This article undertakes to examine the covenants and biblical laws concerning human relations with the earth and the various life forms whose habitat it provides. Of course biblical texts do not all speak with a common voice. These texts include differing, and even conflicting perspectives and understandings. However, biblical law and covenant show much greater concern for the well-being of “the environment” and all living things than either proponents or critics of Judaism and Christianity generally have recognized. Many other biblical texts also are relevant to the subject of this article; some of these are noted as background. Because it renders the Hebrew (and other ancient biblical languages) more literally than other modern translations, the Revised Standard Version is generally followed when texts are quoted.
The results of this study are set out thematically, beginning with the primordial commandments to early humankind in the first chapters of Genesis (Part II). Then follows an account of the covenant between God and “every living creature” articulated in Genesis nine (Part III). After this, comes a brief introduction to the major biblical law codes (Part IV). Part V examines Biblical laws relating to animal sacrifices. Laws that specifically indicate concern for humane treatment of animals are considered in part VI. Part VII reviews other laws affecting animals. Part VIII has to do with the “land ethic” implicit in several Biblical laws. Part IX concerns laws relating to trees and other vegetation. And Part X focuses on the prophet Hosea's promise that in the coming or messianic age, YHWH would establish a new covenant with all living creatures, along with related texts in Isaiah.
Richard H. Hiers, Reverence for Life and Environmental Ethics in Biblical Law and Covenant, 13 J.L. & Religion 127 (1996), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/738