The Origin of Animal Death
Arlie D. Rauch

          Within the creation movement there are two major viewpoints: some people hold to an old earth creation and other people hold to a young earth or recent creation. Perhaps most Christians forty or fifty years ago held to a form of old earth creation. But the awareness of scientific discoveries and a closer look at the text of the Bible have convinced many that the recent creation view is correct.
         There is one issue which is key in this discussion; it is the origin of animal death. If it could be demonstrated from the Bible that animal death did not originate with the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, then one should embrace one of the forms of old earth creation. If, on the other hand, someone could show that the Bible indicates animal death did originate with the sin of Adam, then it would be probable that recent creation is true. If recent creation is true, then one would seem to hold to an old earth creation only to, for some reason, honor evolutionism, in effect giving more credence to a godless theory than to divinely revealed truth.
         Some have tried to make this issue peripheral as though it is a waste of time and energy when one might be presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. This author’s response is that the Lord is honored whenever His word is explored in order to discover it’s message. Furthermore, the techniques used in this paper to discover the evidence for this topic are the same as those which result in a proper view of the gospel, personal salvation, evangelism, the Church, godly living, and future prophecy. It is not helpful to discount anything discovered in the pages of the Bible when the Lord Himself has said that even the smallest parts of every letter are significant. When one does discount some biblical topic, suspicion is natural as to whether that person is honest with the word of God in the topics he does deem important.
         In addition, how we view the character of God is at stake. The character of God is who He is, and He is who He is whether we recognize Him as such or not. But how we view His character will make a difference in our lives. For example, it is logical to approach the sovereignty of God differently depending on whether one adopts old earth creationsim or young earth creationism. If God was sovereign and directly involved in the details of creation, then He would likely be so in the outworking of the plan of salvation as well and also in the fulfillment of future prophecy. If He was somewhat aloof from the process of creation in that time and chance were major players, then He is likely similar in the outworking of salvation and future prophecy, too, allowing for a range of possibilities there as well. So there are foundational issues here, as one would expect, when seeking to understand the subject of origins.
         My purpose, then, in this paper is to evaluate biblical information relevant to the discussion and to discover whether a decision can be made for one or the other.

Consideration #1--Summary of syncretistic views and their commonality

         We have called the forms of old earth creationism syncretistic because they all attempt, each in its own way, to merge the Bible and the long evolutionary geologic ages. Really the assumption here is that the long ages did occur, and our only challenge is to somehow harmonize these with the Bible. None of these would agree that the earth may be only about six thousand years old as suggested by the classic The Annals of the World by James Ussher (and supported by the Institute for Creation Research, Answer in Genesis, Foundation for Creation Truth, and certain other current creation ministries). His work is based upon the history of the Bible and the numbers it gives as well as support gathered from other histories of the world. Recent creation people suggest that his work is actually quite accurate in giving the age of the earth and that genuine scientific discoveries do not contradict. But we begin by surveying four forms of old earth creationism.1
         Gap Creationism holds to a creation in six twenty-four-hour days, but that there were long ages of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Those long ages account for virtually everything in the fossil record. Instead of the statement that “the earth was formless and void” in Genesis 1:2, there is preference for reading that “the earth became formless and void.” The creation in Genesis 1:1 was disturbed by a great catastrophe in that Satan rebelled against God, and the impact on earth caused those long ages to come to an end. In this view it was not the flood of Noah’s day (this is true for all forms of old earth creationism) which was the great cause of the fossil record as well as other topographical phenomena. The rest of Genesis 1, then, produced the world as we see it today. One can go elsewhere to evaluate the validity of this translation over against what we read in the versions, but in brief the translation supporting this view is unnecessary except as a support for Gap Creationism. So Gap Creationism recognizes a great deal of death before Adam was ever created with the result that while human death may be a consequence of Adam’s sin, death in itself was not, and certainly the death of animals was not.
         Day-Age Creationism is really quite distinct from Gap Creationism and really quite friendly to the two forms of old earth creationism which will follow. It suggests that the origin of the universe is actually described in Genesis 1, but that the days of Genesis 1 were not literal days at all. Each day is an age however long needed to accomplish the task. Perhaps God was involved to some degree, but, regardless, evolution was the means. Again, there are studies which discuss the validity of making the days something other than twenty- four-hour days and also whether the days of Genesis 1 in any reasonable way even harmonize with the evolutionary scenario tied to the geologic ages. But again, death is on the scene long before Adam was; therefore, if death is the result of sin, it must be limited to human death and cannot include animal death.
         Progressive Creationism is closely related to Day-Age Creationism in that it also recognizes the days of Genesis 1, but not literally. The special contribution here is that God is definitely the Creator who at appropriate times stepped in and performed creative acts. So the days of Genesis 1 are thought to be the long ages of time which are prehistoric and certainly pre-human. Perhaps God created once each day and thereby set in motion another age of development (and death) until finally arriving at human history. So again, death happened countless times before Adam was created and sinned, so that if death was the consequence of sin, this death as sin’s consequence must be limited to human death.
         Theistic Evolution is also closely related to Day-Age Creationism, but it places even less emphasis on the days of Genesis 1. It is also an attempt to bring God and evolution together. Even here there are variations as to God’s involvement, but basically God created the universe via evolution. Some think He was somewhat involved much as Progressive Creationism, and others think He was quite aloof once having set in motion the machinery of evolution. In this case the account in Genesis 1 might be viewed as a myth or an allegory but certainly not a timeline with any meaningful relation to what really happened originally. Again, in this form of old earth creationism death as a consequence of Adam’s sin really hardly retains any validity. But if it does, it could not possibly include animal death.
         The four views just summarized all conflict with the recent creation view that accepts a divine creation as described in Genesis 1 in six twenty-four hour days.

Consideration #2--Summary of articles promoting animal death before human sin

       This is a fairly obscure topic, but a search on the internet will find articles written in support of the idea that sin is not the cause of all death. We will survey three of them here.
       The first such is “Animal Death Before the Fall: What Does the Bible Say?”2 by Rev. Lee Irons. Rev. Irons begins by reporting that he thinks the evidence for an old earth is compelling. He does claim that his strengths lie in biblical interpretation and theology, though he does not say which theology. There is a variety of theologies, and each has a different framework within which a given idea may or may not fit. Rev. Irons does not accept macro-evolution, but he does claim to be a progressive creationist.
       He cites several passages beginning with Romans 5:12-14:

       Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned — for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.3
       He believes that the emphasis is not on biological death here, and that “world” is limited to the human realm. Therefore, in his estimation, this passage does not indicate that animal death resulted from human sin. People who take a different view are reading into the words what he thinks they cannot mean in his “covenantal sanction of death as the wages of human sin.”
       He next refers to Romans 8:18-21:
        For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
       Here the biblical writer does refer to the non-human part of creation, but the writer of our article believes the “futility” of creation is unrelated to human sin and also to the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy. He does not explain the origin of the “futility” and “corruption” experienced by the non-human created world.
       His third biblical quotation is a combination of two passages, Genesis 1:29-30 and 9:1-4:
        Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

        And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
       Rev. Irons does not believe that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat meat; it was simply not mentioned because theologically attention is directed to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And to have sovereignty over the animals would likely have included using animals for all the benefits they provide; they were used in Genesis 3 to provide clothing for Adam and Eve, so one could extrapolate that they were also used for food. In this case, in his view, the Genesis 9 passage simply reiterates what was earlier understood though not stated.
       To restrict the passage to theological attention and to what one assumes sovereignty intimates regardless of what is stated in the text is tenuous exegesis at best.
       The fourth biblical passage is Isaiah 11:6-9 and 65:25:
        And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.

        “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.
       The writer of the article through the lens of his Reformed Theology believes that the condition of the future cannot be construed as a return to original conditions because what the second Adam has secured for us is not limited to what the first Adam lost. In response, theology should be informed by the text and not the opposite; every theology is a human construct and therefore prone to error.
        His fifth passage is Psalm 104:19-28:
        He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting. Thou dost appoint darkness and it becomes night, In which all the beasts of the forest prowl about. The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God. When the sun rises they with swarms without number, Animals both small and great. There the ships move along, And Leviathan, which Thou hast formed to sport in it. They all wait for Thee, To give them their food in due season. Thou dost give to them, they gather it up; Thou dost open Thy hand, they are satisfied with good.
       Rev. Irons sees here the animals we know as carnivorous going about their way from day four of creation already eating other animals; this is a blessing from God. He assumes that conditions on earth have always been the same; this is a uniformitarian approach characteristic of evolutionism. However, if they have not been, the writer of the Psalm might still be expected to write as he did according to the norm in his day rather than the norm originally.
       Finally he cites 1 Timothy 4:1-5:
        But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
       Here our writer assumes that all food God ever made available to us was available from the beginning. His support is thin here, because there is no indication that the biblical writer had in mind all of time. He is writing for what is the norm now, and it is wrong to inject what may or may not have been in Genesis 2. To deny that there was progressive revelation in the Bible in order to include eating meat before Adam and Eve sinned is a stretch. It is ironic that he believes in progressive creationism but not in the progressive revelation obvious to those who let the text speak for itself. In his view it would seem that Adam knew everything the Apostle Paul knew--it simply was not stated in print earlier.
        Rev. Irons uses a number of techniques which are questionable exegetically. He accuses others of qualifying a particular word and then he does the same in the use of the word “world” in Romans 5:12-14. He never does explain why there is death in the animal world, if, in fact, it does not derive from Adam’s sin. He uses the famous argument from silence in assuming Adam and Eve ate meat from the beginning simply because the text does not say they couldn’t and even though the text does say they were given every plant yielding seed and the fruit of the trees to eat. Even though biblical language does indicate that the creation was once not in bondage, Rev. Irons’ theological construct allows him to believe it was always in bondage, since the future will be better than the past. He follows evolutionary uniformitarian thinking when he believes that animals must have always eaten animals, when, again, the plain reading of the biblical text indicates that animals, too, were given vegetation to eat at the first. He follows evolutionary uniformitarian thinking again when he says that 1 Timothy 4:1-5 must include conditions of all time including Eden. He admits that the message communicated by long-age evolutionary scientists for him has greater authority than the God-breathed Scriptures. His case for animal death before the sin of Adam is not conclusive.

        The second article is “Animal Death Before Human Sin”4 by Craig Rusbult, Ph. D. His treatment refers to some of the teachings of John Morris and Ken Ham, leading young-earth creationists. (It should be obvious by now that old-earth creationists believe animals died before Adam sinned while young-earth creationists believe that there was no death before Adam sinned.)
        He first addresses their contention that death, disease, and suffering came into the world because of sin. He limits it to human death on the basis of Genesis 3:22 which says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.’” They were banned from the tree of life, but later in Revelation 2 and 22 access to it is restored to humans who have been saved from condemnation through faith in Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for the sins of mankind.
        Under the heading “Efficiency and Humility” he suggests that time is one of the tools God has at His disposal to create. He may have enjoyed watching His creation develop over billions of years.
        Under the next heading “Animal Death before Human Sin” he points out that the status of animals is hardly addressed in the Bible. Humans die because of human sin in both old- and young-earth scenarios. So the death of animals is really not even a theological issue.
        The third and fourth headings, “Supernatural Protective Power” and “Protective Power in Two Views,” suggest that God at various times has protected and provided for select individuals or groups by not allowing them to be affected by normal consequences. God may have done that in Eden while not doing it elsewhere in the world. The main difference in views would have been before the fall into sin, because all Christians believe that God’s protection will be total for physical and spiritual aspects in the new creation.
        “From Current Bondage to Future Freedom” quotes from Romans 8 where the creation is anticipating being set free. Dr. Rusbult suggests this only indicates that the creation’s situation will be improved in the future but not that it was ever better in the past.
       In “Created Very Good for a Purpose” he interprets the statement in Genesis 1:31 at the end of the six days of creation when God looked at what He had made and called it not just good but “very good.” He believes that value statement must be qualified as “very good for achieving God's goals for the creation, especially for humans.” You will understand Dr. Rusbult’s position only if you accept his construction of the evaluation.
       He next cites “Three Results of Human Sin.” They are essentially 1) loss of innocence and relationship with God, 2) decrease in quality of life, and 3) death and banishment from the tree of life. He thinks the tree of life symbolizes God’s “full protective power.”
       In “A Brief History of Sin and Salvation” he shows how that our fall into sin brought upon us the three results cited above and how that Jesus Christ reverses all three through His meritorious work on our behalf.
       The section “Three Histories of Death” features a diagram from Ken Ham showing the difference between old- and young-earth views as they respect death. Dr. Rusbult then modifies the diagram to contrast old- earth creation with young-earth creation with old-earth atheist. He presents all of it in terms of God’s protection; it is either complete, partial, or nonexistent. This would seem to suggest that he defines life as divine protection of a human being. This is a novel definition; it is rather accurate to say that as death is separation, so life is fellowship. Life in its abundance is fellowship of a human being with God.
       Finally, in “Questionable Criticisms” he cites a few points made by Ken Ham and basically says we agree on much, but everything comes back to the degree of protection God provides for anyone. Basically, in his view, human sin has not impacted the world at all, and the world has always worked the way it does now.
       In an appendix Dr. Rusbult addresses several issues. He believes in the first place that the fossil record proves that there was animal death before Adam sinned, and, therefore, animal death is part of the natural ecology and always has been. So evolutionary geology rules in his view and cannot be challenged. He further dismisses the possibility of animals having been vegetarian because they obviously had the equipment to be meat-eaters. Finally, he closes by saying that history does not allow for “apparent age” suggested by young- earth creationists. Again, the evolutionary geological ages dictate his conclusion.
       The approach used by Dr. Rusbult is particularly frustrating to this author not only in the creation/evolution debate but in reference to other issues by other writers as well. He uses a theological approach which is first created by some human being, perhaps himself, and then uses that to interpret whatever the Bible says, even to the extent of determining definitions. He does not let the text speak for itself. It is in a sense a ‘straw man’ approach. He is able to set up the straw man on his terms and then knock it down. Or we might describe it as a circular approach. He does not let the Bible speak for itself. His view falls when examined in the light of the proper laws of language usage. And his position that creation will be improved in the future even though it has always been as it is now lacks credibility.

        The third article is “No Death Before the Fall - A Young Earth Problem”5 by Rich Deem. In the inset Mr. Deem accuses young earth creationists of supporting their view by means of emotionalism, and he claims that he has found over sixty Bible passages that support old earth creationism! If that is so, the evidence will overwhelmingly support his view.
       He first addresses the problem of plant death. He writes that there is confusion on this point among the young earth creationists. Further, he believes that plants must have died by being pulled out, etc., while being eaten. Biblical comparisons of plant death to human death lead him to believe that plants have always died.
       Mr. Deem cites Genesis 1:29-30 as critical for this discussion.
        Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
       He says that there is no permission given for animals to eat meat so they must have always eaten meat. He believes that some of the words for animals created on day six describe carnivores. He also suggests that Adam would not have understood what God meant when He said that disobedience would result in death unless Adam had seen animals die. And he believes that God judged only those who sinned--Adam, Eve, and the serpent, and not the rest of the created beings.
       Other key verses are Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 5:12-22.
        Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned —
        For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
       Mr. Deem points out that here only human death and resurrection is in view. The context suggests nothing concerning animals; if it did, we would have to expect animal resurrection.
       He further suggests that animal death does not reflect negatively on the character of God, especially since He used animals for sacrifices intended to benefit man. He claims that God will eliminate animal death in the millennium (Christ’s thousand-year rule on earth), yet that will not be a return to Edenic conditions. Paradise is not restored. Even when God evaluated the original creation as “very good,” the fact of Adam being alone was qualified as being “not good,” so we should not conclude that there was no animal death before Adam sinned. God does not judge the innocent with the wicked, and therefore animals could not have suffered as a result of Adam’s sin.
       Mr. Deem does not clearly define the differences and samenesses of plant, animal, and human life and death; there is biblical evidence that he has failed to produce. His many Bible verses appear to be verses which use words for carnivores, e.g., irrespective of whether these verses contribute to the topic at hand. In the matter of animals eating other animals he injects the famous argument from silence; many wonderful results have been produced on various subjects by using this argument that will ‘prove’ whatever it is you wish to prove. Actually, God will not totally eliminate animal death in the millennium since the animal sacrificial system will be restored according to the closing chapters of Ezekiel. He insults the intelligence of Adam when he suggests Adam could not have known what God meant by death if he had not seen animals die. This article is not fully convincing, either.
       All three articles, while valuable in exposing their particular viewpoints, suffer from poor exegesis. None of them is consistent in applying the normal laws of language usage. This must be done if we are to arrive at any doctrine presented in God’s holy word.

Consideration #3--Survey of scriptures affecting origin of animal death

        There is no biblical quotation we can give that says point blank: “Animals did die before Adam sinned,” or “Animals did not die before Adam sinned.” Obviously, to have such a statement would settle the controversy. This absence opens the door to various efforts and methods of interpretation; some will yield one result, and others will yield another result.
       The approach taken here does not cater to one theological approach or another. Rather, this writer wishes to let the text speak for itself. One should always practice good hermeneutics, and that can be described as the laws of normal language usage. The Bible is not a magical book that requires novel methods. Nor is it simply a reference book that is useful for quotations on numerous subjects. It is rather a book which tells its own story, but it does so in such a way that many questions not directly addressed are nevertheless illuminated. And if it can be shown that it in fact does present a particular view, that view must trump other views, even the views of ‘experts,’ whether scientific or theological. The Bible claims to be the word of God, and His word has absolute authority. We live and die by it. Romans 3:4 says, “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, ‘That Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, And mightest prevail when Thou art judged.’”
       Our approach will not be to answer point by point the articles surveyed above. Rather we wish to explore the biblical evidence under the following four headings. This should give us a solid foundation upon which to build a true understanding. And following this evidence should also help us to react properly to the articles surveyed above as well as other challenges that come to our attention.
A. Death as a universal assumed, as a particular questioned
        The verse that is key for this topic is Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—”. It states for us the vehicle through which sin entered the world, and that vehicle is one man, namely, Adam, and all humans in Adam. It further states for us the vehicle through which death entered the world, and that vehicle is sin. Death is the consequence of sin as God related to Adam in Genesis 2: “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” Sin itself is not mentioned in that verse, but it should be understood that eating that which God had just said should not be eaten is sin. So Romans 5:12 which reports the history reflects Genesis 2:17 which records the prohibition.
        The old-earth creationists insist that the scope of the death named in Romans 5:12 has only human beings in view. That certainly is a possibility. Almost all the biblical references to death in the Bible, especially when prefaced by the article the, as is the case in Romans 5:12 in the Greek original, do refer to human death. And the verse makes sense when read that way.
        However, reporting that death spread to all men does not necessarily exhaust the possibilities for the consequences of sin. This consequence is named because the salvation of men is sought. People are guilty of sin, and logically the remedy for sin would focus on them. The mission of the Lord Jesus Christ in coming into the world should have been and was to solve the problem of man’s guilt, the guilt of the one responsible.
        But any number of consequences could flow from sin coming into the world. And one of those could be the death of animals. Romans 5:12 does allow for that. The entity here named death came into the world as a result of human sin. Its universal application to human beings is the experience of death. And that same entity grammatically can have other results as well. The context of Romans 5 would naturally concern itself with the one major effect which needed a remedy.
        So this scripture read normally tells us that death in the absolute resulted from Adam’s sin, and that one particular consequence was that death is now applied to all human beings. A normal reading allows for at least the possibility that the death of animals also began as a consequence of Adam’s sin.
B. People act, animals are impacted
        It should be obvious from the creation account that people as being made in the image and likeness of God are distinct from animals. So the focus of God’s plan is people. Yet animals are not excluded. They are affected by the spiritual condition of mankind.
        Both sides of this are presented in the covenant God made with Israel in Leviticus 26. Verse three introduces what conditions will follow if the people obey the Lord. Verse six says: “I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land.” Later in the same chapter the consequences of disobedience are outlined. Verse twenty-two states: “And I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted.”
        Again, for idolatry the Lord will punish them by means of animals as recorded in Deuteronomy 32. Verse twenty-four declares: “They shall be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague And bitter destruction; And the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, With the venom of crawling things of the dust.”
        One of Job’s friends claimed that acceptance of the Lord’s discipline in one’s life resulted in peace with animals. Job 5:23 says: “For you will be in league with the stones of the field; And the beasts of the field will be at peace with you.”
        When Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel they removed the population and replaced them with people from elsewhere. Because they did not worship and serve the Lord, 2 Kings 17:25-26 reports that the Lord sent lions among them and killed some of them. The king of Assyria then sent Israelite priests back to teach the people so this problem might be remedied.
        When the Lord restores His people in His kingdom in the land of Israel, the blessing will not omit animals. Isaiah 43:20 states: “ The beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people.”
        Again, in the judgment that fell on Judah the prophet Ezekiel prophesied an effect involving animals. Ezekiel 5:17 promises: “Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children.” 14:15-16 adds: “’If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, though these three men were in its midst, as I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate.’” In addition 14:21: “How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague to cut off man and beast from it!”
        On the other hand, animals are also included in the blessing prophesied by Ezekiel. 34:25, 28 declare: “And I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land, so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. … And they will no longer be a prey to the nations, and the beasts of the earth will not devour them; but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid.”
        Hosea joins in the blessing. He promises in 2:18: “In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety.” On the other side he also includes animals in the 4:3 judgment passage: “Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky; And also the fish of the sea disappear.”
        In Joel 1:18, 20 the animals are shown to be suffering because of the rebellion of the people, and in 2:22 they are enjoying a wilderness turned green when the Lord comes to bless Israel in Messiah’s kingdom on earth.
        We have so far avoided what is perhaps the best example of this argument: the flood in Noah’s day which produced the vast majority of fossils being discovered in our time. “And the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Genesis 6:7). Whose sin was being judged? It was surely the sin of mankind. Could God have judged mankind without judging animals? Surely He could have, since He is God. But were animals affected? Obviously so, even to the degree that many species today are extinct. But the point is that animals in that event were impacted by mankind’s sin and judgment.
        The majority of the passages focus on the nation of Israel and logically so, since that nation is the focus of the Old Testament. But a couple even operated outside that framework. It should be apparent that the behavior of animals and the condition of animals at least in these settings was related to the spiritual condition of the people. One could and should rightly conclude that the intertwining of consequences involving people and animals allows for animal death to be the result of Adam’s sin. It is not preposterous, but it harmonizes nicely with the evidence we have just seen.
        It seems obvious to suggest that “the longing of the creation” in Romans 8:19 that is waiting for “the revealing of the sons of God” includes animals. Verse twenty-one adds that the creation itself will “be set free from its slavery to corruption (one could paraphrase ‘death’ here) into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” If words mean something, the text appears to indicate animal death, certainly by animals preying on one another, also disappearing as a result of the glorification of believers.
        If the creation is set free relative to the freedom experienced by believers in Christ and as a result of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, then the creation was also probably placed into some kind of bondage relative to man’s sin. And Romans 8:20 does indicate that: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will.” So at the beginning and at the end of the story, animals are affected by the spiritual condition of man. It is a matter of consistency to see this principle operating both at the fall into sin and at the revealing of the sons of God.
C. Animals die, plants wither
        One of the objections to animal death resulting from Adam’s sin, or, to put it another way, one of arguments in favor of assigning only human death to result from Adam’s sin, is the question of plant death. Even if humans and animals were all vegetarian before Adam’s sin, they certainly ate plants, and those plants, certainly at least the parts eaten, would have died.
       When we research the Bible to see what it says on this subject, we discover something fascinating. Young earth creationists have tried to support their view by saying that plants would not have died in that you can eat part of a plant and the rest continues growing, etc. Old earth creationists say that plants would have died because at least sometimes when animals were eating them they would have pulled some plants out of the ground completely.
       The Bible when speaking of animals dying uses the same terminology as when speaking of humans dying. But the case is different with reference to plants. With the exception of one metaphor in Jude 12-13, the Bible never speaks of plants dying. Instead they wither or dry up or decay. Four different Hebrew words and one Greek word combine for a total of at least sixty occurrences of plant ‘death’ not called death. The reader can observe this through using a good Bible concordance. One might say that plants simply lose their turgor or dry up; their ‘death’ is not death as experienced by humans and animals.
       Whatever one should conclude from this demands that plants are categorized separately from animals. Without being biologically sophisticated here one can notice that plants and animals are constructed differently. One can use the same terminology to speak of humans and animals dying because of an animating soul ('nephesh' in Hebrew and 'psuche' in Greek). This is not present in plants (860 occurrences of ‘soul’ in the Bible in 776 verses refer exclusively to mankind and animals). Of course, a human also has a spirit which is capable of fellowship with God, and this separates the human from the animal.
       But one can conclude that humans and animals ate plants before Adam’s sin without causing plant death. In fact, we really shouldn’t even speak of plant ‘death,’ since that is not the proper description of what happens eventually to plants. Therefore the plant death issue is insignificant. It really contributes nothing to the discussion and poses no difficulty to the possibility of animals dying as a result of Adam’s sin.
D. The good is celebrated, the better requires a worse
        “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). All of the old-earth creationists are in the position of believing that this statement by God concerning the creation being “very good” included the killing of animals by other animals and perhaps even by humans. If that is so, then why will God change the activity of animals in a future time?
       Observe the following passages:
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. ... The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:17, 25)
        Notice that a time frame is given in the second passage, the time when God creates a new heavens and a new earth. This time is not the same as the week of creation, nor is it the same as now. It is still future. It is the time after Christ returns when God and His people will be together in a renovated heavens and earth.
       The animal world at this future time is behaving differently than it does today. Some have noted that today the wolf and the lamb can graze together only when the lamb is inside the wolf! But note that the wolf is here grazing. The Hebrew word for “graze” describes an activity performed by domestic animals. They are feeding in a nonviolent manner. This is not the usual description for the feeding of a wolf or bear or lion unless their nature has been changed. And one of the verses does say that the lion will eat straw. Perhaps a lion could eat straw today, but the point of the text is that in that time the lion will be a nonviolent animal as the domestic ox is now.
       But back to the description in Genesis 1. The description of “very good” was appropriate for the creation at the end of creation week with the exception of the aloneness of Adam (nearing the end of creation week). Once Eve was created, the “very good” was complete.
       Does Isaiah describe a situation better than “very good?’ Is ‘not preying’ on other animals better than ‘preying’ on other animals? If a situation is in God’s evaluation “very good,” can it be improved?
       For the human race, the departure from “very good” was the act of disobedience to God and its resulting changes. For the human race, the restoration to “the revealing of the sons of God” will be the time when all has been judged and put right. (Perhaps we can see two- stages here with a partial restoration during the millennial reign of Christ on earth followed then by the new heavens and the new earth in the eternal state, but that technical distinction can be left for a different time and discussion.) The change for animals to a non- preying status corresponds with the completion of the salvation and judgment for human beings administered by the Lord Jesus Christ.
       The evidence indicates that the change for animals is not an improvement over the earlier “very good” nor another kind of “very good” alongside the original. Rather, the various notices given in the Bible clarify that the condition of animals relates to the condition of humans in their relationship to God. There would be no reason to declare anything about animals if their status was aloof from that of humans. To posit the improvement described in Isaiah suggests a change from a worse condition, a condition that was a departure, a kind of fall from how the animals behaved in the “very good” creation.


        We have surveyed four old-earth creationist views and three articles about animal death which reflect those views. We have also examined the biblical evidence as it relates to the origin of animal death.
       The Bible nowhere says in so many words when and where animal death originated. But there is evidence that can be pieced together. Evidence is not totally lacking, nor is the evidence balanced for both sides.
       A normal reading of the biblical text brings us to the point that we must in the least conclude that lacking a declarative statement the burden of proof rests on the old-earth creationists. The words of the Bible, if words mean anything definitive, tend toward a recent creation, a six twenty-four hour day creation, probably less than ten thousand years ago. This is the most likely result for someone who has not presumed that the long geologic ages of evolutionism must be held as sacrosanct.
       Recognizing that the evidence is not balanced, this writer is strengthened to conclude that, indeed, animal death did result from Adam’s sin. In the future when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, on the basis of having paid the ultimate price for sin on the cross in His sacrificial death at His first coming, He will judge unrepentant sinners and will remove the curse, restoring the creation to a “set free from its slavery to corruption” status in His kingdom. And then animals will once again behave as they did before the sin of Adam less than ten thousand years ago.

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1 Some encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, give useful descriptions of the various forms of creationism, and they can be accessed for more details such as key promoters and times of popularity.
3 All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.