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Trapping and the Bible
by C.J. Williams
With the rising influence of the animal rights movement, trappers often find themselves on the defensive. Now more than ever it is necessary to defend and explain our way of life to a misinformed public and a growing chorus of critics. Many good things have already been written in the defense of trapping from the standpoints of conservation and ethics. In those realms I cannot add much of value beyond what has already been said. There is, however, a theological and biblical side to this issue that matters to people of faith. What follows is my own perspective on what the Bible has to say about trapping.
Genesis 1:26 says that God made Adam uniquely in His image and endowed him with dominion over the lesser creatures. This dominion is the inheritance of mankind, a divine gift, and a main component of what it means to be human. Many other things are involved in this dominion, but it is clear enough that the animals were placed under the authority of mankind and were created for our use and benefit. It is interesting to note that after Adam and Eve sinned, God provided for them “tunics of skin” to cover their nakedness and symbolize the divine provision of atonement. The first human garment, provided by God Himself, was made from the skin of an animal.
Psalm 8 looks again at this gift of dominion as part of the “glory and honor” of man and the definition of human nature. “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea” (Psalm 8:6-8). This Psalm again draws our focus to the element of human dominion over the animals. There is little doubt that, according to Scripture, the animal kingdom is placed under our authority and meant to be used judiciously for our benefit.
The fall of mankind into sin distorted many things. The entrance of sin darkened the human mind to the point where men worshipped animals, or idols of animals, which is basically a role reversal from the creation order. We read in the Bible and know from archaeological evidence that ancient people groups often worshipped certain animals or idols of animals, such as the golden calf in Exodus 32. We may think this was just a primitive practice that has little reflection in the modern world, but I think this ancient idolatry is still alive, yet more subtle, in the animal rights movement. There are many left-wing extremists who place animal life on par with, or even above, the value of human life. Notice how “abortion rights” and “animal rights” usually go hand-in-hand. This is essentially a role-reversal from the order of creation and a repudiation of God’s gift of dominion.
Matters are not helped much by Disney movies, which are otherwise innocent and entertaining, but leave impressionable minds thinking that wild animals are just little people in fur coats. The movie “Bambi” made it suddenly matter whether a hamburger was made from a deer or a cow, the latter animal garnering much less sympathy. Ironically, the number of highway deaths caused by whitetail deer makes it the most dangerous animal in North America. The point is that our attitude toward animals, and thus toward trapping and hunting, is often contrived. On one hand we humanize animals for entertainment; on the other hand we shield ourselves from the reality behind that package of ground meat on the grocery store shelf.
Trapping helps to reconnect these dots and give us a clearer view of the place of men and animals in the world. Although not as necessary as it was in the past, and much more controlled, trapping today still affords the opportunity to make dominion a personal experience. One may even discover, as I have, that trapping tests you as a person, challenges your skills and your level of awareness, and forces you to be the best you can be. It takes the mind of a reasoning predator to determine where a fox will place his foot. Perhaps we are never so human as when we are perusing that raccoon or fox, because dominion over the animals is an incipient element of our humanity as God created us.
Trapping and traps are mentioned often in the Bible, more than you might think. It must have been a common practice in the ancient world. The imagery of trapping is often used to describe spiritual realities, such as this memorable passage from Job, where the fate of the wicked is described:
"A trap seizes them by the heel; a snare lays hold of them.
A rope is hid for them in the ground, a trap for them in the path.
Terrors frighten them on every side, and chase them at their heels."
The schemes of the wicked are also likened to traps, into which the wicked themselves will fall eventually:
"Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I alone escape."
Psalm 141:9, 10
The Bible has a marvelous way of illustrating great spiritual truths with common things or ordinary activities. The result is that our lives are filled with illustrations of biblical truth. Who can plant a garden or grow a crop without thinking of Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed? In the same way, I can hardly set a trap without thinking of how God’s justice is illustrated in the verses above.
The Bible also speaks to the ethics of animal treatment. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:10). This passage translates, I think, into a command to act ethically toward all animals, domestic and wild. Human dominion over animals does not give us a license to be cruel or inhumane. The lesser creatures are given to us as a resource, but we should respect them as God’s creatures nonetheless. I think all caution should be taken to avoid the needless suffering of the catches we make, and we should be thankful to the Creator for any of His creatures we harvest.
Obviously not everyone is so drawn to trapping. The technology and amenities of modern life offer plenty of other worthwhile diversions, and the modern clothing industry relies much less on furbearers. Still, the instinct to trap is primal and biblical because it is rooted in our God-given dominion. I believe that trapping reconnects me to the dominion that is my inheritance as a man made in God’s image. When I step into the role of trapper I feel that I am doing something instinctual and fundamental. To me, it is not about the number of animals I catch or how big a check I earn from my pelts. It is all about enjoying God’s creation and exercising dominion, ultimately for God’s glory. When I come upon an animal in a trap I reflect on my dominion, and more importantly, how my dominion is only a faint reflection of God’s ultimate dominion over me and over all of creation.
So, to conclude, I see dominion over the animals as God’s gift and a main component of what it means to be created in His image. Trapping is just a part of it. Therefore, I do not see trapping as a mere hobby or an activity that I must justify. I do it because, in a very real sense, I was made to do it.
Labels: Thoughts on Trapping