and the BIBLE UPDATE
174, 2017 May)
claims about lions, which I discussed in Investigator #87, are still true.
That the hunting
behaviour of lions is "learned" rather than always innate and automatic
is still correct. That lions kill large prey by "strangling" —
discovered by science around 1970 but suggested in the Bible over 25
centuries earlier — is also still correct. Wildlife
documentaries by David Attenborough have shown lions (and other cats)
strangling (or throttling) prey by enclosing the jaws over the throat.
biblical claims investigated in #87 now have supporting evidence
unavailable to me at the time:
(1972) found that lionesses in Africa do 90% of the hunting and male
lions 10%. The Bible, however, mentions male lions as doing the
hunting: "The lion tore enough for his whelps." (Nahum 2:12)
In my article
"Lions and the Bible" (#87, November 2002) I suggested that Nahum
either refers to the 10% of hunting effort or that lions in
Palestine/Israel exhibited "more varied behaviour" than the African
lions which Schaller studied.
Palestine became extinct around 1400 CE, therefore cannot be studied.
But that lion hunting behaviour is variable has been confirmed for
reports that in the Serengeti (where most of the previous research was
done) lionesses hunt in packs on the open plains without much help from
males who nevertheless often eat first when lionesses make a kill.
Park in South Africa has more dense vegetation and fewer open plains
than the Serengeti. Here the females still do most of the hunting on
the plains or grasslands but males hunt where vegetation is dense and
use ambush strategy.
In describing a
future world of peace Isaiah says: "…the lion shall eat straw like the
ox." (Isaiah 65:25; 11:7)
According to Unger's Bible Dictionary "Ox"
refers to a "castrated male of Bos Taurus family valued in the O. T.
period as a patient heavy draft animal."
Hebrew words for ox, bullocks and bulls include "Shohr", "Bahkahr",
"Pahr" and "Tohr" — but these need not distract us further.
"Tehven") refers to the stalks of wheat and barley after the grain has
been threshed out.
mentions straw and fodder as being given to camels (Genesis 24:32),
donkeys (Judges 19:19) and horses (I Kings 4:28).
In Investigator #87 I assumed that
"straw" in "the lion shall eat straw like the ox" includes a variety of
vegetation since straw is neither the only nor main part of the diet of
the ox which also eats grass (Job 40:15; Daniel 4:25; Numbers 22:4),
fodder (Job 6:5) and corn (Deuteronomy 25:4).
Part of the
lion's diet is grass. Norman Carr (1965) writes:
I am sure it is also
the desire to make up a dietary deficiency which sometimes makes lions
eat quantities of fresh grass. I have noticed that the habit is more
prevalent in mine when they are hungry or out of condition. This habit
is also quite common with wild lions… (p. 108)
My conclusion in
#87 therefore was:
For lions to subsist
entirely on vegetation would require different digestive apparatus.
This might one day become feasible by genetic engineering. However,
it's probable that Isaiah merely mentioned the less common part of the
lion’s diet — the "straw" or grass — because of its association with
tameness and peace. In other words Isaiah's prophecy would be fulfilled
if future lions were tame, ate animal meat supplied by humans, and
supplemented their diet with straw/grass/vegetation.
Recently I asked
a farmer who confirmed that fresh
straw is part of the roughage component of the diet of cattle, horses
and sheep, but older straw less so. If eaten to excess bowel
obstruction can result.
(#87) conclusion can now be expanded because some cats even in today's
can dispense with meat entirely and subsist on vegetables, fruit,
vegetation, cooked grains, milk and raw eggs.
James Peden, for
example, has authored the book Vegetarian
Dogs and Cats (1995).
The Koinonia House website says:
A cat in Tasburgh,
England ... refuses to eat meat. Since his owner Becky Page rescued the
starved kitten from an alley two years ago, she has only been able to
get him to eat fruits and vegetables... He won't touch canned cat food.
The most famous
example is "Little Tyke" (1946-1955) a tame lioness raised on Hidden
Valley Ranch near Seattle in Washington State by Georges and Margaret
befriended farm animals such as hens and sheep without eating them. It
refused to eat meat and anything containing blood but thrived on cooked
grains, milk and raw eggs besides chewing on grass on the Westbeaus'
ranch. Little Tyke got sick during the filming of a Hollywood
documentary and died from pneumonia.
Creationists use the Little Tyke story to support their belief that
about 6000 years ago there was no death and all animals had eternal
life and ate vegetation. They quote Genesis 1:30 "And to every beast of
the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps
on the earth ... I have given every green plant for food."
1:30 has alternative interpretations:
1 "Every green
plant" refers to plants as the basis of the food chain and does not
imply that carnivores ate only grass;
2 The word
"earth" does not mean planet Earth but refers to land, in particular
the land described in Chapter 2, the Garden of Eden. In other words
meat-eating animals were excluded from Eden which was limited to
My reason for
discussing Little Tyke is to show that Isaiah's prophecy can
potentially be literally fulfilled.
Carr, N. 1965 Return to the Wild, Fontana
Marshall, M. The
lion does not sleep tonight. He's hunting, New Scientist, 30 March, 2013, p. 13
1988/1995 Vegetarian Dogs and Cats,
Harbingers of a New Age
Schaller, G. B.
1972 The Serengeti Lion,
University of Chicago Press
1986 Little Tyke: The True Story of
a Gentle Vegetarian Lioness, Quest Books
Wigram, G.V. Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee
Concordance of the Old Testament, Samuel Bagster & Sons, pp
266; 1042; 1248; 1336; 1342