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Special Animals in the Bible

Check out these 22 studies on animals in the Bible.

Most studies in this set make use of the Descriptive Meditation Method. In most cases, the animal(s) being studied are  described. A worksheet with instruction is provided. In addition, notes are added to explain worksheet answers and provide other important information.

The Naming of the Animals
(Genesis 2:19-20)

Why was the naming of the animals important? The main reason is because the naming was more about Adam than about the animals. Through the naming the great Creator and Educator repeatedly taught the man that he was unique and that there was no animal that was in the image of God as he was. Therefore the naming was closely linked to the creation and naming of the woman who was also in the image of God (Gen. 1:28). The naming of the animals also showed that the man had dominion over them.

How should the worksheet for this and other studies be used?
The directions are at the bottom of each worksheet. 1.) First, read the passage and if possible some related literature or websites conserving the animal(s) being studied. 2.) Go through the points on the worksheet in alphabetical order considering and discussing whether each point is valid or not. (Most points are correct.) 3.) Think about and discuss which points are most important. 4.) Make some personal applications of the study. Usually some helpful points or questions to help with this are included at the end.

Why didn't God name the animals himself?
If the Lord had done it himself, it would have been faster, but it would not have been nearly as educational as having the man do it based on personal observation. Delegating the naming to the man was like giving Adam a great homework assignment. It was also like a long series of unspoken questions. How would you name this animal? How about that one? God thus encouraged the man to observe carefully and think rather than memorize names that God had given.
    Moreover, as the man named each animal, he was demonstrating his dominion over it in line with Genesis 1:27-28.

Did man do the naming all by himself?
In a way, he did since God never overruled a name that Adam chose. However, God brought the animals to the man, rather than having Adam go look for them. Moreover, God had given the man the abilities that he needed in order to do the task. So there was a degree of collaboration, just as there is today as well, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart and mind.

What are the applications?
There are many possible applications in education. For instance, the naming shows that a degree of freedom is helpful, though since the fall of man more restrictions are needed. The passage also shows that repetition is good if there is also some variety. (The naming task was repeated again and again, but each animal was different.)
   The main lesson in the naming, however, was to show that man was and is different from the animals. So the main application is for each of us to live as one created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27-28) rather than as an animal.

Click here to go to the GENESIS page.

Noah's Dove
(Genesis 8:6-14)

Why did Noah send out the dove?
He was trying to determine if the ground had dried up enough to be safe for people and the animals. He knew that the tops of the mountains were above water (8:5), but without removing the top covering of the ark (8:13) he was unable to see much. So he had sent out a raven as a probe, but by not returning the raven only showed that the earth was safe for ravens.

What was the dove like?
Both the raven and the dove were like space probes sent to an unexplored planet, but the dove was much more helpful. Its cautious nature made it a better instrument for measuring livability, and its instinctive interest in plants did as well. Apparently it explored for an entire day the second time since it did not return until evening (8:10-11). Despite finding plant life that day, it decided that returning to the familiar ark at night was the safer thing to do. Only on its third outing, did it decide that it was safe to remain outside (8:12). Both the dove and Noah were wisely cautious.
    In addition, doves are very different from eagles which could easily have flown far away to the mountain, as well as ducks and other seabirds which would have happily rested outside the ark while floating on the water.

Why did the dove bring back an olive leaf?
Bringing back the leaf may have involved nesting instinct or natural interest in fruit bearing trees. On the other hand, the dove was undoubtedly providentially guided to do as it did since the olive leaf was informative and encouraging to Noah (8:11). There is no contradiction between the dove being free to go wherever it wished and God providentially leading it to do as it did.

Was the dove necessary?
Soon afterward, the Lord told Noah to open the ark and let out all the animals (8:15-19). So the repeated probing with the dove was in a way unnecessary. Yet, the same is true of the sending out of the two spies in Joshua chapter two. God had already promised victory over Jericho, but the spies were still sent out. The good report that they brought back encouraged Joshua and the people, just like the dove's return with an olive leaf encouraged Noah. In both cases, it was important to have assurance of God's blessing.

What is the application?
Like Noah, we should be actively interested in our surroundings. We should use God-given wisdom to investigate things that impact our lives, rather than just "waiting upon the Lord." For sure, God has a plan, but he wants us to be actively involved in such, including through investigating factors that are unknown but knowable.

Click here to go to the GENESIS page.

(Job 40:15-24)

What was the Creator teaching Job?
The identity of Behemoth is controversial, but God’s purpose in describing it to Job is not. As with Leviathan in the next chapter, God was speaking to his servant about human weakness compared to the greatest of animals and himself. Behemoth was so great that it was free and unhindered since it could not be controlled by any human being (40:19-24). Therefore whatever behemoth was, it was a gigantic object lesson.

What are the applications for us?
Lest we miss the point of the Behemoth passage by only focusing on its identity, we have purposefully began with God’s purpose. Simply stated, the basic point in Job chapters 40 and 41 is that we should not question the Lord for he is not required to answer us since we are weak, ignorant, and secondary. He does, in fact, often graciously answer us as he did Job in the end, but we must not demand that he do so.
  Moreover, in light of God’s greatness, we should not focus on human accomplishments, either personal or collective (Daniel 4:30). Rather, we should think about the greatness of the Creator and what he has made.

What was Behemoth?
This is a controversial topic and should not be the starting point. Yet, it is still important because the great animal's emotional impact on Job and us is linked to its identity. Whatever it was, it was gigantic and the greatest of all creatures (40:19) that Job knew. Since Job lived thousands of years ago, however, long before Moses in the time of Abraham, it is probable that Behemoth was alive then but now extinct. Therefore linking it to the largest animals alive today, such as the elephant or hippopotamus is probably incorrect.

Was Behemoth a dinosaur?
Many believer that Behemoth was the greatest of all dinosaurs since such would have had a much greater emotional impact on Job than a relatively small hippopotamus or elephant. Moreover, it could not have been a hippopotamus because its tail was like a great cedar tree (40:17). In addition, the hippopotamus is not at home on dry land and in the mountains (40:20). As for the argument that the mouth of plant-eating dinosaurs not being large enough (40:23), such huge herbivores had small heads compared to their overall size, but their heads and mouths were definitely not small.
  Whatever Behemoth was, it points to the Creator rather than to the godless theory of evolution. Therefore it makes no sense to begin with a belief in evolution over millions of years and assert that the greatest land animals that God made could not have coexisted with Job. Apparently it did, and what an impact it must have had! It should humble us as well.

Click here to go to the JOB page.

(Job chapter 41)

What was Leviathan?
Though it is impossible to know for sure what this likely-now-extinct creature was, it is clear that it was important since God spoke of it at great length in chapter 41. None of the other animals in preceding chapters are mentioned in such great detail. Moreover, in addition to Job, others in the ancient world knew of this creature since it is mentioned in the Psalms and by Isaiah.

How is Leviathan regarded today?
Those who reject biblical truth often claim that Leviathan was just a mythical creature, but the animals in chapters 39 and 40 are obviously real, though it is unclear what Behemoth in 40:15-24 was. Most likely it was a large, now-extinct dinosaur, and this lends credence to the view that Leviathan also was a huge, now-extinct sea creature. Both were so large and powerful that only God could overpower them (40:19, 41:7-10). Moreover, their existence in the time of Job and Abraham is evidence for a young earth and against the theory of evolution.  
   As Pharaoh repeately rejected the Lord’s powerful messages to him in the ten plagues, each of which displayed God’s power in creation, so also proud disbelievers today reject Behemoth and Leviathan. Both are viewed as mythical creatures by those who in their pride regard creation as a myth. Moreover, sadly, not a few believers attempt to tone down the power of the greatest of God’s creatures by suggesting that they may have been a hippopotamus and a large shark. Both ot these approaches are disrespectful.

What was the Creator teaching Job?
It must have been humbling to think about the awesome power of Leviathan, since the Lord repeatedly compared its brute strength to the weakness of human beings. It was far too big for Job to catch with a hook (41;1-2) and far too powerful and well protected for anyone to successfully attach it with weapons (41:7-10, 26-29). Like Behemoth, Leviathan and its Creator were to be respected.

What is the application?
Though Job for the most part did not sin in what he said about his suffering (2:10), he was too bold in asking God to reveal himself and explain what had happened. Since it was foolhardy to attack Leviathan, it was also foolish to oppose God in any way (41:10) including by questioning his goodness or wisdom. Thankfully, Job took the powerful Leviathan object lesson about respect seriously and repented as seen in the next chapter (42:1-6). We should take it seriously as well.

Click here to go to the JOB page.

The Plague of Frogs
(Exodus 8:1-15)

Why did God send frogs?
The Egyptians had many frog related objects and images, including a popular goddess of fertility and childbirth which had the body of a woman and the head of a frog. So by sending frogs, the Lord demonstrated in a physical way how creepy the froggy faith of most people was. Moreover, Moses could have simply predicted that the frogs would be in their homes in general, but by specifically targeting their beds and bowls (8:3) the Lord addressed the fertility aspects of popular religion in Egypt.

Why is "your bed" included in 8:3?
Moses could have simply spoken of frogs in bedrooms, but he was more specific. By specifically speaking of the bed, Moses probably addressed the sexual and reproductive nature of their idolatry and showed that the Lord is the true Giver and Controller of life. Moreover, the order in 8:3 may be significant. The bed comes before the bowls. In line with this, most frogs and toads are more active at night than during the day. Likewise, the reproductive aspect of the frog related idolatry may have been more prominent than the agricultural aspect.

Is there a natural explanation?
In part, there probably is since frogs and toads are known to migrate in response to seasonal and environmental changes. However the exact timing of their invasion and sudden all-at-once death were obviously miraculous. There was probably some connection with the water of the Nile being turned into blood in the first plague (7:14-25) since frogs and toads need water in order to reproduce. The loss of useable rivers and ponds (8:5) may have caused a desperate search for alternative sites. Yet, the main thing is to realize that the Lord is free to use so-called natural and supernatural means as he chooses for to him it is all the same.

Is this disgusting plague important?
Unlike several other plagues, it was not deadly, other than for the frogs. There are fifteen verses written about it, however, which is considerably more than about the third plague of lice (8:16-19) and even somewhat longer than the first, water-into-blood plague (7:14-25). Beliefs about fertility and the origin of life are foundational. So there is more written about the second plague than we might expect. It is not just about frogs! Nor is it only about Pharaoh, since there was corrective evangelical outreach to every Egyptian home though God's word and the millions of lowly toads and frogs.

What are the applications? Obviously we should not harden our hearts as Pharaoh did (8:15). However, the main applications of this passage are about our attitude toward life and children who are to be treasured as gifts from the God of the Bible.

Click here to go to the EXODUS page.

The Quail
(Numbers chapter 11)

Why did God send the quail?
The Lord was angry at the llustful people who complained about the manna and the lack of meat (11:4-10, 33). Unlike earlier, in Exodus, his anger is clearly seen since many died. So many who craved the familiar Egyptian food were removed, and the number of troublemakers who opposed Moses (11:4, Psa. 78:31) was reduced. (Notice that the quail were sent in answer to Moses' prayer.)

What was the great plague in 11:33?
This verse shows that the plague was associated with eating quail. From ancient times, it has been known that Common European Quail often eat poisonous plants or seeds during their fall migration from Europe to Africa. So they become poisonous for humans to eat though the quail themselves are not harmed. During the spring migration from Egypt to Europe the quail do not eat the same food. So they are safe to eat in the spring. The quail in Exodus chapter 16 were spring quail, but those in Numbers 11 were not.

Why didn't everyone die?
Perhaps some people, Moses for instance, refused to eat the quail, choosing to continue to eat only manna. In addition, probably some of the quail had not eaten the poisonous plants. Ultimately, God made the difference by protecting some but not others.

Why is the quail story controversial?
First, scholars who disbelieve the Scriptures falsely claim there was only one story originally and that biblical authors got confused and turned the original story into two different ones. They err by ignoring the seasonal difference in quail mentioned above. Second, how could the quail poison the people before they even chewed the meat (11:33)? The simplest answer to this is that God can do anything whenever and however he wishes, but perhaps there is another answer. The term often translated "chewed" means to cut and often means to cut off. So 11:33 may simple mean that the plague or poisoning began before the supply was cut off or exhausted.

How could a loving God send poisonous quail to his people?
The simplest answer is that some of the people were probably not true believers. This is implied by the "mixed multitude" phrase in 11:4. (See First Corinthians 10:1-12.) Later in Numbers 21:4-9, the Lord sent vipers among the people because of their complaining. Yet, God's love was shown through the provision of salvation, the brazen serpent in 1:8-9. Ultimately, this pointed to the death of Christ (John 3:14-15) and to the love of God (John 3:16).

What are the applications?
We should not be like those who complained and lusted for the food that they had eaten in Egypt. Since we have been born again from above, we should live differently, by faith, being content with the Lord's provision. (See 1 Cor. 10:6, Phil. 4:11-12, and Heb. 13:5, and notice that there is an emphasis in Numbers 11:21-24 on the Lord's ability to provide.) This requires faith-based self-control (2 Pet. 1:5-7) regarding food, in marriage (Hebrews 13:4-5), and in other ways. The message here is not just about food.

The Fiery Serpents
(Numbers 21:4-9)

Why did God send deadly snakes?
Obviously, it was because the people spoke against God (21:5-6). However, they had often done so in the past as well without such severe consequences. (See Exodus 15:22-25, 16:1-5, and 17:1-7.) The difference in Numbers 21:4-9 seems to be that they  did not complain because they lacked food or water. Rather, they loathed the food that God had provided (21:5). So their complaining was like a thankless child throwing food on the floor, rather than a small child crying because of hunger.

Why didn't God totally remove the snakes?
After many had died, the people repented and asked for the venomous snakes to be be removed (21:7). Rather than doing so, however, the Lord provided a way for individuals who were bitten to be saved (21:9). In Exodus, the frogs that plagued Pharaoh died and became a stinking mess, but for God's people in the wilderness the provision was better. The snakes which represented sin continued to bite the people, but each one could turn and look with faith at the bronze serpent in order to be spared. This was in line with Jesus' explanation of salvation in John 3:14-16 and Paul's teaching on the same in Second Corinthians 5:21.

Why is the fiery serpents passage so short?
It is only five verses. Yet, it seems to be important since the Lord Jesus cited the incident in John chapter three and Paul cited it in First Corinthians chapter ten. Moreover, Moses included it in his summary of key wilderness events in Deuteronomy 8:14-17. Why then is the original passage so short? We do not know, but the important, water-from-the-rock passage, Exodus 17:1-7, is also short. Some may wish to know what the rock that was struck looked like, but describing it would have distracted from the miracle. Likewise, describing the snakes in detail would probably have been distractive as well.

What kind of venomous snakes were they?
It is impossible to tell with certainty, and groundless speculation is unhelpful. Nevertheless, there are some indications that the snakes may have been desert horned vipers which are known for their stealth and quick strikes. (These may be referred to as fiery flying serpents in Isaiah 14:29.) Alternatively, they may have been common sand vipers which also hide in the sand but become more openly aggressive as their annual hibernation period approaches. Being sent by the Lord (Num. 21:6) may have involved their natural aggressiveness at that time of year.

What are the applications?
Obviously, we each should personally believe in the One forshadowed by the bronze serpent (John 3:14-15). Looking in Numbers 21:9 is much like believing in John 3:15.
    In addition, of course, we as believers should not complain about God's provision like the Israelites did. (Compare Numbers 21:5 and First Corinthians 10:9.) Each snake bite had to be taken seriously. Likewise, a sinful, unthankful heart of unbelief toward the Lord needs to be repented of quickly.

Balaam's Talking Donkey
(Numbers 22:22-35)

Can donkeys think?
This is the proper starting point for this study, and the answer is, "Yes, of course donkeys can think." They are intelligent animals. Just because donkeys and horses do not have the natural ability to speak in human languages, there is no reason to assume that they are unable to think about what happens to and around them.

What would Balaam's donkey have thought?
She would have instinctively been afraid of the Angel of the Lord, and her evasive actions were totally normal. Therefore she would have been puzzled about why she had been beaten by Balaam, since she naturally assumed that her master also could see the Angel. The donkey being able to voice her thoughts was, of course, miraculous, but her question about why she had been beaten (22:28) was only natural. She did not speak of great things such as the appearance or identity of the Angel or even about why they were traveling. Moreover, unlike the greedy prophet, she would not have been thinking about money (2 Pet. 2:15-16). Her thoughts were basic, and so too were her words.

What about the donkey's second speech in 22:30?
Admittedly this is longer and not just about being beaten. Yet, the second speech also makes sense from the domestic donkey's perspective. It was about the relationship between a master and his donkey. It was not a wild donkey like those spoken of in Job 39:5-8. Like other wild animals, a wild donkey thinks about doing its own thing, but Balaam's domestic animal did not think that way. So, again, the second speech in 22:30 was, of course, miraculous, but it was not out of line with how a normal domestic donkey thinks.

What are the applications?
As 2 Peter 2:15-16 shows, we should not be like the crazy prophet who was focused on money. Rather, we should be loyal and submissive to the Lord, somewhat like the donkey was loyal and submissive to Balaam.
    In addition, it is important to keep in mind and teach children that there is a world of difference between fairy tales in which animals appear to think and speak like ordinary people about many things, and this miraculous yet realistic passage in the Bible about a talking donkey. Actually, the passage is about the Creator and his freedom to do as he pleases. Realizing that changes the perspective greatly.

(Leviticus 16:1-34)

What was the scapegoat?
Each year on the Day of Atonement, two male goats were selected for a sin offering (16:5), but only one of them was actually killed. The second, living goat which is traditionally called the scapegoat was taken to an uninhabited wilderness and released after the sins of the people had been confessed over it by the high priest (16:10, 20-22). This represented forgiveness and the removal of sin, the result of the shedding of blood associated with the first goat. Of course, only the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus could take away sin; bulls and goats could not. (See Hebrews chapter ten.)

Is there a parallel passage?
The closest parallel to the two goats on the Day of Atonement is the use of two birds in 14:1-7 when someone was cured of leprosy. The first bird was killed, and the second one was set free. There is an important difference in these cases, however. Birds often return, but the second goat was taken to a place from which it could not return. Moreover, the former leper was allowed to return home like the second bird, but the scapegoat which represented sin that had been forgiven was permanently removed.

What do theologians say?
Understandably, the sprinkling of the blood upon the mercy seat (16:11-16) is stressed because it represented the death of Christ. However, the follow-up role of the second goat is usually neglected even though the second goat pointed to the taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Sadly theologians devote many pages to the debate about the meaning of “world” in John 1:29 but have precious little or even nothing to say about the taking away of sin which was represented each year with the scapegoat.

What do others say?
Sadly, there is much careless speculation about the second goat. Some say that it was taken to a cliff to be killed in a place called Azazel. Others claim that it was presented to a wilderness demon named Azazel. These strange theories arise from the fact that the Hebrew term, azazel, traditionally translated in English as scapegoat, is not found elsewhere in the Bible. It is a difficult term, but a parallel one in Arabic means to completely remove, and this meaning fits the context well. Turning the term into the name of a place or a demon does not.

What is the application?
Of course, we should take sin seriously, just as was done on the Day of Atonement. However, for those of us who have been forgiven through the Messiah, it is now possible for us to draw near to God the Father with more boldness than during the old dispensation. (See Hebrews 10:22.) The blood of bulls and goats could not take away our sins (Heb. 10:4), but they pointed to the One who did (Heb. 10:5-10). Knowing Him, we should approach God boldly.

Samson's 300 Foxes / Jackals
(Judges 15:4-5)

Why did Samson wish to harm the Philistines?
Obviously he had a personal reason for doing so (15:1-3), as he did later in 16:28 as well. Yet, the Lord was working in it all in order to use Samson to free Judah from the Philistines (14:4). So Samson's burning of the wheat fields, vineyards, and olive groves using the foxes / jackals was not just personal revenge.

Did Samson use foxes or jackals?
It could have been either, or perhaps he even caught and used both. Red foxes and golden jackals are both common in Israel, though the jackals were probably more abundant. Also since jackals form packs, it may have been easier to catch a large number of jackals at one time. On the other hand, foxes run faster, and their long tails are closer to the ground.
   In either case, individual animals may or may not have been killed in the fires that they helped spread. The torches would have gone out after a while, and Samson did not directly set their tails on fire.

Why did Samson use so many animals?
The obvious reason was in order to multiply his ability to set the Philistines' fields on fire. The military term for this is force multiplication. In addition, it was probably because there were many foxes or jackets in the area to catch. Thus, he used what was available. Later he did so again with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15-16).
   In addition, reducing the number of foxes and / or jackals may have been necessary because of overpopulation or disease.

Why did Samson act alone?
The men of Judah were afraid to stand against the much stronger Philistines (15:11-12). So God had raised up Samson to be a special deliverer who would be able to free his people even without the aid of an army. This was significantly different from the other judges. So the life of Samson shows positively that God uses individuals and negatively that teamwork is not the most important thing in the world. Even in Gideon's case, the Lord showed that the victory did not come because of the combined strength of the army (7:2). In Samson's one-man war against the Philistines, this is even more clear.

Why did Samson tie two foxes / jackals together?
We do not know, but perhaps it was in order to ensure that the pair of animals would run in an erratic pattern. An individual fox or jackal would have been more likely to run away in a straight line, but two tied together would to some extent try to go in different directions. From Samson's perspective, this chaos would have had a good effect.

What are the applications?
Two readily come to mind. First, even if you or I seem to be alone and totally without allies, we should not give up. Elijah who is in the next study also did much for the Lord despite often being alone. Second, we should use the various spiritual, physical, financial, and technological means that God has supplied to each of us as force multipliers rather than spending all our time looking for additional human help. Individual believers are not helpless!

The Ravens that Fed Elijah
(1 Kings 17:2-7)

What are raven like?
Though not normally kept as pets, many ravens are used to being around people. They often obtain food from people which probably was the case to some extent of those that fed Elijah. (Obviously, they were not able to bake bread!) Also as intelligent and teachable birds with ample physical strength, ravens could have been taught by the Lord to deliver food twice a day to Elijah. Sparrows would have been too small and weak, and eagles would not have been as accustomed to interacting with humans.
    Another way the ravens fit the task was due to how common they were. It was important for Elijah to remain hidden, and the ravens did not attract much attention. If human couriers had been used, Elijah's location would have soon known by Ahab.

What is miraculous in this story?
First, since ravens are normally scavengers, obtaining healthy food for Elijah twice a day for months was a series of many "small" miracles. Though people were undoubtedly involved somehow (baking bread, etc.), this is kept hidden in order to stress God's part. In addition, the ravens' willingness to feed Elijah instead of eating the food themselves does not seem natural. Yet, the ravens themselves were also probably well fed by the Lord, and this probably in part explains their willingness to share.

Why is the ravens' part of the chapter relatively short?
The ravens in 17:2-7 are overshadowed by the widow of Sidon in 17:8-24. Both the ravens and the widow were miraculously enabled, but much more is written about the widow and her son. Obviously, people are more important than birds (See Matthew 10:29-31.), but there is more to it than that. The raising of the widow's son from the dead (17:17-24) was a more spectacular miracle than the ravens bringing food. Moreover, the woman spoke about her faith (17:24), while the ravens were silent witnesses to the Lord being the God of creation.

What is the application?
Many small "miracles," day by day, is what the life of faith is all about. So the story of the ravens is in line with praying for daily bread (Mat. 6:11) and being thankful (1 Thes. 5:18). Each raven probably brought something small, but rather than this being a problem, Elijah would have been thankful again and again.

The Deadly Bears Incident
(2 Kings 2:23-24)

What happened and why?
The two female bears severely injured and / or killed 42 youth because they mocked the Lord and in order to demonstrate that Elisha truly was Elijah's successor. In this, the incident was the negative flip side of the positive healing of the waters in the previous verses (2 Kings. 2:19-22). This shocking passage is probably very short in order to indicate that this is NOT the primary way the Lord wants us to remember Elisha. The accounts of his positive miracles, such as the healing of Naaman, are longer.

What was this incident like?
Several worksheet phrases link the two bears incident with others that are somewhat similar, including the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. In both cases God was establishing his authority, first within Israel via Elisha and later within the early church via the apostles. So both passages come early in their respective books.
   The irreverent youths showed their disbelief by challenging Elisha to go up to heaven like Elijah (2 Kings. 1:11), and this is much like those today who scoff at biblical teaching about the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-51). So this passage was and is a warning to disbelievers both then and now.

How could two female bears have been in the same area since bears are solitary?
The loud shouting of the young men  probably got the attention of two sows each of whom had cubs to protect. Though male bears tend to travel widely, females often have somewhat overlapping ranges in the same general area. Undoubtedly these two bears knew each other, and perhaps one of them was even the mother of the other. Undoubtedly, their protective instinct was involved in what happened, though their unusual attack upon many people at once, while avoiding Elisha, must have been directed by the Lord in a special way.

What are the applications for believers today?
Obviously, we should treat God’s leaders and their teaching with respect. Moreover, in light of Matthew 5:44, we should not curse those who oppose us. However, the Lord’s gracious teaching in the Sermon on the Mount does not mean that those who oppose the gospel will be blessed by God in the end (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Judgment will still come in God’s time.

Click here to go to the ELISHA page.

The Lions' Den
(Daniel chapter 6)

Rubens' painting of Daniel in the lions' den is wrong in several ways.
First, Daniel appears to be young and afraid rather than a mature, fearless prophet. Second, the Lord had sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions (6:22), but in the painting the mouths of several lions are open. We do not know how the angel closed their mouths, but it was probably through fear. They would have been terrified of the angel, much like the soldiers on guard at the tomb in Matthew 28:4 became like dead men. They probably would have been trying to hide in the far corners fo the den. Third, Rubens painted many male lions along with a few females. If that had been the case, the male lions would have fought and killed one another. Many lionesses make more sense.

How were lions viewed in Babylon?
The Babylonians, the Persians, and other ancient people used the lion to represent great strength, and they associated it with their gods such as the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. So it was a powerful cultural statement with deep meaning for King Darius to write of the God of Daniel as the living God who had delivered the prophet from the power of the lion (6:25-27). Several of the points in the worksheet for this study concern this topic.

How is the lions' den story like the resurrection of Jesus?
A stone was placed over the entrance, and the stone was sealed (6:17). Darius thought of the prophet as dead (6:18-20). So Daniel's survival and coming out of the den was joyous (17:23) like Jesus' resurrection. Also, Daniel innocence (6:22) parallel's Jesus' sinless perfection to some extent. Best of all, Daniel's preservation was such a great testimony that the king became a believer in Daniel's God (6:25-27). It was a sign to Darius, much like the resurrection is the greatest sign of Jesus' divinity to us.

What is the application?
The lions were instruments of intimidation, much like the fiery furnace in chapter three, but believers are not to be intimidated by the power of the opposition. (See 1 Peter 5:8). The lions were weak compared to the God of Daniel (Daniel 6:27). The Lord was able to deliver his servant, and he is able to deliver us as well, according to his will (3:17-18).

The Great Fish or Whale
(Jonah 1:17-2:10)

Why did the Lord use a great fish?
God could have saved his wayward prophet by other means, such as with a floating log and divinely directed wind. Alternatively, God could have sent an angel to protect Jonah like he did for Daniel. So why did he use a great fish?
   Jesus' words in Matthew 12:40 show that one of God's purposes in putting Jonah in the tomb-like belly of the great fish for three days was to foreshadow the resurrection. Obviously, surviving three day at sea with the help of a log would not have foreshadowed the resurrection nearly as well.
    In addition, the connection between the great storm (1:4) and the great fish (1:17) shows that the Lord is God rather than Baal, the so-called storm god, or Dagon whose name in Hebrew sounds much like the word for fish. In line with this, it is significant that idolatry is condemned near the end of chapter two (2:8-9).

Was it a great fish or a whale?
We do not know, since it is not described in detail and because the terms used could refer to either. A sperm whale is often suggested since its throat is wide enough to swallow a man whole. And, of course, it may actually have been a larger shark or something else.

Why isn't the great sea creature described in detail?
The main reason was probably because the focus was primarily on Jonah and the Lord. There may be another reason, however. By limiting the description, the key Hebrew term "dag," meaning fish or fish-like creature, stands out more. This, in turn, may have pointed to Dagon, the god that was worshipped by many in the Euphrates valley as well as by the Philistines.
    Dagon, could not save anyone (2:8), but the Lord who made all things could use a dag (a fish or a whale) to save Jonah if He chose to do so. The great fish was God's fish rather than a fish god.

Agricultural god or fish god?
Some object by pointing out that the Hebrew term for grain also sounds much like Dagon. So many scholars believe that Dagon was an agricultural god. Ok, but couldn't Dagon have been both an agricultural god and a fish god? Most idolaters worship more than one god or mix various ideas lest they overlook something. (See Acts 17:23.) In addition, in chapter four, the Lord is the One who makes plants grow (4:6) and the One who cared about livestock (4:11). So the Lord is to be worshipped rather than Dagon or another idol, including those shaped like a calf that Jeroboam sat up. (See Second Chronicles 11:14-15.)

How should we apply this study?
First, Jonah is against idolatry, which is associated with covetousness (Col. 3:5). So we should not lust after things. Second, like Jonah, we should point to the Lord through his testimony in creation. Storms, great fish and whales, helpful plants, livestock, and even lowly worms (4:7) all still point to him. Third, we should speak of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the greatest of all miracles.

Click here to go to the JONAH page.

The Temple Doves
(John 2:14-22)

Which temple cleansing?
Twice the Lord expelled those who defiled the temple by selling doves and other sacrificial animals within the temple grounds, once soon after entering Jerusalem near the beginning of his ministry which is the focus of this study and again near the end of his ministry (Matthew 21:12-17).
   The first incident, the one in John, is more dynamic since Jesus made a whip of cords to drive out most of the animals and those who sold them (2:15). Yet, he was gently with the doves, commanding that they be carried out (2:16). Thus the Lord demonstrated his zeal and stern authority but without ceasing to be gentle. As the Creator and the true Owner of all the animals, Jesus had authority to do as he desired with them, but he also, of course, knew how weak the doves were compared to the oxen and sheep.

Bringing sacrificial animals into the temple did not, in and of itself, defile the temple since these animals were to be offered up there. In fact, the shedding and sprinkling of their blood was the way that sin was to be covered, and such was required in order to approach God. The defilement was because the animals were brought in by agents of the leaders in order to be sold more than in order to be sacrificed. They should have been entering the temple to pray rather than in order to do business and make a profit.

Does this kind of defilement still happen today?
There is now no temple in Jerusalem, but Paul wrote of professing believers who try to use superficial godliness as a way to material gain (1 Timothy 6:5-6). Such ones are to be avoided, since they misuse Christian fellowship as surely as the Jewish leaders misused their control of the temple.

Was it sinful to sell sacrificial animals for a profit?
If it were done outside of the temple, no, but the problem was not just the location. Since the priests controlled access to the temple, those that could sell therein had a monopoly of the market so that their prices and rates were artificially high. The place was wrong, but so too were the prices. The doves were for the poor, but wealthy Jewish leaders were taking advantage of everyone, including the poorest in the nation who could not afford to buy an ox or a sheep.

What are the applications?
The main application in John is always to personally believe in and honor the Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus. This, of course, involves recognizing the need for atonement for sin through his sacrifice. Moreover, no believer should seek to use God's house and Christian fellowship to improve his or her business interests, in line with Paul's command in 1 Timothy 5:5-6.
   Secondarily, Jesus treated the doves gently, and so should we. Yet, he was also strict with those who misused God's house. Thus he provided a pattern for us of biblical strictness that is not overly harsh.

The 2,000 Swine
(Mark 5:1-20)

Why should we study pigs?
The great majority of Jesus' earthly ministry was in Israel and among the Jews who did not keep swine or eat pork (Lev. 11:7). However, the Synoptic Gospels show that the Lord and his disciples crossed the lake to the country of Gadarenes where there were more Gentiles and a huge herd of about 2,000 swine, which is the largest number of animals in one place mentioned anywhere in the New Testament.

What else is unusual in this story?
The Lord Jesus often cast out demons. In fact, the first miracle in Mark is of this kind (1:21-28). The number of demons involved in chapter five, however, is huge, a legion of them (5:10), and this is closely associated with the large number of pigs into which the demons were allowed to enter. Mark especially seems to emphasize Jesus' power and authority through this since his account is much longer than those in Matthew and Luke, and only Mark specifically said that there were about 2,000 pigs.

What is the most unusual aspect of this strange but true story?
Only here, were demons allowed to enter into animals. Since large pigs can be dangerous, anyway, what damage could a huge herd of demon-possessed pigs have done? Thankfully, they suddenly ran down the steep slope and into the lake where they all drowned. Perhaps this was partly because pigs are likely to panic when something unusual happens, but undoubtedly it was also because Jesus thereby prevented the swine from becoming and continuing to be true monsters.

What were / are the swine like?
As unclean animals which under the Law (Lev. 11:7) were not to be eaten, the pigs were somewhat like the demonic and unhealthy teaching of false teachers which in New Testament times likewise must be shunned (1 Tim. 4:1-3). The eating of pork is now allowed (1 Tim. 4:3-5), but it must be cooked thoroughly, and having a large numbers of swine in a given area can even today lead to serious health problems for the community and beyond. So in various ways, pork is not the best meat to eat. Neither are frog legs, and the heaps of dead frogs in Egypt and Exodus 8:14 were somewhat like the heaps of dead pigs in Mark 5:13.

How should we apply this study?
Though the unclean pigs were removed by Jesus, the main point of the Mark 5:1-20 passage is not about diet and health. It is about respecting and trusting in the authority and incomparable power of the Lord, the One who overpowered a legion of demons. Only God in the flesh could have done such a great miracle. The swine helped draw attention to this greatness.

Click here to go to the MARK page.

Peter's Fish
(Matthew 17:24-27)

What kind of fish was it?
As with several animals in this series, it is impossible to tell with certainty, but many scholars (and restaurants in Galilee!) believe that it was a tilapia. This is in part because tilapia are accustomed to having objects in their mouths especially their own young. On the other hand, a carp-like barbel would have been more likely to bite a hook. Most tilapia are caught in nets. Despite the controversy, the miracle was wonderful and important no matter what kind of fish it may have been.

Is this miracle trivial?
In a way, it is small because there is only one fish, only one coin, and only one of the four Gospels involved. When the tremendous number of fish in the lake near Capernaum is considered, however, it's obvious that catching the only one with the coin in its mouth was like finding a needle in a hay stack. Everything had to work together perfectly in order for it to happen. The timing, placement, and provision of the coin were all perfect despite the fact that Peter and the fish were in most ways ordinary.

How was this one-coin miracle important?
Of course it was important to and appropriate for Peter who experienced it directly, but it also must have impacted the devout Jews who collected the temple tax and Matthews' Jewish readers in a positive way. The miracle showed that Jesus and his disciples were not opposed to the temple in Jerusalem.

How is this miracle important theologically?
Some say that it is important because it confirmed Jesus' humanity, since he payed the temple tax like other Jews. The passage as a whole, however, stresses the fact that as God the Son, Jesus did not need to pay. In fact, in some ways, he did not do so since the coin was from the lake rather than Jesus' pocket. Peter directly paid it since he caught the fish and delivered the coin to the collectors, but Jesus did not. His authority as God was much higher than that of those who collected the tax.

How was this miracle like the gospel?
The fish and coin show that the Lord's provision was through grace and God's power rather than human effort. Peter did not need to work all night in order to catch many fish and come up enough money to pay the tax. He merely needed to believe Jesus and do as he said. (This is comparable with looking at the bronze serpent in Number 28:8-9.) Exactly what was needed was nearby, and this is in line with Paul's teaching regarding God's nearness in Acts 17:27 and salvation through grace in Romans 10:6.

What are the applications?
First, there is practical encouragement for us in how Jesus corrected his disciple. The coin that was needed could have been found on the street if the Lord had so willed, but Jesus instead had Peter discover it in a more fitting and special way.
    Second, there is a practical application since the fish and coin show that needless offense should be avoided, including in creative ways. The goal was to avoid stumbling devote Jews, but through the miracle an important distinction was upheld.

The Donkey's Colt
(Matthew 21:1-11)

How was the young domestic donkey important?
The most obvious reason is because Jesus rode on it when he entered Jerusalem, exactly as predicted in Zedekiah 9:9. Aside from the fulfillment, however, the donkey and its mother bore silent witness to Jesus as the Messiah by accepting him. The two lowly but intelligent animals were conscious of the Lord's gentle spirit. Like our pets, they were sensitive to body language and speech tone.

Did Jesus need to “break” the young donkey in order to ride it?
Mark and Luke report that the younger donkey had never been ridden before, but this does not mean that the younger animal had never previously carried a weight on its back. (Donkeys are often pack animals.) Nevertheless, it required more trust to allow Jesus to ride. So some say that the Lord used his power as Creator to overcome its fear. Maybe so, but Jesus' non-threatening humility as the perfect man must have been a factor as well.

How is the young donkey perhaps the most important special animal?
Of all the animals in this series, the young donkey and its mother were the closest to Jesus. Others, such as Behemoth and Leviathan, testify to God's power, but these two lowly donkeys directly interacted with the Savior and experienced his special meekness.

Why is the young donkey's mother only included in Matthew?
Mark, Luke, and John went for simplicity, but it was normal for a young donkey to be with its mother. Matthew's account is more complete just like his report on the healing of two blind men in 20:29-34 and two demoniacs in Matthew 8:28-34. All this may coincide with the need for two witnesses in Jewish trials and the fact that Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience.

Did Jesus ride on both donkeys?
The fact that garments were placed upon both animals (21:7) favors this possibility, but it is not certain what happened. If Jesus rode on both animals, it would have been one at a time, and Mark, Luke, and John all show that Jesus was sitting on the younger donkey when he neared and entered the city.

Whom or what were the young donkey and its mother like?
By trusting Jesus, they were wiser than the priests who feared and rejected him (21:12-16). So they also were somewhat like Balaam's donkey which was wiser than his master. (See 2 Peter 2:16.) In addition, the two donkeys were somewhat like the fish with a coin in its mouth in Matthew 17:27. The Lord knew all about both the fish and the donkeys.

What are the applications?
First, we should believe in, trust, and love the Messiah who came exactly as predicted. Second, we should seek with God's help to be meek and humble like the Lord Jesus. (See Matthew 5:3 and Philippians 2:5-11.) Third, we should be willing to turn over our possessions to God like the owner(s) of the two donkeys, because everything belongs to the Lord.

The Apostle & the Viper
(Acts 28:3-6)

What kind of viper struck Paul?
Since there are no poisonous snakes on the densely populated island of Malta today, we do not know for sure. Yet, the symptoms of snake bite described in 28:6 fit those the European horned viper which may have been present on the island in Paul's day when the population was much smaller.

Why should we study a snake?
The snake itself was not so important, but Paul's miraculous deliverance from it was. Many clearly saw the snake attached to the apostle's hand and that Paul was not harmed. This was powerful evidence that Paul was a special man. The storm in the previous chapter showed this about him as well. Both the storm and the viper are near the end of Acts and show that Paul should be respected and heeded as God's apostle.
   Daniel's deliverance from the lions showed mush the same regarding the Old Testament prophet. The lions are in Daniel chapter six shortly before most of Daniel's important prophecies in the following chapters. Likewise, after the end of the book of Acts we have Paul's many inspired letters, all of which are to be taken seriously.

Why didn't Paul correct those who thought he was a god (28:6)?
Perhaps he did correct them, but this is not recorded in chapter 28 because a disclaimer of deity might have been viewed too negatively. The emphasis in chapters 27 and 28 is that Paul and his message must be taken seriously. So Paul's denial of deity is not reported in chapter 28 like it is in chapter 14.

Is there a connection between this viper and those in Numbers 21:4-9?
None is directly stated. However, some of those who were bitten by the serpents in Numbers for speaking against Moses were saved by looked to the brazen serpent. God provided for their salvation just like he did for ours through the cross of Christ. (See John 3:14-16,) Likewise, Paul's deadly serious message of salvation from sin is centered on the one who was nailed to the cross but raised in resurrection. Therein is God's victory over the evil one, the one who first appeared as the serpent in Genesis chapter three.

What are the applications?
The main application is that Paul's saving message should be heeded, but what about those of us who already are believers. For us, the question is, "Do we take ALL that Paul taught and wrote seriously?" It is not ok, for instance, to love Paul's teaching on spiritual gifts in First Corinthians but avoid his teaching about God's righteousness in Romans. Likewise within Romans, it is not acceptable to love chapter eight and ignore chapters nine and eleven. All that Paul wrote must be taken seriously because he was God's apostle.
    Secondarily, it is also important to note that Paul did not deliberately handle the viper. So Mark's controversial verse regarding poisonous snakes (Mark 16:18) was not an open invitation to purposefully handle them. At most, it was a prophecy of divine protection from snakes for the apostles in the early church.

Click here to go to the ACTS page.

The Beasts of the Earth
(Revelation 6:8)

Why should Christians care about animals in the future tribulation period?
We believe that the removal or rapture of true believers will take place before the seven year tribulation period begins (1 Thes. 5:9). Yet, there will be many who come to faith in Christ during those seven years. Most of these will be martyred for their faith (Revelation 6:9-11), and these martyrs will call upon the Lord to avenge them (6:10). Some of these future martyrs may be killed by wild animals, somewhat like how some early martyrs were killed by wild animals in the Roman Colossium.

Why do the wild animals come last on the list in 6:8?
Apparently more people will be killed in and by war, hunger, and pandemics, than by the wild predators. Nevertheless, since the population of the world is now very large, there will still be millions killed by starving beast of prey. Being killed by a wild animal will probably be more common in rural areas, while dying from disease will be more common in the cities.

Why are these wild beasts only mentioned in 6:8?
Chapter six seems to be about the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the second half of the seven year tribulation period. Later in Revelation 19:17-18, only scavenging birds are mentioned. So perhaps most of the predators will die of starvation before the end.

Is there a connection between these wild beasts of the earth and "the beast" in 11:7?
The beast in Revelation 11:7 and many other verses (13:2-4, 14-18, 14:9-11, etc.) is the future Anitchrist who is probably called a beast because of his lack of human compassion. He is also probably the one who will wage war in Revelation 6:2 which will lead to famine and environmental collapse (6:5-8). So the beast, the Antichrist, will negatively impact the animals as well as the people.
   The beasts of the earth in Revelation 6:8 are future animals rather than those which killed believers in the Roman Colosseum, but it is interesting to note that the coming Roman Antichrist through his wars will cause starving wild beasts to kill even more.

Why is Revelation so controversial?
Apocalyptic prophecy is uncomfortable reading even for believers because we naturally dislike change, especially on a grand scale. We don't like to read about millions of people being killed by wild animals during the future tribulation period, but it is going to happen. So this passage should not be skipped or, worse still, misrepresented as what happened long ago in Roman times.

How should we apply this study?
Some may think that Revelation chapter six shows that we should work to protect the environment so that animals have enough to eat. Others may think that they should become preppers in order to have food for their family and fend off wild animals. Though these ideas may be valid to some extent, ultimately human efforts always come up short. Moreover, since the rapture will come before the tribulation period, the main thing is to believe in the Lord like Noah did in order to avoid God's judgement (1 Thes. 5:9).

Click here to go to the REVELATION page.

The Future (kingdom) Animals
(Isaiah 11:6-9)

How can these things be?
Various animals are described in Isaiah 11:6-9, and most of them are in predator and prey pairings, such as the wolf and the lamb (11:6). Yet, unlike today, all the animals will dwell together in peace and harmony. There are two obvious possibilities, either 1.) God will someday fundamentally change the nature of predatory and dangerous animals or 2.) Isaiah's description is figurative.
   Calvin believed that the description is of the people of Christ living in harmony with one another. This non-literal view, however, does not fit well with the details given, such as the lion eating straw like an ox (11:7). Moreover, it does not consider Paul's prediction in Romans 8:20-22 that all creation will someday be delivered from the bondage of sin. So it is better to take these things literally.

When will these changes occur?
In his first coming, the Lord Jesus demonstrated his authority over creation by calming the storm, walking on the water, and turning water into wine, but he did not turn lions or wolves into peaceful straw-eating creatures. While with the wild beasts in the wilderness for forty days (Mark 1:13), Jesus did not change the beasts of the field into domestic animals. That, or something much like it, will be done when he return. Even so, lions will still be recognized as lions and bears as bears.
   These great changes will come about after the tribulation period and during the 1,000 year reign of the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). The church age is not in view in Isaiah chapter 11 because the church was a mystery which was hidden until revealed in the New Testament (Ephesians 3:8-12).

Why aren't change in the animal kingdom mentioned much by other prophets?
It may be stressed in Isaiah because he was the prophet who spoke most about the Prince of Peace (9:6) and had the most to say about the whole world being changed. In contrast, Ezekiel, for instance, wrote about great changes to Jerusalem, especially to the temple, but Isaiah's focus was broader. (Changes in the animal kingdom is also mentioned briefly in Hosea 2:18, however.)
    The main reason why animals are not mentioned very often by the prophets is simply because people are more important. Notice, that even in Isaiah 11:6-8, the safety of children is stressed.

What is the application?
We should be encouraged by the fact that great changes are coming and by the fact that such are now much closer than when Isaiah wrote and when the first disciples believed. (See Romans 8:20-22.) In fact, it may be only a few years away, after the seven year tribulation period. When we pray for God's kingdom to come to earth (Matthew 6:10), we are praying for the Lord to return and for these great changes to be made.   
   When the Lord first came, most Jews were hoping that the Romans would be driven out, but the changes that will come to the world when the Lord Jesus returns will be much greater than a change in government. All of creation will be set free.

Click here to go to the ISAIAH page.

Summary Study

What is the method used in this summary?
In line with the Plus Bible Study method, each of the 18 studies on special animals in the Bible is summarized in a negative and a positive way. This is like looking at each animal and each passage with two eyes rather than just one. For more on the Plus Study method, click the link below.

Click here for the PLUS BIBLE STUDIES page.

What is the main negative?
Aside from the first study which is on the animals in the Garden of Eden before the Fall and the final one which is on the animals in the future millennial kingdom, in one way or another sin is a major topic in nearly every study. Several of the studies, such as the ones on the frogs (#5), the quail (#6), the fiery serpents (#7), the scapegoat (#9), Elisha's bears (#12), and the wild beasts of the earth (#17), involve the judgement for sin.

What are the greatest positives?
There is a great eschatological positive in the final study (#18), since it is about the reversal of the disastrous results of the Fall on animals, but this will not come until after the tribulation period during which many starving carnivore will attack and kill people (Rev. 6:8, study #17). Another great positive is found in the fiery serpent's study (#7). Although many died because of their sin and the bite of vipers, the Lord provided a way of salvation through the brazen serpent which prefigured the cross of Christ (John 3;14-15). In addition, the studies on Daniel and the lions (#13) and Jonah and the great fish (#14) prefigure the resurrection. Finally, the study on the donkey's colt (#15) involved the Lord's Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. This, of course, was a great positive (Zec. 9:9), though the second coming will be as well (Zec. 9:10).

What are the applications?
The need for saving faith is seen in various studies, most clearly perhaps in the studies on the fiery serpents (#7), the scapegoat (#9), and the donkey's colt (#15). In addition, the need for believers to live by faith is seen in various studies as well, such as the ones on Noah's dove (#2), Elijah's ravens (#11), and Daniel's lions (#13). The need for humility is stressed in the two studied in the book of Job, the ones on Behemoth (#3) and Leviathan (#4).

What about those who do not believe in miracles?
The basic answer is that miracles are possible because God exists. The One who created the animals, of course, has the ability and the authority to use them and change them as he pleases. Moreover, as one studies the various animals and passages, it becomes clear that God often used the instincts and abilities of his creatures instead of totally overruling such in miraculous ways. For instance, of course, it took a miracle for Balaam's donkey to be able to speak, but the things that the donkey said were in line with how a domestic donkey naturally thinks. Donkey's are intelligent and wise. Those who blindly deny the possibility of miracles are not!