Every member of the human race is confronted with the question of their relationship to the other living creatures upon this earth that we commonly inhabit. As for this and all other questions of our ultimate purpose and responsibilities, we find the answer in the Holy Bible, the Word of the Living God.
Genesis Chapter 1 – Creation
In the creation account in Genesis chapter 1, we find the awesome account of the original creation. In verses 20 through 25 we have the account of the creation of the living creatures:
“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God create great whales and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind: and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Creation of Mankind – His Mandate
Next we have the account of the creation of Mankind: “26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” Genesis 1:26-28.
Then we have the statement of God’s will for their food, verses 29-31:
29 “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
To Sum It Up
Revelation 4:11 sums it up: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
And to this I say, “Amen.”
Note two things from this account:
1. We know from this creation story that the animals and all other living creatures are not in the same class as people; neither are people in the same class as animals, for Mankind was created in the image of God. Since God created Mankind in His image and for His pleasure we know that it is His pleasure for us to exercise the dominion for which we were created: we are to be stewards of the creation and shepherds of the beasts.
2. At this point God gave Mankind the herbs bearing seed, and the fruit of trees yielding seed for food. For the beasts, the fowls and the creeping things, He gave the green herbs for food.
Genesis Chapter 2: Creation of Adam – The Breath of Life
Here we have the full account of the creation of the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, and the beautiful garden of Eden. God created this Man by forming him from the dust of the earth, then breathing into his nostrils the Breath of Life, making him a living soul. This ‘Breath of Life’ is the Holy Spirit of God, [Hebrew ruah], which gave Man the image of God Who is a Spirit. This clearly places Mankind in a separate class from the animals. He is not brought forth by the earth nor by the sea as was the animals, but was uniquely created by God.
The Garden of Eden And Man’s Free Will
God planted the garden of Eden and made it to grow. Verse 16: “And the Lord God commanded the Man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’” Here we see the origin of Mankind’s prerogative to obey or not to obey God, his free will.
Chapter 2 continues with the account of the creation of Eve and the marriage of Adam and Eve.
Genesis Chapter 3: Temptation, Sin, and Death
This gives the account of the temptation by the serpent and their sin of disobedience by eating of the forbidden tree and the awful consequences of expulsion from the garden. It is this original sin that brought about death, not only of Mankind, but also of the rest of the natural world, the necessity for bringing forth more children to replenish the earth, and hard labor to bring forth food.
Chapters 4 Through 8 – The Consequences of Sin
In Chapters 4 through 8 we read of the awful consequences of Adam’s sin and the death that it brought. Sin and death prevailed even unto the time when the whole earth was filled with such violence that God, Himself, was greatly grieved. He saw that He must destroy the whole family of Mankind, as well as the creatures.
Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” And God directed him to build an ark, so that he and his family could survive the flood that was coming upon the whole earth to destroy it. They also were to take two of every creature into the ark to preserve the lives of the creatures.
Chapter 9: After the flood – Meat Is Permitted
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. 3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
In this account, we find that God not only reiterated His commission that Mankind should take dominion over the creatures, but also that now He could use them for food, with the prohibition that they should not eat them with the blood thereof.
The Privileges And Responsibilities of Dominion
How, then, are we to exercise this amazing divine directive to take dominion over all of the living creatures? God is the Great Shepherd, Who sets the example for us. We can best understand our privileges and responsibilities to the creatures by observing how our Father, God, in Whose image we are created, relates to us in body, soul and spirit. It is not a relationship of a tyrant over his slaves and subjects, but the relationship of loving care and companionship.
God is the Father of our Spirits, Hebrews 12:5-11. As a loving Father, He disciplines us for our good, chastening us in order to develop us in the ways of His righteous and peaceful Kingdom. Being in His image, He wills that we should, in turn, discipline, chasten, and teach our children for their good.
He is the Saviour of our bodies, Ephesians 5.23 and I Timothy 4:10. We are to be good stewards also of our own bodies, also training our children to respect and cherish their bodies. After all, our bodies are flesh and must be ruled by our spirit.
He is the Shepherd of our souls. As the Great Shepherd, He teaches us and models the role of how we are to exercise our dominion over the living creatures. It does not allow for neglect or abuse, but rather for nutrition, shelter, and good management. Psalm 23 gives us the perfect picture of the life of the animal under the care of a Good Shepherd; they are ‘pets.’ In this relationship, the shepherd’s fold is a sanctuary.
Jesus describes His own role as the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18. This is one of the greatest descriptions of the love relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. The Good Shepherd is contrasted with the hireling, one who cares for the animals only for what he can profit from it. The hireling can neglect or abuse the animals, but a good shepherd will risk his own life to save His sheep.
This clearly teaches what our attitude should be to the animals: “A righteous man regardeth the life of a beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel,” Proverbs 12:10.
A Symbiotic Relationship
In the Biblical record, the relationship is symbiotic; that is, it is advantageous and necessary for both the man and the animal. The animal receives good and proper sustenance, protection from predators and weather, treatment for diseases, parasites and injuries, and careful breeding. The man receives food, shelter, clothing and companionship.
The Lord is our Good Shepherd. Let us submit willingly to His tender care and joyfully to our ability to bring blessings and joy to Him.