Question: I’d like to go back to the subject of how death entered the world please. Did God make creatures that would eventually die or did the creatures themselves do something to merit their own death? And were people vegetarians in Genesis 1?
Answer: Lions, wolves and human beings have eyes to the front, we are hunting creatures. Sheep, horses and deer etc. have eyes to the side; they are defensive creatures or prey. Defensive creatures have eyes that can see what’s happening to their side and behind them, because they may need to run away at any given moment. A sheep’s range of vision can be up to 300 degrees. That’s the way God made the world.
There is no command to refrain from eating animals in Genesis chapter 1. In fact in Genesis 1:28 we read that humans were told to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air.” What did God mean by telling human beings to have dominion over the fish of the sea if humans were not eating animals at that time? What meaning is there in having dominion over the fish of the sea? How could man have dominion over sea creatures? Men live on the land, there would be no need for us to go onto the sea to have dominion over creatures we are not allowed to catch. But the reality is that humans do follow God's command and rule over the fish and have been catching fish since we first became humans. Land-animals too, as Genesis 4:2 says, "Abel kept the flocks."
Land-dwelling creatures live on a foundation of plant-based vegetation in one way or another, which is what Genesis chapter 1 tells us. Sheep, deer and cattle eat vegetation, and humans eat the sheep, deer and cattle, we eat the vegetation that the animals have processed into protein. God made predators so that the protein yielding livestock would not overrun the earth. Their numbers needed to be stabilised. Human beings tend not to eat creatures that hunt - lions, dogs or eagles etc. They are what Noah called "unclean" animals. Carnivorous animals eat other animals, so a carnivore's protein is second hand, it's not acquired directly from vegetation but from prey. Noah was told to take seven pairs of each clean animal and one pair of each unclean animal onto the ark. So if we think of the herbivores as clean and the carnivores as unclean we see that Noah released a ratio of 7:1 back into the Mesopotamian wild. A ratio of 7:1 seems like a good prospect for predator group growth. So, for example, 70 sheep for 10 lions. This ratio also leaves some room for humans to take part in some hunting too.
Physical death has always been in the world, and God uses it to teach us about spiritual death and spiritual life, which has always been the Lord’s priority.