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Did Animals Used to Talk?

This week's question comes from one of the most unlikely sources I believe I've encountered from the sign at the new Hooters in Snellville. I don't think they knew they were asking a theologically loaded question, but nonetheless the sign read: "Who did Adam and Eve talk about?"

Of course, the traditional answer is that in the Garden of Eden there was not only no one else to talk about (except perhaps to talk about God), but there was not yet any sin and gossip, or talking about someone as implied by this question, is gossip. So the traditional answer would be there was no one to talk about. Except . . .

Could it be that there were others to talk about?

I find it interesting when I read through the creation story that there is a lack of surprise on Eve's part when the serpent begins to speak to her. She doesn't panic and run, she doesn't fall down on her face in fear (as most people do when confronted with an angel), instead she immediately engages in conversation. So could all the animals talk?

According to the second creation account in Genesis 2 this may be a possibility. When God decides the human shouldn't be alone, the animals were created one at a time and brought to the human for evaluation as a potential partner: "Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the human should be alone; I will make a helper as a partner.' So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the human to see what they would be called; and whatever the human called every living creature, that was its name. The human gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the human there was not found a helper for a partner" (Genesis 2.18-20).

Now assuming God knew the basic needs of humanity from the beginning, certainly companionship and communication were included in those needs. Given that Eve would later not be startled by a talking serpent, it seems possible, if not likely, that in the perfect realm of Eden animals and the humans were in such relationships that they could communicate.

However, this story of Eden's talking beasts isn't the only account of conversant animals in scripture. On one other occasion we read of talking animals. In the exodus story of Numbers 22 Balaam's donkey speaks to his owner after he's been severely beaten: "Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" (Numbers 22.28).

Notice, however, the difference between the two accounts. In the story of Balaam's talking donkey, the Lord specifically helps the donkey to speak its mind. On the other hand, the serpent in the Eden account seems conversant without supernatural influence.

Of course, the above answer is based on the notion that not only were Adam and Eve the only humans, but they were in the habit of talking either about each other (or about the animals), and the animals could talk with the humans and vice versa.

On the other hand, scripturally there is no good reason to assume that Adam and Eve were the only two humans upon the earth. But that question we'll deal with next week.

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