Can Animals Have Compassion?

Question:  Why does the Bible give so little information about the differences between human and animals. Do animals run on instinct or do they have souls. For an animal, the instinct for self preservation has nothing to do with saving another species, sometime putting its own life at risk. Is love an instinct? There are a countless numbers of stories, but the last one I heard was of a whale saving a diver from a shark. Is that not compassion? I’m confused and torn.

Answer:  I suppose the simplest answer is that the Bible was not written to give us knowledge about everything having to do with our existence, but rather about our relationship with God.

It does mention that animals have spirits (Ecclesiastes 3:21–22, Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?).  It reports an incident with Balaam in which his donkey talks to him after being enabled by God to communicate that way to his master (Numbers 22:22-30).

I believe that God gave us the responsibility of “subduing the earth” (Genesis 1:28) and part of that responsibility includes learning what we can about our fellow inhabitants.  Adam seemed to have studied the animals he saw in the garden in order to give them names (Genesis 2:18-20).  You have been learning about animals and their sometimes sacrificial acts on behalf of humans.  That may be an indication that animals can have something more than instinct at work in them.  We’re told in Genesis 3 that the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field.  So perhaps certain animals have abilities that others do not.  Adam and Eve didn’t seem too taken aback by the serpent speaking to them.

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