A Communion Of Subjects: Zoological Classification And Human/Animal Relations In Psalm 104 -- By: Richard Whitekettle

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:2 (NA 2011)
Article: A Communion Of Subjects: Zoological Classification And Human/Animal Relations In Psalm 104
Author: Richard Whitekettle


A Communion Of Subjects: Zoological Classification And Human/Animal Relations In Psalm 104

Richard Whitekettle

Calvin College

Through the use of a zoological classification system and descriptive images, Psalm 104 portrays animals as independent subjects, ordinary living beings, and humble creatures. Animals were, therefore, shown to be just like human beings in many ways. Thus, while the text subtly maintains a paramount position for human beings within the world, the author of Psalm 104 wanted the reader to look at animals from that paramount position, not hierarchically, but laterally. That is, the author wanted the reader to think of animals not as objects, outsiders, or inferiors but rather as fellow citizens of God’s commonwealth.1

Key Words: Psalm 104, human/animal relations, animal taxonomy, descriptive imagery, chiasm

Introduction

Psalm 104 praises God as the one who, among other things, cares for and sustains the human and animal inhabitants of the world. Specifically, God is described as providing them with water (vv. 10-11), food (vv. 14-15, 21, 27-28), habitat (vv. 12, 17-18), times for activity (vv. 20-23), and life itself (vv. 29-30). Table 1 illustrates the particular inhabitants mentioned in the text that benefit from these provisions (the animals will be identified on pp. 176-178 below).

In its description of God’s care for human beings and animals, Psalm 104 creates a picture of human/animal relations that seems to be different from the one found elsewhere in the Israelite textual record. Consider, for example, the following contrasts. First, according to Gen 1:26-28 and

Table 1. Creatures Mentioned in Psalm 104

 

Animals

Human Beings

104:11a<...

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