Faith News

A message from St George parish church


All God’s Creatures

Introduction

Last year I presented a series on the trees of the Bible which ran all through the season of Trinity or Ordinary Time. This year we will engage with the members of the animal kingdom that appear in the Bible.

In this occasional series I may suggest that you to do some additional reading and investigation for yourself and I may not use the most obvious texts.

The list of animals in the account of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 is very familiar but there are other descriptions of creation in different books of the Bible and many more animals appear throughout the text. I will take a very broad approach including living creatures from smallest to largest; virus and gnat to elephant and whale; vertebrates and invertebrates; and various borderline cases. Texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition, with the Apocrypha and Deutero Canonical Books. The collection of animals included in this series is not exhaustive and the names for some creatures may differ in other translations.

Do take some time to look at our creation window: the great west rose window in St George’s.

Consider the variety and beauty of the creatures depicted there.

In the song of praise sung by the three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were thrown into the burning fiery furnace we find:

The three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
Sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
For his mercy endures for ever.

                                           [Prayer of Azariah. 28, 29, 57 – 59, 68 (Apocrypha)]

Amphibians

In Genesis we read of the creation of the living creatures ‘with which the waters swarm’ [Gen 1. 21]. In the spring my garden ponds swarm with tadpoles. God also said ‘let the earth bring forth … creeping things … everything that creeps upon the ground’ [Gen 1. 24 – 25]. This includes frogs, toads and newts. Mature amphibians spend time in the water but also on the ground, often hiding in damp shady places.

In the Jewish food laws amphibians are not considered suitable to eat for two reasons. As a land animal, they do not have the correct feet and they do not chew the cud [Lev 11. 2 – 3, Deut 14. 4 – 8]. If they are deemed a water dwelling animal they are still not suitable as food because they do not have fins and scales [Lev 11. 10, Deut 14. 10].

They played a significant part in the plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians when Pharaoh would not let the Israelites leave but kept them in slavery [Ex 8. 1 – 15]. Frogs were slimy when alive and when dead they rotted with a foul smell, adding weight to their classification in the Levitical Code as unclean.

All this helps us to understand the significance of the ‘three fouls spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon’ [Rev 16. 13]. This huge red dragon with many heads was mentioned in weeks 2 and 4. It represents the forces of evil.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
Maker of all living creatures:
fish in the sea, birds in the air,
and animals on the land.
May we always praise you
for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
in all your creatures.
Amen