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Special Animals in the Bible

Check out these 15 studies on animals in the Bible.

The studies in this set make use of the Descriptive Meditation Method. In most studies, the animal(s) being studied are to be described. A worksheet with instruction is provided to facilitate this. In addition, notes are added to provide worksheet answers and 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 it was about the animals themselves. Through the naming the great Creator and Educator taught the man repeatedly that he was unique and that there was no animal that was in the image of God as he was. Therefore the naming the animals 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.

Use the worksheet below to think about the naming of the animals. The best approach in this is as follows: 1.) First, read the passage. 2.) Next go through the points on the worksheet that are already filled in. 3.) Try to fill in the blank lines WITHOUT looking at the suggested answers at the bottom of the worksheet. 4.) Use the suggested answers to fill in the blank lines. And 5.) if the study is being done in a small group, discuss the various answers, especially those have to do with God as the great Teacher.

Many of the points in the worksheet above deal with various ways God taught Adam through the naming. For instance, if the Lord had named the animals 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 him a great homework assignment.
    Yet, Adam did not have to do the naming all by himself. God brought the animals to him and had already given the man all the abilities he needed 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. The naming was a mental task.

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. The dove was much more like people and who need dry land and plants in order to live.

Both the raven and the dove were like space probes sent to an unexplored planet, but the dove was much more helpful. It's 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 that it was sent out 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 are bold and could have flown far away to the mountain, as well as ducks and other seabirds which would have happily rested outside the ark by floating on the water. What other birds can you think of that would not have been as good to use as a dove?

Why did the dove bring back an olive leaf? Bringing back the leaf may have involved the dove's nesting instinct or its 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 where it wished and God providentially leading it as it did so.

Why was the dove needed? 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 ssurance 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 investigation and study.

Click here to go to the GENESIS page.

THE SCAPEGOAT
(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 the result of the shedding of blood.

The sprinkling of the blood upon the mercy seat (16:11-16) is rightly stressed by theologians, but the follow-up role of the second goat must not be forgotten since it was an annual object lesson representing the removal of sin and guilt. The second goat pointed to the then-still-future work of Christ in taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Ultimately, however, only the Lord Jesus could take away sin; bulls and goats could not. (Read Hebrews chapter ten.)

Sadly, there is much careless speculation about the second goat. Some claim 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.

The closest parallel to the two goats on the Day of Atonement is the use of two birds in 14:1-7 whenever 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 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.

BEHEMOTH
(Job 40:15-24)

What was Behemoth?
This is a controversial topic, but it is also an important one because the animal's emotional impact on Job and others was important. A gigantic dinosaur would have had a much greater impact than a relatively small hippopotamus or elephant. Moreover, as has often been pointed out, the behemoth could not have been a hippopotamus because the tail of this gigantic creature 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), this is obviously false. Though these huge herbivores had small heads compared to their overall size, their heads and mouths were definitely not small.

What was the Creator teaching Job?
As with Leviathan in the next chapter, God was speaking his servant about human weakness compared to the greatest of animals and more importantly compared to the Creator himself. Behemoth was free and unhindered since it could not be controlled by a human being (40:19-24). Therefore the great plant-eating dinosaurs in a way represent God's independence or transcendence which Job as well as us today have no right to question.

What is the application? The great dinosaurs do not point to evolution but to God's greatness and human weakness. So rather than focusing on great human accomplishments, either personal or collective, we should think about the greatness of the Creator and what he has made. Then, having done so, we should not question the Lord for he is not required to answer us.

Click here to go to the JOB page.

LEVIATHAN
(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 is 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 as well.

Was Leviathan real?
Those who are in the habit of rejecting biblical truth often claim that Leviathan was just a mythical creature, but the other animals in chapters 39 and 40 are clearly real, though it is unclear what behemoth in 40:15-24 was. With a tail like a cedar tree (40:17), it obviously was not a hippopotamus. Most likely behemoth was a large, now-extinct dinosaur, and this lends credence to the view that Leviathan was as well. Both creatures 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.

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).
    More importantly, since it was foolhardy to attack Leviathan, it was also foolish to oppose God in any way (41:10). Though Job for the most part did not sin in what he said about his suffering, he had been too bold in asking God to reveal himself and explain what had happened. Thankfully, Job took the powerful Leviathan object lesson about respect seriously and repented as seen in the next chapter (42:1-6).

Click here to go to the JOB page.

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, we should not assume that they are unable to think.

The next key question is, "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 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 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 wild like those spoken of in Job 39:5-8. 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 domestic donkey thinks.

What is the application? Well, 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 to the Lord, somewhat like the donkey was loyal to Balaam. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that there is a world of difference between fairy tales in which animals think and speak like people about many things, and this miraculous yet realistic Bible story.

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 also 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 using the foxes was not just personal revenge.

Why did Samson use so many foxes? The obvious reason was in order to greatly 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).

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 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 together? We do not know, but perhaps it was in order to ensure that the pair of foxes would run in an erratic pattern. An individual fox would have been more likely to run away in a straight line, but two foxes 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. We 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)

Was the great fish that swallowed Jonah necessary? God could have saved his wayward prophet though other means, such as with a floating log, shoreward tidal currents, and divinely directed wind. Alternatively, the Lord could have sent an angel to protect Jonah like he did for Daniel. Yet, the Lord's unusual provision for Jonah was a great fish. Why?

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.

There must have been a purpose in Jonah's day as well, and this is implied by the connection between the great storm (1:4) and the great fish (1:17). Both of these were from the Lord, rather than from Baal, the so-called storm god, or from Dagon whose name in Hebrew sounds much like the word for fish. Both the great storm and the great fish showed that the Lord is God, rather than Baal or Dagon. Therefore, it is significant that idolatry is strongly condemned near the end of chapter two (2:8-9). Salvation is of the Lord (2:9).

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 large 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.
    Like all idols, 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 why couldn't Dagon have been both an agricultural god and a fish god? Most idolaters worship more than one god and mix various ideas and images 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). The Lord is to be worshipped rather than Dagon or any other idol, including the idols 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 Donkey's Colt
(Matthew 21:1-11)

How was / is the young domestic donkey in Matthew chapter 21 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 of prophecy, however, the donkey and its mother bore silent witness to Jesus as the Messiah by accepting him. They were conscious of the Lord's meek and gentle spirit.

Entering Jerusalem on a lowly donkey rather than a powerful horse was, of course, a visible mark of Jesus' humility, but the two lowly but intelligent animals could sense his meekness in other ways. Like various domestic animals and pets, they were sensitive to body language and speech tone. Just as the Lord entered the city in a peaceful way, so, too, he must have approached these two creatures meekly lest they be afraid of him. Their lack of fear helped show that he was and is the true Messiah.

Did Jesus need to teach the young donkey to trust him? 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 any weight on its back. (Donkeys are often used as pack animals.) Nevertheless, it required more trust to allow Jesus to ride. So some believe that the Lord used his power as the Creator to overcome the natural fear involved. Maybe so, but Jesus' meekness and non-threatening humility as the perfect man must have been a factor as well.

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

Why is the young donkey's mother included in Matthew but not in the other Gospels? Mark, Luke, and John went for greater simplicity by only mentioning the younger donkey, but it was normal for a young donkey to be with its mother. Matthew's account of the triumphal entry is more complete and similar to his more exact report on the healing of Bartimaeus in 20:29-34. There were two blind men healed near Jericho that day, but only Matthew mentions the second man. Likewise, only Matthew shows that there were two demoniacs in Matthew 8:28-34. These things seem to coincide with the need for at least 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 exactly what took place. Undoubtedly, if Jesus rode on both animals, it would have been one at a time, and Mark, Luke, and John show that Jesus was sitting on the younger donkey when he actually 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 were somewhat like Balaam's donkey which was wiser than his master. (See 2 Peter 2:16.)
  The two donkeys were also somewhat like the fish with a coin in its mouth in Matthew 17:27. The Lord knew where the donkeys were and everything about them as surely as he knew where the fish was. Moreover, two disciples were sent to find the donkeys, much like Peter was sent to catch the special fish. -- Other answers are possible as well.

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 did, because ultimately 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 interaction with it was. Many clearly saw the snake attached to the apostle's hand and that Paul was not harmed by it. 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.

Daniel's deliverance from the lions showed the same thing regarding the Old Testament prophet. The lions are in Daniel chapter six, and most of Daniel's important prophecies came 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.

What is the application? The obvious application is that Paul's message and teaching should be heeded. Yes, but what about the application for those of us who already are believers. For us, the question becomes, "Do we take all that Paul taught and wrote seriously, or do we have favorite passages that we enjoy and use while disregarding others?" It is not ok, for instance, to like 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 ok 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 definitely not an open invitation to purposefully use them. At most, it was a prophecy of divine protection from snakes for the apostles like Paul in the early church.

Click here to go to the ACTS page.

The Beasts of the Earth
(Revelation 6:8)

We believe that the removal (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 the tribulation period. Most to these will be martyred for their faith (6:9-11), and these martyrs will call upon the Lord to avenge them (6:10).

The wild animals come last on the list in 6:8. So apparently more people will be killed in and by war, hunger, and pandemics, than by the animals. 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 cities.

Interestingly, these dangerous wild beasts are only mentioned in chapter six which seems to be about the beginning of the Great Tribulation (the second half of the seven years). Later in 19:17-18, only scavenging birds are mentioned. So perhaps most of the dangerous wild animals will die of starvation before the end.

How should we apply this study? Some may think that Revelation chapter six shows that we should work harder to protect the environment so that wild 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 will always come up short. Moreover, since the rapture will come before the tribulation period, the most important thing now is to believe in the Lord, like Noah did in his day, 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.

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