What Does the Bible Say About How to Treat Animals?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 26, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week, I wrote on what the Bible says about how to treat creation. In that post I mostly focused on the earth, but this week we’re going to take a look at a specific part of that: what the Bible says about how to treat animals.

Personally, I enjoy animals! Our household has 5 cats, 4 frogs, 2 bearded dragons, and 1 betta fish. I enjoy having all of them around, as they often provide a lot of entertainment for us. My roommate is studying to be a veterinary technician because she wants to care for animals as a career.

There are many categories of animals in this world - household pets, working animals, and wild animals, just to name a few. Obviously, I will care for my household pets in a different way than I would treat animals in the wild. But what does the Bible say about how we should treat animals?

Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” The book of Proverbs often uses the contrast of “the righteous” versus “the wicked” to show the reader what they should do versus what they should not do. We should care for the needs of animals that are entrusted to our care.

But we also know from Genesis 1:26-28 that mankind was created to have dominion over the animals, so they should not be given equal value to humans.

Animals were equivalent to livelihood back in the Old Testament, so they were often treated as prized possessions. With animals, you could be provided with meat, milk, and extra muscle to plow your fields. God shared animal care lessons with the people in Exodus 23:5 (“If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it”), Proverbs 27:23 (“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds”), Deuteronomy 25:4 (“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain”), and Exodus 23:12 (“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed”) just to name a few.

We also see in both Deuteronomy 27:21 and Leviticus 18:23 that beastiality (having sexual relations with an animal) is a sin to God and also cruel to animals.

There are a few “famous” stories in the Bible in which animals play a significant role as well. Of course there’s Noah’s ark, where 2 of every land-dwelling animal went with Noah and his family onto the ark to be saved from the flood. The story of Balaam and his donkey is an entertaining one that I’d encourage you to go read in Numbers 22:21-41. The story of Jonah just wouldn’t be the same without the big fish. The story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem before He was crucified later that week would have different meaning without Jesus riding on a colt.

Animals are part of God’s creation, and God cares for them too: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). When we treat animals with love and respect, we are treating our creator God with love and respect. We don’t have to all be animal lovers and have a zoo full of pets in our homes, but we can definitely treat all the animals we encounter with respect.

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