Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there. (Exod. 21:28ff; animal rights and responsibilities)

The SAB finds the idea of capital punishment for animals absurd, apparently, and I suppose it sounds that way when you put it like that. Really, though, it makes a lot of sense to me that if an animal is dangerous, then it would be best to put it down. (If you're an animal rights activist, you'd more likely consider this cruel than ridiculous.) Furthermore, as verse 29 says, if a person who owns a dangerous animal knew it was dangerous and didn't do anything to control it, then they bear the responsibility of that animal's actions. While I doubt that people are given the death penalty for that today, I do believe it is the case that people are held responsible for the actions of their pets/livestock.

Now, this is probably not exhaustive, but my thought in coming across this verse was that in addition to answering commenting on the issue of punishments for animals, I might point out a number of things that the Mosaic Law says about animals. It's fascinating to me that while the Bible clearly considers humanity as being of a higher order than the other animals, the other animals are nonetheless not left out of the picture on numerous issues.

Sabbath? Animals get it as well. On Saturdays, there's no riding horses, plowing fields, and so on. I'm not sure whether this also covers milking goats and whatnot, as it is my understanding that dairy-producing livestock tends to need milking on a daily basis.

Deuteronomy 22 has a lot to say about animals (among other things). If you see a stray animal, you should take it back to its home if you know whose it is, and if you don't, then you take it home and take care of it until someone comes looking for it. If you see an animal in trouble, you're required to help it out. The SAB says these are good things, and I agree, however later in that chapter, verse 10 is labeled as absurd. While I think there are certainly more than a few things that are truly odd about the Mosaic Law, I think this likely has a practical purpose behind it. I'm only guessing, since I've never plowed a field myself, but if you were to yoke together two different kinds of animals to do the same job, I imagine you'd run the risk of injuring one of them.

The last thing I'll discuss here (although I know of at least one more specific law about animals that I'll address elsewhere) is how God provides welfare for animals, too. Deut 25:4 says not to "muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." As the SAB rightly notes, this means essentially that when an animal helps in the production of food, they ought to get a fair share as well, specifically that they may eat while they work.

No comments: