Hey everybody! Here we are, at the end of our Animals In The Bible series. And what better way to say bye bye then with horses of different deadly colors, lions, bears but NO! Not a single tiger in here! DAMMIT IT ALL!
So context! The apostle John is writing this book somewhere around 95 C.E. while in exile on the island of Patmos. The emperor in Rome is named Domitian, and he's at the start of his bloody reign of persecuting Christians. Because everything John writes down and sends out is being scrutinized by Roman guards, he uses symbolic imagery and metaphors that his audience would understand when writing the book of Revelation, but that his guards would read and think, “Yo, this guy is off his rocker.”
The message of Revelation is ultimately – God wins. Ya-wooooo!
So let's start talking about the Revelation critters! There's a bunch of them!
Revelation opens and we get through the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 1 – 3, to sum up: good job Philadelphia!)
Then we get to Chapter 4:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
I dare you not to think about this image the next time you sing “Holy holy holy, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed trinity.” (thank you Brick Testament!)
Chapter 5 gives us one of the Bible's favorite Animal As Metaphor for Jesus – The LAMB! He's already slain and everything and he's got “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
The Lamb opens the first four seals of The Seven Seals and unleashes the Four Horsemen, who are appropriately on Horses. White Horse = War, Red Horse = Bloodshed, Black Horse = Famine, Pale horse = Death.
(No, I don't know why Pale horse = Death and not Black Horse. Colors are weird in the Bible.)
But never mind that, the Lamb opens the rest of the seals, which unleashes martyrs, earthquakes, bloody suns, falling stars, etc. etc. etc.
But we're not done yet, we've got seven angels with seven trumpets. And they unleash hail and fire mixed with blood, a third of the earth is burned up, a third of the sea turned into blood, and the Wormwood star fell into a third of the rivers on earth and poisoned them, amongst other horrible things.
BUT WE'RE LOOKING FOR ANIMALS! There's a talking eagle in Ch. 8:13, and he's saying “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” This meaning “if you thought the first four angels were bad, hold on to your hats, shit's about to go DOOOOOWN!”
Were you thinking insects? Why NOT!? I got locusts for ya! They show up in Chapter 9, when the fifth angel blows his trumpet. But these are Super Locusts, because they've got “powers like that of scorpions of earth.” (Ch. 9:3) One wonders why Scorpions didn't just elbow the Locusts out of the way and say, “Yo, I got this.” but it's hard to argue with an angel and a trumpet.
Chapter 10 – 13 gets pretty fantastical, with its dragons and beasts like in Chapter 13:
“And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” (Revelation 13:1-2)
I wonder what that looks like. Oh! Brick Testament knows!
But if you're looking for some animals to ground you, you gotta go to Chapter 16:13:
“13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.”
Perhaps you were looking for your fair feathered friends?
Chapter 19:17 - "And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18: so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
Maybe you're not so much anymore?
That's the thing, isn't it? There's a whole slew of animals in Revelation, but 9 times out of 10, they're doing apocalyptic things, or they're used as metaphors to do bad things (not bothering with Ch. 22:15, where man's best friend the dog, is used as metaphor to describe wicked ones outside the New Jerusalem.)
Animals in and of themselves aren't bad. It's just a matter of the particular prism you wield on your vision to look at them.
I guess you might say the same thing about the Bible itself. Maybe.