Theological Zoology

Adam learned about himself and God through animals. The Proverbs also show us how Solomon gained his wisdom: by studying the animals. How do the animals teach us? Can theology justify a degree in zoology?

“Scripture depicts God with strikingly concrete imagery. He is described in varying contexts as a father, husband, judge, king, warrior, winnower, husbandman, smelter, builder, teacher, healer, harvester, giver of rain, leader of the blind, wayfarer and stranger, as well as the shepherd of the flock. It is therefore not surprising to find God also portrayed with imagery drawn from the world of fauna.

“As an eagle stirreth up her, hovereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her pinions. (Deut 32:11)
“I bore you on eagle’s wings.” (Exod 19:4)
“He will cover thee with His pinions, and under his wings shalt thouh take refuge.” (Psalm 91:4)

God is also depicted as a lion, as a leopard, and as a bear lying in wait for its prey (Isaiah 31:4; Hosea 5:14; 11:10; 13:7; Lamentations 3:10); and the wrath of the Lord is compared to that of a she-bear bereaved of her cubs (Hosea 13:8; 2 Samuel 17:8; Isaiah 59:11). In Balaam’s oracles, God is to Israel “like the lofty horns of the mighty ox” (Num 24:8; 23:22). Now clearly, God is not being compared to the animals themselves. It is rather the deeds of God that are described and compared to thed eeds of specific animals in particular circumstances.”*

So, we learn about God because he describes his own actions and deeds in terms of what the animals do and are like. When we understand how animals behave, we are better equipped to study the language God uses to describe himself and his actions. In that, zoologists might have a step up in understanding God’s ways in the world as they professionally study the field from which God unravels constant metaphors.

Elijah Judah Schochet, Animal Life in Jewish Tradition: Attitudes and Relationships, pp 35-36

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