animals in the old testament
September 1, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Where in the Old Testament can I find some mention of laws about the treatment of animals.

I know there were all kinds of laws about animals; what to eat, what makes a suitable sacrifice, etc... I'm looking for anything about requirements during the raising of livestock. And I guess during the slaughter; Actually any laws about animals.
I know about the Kosher stuff, but is that in the actual Bible, or some other source?

If you can think of specific verses off the top of your head, great, but just pointing me to somewhere good to look for this stuff would be really helpful. Right now my google is failing me.
posted by low affect to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Jew FAQ has a section on it. Here's an excerpt on livestock:
We are forbidden to muzzle an ox while it is working in the field (Deut. 25:4), just as we must allow human workers to eat from the produce they are harvesting (Deut. 23:25-26). They can partake of the produce from fields lying fallow during the sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11).

Several commandments demonstrate concern for the physical or psychological suffering of animals. We may not plow a field using animals of different species (Deut. 22:10), because this would be a hardship to the animals. We are required to relieve an animal of its burden, even if we do not like its owner, do not know its owner, or even if it is ownerless (Ex. 23:5; Deut. 22:4)
posted by PenDevil at 11:49 AM on September 1, 2008

This link has a couple of verses, and a bunch of later halachic rulings, which will usually point you towards a Biblical reference. Two things, though: You may find that the laws are implicit rather than explicit, and the source works may not be available in English.

  • 6: if a bird's nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young.

  • 7: You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be g
  • (Deuteronomy 22. Verse 10 is also refers to animals.)
    posted by mhz at 12:53 PM on September 1, 2008

    Deuteronomy 5:14 (commandment 4/10):
    but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou.

    Also, Exodus 23:12:
    Six days thou shalt do thy work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thine ox and thine ass may have rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

    See Exodus 21:28-36 for laws regarding an ox that gores people or property, how restitution is made, how the ox is punished, etc.

    Exodus 23:5:
    If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under its burden, thou shalt forbear to pass by him; thou shalt surely release it with him.
    posted by milestogo at 1:46 PM on September 1, 2008

    A subject search of the Bible on the word Animals turns up quite an extensive list. You can plug in other words like ox, donkey, beast, etc. for variations.
    posted by caroljean63 at 3:06 PM on September 1, 2008

    This is an phenomenal compilation of sources
    posted by watercarrier at 3:07 PM on September 1, 2008

    "G-d's tender mercies are over all of His creatures." (Psalms 145:9)

    and this movie will explain more
    posted by watercarrier at 3:10 PM on September 1, 2008

    A huge number of Old Testament laws involve animals of some sort. All Israelites were expected to make sacrifices, and only the poorest among them were permitted to use something other than an animal. Start with Leviticus 1, skip chapter 2 (grain offerings), but then read Lev. 3-7.

    Then go to Lev. 11 for a discussion of clean and unclean animals. Discussions of animals reappear in Lev. 16, the laws concerning the Day of Atonement, Lev. 17 concerning the place of sacrifice, and Lev. 22:17 concerning acceptable sacrifices.

    Most of the various feasts described in Lev. 23 involve animal sacrifice of some sort. On balance, it appears that ancient Judaism was an incredibly bloody religion.

    It isn't a law as such, but the discussion of Balaam's donkey is always worth a read. See again discussion of sacrifices starting in Numbers 28.

    Animals, and livestock in particular, were recognized as having significant property value as well. A number of laws, starting in Ex. 20:16 but continuing throughout Ex. 21 and Ex. 22.describe various protections for animal property and punishments for violating it.

    Deuteronomy 22 contains a lengthy list of concrete examples of applications of the law, many of which involve animals, e.g. mandatory return of escaped animals. The slaughter of livestock was one of the promised calamities for disobedience promised in Deut. 28.

    That's just for starters. You should also take a look at Acts 10. It's not in the Old Testament, obviously, but it's certainly relevant.
    posted by valkyryn at 3:24 PM on September 1, 2008

    Whilst its not in the Bible, if you respect Mahatma Gandhi, then he said

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man"
    posted by Mephisto at 10:43 PM on September 1, 2008

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