When God created the world, he created the animals of the sea and air on the fifth day and the land animals on the sixth day (Genesis 1:20-25). That was probably a wonderful and majestic sight to see each creature from the land, sea, and air, one by one, coming into existence in different colors, shapes, sizes, sounds, and features. From the microscopic tardigrade to the gigantic blue whale. Adam had the privilege to name all of them. Today, scientists believe that there are probably about 8.7 million species of all living creatures on earth, and only about 1.9 million have been identified and describedꟷ such an amazing display of God’s limitless creativity. All of these creatures God made for man’s enjoyment and dominion (Genesis 1:28-30). In the garden of Eden, there was no prey and predator among animals, or even hunting or a meat diet for man, since God gave man and animal every green plant for food (Genesis 1:29-30). In other words, there was no struggle or shedding of blood between man and animals.
Sadly, after the fall of man, all of that changed. God had to cover man’s sin, and He had to make garments of skin for that. This was probably the first shedding of blood, the precursor to animal sacrifice for the atonement of man’s sin, and a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. You can also see further details about this in our article “What Does the Bible Say About Blood?” But after the fall, mankind probably remained vegan since it is only after the flood that God declared, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:3).” So, we could also assume that when Abel raised livestock, it was merely for clothing and sacrifice to God (Genesis 4:2-4) since that event happened before the great flood. It was also after the flood that God declared that animals will now have the fear and dread of man (Genesis 9:2). That is the origin of why most animals are estranged from human beings to this day.
The Bible mentions several known domesticated animals, such as the camel, cattle, dog, donkey, dove, goat, horse, mule, ox, pig, and sheep. There are also several wild animals mentioned, such as the antelope, ape, baboon, bear, deer, eagle, fish, fox, gazelle, hyena, hyrax, ibex, jackal, leopard, lion, mole, rabbit, rat, raven, snake, weasel, and wolf. And there are two accounts of dinosaurs or dinosaur-like creatures—the behemoth and the leviathan. A lot of these animals have been used in Scripture as symbols to convey a certain message. For instance, the behemoth − a huge and powerful creature yet under God’s total control − was used by God to emphasize to Job His overwhelming power (Job 40:15-24). And God also used the donkey to illustrate the humility and gentleness of the prophesied Messiah (Zechariah 9:9), the dog as a symbol for fools (Proverbs 26:11), the deer to demonstrate a person’s desperate thirst for the presence of God (Psalm 42:1), the lion to symbolize both the triumphant Christ (Revelations 5:5) and the devil (1 Peter 5:8), and many other examples found in the Bible.
Animals have played a significant part in the scriptures. They’ve also been used by God in odd and supernatural ways to come to man’s aid. Like Balaam’s donkey that the Lord enabled to speak when it tried to avoid the angel of the Lord, who was about to kill Balaam (Numbers 22:21-34). And there are also the ravens that God directed to bring bread and meat to Elijah during a famine (1 Kings 17:2-6).
Scientific studies show that, like humans, animals also have emotions. They feel anger, fear, sadness, despair, joy, and other emotions. Though animals may have emotions, the Bible does not express if they have a “soul.” Scripture only tells us that both man and animals have the “breath of life” that came from God (Genesis 1:30). Essentially, animals were not created by God in the same way as He created man. He created animals by “speaking” them into existence (Genesis 1:20-24), while God was very much personal with man, as He formed us like a potter would form clay (Genesis 2:7). And only man was given the privilege of being “made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26). That means animals, unlike man, don’t have a will, morality, or intellectual and creative capacity. But that doesn’t mean that they are not valuable to God, even though not as much as humans (Matthew 6:25-27). As God’s people, we are not just rulers over animals but also called to be stewards of them. As God cares for His animals, so should we. You could even see God’s concern for animals when He called Jonah to preach to Nineveh. God said, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their leftꟷand also many animals (Jonah 4:11)?” God may have given animals for food, but we should not take part in animal cruelty, mistreatment of pets, and animal poaching. We are also accountable for how we care for God’s entrusted creation. Besides, we are the ones who benefit or suffer from the consequences of our stewardship. We will always reap what we have sown.
“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
(Proverbs 12:10 KJV)