The general name for all living creatures is ‘ne•fesh cha•ya,’ which literally means ‘living soul.’ We won’t even touch the rabbinical/academic/ethical argumentation about the question whether animals have a soul or they are moved by something like a built-in instinct, and if they do have a soul, is it like the human soul or something different, inferior to human’s.
What’s important is to note that the names of all living creatures resulted from their individual reflection in human’s conceptual structure. In other words, God did not name them, Adam (man) did:
“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name”
Another biblical name for living creatures is ‘cha•yot.’ This is the word we use today, along the term: ‘ba•aley cha•yim.’
There is an interesting mixture of animals and mankind in several biblical prophecies both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here’s the amazing vision of Ezekiel:
“And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came from the north, a great cloud, and a fire flaring up, and a brightness was around it, out of its midst, as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of its midst came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. And everyone had four faces, and everyone had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and the four had their faces and their wings thus,… As for the likeness of their faces, the four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and the four had the face of an ox on the left side; the four also had the face of an eagle”
Nobody knows what this and other man/animal prophetic mixtures are, but we can take some comfort in the fact that even simple-sounding prophecies are not simple to decipher.
But not only is deciphering prophecies difficult; making them is not easy either. As Mark Twain may have said years ago: ‘It is hard to prophecy, particularly about the future.’
We’ll try to stay on solid ground and explore biblical facts about known, living creatures.