Q. Do animals know there is a God?
A. According to the Midrash, God rebuked David for boasting that no-one could sing praises as well as he could. “Every creature,” God told him, “has its own way of praising its Maker.” The birds chirp. The horses neigh. The cows low. Each has its own voice. Each utters its praise for being alive.
The prophet Isaiah goes further and says (43:20) that the animals know that it is God who gives them water and food – in contrast to human beings, who often fail to acknowledge the boons they receive from the Almighty. We should, however, not read too much into these passages, which ascribe human dispositions to the animals.
We should also not take too seriously the question of why certain animals are so fierce and aggressive. The animals are not human beings and are not required to have a moral conscience. Only man has free will and can choose right from wrong. Some animals are placid and others are cruel, but not because they have chosen to be so. As Yehudah HaLevi tells us in the Kuzari, this is all part of God’s design, even though humans cannot necessarily understand His purposes.
Nachmanides says that in messianic times, God will prevent wild beasts from doing any harm. The verse, “I shall establish peace in the earth… and I shall cause the wild beasts to desist” (Lev. 26:6) does not mean that there will be no wild beasts but that their wildness will be tamed. Why were they wild in the first place?
Ramban’s view is that at the time of creation they were tame and placid, but Adam’s sin altered the idyll; man learned to disobey God and the animals learned to hunt their prey (Ezek. 19:3). In time to come, however, “the cow and the bear shall feed together… and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isa. 11:7-8).