Three Stories On Bible Animals From The Viewpoint Of The Animals Involved
By Arthur R. Pell
The Righteous Ram
I was grazing alone on the hill when I saw the angel. He had come to me once before -- many, many years ago, but I have never forgotten that moment. He had given me a special mission then -– one that saved my life and has kept me alive for many, many more years than any other creature.
My name is Ayel and I am the father Ram – patriarch of all the sheep in the world. Back then, of course, I was just a lamb, frolicking in the meadow with my flock. It was a dark, dreary day. Clouds, dark clouds blacked out the sky. Suddenly, a luminous figure — seemingly from out of nowhere appeared before me. I was startled and wanted to run away, but I could not move.
The figure came closer and raised its hands and called to me, "Ayel, do not be afraid. I am an angel and God has sent me here. In a few days the clouds above will open and rain will fall and cover the earth. God is displeased with all creatures on earth and will destroy them in a thunderous storm. God has chosen two pair of righteous animals-one male and one female -- to survive and you are the ram that has been chosen. Go now to a place that I will show you. There you will find an ark. Noah, the builder of this ark, will take you aboard. You will remain there until the storm ends and the land dries. Then, you and the ewe that has been chosen will leave the ark and recreate your species.”
I followed the instructions, found and boarded the ark and as foretold, the land dried and the animals left the ark. Now, many, many years later, generations of our offspring populate the earth.
However, despite my very old age, I have remained strong and healthy and now the angel has reappeared and I await the message it brings me.
The angel approached and reached out to me. “Ayel, you have been preserved by God all of these years because He has a special mission for you. Shortly you will see a man and his son climbing up this mountain. Stay nearby, but do not let them see you. Hide in the thicket and I will tell you what to do.”
I looked down the mountain and as the angel had said, two men were climbing. The young man was carrying a bundle of firewood and the older man, a firestone and a knife. I recognized then as Abraham and his son, Isaac. They were going to make a sacrifice to the Lord on the mountain, but I did not see the sacrificial animal.
I watched as the men struggled up the mountain and reached a flat area at the crest of the mountain, just a short way from where I was hiding. Abraham built an altar, laid out the wood and then to my surprise, he bound his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar. I held my breath as Abraham picked up the knife and was about to slay his son.
At that moment, the angel--the same angel who had sent me to this spot — called — “Abraham! Abraham!” Abraham looked up and responded, “Here I am.” The angel said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from God.”
Then the angel said to me. “Ayel, this is your destiny. God has preserved you since you left the ark for this moment. Abraham will see you in a moment and place you on the altar as a sacrifice in place of Isaac. You will rise up to heaven and serve God eternally in his celestial flock.”
In response I bleated and Abraham saw me in the thicket and led me to the altar. As Abraham lifted the knife over me, the angel blessed me and said, “You are holy and have lived a righteous life, you will never be forgotten. God has ordained that the horn be taken from your head and made into a holy instrument, a shofar, that will be blown in heaven to celebrate holy occasions from now until the end of time and the people of the earth shall consecrate the horns of your descendants so they too will be shofars blown all over the earth to glorify God.”
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The Fabulous Fish
You’ve heard the story of Jonah and the whale. Yes, Jonah did get thrown into the sea and yes, he was swallowed--but it was not by a whale. How do I know? I’ll give you three reasons. First, reread the story in the bible. There’s no mention of a whale — it says “a great fish” and every school kid knows a whale is not a fish. Second, there are no whales in the sea where Jonah sailed — never was. And last and most important, I was there — not only was I there, I was the great fish that swallowed him.
You don’t believe me? You say I am much too small to swallow a man. True, I’m an average sized fish, but let me tell you just what happened.
You know that God loves us fish. How do I know? Well, God created fish before he created those land animals. Check it out. In the very first chapter of the bible, it says on the fifth day, God created fish and on the sixth day the land animals. Then when God decided to destroy the people and creatures with a flood, Noah took only one pair of each species of animal on his ark. But no fish! Why? Of course you know; fish live in the water and by choosing water rather than fire, earthquake or other means of destruction, God chose water so the fish would not be wiped out.
Being a fish is a great life. I wouldn’t want to be any other creature. We swim around in the beautiful sea. We can eat sweet plants and reeds that grow beneath the waters. Sure, there are some dangers. But smart fish can avoid them. God has given me and other smart fish the senses to avoid the nets of the fisherman and the jaws of predator fish. I really enjoy my life here in the sea.
But back to what happened to Jonah. You remember the story. The people of Nineveh were very wicked and God chose his prophet, Jonah to go to them and proclaim judgment on them. Jonah did not want to go and fled from God by buying a passage on a ship sailing to a distant port.
God was angry with Jonah and cast a mighty wind upon the sea — so strong that the ship was in danger of breaking up. The sailors prayed to their gods, but the storm only became stronger. So the sailors cast lots to determine on whose account this misfortune had come upon them. The lot fell on Jonah and he confessed that his God -- creator of heaven and earth — had ordered him to go to Nineveh, but he was defying his God and was fleeing. They asked Jonah what could they do to please his God so the storm would cease.
Jonah answered, “Heave me overboard and the sea will calm down.” The sailors did not want to do this, but Jonah insisted. The men threw Jonah into the sea and the storm stopped raging.
Now here’s where I come in. God had caused this storm — not to slay Jonah, but to show Jonah that he must carry out God’s commands.
Just before the storm began, I was swimming leisurely in the sea, when a voice called out to me: “I am God, the creator, and I have chosen you to perform a mission. I am going to churn up this sea with a tempest. You will swim near to the ship that I will show you. A man will be heaved into the sea. Swallow this man whole and do not harm him. He will remain in your stomach until I order you to spew him out.”
I responded, “God, I will do your will, but I am much too small to swallow a man.”
God said, “You shall grow into a great fish — larger than any fish in the sea.” Instantly I felt myself growing. My body became longer, wider and stronger. My head swelled and my mouth grew large enough to swallow a man — but no teeth grew. It was God’s way of assuring I would not eat Jonah.
I swam through the churning sea, and shortly I saw a man struggling in the water. I swam up to him and with one gulp swallowed him and he slid down my throat into my stomach. At that moment the sea calmed down and I swam away awaiting God’s word.
I could feel Jonah in my stomach. It was big enough for him to move around and it sure felt funny feeling that movement. Jonah cried out to God. He pleaded with God to set him free and promised to obey God’s command.
Jonah remained in my stomach for three days. Then God ordered me to swim close to the shore. When I came as far as I could, God caused me to give a huge hiccup. This drove Jonah up through my throat into my mouth and out into shallow waters, where he quickly waded to dry land. He fell on his knees and thanked God for saving him. Jonah then began his trek to Nineveh, where he warned the people of God’s intention. They believed him and changed their ways and God forgave them.
Once Jonah had been spewed out, God commended me for my work and restored me to my former size. Once again, I swim happily around the sea, where there are-nor were there ever — any whales.
* * * * *
The Lion’s Lair
I am Ari, king of all the lions. At least I was before I fell into that trap. For years I strode through the plains and the forests. My roars caused fear in all of the animals near and far. Other lions followed me and obeyed my orders. Men hunted me and the king of those men offered a large reward to any huntsman who would kill or capture me. I outwitted them all –- until that fateful day when I saw a deer just waiting for me to pounce on him and make him my dinner. And I pounced -- but instead of landing on the deer, I fell into a trap -- a deep ditch hidden by grass and reeds. Soon many men threw ropes around me and dragged me up and into a cage and carried me to the palace of King Darius, ruler of the Medes and the Persians. The king rewarded the huntsmen and they pushed me into a large den, where they opened the cage and I rushed out, roaring at my captors, but there was no way to escape. The lair was deep in a mountain and surrounded by stone walls.
I looked around and saw several other lions in the den. They recognized me as their king and each came up to me, rubbed their nozzles against mine signifying that they were my subjects. They told me they had also fallen into traps and some had been in this den for many months.
One lion told me that they would feed them by throwing live deer or gazelles into the cage through the hole in the roof and they would watch us kill the prey and fight for the best pieces. Sometimes they would throw in a human who had displeased the king. He told me that the lions knew when this would occur because they didn’t feed them for a few days so we would be very hungry and attack the human and tear him to pieces while they watched.
When the guards threw an antelope into the pit, as usual the lions raced to the prey, killed it and then fought for a share. I roared for them to stop and said: “Let us not fight among ourselves. That is what the humans want us to do. Let us work out a plan to assure every lion had a fair share without a fight.” As I was their king, they complied with my command. From then on our life in the den became much less harsh.
Now King Darius was a good king. Many years ago his ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar, had conquered the land of Judea and exiled the Jews – the inhabitants of that land -- to Babylon. The area in which many Jews lived was now part of Darius’s realm.
Darius appointed Daniel, a leader of the Judeans, who worshipped the God of Israel, to be one of his ministers. Daniel was a wise and extraordinary leader who surpassed the other ministers and Darius considered setting him over the whole kingdom. The other ministers and their followers were jealous of Daniel and sought some fault in his conduct so they could persuade the king to oust him. As Daniel was honest and not corruptible, they could find no wrongdoing to accuse him.
So the ministers came up with a scheme. They knew that Daniel worshipped the God of Israel and would not bow down to any idol or statue. The ministers came to the king and said: “As ministers and leaders of the kingdom, we suggest that to assure you have the loyalty of all your subjects, issue an order stating that you are a god. To show their obedience to you, any petition or prayer to any god or man other than you during the next thirty days would be a sign of disloyalty and shall be punished by being thrown into the lion’s den.” The king agreed to this and put this order in writing -- which under the law of the land could not be repealed or changed.
Daniel was a true believer and prayed to his God three times every day. When he heard of this ruling, he refused to obey it and continued his thrice-daily praying. The ministers reported this to the king. Now the king liked and respected Daniel and wanted to save him, but the ministers reminded him that under the laws of the kingdom, he could not alter the ruling -- not for anybody.
So Daniel was arrested and brought to the hole above our lair. The ministers had told the guards not to feed us and it had been several days since we last had eaten. We were starving and were roaring for food. When Daniel was thrown into the den, we all were about to pounce on him, tear him apart and eat him.
As leader of the lions, I was the first about to attack, when an angel suddenly appeared before me. He was clothed all in white with a flaming sword in his hand. “Halt Ari,” he shouted, “Do not touch this man. He is blessed by God.”
I was about to spring, but I could not move, frozen in mid-air-- and the angel gently helped me down to the ground. He said, “Neither you nor the other beasts shall touch Daniel. God has much work for him to do before he joins Him in heaven. Let him be.”
When I recovered from the shock, I said, “Oh, messenger of God, neither I nor any of us will touch Daniel, but we are starving and we must eat.”
The angel said, “God will provide and will reward you for your obedience to His will.”
He raised his sword and swung it over us — and our hunger pangs all disappeared. We stepped back into the rear of the den. Daniel stood up and saw the angel. He bowed down and thanked God for his deliverance.
The next morning, Darius and his courtiers came to the den to see Daniels’s bones, but were amazed to see Daniel standing with arms raised in praise of God.
Daniel looked up and saw the king, He said “O King, my God sent his angel who shut the mouths of the lions so they did not injure me. I have been found innocent by Him, nor have I done you any harm.”
The king was very glad and ordered the guards to bring Daniel out of the den. He then appointed Daniel to be his chief minister and Daniel helped guide the kingdom during the reigns of Darius and of King Cyrus, his successor.
After the king and his soldiers had gone, the angel once again appeared. He said to Ari, “Because you obeyed God’s command and did not kill Daniel, God is setting you free. Tonight when all the humans are asleep, all of you will be taken from this lair and returned to your fields and forests and there you shall live happily all of your life.”
And that night, a flock of giant birds flew down into the den and lifted us up and carried us out to the place God promised us. Again I reign as king of the beasts in a free and open land.
from the June 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine