Proverbs 12:10

The Life of a Beast


1. This passage really isn’t about how to treat animals. It isn’t about animals; it’s really about men… people.

2. Solomon’s main purpose is not to tell us how to treat animals—but rather, how to identify certain types of men.

3. Solomon was a keen observer of human nature.

4. From his careful observations, he tells us that one can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his animals.


A. Original Creation

1. Gen. 1:24-25 – God made all the creatures of the earth… and said they were GOOD.

2. Gen. 1: 26, 28 – God gave man dominion OVER all the creatures…

3. Gen. 1:30 – Originally, animals ate herbs—even lions, and tigers, and bears!
• As created by God, they were NOT meant for killing or eating.
• In the Millennial Kingdom, animals will be restored to their original created purposes. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb… and the leopard shall lie down with the kind. But we don’t live in the Kingdom today.

4. Gen. 2:19-20 – God brought all the animals to Adam to name. They were not harmful to man… but friendly.

a. Animals were all willingly submitted to Adam before the fall…

b. Animals were evidently easily trained and useful…

c. They all had a purpose…

B. When Sin Entered the World

1. When sin entered the world—everything changed. The whole creation was affected by the fall…cursed: sun, moon, stars, earth, and even the animals.
• God never made a man-eating beast… or even a beast-eating beast.
• Animals were all vegetarians… until the fall.
• But now, the world is full of carnivores… and poisonous snakes… dogs that bite…

2. Since the fall, some animals are dangerous…

a. Some will kill and eat man…and other beasts.

b. They are not so easily trained…not as useful…

c. They do not submit to man… dominion has been broken…
• Gen. 9:2 – God put a fear of man into animals—to protect early man.
• But even with that, man and beast have had a sort of adversarial role since the fall. The relationship has been cursed by God.
• Bugs are constantly eating our crops—and we are constantly figuring out ways to kill the bugs.
• Ants get in our homes… woodchucks in our gardens… birds eat the berries… deer steal apples off the trees… beavers reroute our rivers
• It has been an ongoing battle between man and beast.
• And it continues today—cattle ranchers out West are livid that the government—influenced by environmentalists—has repopulated their grazing areas with wolves…
• Even on Cape Cod—there has been a recent problem with coyotes!

3. Other changes that occurred after the fall…

a. God slew an animal after the fall to make clothing for Adam and Eve.

b. God gave man permission to kill and eat animals… (I Tim. 4:3-4)
• “Rise, Peter. Kill and eat.”
c. In fact in the Old Testament, God commanded that animals be slain and their blood shed as a sacrifice… thousands upon thousands of times.

d. Throughout history, man has needed animals for food, sacrifice, clothing, milk, and even shelter at times… and animals no longer cooperate.

e. Thus, there has been this ongoing conflict between man and beast.

f. It is this conflict that Solomon addresses in this passage.

C. Contact Between Man and Beast

1. Men and animals had much more contact in ancient times.

a. Animals were used to work… plow the fields… man and beast worked together.

b. Animals were kept for food, milk, clothing… herds of them.

c. Animals were the main means of transportation… until as recently as the early 1900’s.

2. When traveling on a camel or donkey, a man had to deal with all the idiosyncrasies of that beast.

a. A camel or donkey might get tired and sit down in the middle of your important trip to town.

b. An ox plowing your field might get spooked by a woodchuck and swerve out of line…

c. A loose goat might sneak in the house and make a mess…

d. Wandering sheep might not come when you call them—and cause you to waste more time to go get just one silly sheep…

e. An animal pulling a cart might trip and fall and spill all your goods on the ground.

f. Your camel or goat might get into your vineyard and start eating your grapes and pomegranates.

g. Some of this can be quite irritating.

3. Solomon was an observer human behavior.

a. He noted the various ways in which men dealt with the idiosyncrasies of his beasts…

b. How does he react to these conflicts and irritations between man and beast?

c. How does he respond to unexpected occurrences?

d. How does he deal with a problem with a beast?

The Righteous Man

1. The Righteous man regards the life of his beast

a. He has compassion and mercy

b. He demonstrates it even in his treatment of animals

c. Regards: to know; to be acquainted with; perceive

d. Life: soul; self; life; creature; person; appetite; mind; living being; desire; emotion; passion

2. Solomon observed that a righteous man will be characterized by compassion…

a. He also noted that a righteous man will display compassion towards his beast too…

b. A righteous man has a heart. And one of the ways you can see his heart is by his concern for animals.

c. When his oxen are tired—does he push them to their limits, or does he provide them with food and water?

d. Deut. 25:4 – God made provision for the oxen as they worked. A righteous man will show concern for his beasts.

e. If his animal trips over a rock or a pothole and knocks over his cart full of vegetables for the market, does he beat the donkey silly with a club? Or does he realize that it is just an animal—it wasn’t his fault…

f. If his horse gets spooked and knocks him off—does he beat the horse… or does he have the sense to realize that horses get spooked?

g. When his animal is trapped, will he take the time to get him out? Or does he let him suffer?

h. Ex. 23:4-5 – God made provision for animals in His law. A righteous man will take care of animals as God has commanded.

3. Solomon’s implied point: If he has compassion on dumb animals, he is likely to have compassion of those made in the image of God!

a. If this man is kind to animals, he is kind.

b. If he has compassion on animals—he is a man of compassion.

c. If he helps animals who are stuck—he is a helpful man.

d. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats animals.

4. Animals are sort of helpless creatures…they need protection… and are dependent upon their owners for their food, shelter, and care.

a. A righteous man will be responsible to his creatures… and care for their needs.

b. He will protect the sheep from wolves; he will give them hay, food, and water…

c. He will clean their hoofs… pull them out of ditches… because he has a compassionate heart.

d. A righteous man is considerate of his animal…

The Wicked Man

1. The wicked man has no compassion or mercy. His heart is full of cruelty.

2. His “tender mercies” are cruel.

a. Tender mercies = womb; bowels of compassion; pity.

b. Cruel = usually translated as cruel…fierce; merciless…

c. In other words, in his gut where he should have tender mercy—instead is found cruelty.

d. Num. 22:28-30 – Balaam’s donkey was mistreated… without reason! Balaam’s tender mercies were cruel… and it showed.

3. Solomon doesn’t say anything about the way this man treats animals, but he doesn’t have to. It’s obvious.

a. This is the man who would beat his horse…

b. If his animal caused him trouble, he would curse and lose his temper and take out his anger and frustration on the poor animal

c. He wouldn’t bother looking for a wandering sheep. He’d leave him for the wolves.

d. He wouldn’t go out in the rain to feed his pigs or goats. Why should he put himself out for a dumb animal?

e. This man would shoot an animal just for the fun of it—not for food or clothing.

f. Maybe as a young person he used to torture animals… burn their tails… (Samson) — or cut off their legs…

g. This man would be into cock fighting… pit bull fighting…bull fighting…

4. How does this man deal with his animals?

a. How does he react to these “conflicts” between man and beast?

b. How does he respond to unexpected occurrences?

c. How does he deal with a problem with a beast?

d. This man would respond by cursing… swearing… beating… not feeding them… not providing for their need for shelter…

e. He is a cruel man—and you can even see his cruel heart in the way he treats animals!

f. This man abuses his power… and that trait will flow over into other areas of life too.

g. Watch this sort of behavior… you can learn about a man this way.

Updating this principle to the modern world

1. It is not Solomon’s point here to teach us about animals… but to point out human nature.

2. The kind of contact between man and beast Solomon describes is NOT a man and his pet…

a. He did not have in mind 21st century American yuppies pampering their pet poodles… in bubble baths and letting them sleep on fluffy pillows… in air conditioned dog houses…

b. Solomon isn’t expecting his readers to have a New Age concept of animals either—like the PETA group…

c. This verse has nothing to do with animal’s rights… protecting the environment… or protecting the spotted owl or saving the baby whales. Let’s not go overboard on this.

3. The passage is designed to teach us about MAN… and what his heart is like.

a. Solomon seemed to have in mind HOW to differentiate between a compassionate man and a heartless man.

b. He is teaching us how to observe the behavior of a man… or woman…

4. One of the problems in applying this passage is that we no longer have this close contact with animals.

a. We don’t plow our fields with oxen…

b. We don’t ride to work on a horse or camel.

c. We don’t have a flock of goats and sheep.

d. For us animals are pets… but that’s not what Solomon is talking about.

5. To make a modern day parallel, we might even consider MACHINES!

a. When your laptop malfunctions, do you swear at it?

b. When your car breaks down—do you kick it? (story of man in Wisconsin…)

c. When your washing machine breaks down—do you feel like taking a hammer to it? (TV ad)

d. When your computer crashes, do you punch the screen? Throw a temper tantrum?

e. What Solomon is getting at is observing a man’s heart by how he reacts to situations… and how he treats animals… or machines… or things…

f. It is not an exact parallel, but we probably don’t have one in our society…

6. Application for young people today—especially if you are looking for a potential mate…

a. If a man loses his temper over a dumb animal—he will lose his temper against you too!

b. If a man kicks his dog … he has a problem with violence. You don’t want a husband like that!

c. If a man curses every time his machine malfunctions… he’ll probably be cursing at you after the honeymoon.

d. Does he blame the animal for mischief when it was really his fault for not properly tying them up? Then he will probably get mad at you and blame you for his mistakes in the future.

e. Does he get mad at an animal for acting like an animal? Then he will get mad at you for acting like a woman!

f. You can tell a lot about a man by observing how he treats animals.

g. You can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his car… his house… or his machines…

h. By the way—this goes for women too!
• A woman who is cruel to animals will not make a very good wife—or a good mother.
• If that’s the way she treats poor helpless ones who are unable to take care of themselves… and are dependent upon her compassion for their care… what kind of mother is she going to make?
• Guys—you don’t want a woman like that.

7. It’s a good idea to OBSERVE people… be a people watcher.
• Are they short-tempered? Are they kind? Do they control their tongue? Do they show compassion? Are they cruel?
• Are they responsible? Do they care for the helpless?
• We should observe and choose our friends and especially a mate carefully! (Prov. 22:24-25)

8. God cares for animals (Jonah 4:11). Godly people will too.
• And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?