriment and without regard to their feelings, intrinsic value and God-given rights. However, Jesus said in Matthew 25:45, “What you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.” Most people quote that scripture in the context of what we do to another man, but I believe that it can be appropriately applied to how we treat animals as well. Proverbs 12:10 says, “The godly are concerned for the welfare of their animals, but even the kindness of the wicked is cruel.”
II. VEGETARIAN DIET – GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN
Before the Fall, God prescribed a vegetarian diet for both man and animals.
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life” (Genesis 1:29-30).
God’s original dietary plan represents a unique statement in humanity’s spiritual history. It is a spiritual blueprint of a vegetarian world order . . .
After stating that people must adhere to a vegetarian diet, animals … were to also subsist on purely vegetarian food (Schwartz 2).
Although it was God’s ideal for man and animals to subsist on a vegetarian diet, sin brought forth evil, death and destruction and destroyed the divine order that God set up for His creation.
III. GOD’S CONCESSION AFTER THE FALL
Following the Fall, people kept getting more and more rebellious before the Lord. So God destroyed the world and every living thing with a great flood. Because virtually all plants were destroyed by the Flood, God made the concession of allowing man to eat certain animals for food.
The eating of meat was unknown up to the big flood, but since the flood they have put the strings and stinking juices of animal meat into our mouths .... (St. Jerome) (c.340 – 420, priest, monk, theologian, first translator of the Bible into Latin).
Consuming animals for food was not God’s original intention nor did He ever command it. While eating meat is not prohibited, it represents a complete break from God’s ideal of animals and humans living peacefully together, as depicted in the Garden of Eden.
IV. FACTORY FARMING
Factory farms are large operations where animals are viewed as units of production, like raw materials in a factory. Costs are cut in order to produce cheap food and augment the profits of shareholders in large corporations. Agribusiness means agriculture conducted on strictly commercial principles. Horrific practices are excused in the name of profitability.
• Millions of broiler chickens are housed in industrial barns containing up to 25,000 birds. Birds are bred to have such heavy breasts that many are unable to stand, and die of thirst because they are unable to reach water.
• Thousands of dairy cows are confined in concrete encased feedlots. To artificially boost milk production, cows are often injected with hormones that cause crippling loss of bone mass and produce painful infections. Dairy cows are continuously impregnated and their veal calves are taken from them within 24-48 hours of their lives. The veal calves are confined in pens so small that they cannot turn around or sit down for the entirety of their lives. They are then sold off to be killed for veal.
• Hogs are confined by the thousands in industrial barns which force them to spend their lives in tight metal pens, often standing painfully on slated concrete floors. They are deprived of exercise and normal movement during pregnancy and during lactation. They are continuously exposed to breathing poisonous levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from the manure stored under their pens. Hogs are sentient, social creatures that can be debilitated by stress when deprived of outlets for their nature behavior. Antibiotics and other artificial inputs are given, in part, to overcome the physical symptoms of this stress. Sows' babies are subjected to castration, branding and tail docking, all without pain killers.
• Egg laying hens are confined by the millions in giant industrial barns, living in tight metal cages, called “battery cages” stacked one atop another. Hens are forced to artificially molt (lose their feathers) through systematic starvation. Pecking is natural to poultry, but in a cage the victim can’t get away. The solution is to cut off part of their extremely sensitive beaks without pain relief. In addition, hens and chicks are subjected to deprivation of any kind of natural life, their immobilization results in weakened, easily broken bones and damaged wings adding to the injuries they suffer when they are finally loaded into travel crates to meet the inhumane fate of spent hens, which is death. Baby chicks (males) are mercilessly destroyed by either grinding or shredding them up alive, or suffocation en mass in large plastic bags. This is due to the fact that these chicks are “unprofitable” inasmuch as they are unable to produce eggs, and they cannot be used as broiler chickens.
• Cows are subjected to use of electric prods and stun guns, most of which time they do not do their job effectively. The intended purpose is to “stun” the cows in order to slit their throats and process them. Most often the result is that livestock are skinned alive, subjecting them to horrendous pain, suffering, torment and hysteria. Hot iron dehorning of young calves involves the application of searing heat for a full 30 seconds on each of the calves horn buds, first on one side of its head and then repeated a second time, again for a full 30 seconds, on the other, all this without pain killers.
This is just a small representation of the cruelty and violence that animals are subjected to in the production of food. Animals have intrinsic value yet they are treated like commodities on factory farms.
God endowed pigs, cattle, sheep, and all farmed animals with their own desires and needs and this is apparent when these animals are given an opportunity to enjoy life. For example, pigs are as curious, social, and as intelligent as cats and dogs. Pigs can even play some video games better than monkeys. Similarly, chickens enjoy one another’s company and like to play, dust bathe, and forage for food.
Most people who have pets do their best to treat them with loving kindness, respect and nurturing. Why, when we treat our pets in this way, do we treat other animals with such indifference and disregard?
Go into the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from your beloved Fluffy or Frisky (Scully 26).
Animals used for and in the production of the food that ends up on our plates are subjected to horrendous pain, suffering, violence and death, with no regard to their feelings and we must realize this fact and take responsibility.
… Byrd denounced the various ways in which farm animals are tortured. “It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated even if these animals are being raised for food . . . Oh, these are animals, yes, but they, too, feel pain” (Senator Robert Byrd 2).
V. EXERCISING OUR DOMINION OVER ANIMALS
Exercising our God-given dominion and cruelty are incompatible. When man consumes animal products for food, he or she indirectly supports and promotes the atrocities against animals mentioned above. In other words, he or she is not committing the acts personally, they are merely paying for someone else to do it on their behalf. “For the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being” (Scully 14).
God owns every animal and has entrusted man with a stewardship over them. Jesus’ Word says: “No, O people, the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what He requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Is it merciful to exercise our God-given dominion over animals while depriving them of their right to enjoy their lives, and to live out the inherent desires that God placed in them? Is it congruent with God’s nature that animals are subjected to horrendous pain, suffering, violence, oppression and death at the hands of man for any reason? Jesus said in Matthew 6:10, “Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Is there pain, suffering and death in heaven? Absolutely not.
So if we are to live in conformity to this scripture, we must look to heaven as our example as to how we conduct our lives on earth. Finally, we must remember, “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to get angry, full of unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation” (Psalm 145:9). His creation include animals and we cannot exclude them.
It is imperative that we understand every choice we make, in the exercise of our dominion, which supports and/or contributes to the pain, suffering, exploitation, oppression and death of God’s animals, is not congruent with God’s ideal or His desires for His creation. When a person sits down to eat a steak dinner or a bacon and egg breakfast, he should at least acknowledge the pain, suffering and agony that one of God’s animals had to endure to reach his plate. And he should consider whether his action is promoting compassion and mercy, or tyranny and savagery. Because animals have been endowed with the ability to suffer pain, when we exercise our dominion without regard to their feelings, we transgress against God. We were not given dominion over animals to subject them to pain, suffering, violence, oppression or death, for food or for any other reason. Animals were created for us to care for, nurture, and enjoy relationship with. As such, we should strive to protect them from the evil that has permeated the earth and we should strive to live in accordance with the golden rule of God: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Romans 15:1 says, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” This is the essence of our dominion and stewardship over His creation, including His animals.
Scully, Matthew. Dominion. The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. New York, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Schwartz, Ph.D., Richard H. Judaism and Vegetarianism. New York, NY: Lantern Books, 2001.
Byrd, Senator Robert. Cruel Slaughter of Food Hits a Nerve. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2001.
St. Jerome. All Creation Liberation. The World History of Animal Rights and Vegetarianism in Quotes. <http://all-creation.franciscan-anglican.com>
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. All Creation Liberation. The World History of Animal Rights and Vegetarianism in Quotes. <http://all-creation.franciscan-anglican.com>
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture references are taken from the New Living Bible.
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