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Hello everyone. I wrote this a while back and thought some of you may be interested....it's a theological perspective on hunting.


The Predator Mandate

By C.J. Williams
Professor of Old Testament Studies
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Pittsburgh, PA

Millions of Americans take to the woods during hunting season. For some, hunting is a nostalgic American tradition. For others, hunting means quality time with friends and family. Still others simply enjoy a quiet escape from the 9 to 5 routine. All of them dream of bagging that big buck and enjoying the bragging rights that come with it. These reasons are enough to keep hunters hunting, but I have long thought there are deeper reasons why men relish the role of predator.
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. The practical outworking of this dominion is not elaborated much in the text, but it is clear enough that the animals are under the authority of man and were created for his benefit. However else the dominion of man may be expressed in a modern context, its incipient element is authority over the animal kingdom.
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. Although men often chose to distort this blessing of dominion, in essence it remained as part of the image of God in man.
Beyond the Fall and the Flood the dominion of man came to explicitly include the pursuit of game for food in Gen 9:2, 3: “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” It is significant that this passage does not merely allow men to be omnivorous; it is a predator mandate. God said the animals “shall be food for you.” Whether or not the antediluvians were vegetarians is an interesting debate but essentially a moot point. After the Flood, at least, dominion was thenceforth expressed in the order of the food chain by God’s command. Thus, the bearers of dominion became hunters. In Genesis 10:9 Nimrod was forever memorialized as “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” and hunters ever since have been known by his name. It is noteworthy that this mighty hunter of history pursued his game “before the Lord.” Whatever that phrase may mean, it seems there was something sanctified, or at least dignified, about Nimrod’s skill. He excelled in fulfilling the predator mandate.
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). As this psalm anticipates the archetypical man, Jesus Christ, it again draws our focus to the element of dominion over the animals. Dominion involves much more than the place of men over animals, but this aspect is a consistent emphasis when the Bible speaks to the subject.
One may be tempted to think that dominion over the animals was simply the concern of an ancient pastoralist society, and the dominion of modern man is expressed in more refined ways. However, less has changed than we might think. We still inhabit the same world with the same animals, we still possess the same dominion over them, and we are no less dependent upon them for our sustenance. The difference is that our specialized urban society has outsourced its dominion to professionals, such as ranchers and slaughterhouses, where this matter of dominion becomes a process of society rather than a personal experience. When one can go to the local supermarket and have a choice of prepared and packaged meats, hunting becomes a sport rather than a necessity, disconnected from the concept of dominion and categorized with golf and skiing as a leisure activity. The same welcome conveniences that make dinner a simple task also distance us from the personal experience of dominion. For many, including me, something is lost in that process and something within is left unsatisfied. That something is the dominion of man and the predator mandate, which are not quite satisfied by T.V. dinners. Most hunters, of course, are glad they don’t have to hunt for every meal. Civilization means specialization, and the grocery store down the road permits me to pursue my ministry and career without worrying about where dinner will come from. But hunting reconnects me to the dominion that is my inheritance as a man made in God’s image. When I step into the role of predator I feel that I am doing something instinctual and fundamental.
Obviously not everyone is so drawn to the hunt. The technology and amenities of modern life offer convenient alternatives and plenty of other worthwhile diversions, but the instinct to hunt is still primal and biblical. Perhaps that is why hunting is increasingly maligned in the political sphere, where some invert the concept of human dominion with “animal rights.” All agree that men should not be callous or cruel to animals, but endowing them with “rights” not even afforded to unborn children is simply an ancient idolatry in modern garb. Besides, animal rights activists never talk about the animals’ right to hunt. Animals hunt, kill, and eat animals more than we do.
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 hunting, is often contrived. On one hand we anthropomorphize animals for entertainment; on the other hand we shield ourselves from the reality behind that package of ground meat on the grocery store shelf.
Hunting 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 Nimrod’s day, and much more controlled, hunting today still affords the opportunity to make dominion a personal experience. One may even discover, as I have, that the role of predator tunes the senses, challenges your level of awareness, and forces you to be the best you can be. It is a battle of wits and instincts and - trust me - the deer usually win. Their speed, agility and intuition give them the advantage, but outwitting one and taking him at 10 yards with a bow is an exhilarating encounter. The experience does not end there. My family will be fed for weeks, and there is something satisfying about eating “daddy’s deer.” The kids will ask me over and over to tell the story of the hunt, and the story will get better every time I tell it!
But on those less exhilarating hunts, when I begin to forget what a deer looks like, I still find hunting to be spiritually satisfying. There is no better opportunity to enjoy God’s creation. I have often found myself singing a Psalm in my tree stand, praising the Lord for His creation and thanking Him for making me a part of it. I am grateful for the gift of dominion. It is not an abstract theological concept to me. Nor do I see hunting as a mere hobby or an activity that I must justify. It is the predator mandate.
 
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