Question: What does the Bible say about hunting? May a Christian hunt for sport? If so, are there any guidelines to be found in scripture?
Answer: When God created man in the beginning, he entrusted man with dominion over the earth. This dominion included both authority and responsibility.
Man’s authority in exercising dominion involved naming the animals, cultivating the earth, and harvesting both plants and animals for human consumption and for religious sacrifice (Genesis 1:26-30, 4:1-5, 8:20-9:3, Psalm 104:14-15).
Man’s responsibility in exercising dominion was to do it in a manner consistent with his unique identity in this world as an immortal soul who bears the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 2:4-7).
Historically speaking, it needs to be acknowledged that hunting was simply necessary in biblical times. This was how man obtained food and clothing. Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that they did not enjoy the “sport” of it and the Bible even highlights people who were well known for their skill in hunting (Genesis 10:9, 25:27).
So our first conclusion is this: Hunting is a biblically lawful activity.
However, and as it is with all inherently lawful things, fallen men always manage to bring their sin into things so that they become unlawful. Hunting is no exception.
As you begin to enjoy this year’s hunting season, I would encourage you to meditate upon your identity as a representative of God in his creation and purpose to reflect his image as you exercise dominion over it. Here are some practical guidelines from the Bible:
1. Be humbled as you walk into God’s great outdoors. You are not there as a demigod, but as a steward. Psalm 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?”
2. Make a quick and clean kill. Practice and perfect your hunting skills beforehand so that you do not cause animals to suffer needlessly. Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
3. Conserve endangered species. Deuteronomy 22:6, “If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young…”
4. Keep the Sabbath Day holy. Isaiah 58:12-13, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord…”
5. Sanctify your hunting experience. 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”