“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:24)
In Biblical times, as well as today, animals were an integral part of man’s life. They were useful to him—as beasts of burden and as sources of food, shelter, and transportation. Some of the animals described in the bible, such as the leopard, wild boar, bear, wolf, and lion, are feared as much today as they were in Bible times. And several animals have different names: the unicorn was simply an antelope which, when viewed from the side, looked as though it had one horn.
The use of animals as symbols was quite prevalent in the Bible. A lion stood for strength and power; a lamb for sacrifice and meekness; a wolf for persecution; a camel for endurance; and a leopard for ferocity and stealth.
Although most of the animals in the Bible exist today, they are put to different uses. We use horses mainly for transportation and recreation. In the Bible, horses were used for war, pulling chariots in battle. Camels were the main means of transportation, as they were well adapted to the arid climate. Dogs also appeared in the Bible, but not as pets. They were used for herding sheep, among other things, and were mean and snarling creatures.
The animals of the Bible come alive through Isaac Asimov’s informative text and Howard Berelson’s exquisite art. Each illustration reveals a supurb sense of design and artistic imagination. The sensitivity with which he has rendered these animals makes this book a treasure to own.
This is a disappointing little volume. The goal here is to have a kind of “coffee table book” for children—at least, I think it’s for children—showing pictures of some of the animals mentioned in the Bible and text describing them.
The animals, however, are a mixed bag—there aren’t nearly enough mentioned, and some of them are rare or strange animals which don’t have an important role in the Bible or their identity is controversial. That is, I really can’t see anybody, child or otherwise, finding an animal mentioned in the course of reading the Bible and going to this book and really being able to have much of a chance of finding anything out about it.
And I don’t care for the illustrations, either. I’m not sure why, but they seem odd and overly ornate to me.
The book then really doesn’t succeed in doing what it sets out to do, and is priced rather too high to not do it.