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Does animal death glorify God?

Kevin B., Australia, wrote in response to Animals eating animals:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

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Your expectation of God's creation in there being no 'Death' before the fall in the animal kingdom is unreal and unfaithful to the majesty of God's character. It is fanciful and unbelievable. To imagine a world where animals promulgate to plague proportions without restraint and cannot die and therefore have eternal life apart from the Command of God entrusted to Man alone is a fairytale religion and not the reality of the only true and Almighty God. Your credibility with unsaved people would be greatly enhanced if you could ditch this weird notion of a T Rex or perhaps a herd of elephants not stepping on a mouse or crushing the odd gopher in his hole and extinguishing his nephesh - breath. Man had dominion over the animals in the administration of life - death in the animal kingdom pre-fall and the cunning and hunting ability of animals was under the dominion of God alone. There is no other being apart from Him who has dominion over these attributes in creatures - until man's rebellion hands his dominion over to the Devil and Death.

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Thanks for writing in. There is an important exegetical principle that everything in the Bible after the Fall presumes a fallen creation, and we have to look to the original biblical account of the created order to see God’s perfect will, and if possible, look forward to what is said about the future restored creation. Jesus actually instituted this principle of exegesis when the Pharisees and the Sadducees asked about marriage, presuming God’s decree about divorce in the Mosaic Law reflected God’s will. But Jesus said, “From the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). We can also say about carnivory and death of animals, “From the beginning it was not so”. Genesis clearly depicts a creation in which all animals ate plants (Genesis 1:30), and Isaiah 11 and 65 envisions a time in the future when carnivores will return to a vegetarian diet. So while the passage you reference shows God might be glorified in even the fallen created order, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it reflects His original design, or the ultimate destiny, of animals.

Is it unbelievable to think of a world without animal death? The goal of reproduction was to ‘fill the earth’. Once the earth was filled, had it remained unfallen, perhaps animals simply would have stopped reproducing. See Was there really no death before the Fall? We know that in the restored creation, humans will cease to marry and give in marriage (Matthew 22:30)—that is because the full number of human beings to fill the restored creation will already exist, and there will be no more reproduction.

Would ‘ditching this weird notion’ enhance our credibility with lost people? Even if it would, a pragmatic argument would not be a good reason to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture. But many creationists report that they have greater success when sharing the Gospel precisely because they stand strong on Genesis and the biblical account.

I would encourage you to take your beliefs about creation from Scripture alone, without reference to what the culture might consider ‘weird’ or unbelievable.


Jackson C., U.S., wrote:

A Christian told me that since it's fine to kill a cow and eat it, that it is fine for someone to kill and eat their dog. I am greatly bothered by this. Is my dog no more valuable to God? Please tell me the truth.

Lita Cosner responds:

Dear Jackson,

Thanks for writing in. Today we assign differing values to animals. Some, like rats, we consider disgusting disease vectors. Others, like dogs and cats, we consider beloved companions. Others, like horses, we consider useful for certain types of work or recreation, but as unsuitable for food. Others, like cows and chickens, we consider useful for food, to the extent that the majority of cows and chickens are bred for that specific purpose.

However, if we look at peoples’ views in different times and places, we find that people have eaten just about every type of animal flesh available. In especially dire circumstances, people even violate the ultimate taboo by becoming cannibals. In wartime or famine, even beloved family pets can be dinner. Sentimentalism is a luxury that people in some instances simply didn’t have.

Now, what value does God assign to animals? God created animals and people to eat plants—so originally, animals were not on the menu. Rather, they were created for God’s glory and to be useful to man in various ways. But today we see that carnivory is necessary for some animals and most people (a good vegetarian or vegan diet that provides all human dietary requirements is a luxury that most people in the world do not have—most populations have to take whatever nutritious food they can find).

Various verses in Scripture show that God assigns value to animals and cares for them. He gives them their food and provides for their needs (Psalm 104:14), and not even a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about (Matthew 10:29). God also provided various laws in the Mosaic law that protected animals. For instance, an Israelite who came across a donkey that had fallen under its burden had an obligation to help it (Exodus 23:5). It was illegal to muzzle an ox that was treading out the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). Anyone who came across a lost animal had an obligation to take it back to its owner if the owner was known (Deuteronomy 22:1), or to care for it until its owner came looking for it (22:2). And while it certainly isn’t Scripture, the rabbinic literature also contains statutes about animals that reflect that later Jews interpreted Scripture to require certain protections of animals against cruelty and destruction for its own sake.

Yet the same Mosaic law required the slaughter of countless bulls, rams, and doves. It also required that an animal that killed a man must also be killed.

So, the short answer is—God assigns value to animals as living creatures, and He forbids mankind from being needlessly cruel to them. But they are not image-bearers of God as humans are, and thus the Bible permits animals to be killed and eaten—and that principle applies to even animals that we would normally consider friends, not food.

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Readers’ comments
S. H., United Kingdom, 29 July 2017
A few things. Firstly, God speaking in Deuteronomy (after the Fall) wasn't talking about creation before the Fall. Secondly, why is difficult to believe in a perfect creation? We don't know everything about God, about the world or many other things to be making arguments against God only in the light of what we now see in our limited humanity in a fallen world. Thirdly, this argument actually glorifies death and goes as far as to believe that death reflects God's majesty. What kind of God is this?! And it begs the obvious question - why is it hard to believe that God did exactly what his Word (that he testifies to be true) said he did and created a perfect world? If not, how big does that make God? Is he unable to do what he says? Is God subject to our understanding of what he can do? Does that not go against Scripture? And if God can create a new heaven and new earth without any suffering or death (something Jesus came to overcome), why would God not be able to have initially created a world without suffering and death? Surely this is illogical and denies the power and character of God and his Word.
Bill P., United States, 29 July 2017
Lita your answers to those questions are proper in my opinion. The Word of God I have learned has answers for every sensible question. Kevin's question for example: I go back to the time of The Flood of Noah's day. All the kinds of animals on the ark, predator, and prey in today's world but yet they lived together for over a yr. and we know they were at peace w/one another otherwise they could not have replenished the earth. How much more wonderful it must have been before man's sin, and knowing from The Word of The Lord that one day soon the lion shall lie down w/the lamb. The second question: I have seen w/my own eyes from my days in the navy, visiting many very poor countries. I was lucky enough to be born in this nation and yet understood why the people I met had to do what they had to do to live. It even brings to mind The Word of The Lord when the families of Israel had to bring a young lamb into their homes that was to be offered up for Passover. I'm sure that lamb became a pet in those homes, yet they did what had to be done. As it has been since man's sin in the garden until today, man thinks that his ideas should over ride God's Ways. The problem is that man doesn't believe God, and His Word. I had the same problem in my youth until The Lord shed His Grace on me and then I began to believe and understand. Even today, I see what is happening in this world and see that it is all according to God's Word. It is sad to see these things but we brought it upon ourselves, and man has a hard time looking in the mirror and admitting it's our fault. My comfort comes from the fact that God has healed it through His Son Jesus, and soon we will enjoy His Kingdom forever.
Lester V., United States, 29 July 2017
Genesis 9:3 says "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." This seems to indicate that man is allowed to eat virtually anything that lives. The dietary restrictions found in the Law of Moses were designed to keep the Jews as a separate and distinct people through whom the Messiah would come. Every other people group that has been dispersed among another culture has eventually been absorbed into it, and has lost most, if not all, of its identity as a unique group - for example, German or Irish people that came to America have largely been "Americanized" enough that most of them no longer speak their original languages and dress as they would have in their native lands. The Jews are still seen as a distinct people, by God's design and intent, since they will still exist as a "special" people throughout eternity - Jesus is always seen as a Jew (the Lion of the tribe of Judah), even after time has ceased to exist. As far as mice and rats, which "we consider disgusting disease vectors", I would like to point out that they are critically important in research, as scientists look for treatments for diseases, and that other animals contribute to the wellfare and health of humans (aside from providing food for us to eat) - for example, heart valves from pigs have been successfully transplanted into humans.
Neal P., United States, 29 July 2017
I "love" it! I "love" it! I am referring to ALL of your articles, but this morning I got an additional...I "love" it" from Lisa's last three words: "fish are 'friends, not food'!" I can only assume that is a take-off from my favorite movie, FINDING NEMO! Keep up your good work, for His name's sake! To God be all glory! Great things He has done!
Norman W., United States, 29 July 2017
In Ecclesiastes 3:21 it is clearly stated that the spirit of animals goes "down into the earth" when their bodies die. Solomon was contrasting that to the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward. God created Mankind, not animal kind, in the image of God. There are times and places when and where men raise dogs as a food source. Lewis and Clarke commented on the fine taste of dog meat, while they were communing with Indians in their travels to map the American Continent. In China, dog meat is still a delicacy. Is killing a dog any more egregious when it is for the purpose of eating it, than if it were killed by a wild animal, also for food? Some people hold and take care of tarantulas as pets; others kill them on sight. I am both perplexed and feeling for those who feel their love for a certain animal should influence God's estimate of value for that animal. There is nothing, in this society, that specifically promotes the use of dogs or cats for food and we are free to place a higher value on them if we wish. That does not mean that God needs to adhere to our estimates of value. In my experience, I have often noted that those who fight for animal rights seem to assign little or no value to unborn human beings. I believe the reverence of animals above humans is appalling and unacceptable.
David M., Australia, 30 July 2017
Thank you Lita for your kind and scriptural answer to Kevin and Jackson. Can I just add a comment on some of the scriptures that you cited? Concerning Deuteronomy 25:4, this verse is mentioned more than once in the N.T. by the Apostle Paul where he interprets it [also] to mean ‘paying the preacher’ or ‘Support this site’ i.e. 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18. Also when commenting on Isaiah 11:6 and Isaiah 65:45 (passages about wolf and lamb feeding together), early church father Irenaeus in his ‘Against Heresies’ Book 4 chap 33 para 4 writes “I am quite aware that some persons endeavour to refer these words to the case of savage men, both of different nations and various habits, who come to believe, and when they have believed, act in harmony with the righteous. But although this is [true] now with regard to some men coming from various nations to the harmony of the faith, nevertheless in the resurrection of the just [the words shall also apply] to those animals mentioned.” Finally in the more recently discovered (an Armenian copy found in 1904) ‘The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching’ also by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, in para 61 he also finds room for both interpretations. “Now as to the union and concord and peace of the animals of different kinds, which by nature are opposed and hostile to each other, the Elders say that so it will be in truth at the coming of Christ, when He is to reign over all. For already in a symbol he announces the gathering together in peace and concord, through the name of Christ, of men of unlike races and (yet) of like dispositions. For, when thus united, on the righteous, who are likened to calves and lambs and kids and sucking children...”
Kevin B., Australia, 31 July 2017
Thanks for responding to the comment. Just if I may clarify it and perhaps your web article response as well. You presume I mean carnivorous and I didn't. That would be another subject of understanding God's character in regards His animal creation as opposed to his human creation who was made in His Image. Isaiah 11:9 (ESV) They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 65:25 (ESV) The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. 'in all my holy mountain' is the location for the eradication of animal vs animal killing - as it would have been in the Garden of God in the beginning. 'for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD' is not within the animal created ordinance, as mankind was the only genetic construction that was entrusted with the Command, 'to not eat...' The negative Command gives man in his innocence the ability to choose and therefore to love God of his own free will - something animals cannot. Gods says in Is 65:19-20 that men will die in the millennial reign of Christ on earth and you are saying that animals will not! When Jesus uses the term, “From the beginning it was not so” He is referring to man's moral perfection in the Garden of God and the moral imperfection of the sinful human heart after the fall. These are human moral conditions that come from an eternal human responsibility to the original Command of God - that is God's Eternal Word. These moral restraints are not within an animal's instinctive, genetically driven ability. You are conferring on animals an ageless, eternal life.
Willem D., Netherlands, 2 August 2017
Kevin B. wrote: "To imagine a world where animals promulgate to plague proportions without restraint and cannot die and therefore have eternal life apart from the Command of God entrusted to Man alone is a fairytale religion and not the reality of the only true and Almighty God." This is indeed a fairytale religion, but Kevin made it up himself. It's based on the mistaken assumption that death is the only restraint God can come up with to prevent animals to promulgate to plague proportions. And it is based on his inability to see God's infinite power. If God can make every particle in this universe behave exactly as He wants them to behave, every second of the day, how would it be difficult for Him to prevent a herd of elephants to step on a mouse for all eternity in a perfectly natural way?
James C., Canada, 4 August 2017
Re: Comment by S.H. Of all the comments I've read, I think yours is the closest to the biblical view of creation and the consequences of the Fall. I don't think any of us will have a full understanding of what a perfect creation that God made was like , where death was excluded from all creatures existence. The only cause for death in Creation, as far as I can see is the Fall,not the behavior of perfect creatures in a perfect creation.