God’s Forgotten Covenant with Animals

Jews around the world this week are reading the story of Noah in Genesis 9.

(Was he the one who first said, “When it rains, it pours”?)

Ironically, while most people associate this story with the saving of animals in the Ark, it is in this particular Torah portion that God first gives humans permission to kill animals for food.

Yup, the animals had barely set foot on terra firma when God told Noah and his sons, “Every living thing that moves shall be food for you.”

You can practically hear the cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys saying, “Are you kidding me?”

A year ago this week, The Beet-Eating Heeb, as a service to readers and animals alike, explained why Genesis 9 doesn’t really condone meat-eating, after all.

A measure of how we treat God's covenant with animals.

Click on this image to see a measure of how we treat God’s covenant with animals.

But BEH left out an important point, which he will rectify right this very second.

If God really approves of us killing animals by the billions, why would He say that animals are explicitly included in His covenant?

It’s right there in Genesis 9, just a few short verses after humans supposedly got a permit to open slaughterhouses. (Emphasis on supposedly.)

In Genesis 9:12, God says, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations.”

Every living creature is in covenant with the Divine.

God was evidently concerned that humans would want to overlook this inconvenient truth, especially when there is meat on the grill.

So God repeated the statement not once, but three additional times.

Genesis 9, Verses 15, 16 and 17 all state that God includes animals in his covenant.

Sheesh, get the hint?

God does not want us to slash the throats of animals, or to abuse them in countless and hideous other ways, as we do in modern factory farms. Not if the word “covenant” means anything.

By definition, God would never have included the animals in His covenant if he didn’t care about their well-being. To which you’re probably saying, “No duh,” or amen.

To take it a step further, God could have established a covenant with animals without telling humans about it. But that would defeat the purpose. The reason this covenant is repeated four times in the Torah is because He is depending on us to make it a reality.

This is fundamental to Jewish thought. We are supposed to be God’s partners in perfecting creation. We are supposed to implement God’s will.

Sadly, we haven’t just ignored the fact that animals are partners to the same covenant we have with God. As the party responsible for making the covenant a meaningful reality, we have trashed it.

In the United States alone this year, 10 billion farm animals will be killed, while another 200 million animals will be killed by hunters, 100 million more in vivisection, and another 2 million in the fur industry.

And these figures don’t measure the brutality, the cruelty, the torture and the torment that these animals experience before they are killed.

This is how we honor the Divine covenant.

Animals shouldn’t be mad at God for what He said in Genesis 9:3. Technically, He may have given humans permission to eat meat. But He made it perfectly clear that He would strongly prefer that we don’t.

The animals should be mad at humans. We have betrayed them. And in so doing, we have betrayed God and His covenant.

Fortunately, we can begin to repair this covenant with a simple step.

Go veg.

About The Beet-Eating Heeb

I'm a meat-abstaining Jew who believes our religion commands us to treat our bodies with care, to treat animals with compassion, and to treat our planet like it's the only one we've got.

Posted on October 3, 2013, in Factory Farming / Animal Cruelty, Torah/Bible and Veganism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I am most grateful for this blog post. In our campaign to replace the use of chickens in kaporos rituals with non-animal symbols of atonement and to get chickens (all animals) off people’s plates and into their hearts, we often meet the argument that God gave “man” permission to slaughter and consume animals and that what God has given permission to do cannot therefore be forbidden. But as you point out, God’s permission was given in disappointment, and permission is not a mandate but an unhappy concession to a very undesirable appetite that corrupts instead of enabling our spiritual growth.

    Thank you! Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns & the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. http://www.upc-online.org. http://www.endchickensaskaporos.com

  2. I wrote a teaching series once on the Covenants of God from Creation to the Flood, pointing out exactly what you’ve said here. God initially had a covenant with man, the animals, and the earth. He then clearly re-covenanted with each after the Flood. That covenant is still in effect. The question is: when will man place obedience to God’s Word over and above obedience to his own appetite?

  3. I just love your blog. As the daughter of a Baptist minister I have always been very interested in animal theology and how it differs throughout the various religions. I do not know much about the Jewish religion and your blog has been very helpful and insightful. I’m sharing this post on my VegCharlotte Facebook page.

  4. Yes, and not only was the diet given to man at creation vegan- I would bet it was a raw, living food vegan diet! Just pick a fruit from a tree, just be careful which tree you pick from!

  5. This is a serious misreading of the Noahic covenant! Genesis 9:9-16 clearly states that the covenant refers specifically to God’s promise to never again destroy all life on Earth BY FLOOD (emphasis added), and that he has created the rainbow as the sign of this covenant.

    Nice try though! And I still love you like a brother-in-law!

    • Oh, Brother-In-Law of BEH, you are well-meaning but mistaken. In normative Judaism, the covenant is interpreted as having a much broader application. Do you really think you had your foreskin sliced off merely to avert a catastrophic flood?

      • Wrong wrong wrong. There is more than one covenant for heaven’s sake — surely you know that the Noahic covenant (which I described above) is the only one that applies to all living things. But there are other covenants — Mosaic, priestly, Davidic — and these are the ones that apply only to the Israelites/Jewish people, and not to other peoples or animals!

        • You misunderstand The Beet-Eating Heeb. BEH of course does not deny the existence of other, more exclusive covenants. BEH is merely saying that this particular covenant reflects a profound Divine concern with the welfare of all living creatures, human and non-human animals alike.

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