Kindness to Animals

Texts Overview (ESV)
Exodus 23:5--If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

Exodus 23:11--but the seventh year you shall let [your land] rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Exodus 23:12--Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7--If you come across a bird's nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.

Deuteronomy 22:10--You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

Deuteronomy 25:4--You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.

Job 12:7-10--But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 35:11--Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’

Psalms 23:1-4--The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalms 36:6--Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.

Psalms 147:9--He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.

Proverbs 12:10--Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

Proverbs 27:23--Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds,

Isaiah 11:6-8--The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.

Isaiah 65:25--The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Hosea 2:18--And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.

Jonah 4:11--And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Matthew 6:26--Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Luke 12:6--Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Luke 14:5--And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

1 Timothy 5:18--For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Full Texts of Selected References
Exodus 20:8-11--Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (KJV)
Alt.:--in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your domestic animals, (AMP)
Alt.:--but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it--not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. (CEB)
Alt.:--but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. ... not your livestock, (CJB)
Alt.:--thou shalt do no work on it, ..., nor thy beast, (DR)
Alt.:--Neither your animals nor the foreigners living in your cities may work. (ICB)
Alt.:--your work animal, (NAB)
Alt.:--But the seventh day is a sabbath to honor the Lord your God. Do not do any work on that day. The same command applies to your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and your animals. It also applies to any outsiders who live in your towns. (NIRV)
Alt.:--but the seventh day is a sabbath (shaba^th) unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work (kha^l-m:la^'kha^h), thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle (uwbh:hem:tekha^), nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; (JPS17)
Alt.:--But on the seventh day is the sabbath (SABbata) of the Lord thy God; on it thou shalt do no work (ERgon), thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy servant nor thy maidservant, thine ox (ho bous sou) nor thine ass (to hypoZYgiON sou), nor any cattle of thine (pan kte-nOS sou), nor the stranger that sojourns with thee. (BLXX)

Proverbs 12:10--yowdhe?a tsadiyq nephesh bh:hem:tow w:rachamey r:sha^?iym 'akh:za^riy (Hebrew)
Alt.:--A righteous man (tsadiyq) regardeth (yowdhe?a) the life of his beast; but the tender mercies (w:rachamey) of the wicked are cruel ('akh:za^riy). (JPS17, KJV)
Alt.:--A tzaddik regardeth the nefesh (life) of his behemah (beast), but the compassion of the reshaim is cruel. (OJB)
Alt.:--DIkaios oikTIRei psychAS kte-nO-N autOU ta de SPLANGCHna to-n asebO-N aneleE-mona (LXX)
Alt.:--A righteous man (DIkaios) has pity (oikTIRei) for the lives of his cattle; but (de) the bowels (SPLANGCHna) of the ungodly are unmerciful (aneleE-mona). (BLXX)
Alt.:--A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. (NASB)
Alt.:--A righteous man cares about his animal's health (HCSB)
Alt.:--The righteous person looks out for the welfare of his livestock (ISV)
Alt.:--The righteous one is aware of the soul of his animal, and the evil withhold their compassions. (ABPE)
Alt.:--The righteous is merciful even unto his beast, but the piety of the wicked is cruel. (EJ2000)
Alt.:--A righteous man is concerned for the life of his beast; (Darby)
Alt.:--A righteous man respects the life of his animal, (WEB)
Alt.:--The righteous knoweth the life of his beast (YLT)
Alt.:--Good people are kind to their animals, but a mean person is cruel. (CEV)
Alt.:--Good people take good care of their animals, but the wicked know only how to be cruel. (ERV)
Alt.:--Good [Righteous] people take care [know the desires] of their animals, (EXB)
Alt.:--but wicked people are cruel to theirs. (GNT)
Alt.:--but even the kindness of godless men is cruel. (LB)
Alt.:--Good people are good to their animals; the “good-hearted” bad people kick and abuse them. (Mes)
Alt.:--The just take care of their livestock, (NAB)
Alt.:--Those who do what is right take good care of their animals. But the kindest acts of those who do wrong are mean. (NIRV)
Alt.:--A man who is right with God cares for his animal, but the sinful man is hard and has no pity. (NLV)
Alt.:--The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. (NRSV)
Alt.:--Those who are righteous treat their animals humanely, but the compassion of the wicked is really inhumane. (Voice)

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Commentators on Proverbs 12:10
Barnes & Murphy:  Regardeth - literally, "knoweth." All true sympathy and care must grow out of knowledge. The duty of a person to animals:
  1. rests upon direct commandments in the Law (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:4-5);
  2. connects itself with the thought that the mercies of God are over all His works, and that man's mercy, in proportion to its excellence, must be like His (Jonah 4:11); and
  3. has perpetuated its influence in the popular morality of the East.
Tender mercies - Better, "the feelings, the emotions," all that should have led to mercy and pity toward man.

Joseph Benson:  A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast--Which is employed in his service. He will not destroy it, either by labours beyond its strength, or by denying it necessary food or rest, or any other way: and much more will he be pitiful to his own servants, and to poor men;

but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel--There is much cruelty mixed even with their most merciful actions, when they pretend, or intend to show mercy. Hebrew, rchmy rsh?ym, the bowels of the wicked, &c., those very bowels, which in others are the seat of pity, in him are hardened and shut up, and only excite him to cruelty. A late writer interprets this clause thus: “The very kindnesses of the wicked, being treacherous, are a cruel cheat: nay, the highest expressions which they make of tenderness and compassion, whereby they induce others to repose a trust in them, are intended merely as a cover for the mischief which they mean more securely to do them.” Thus the proverb of the Greeks, echthro-n do-ra ado-ra, “The gifts of enemies are no gifts.”

Charles Ellicott:  Regardeth the life of his beast.--Rather, knows their feelings (comp. Exodus 23:9), and so can feel for them. God’s own care for the brute creation (Jonah 4:11) was shown in the merciful provisions of the Law, by which cattle shared the rest of the Sabbath, and had their portion of the corn as it was being trodden out (Deuteronomy 25:4).

Tender mercies.--What the wicked calls tenderness and kind treatment is really cruelty, as he takes no thought for the comfort of his beast.

Exell & Spence:  A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast. For "regardeth," the Hebrew word is literally "knoweth" (Exodus 23:9); he knows what animals want, what they can bear, and treats them accordingly (comp. Proverbs 27:23). The LXX. translates "pitieth." The care for the lower animals, and their kind treatment, are not the produce of modern sentiment and civilization. Mosaic legislation and various expressions in Scripture recognize the duty. God's mercies are over all his works; he saves both man and beast; he hateth nothing that he hath made (Psalm 36:6; Psalm 145:9; Jonah 4:11; Wisd. 11:24). So he enacted that the rest of the sabbath should extend to the domestic animals (Exodus 20:10); that a man should help the over-burdened beast, even of his enemy (Exodus 23:4, 5); that the unequal strength of the ox and the ass should not be yoked together in the plough (Deuteronomy 22:10); that the ox should not be muzzled when he was treading out the corn (Deuteronomy 25:4): that the sitting bird should not be taken from her little brood (Deuteronomy 22:6), nor a kid seethed in its mother's milk (Exodus 23:19). Such humane injunctions were perhaps specially needed at a time when man's life was little regarded, and animal sacrifices had a tendency to make men cruel and unfeeling, when their symbolical meaning was obscured by long familiarity. These enactments regarding animals, and the mysterious significance affixed to the blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-14), afforded speaking lessons of tenderness and consideration for the inferior creatures, and a fortiori taught regard for the happiness and comfort of fellow men. Our blessed Lord has spoken of God's ears of flowers and the lower creatures of his hand. But the tender mercies; literally, the bowels, regarded as the seat of feeling. The wicked cannot be supposed to have "tender mercies;" hence it is best to take the word in the sense of "feelings," "affections." What should be mercy and love are in an evil man only hard-heartedness and cruelty.

John Gill:  A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast,.... Or "knoweth" it (q); knows the worth of it and values it, and takes care of it, and is concerned for the preservation of it; he provides sufficient food for it, and gives it; he does not overwork it, but allows it proper rest from labour; and, if in any disorder, will make use of all suitable means to heal it; see an instance of the care of Jacob, that righteous man, of his cattle, Genesis 33:14; and, on the other hand, see an instance of a wicked man's cruelty to his beast in Balaam, for which he was reproved, Numbers 22:28; by various laws and rules which God has given, it is his will that men should be merciful to their beasts, Deuteronomy 25:4; and such who are so will be more especially pitiful and tenderhearted to their fellow creatures;

but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel; or "are the mercies of a cruel one" (r); the most tender things which are expressed or done by them are nothing but cruelty; and what then must be their more severe expressions and actions? so the most tender concern which antichrist and his followers show to the souls of men breathes nothing but cruelty; the compassionate methods they take to convert heretics, as they call them, are dark dungeons and stinking prisons, racks and tortures, fire and faggots; these are their wholesome severities; this their kindness to men, to deliver them up to the secular power, to inflict pains and punishments on them the most grievous to save their souls. Thus, while the beast of Rome looks like a lamb, he speaks like a dragon, and exercises all the cruelty of the first beast, Rome Pagan, Revelation 13:11.

(q) "novit", Mercerus, Michaelis; so Vulgate Latin.
(r) "sunt miserationes crudelis", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Aben Ezra in Mercerus, so some Jewish writers in Vatablus.

Matthew Henry:  A godly man would not put even an animal to needless pain. But the wicked often speak of others as well used, when they would not endure like treatment for a single day.

Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown:  regardeth—literally, "knoweth" (Ps 1:6).

mercies ... cruel--as acts of compassion ungraciously rendered to the needy. The righteous more regards a beast than the wicked a man.

Rashi (Jewish):  A righteous man has regard for the desire of his beast: What his beasts and his household members need.

Tracey R. Rich (Jewish):  A righteous man knows the soul of his animal - Proverbs 12:10

Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim: Cruelty to Animals

Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. This concern for the welfare of animals is unusual in Western civilization. Most civilized nations did not accept this principle until quite recently; cruelty to animals was not outlawed until the 1800s, and even now it is not taken very seriously.

The primary principle behind the treatment of animals in Jewish law is preventing tza'ar ba'alei chayim, the suffering of living creatures. Judaism expresses no definitive opinion as to whether animals actually experience physical or psychological pain in the same way that humans do; however, Judaism has always recognized the link between the way a person treats animals and the way a person treats human beings. A person who is cruel to a defenseless animal will undoubtedly be cruel to defenseless people. Modern psychology confirms this understanding, with many studies finding a relationship between childhood animal cruelty and adult criminal violence. Sadly, the converse is not always true, and those who love animals do not always value human life: Hitler loved animals; the animal rights group PETA wrote a letter to Arafat telling him, when he blows up a bus full of Israelis, could he please not hurt any donkeys. (the letter is no longer on their website, but remains in the Internet Archive)

In the Bible, those who care for animals are heroes, while those who hunt animals are villains. Jacob, Moses and King David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals (Gen. 30, Ex. 31, I Sam. 17). A traditional story tells that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in caring for animals. "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said 'Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.'" Likewise Rebecca was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals. When Abraham's servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well, and thereby proved herself a worthy wife (Gen. 24).

On the other hand, the two hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, are both depicted as villains. The Talmud tells the story of a great rabbi, Judah Ha-Nasi, who was punished with years of kidney stones and other painful ailments because he was insensitive to the fear of a calf being led to slaughter; he was relieved years later when he showed kindness to animals. (Talmud Baba Metzia 85a)

In the Torah, humanity is given dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26), which gives us the right to use animals for legitimate needs. Animal flesh can be consumed for food; animal skins can be used for clothing. The Torah itself must be written on parchment (animal hides), as must the scrolls for mezuzot and tefillin, and tefillin must be made out of leather.

However, dominion does not give us the right to cause indiscriminate pain and destruction. We are permitted to use animals in this way only when there is a genuine, legitimate need, and we must do so in the manner that causes the animal the least suffering. Kosher slaughtering is designed to be as fast and painless as possible, and if anything occurs that might cause pain (such as a nick in the slaughtering knife or a delay in the cutting), the flesh may not be consumed. Hunting for sport is strictly prohibited, and hunting and trapping for legitimate needs is permissible only when it is done in the least painful way possible.

Under Jewish law, animals have some of the same rights as humans do. Animals rest on Shabbat, as humans do (Ex. 20:10). We are forbidden to muzzle an ox to prevent it from eating while it is working in the field (Deut. 25:4), just as we must allow human workers to eat from the produce they are harvesting (Deut. 23:25-26). Animals can partake of the produce from fields lying fallow during the sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11).

Several commandments demonstrate concern for the physical or psychological suffering of animals. We may not plow a field using animals of different species (Deut. 22:10), because this would be a hardship to the animals. We are required to relieve an animal of its burden, even if we do not like its owner, do not know its owner, or even if it is ownerless (Ex. 23:5; Deut. 22:4). We are not permitted to kill an animal in the same day as its young (Lev. 22:28), and are specifically commanded to send away a mother bird when taking the eggs (Deut 22:6-7), because of the psychological distress this would cause the animal. In fact, the Torah specifically says that a person who sends away the mother bird will be rewarded with long life, precisely the same reward that is given for honoring mother and father (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16), and indeed for observing the whole Torah (Deut. 4:40). This should give some indication of the importance of this law.

We are permitted to violate Shabbat to a limited extent to rescue an animal in pain or at risk of death. For example, we can move them if they are in pain, move objects that we would not otherwise be permitted to touch to relieve their pain, we may give them medicine, and we may ask non-Jews to do things that would violate Shabbat to help a suffering animal.

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