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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2009

Different Ways of Sorting Animals

Everyone has a way of sorting things. You might sort your shirts in one drawer and your pants in another. Or, you might have them all mixed up in different drawers. You might arrange your clothes in your closet by kind, color, or size. It may be that you arrange the books on your desk by author, subject, or title. You might also sort volumes by the year the books were published or the year that you read the books. The fact is, there are all kinds of ways of sorting things, including sorting animals.

Most people today categorize animals into one of five major groups: mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. But the way we usually sort animals is not the only way to classify animals. Consider the way that God categorized animals in Scripture. In the very first chapter of the Bible, God divided animals into very basic, natural groups. Instead of creating all of the mammals on one day and all of the reptiles on another, He made animals that swim and fly on day five and land animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Thus, in addition to the fish He made on day five, He created other water-living creatures, including mammals, like dolphins, and reptiles, such as plesiosaurs. What’s more, birds were not the only flying things He made on day five. On this day, God also made the only flying mammal alive today (the bat), as well as all of the extinct flying reptiles (such as Pteranodon and Pterodactyl).

The book of Leviticus expands on God’s classification of animals. In chapter 11, God instructed the Israelites about “clean” and “unclean” animals. As He listed these animals, God divided the creatures into land animals, water animals, and flying things (including birds, bats, and flying insects). As at Creation, God did not divide animals into mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Rather, God categorized animals in a very easy to understand, natural way. He sorted animals more according to the animals’ locomotion (do they fly, swim, or walk) and environment (do they inhabit the air, water, or land) instead of whether or not they have hair, lay eggs, or nurse their young.

Just remember, although it can be effective to learn how we classify animals today, the Bible’s classification of animals is also very logical. Best of all, it is easy to remember. 

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