Do animals have rights in the Bible?

Author: BibleAsk Team

God’s Care for Animals

God has a tender care for the animals He created. He declared, “every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine” (Psalm 50:10-11). The Bible and the Judaic-Christian tradition teach and command people to treat domestic animals with kindness and forbid cruelty to them. Their undeserved sufferings do not go unnoticed by God (Jonah 4:11; Matthew 6:26; 10:29). The instructions of the law included regulations regarding the treatment of the lower animals.

Animal Rights – Old Testament

After the flood, God showed a touching pity and tenderness towards the animals that were in the Ark. “And God remembered Noah and every living thing, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark” (Genesis 8:1).

The Ten Commandments forbade overworking animals. “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest …” (Exodus 23:12). And in another reference it stated, “the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son … or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle” (Deuteronomy 5:14).

The law required people to help stray and lost creatures. “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the ass of one who hates you lying under its bur- den, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, you shall help him to lift it up” (Exodus 23:4-5).

God made provisions for feeding the animals. “But the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat” (Exodus 23:11).  And that which grows naturally in the fields left fallow in the seventh year shall be for oneself, one’s servants, one’s guests, and “for your cattle and also for the beasts that are in your land all its yield shall be for food” (Leviticus 25:4-7).

Also, the Lord forbade cruelty to animals. “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). It would be harsh to prevent the ox from eating while treading the grain. In addition, He forbade the straining of animals. “You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together” (Deuteronomy 22:10). Pairing animals of different sizes and strengths would place a strain on the weaker of them.

Solomon the wise stated that good people will certainly take good care of their animal’s. “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).

Animal Rights – New Testament

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of “the birds of the air,” saying that “your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26) indicating that they have a right to be nourished and looked after. And He alluded to His care even for the small creatures. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29 also Luke 12:6).

He also, used the Biblical laws of humane treatment of animals to justify healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath. “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Luke 13:15 also Luke 14;5).

The New Earth

The future eternal kingdom will see a change in the animal kingdom as well as in human beings. Bloodshed and cruelty will not exist. Men and animals will live in harmony. “And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety” (Hosea 2:18).

The basic evil instincts of the animal world will be completely changed. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion … and the lion shall eat straw like the ox … They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

The law of God’s new kingdom will be the law of life and love. Neither death, nor sickness, nor suffering will be known there. There will be peace between God’s children and His creation. “For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you” (Job 5:23).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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