Why Animals Suffer
I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord. Zephaniah 1:2–3
suggested further reading: Genesis 7
Why does God pronounce vengeance on the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven, and the fish of the sea? For no matter how much the Jews have provoked God by their sins, innocent animals ought to be spared. If a son is not to be punished for the fault of his father (Ezek. 18:4), but only the soul that has sinned must die, why does God turn his wrath against fish and birds and animals? This seems to be a hasty and unreasonable infliction.
To answer that, let us first bear in mind that it is preposterous for us to estimate God’s doings according to our judgment. Proud and perverse people do that today, for they are disposed to judge God’s works with such presumption that whatever they do not approve of they think it right to fully condemn. It behooves us to judge God’s ways with modesty and sobriety, confessing that his judgments are a deep abyss. When a reason for God’s ways does not appear obvious, we ought to reverently and with deep humility look for the day in which that revelation comes.
Second, it is wise for us to remember that because animals were created for man’s use, they must undergo much along with him. God made the birds of heaven and the fishes of the sea and all other animals subservient to man. Why, then, should we wonder that the condemnation of the one who has sovereignty over the whole earth should also extend to the animals?
The world was not willingly or naturally made subject to corruption, but because the corruption from Adam’s fall diffused itself through heaven and earth.
for meditation: The horrifying cruelty sometimes found in the animal kingdom is not natural, but is the product of our sin. Though the animals did not sin against their Creator, they too were destroyed in the flood. The next time that we are tempted to think lightly of sin, let us reflect on the incredible suffering that we have brought upon this earth and tremble at the seriousness of our sin.