Living souls that are not human. (Compare Nu 31:28.) The Hebrew word behe·mahʹ refers to larger four-footed creatures, usually domestic animals but occasionally wild beasts. It is rendered “domestic animals,” “beasts,” “livestock,” and “cattle.” (Ge 1:26; 9:10; 34:23; Ps 107:38) The Hebrew reʹmes denotes “moving animals” or “creeping things” and comes from the root ra·masʹ, meaning “move; creep.” (Ge 6:20; Eze 8:10; Ge 1:28, ftn) Also, the Hebrew term chai·yahʹ, literally meaning “living creature,” is used to refer to “wild beasts” or “wild animals.” (Ge 1:28; 3:14; Isa 56:9) The parallel Greek term is zoiʹon (living creature), also rendered ‘animal.’
Jehovah God formed all the animals, each family kind having its own originally created representatives, for the record assures us that God made them each one “according to its kind.” (Ge 1:25) In this article we shall consider particularly land animals.
In view of God’s granting perfect man dominion over the various creatures of the earth, it was most appropriate that Adam be privileged to name these creatures. (Ge 1:26; 2:19, 20) Man’s having the animals in subjection placed upon him a stewardship for which he would always be accountable to God.
Animals were so created that they would have a fear and dread of man as their superior. (Ge 9:2, 3) According to naturalists, wild creatures, such as the leopard and the king cobra, normally prefer to retreat from man’s presence, although they do attack when provoked, wounded, cornered, or suddenly surprised. It has been suggested that tigers become man-eaters, for example, by force of circumstances, such as old age or injury that would greatly limit the tiger’s ability to procure its normal game, or the depletion of the tiger’s game through man’s hunting.
Already prior to the Flood, animals were killed to provide clothing for man and for sacrificial purposes. (Ge 3:21; 4:4) However, not until after the Deluge did Noah and his family receive permission from Jehovah to add flesh to their diet, with the stipulation that it must be drained of its blood. (Ge 9:3, 4) While this made it proper for man to kill animals for necessary food, he was not authorized thereby to indulge in needless slaughter for the sheer thrill of the hunt or to display personal prowess, as Nimrod, the rebel against God, undoubtedly did.
Some have contended that the presence of animals on isolated islands like Australia and New Zealand is an indication that not all land animals outside the ark perished in the Deluge. However, the findings of oceanographers indicate that at one time land ridges connected what are now isolated land areas. For example, oceanographic studies indicate that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge may have crossed that ocean above the surface. Possibly there were also other ridges, and animals could have migrated by means of these before such ridges sank below the surface of the ocean. Other oceanographic studies have turned up evidence that once there existed a huge South Pacific continent that took in Australia and many of the South Sea isles. If such was the case, then, of course, the animals had no difficulty in migrating to these lands.
Clean and Unclean Animals. A classification of animals is to be noted in God’s instructions to Noah to take with him into the ark seven of each clean animal and two of each unclean animal. (Ge 7:2, 3, 8, 9) Since a flesh diet had not yet been authorized, this distinction between clean and unclean was probably determined on the basis of what was acceptable to Jehovah as a sacrifice. Hence, on emerging from the ark, Noah knew which creatures were clean and suitable for offering upon the altar. (Ge 8:20) At that time no restriction existed with respect to the type of animals that Noah and his family could eat, as is indicated by Jehovah’s words: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you.”
God’s law to the Israelites, therefore, introduced a new distinction when it classified certain animals as clean and fit for food and others as unclean and prohibited as food. The scripture specifies: “Every creature that splits the hoof and forms a cleft in the hoofs and chews the cud among the beasts, that is what you may eat.” (Le 11:3) And again: “You must eat no detestable thing of any sort. This is the sort of beast that you may eat: the bull, the sheep and the goat, the stag and gazelle and roebuck and wild goat and antelope and wild sheep and chamois; and every beast that splits the hoof and that forms a cleft into two hoofs, chewing the cud among the beasts.”
Animals lacking one or both of the above-mentioned features were not to be eaten by those under the terms of the Law covenant. The prohibited animals included the rock badger, the hare, the pig, the camel. Also, creatures ‘going upon their paws’ were prohibited, this doubtless embracing such creatures as the lion, the bear, and the wolf.
These dietary limitations applied only to those who were under the Mosaic Law, for the statement of Leviticus 11:8 is: “They are unclean for you,” that is, for the Israelites. With the abrogation of the Law on the basis of the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus, the prohibitions were canceled, and once more all humans could consider themselves under the same broad provision announced to Noah following the Deluge.
Since the restriction concerning unclean foods was taken out of the way with the rest of the Law, a question may arise as to why Peter, about three and a half years later, still had not eaten any “unclean” animals. (Ac 10:10-15) It must be remembered that the cancellation of the Law resulted in great changes in the lives of Christ’s followers, and therefore, it reasonably took some time for them to appreciate all that was involved.
Illustrative Usage. The outstanding traits of animals are alluded to and used by Bible writers to symbolize a variety of qualities and powers. At times animal features may portray excellent qualities, divine as well as human. (Eze 1:10, 11; Re 4:6, 7) In other instances animals may be employed to represent wild, beastlike ruling powers that oppress and crush peoples.
Proper Use and View of Animal Creation. In connection with worship under the Mosaic Law, cattle, sheep, and goats were among the creatures acceptable for sacrifice. Such animals were to be sound ones, and no castrated animal was admissible. (Le 22:23-25) The use of animal blood for food or for any purpose other than sacrifice was prohibited. (Le 17:13, 14) Worship of any representation of an animal or other created thing was strictly forbidden.
The Bible inculcates just and merciful treatment of the lower creatures. Indeed, Jehovah represents himself as the Loving Provider for their lives and well-being. (Pr 12:10; Ps 145:15, 16) The Mosaic Law enjoined proper care of domestic animals. When found straying, domestic animals were to be returned safely to their owner; when crushed under a burden, they were to be relieved. (Ex 23:4, 5) They were to be worked humanely. (De 22:10; 25:4) They, as well as man, were to benefit from the Sabbath rests. (Ex 20:10; 23:12; De 5:14) Dangerous animals were to be controlled or destroyed. (Ge 9:5; Ex 21:28, 29) Crossbreeding of different sorts was forbidden.
God-fearing men see in animals part of God’s generous provision for human welfare. Animals have served man as burden bearers, as sources of food and clothing, as sanitation agents, and as helpers in the vital activities of plowing and harvesting. Their variety of form and color has delighted his eye; their habits and instincts have been and still are an extensive field for inquiry into the marvels of God’s creative work. Though animals die in the same manner as man, they do not share his hope of a resurrection.