IN OTHER IMAGES: PART 3: THE ANIMALS
And perhaps just as God made man in his own image and likeness, so also did he make the remaining creatures after certain other heavenly images as a likeness. – Origen
God said, "I command the earth to give life to all kinds of tame animals, wild animals, and reptiles." And that's what happened. God made every one of them. Then he looked at what he had done, and it was good…Evening came, then morning – that was the sixth day. – Genesis 1:24-25, 31
As the sixth day began, God looked over all of his creation thus far, and he said, "Birds fill the sky, and fish fill the sea. But now, there must be creatures that will call the ground their home. There must be a wide variety of different land-based beasts, and while some should be tame and domesticated, others must be wild and free to wander the lands and live freely. There must be hooved animals that will always graze on their food. There also must be big and small animals that show the same glory and majesty on the ground that the eagles and hawks do in the air, and the whales and sharks do in the sea. And there must be creatures that creep along the ground, too, for what would earth be without creeping animals?"
And so God began his next great project. To start with, he made the invertebrates that creep on the ground, like worms, centipedes, and millipedes. He made the creeping insects in all their kinds, the ant, the beetle, the termite, the cockroach, the cicada, the leech and snail, and the stick insect, among countless others. He also made the spiders, tarantulas, and scorpions in all their different variety.
Next, he decided to create small animals with the ability to creep on land, but which also lived in the water for part of their lives. So God began with the reptiles that would, in later ages, come to be known as the amphibians. God made them in plentiful numbers, every kind of them. He made the frogs that swim in the water as tadpoles at the beginning of their lives, but leap great distances over land as adults, and which communicated through sounds like "ribbit" and "croak." He made them with slim, smooth, moist bodies to give them comfort in the warm sun. He also made the toads, close relatives of the frogs, excellent creepers with rough, dry skin, which made them able to go farther from the water and for longer periods of time. Then he made the salamanders, long, slender creepers with long tails, which, like frogs, had moist skin and stayed close to water.
Then God said, "So far, everything is good. But there also must be stronger reptiles on this earth, ones that can go far from water for a long time, love the natural sunlight, and are not as brittle as the insects and spiders. Come, let us make more formidable reptiles in all their kinds now." And it was so. God created mighty lizards like dragons, the land equivalent of the pterosaur and the reptilian beasts of the sea, and one day, people would come to call these magnificent creatures dinosaurs. He made so many of them, sprinters with muscular legs and small arms, quadrupeds with bony shields and/or horns on their heads, dinosaurs with superbly long necks and legs, and a massive weight to boot, and so many more. But then God decided that there should be some smaller and less formidable reptiles to go with them, and so he made the crocodiles and alligators, long-mouthed beasts with muscular tails and an expert talent for swimming.
He also made gentler reptiles that could be water-based for part of their lives, as in the turtles and tortoises, which carry their homes, and the weight of their lives, on their backs. Turtles were commanded to inhabit the oceans and the land nearby, swimming in the water with the same grace as the crocodiles, while the tortoises were to crawl on dry land and astound God's children with their long lifespans. He also made the lizards, creeping things like salamanders, only with a love for the sun and no desperate need to stay close to the water. Last of the reptiles, God made the snake, an animal with a sense of cunning and subtlety about it. God foresaw that this creature would one day become the most cursed of all animals after it caused his children to fall into sin.
God thought for a little while, and then said, "I have created these creatures with cold blood, meaning that their inner warmth depends on their environment and its climate, and I have ensured that they will always do everything they can to stay close to its own appropriate habitat. But for the rest of my animals, they must have warm blood, like the birds, so they can live in many different places and remain comfortable in their bodies. So let us now make the mammals, animals which will not only stay warm in most environments, but who will give birth to their offspring through a mother's womb rather than through laying an egg."
And so it was. God began his work on the mammals of the land. "Let us make little animals that will scamper around in the dark and find their security in closed places." And so he made the rodents of the world, the rats, the mice, the gophers, the voles, the shrews, all the way up to the largest ones, the capybaras. He declared that some rats and mice would be tame animals appropriate for his children to keep as friends and companions.
Then God said, "There must be animals with hooves, which will wander the open lands of every continent and graze on grass, and some of them, too, should be tamable to my final creation." And so he made hooved mammals of all kinds. He made tamable and untamable horses, including the wild zebra and quagga, and he made their smaller neighbors, the ponies. He also made donkeys, mules, deer, the antelope in so many kinds, from the impala, elk, and the ibex to the duiker, okapi, and the gazelle, and bigger ungulates yet. He made the mighty elephants in all their awe-inspiring size, as well as their distant relatives, the wooly mammoths, and he made the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the massive megacerops and its relatives, the goats, and the sheep. God once again foresaw that one day, there would be great symbolism in sheep and goats, and once again, he made some wild and some tamable for domestication.
And next God said, "These are wonderful creatures, but I still have not created warm-blooded creatures with heavenly majesty in their appearance and bearing. Come. I will make cats, proud and sleek beasts with a good palate and an innate desire to rule over the jungle and the savannah, among other places. Some will be small and tame, while others will be large and wild. And I will also make dogs, similar animals who can always be partly or wholly tamed, but nevertheless are lords over all they preside over, save their own masters."
And so it went on. God made small cats with a benign look in their faces and a fierce want for independence, and he made them with all different colors and patterns of fur coats. They would be the tame cats, God said, and in future years, his children would seek to breed them in greater varieties. God made the wild cats next. He made the proud puma of cold climates, and its exotic neighbor, the lynx. He made majestic tigers with beautiful fur coats, usually orange with black stripes, but in some cases white with black stripes. As separate beasts with a similar entrancing spotted coat, he made the leopards, or panthers, and the jaguars. God decided that he also wanted a cat that could outstrip any other animal in a chase across the land, and he made the cheetah for just such a purpose. And he made some lesser big cats, such as the ocelot and the wildcat.
And God said, "Now there must be a cat which will rule all other cats, a cat with ferocious courage and strength, and a formidable physical appearance, which can be king over all other beasts of the land." And so God created the mighty lion. He gave the adult males a shaggy mane to increase its impressiveness, and said that this cat would be king of all beasts over the surface of the earth, and none would usurp his throne.
Then he set about creating the dogs. As wild dogs, he created such animals as the jackal, the coyote, the dingo, the mighty wolf, and the sleek fox, to work with the cats of the jungle and savannah and to be tamed by human master after man was created. He also did not forget to crate wholly domesticated dogs, of which there were many breeds, and God knew that there were many more breeds to come in the future.
But it still wasn't finished. God knew that the earth could use some more diversity. So with his word, he made many more mammals. He made the big, tough bears, animals that would command respect where there were no cats or dogs. As a personal servant of the lion, he also made a unique, one-of-a-kind creature in the hyena. This animal would eventually wish to dethrone the lion in an unending war, but God foretold that that would never succeed. He also felt that there were still a few hooved animals missing, especially in the tame department, so he made cattle, male bulls and female cows, he made them, and said that they would be vital to man's survival in many parts of the world. God made buffalo, too, everything from the cape buffalo to the bison, as big and powerful grazers with long, hairy coats. He made the swine of the field, from the domestic pig to the warthog, to serve mankind as well. And he made various other creatures, too, like the porcupine, the hedgehog, the platypus, the echidna, the otter, the rabbit, the squirrel and chipmunk, the seal and sea lion, the walrus, the kangaroo and other marsupials, and many, many more. There are too many to list them all here.
And God looked down at his creation, and said, "This is all very good. But I believe it needs one more touch of animal diversity before I make my greatest creations of all. Come, let us make bipedal animals which will bear some superficial resemblance to man and woman, and share some of their unique intelligence, but will still be separate creatures. They must be strong, they must be able to travel around in the trees, they must not be able to speak, and they must be capable of learning and improvisation on a high level. One day, man will mistakenly believe that he is descended from these animals due to false evidence, which not all men must fall for, but nevertheless, they will teach man so much about their own that their existence will be more of a boon than a curse."
And so it was. As his final animal creations, God made the simians and the prosimians. He made lemurs and tarsiers, which could leap from tree to tree and stick their tails high in the air. He made monkeys of many kinds, macaques, capuchins, spiders, howlers, baboons, colobus monkeys, marmosets, and others. He gave them the ability to move quickly and nimbly through the trees with remarkable agility, and some of them had prehensile tails to make them capable of even greater feats.
And finally, he made the apes. The gibbon, or lesser ape, was not much different from the monkeys other than that it didn't have a tail. But the brilliant chimpanzees and bonobos, the colossal gorillas, and the red orangutans, were like a whole different creation. They shared soon-to-be-man's intelligence, they could move about almost as well as their neighbors, the monkeys, and in addition to having man's opposable thumbs, they also had opposable feet to use as a second set of hands. The orangutans, in particular, caught God's eyes with their beautiful red coats of hair and their benign lifestyle, and he knew that one day, a woman would believe that the orangutan and its habitat were like "Reflections of Eden."
God looked at his animal creations, and it was all very good. Now, for the final step. "Let us make man in our own image. They will rule the earth as a whole, over all the birds of the air, all the fish of the sea, and all the animals of the land. More than any other animal, including the monkeys and apes, man and woman, as they shall be called, will reflect what we are like in mind and Spirit."
And so it was. God created man and woman, human beings, and he blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth with your kind and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on earth."
God looked at everything he had done, and behold! All of it was very good! Evening came, and then morning. That was the sixth day. And on the seventh day, God rested from his work, and he blessed this day of rest.
God said, "Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. We will let them rule the fish, the birds, and all other living creatures." So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. God gave them his blessing and said: "Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on earth. I have provided all kinds of fruit and grain for you to eat. And I have given the green plants as food for everything else that breathes, including animals, both wild and tame, and birds." And so it was. God looked at what he had done. All of it was very good. Evening came, then morning – that was the fifth day. – Genesis 1:26-31
THE END... AND THE BEGINNING!